Tag Archives: Paul

Through the Bible, September 25

Reading: Galatians 4

Summary: What the Galatians were failing to realize is that the approach to faith which they had adopted—which incorporated the notion of also keeping Mosaic Law—was, in reality, a return to the former enslavement from which they had been delivered upon coming to Christ.  Paul famously asks them, “Have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth?” (Gal. 4:16).

Devotional Thought:

To Know or Be Known

Have you ever thought you knew someone, then you learned something new about them?  It turns out you didn’t know them nearly as well as you thought?

Do you know God? Of course, no one knows all there is to know about God, but we may be fairly confident in our knowledge of Him.

Notice how this is said: “But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God,…” (Gal. 4:9). The important thing is not that we believe we know God, but that God knows us.

Notice God’s statement to some in the judgment who no doubt thought they knew and served Him, “And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness’” (Matt. 7:23).

But wait, nothing is beyond the scope of God’s knowledge.  How could He not know them?  Surely He’s not saying that they were not in His realm of perception.  Rather it is that He did not know them as His own.  It’s like the Jesus’ parable of the 10 virgins, to the unwise who tried to enter the wedding feast he said, “Truly, I say to you, I do not know you” (Matt. 25:12).

Can I know if God knows me?  Perhaps this will help us: “But if anyone loves God, he is known by God” (1 Cor. 8:3).  And remember, to love God is to do so with all one’s heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30).  It, therefore, follows that if we love God we will keep His commandments (John 14:15).  Further, “And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments” (1 John 2:3).

The one who truly knows God and is known by Him is the one who, above all else, seeks to do His will and to please Him (2 Cor. 5:9).

Through the Bible, September 24

Reading: Galatians 3

Summary: Paul speaks very strongly to these Christians regarding the error they have embraced.  The strength of his language bears testimony to the seriousness of this matter.  Paul would not stand for any change or adjustments to the saving truth of the salvation for all men through faith in Christ Jesus.  This demanded a right understanding of God’s work and purposes going all the way back before the Law, to Abraham.

Devotional Thought:

Faith in Bible Terms

The discussion from Galatians takes place in the deep end of the pool.  These are major themes of great import.  We dare not miss its message.

Paul argues convincingly—what else would one expect being guided by the Holy Spirit?—that faith is key to righteousness, long before works of the law. Thinking we can be justified by our law-keeping (aka, obedience) nullifies God’s grace (Gal. 2:21). Also, it places one under a curse (Gal. 3:10). Rather we received the Spirit “by hearing with faith” (3:2). God’s work is “by hearing with faith” (3:5).  It is those of faith who are the “sons of Abraham” (3:7). Further, it is by faith that the righteous live (3:11).

There were certainly things the law could not do, but it accomplished precisely that which God intended for it to do (3:21-25). Upon accomplishing that faith replaced law (v. 25). Galatians is an excellent expansion on the statement that we are saved by grace through faith” (Eph. 2:8).

Here’s something worth noting—particularly in light of much discussion to the contrary—it is precisely in the midst of this conversation of our being justified by faith and not works that the statement is made, “for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Gal. 3:27-28).

To suggest baptism is but a work and therefore not essential to salvation argues quite contrary to Paul here in Galatians.  I’ll stick with Paul.

Through the Bible, September 22

Reading: Galatians 1

Summary: Paul’s mission to the Gentiles roused great concern and even opposition among his Jewish brethren (see Acts 18:6).  Not only that, but a perversion of the gospel, which attempted to meld Jesus’ saving message with Mosaic Law-keeping, had already begun to affect the church.  Paul found it necessary to defend not only his ministry but also the purity of the gospel message for all men.

Devotional Thought:

Angelic Fraud

Whom can you trust?  What can you trust?

Apparently not even angels.  It’s not that angels are inherently untrustworthy, but Paul is making a point when he says, “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed” (Gal. 1:8).

His point is that the gospel message, God’s word, is unalterable.  Not even angels are at liberty to alter the message, much less men.  We may have full, complete, and absolute assurance in the word of God as it has been delivered.

Were an angel to appear, as some have so claimed, and had something to say, we can know this: the message would be no different than what we have already received from God.  And if this is so, then we really have no need of the angel’s message, we already have that information.

But, angels!?  That would be so compelling.  Satan knows this and so makes himself to appear as an “angel of light” (1 Cor. 11:14).

So how could we tell if it were a real angel or just a demonic imposter?  The thing is, we don’t have to.  What would be Satan’s purpose of appearing as such other than to promulgate a lie?  We can know what is a lie because we are in possession of the truth, and that cannot be changed—not even by an angel.

An angel’s appearance would be a phenomenal experience.  But what I need to know, and must know, I already have. God does not employ these marvelous beings to communicate truth.  Anyone that purports to do so is a fraud.

Through the Bible, September 19

Reading: 2 Thessalonians 1:1-2:12

Summary: This second letter to the Thessalonican church appears to have come quickly on the heels of Timothy’s delivering the first one.  Paul rejoices that some of the very things for which he prayed and was concerned were being answered (see 1 Thess. 3:10, 12 and 2 Thess. 1:3).  He returns to the familiar theme of Christ’s coming and the judgment as well as the unfamiliar (at least to us) discussion of the man of lawlessness.

Devotional Thought:

A Church to Brag About

Is there a church for which you have a particular fondness?  A congregation that you freely tell others about and would love to be a part of—if you’re not already?

What’s so special about them?  What appeals to you about this body of the Lord’s people?  Is it because they have growing numbers?  A dynamic worship assembly?  Are they meeting some particular need of yours or a loved one?  They say and do all the things just like you would?

For whatever reason(s), you want to be among their number.

Paul bragged about the church at Thessalonica and thanked God for them.  Notice why; their faith was growing abundantly, their love for one another was increasing, and they exhibited steadfastness and faith in the face of persecution and afflictions (2 Thess. 1:3-4).

Would you want to be counted among them?  Are these the kinds of things about which you would boast and be thankful?

Are the parameters for my assessments of churches and even individual Christians in need of adjustment?

Through the Bible, September 10

Reading: Acts 13-14

Summary: Today brings us back to the historical book of Acts.  Our previous reading from this book—from September 6—left off with the spread of the kingdom among the Gentiles.  Beginning with the conversion of Cornelius and his household (Acts 10) and continuing to tell of the dynamic, and predominately Gentile, congregation at Antioch of Syria, Luke is setting the ground work for the spread of the gospel to distant regions.  We left off with Barnabas and Saul (he will come to be called “Paul” first in 13:9) in Antioch and chapter 13 opens with their being singled out by the Holy Spirit “for the work to which I have called them” (13:2).  So begins the primary focus for the remainder of this great book, the evangelistic endeavors of the apostle Paul.

Devotional Thought:

Like David or Not? 

Few biblical characters can compare to King David.  About him many remarkable statements are made.  He is the one by whom subsequent kings of Israel are measured and compared.  He repeatedly “inquired of the Lord” (1 Sam. 23:2, 4; 30:8; 2 Sam. 2:1; 5:19, 23). “David strengthened himself in the Lord his God” (1 Sam. 30:6).  “David became greater and greater, for the Lord God of hosts was with him” (2 Sam. 5:10).  The opening words of the New Testament introduce “Jesus Christ, the Son of David” (Matt. 1:1).

There are many others.  Perhaps the best known is actually found in the New Testament where he is called “a man after my [God’s] heart, who will do all my will” (Acts 13:22).   Just a few verses later is what might be considered the most meaningful accolade of the great king of whom it is said, “he had served the purpose of God in his own generation” (Acts 13:36).

Many of the things that are said of David will never be said of us; different people, different times, different circumstances, different needs.  But what possible better thing could ever be said of us than that which was said of him; that we served the purpose of God in our own generation?

I may not be king, I may not slay a giant, I may not write many psalms of praise, I may not stand before and lead God’s people.  But I can serve God’s purpose in my life, in my family, in my job, in my community, in my church, in my….

To do that, I must—again like David—determine to do all of God’s will.

My Delight is the Lord, December 31

Listen More

December 31, Saturday: God’s Story (2)

Scripture Reading: Acts 27:1-28:31

The centurion cannot be accused of not hearing different viewpoints when he had to decide if the ship would winter in Fair Havens. He heard the thinking of Paul, the pilot, the ship’s owner, and apparently others on board. He “paid more attention” to those who thought they should go ahead and set sail, than to what Paul said (27:10-11). Several voices were heard; that of experience (the pilot of the ship), that of vested interest (the ship’s owner), the majority, and an imprisoned preacher (Paul). On the surface it seems some of these opinions should carry more weight than others. But only one was correct and that was Paul’s. This is such a critical lesson, we must be very careful about whom we listen to more than others.

Questions to Ponder:

  • Was Paul’s advice inspired? (27:9-10)
  • What made them think they had made the right decision? (27:13)
  • Who spoke to Paul in the night? (27:23)
  • Did all the shipwreck’s victims make it safely in the same way? (27:43-44)

My Delight is the Lord, December 30

Principled Lives

December 30, Friday: God’s Story (1)

Scripture Reading: Acts 25:13-26:32

The Romans were a principled people when it came to their judiciary. As Festus explained, “it was not the custom of the Romans to give up anyone before the accused met the accusers face to face and had opportunity to make his defense concerning the charge laid against him” (Acts 25:16). Had such noble principles of justice governed Paul’s trial, it would have turned out quite differently. The problem is that those principles must be exercised by people and sometimes people are less than noble; Festus and Felix for instance. So it is also with God’s word, it is true and right. The trouble comes when people fail to embrace what is true or practice what is right. As serious as we should be about identifying timeless principles and eternal truths, we must be no less so about living them.

Questions to Ponder:

  • How did Festus summarize Paul’s charges to Agrippa? (25:19)
  • Why do you think Paul resisted a change of venue back to Jerusalem? (25:20-21)
  • Of whom was Paul’s audience comprised? (25:23)
  • Why did Paul believe Agrippa was aware of what he said? (v. 26)

My Delight is the Lord, December 24

The Way

December 24, Saturday: God’s Story (2)

Scripture Reading: Acts 24:1-25:12

Paul’s accusers referred to followers of Jesus as “the sect of the Nazarenes” (24:5). On the other hand, Paul called that which he believed (along with those who believed the same) as “the Way” (24:14). It’s no wonder that enemies of the faith used terms like “sect,” which implies divisiveness, and “Nazarene,” a town of less than honorable reputation (see Jn. 1:46), to describe Paul and his ilk. Of more interest is Paul’s terminology. While “Christianity” dominates modern vocabulary, Paul uses the very expressive, “the Way.” It’s not a segmented portion of the larger body of Jews identified by their adherence to Jesus (such as “sect” suggests). Rather, this is everything that God has worked toward and for through the long history of his involvement with Abraham’s heirs. It’s that to which the Law and prophets all pointed. It truly is the Way.

Questions to Ponder:

  • What accusations were made against Paul? (24:5-6)
  • Of what was Paul always very careful? (24:16)
  • What interesting insight do we get about Felix in 24:22?
  • What was the real reason Felix kept Paul in custody? (24:26)

My Delight is the Lord, December 23

Take a Stand?

December 23, Friday: God’s Story (1)

Scripture Reading: Acts 22:30-23:35

The wisdom of Paul was on full display in his initial trial before the Sanhedrin. Following his arrest by the Romans, Claudius Lysias wanted to know what charges the Jews had against Paul. The apostle, though, realized the impossibility of a fair hearing and therefore used the diverse makeup of the Council (comprised of both Pharisees and Sadducees) to his advantage. Positioning his case as a question of the resurrection the assembly quickly descended into chaos. Paul did not win anything this day. He didn’t even attempt, in this setting, to take a stand. Maybe he saw this as a “pearls before pigs” situation (Matt. 7:6). What he did do was survive to preach and teach and defend himself another day. Not every battle is worth fighting. Not every challenge is worthy of an answer. God, please give us the wisdom to know when to take a stand.

Questions to Ponder:

  • Who called the Jewish council into meeting? (22:30)
  • Does our conscience have limitations? (23:1)
  • What were some key elements of the Sadducees theology? (23:8)
  • Who informed Paul of the plot to kill him? (23:16)

My Delight is the Lord, December 20

Not Limited

December 20, Tuesday: Following God’s Way

Scripture Reading: 2 Timothy 2:1-13

Several of the New Testament books penned by Paul were written as he was incarcerated. His movements were restricted, he was physically confined, his opportunities to preach were seriously curtailed. Though this was all true, he exclaimed, “But the word of God is not bound!” (v. 9). The message of God’s salvation is not restricted by human limitations. Though Paul played a key and leading role in the gospel’s spread, he was hardly the only one who preached. Though his talents and personal traits contributed greatly to the word’s relentless spread, it’s power was not in this–or any other–man. God’s purpose is for man to participate directly in the gospel’s dissemination (Matt. 28:19-20). But neither it, nor He, is limited by us.

Questions to Ponder:

  • What was Timothy to do with what he heard? (v. 2)
  • What three metaphors does Paul use here for Christian service? (vv. 4-6)
  • How is Jesus identified in v. 8?
  • What is Paul’s warning in v. 16?