Mark 12:28-34 Study Notes

Mark 12:28-34    Bible Study Notes

In Mark 12, Jesus is bombarded with questions from the Jewish religious leaders. The Pharisees asked if it was lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, and Jesus answered with a clever response. The Sadducees asked about the resurrection, but Jesus knocks down their attacks as well. A scribe approaches, liking what Jesus had just said to the Sadducees, and asks another question. Of course, coming from an expert in the law, the question is a legal one.

The rabbis had declared that there are 613 commands in the OT Scriptures, 248 are positive commands while 365 are prohibitions. They considered some to be lighter and some weightier. So, they saw a distinction between the commands. The lawyer’s question is what is the heaviest, what is the greatest of the commands? Which command does all of the others rest upon. Jesus gives a very normal and standard answer to this but then couples it with another command. Jesus says there is 1A and 1B of the greatest command.

The Great Commandment in Two Parts (37-39)
Loving the Lord your God is a quote from Deut 6:5. To love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind is to love Him completely. It is a way of saying that you are to love God with all of yourself (all of who you are and all of what you have). The heart is the core of one’s being. As one commentator says, “In the Bible, the ‘heart’ is more than a pumping station. It is the command center of the body, where decisions are made and plans are hatched. It is the center of our inner being, which controls our feelings, emotions, desires, and passions” (Garland). The soul is the source of life, given in the likeness of God. “It is the motivating power that brings the strength of will” (Garland). The mind refers to intellectual vigor. It is where perceptions and reflections take place. Remember, God is seeking those who will worship Him in spirit and in truth. He does not want empty words or empty rituals. Strength refers to all of our physical capacities and resources.

The Scripture teaches that we love God because He first loved us. We can love God because He loved us. We can have a relationship with Him because He first sought us. The other thing that is clear in Scripture is that the one who loves God obeys God. There is no wavering on this point. It is straightforward. The Apostle John teaches in 1 John 2:3-4, “He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him.” The person who belongs to God, loves Him and obeys Him. The Bible also shows that a person either loves God or hates Him.

Loving your neighbor is a quote from Lev 19:18. What Christ means is that this is equally important. This love is measured by the love you have for yourself. If you are hungry, you feed yourself. If you are cold, you cover yourself. If you are sick, you get medicine for yourself. It is a known fact, people love themselves. We are commanded to love our neighbors as ourselves. The Apostle Paul said in Eph 5:29, “For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it. . . .” The Apostle John is even more blunt about this vital doctrine of the Christian faith. He asks in 1 John 4:20, “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?”

At the end of v33, the scribe puts himself in a position of authority to judge over what Jesus has said, and he adds to Jesus’ answer with “is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” Yet, Jesus then turns the tables one more time and judges the scribe’s answer by telling him that he is not far from the kingdom. Knowledge must be paired with faith and submission to Christ.

Love is the hallmark of Christianity.

Galatians 3:1-9 How Did You Receive the Holy Spirit?

The Truth of the Gospel: Sermons from Galatians
Galatians 3:1-9             How Did You Receive the Spirit?         WC McCarter

READ Scripture- This is the Word of God

One of the most personal narratives with Jesus comes in John 3 when Nicodemus comes to meet Jesus at night. [Let’s take a look at that passage.] The Lord is very clear here. If you want to enter the kingdom of heaven, you must be born again. If you want to be born again, the Spirit must do it! So, the next logical question, then, is, how does one receive the Spirit?

Main Message: The regenerating and miraculous work of the Holy Spirit in your life comes by faith and not by works.

Who Has Bewitched You? (1)
The apostle begins with a natural exclamation of emotion by saying, “O foolish Galatians!” The “O” “functions to introduce a rebuke” (Moo, 181). In 1:6, the apostle marveled that the Galatians could be religious turncoats. Here in 3:1, the apostle marvels again that they could be so foolish. It is as if they had not heard the Gospel in the first place. It is as if they have lost their minds. It is as if they have been bewitched, that an evil spell has been cast over them. Yes, maybe witchcraft would explain their treason and foolishness! The original word that is used for “bewitched” literally means “to bewitch with the evil eye.” “The Greeks had a great fear of a spell cast by the evil eye” (Barclay, 24). Paul rhetorically places this in contrast with the Gospel of Christ crucified “before your very eyes.” Paul does not actually think that magic spells are involved, but uses the irony of such a comparison to point to their foolishness.

It was not simply that Christ was portrayed before them, but He was publicly portrayed before their very eyes as crucified. It was as if Paul and his team went through the towns putting up posters of Christ on the cross with headings that said, “Good News! Good News! Your sins may be forgiven! Christ has given Himself in your place!” Now, we saw last week in 2:21 that the apostle said, “I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.” What he is saying here is that the preaching of the apostolic missionary team was to portray Christ’s death. If they first believed that what Christ did on the cross was enough, but now they were turning away to false teachings and justification by works, then Christ died in vain. If Christ did not do enough on the cross to bear the penalty for your sins, then what He did on the cross was pointless.

Law or Faith? (2-5)
Next a series of questions is asked of the Christians so that they can answer for themselves, yet the answers are obvious. The letter will soon get to the answer which is stated in 5:5 “For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.” These are questions that we can also answer for ourselves to remind us of what it means to be a Christian.

From verse 2 to verse 3 we can see the contrasts laid out: work vs. hearing, law vs. faith, beginning vs. ending.

How did you become a Christian? You heard the Gospel message and you believed in your mind and heart, truly in your soul. All you did was hear. You did not work, but you were worked upon. James says in 1:18 “Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.” The biblical principle is that all of God’s gifts and blessings come to believers by grace through faith. Works of the law, or any law (because Americans attempt to set up their own moral law and traditions), do not usher in the presence of the Spirit, they do not make us righteous, they do not make us perfect, and they do not force God into a box that states if we do “good” then God must act a certain way in response. Only by faith, that is purely by grace, does God favor us. When we are weak then He is strong in and among us and not when we think we are mighty.

What does flesh mean in verse 3? The flesh is not skin and bones. It is our own capacities apart from the work of the Spirit in our lives. The great erroneous philosophy of Christian growth to maturity and perfection that is so prevalent in America says that a Christian begins a new life by faith and then that individual completes the process on their own by working (works of the law or moral tradition). That false teaching tells us that justification is by faith and sanctification is by working. All this does is set aside the grace of God. It nullifies the cross and the work of Christ for our redemption and righteousness.

“God helps those who help themselves” is not a verse in the Bible nor is it a biblical principle. The biblical principle is God helps those who can’t help themselves because the fact is that none of can help ourselves. We are all fallen, sinful, rebellious beings. The flesh can produce a very rigorous morality, but that only nullifies what Christ has done. It thwarts the grace of God found in Christ. So the question is, are you relying on God or yourself? Galatians teaches that we rely on God in the beginning and we rely on Him for eternity. This was the issue of the first sin in the Garden. What did Satan cause Adam and Eve to do? Lust for independence. This is the first a great sin of mankind.

(End of v3). There is no better illustration of someone who began in the Spirit and attempted to finish in the flesh than King Saul, Israel’s first king. When Samuel anointed Saul as king, the Spirit of God soon came upon him, gave him another heart, and he prophesied. Later, after he was announced as king of Israel, the Spirit of God came upon him again, and he went out to battle and had a major victory. After a couple glaring incidents of disobedience and selfishness by Saul, we are told that the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul. He began in the Spirit, but tried to finish in the flesh. The Lord was with him in at first, but he tried to do his own thing later. Ultimately, Saul went down in history as a shameful man who died a humiliating death. How you being is important, but how you finish means everything.

Let me briefly address one last question that may be on your mind. We are told that our working cannot save us nor complete us, but that it is the Spirit’s working in us that does all of this.

How do we know that the Spirit is working in us? This is an important question that I have struggled with. Some churches and even whole denominations teach that you must speak in tongues at least once to know that you are a Christian. Is this the truth or is there another way to know? Well there are many evidences. I will give you a couple of evidences now that will help you with this question. Let’s look at Galatians 5:22-23: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.” Also, Romans 8:16 says, “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God. . . .” So, here are two ways of knowing the Spirit is at work in you: (1) you are producing the fruit of love (in ways that you could not before Christ), and (2) you have the inner-witness of the Holy Spirit telling your spirit that you are a child of God.

Believing Abraham (6-9)
The Judaizers probably used Abraham as a great example too, but Paul uses him to show that he was a man of faith. (Now, maybe the false teachers said that Abraham did this and did that to show how he was obedient to God’s commands). Paul wants to show how above and beyond everything, from beginning to end, Abraham trusted God. The passage that is referred to about Abraham’s faith is from Genesis 15:6 where God directs Abraham out under the stars and tells him that he will have an innumerable number of descendants (although he did not have a son yet) like the overwhelming number of stars in the clear, night sky. Abraham believed that promise, and it was his trusting in God that God labeled “righteous.”

The Genesis 15 narrative followed after the great promises that God made to Abraham in Genesis 12. In chapter 12, the Lord promised Abraham that through his seed all the nations of the earth would be blessed. The apostle calls that statement “the Gospel.” When you get the big picture that the apostle is showing us from the life of Abraham, you see that God’s plan is to bless all the world with salvation by faith.

Conclusion and Christian Application
Now, let us finish where we started, and I will remind you of the remainder of what Jesus told Nicodemus, “Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit. . . . And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”

So, you see, the Spirit does a wonderful and miraculous work in your life when you put your faith in Christ, that is, when you trust Christ’s person and work. This is how you begin the Christian life, and this is how you finish life–by faith. I think that we can probably all agree that it is not so much how you begin as it is how you end. It is great to begin in the Spirit; in fact, there is no other way, but that means nothing if you try to finish by observance of the law or any other works of religious performance.

Matthew 15:1-11, 15-20 Lesson Notes

Matthew 15:1-11, 15-20                 Lesson Notes

V1 Jesus is in Galilee in the north and scribes and Pharisees travel up there from Jerusalem to see what all of the commotion was about. News was spreading like wildfire about Jesus’ ministry. The Pharisees were a major religious party among the Jews. While the Sadducees basically controlled Jerusalem and the Temple, which was significant, the Pharisees were all over Palestine, in the north and south, among the people and the synagogues. Their influence was extensive. The scribes were basically lawyers. They were trained in the interpretation and application of the Jewish law. These two groups consistently “teamed up” against Jesus to “bring Him down.”

V2 Of course, the Pharisees had many of their own traditions that were loosely based on the Mosaic Law but were not actually law. Yet, these oral traditions had become a law unto the Pharisees and scribes who taught the people. They put the yoke of their traditions on the masses. This is part one of those traditions. They had taught for decades that a person should wash his/her hands before eating a meal, not for physical cleanliness but for ritual purposes.
(*See Mark 7:2-4 about this tradition). There were also many other regulations concerning just the washing of hands. For example, if you poured water over one hand with a single rinsing, it was clean. However, if you poured water over both hands with a single rinsing, they were unclean. . . .

V3 It is bad enough to hold so strongly to man-made traditions, but it is that much worse when your traditions force you to break the actual Scriptures. Notice that the Pharisees question Jesus about breaking the laws of the elders while Jesus questions the Pharisees about breaking the laws of God.

VV4-6 As you know, the Pharisees were constantly trying to side-step the OT laws. They would keep the laws but only according to their perverted interpretations. The Sermon on the Mount is a clear refutation of these practices. Jesus gives us an example of how they do this. Instead of helping their aging parents (which was part of honoring your father and mother), they would dedicate a portion of their finances to God. In reality, all they were doing was using those finances for themselves, breaking the law by not honoring their parents, and in essence cursing their parents.

VV7-9 Jesus calls them “hypocrites.” They were wearing the mask of religion and righteousness, but underneath they were dishonorable lawbreakers. The Lord then quotes the prophet Isaiah who spoke sharply against this kind of people. Speaking for God, the prophet criticizes the “good show” that they put on acting as religious (draw near to God with their mouth, honor him with their lips, act as teachers), but God knows our hearts and could see that it was fake (heart is far from God, worship is empty, teaching is man-made commands).

VV10-11 While the exchange had been between the Lord and the religious leaders, Jesus now calls the multitude to come close to listen. He says, “Hear and understand.” You see, the Jews thought that if they ceremonially washed their hands before they ate, then they would not defile the food and thus defile themselves. Jesus pulls the crowd close and gives a short metaphor, a parable. What Jesus says is revolutionary. Yes, the Jewish tradition had gotten out of hand concerning these things, but the true source, the Mosaic Law, actually did forbid certain foods as defiled. Yet, Jesus says here that no food that goes into a person’s mouth actually defiles. Thus, He is saying, “All foods are clean.” This is setting Christianity on a different path than what God’s people had walked before. Ultimately, it is pointing to the inclusion of the Gentiles.

VV15-20 Peter, as the spokesman, asks for Jesus to explain the parable. Even the disciples do not understand. Jesus is blowing their minds. Jesus rebukes their failure to understand by questioning them about it. Is it not simple enough to understand that what you eat is processed and then eliminated by the body? Now, listen to the Lord’s logic, what comes out of the mouth actually comes from the heart. So, when evil comes out of the mouth, it means that the heart is evil. That is what defiles a person. There is a major difference between ceremonial/legalistic/traditional/physical cleanliness and moral cleanliness. Notice that when Jesus gives a list of sins/evils/defilements they closely resemble the Ten Commandments.

As many pastors/commentators would point out, we should say that all Christians need to take a step back, a deep breath, and really consider what verses 17-20 are saying. So many Christians continue to come to the church building and participate in worship and church activities while continuing a life of sin on the side without repentance. Many Christians draw close to God in worship, but are far from Him in their hearts.

Galatians 2:17-21 Don't Set Aside the Grace of God

Galatians 2:17-21        Don’t Set Aside the Grace of God        WC McCarter

We have seen that things were tense between Paul and the Galatians from the beginning of this letter. Last week we saw that things had gotten heated on one occasion between Paul and Peter. If there is anything we have learned thus far, although I believe that we have learned a lot, it is that Paul is not afraid to stand up for the truth of the Gospel. Today, we really get at the heart of that Gospel truth once again. Remember what we are accomplishing by going through these passage in Galatians: We are warning and reminding ourselves that turning away from what we know about Christ is devastating. We have put our complete trust in Christ for salvation, and we want to stay in it!

READ Scripture- This is the Word of God

Found Sinners (17-18)
The “we” refers to both Peter and Paul (and possibly extends to all other Jewish Christians). Apparently there was an allegation coming from the Judaizers that Paul was swaying Jews away from the Mosiac Law and thus making them “sinners.” They would have been sinners in the sense that they were doomed apart from the law. So, this was not talking about particular sins, but it was a category (see the way that he uses the term in v15). For the Jews, all Gentiles were sinners because they did not live by God’s law. Jews found their identity in the OT Law and considered everyone else “sinners” because they were not associated with the Law. The Judaizers were apparently saying that Paul was preaching a Christ who was a “minister of sin” in the sense that He was drawing people away from the Law.

Yet, Peter, Paul, and other Jewish Christians had abandoned the Law as a means of justification (remember what that term means, at the moment of your conversion, God reckons your sins forgiven because of Christ’s righteousness and He says that you are Not Guilty). If they are no longer looking to the law to be right in God’s eyes, then the legalistic Jews are going to consider them “sinners.” But, Paul does not care about that. He is not here to please men, but God as he said in chapter one. The apostle Paul often poses a conditional question (“if”) and answers it with a strong negation (“certainly not!”). He does that very thing here when he says that Christ is certainly not a minister of sin.

As we go into verse 18 the question becomes, What is it that Paul has destroyed? Through his preaching of the Gospel, Paul has destroyed (torn down) the idea that the Law can make someone righteous in God’s sight. He says, If I build it again, that is, if I return to the Law as a means of justification, then I make myself a transgressor. For those who were once under the Law and then turned to faith in Christ for justification, enjoying the benefits of it such as communing with Gentiles, abandoning food regulations, and such, if they turned back to the Law for justification they have proven themselves transgressors. They were the ones who broke the parts of the law about segregation of Jews from Gentiles (Moo, 167). If a Jewish Christian, who had torn down the law, rebuilt the law as a means of justification, then he made himself to be a transgressor of that law.

Live By Faith (19-20)
Paul has a new relationship to the law that can only be explained in the dramatic terms of death and life (Moo, 167). Paul’s break with the law is decisive that it is like dying and being reborn (Moo, 168). The law no longer has any power over him, no authority whatsoever. Therefore, as one commentator says, “The question of transgressing the law does not arise for one who has died in relation to the law (Bruce, 142). How is it that Paul died to the law through the law? The law demands a curse and death for the sinner. Christ has become our curse by being hung upon the tree, and He has died in our place to free us from the law and freely make us right before God. As the hymn says, “In my place condemned He stood.” Of course, Paul follows this death with the life that we now live. In Christian theology, after death comes life. We die to the law and are raised to live unto God. The apostle teaches that the death and resurrection we experience actually enables us to live unto God. Under the law, you cannot live unto God, but you are crushed by the weight of the law’s demands. How is it that we have died and been raised to a new life? It is in our union with Christ! We have been crucified with Christ. When we are united with Christ, God considers us to have hung on the cross with Christ.

This is the Gospel message: Christ has died, and you are able to die with Him. You see, so many people do not want to hear that message. From a worldly point of view, that does not sound like Good News, that you have to die. No one wants to die. No one wants to throw themselves at the mercy of God. People fear giving up their identity. But what happens when we are crucified with Christ is that the old “I” is put to death. The old “I” enslaved to sin and the law is done away with, to be replaced by a new “I” whose existence is determined by the indwelling of Christ (Moo, 171).

The last part of verse 20 explains what is said in the first part. We still have a life to physically live here on the earth during this age. We must live it by faith. These words should dominate our lives. We should meditate on them day and night. We should rejoice in these words, give thanks, and constantly let them dictate what kind of life we are going to now live. What words am I referring to? “I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” As another apostle says, “We love Him because He first loved us.” And as Paul says in another place, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” These two things, Christ loving us and giving Himself for us, cannot be divorced. They are so closely related that they are basically one in the same. You cannot speak of Christ loving you without speaking of His death and vice-versa. This is the Gospel and our life.

Don’t Set Aside the Grace of God (21)
When Paul gets to verse 21, he wants to return to what he said in verse 18 and sum it up with a punch. For a Christian to leave justification by faith in Christ alone and go to the law as a means of right standing with God, he/she is nullifying the grace of God and the cross of Christ. Paul says, “I do not set aside the grace of God.” What can be worse than utterly rejecting the great work of God that is done in our behalf?

I have known folks, and even a minister or two, who have had no clue what the grace of Christ truly is. They attended church services and activities their entire lives, even preached hundreds of sermons and did not know the grace of Christ. You see, the apostle’s point here is very simple. If you lean on yourself, that is, your obedience to the Law, or tradition, or any kind of religious performance, you are setting aside the grace of God.

The Galatians are faced with the option of setting aside the grace of God. Paul gets very personal in these last few words of the chapter. He says, “I do not set aside the grace of God.” He had made up his mind. He had been there and back with the issue of righteousness through the law and wanted no part in it. He was going to live and die by faith in Christ’s death. He would hope, boast, and glory in the righteousness that is only found in the Son of God, who loved Paul and gave Himself for Paul.

The one question that saved me from legalism was, Why did Christ die? This is the verse that saved me. If righteousness and salvation still depends on me, then Christ died for no reason. If I have to add to what Christ has done, then His death really means very little to nothing.

Conclusion and Christian Application

(1) “True (humility) is to accept what God offers. One must either receive God’s offer of salvation or insult Him” (Boice). The latter is a dangerous position!

(2) This life that you live here and now must be lived by faith in the Son of God. Let that dominate your life. Maybe you should commit this verse to memory. It is short, simple, and unbelievably central to who we are as Christians.

(3) Have you abandoned the law, or tradition, or your own personal do-good-ism as a means of justification before God? Are you still trying to make yourself right before God by religious performance? If you have not, let me urge you to abandon every form of justification by works and turn to Christ. Repent of your sins, confess Christ as Lord and Savior, trust Him for salvation, and be united with Him in baptism. This is the Word of God. This is the way of salvation.

The Need for Bible Study: Part 1

The Need for Bible Study: Corporately

How important is it to study the Bible? I mean, for centuries folks did not even own personal copies of the Scriptures. They were dependent on the “priest” and pastor for hearing the Word of God. In the tradition that I was raised in, and many others especially of Evangelical families in the American South, we were constantly encouraged (borderline commanded) to frequently and consistently read our Bibles during the week. Now, is this a bad thing? Is this a necessity? I also grew up in a family who attended church services “every time the doors were open.” How important, really, is “Sunday School”? Do we really have to get up an hour earlier on Sunday mornings just to come to a class? Well, let’s discuss these two matters in a little more detail in this post and the next beginning with the Sunday School/Bible Class issue.

The Sunday School system dates back over 200 years ago in America. It originally targeted children for training in reading, writing, and a knowledge of the Bible. Today, many churches still offer “Sunday School” classes for all ages that aim to teach biblical studies and Christian doctrine. These classes are usually taught by lay leaders but are sometimes taught by church pastors. For the sake of this discussion, we will rule out small group gatherings as many churches maintain and only include Bible classes such as Sunday School or Sunday/Wednesday evening Bible studies. Are these things necessary for the Christian to attend?

Let us start by acknowledging that the first Christians lived their lives according to the church, and when the church had a gathering, we could probably assume that almost everyone was in attendance. Their commitment was to the life and gatherings of the church. As the book of Acts tells us very early on the believers were “devoted” to the apostles’ doctrine. They “continued steadfastly” in that Christian teaching (Acts 2:42).

Today many Christians are overextended with responsibilities and extracurricular activities that have nothing to do with the church, and when the church has a gathering planned such as a Bible class, folks are either too busy to attend or uninterested because it does not meet their entertainment needs that have been conditioned by all of their other activities. But the question is, do we even need to make this an issue? What is the big deal?

I think it is an issue that we should address. The importance of a Bible or Sunday School class is to gather worshipfully around the Scriptures, learn in the company of fellow believers, and to receive teaching from a prepared and, hopefully, theologically trained individual. It is not so much about what the class is called as long as it is a concentrated study of the Bible. My philosophy of ministry is that the minister(s) should be willing to publicly teach at least 2-3 times per week. They are the most gifted/trained/qualified individuals in the congregation. Who else in my congregation has a theological/biblical education (especially on the undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral levels)? If the shoe fits, then we should wear it. Do what you have been called, gifted, and trained to do by the grace of God. The “pastor/teachers” (Eph 4:11), the “elders who labor in word and doctrine” (1 Tim 5:17) should be the ones to teach on a regular basis in a church. We should not require believers to sit under the ramblings of an unprepared and unqualified Sunday School teacher just for the sake of tradition or legalism. We should provide engaging and enlightening Bible classes taught by true ministers of the Word that people would want to attend.

The reason I would invite and encourage folks to devote themselves to this type of class is because this setting is spiritually healthy for a Christian. This type of environment will bring about spiritual growth, understanding, strength, encouragement, and so much more. If a Christian actually attended church gatherings (Bible classes, worship) on Sundays at 10am, 11am, and 6pm for an hour at a time, then they have spent a total of three hours in the Word of God with their minds fully set on the things of Christ. Those three hours are then to combat the 165 hours that the world has our attention every week. Now, let’s finish doing some of the math so that we can have an accurate picture of what we are talking about.

There are 168 hours in a week. If we sleep 8 hours each night as the professionals recommend, then that leaves 112 hours. If we actually attend church services for three hours on Sunday, then that leaves 109 hours. So, the world has us for 109 hours each week. The potential struggles and stresses at work, the unholy conversations of fellow employees during the lunch hour, the temptations to all sorts of sinful activities, the mind numbing time in front of the TV, the running around to kids’ activities, the depression/anxiety of late evenings, the loneliness of long days, the challenge of marriage, and so much more take up 109 hours of our week, and we only have three hours of concentrated time in the things of Christ and the Word of God to combat it.
That is 3 versus 109!

Do you still feel like Bible classes/church gatherings are not that important? What is so baffling is the fact that most Christians only attend a one hour worship service on Sunday morning. If it starts at 11am, then they want it over by 12pm. Then the ratio is that much worse: 1 versus 111.

Let me encourage you to get into a Bible study class. Take advantage of all the resources that your church is offering. Attend all of the gatherings. Learn, grow, and mature in Christ. Tune your life into accord with the Holy Spirit. I would also conclude that 3 hours a week to combat the 109 in the world may not be enough. We are going to have to spend some personal and family time in the Word of God. We will save that thought for next week and develop it further.

Galatians 2:11-16 Faith in Christ, Not Works

The Truth of the Gospel: Sermons from Galatians
Galatians 2:11-16         Faith in Christ, Not Works              WC McCarter

There are several movies that have come out over the last couple of decades that show one actor playing the parts of several characters. The first one that comes to my mind is The Nutty Professor with Eddy Murphy. I also grew up watching the TV show “Family Matters” which had one actor play Steve Urkel and his alter ego Stefan Urquelle. In more recent memory there are the Tyler Perry movies and especially his role as Madea. These are great examples of how one person may play the role of several characters. Think back in past history to the days of Shakespeare when women were not allowed on the stage, and men had to play both male and female acting parts. Even farther back in history to the days of Greek actors there were those who would wear a mask and would “speak from under” the mask to play their roles. The Greeks called these actors “hypocrites.” The term was not used in a derogatory fashion, but literally referred to them as those who spoke from under their masks. Of course, the Lord Jesus used this term especially of the Pharisees who would claim to be righteous but were actually living a double standard. In today’s passage, one apostle has good reason to call another apostle a “hypocrite.”

We have all seen people change over time. We are especially shocked to see sudden and drastic change. We are often hurt by it and do not know how to react. When you know someone well, when they have lived a certain way for an extended period of time, and then they suddenly flip-flop to another lifestyle, we are caught off guard. Even when someone maybe does not feel very well, we say that they are “not being him/herself.” Paul records for us in Galatians 2 a time when Peter deserts his Gospel-driven lifestyle because of fear.

READ Scripture- This is the Word of God

Peter was to be Blamed (11)
Paul has been defending his authority as an apostle of Christ. In this passage, he demonstrates his apostolic confidence and defense of the truth. What we have here is an epic clash. The great apostle from Jerusalem, Peter, and the great apostle to the Gentiles, Paul, are set to square off. Paul dares to stand up to Peter to his face in front of others in public. I cannot imagine a tenser scene with such crucial consequences. Paul basically says that he had to stand up to Peter because “he was to be blamed.” Now, for what was he to be blamed?

They Played the Hypocrite (12-13)
Let us set the scene as we read verses 12-13. Peter decided to head up to see Gentile country. A thriving Christian community, of mostly Gentile believers, had developed in the city of Antioch (of Syria, the third largest city of the Roman Empire at that time) because of the work of Paul and Barnabus. Peter went to visit and apparently was spending a good bit of time up there. We are told that he was in the habit of eating with the Gentiles. Of course, this was something new for a Jewish man. No Jew would be caught exchanging much of anything or communing in any way with a Gentile. They would not visit in a gentiles house much less eat with them. Not only would they not eat with Gentiles, but they followed the OT law strictly when it came to the food regulations. They even added many regulations to the OT law about eating.

Yet, Jesus had personally taught the apostles that it is not what a man eats that defiles him, but what comes out of his mouth, that is, what truly comes from his heart. Jesus had also demonstrated that a Jewish man could commune with sinners, Samaritans, and Gentiles. He did so on numerous occasions, eating with them, talking with them, teaching and healing them. The Lord had even given Peter a vision confirming these things. One day while Peter was praying on a rooftop, the Lord gave him a vision of a sheet coming down from heaven with all sorts of animals that were unclean according to the Law, but the Lord said, “Take and eat . . . do not call unclean what I have called clean.”

When Peter went to visit Antioch, he was routinely going into Gentile houses, eating pork BBQ with them, and having a great time of friendship. When the men from Jerusalem came all of that changed. The men claimed to be “from James,” but all of the facts prove that to be a lie. James was the half-brother of Jesus who was not a believer before the resurrection. When he saw the Risen Lord, he became a believer and quickly an elder in the Jerusalem church.

The designation “hypocrite” was originally used for Greek actors who put on different masks in order to fulfill different roles. Peter would put on a certain mask with the Gentiles and another with the Jews. This is something Paul could not allow. The influence of the Judaizers, now including Peter, was so great that it even persuaded Barnabus, who was so well-known among those in Antioch. Barnabus was a close associate with Paul in preaching the Gospel of Grace to Gentiles, and now he had abandoned the Gospel truth. This was so relevant and personal for the Galatians because they knew him very well.

This account involving Peter and Barnabus tells us that even the greatest of leaders can and have made mistakes. He has now thrown Peter and Barnabus’ reputations under the bus for the sake of what? Paul’s reputation? Paul being right? I think it is for the sake of the Gospel. Paul really meant what he said in 1:10 “For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.”

The Truth of the Gospel (14-16)
Not only were Peter, Barnabus, and others not acting in accord with their convictions, but, worse, they were not acting in accord with the Gospel. It is one thing to make personal mistakes that need confrontation and correction, it is another thing entirely for a great leader to publicly act against the truth of the Gospel. As Paul said before, Peter was to be blamed. This could not go unnoticed. Something had to be said and done about this situation.

Peter and Paul have a close connection. Both were born Jews and have that heritage. Both had lived at least part of their lives attempting to achieve righteousness by works of the Law. In verse sixteen alone Paul exalts justification by faith in Christ Jesus and three times in that verse he negates justification by works of the law. He could not have emphasized this Gospel teaching much more! And so Peter and Paul both had the advantages that Paul refers to in Romans 3:1-2. These were Godly men who were raised under the Law of the Lord, yet even they had put their faith in Christ for justification. They came to understand that the Gospel was the truth and the only way.

There was no chance that anyone could ever be justified in the flesh. If you are a living person, you cannot be justified in God’s sight by any means of your own. In Job 25:4 Bildad, one of Job’s supposed friends, asks an important question. He asks, “How then can man be righteous before God? Or how can he be pure who is born of a woman?” The answer is no one can be righteous or pure before God. This is a common foundation for the Gospel. Either God saves us or we perish in our sins because we are never just in God’s sight!

Conclusion and Christian Application
(1) There are core truths and facts contained in the Gospel, and that message has clear, outward consequences. If one accepts the Gospel, then one must submit to the results of it. The Bible says that we (humans) all have been created in the image and likeness of God. It is not our physical appearance that is His image, but the human spirit. Every human on this planet, no matter how they look or talk, have been created in His image and are special among all of creation. The Gospel says that Christ died to redeem people from every nation, tribe, and tongue. Therefore, there is no Gentile church and Jewish church or Hispanic church, Black church, and White church. There is only one church. The Gospel forces/requires us to come together and celebrate Christ Jesus.

(2) Gospel truth is more important than keeping the peace. Standing back, closing our eyes, and wishing with all of our might that peace will come will not accomplish true and eternal peace. Just because we do not want to “rock the boat” or “hurt someone’s feelings” does not mean that we should stand idly by. Neither does it mean that we have to picket every event we can think of. Yet, it does require us to take a stand for Gospel truth at certain times.

(3) We cannot leave this text without criticizing legalism, that is, works=righteousness. Religious performance cannot save a person, no matter what form it may take (Mosaic Law, Fundamentalism, etc.).

(4) Lastly, we all fail (even great Gospel ministers) – but that’s what grace is for.

Bible-Believing Christians

What Does It Mean to be a Bible-Believing Christian?

What does it mean to be a Bible-believing Christian? I have claimed to be a Bible-believing, Bible-proclaiming Christian minister. I am a Bible Preacher and Bible Teacher. My Master of Arts degree is in Biblical Studies. You can see on this website phrases such as, "Biblical Studies from the Ministry of Wesley McCarter," and, "Devoted to the Detailed Study of Scripture." There are thousands of Evangelical Christians, especially in the American South, that have long claimed to be people of the Bible. We even have many “Bible Churches” and “Bible Colleges” all over the country and globe. So, what does all of this "Bible-believing" stuff really mean?

Let us first and foremost state emphatically that we do not worship a book, but we have put our full trust in Jesus of Nazareth as Christ, Son of God, crucified Savior, and risen Lord. Our faith is not in a leather-bound, gold-trimmed book but in the person and accomplishments of Jesus Christ. We do not live as if owning a Bible is our “ticket to heaven.” We believe that the righteousness of Christ, which we have received by faith, is our only hope of salvation.

Having said that ultimately our faith is in the person of Christ, let us now turn our attention to the importance of the Book. Evangelical Christians believe that the Bible is the “Word of God” and “God-breathed” in the sense that God has revealed Himself through the spoken and then written word of the prophets and apostles of the Old and New Testaments. We believe that the Holy Spirit divinely guided these men over a long period of history to record for us what He would want us to know about Himself, how He interacts with creation, and what He is doing to redeem us. While this is a historic faith, rooted in past events, we believe this on theological grounds. His Spirit tells our spirits that we are His children, and His Spirit tells our spirits that this is true revelation of the divine. As Jesus said, “I am the Great Shepherd,” and, “The sheep hear my voice,” we are confident that we hear our Lord’s voice through the written documents of the 66 scriptural books. Through the message of the Bible, we have been changed, and we continue to grow in our knowledge of life and faith.

While there are secular sources which support the historicity of Christianity’s claims about Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, we know very little about the details of those claims apart from the Bible. All of the theological understanding we have about those historical realities comes from the Christian Scriptures. We have come to know full-well the person and work of Jesus Christ from the Gospel narratives. We know the history of the beginnings of humanity; God’s dealings with the Hebrew people; the life, ministry, crucifixion, and resurrection of Christ; and the church’s proclamation of the blessings of Christ all from the Bible. We believe that there is nowhere else to turn because the Bible offers the words of true atonement and eternal life.

Therefore, we are Bible-believing Christians because, among other things, (1) the Bible informs us about the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ and because (2) we believe that the Bible is completely trustworthy as a guide for all things concerning life, faith, and salvation.

Galatians 1:3-12 The Grace of Christ

The Truth of the Gospel: Sermons from Galatians
Galatians 1:3-12           The Grace of Christ                          WC McCarter

The Apostle Paul and his missionary partner planted churches in southern Galatia during Paul’s first missionary journey around A. D. 47.  There were four primary cities that they evangelized: Derbe, Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch of Pisidia.  During the Apostle’s second missionary journey, around A. D. 49, Paul and Silas went to those same churches to “strengthen the saints.” The apostle also wrote a letter to the congregations in that region, and many believe that Galatians was the first NT book to be written.

The major concern that developed in the Galatian churches was the arrival of false teachers.  The false teachers, whom we will call Judaizers during our study, attacked on three points:
          1. Undermined Paul’s Apostolic Credibility
          2. Demanded Circumcision for Continued Justification
          3. Required All Jewish Ceremonies/Rituals to be maintained
These legalistic Jews claimed to be Christians while harassing Gentile believers and pulling them away from the true faith that they had put in Christ for salvation. In light of the claims of the false teachers, Paul had three tasks to accomplish with this letter:
          1. Defend His Apostolic Authority
          2. Restate the Gospel of Grace in Christ
          3. Encourage Christians to Live Free from Law

You see, the Gospel has always under attack. It suffers violence from the outside and the inside, directly and indirectly. The true Gospel of the grace of Christ is even being undermined in America today by thousands of preachers and religious folk who are more interested in making a name for themselves, enlarging their bank accounts, telling jokes and stories, and feeling good about themselves than proclaiming and believing the truths about the saving work and Lordship of Jesus Christ. They tell listeners that they can live their best life now, that if they sow a seed they will reap a great financial reward, that there is no Hell, and happiness comes by living however you see fit. This has been coined as “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism,” that is, they uphold certain morals because they do want to be “religious,” their chief goal is to feel good about themselves, and they believe in God but want to keep Him at a distance until He is really needed. They pervert the Gospel to fit their own purposes instead of proclaiming the Good News that Christ has paid the penalty for our sins by going to the cross. They preach a God without wrath, men without sin, and a Christ without a cross (Richard Niebuhr). Sadly, this is only one form of Gospel perversion. For example, others preach a crucified Christ, but then add so many rules to go alongside faith that, in essence, they are telling you that Christ has not done enough, and you have to save yourself.

READ Scripture- This is the Word of God

Grace and Peace from God (3-5)
The greeting “Grace and Peace” actually summarizes Paul’s message in only two words. Grace is how we attain salvation, and peace is what has been accomplished. These two things are going forth in the preaching of the apostle. The cross becomes central. Paul is not promoting himself but something totally outside of himself. Grace and peace are founded on the Father’s plan of redemption and the Son’s completion of it.

The primary display of the cross was not heroism, exemplary, or even love, but the chief concern of the cross was the atoning for sin. Christ’s sacrifice for sin has saved us from the present evil age.

Notice the harmony of the will of the Father and the work of the Son. Christ gave Himself according to the will of the Father. These two persons of the Triune God were in complete agreement about this plan. This is the plan and accomplishment of God. Salvation belongs to Him from beginning to end. Thus, all glory is due to Him.

Paul’s language, here, is closely in line with the theology of Isaiah 53 (Moo). The language of the Servant giving Himself as a willing sacrifice and also the acknowledgement that this sacrifice was in complete accord with the Father are both theological points that Isaiah 53 makes.

Let Him Be Accursed (6-9)
While the apostle usually follows his greeting with a prayer for the church and a word of encouragement, here he launches into a rebuke of the Galatians. In the same way that we are blown away by the prompt rebellion of the Israelites after the Exodus so, too, is Paul about the Galatians. The Israelites saw all of the miraculous plagues tear through Egypt and the parting of the Red Sea, yet they almost immediately crafted a golden calf to worship. The Galatians heard the true Gospel of grace in Christ from the apostle and almost immediately were swept away by the perversion of the false teachers.

The apostle criticizes with great emotion the many who were turncoats. Like a soldier who deserts the battle field or a politician who completely flips parties, these folks were abandoning the Gospel that Paul had proclaimed and they had believed. While those two things may be serious, this has eternal ramifications. “They are religious turncoats, spiritual deserters” (Stott, 22). This is a more severe issue than simply changing from one Christian church to another. These folks were abandoning God. The apostle makes this precise and personal. This serves as a warning for us. When you abandon the true Gospel which was secured by the sacrifice of Christ, then you have no access to God. The only way to the Father is by Jesus Christ. There is salvation in no other name. If you abandon salvation by grace through faith, you abandon God.

What is grace? The word can refer to many things, but foundationally it is that undeserved favor of God toward sinners in the person of Jesus Christ which brings about our redemption. In other words, grace is God forgiving us for our sins because of Christ’s death even though we do not deserve it. God has determined to favor all those who put their faith in the finished work of Christ.

The end of verse six, going into verse seven tells us that they were leaving the Gospel of grace in Christ for another gospel, which was no Gospel at all. Someone can disguise their message as “gospel” all day long, but if it is not about the grace of Jesus Christ, then it is not truly the Good News. The Galatians were being led away into destruction by false teachers. We may call these false teachers Judaizers because they taught that to be a good Christian, one had to also continue to follow the OT Law. The apostle says that these folks were troubling the Galatians and perverting the Gospel. “To tamper with the gospel is always to trouble the church” (Stott, 23). They were teaching that to be saved one had to commit to Jesus of Nazareth as the Christ, but then also fulfill the OT Law by observing circumcision and holy days. “In other words, you must let Moses finish what Christ has begun;” or, worse, “You must finish Christ’s unfinished work” (Stott, 22). For Paul, and the true believer, this is absurd. The Gospel that he declared to them was of the finished work of Christ, the once-for-all sacrifice for sin. There is nothing to add to what Christ has done. You must trust that what He has done is enough to save you because you cannot save yourself. You can never be righteous enough before God.

The apostle repeats himself in verses eight and nine, saying the same, strong statement twice: “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.” What was going on in the Galatian congregations was of utmost importance. There is only one Gospel that is true and saving. Paul had proclaimed that Gospel to those people during his first missionary trip. They had believed that word and put their faith in Jesus Christ. They were given peace with God as they were welcomed into the grace of Christ. Paul makes clear and emphatic that if they hear anyone, whether someone from earth or even heaven, proclaim to them any other message, they are to be rejected. He even calls down a curse on them. He calls on God to set those false teachers aside for utter destruction in the fires of Hell. If you thought that maybe the apostle rushed into this statement and was overtaken by emotion as he stated it, he says it a second time so that you may know different. What he has said was sober-minded and intentional. If you think that he is being spiteful to one group of teachers, you may notice that he is not because this is a mass statement that covers any false teachers including all men, angels, and even Paul and his associates.

The Revelation of Jesus Christ (10-12)
The language that Paul has just used is not for the faint of heart. He is obviously not trying to be a people-pleaser. He wants God’s favor on his life and ministry. He is a slave of Christ, one who belongs to Him. He has said what he has said because he answers to God and not to men. Of course, the apostle is following the example of the Lord who once sternly said, “But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea.”

This is not a man-made message. This is the God-generated Gospel.

Conclusion and Christian Application

(1) There is no other way to be saved than by putting your faith in Christ. Do not try to save yourself. You will fail miserably.

(2) Be on guard against false teachers. TV preachers and even some radio teachers are dangerous. The history channel, popular books, and such can be misleading. You may think that they are Christian, but they are fooling us.

(3) We must trust that what has been recorded in the New Testament by the apostles is the true revelation of God. We know nothing outside the Scriptures about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Do not look for salvation anywhere else.