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Posts Tagged ‘Judaizers’

Verses 15-17: “And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written: ‘After this I will return And will rebuild the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down; I will rebuild its ruins, And I will set it up; So that the rest of mankind may seek the LORD, Even all the Gentiles who are called by My name, Says the LORD who does all these things.’”

In the animated movie Happy Feet, Mumbles was a penguin who couldn’t sing; all penguins used a “heart-song” to attract and to match up with a female penguin in order to mate. But he could tap-dance, something that flew in the face of the traditional singing of the penguin colonies. Through an adventure in exile, he learned that humans would respond to his tap-dancing; he thought he had finally found a way to communicate with these “aliens”. Tagged by researchers, he returned to his own colony to try and convince them that he had a way to communicate with the aliens…that maybe they could solve the problem of why there was little fish to hunt (which in reality, humans had been overfishing the area). In the penultimate scene, Mumbles convinces his parents, the girl penguin he loves, and others to join him in dancing when the aliens appear (homing in on him through the tag transmitter he was wearing). The elders tried mightily to stick to singing, but the colony discovered that the aliens did indeed pay attention to the out-of-character dancing. Finally, even the elders joined in; with the entire colony dancing, the aliens recorded the event and left. The humans later concluded that this non-traditional behavior on the penguins’ part was a sign something had changed; they finally figured out that the overfishing was affecting the colony. The overfishing was stopped, the penguins had a restocked food source…and now they celebrated in song AND in dance.

Here, we have the proclamation by James, the ruling elder of this convention, on the issue of the Gentile mission. He quotes Amos 9:11-12 above, bolstering the statement that God wanted to reach the Gentiles, too. The gift of salvation through Jesus Christ the Messiah, was not just for the Jews. Jesus came and died FOR ALL. Are we all alike…no. Do Christians share the same Lord and Savior…YES. Part of the issue with the Judaizers, the Pharisees here, was that they wanted the Gentile converts to behave like Jews…to adhere to the Jewish customs. Do we all worship the same…no. Do we worship the same Lord…for Christians, the answer is YES! Traditional (old) versus contemporary (new) is an age-old conflict that still exists, even today. As someone who has led music in church, I like traditional and contemporary…do I like all of one or all of the other…no. But, in light of the last post, we need to remember to “keep the main thing, the main thing.” We would do well to remember the words of Paul in Romans 14:13: “Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way.” That verse applies to both Jew and Gentile, traditional and contemporary…in other words, ALL Christians.

Now, how does James propose to heal this rift? Well to quote Paul Harvey, we’ll find out later in “the rest of the story”.

More to come!

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Galatians 4:11: “I am afraid for you, lest I have labored for you in vain.”

I remember once helping my father on a local job site one weekend years ago. We were building a new chimney and fireplace for a neighbor who lived a few miles out of town. While my father was building the fireplace inside, 2 more brickmasons were building the narrow chimney outside. Now, this man’s house had a very steep-pitched roof, so it was a tall skinny chimney. On top of that, he had 2 different sets of bricks; they were not noticeable to the untrained eye as different, but one set was a little longer than the other set. The 2 brickmasons had to mix those bricks as they laid the chimney; they were using short levels to keep their work straight. The chimney was capped by a 4-inch thick concrete chimney cap (and boy, was it heavy to have to lug and to pull up to that chimney top!)

Since he finished first, Daddy was able to go outside and look at the other brickmasons’ progress. Up close, everything seemed fine. It wasn’t until the owner called my father down the long driveway to look at the chimney from the main road. Then, he saw that the chimney was not straight but was actually cork-screwing around as it went up! If the brickmasons had used long levels, they would’ve seen that their progress was going off course. As to be expected, Daddy had us tear down the entire chimney back to the roof AFTER we removed the 4-inch chimney cap which had been put in place. Needless to say, we were all exasperated that our work had been in vain, and that we had to build it right, all over again. However, it would have been wrong to leave the chimney the way it was.

Paul was stating how afraid he was for the Galatian Christians; he didn’t want them to become mired in the legalism that the Judaizers were trying to push on them. He wanted his fellow Christians to grow and to mature in the faith. He didn’t want all his efforts to be in vain if it didn’t result in the church growing the right way in Christ.

Remember, Jesus died for our sins. His sacrifice is a free gift to us, that we have the choice to accept. If we accept it, we are guaranteed life eternal in Heaven with Him. To say no to this gift…would be that His death would’ve been in vain.

Something to think about today.

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Verse 18: “But it is good always to be eagerly sought in a commendable manner, and not only when I am present with you.”

Our pastor focused on a very important topic tonight for churches; how visitors feel welcome. Sometimes, as he pointed out, a visitor can size up in 15 seconds whether he’ll come back to a church or not. This sermon also served to launch a new focus on our greeting committee, and the importance of helping a visitor feel welcome in God’s house. It is nice to be greeted, as well as nice to be missed when one is absent. You can tell when someone is sincerely and enthusiastically glad to see you or glad to welcome you.

Paul had previously been welcomed warmly by the Galatian church and the message he brought was received with zeal. The Judaizers were trying to turn that zeal against him and the message of the Gospel by their “additions”. Paul acknowledges the church’s zeal, but reminds them of where it should be placed and in Whom it should be placed.

That’s the funny thing about being on fire for something; when it catches hold of you, you are said to be truly ablaze, not smoldering. Are you ablaze for Christ?

Something to think about.

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Verse 13: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, “CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE”–”

I love to play board games with my family and friends. All games, of course, have rules. It has often bemused me (between chuckling and rolling my eyes) to see my sons play a game they made up, and then make up rules on the fly! Especially if the one making the rules is losing! (I think I remember seeing Calvin and Hobbes do something like this in the comic strips!)

We went to the Lego store down at Disneyworld during a vacation once; I purchased a small Lego game called Ramses’ Return, a sequel game to Ramses’ Pyramid, I think. Once you “assemble” the game (remember it’s made of Lego’s) and learn the rules, you can play it. What is neat is that the Lego makers of the game encourage the players to add rules for variety (but write them down, of course!). My sons and I each assembled customized Lego figures down at the store and bought them. So, I added one of my custom figures as a “roll the dice” helper. If the mummy lands in your area while you have some of the treasures that you’re trying to escape with, you get sent back to the beginning and lose that treasure. I added a heroic bionic archaeologist (don’t laugh, this is my Lego character, I created him! 🙂 ) that, if you roll the right color, will save you from the mummy and help you keep the treasure.

Paul continues his arguments on the Judaizers’ insistence of the law by reminding them (through quotes of Scripture in Deuteronomy 27:26 and Habakkuk 2:4) that the law only punishes; it doesn’t save. Faith was always the way to justification. As the Holman Concordance on Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians puts it on page 37: “The Judaizers would have been wrong in their fundamental message even if they had lived during the time of Moses, because they misunderstood the purpose and power of the law.” Christ came to take the curse of sin on Himself through His sacrifice. It is only through Him that we are redeemed and free. So why add a bunch of rules that you don’t have to follow anymore? Christ has already provided the saving rescue…and through Him, you’ve “won the game”.

Have a blessed day in Him.

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Verse 6: “Even so Abraham BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS.”

Not too long ago, DC Comics ran a storyline through all its major titles called DC ONE MILLION. In this plot, the future descendants of the Justice League from the 853rd century came into the present to invite the present-day Justice League to the future for a celebration. As always, there were villains, present and future, lurking in the midst to mess things up. In the future, Superman was accused of being a Bizarro clone through the devious machinations of the villains, and was on the run from the populace. He was caught by a squadron of Thanagarian elite Wingmen, under the command of Mahol Toj, who responded to the rioting. During their conversation, Superman mentioned the name of his present-day teammate Hawkman; that name was Katar Hol. The mention of the name of a legendary figure in the Wingmen’s history gave Mahol Toj pause, and he gave Superman a chance to prove he was the original, allowing both sides to help each other confront the real villain in the game (some of this research I remembered with some help from a DC wiki: http://glcorps.dcuwiki.net/w/Mahol_Toj_(DC_One_Million) )

The Judaizers were very fond of quoting the law of Moses…Paul “one-ups” them here, and mentions Abraham. Abraham was saved by faith in God, long before there was “the law”. Paul quotes Genesis 15:6 in this verse. So if Abraham didn’t need the law to be saved, why should the Galatians? It was faith in God…for Abraham, faith in God the Father; for the Galatian Christians and us today, it’s faith in Jesus Christ, God the Son, the One who took our sin punishment upon Himself, and paid a debt we couldn’t pay.

In this case…it is Who you know!

Something to think about.

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Verse 2: “This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?”

Have you ever seen the TV game show on ABC called Wipeout? It’s the very physically-challenging, wildly manic game show where contestants have to run crazy obstacle courses (all the time over water). From start to finish they have to navigate obstacle laden paths. Along the first path (called the qualifying round), things that look sure and solid can fold, rise, drop, flip, or pummel you…most times into falling off the pathway into the water. Sometimes watching some of these contestants, (some less successful than others) I have to wonder, “why don’t they just take a few steps and make a flying leap on their own into the water to complete the qualifying round? It’s about the only sure thing that’s going to happen to them. If you’re going to get wet, why get pummeled on the way?”

Paul was incredulous that the Galatians were suckered into the Judaizers’ Law plan as an additional requirement to salvation. Paul himself had taught them that the grace of Jesus was sufficient. He even asked them in several rhetorical questions, “how did you receive the Spirit?” It’s analogous to him almost asking, “Did you have to jump through a lot of legal hoops and obstacles, sometimes falling into the water, just to be saved? You realize there is an easier path than the must-keep-all-the-laws path…and you know what it is.”

That easier path is Jesus…in fact, it’s the only path.

Something to think about.

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Verse 14: “But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of all, “If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?”

There was an episode of the cartoon Batman: The Animated Series entitled “The Strange Secret of Bruce Wayne”. In it, Batman goes undercover at a rest spa, in his civilian alter-ego of Bruce Wayne, to investigate a blackmail scheme. A scientist named Dr. Hugo Strange has invented a machine to read thoughts; using it under the pretense of treating executives for stress, he extracts blackmailing information. Using it on Bruce, he discovers Batman’s secret identity and attempts to auction the information to the Joker, Two-Face, and the Penguin. Thanks to Batman’s ingenuity, the three villains think they have been tricked with a false tape and destroy the real tape evidence in their attempt to get revenge on Strange. As they are attempting to flee and have kidnapped Strange, Strange tries to convince them he was telling the truth.

Dr. Hugo Strange: “Joker, please! I was set up! Bruce Wayne is Batman!”
Two-Face: “That’s absurd! I know Bruce Wayne. If he’s Batman…I’m the King of England!”
Joker: “And people say that I’m crazy!” (maniacal laughter)

Due to Batman’s cleverness (and a well-timed impersonation of Bruce by Dick Grayson), Strange is convinced he didn’t get the true story…the villains didn’t believe it anyway, since as Two-Face aptly put it: “That’s absurd! I know Bruce Wayne. If he’s Batman…I’m the King of England!”

The Gentiles thought they knew Peter (Cephas). An apostle, a church leader, and a disciple of Jesus, he was fellowshipping with the Gentile converts. But the arrival of some Judaizers shamed Peter into distancing himself from the Gentiles. The Gentiles were getting confused…what was the message Peter was conveying? Paul could see how this would hurt the message of the gospel, and he promptly took Peter by the spiritual short-hairs on the back of his neck, and set him straight! By even appearing to side with the Judaizers, who were stating grace PLUS the law, Peter could have done damage to Paul’s ministry to the Gentiles. Paul set him straight and made him remember who he really was and who he needed to be to those he witnessed to: a man saved by the grace of Jesus Christ, and that grace alone!

What message are you sending today to those who need to be saved by the gospel of Christ?

Something to think about.

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Verse 3: “But not even Titus who was with me, though he was a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised.”
Verse 9: “and recognizing the grace that had been given to me, James and Cephas and John, who were reputed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we might go to the Gentiles, and they to the circumcised.”

Today is July 4, Independence Day, in the United States. This is the day we celebrate the birth of the United States of America; over 200 years ago, our forefathers fought against the tyrannical British monarchy to achieve their freedom from England. They wanted to govern themselves, not be subjected to the unfair laws and rule of King George. They wanted freedom from the law of the English empire.

Paul had gone to Jerusalem to meet with the Christian leadership, and he, too, was fighting for freedom: the freedom from the laws that the Judaizers were saying the Gentiles had to abide by, in addition to the grace of Jesus. Titus was Exhibit A in this case; a Greek uncircumcised Christian. Had the Judaizers had their way, they would have stated that Titus couldn’t be a Christian without obeying the law of Moses, including circumcision. Paul defended that it was grace and grace alone in Jesus Christ that was saving. The Christian leadership agreed with Paul; they also offered the “right hand of fellowship” to Barnabas and him to continue in the ministry to the Gentiles. The Judaizers had kept referencing the Jerusalem leadership in their arguments against Paul…now Paul had the endorsement of the Jerusalem Christian leaders that he was in the right…that the grace of Jesus needed no additional “requirements”.

That is what makes the Christian faith different from other religions; you can’t earn or work your way to Heaven. It’s a gift from God, the gift of Jesus. It’s freedom from the penalty of sin.

Happy Independence Day!

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Verse 12: “For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.”

There was an episode of Spongebob Squarepants once, where he, Patrick, and Squidward were out camping. The subject of seabears came up; Squidward insisted that they were myths, but Patrick and Spongebob kept insisting they were real, to the point that Spongebob stated, “He’s right Squidward, Seabears are all to real. Why once I met this guy who knew this guy who knew this guy who knew this guy who knew this guy who knew this guy who knew this guy who knew this guy who knew this guy who knew this guy’s cousin…” at which point Squidward caves in and agrees just to get Spongebob to stop. (the quote is found at http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0832777/quotes ).

Now if you were wanting to believe something that had been experienced by someone, whom would you be more apt to believe: someone who had heard about it eight or nine times down the story-line…or someone who had been there firsthand?

The Judaizers were arguing that the gospel of grace that Paul was teaching was man-made. Paul correctly and definitively states, “I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ”. Paul received it from Jesus Himself, thus validating the Authority of the message. When Christians come to know the Lord, others may introduce us to Him through sermons or personal witnessing…but it’s still a personal invitation to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior into our lives. We don’t have to “hear” about it many times removed. We don’t have to have a high priest or someone to be liaison between us and the Lord. Jesus wants to come into our lives Himself.

Knowing someone personally is much preferable any day to knowing “this guy who knew this guy who knew this guy…”…well, you get the picture!

Have a blessed day in Him!

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