The God Who Called You

When did you become a Christian? (You may or may not know when, but the more important question is, Are you a Christian?) How did it happen? Few conversion accounts are more dramatic than Paul’s. In Galatians 1:11–23 Paul tells of his conversion because how he came to know Christ is crucial to defending the truthfulness of his gospel.

Respond to God’s call. God set you apart from before you were born. God is the author of your salvation. God’s plan is not simply based on fore-seeing who will love him, see Ephesians 1:3-6. God’s fore-knowledge is a choice made in love, Romans 8:29, 30; Amos 3:1, 2; Hosea 13:5; 2 Timothy 2:19. God’s setting apart goes back to birth, and even before, cf. Jeremiah 1:5. Isaiah 49 describes the call of the Servant, the Messiah. He is set apart for the Gentiles—and Paul recognizes that God’s call of Paul also has a focus on the Gentiles. God separated you from rebellion. Paul had been intense in persecution, v.13. He had been successful in the religion and traditions of the fathers, v.14. The point is that this is not where he had learned the gospel. The works religion of the Pharisees was not a gospel, not good news. Although you may not have been involved in the kind of rebellion that Paul was, you too are a rebel by nature. God has called you from darkness into the glorious light of the kingdom of his Son. Continue reading “The God Who Called You”

No Other Gospel!

If someone offered you a Rolex watch for a mere $500.00 would you buy it? If you checked the web and discovered that Rolexes are selling from $2,000.00 on up to hundreds of thousands of dollars, and millions for some collector’s items, you’d properly conclude that this watch was a fake. Galatians 1:6–10 reminds you that a counterfeit gospel is no gospel at all.

There is no other gospel. There is another gospel. Missing from this letter are not only usual expressions of praise for the recipient church, but also a section of thanksgiving. The heart of the gospel is at stake, and Paul must warn the Galatians. Gospel means good news. The first four books of the New Testament bear that name, because they are the account of the good news of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Paul summarized his gospel in 1 Corinthians 15:3–5. The churches are in the process of leaving the gospel Paul preached and are turning to another teaching. Paul can appropriately call this another gospel. Paul is astonished at the speed of the desertion from the true gospel to a false by the Galatians. The present tense “are deserting” indicates an ongoing process, not something that is an accomplished fact in history. There is still room to hope, because the desertion is not complete. “And not only is the truth more than the highest ranking minister of God, but as the gospel — which constitutes the norm of the divine redemption in the world — it is so holy that anyone who independently modifies it brings the curse of God down upon his head.” (Herman Ridderbos, The Epistle of Paul to the Churches of Galatia, p. 50). Continue reading “No Other Gospel!”

Christ Gave Himself for You

Sometimes a weather person on TV seems to be filling air time. But, were you in North Carolina today, there would be a different tone as Florence moves inland. The language becomes terse, almost telegraphic. He or she is trying to convey the essential information you need—because your life depends on it. In Galatians 1:1-5 the Apostle Paul is terse—because eternal issues hang on what he says.

Listen to Christ’s messenger. This is a “not” letter from the apostle. An apostle is a “sent one.” His authority is not his own but that of his sender. An insult to an ambassador is an insult to the country which sent him. Paul’s apostleship was not from man. the source of his authority was not human, contrary to allegations made by false teachers in Galatia. (Note that Paul does not hesitate to stress the negative when necessary.) Paul’s apostleship was not even by man. Man was not even the means of commissioning Paul. Paul is countering allegations of having a derived apostleship, see 1:11-2:21. Paul defends his apostleship because that is a vector of attack by false teachers against the gospel. “May God send us men who are not deceived, men who will respond to the forces of unbelief and compromise…. The Epistle to the Galatians is a polemic, a fighting Epistle from beginning to end. What a fire it kindled at the time of the Reformation! May it kindle another fire in our day—not a fire that will destroy any fine or noble or Christian thing, but a fire of Christian love in hearts grown cold!” (J. Gresham Machen, Machen’s Notes on Galatians, p. 8). Continue reading “Christ Gave Himself for You”

Come, Lord Jesus

Come can be a very friendly verb. “Come in!” welcomes a person who is not sure of how he will be received. “Come with me, we’ll take care of that,” assures someone that a friend is helping her. Come is a crucial concept in Revelation 22:16–21, as we come to the end of our study of this book of Scripture. The conclusion invites, even urges you to come to Jesus. And it calls you to join in a prayer for him to come.

Come to Jesus. Come to the water of life! Revelation 22:17 extends an invitation to anyone who need forgiveness to come. The invitation draws on the one extended in Isaiah 55. Notice the repeated invitation, even command, to come. Buying without money seems contradictory, but the focus in on the rich grace of God. It is totally undeserved, unearned. And it echos and extends the cry of Jesus in John 7:37–39. Water of life here in Revelation is not a substance, but a person. The invitation is to come to Jesus himself, the Savior, the one who, by being slain and rising again in the place of his people, has purchased their redemption. He has not only reconciled us to God, more importantly, he has reconciled God to us. If you have not yet come to Christ, respond to this invitation. Entrust yourself to him. And if you are in Christ, keep on coming. We do that as we keep coming to him in the Lord’s Supper. Coming to Jesus involves more than just praying a sinner’s prayer. It requires a life of commitment to him. Salvation is based totally on his work in your place, but it also calls you to keep every word that comes from God’s mouth. The warning about not adding to or subtracting from the word of prophecy is place in this context. “[Revelation] is not a book of riddles but a proclamation of the Great King. The end echoes the beginning. The Great King binds us to His covenantal Word. We live by faith alone, by grace alone, by Scripture alone.” (C. Vanderwaal, Search the Scriptures, Vol. 10, p. 111). Continue reading “Come, Lord Jesus”

Don’t Add or Take Away!

In 1982 the Reader’s Digest published a condensed Bible, with Old Testament books shortened by about 50% and New Testament books by about 25%. Excluded from the version was Revelation 22:18–19, which a spokesman for the magazine described as sort of an ancient copyright indication. The text is far more than that, however!

Beware of tampering! This warning is for you. Some have suggested that the text was a warning to scribes copying the document to take care. If it were, would any scribe have dared to make a copy?! Rather, the warning is addressed to those who hear the words of this prophecy. It draws on the blessing of Revelation 1:3. The warning addressed the original hearers and readers of the book. As John wrote, inspired by the Holy Spirit, the warning extends from the first century down through the ages. While the warning is part of the Book of Revelation, it applies to all of Scripture. “[T]he warnings in 22:18–19 are directed not primarily to those outside the church but to all in the covenant community, as the warnings of Deuteronomy were addressed to all Israelites. Those who do not heed the warnings profess to be Christian, but their allegiance to other gods betrays their confession.” (G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation, p. 1152). Continue reading “Don’t Add or Take Away!”