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Posts Tagged ‘Galatians’

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We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

At the end of the Declaration is this rousing paragraph and note that twice God is invoked:

“We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”

President Lincoln in his Getttysburg Address quoted the Declaration of Indepence. We accept, without batting an eye, learning his speech in secular schools with the Declaration’s statement that we are “created”.  President Lincoln’ s speech, as does the Declaration,  flies in the face of evolutionism and secularism and relativism. We can not edit out the Lord from the Declaration as many do so in our public life.

Since we are created, it means we are limited as this points to the Creator. Government is to limit wrong but not freedom.  We are  created  equal in life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness which government of the people is to defend but  not to inhibit and deny.  Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are marks of us, the created. These “self-evident” (like the nose on my face!) and “unalienable rights” are from God the Creator, not the government and that declaration is what is new in the history of governance in the world.

Freedom is to be our natural state.  This came about, though, not by force of reason but by the Creator who sent His Son into the world.  Just think, that at the time of the Roman Empire, the radical quality of these words:  “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again toa yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5: 1). Freed by Christ from sin, death and power of the devil, then political freedom is a secondary, and welcome outcome.  Freedom comes from the Lord, not the Old Adam.  It is not only freedom from tyranny, but also freedom for others, to serve and love our neighbors.  Once we think government gives us those rights then the State becomes god, an idol and it’s just as evil as government denying those God-given rights by slavery of any sort, including servitude to the state.

In a world where the tyrannies of a godless secularism that worships only our unappeasable appetites abounds in our nation and in a world in which we see the march of a new virulent political tyranny of the sharia law centered religious state, we must fight for freedom and the words which the Declaration embodies, as first heard and still is in, with  and under, the Word of God.  Let us still be dedicated to the cause for which those men who pledged their lives, fortune and sacred honor this day in thanksgiving to the Lord for the many who died to defend the  proposition that  all people are created equal!

Lord, keep this nation under Your care. Bless the leaders of our land that we may be a people at peace among ourselves and a blessing to the other nations of the earth. Grant that we may choose trustworthy leaders, contribute to wise decisions for the general welfare, and serve You faithfully in our generation; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

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 11 For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. 12 For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. 13 For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. 14 And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers. 15 But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, 16 was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone; 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.

 18 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and remained with him fifteen days. 19 But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord’s brother. 20 (In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie!) 21 Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. 22 And I was still unknown in person to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. 23 They only were hearing it said, “He who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” 24 And they glorified God because of me.

“…reveal His Son to me…” He did not reveal the Gospel to Paul on the road to Damascus, but His Son. The Lord was pleased to do that.  He is pleased to save sinners.  He rejoices with all His angels over one sinner who repents (Luke 15:10).   Jesus Christ is Himself the content, the form and power of the good message, the good news, the Gospel.  The Gospel is not a bromide or advice but the power unto eternal life, as Jesus Christ is the Resurrection and the life. What happened to Paul on the road to Damascus was not his conversion but it was the Lord’s revelation to Paul. Paul would be converted when he was baptized (Acts 9:16-18).

 Paul uses the verb and noun, reveal/revelation twice.  The Greek word for revelation is “apocalypse”.  The Lord invaded Paul’s life with His eternal life by apocalypse.  We think of apocalypse as the end of the world.  It is! When Christ Jesus, His crucifixion and resurrection is preached, there is forgiveness and repentance.  Yes, the world ends.  The world of  sin, death and the power of the devil has been conquered by Christ Jesus upon the Cross and through the tomb.  This is by no means “man’s gospel”. Man’s good news is who won the lottery, the diagnosis was good or it will be  sunny tomorrow for the church picnic.  Christ Jesus’ good news is He died for sinners like Saul, like us all. 

O Lord, Father of all mercy and God of all comfort, You always go before and follow after us. Grant that we may rejoice in Your gracious presence and continually be given to all good works; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

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 The Epistle Reading for this past Sunday, 2 June 2013, in the three year lectionary is the beginning of the lexio continua (sequential reading) of Galatians.

Galatians 1:1-10 (English Standard Version)

 1Paul, an apostle— not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— 2and all the brothers who are with me,   

 To the churches of Galatia:  3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

 6I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8But 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. 9As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

 10For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.

I concentrate on verse 10.  The Greek verbs translated in the ESV “seeking the approval of man” and “please” were verbs used at the time by the rhetoricians or  public speakers, rhetors, to persuade an audience to their point of view.   Rhetoric or public speaking was an art highly developed at the time. Apollos may have been so skilled (Acts 18:24)  It was even used as public entertainment. So when Paul writes to Timothy cautioning him that the times come when “itching” ears will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit themselves (2 Timothy 4:3), the Greek verb for “itching” can be literally translated, “ears wanting to be tickled”, i.e. pleased. Paul is saying to the Galatians that he did not employ his rhetorical skills.  Paul even commented on the scuttlebutt regarding his speaking skills:  2 Corinthians 10:10.  In his first letter to the Corinthian, he purposely did not use “lofty speech” but he preached “Christ and Him crucified”, so that their faith was based not upon Paul and his great speaking skills but on Jesus Christ alone (see  1 Corinthians 2:1-3   ).  The Apostle is saying to the Galatians that he did not use rhetoric to persuade them or please them.  He was called to please God by the proclamation of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. 

FWIW, this past Sunday when I came to reading the last sentence of verse 10, “If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ”, I was overwhelmed, felt like preaching the text, then and there.  I stumbled and paused. My wife told me afterward she noticed.  I thought that when I preach and teach the Gospel, it just may not please man.  When I’ve tried to please man, then I was no servant, or slave, of Christ. Again, the Greek verb translated as “pleased” has to do with rhetoric. Paul did not try to please man to convince them of the Gospel, but to proclaim and preach the Gospel, Jesus Christ for sinners and God the Holy Spirit do the convincing. Having it our way puts us into the driver’s seat. Choice means us directing the building of the Church, her administration, her sacraments, her life, her preaching and teaching in order to ‘reach’ people by pleasing them, even righteously (self-righteously?) convincing them. We’ve made pleasing man into an art, a science, i.e. the ultimate: Church Growth…and in many incremental steps leading up to such. We think we can make faith. A commentator, J. Louis Martyn,  points out this is not the case as evidenced by the Apostle in this Text:

Paul is entirely in earnest, then, with what he says in 1:10. Both in his original oral proclamation and in his letter, he understands himself to be a slave of Christ rather than a rhetorician who is seeking to persuade those to whom he speaks, For, as we have seen, the power to persuade —specifically the power to elicit faith —resides in the glad tiding of Christ’s death in our behalf, and only in that glad tiding. When this gospel is proclaimed, it is not Paul, but rather God, who calls and re-calls churches into existence as his new creation.

 

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I use spell check and one of the green-underlines that comes up many times in my own writing is “passive voice:  consider revising”.  It is not grammatically wrong to use the passive voice but there sure seems to be some sort of problem that the program writers see in the use of the passive voice and it comes up, “passive voice:  consider revising” for the Scriptures as in following Texts:

Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. (Romans 5:9)

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? (Romans 6: 3)

Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.(Romans 6: 13)

 Obviously,  I see a boogie-man behind that spell-check.  Yes, the active voice is fine, as in changing the Scripture verse above to: He has brought us from death to life. This is a dangerous thing because the inspired Word is clearly here in the passive voice and for a reason.  Yes, the Lord is the Subject of our salvation, as many verses attest,  but the passive voice makes clear that we have been acted upon (oop! There I go again!).  This means  we can not actively obtain our own salvation. How actively can a dead person go from “death to life”?  Lazarus did not make a decision to come out of the tomb.

I see the problem is sinners, who think they are in charge, do not like the passive voice.  Adam and Even rebelled against the reality that they had been created, but wanted “to be like God”:  the subject of their own destiny.  They wanted to be ‘pro-active’ in their own salvation.  This was the devil’s lie.  Still is. In Confessional Lutheran  theology, the word “passive” comes up as in “passive righteousness” and the complementary “active righteousness.”  From the Scripture, Luther, in his commentary on Galatians, points out that whenmost people think of righteousness at all, it is the active kind.  What I do, what you do, what society does.  It is ruled by God’s Law in it’s first usage, the political or civil use.  This is a good thing and necessary for our physical well-being.  

The problem is that the Old Adam and Old Eve think that by actively doing good we can save ourselves.  Yes, in a temporal sense but even then we need law to protect ourselves from each other!  Do you really like to keep the speed limit?   Do you really have loving and warm thoughts about those around you at work, school, play…home 24/7?  Hardly.  “If they just knew what I was thinking!”  Just think of “Twilight Zone” type shows in which someone can read minds!  The Lord does.  As the old saying has it: “No one ever became good by an act of Congress”!

There is another righteousness, passive, received by faith through the preaching and teaching of the Gospel.  This is the righteousness by which we receive God’s salvation in Jesus Christ as a gift, by His grace alone through faith alone.  From Luther’s introduction to his commentary on Galatians:

“… this most excellent righteousness—that of faith, I mean—which God imputes to us through Christ, without works—is neither political nor ceremonial, nor is it the righteousness of God’s law, nor does it consist in works. It is quite the opposite; that is to say, it is passive whereas the others are active. We do nothing in this matter; we give nothing to God but simply receive and allow someone else to work in us—that is, God. Therefore, it seems to me that this righteousness of faith, or Christian righteousness, can well be called passive righteousness.

For the Church, His Body and the Christians, the passive righteousness comes first, then the active.  Faith working in love.  Just as you have been created, and have to be first created in order to live, you have been redeemed in Jesus Christ, received by faith, His gift also, that you are saved and can live again and can do His good works.  Even those good works He designed beforehand to your way of life in Him!

8For by grace you have been saved through faith. (again the passive voice)And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.  10Forwe are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2)

Using the cartoon above, anti-passive, anti-Christ theology will make us compatible to it.  Then “Eileen” becomes “I lean”.  Not on the everlasting arms but in whatever the world,the flesh and devil says.  His Word and Sacraments alone passively received keeps us on the right path.  We are His workmanship.

 Merciful Father, You gave Your Son Jesus as the heavenly bread of life. Grant us faith to feast on Him in Your Word and Sacraments that we may be nourished unto life everlasting; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. 

(Opening Collect for the 10th Sunday after Pentecost)

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