October 9, 2016

Scripture and Commentary, October 9-22

October 9

Ezek. 18:19-32,  2 Cor. 8
Ezek. 33:1-20, Lk. 19:28-48

Commentary,

2 Corinthians 8

The subject of this part of 2 Corinthians is Christian charity.  The Christians of Jerusalem are in dire need.  Paul urges the churches he founded to gather an offering and send it to Jerusalem for their relief.  The Corinthians have not done so, despite their being in relatively prosperous circumstances.  So Paul urges them again to contribute.  He begins by telling them of the gifts from Macedonian churches.  "[W]e do you to wit" (1), means "we want you to know" and refers to "the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia."  By God's grace they were moved to give generously though they were in affliction and poverty (2).  They were persecuted, and persecution drove them to poverty, yet they gave unselfishly.

Their generosity moves Paul to ask the prospering Corinthians to give also (6).  But the gift must be their choice, not Paul's.  He gives no Apostolic command here (8-10).  Rather he urges them to give out of Christian love, as Christ gave Himself to them in love (9).  Verses 12-15 do not teach socialism.  They teach that we help our truly needy brethren, knowing that if we become needy they will give to supply our need.  We are not to give to our detriment, nor are we to support laziness and ease (13). The "equality" of verse 14 does not mean that all should have an equal amount of the world's goods, but that all should give to help the truly needy.  


Titus has become very fond of the Corinthians, and is anxious to return to them (16-17).  It was Titus who delivered the letter of First Corinthians to the people of Corinth.  He also stayed with them and helped them work through the letter and return the church to the Apostolic (Biblical) faith.  During this time he developed a deep respect and love for their faith and devotion.  He met Paul in Macedonia to tell him about the events and results in Corinth.  In response to Titus' report, Paul wrote the letter we are now reading and which we know as "Second Corinthians." Titus carried this letter back to Corinth.  

Along with Titus went at least two others (18 & 22).  The first was known for his work in spreading the Gospel (18).  The other was known to be diligent in the many aspects of the faith (22). Both were probably from Macedonian churches.  Three men would be less likely to fall prey to the robbers and other dangers on the journey.  They would also show the absolute integrity of the mission (21).  In Jerusalem, the three could affirm where the money had come from and how much was sent.  This could also be verified by contacting the churches which gave the money.  They could also carry the thanks of the Jerusalem Apostles back to the churches, thus, confirming that the full amount had reached them.  This was not done because of doubts about the offering or the men.  It was done to show the absolute honesty of all involved, for they knew the false apostles in Corinth would accuse them of lying about their purpose and keeping the money for themselves.

Having stated clearly the trustworthiness of the men (23), Paul closes the chapter by urging the Corinthians to be generous.  This will prove the Corinthians' love.  Paul has "boasted" about the Corinthians to the Church in Macedonia.  Having received the good report from Titus, he probably told the Macedonian the Corinthians could be counted on to give generously.  Their gifts would show that he was correct.


October 10

Ezek. 33:21-33, 2 Cor. 9
Ezek. 34, Lk. 20

Commentary,

2 Corinthians 9

Paul's "boast" about the Corinthians is that they were ready to give a year ago (2).  Achaia is the southern tip of Greece, which resembles a hand on a map.  It is superfluous for him to remind them of the offering again (1), but, in order to prevent embarrassment by not being ready, he reminds them anyway (3-5). 

Verses 6-15 have often been distorted to mean that giving to the service of God ensures that God will multiply your gifts back to you.  But Paul is not promising God will increase your material wealth just because you give money to His work.  Such giving is not a gift but an investment.  Its objective is not the glory of God, but personal gain.  Paul is talking more about spiritual matters than financial matters.  He is encouraging people to give freely expecting no financial return on their gifts.  It is not to gain wealth that they are to give, but because they have already been blessed with it. The Corinthians were already prosperous people.  God had already blessed them with material abundance.  Now they are given a chance to help others who are in true need.

There will be benefits for their generosity.  Truly God will make all grace abound toward them (8).  But notice that the grace given is to enable them have sufficiency in all things that they "may abound to every good work."   In verses 10 and 11 Paul prays that God will give them abundance, especially in righteousness.  But he does not promise or imply that sending money to Jerusalem will guarantee them more money in return.  The benefits of giving money are the same as those for every other thing they do in God's service.  They cause the receivers to give thanks unto God (12), and they cause the givers to reap bountifully of the grace of God (6 & 8).


October 11

Daniel 1, 2 Cor. 10
Dan. 2:1-23, Lk. 21

Commentary,

2 Corinthians 10

Paul returns to the problems caused by the false apostles who troubled the Corinthian Church.  These men had done much damage, and, though the church had taken vigorous steps to drive them and their followers out, some of their influence remains.  Consequently, some of the Corinthians still deride Paul and his teaching.  Paul begins the chapter beseeching the church by the meekness and gentleness of Christ (1) and by addressing a charge that he writes bold letters but is weak in person (1, 10).  He says his weapons are not after the flesh (2-6).  Paul means it is not by personal power, the force of his personality, or his skill as an orator that the issue will be decided (10).  It is the power of God that is mighty to pull down strongholds, cast down imaginations (delusions of grandeur), and bring the thoughts of human beings under the obedience of Christ. Therefore, the Corinthians should not look on the outward appearance of Paul, for he belongs to Christ, who has given him authority to build up the Corinthians (8).  

Paul makes two important points in the remainder of the chapter.  First, he will not compare himself to the false apostles who measure themselves by things other than  Christ (12-13).  Second, unlike the false apostles, he does not boast "of things without our measure" (15).  This means he does not try to take over a church founded by another Apostle.  The false apostles are doing just that in Corinth.  They are not willing to do the hard work of evangelising new places and organising new churches.  They prefer to take over another man's work.  But Paul, a true Apostle, brought the Gospel to Corinth, and intends to take it further northward and westward where other evangelists have not been.  He will glory in the Lord, not another man's labours.  He closes with the telling remark that an apostle who commends himself is not "approved" (accepted by God).  It is the man God commends who is accepted.  The idea of this verse is that the Corinthians, and all Christians, should approve and accept those as teachers and spiritual leaders whom God commends, not those who commend themselves. 


October 12

Dan. 2:24-49, 2 Cor. 11
Dan. 3, Lk. 22:1-30

Commentary,

2 Corinthians 11

Some at Corinth say Paul is a fool (2 Cor. 5:13).  If so, he says in verse1, "bear with me a little in my folly" for his desire is to present them "as a chaste virgin to Christ."  In other words, what has been called "folly" is really concern for their spiritual well being.  He has laboured for them with patience, unfaltering love, and tireless devotion.  If that is foolishness, then let them bear with him a while longer.  He is concerned that they will be the real fools and allow their minds to be corrupted from the simplicity of Christ (3).  The false apostles taught a complex system of doctrines and deities that combined Christianity and Judaism with Greek mystery religions.  Paul taught the simple Gospel of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.  It is the very simplicity of the Gospel that often trips people.  "It can't be that simple," they think, but it is.

The apparent simplicity of the Gospel is one reason why the Corinthians followed the false apostles in the first place, and Paul still worries that they will follow another teacher, trust in another Jesus, receive another spirit, and believe another gospel (4).  How easily people are led astray and how easily we are enticed by things that are unimportant.  How cheaply we sell our souls for trifles; an engaging personality, a more attractive setting, an easier gospel, a style of music.  How easily we are fooled into valuing the wrapping over the Gift.

If Paul is not the polished speaker the false apostles are, he is in no way inferior to the true Apostles, and his knowledge is far superior to that of the false apostles (11:5-6).  He teaches the true Gospel of Christ, they teach a false gospel.  His purpose is to gather souls for Heaven, their purpose is to gather mammon for themselves.

Paul's purpose is obviously not to make money.  He reminds the Corinthians that he is "chargeable to no man" (11:9), meaning he accepts no money from them for preaching the Gospel.  He supports himself, or receives support from the Macedonian churches rather than accept money from the Corinthians.  Having given so much to them, at no cost to themselves, Paul worries that he has harmed them.  Having received the Gospel at no expense to themselves, do they now think of the Gospel and the Apostle of Christ as having no value?  The false apostles sell their gospels at high prices.  Did the Corinthians think they and their gospel are therefore of great value, while Paul and his are of little worth?  It is not because the Gospel of Christ is cheap, nor because Paul has no right to receive payment for his services that he preaches the Gospel freely.  It is because he does not wish to burden the Corinthians, and so they may never be able to accuse him of selling Christ the way the false apostles sell their faith, that Paul accepts no money from the Corinthians (12).

Verses 13-15 show the deceitfulness of the false teachers.  They transform themselves into angels of light.  They do not actually become angels of light; they take on the appearance of angels of light.  They appear to be bearers of the Good News, but their gospel is false, and they are deceived and deceivers.  Satan tries to appear to us as the minister of truth and freedom, though his words are the words of death.  So we should not be surprised when his "ministers" appear to be helpful and their teachings seem so appealing (15).

According to Paul there are two groups of fools in Corinth.  First is the group of false apostles.  They are the ones who glory after the flesh, meaning to boast and put confidence in their own abilities to sway a crowd and motivate people, rather than in the Gospel and the Spirit of God (18).  Second is the group that follows the false prophets. They are the people who are swayed by emotions and psychological tricks rather than the word of God.  Thus Paul says of them, "ye suffer (allow yourselves to be influenced by) fools gladly (19).  "You gladly allow fools to lead and abuse you," we might say in paraphrase.  When, in verse 19, he calls the Corinthians wise he is making a point by stating the opposite, much as a politician might speak of his "worthy" opponent when he really thinks (and wants his hearers to think) the person is terribly unworthy. Since the Corinthians are so "wise" and Paul is so "foolish," Paul says, they should hear him (16-18).  They have let the real fools abuse them (20), therefore, they should at least hear the words of one who really cares about them and has suffered for their benefit.  

Thus, Paul begins to tell of his service to Christ and the personal cost to him of bringing the Gospel to Corinth.  Verses 22-29 tell of the cost to Paul.  He equals the false apostles in their Hebrew origins (22).  Verse 23 does not mean the false apostles are truly ministers of Christ, but even if they were, their labours cannot begin to match those of Paul.  Who among the false teachers has been beaten, imprisoned, stoned, shipwrecked, or lived in exhaustion, hunger, thirst, cold, and inadequate clothing for the sake of the Gospel and the Corinthians?  Have they not rather demanded ease and luxury for the service of leading the Church astray?

False apostles and their followers have called Paul foolish and weak, but Paul replies that he will not glory in his strength and wisdom; he will glory in his infirmities, his weaknesses.  It is because he is weak that he knows the Corinthians have not been moved to believe in Christ by his eloquence, his magnetic personality, or the attractiveness of a false gospel.  They have been moved by the word and Spirit of God.  That is the meaning Paul is trying to get across to us.

I fear this truth has been largely lost in the pop religion of today.  Many churches are simply personality cults, and much of the preaching has little or nothing to do with the real Gospel.  False teachers abound, and people prefer them and their tricks to the simple preaching of Christ.  God have mercy upon us.

October 13

Dan. 4, 2 Cor. 12
Dan. 5, Lk. 22:31-71

Commentary,

2 Corinthians 12

In the early days of the Church God continued to reveal Himself through visions, dreams, and miracles.  False apostles focused on these things, turned them into emotional/psychological experiences, and made them the heart of being a Christian.  They encouraged people to work themselves into a high emotional state using stirring music, often repeating the same words many times, to lead them into a semi-hypnotic state.  During and after experiencing this euphoric condition, the endorphins flowed freely, and the false apostles and their followers thought they were experiencing the work of the Holy Spirit. 
Real visions and experiences were very rare in the early Church, even among the Apostles.  John records one in the book of Revelation and Acts records three for Peter, excluding two times he witnessed people speaking in tongues but did not himself participate.  Even Paul, who wrote much of the New Testament, records relatively few such experiences, and never suggests they are a normal part of the Christian life or to be sought by Christians.  His words, "caught up" (4) show that he did not seek such experiences; rather, he was caught up in one by God when he was not expecting it.

The false apostles pointed to the excitement they brought to the church, and the experiences people had as the result of their "ministry."  This, they said, was proof that the Spirit of God was working through them, not through poor Paul, who neither had these experiences nor enabled the Church to have them. Paul responds to this in chapter 12.

He tells the Corinthians about an experience he had fourteen years earlier.  He speaks of himself in the third person as "a man in Christ..., caught up to the third heaven, into paradise..., and heard unspeakable words... not lawful for a man to utter."  Due to the timing of this event, many believe Paul writes here about his experience in the Temple recorded in Acts 22:17-21.  Whether Paul refers to that experience or another, we always see that his experiences are not sought or worked up by himself, and that they always give Paul specific direction for the work he is called to do.  They are never experiences for the sake of experiences.  This proves the experiences of the false apostles are not from God.

Paul describes his experience in intentionally vague terms.  He does not know if he saw these things by literally being transported into Heaven or not.  He only knows that he was allowed to see paradise, and that it was so wonderful he could not describe it even if he were allowed to (2-4).

But it is not in such experiences that Paul glories.  He glories in his weaknesses (5) so that no one will think he is more than what he is (6).  In other words, Paul does not want to call attention to himself, or even to the unusual experience he had, for that might make people seek him, or the experience, instead of Christ.  Furthermore, though he, as an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, through whom the Word of God came to the Gentiles as from the prophets to ancient Israel, had this experience, he was given a thorn in the flesh to keep him humble (7).

Much discussion has been devoted to this thorn in the flesh.  Is it a physical illness?  Is it a spiritual weakness?  Is it the persecutions of the unbelievers and false apostles?  When you get to Heaven, you can ask him.  For now let us simply know what the Bible tells us, that in the weakness of that thorn, God's perfect strength is revealed.  Paul had thought the thorn would work against his ability to be effective in the work of the Gospel.  To Paul, it seemed to be something that would cause people to reject his message.  Yet God used Paul mightily because of his weakness.  Thus, the thorn, which made effective preaching and evangelism seem impossible, was the very thing God used to make Paul's work effective.  The false apostles seemed to have everything, and the people thronged after them.  But those who followed Paul heard the true Gospel. It was they who believed unto salvation.

Therefore, Paul takes pleasure in his infirmities and reproaches (10).  It is very likely that the things mentioned in verse 10 are all part of Paul's "thorn in the flesh."  But when Paul is weak, then Christ is strong in him.  His grace is sufficient (9).  His grace is sufficient to make the Gospel appeal to His people.  His grace is sufficient to make Paul an effective ambassador for Christ.  His grace is sufficient to build His Church and edify His people. His grace is sufficient to enable Paul to persevere in his work until God calls him Home.  Paul, like all ministers, is insufficient in himself.  No matter how knowledgeable, no matter how gifted he may be in public speaking, no matter how attractive he may be, or how magnetic his personality, he is insufficient and these traits may actually be hindrances rather than helps.  Only the grace of God is sufficient for these things, and His grace makes our weaknesses strengths.

These words may well be heeded by those in small but faithful congregations and denominations today.  The experience based churches always draw the crowds and get the money.  Those who meet in rented buildings, homes, and public halls may think they are disadvantaged by these weaknesses.  But it may be that true Christian faith flourishes in such conditions far more than it does in the mega churches and cathedrals.  It may be that the things we consider thorns are the very things God uses to exalt Himself in us.  Thus Paul says to the Corinthians that without the false apostles and their appealing doctrines and ecstatic experiences, they are not inferior to any other church.  They have it all because they have Christ. Paul's one regret about his ministry among them is that he did not allow them to share the expenses of preaching the Gospel in Corinth (13).


There is a saying, "No good deed goes unpunished."  That describes Paul's feelings about his treatment from the Corinthians.  Throughout this epistle he has professed his love for them.  He has recounted the sacrifices he made to bring the Gospel to them (11:23-29).  He has reminded them that others contributed money so he could minister in Corinth without cost to them (11:8), and that he suffered need rather than accept money from them (11:9).  In chapter 12, he plans to make another trip to Corinth, to spend yet more time and effort, at great personal cost to him and at the expense of people outside of Corinth.  He reaffirms his willingness to spend and be spent in their service (15).  Yet, he says, "the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved."

The Corinthians have preferred the flashy, self-promoting false apostles, with their false gospels and emotional experiences, to the self giving love of Paul, who preaches the truth simply and honestly.  The false apostles used the Corinthians to build a financial empire for themselves, and the Corinthians love them.  Paul spent himself to build Biblical faith and hope in them, and they reject him.  He fears, for their sake, that many of them remain in their sin (20).  He fears he will still find them in debates (arguing for false teachings) envyings, wraths, strifes, backbitings, whisperings (murmuring and complaining in attempts to divide the Church) swellings (conceit), and tumults (20).  In other words, he fears he will find a divided church fighting over unimportant things while meekly accepting lies and false teaching.

How often we find the same things happening today.  Churches will fight and split over the tiniest, most insignificant things, yet allow themselves and their loved ones to be indoctrinated with the most hellish heresies imaginable.  People who share the Biblical faith, and are otherwise united in culture, values, and life-views, will divide and allow themselves to be divided over trivialities that don't matter at all.  There is only one word for this, SIN.  Notice that Paul addresses this sin before the other sins of fornication and lasciviousness (lewd behavior).  He does so because, contrary to popular belief, these sins are "worse" than the others.  He does not say the others aren't sin.  He is certainly willing to excommunicate people for them, which is the same as saying they are no longer part of Christ's Body and Church.  He is saying the other sins are worse.  People committing them often think that if they are not committing adultery and lewdness, they are in good shape, spiritually.  Paul strongly disagrees.

False doctrine does not have to be extreme to be false.  False teachers can appear very orthodox about Christ, yet change the focus of His work from saving souls to having religious experiences or social action.  Both of these views are prevalent in contemporary churches.   Most of the mega churches teach religious experience as the primary focus of following Christ, and giving such experiences dominates their worship and ministries.  They do not usually deny the orthodox doctrines of the faith, they simply place them in the background.  But placing them in the background changes the focus, and changing the focus essentially changes the message. The gospel of social action has taken over most of the so called, "main line denominations."  This "social gospel" sometimes teaches fairly orthodox things about the being of Christ, but it goes astray in the application of these doctrines to the Church and the Christian life.  Such churches usually assume that Christ's death and resurrection secured salvation for all people of all time.   Since all people are going to Heaven, regardless of their religion or lack of it, the Church's task is not to tell them Jesus died for their sins and get them to become Christians.  It is to clean up the mess of social injustice, poverty, sickness, and war.  Both of these lines of thought place the emphasis in the wrong place, and, thus, distort the Message.

October 14

Dan. 6, 2 Cor. 13
Dan. 7, Lk. 23

Commentary,

2 Corinthians 13

Second Corinthians closes with a wonderful combination of warning, encouragement, and promise.  The warning is that Paul, in the name of and acting for Christ, will deal with those who remain in the sins he wrote of in chapter 12.  He will not spare them (2).  There is a time for patience, and a time for action.  The Corinthians have been stumbling through apostasy and sin due to the influence of false teachers for several years.  Now it is time for action.  They must rid themselves of the false apostles and their followers, or Paul will cast them out when he comes.  Christ in Paul will accomplish this (12:3-4).  They must also repent of the sins that are dividing the church and dishonouring Christ (11:20-21).  If they will not, Paul will cast them out of the Church.  This means they will be considered and treated as non-Christians.  By their actions and doctrines they seem to show that they are not of Christ, therefore, Paul will remove from them the privilege of participation in the Church and in Holy Communion.   This may not sound very serious to the modern reader, but it is actually very serious.  To be a Christian is to participate in Christ.  It is to live in Christ, hope in Christ, and feed on Christ as a branch feeds on the tree.  To be excommunicated is to have the Church say that a person's life and views are antithetical to Christ, and seem to show that he is not participating, hoping, or feeding on Him as a Christian.  Therefore the sign and seal of his participation in Him is removed.  Such a person is being turned over to Satan in the hope that he will see his spiritual danger and seek Christ fully.

The encouragement is found throughout the chapter, but is especially abundant in verse 5.  Paul encourages the Corinthians to examine themselves to see if they are truly in the faith, and to prove they are by true doctrine and faithful living.  Paul is encouraging them to examine themselves by Scripture, not the teachings of the false apostles, and not by the feelings and excitements they experience in the services led by the false teachers.  This is a difficult thing to do, and few Christians ever really attempt it.  But it is the only way to know whether we are truly in Christ or reprobates.

The promise is that turning from sin to Godliness brings all of the fullness and grace of God into our lives (11).  The holy kiss (12) is not an invitation to turn the worship of God into a hugfest.  It means that those who truly belong to Christ have ceased the debates, envyings, wraths, strifes, backbitings, whisperings, swellings, tumults, and sensual sins which have characterised and divided the Corinthian Church for so long (12:20-21).  Having turned from those sins, they now live in peace with one another.  Those, formerly considered "enemies," against whom the sins of 12:20 were committed, have now become fellow partakers in Christ, and live in Christian peace and love.  This does not mean they no longer have disagreements, or that they live in a state of sinless euphoria.  It means they practice forbearance, humbleness, and forgiveness, trying not to give offense to others, and refusing to take offense at the actions and words of others.  Such people, instead of greeting one another with wrath and strife, greet one another in peace and harmony.  Rather than fighting, they "kiss."  

The saints of verse 13 are the Christians in Macedonia, from which Paul wrote 2 Corinthians.

The letter closes with words of peace and grace; the benediction with which we close the services of Morning and Evening Prayer, and which, according Evan Daniel's history of the Prayer Book, was universal in the ancient liturgies.  John Chrysostom, who wrote the prayer which precedes it in the Prayer Book, also wrote of this benediction, "After having united [the Corinthians] to one another by the salutations and the kisses, he again closes his speech with prayer... uniting them unto God also."  Matthew Henry wrote that in this verse, we are promised "the grace of Christ as Redeemer, the love of God who sent the Redeemer, and all the communications of this grace and love, which come to us by the Holy Ghost." "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion (fellowship) of the Holy Ghost, be with you all.  Amen."


October 15

Dan. 8, Galatians 1
Dan. 9, Lk. 24

Commentary,

Galatians 1

The Galatians, like us, were confronted with a wide variety of choices and decisions in religion.  The pagan cults around them were too numerous to count.  In addition to them was the Jewish faith, and now, in the preaching of Paul, they faced the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  By the grace of God they were drawn to Christ, but as soon as Paul left them to establish churches elsewhere, others came to them, claiming to believe in the same Jesus, same crucifixion, and same resurrection, but teaching a different way of salvation.  Paul, they said, was mistaken about the Gospel.  You cannot be saved by Christ alone; you must earn it by keeping the Jewish ceremonial law. You must become Jews.  Only then will your sins be fully forgiven.  So the Galatians faced the question, who do we believe?  Realising this, Paul reminded them of his Apostolic authority and the origin of his message. 

Paul was not just a traveling philosopher or entertainer.  Paul was an Apostle of Jesus Christ.  This meant more than being just "a person sent" which would be the literal translation of the Greek word, apostolos.  An Apostle was an emissary from God, and his message was from God. He had no authority to change the content of the message, or to add to or delete from it, but he had full authority to proclaim it as the message from God Himself.  So, like the Apostles in Jerusalem, Paul's Apostleship was not conferred on him by people (1), it was a direct calling from Christ Himself.

His message was not his own, nor did he receive it from other people (11).  This does not mean Paul never heard the Gospel before he met Christ on the Damascus road.  In his zeal to kill Christians (13) he had probably heard many Christians tell him about Jesus.  As a rising star in the religious leadership of Israel he had probably learned the basic doctrines of the Christian faith, for he had to know what Christians believe in order to determine who was or was not a Christian.  But Paul did not go to Jerusalem to study with the Apostles after his conversion.  Instead, he went into Arabia to ponder what had happened to him and to devote himself to studying the Scriptures (17). He wanted to learn what the Old Testament really taught about the Messiah and His Kingdom. He then returned to Damascus, to the very Christians he had once intended to kill, and became a part of the Church there.  By that time he was already grounded, so, while he undoubtedly grew in the faith while in Damascus, he did not receive his message from the ministers of the Church there.  After three years in Damascus, Paul went to Jerusalem and conferred with Peter and James.  Paul mentions this because it is important for the Galatians to know Peter and James agreed with him, both in the content of his message and in his calling as an Apostle.  His Gospel is the same Gospel they preached, and his Apostleship had the same validity as theirs (18-20).  Having this confirmation from Jerusalem, Paul traveled to Syria, where he became a part of the church in Antioch, from which his missionary journeys would begin (21-23).

So, Paul was appointed to the Apostleship by direct commission from Christ.  He learned the Gospel message by revelation from Christ.  The truth of his message was affirmed by the church in Damascus, Antioch, and by the other Apostles in Jerusalem.  Could the people who taught the gospel of works produce such credentials?  If not, should the Galatians believe them or Paul? 


October 16

Dan. 10, Gal. 2
Dan. 11, John 1:1-28

Commentary,

Galatians 2

Galatians 2 brings us to the famous council at Jerusalem.  The promoters of the gospel of works, often called the party of the circumcision, or, Judaisers, have gained a large following in the Church and the question must be dealt with.  Many Jewish Christians have continued in the Old Testament traditions, though they were forced to start Christian synagogues, rather than worship with non-Christians Jews.  They have no problem with the old traditions, nor do they see them as adding to the work of Christ or earning salvation. These people are not the Judaisers.  The Judaisers believe the ceremonial law is absolutely necessary to salvation.  No one, they maintain, is truly a Christian or going to Heaven unless he keeps the ceremonial law.

The council of Jerusalem shows the Judaisers' gospel to be nothing but a perversion of the true Gospel of Christ.  The culmination of this council comes when James, Cephas (Peter), and John, certify the veracity of the Gospel preached by Paul as the one true Gospel by extending unto him the  right hand of fellowship (9).  This is a public statement by the Apostles that Paul has Apostolic authority to preach, and that he preaches the Apostolic Gospel.

There is yet another issue at stake in this whole consideration of the place of the ceremonial law in the Church.  That issue is the very nature of the Church itself.  Is the Church simply a continuation of the Old Testament Israel, or is it the fulfillment of Israel?  If it is simply a continuation of the old Israel, then they are correct who say Gentiles who want to follow Christ must first become Jews.  If the Church is the fulfillment of all the promises and prophecies to Israel, then Gentiles are not required to become Jews, and, even Jewish Christians are not bound by the ceremonial law.  So, which is it?  Before we can answer this question we must assert there is much continuity between the Old and New Testaments.  We may be better able to understand this if we remember that the New Testament is the fulfillment of the Old, and that, together, they tell the same story of salvation by grace through the sacrificial blood of Christ.  The Old Testament ceremonial law pictures the sacrifice of Christ in a way that is similar to the Lord's Supper today.  So, the two are part of the same story.  The Old Testament is the first chapter, preparing the way for the Messiah; the New Testament is the fulfillment and completion of the story.

But the Jewish nation and the Church are also different, and Gentiles are not required to become Jews or keep the ceremonial law.  This is because the ceremonial law is fulfilled in Christ.  Why would we offer animal sacrifices when the Lamb of God has offered Himself once for all?  Why would we concern ourselves with things that made people symbolically clean when Christ made us truly and completely clean by His own blood?  Thus, the Jewish rituals have done their job, they have pointed us to the one Sacrifice that can take away our sins and make us clean in our souls before God.  Having completed their work, they, like John the Baptist, must decrease while Christ increases.

It is important to see that the Apostles and elders already understand this.  It is not a concept ironed out in debate and decided by majority vote.  Peter and James affirm that it was true fourteen years before the council takes place (Gal. 1:18 & 2:1).  The purpose of the council is not to decide what is true, but to declare what is true to a large gathering of Church leaders so all will know the truth on this issue.

Yet the idea of ceremonial uncleanness, which is a central part of the ceremonial law, is difficult for Jewish Christians to surrender.  Even Peter had lapses of faith on the issue, for when he was in Antioch he ate with Gentiles freely, but when Jews came up from Jerusalem, he separated himself from the Gentiles.  Why the separation?  In the ceremonial law, a Gentile is unclean.  That means he is unacceptable to God and unacceptable to God's people, Israel.   Eating and fellowshipping with Gentiles make a Jew unclean, meaning the Jew is in the same situation as the Gentile before God.  But if a Gentile becomes a Jew and begins to keep the traditions and ceremonial laws of the Old Testament, he becomes acceptable; he becomes "clean."  The Gentile Christians at Antioch did not become Jews, so Peter, thinking the Jewish emissaries from Jerusalem would consider them unclean, stopped eating and fellowshipping with Gentiles (12).  

This gives Paul another chance to proclaim what is already known by the Church; that it is not the rituals of the ceremonial law that make people clean before God.  Only the shed blood of Christ makes a person clean (16). Paul points out that Peter knew this, as did other Jewish Christians in Antioch, for they freely ate with Gentiles as brothers and sisters in Christ until the other Jews arrived.  If they did not keep the ceremonial law by remaining separate from the Gentiles, how could they expect Gentiles to keep the law?  And why had they eaten with the Gentile Christians, thus, breaking the ceremonial law, in the first place?  It was because they knew it is not keeping the law, but faith in Christ that makes a person clean to God (14-21).


October 17

Dan. 12, Gal. 3
Hosea 1, Jn. 1:29-51

Commentary,

Galatians 3

The Galatian Christians knew it was Christ, not the law, that made them clean and acceptable to God.  But when the Judaisers came teaching that Paul was wrong and that they needed to keep the ceremonial law to make themselves acceptable to God, their faith wavered.  So Paul addresses the very heart of the matter in chapter 3.  He asks two questions.  First, did you receive the Holy Spirit by keeping the law or by hearing the Gospel of Christ in faith (2)? The Galatians have to admit that when they believed in Christ as their Saviour, they received the Holy Spirit of God, which represents all the blessings given to a person in Christ.  They also had to admit that they did not receive the Spirit by doing the rituals of the ceremonial law.  They received Him by grace through faith.  This forces the Galatians to realise again that they are saved by the grace of God in Christ, which they received by faith, not by doing the works of the law.  Second, if the blood of Christ made you clean enough for the Spirit of God to dwell in you, do you really think you can make yourself cleaner by rituals and ceremonies (3) or by any other thing you can do?  To make such an assumption is blasphemy.  "What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common [unclean]" (Acts 10:15, 28, 34-47).  Even Abraham, father of the Jewish nation, was saved by grace, not law (6) and it is those who trust in Christ through faith who are his true children and heirs of the promises of God (7-9).

Verses 10-18 reinforce Galatians’ two main points.  First, those who try to make themselves acceptable to God by keeping the law, always fail.  Thus they remain under the wrath of God.  Second, only those who are in Christ are acceptable unto God.

Those who try to make themselves acceptable to God by keeping the law always fail.  The reason it is impossible to make yourself acceptable to God by keeping the law is that the law must be kept perfectly.  Any failure to keep it to its fullest measure, including having the proper mental and spiritual intentions and attitudes, makes you unacceptable.  This includes both the ceremonial law and the moral law, so, to fail to keep the moral law perfectly renders you unacceptable to God. And, even if you were to keep the ceremonial law perfectly, it could not atone for your failure in the moral law.  Therefore, since no one has ever kept the moral law, anyone who tries to make himself acceptable by means of the ceremonial law is wasting his time (10).

Only those who are in Christ are acceptable unto God.  Those who are accepted by God are accepted on the basis of Christ's sacrifice (3) received by faith (11).   This is true of Gentiles as well as Jews, for Christ died for us, that the blessing of Abraham (8) might come to the Gentiles, meaning, we are made fully acceptable to God and receive His Spirit through faith (14).

Abraham also was accepted by grace not works.  He actually lived more than 400 years before the ceremonial law was given (17).  Therefore, he could never have made himself acceptable by it. He was accepted by God because he trusted God, and God accepted his faith and treated him as though he were without sin (6).  Abraham received the promise of Christ (8 & 16) 400 years before the ceremonial law was given, and the giving of the law did not negate the promise (7) of grace.  So the entire history of redemption has been the history of God's grace as promised to Abraham (8).  It is the story of the grace of God, not the good works of man.

Verse19 opens with an important question; what is the purpose of the law of God?  Of course God's law has many purposes.  The moral law, summarised in the Ten Commandments and the teaching of Christ, reveals the absolute perfection of God.  It reveals the will of God for all mankind in everyday life.  It shows mankind how to live in harmony with God and each other, thus it shows the way of peace and happiness (Ps. 19:7-14).  The ceremonial law reveals that those who break the moral law are unacceptable to God unless something is done, apart from the moral law, to make them acceptable.  The law shows, then, that, by our own actions, we are unclean and unfit for any kind of fellowship with God, and that we need to be made clean by something outside of the moral law, or we will remain forever unacceptable to God.

This is brought out in several verses in  Galatians. Regarding our failure to keep the moral law, we are told the Scripture "hath concluded all under sin" (22).   Regarding the ceremonial law, we are told we can never make ourselves acceptable to God through it (21).  This is important, for if we can atone for sin by performing a few ceremonies, then sin is a very trivial thing to God.  If sin is trivial to God, it can be trivial to us, and if sin is trivial, so is righteousness.  Holiness, justice, integrity, the Commandments of God, love for God, and love for one another really don't matter.  Only the ceremonies matter.  This mistaken view of the law was held by Israel many times throughout her history, and she paid dearly for it. 

We come now to one of the law's most important purposes; it is our teacher to lead us to Christ (24).  How does the law lead us to Christ?  First, it concludes all people under sin (22).  This means it reveals to us that we are sinners.  Comparing ourselves to the moral law of God does not reveal how good we are.  It reveals how wicked we are and how far short we are of the total perfection of God.  Second, the ceremonial law reveals that there is nothing we can do to atone for our sins.  Do we really think a ceremony, or even the life of an animal can make up for our sins?    A right view of animal sacrifices reveals how pitifully small and powerless they are to cover our sins (Heb. 10:4).  In short, they reveal the absolute impossibility of making ourselves acceptable to God.  If we are going to be made acceptable to Him, He is going to have to accomplish it for us.  Thus, the law teaches us that we need a Saviour.  It leads us to cast ourselves on the mercy of God and the sacrifice of Christ, that we may be justified by grace through faith, not by the works of the law (24).

The law also shows the deadly seriousness of sin.  It is not trivial to God and it cannot be trivial to us.  It is so serious that sinners are called dead (Eph. 2:1) and worthy of death (Rom. 1:32), whose eternal destiny is the fires of hell (Rev. 20:15).  Sin is so serious that we are unable to atone for it ourselves.  Nothing could save us from the fires of hell but the sacrifice of Christ Himself.  That's how serious sin is to God.

So, what is the relationship of the ceremonial law to the Christian?  The short answer is, it has fulfilled its task and is no longer necessary (Heb. 8:13).  It has been our schoolmaster, but in Christ we have graduated from it.  From it we have learned that we are sinners.  From it we have learned that our sin must be made right before we can be acceptable to God.  From it we have learned that we cannot make our sins right by the ceremonies of the law.  From it we have learned that its ceremonies and sacrifices symbolise the life and ministry of Christ, "the Lamb of God:" who alone can atone for our sins. From it we have learned to trust in the suffering of the Lamb of God as the payment for our sins and the ground of our acceptance with God.  Now that we have graduated from the school of the law, it no longer has control over us.  We have moved into faith (25-26).

There is now no difference between Christian Jews and Christian Gentiles.  All are shown to be sinners unable to save themselves, and all are saved only by the grace of God received by faith (28-29).  Those who are God's by faith in Christ are the true seed and descendants of Abraham; the true heirs of the promises of God (29).


October 18, St. Luke the Evangelist

2 Timothy 4:5-15, Gal 4
Luke 10:1-7, Jn. 2

Commentary,

Galatians 4

We are heirs of God through Christ (7).  The Apostle is telling Jewish and Gentile Christians that we are the heirs of all the promises of God given in the Old Testament.  We inherit the promises not by means of the law, but by trusting in Christ's sacrifice as the Lamb of God that takes away our sins.  It is very important to understand that faith is the means by which we become a child of God and an heir of the promises.  Physical descent from Abraham does not make one an heir.  Keeping the moral and ceremonial law cannot do it.  Becoming Jewish cannot do it.  Only faith can open the door to Heaven.  Only faith is the key to the Kingdom.

Verse 7 is the conclusion of the flow of thought that begins in verse 1.  We are told that, under the ceremonial law, we were as children under the care of tutors and governors (guardians).  But when God had brought the world to just the right moment, according to His plan, He sent His Son to redeem those who were under the law (4-5).  He released them from their tutors and guardians and gave them the inheritance foreshadowed in the law and foretold in the prophets.  Everything promised in the Old Testament is fulfilled in Christ and given to His people of faith, the Church.

Verses 8-11 make a second point based on the preceding verses. It is stated in the form of a question in verse 9, and it asks the Galatians why they would want to go back to being ruled by the guardian when they can have the inheritance of Christ.  Why would you turn your inheritance back over to the guardian instead of keeping and enjoying it yourself?  Why would you want to be bound by rules and rituals that cannot take away your sins, when you can live in the freedom of Christ, who can take away your sins?

To attempt to cleanse your own sins through your own actions is to reject Christ. Thus, Paul writes to the Galatians, "I am afraid... lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain" (12).  Paul's appeal that we become as he is, means to trust in Christ alone to forgive your sins and reconcile you to God.  That he was as the Galatians were, means was a time when he also was counting on his own works to make him acceptable to God.  But he realised that he, like all people, must receive acceptance as a gift of God, not as a reward for his own efforts.
  
Paul apparently suffered an illness while in Galatia, but it did not prevent him from sharing the Gospel, and it did not prevent the Galatian people from receiving him with love and hearing him gladly (15).  But, by the time Paul wrote the book of Galatians to them, their apparently strong faith in Christ had wavered so much that Paul doubted they were in Christ at all (20).

People often stumble over this passage because it appears Paul has imposed a meaning onto a Bible passage that is completely foreign to it.  The Old Testament story of Isaac and Ishmael is obviously a straightforward record of historical events, but Paul seems to make it an allegory of law and grace.  The difficulty people have with this is fourfold.  First, if Paul can allegorise one passage of Scripture, what is to stop us from allegorising all of it?  Second, if the Bible has an allegorical meaning, what is it and how can we know it?  Third, if the Bible has an allegorical meaning as well as a literal meaning, which is more important?  Fourth, and most important, if the Bible has a meaning beyond the plain and obvious meaning of the words, we can never really understand the Bible.  Before we address these issues, let us recall two very important principles of Biblical interpretation.  First, Scripture interprets Scripture.  This means the meaning of one passage will always illuminate and compliment the meaning of other passages in specific, and the entire Bible in general. Second, we should always understand the Bible in the plain and obvious meaning of the words, unless we have good reason not to.  We are not to allegorise passages that are clearly meant literally.

The difficulty with this passage disappears when we realise Paul is not allegorising the Old Testament; he is simply using the historical facts of Isaac and Ishmael to illustrate the point that bondage begets bondage and freedom begets freedom.

Ishmael, was the child of bondage. It is as though Paul is saying, "Let Ishmael symbolise people trying to atone for sin by keeping rules and performing rituals.  The rules and rituals themselves are bondage, for the people are bound to observe them, yet they can never really atone for sin."  Bondage begets bondage.

Isaac was the child of freedom.  Paul is saying, "Let Isaac symbolise those who have trusted Christ to make them acceptable to God.  They are free of the bondage to rules and ceremonies.  They are free of the need to earn Heaven.  It is given to them as a gift from God."  Freedom begets freedom.

Paul goes on to use Hagar as a symbol for the law given at Mount Sinai, and Sarah as the symbol for grace given through Christ, "the Jerusalem which is above" (26).  Those who were born into Israel were in bondage to the law until the Saviour came to fulfill the law and release them from its requirements.  Those who are born into Christ are born into freedom. Therefore, they are no longer enslaved to the ceremonial laws of the Old Testament.  "[W]e are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free" (31).

October 19

Hos. 2,3, Gal. 5
Hos. 4, Jn. 3:1-21

Commentary,

Galatians 5

Chapter five begins with a plea to stand fast in the liberty of grace and not return to the bondage of trying to earn God's favour by our own works.  There is no middle road; either we must keep the law and become Jews, or we are saved by grace through faith, and the ceremonies of the law are superfluous.  Any attempt to return to the law is a rejection of the work of Christ and a fall from grace (4).  And, if you are going to reject Christ for any part of the law, you must keep the whole law perfectly to be acceptable to God (3).  

We see an important point in verses 11 and 12.  Paul preaches salvation by grace through faith alone, and has never taught that Gentiles must become Jews, or that Jewish Christians are required to keep the ceremonial laws in any way.  If he had, the Jews would not be persecuting him.  They would be praising him, for he would be bringing multitudes of converts to the Jewish faith.  They may have disagreed with his view of Christ as the Messiah, but they could have tolerated that.  But Paul, preaching the Gospel of grace, actually made the Jewish faith irrelevant.  If Paul's Gospel was true, the Jews needed to come out of Judaism and into the Church.  The Old Israel had fulfilled its mission and it was necessary for Jews to join the New Israel, the Church. This is what angered the Jews.  The Temple, the sacrifices, the rules of clean and unclean, circumcision, kosher food, and everything that typified and identified the Jewish people would have been rendered obsolete.  This is why they persecuted the Church. This is why they rioted at the preaching of Paul, and beat him and stoned him and tried to kill him.

Salvation by grace through faith is not a license to sin (13).  Paul quotes Leviticus 19:18, which our Lord quoted often, as part of the summary of the moral law's requirements of the way we treat each other. Paul, like our Lord, quotes it to show its continuing relevance and authority in the lives of all people.  It is still the standard of life to which Christians aspire because, by God's grace, we love our neighbors and we love God.

Living by love is not as easy as it sounds.  Love requires us to choose against ourselves.  Love requires us to do things we don't want to do, and to sacrifice things we don’t want to give up.  Just as love of God requires us to organise our schedules in a way that makes public, family, and private worship a top priority, love of neighbors requires us to orient ourselves around giving rather than receiving.  This causes a spiritual battle to take place in us (17).  It is the battle of our own desires and will (flesh) against the desires and will of God (Spirit).  It is the battle of our sinfulness against God's holiness.  It is a life-long war, and we must expect to have to fight it, and we must expect it to be difficult. 

Since the war is spiritual, our weapons are spiritual.  Our power to fight is the Spirit of God.  Those who surrender to the flesh are easily known by their actions and way of life, called the works of the flesh (19).  Those who fight on in the Spirit are also easily recognised by their actions, called the fruit of the Spirit (22).  The victory we seek is absolute.  The goal is to exterminate our sin, to rise above our own desires and live for Christ alone.  Paul uses the gruesome practice of crucifixion to illustrate our objective.  We are to crucify our own desires, in order that we may live for God.  If this sounds difficult it's because it is.  If it sounds painful it's because it is.  If it sounds unpleasant it's because it is.  But this is what it means to live and walk in the Spirit (25).

Frankly, most "Christians" will not fight this war.  They will not crucify their wills and comforts to live for God.  Seeing the difficulty and personal sacrifice required to truly follow Christ, they will retreat.  They will opt for an easier gospel, like some of the Galatians have done.  They will choose religious ceremonies over self-crucifixion.  They will choose happy feelings over obedience to God.  They will choose self indulgence over service to God.  Yet, all the while they will convince themselves they are in Christ.  But those who live by the Spirit walk by the Spirit.


October 20

Hos. 5, Gal 6
Hos. 6, Jn. 3:22-36

Commentary,

Galatians 6

Verses 7 and 8 express the essence of the entire letter of Galatians.  If we sow ungodliness (flesh) we reap death in the soul.  If we sow godliness we reap life in the presence of God forever.  The Galatians have been sowing to the flesh by trying to make themselves acceptable to God through rules and rituals.  But rules and rituals cannot make a person fit for the presence of the absolute and consuming holiness of God. Only God can make someone acceptable, as a gift from Him received by faith.  Faith, trusting God to make us acceptable through Christ, is sowing to the Spirit, which produces the fruit of everlasting life.
Sowing to the Spirit goes beyond simply trusting God for Heaven.  Important and essential as that is, sowing to the Spirit also includes walking by the Spirit day by day and moment by moment (Gal. 5:25).  It naturally includes the things we often call "religious," such as prayer, the Bible, and public worship.  But it also includes the mundane things of daily living, such as home and family, life and work.  It especially includes putting our own comforts and desires under the control of the Spirit so we may live for the will of God (Gal 5:24).  Living for fleshly desires is sowing to the flesh.  Crucifying our affections and lusts to live for Christ, is sowing to the Spirit.

We are to help one another sow to the Spirit.  This is an essential part of the fellowship of the Church.  We seek to help our fellow Christians when they are overtaken in a fault (1).   We seek to help others bear their burdens as they also help us bear ours (2).  We are like a team, a family, a body, working together for the glory of God and the good of all.  If we stand one stick on end, it will fall, but if we put several together and let them lean on each other they will stand.  Likewise, a heavy load may break one stick, but several together can bear it easily.  This is the picture Paul is trying to give us of the Church bearing one another's burdens. This requires us to be willing to give and receive support with meekness.

Verse 6 refers to the other side of pastoral care; not the care of the pastor for the Church, but the care of the Church for the pastor.  The pastor visits and prays and teaches and studies; the congregation "communicates unto him... all good things."  Love, respect, reception of his teaching and council, and financial support, are ways we communicate to him all good things.

Finally, we are to continually sow to the Spirit.  It is to be the habitual work of our lives, even when we think we do not see any fruit of our labours.  We are not to allow discouragement to dissuade us.  We are not to give up because things are not going the way we think they should, or the way we would like.  We will not grow weary in well doing, especially in our service to our fellow believers, for we know we will reap in God's own time (9).

If it were possible to earn Heaven by our own efforts it would be the same as earning fellowship with God, and that would be making ourselves His equal.  We would be able to "boast" of our achievement and our status.  But no mere ritual can accomplish this.  Not even circumcision can atone for sins or change the sinful inclination of our hearts.  Only God can make us acceptable to Him, and He has done so through the cross of Christ.  So Paul will not boast of his own efforts, though they surely outshine those of the Galatians.  He will boast of Christ, the Saviour who by His own suffering and death accomplished what Paul could never accomplish for himself, eternal peace with God.

Grace, not works, has been the theme of Galatians.  Thus Paul closes with the very appropriate words, "the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen."


October 21

Hos. 7, Ephesians 1
Hos. 8, Jn. 4

Commentary,

Ephesians 1

The book of Ephesians was written by the Apostle Paul while he was under house arrest in Rome (Eph. 3:1).  It was written to the church of Ephesus, in what is now modern Turkey.  In Paul’s time, the area was known as Asia, or Asia Minor, and Ephesus was its most influential city.

Paul wrote the letter to encourage the Ephesians to stand firm in the faith.  False teachers have come to the congregations, contradicting the message of the Apostles, and leading people astray from Christ.  The most dangerous false teachers are those disguised as Christians, and there are two primary groups of them in Ephesus.  First are the Judaisers, who teach that Christians must become Jews.  Second are people, who will become known as gnostics.  They blend Greek and Roman religions with Judaism and Christianity, emphasising emotional experiences as proof of the presence and work of the Holy Spirit.

Paul begins by identifying himself (1).  His salutation serves a dual purpose.  First, it identifies Paul as its author.  Second, it identifies Paul as a true Apostle.  Unlike the false teachers in Ephesus, Paul is an Apostle of Jesus Christ.  He received his call and Gospel from Christ, not by assuming it for himself, as the false apostles and teachers have done.  He is an Apostle by the will of God, not the will of men.

Verses 3-14 give a short, but very deep summary of what God has accomplished in the life of a true Christian. It is a summary of the grace of God in action.  It began long before the physical universe was created by God.  Before the foundation of the world (4), God knew you in His mind.  He knew He would bring you into life on planet earth, and He knew He would bring you into eternal life in Jesus Christ.  He chose to make you, and He chose to save you by the blood of Christ (4).  He predestined you to be adopted into His family of redeemed and saved people.  He did all of this according to the good pleasure of His own will (5), not on the basis of any goodness or worthiness in you.  Your sin makes you completely unworthy of God, and must be forgiven by a supreme act of sacrifice and grace by God.  That sacrifice was made when God became flesh and died on the cross for your sins.  You have redemption only through His blood (7).  Your redemption was made known to you by the Spirit of God who opened your blind eyes, and enabled you to understand the Gospel of Christ, which is the message of the Bible.

God made known unto you the mystery of His will (9).   This knowledge includes both your saving knowledge of Christ, and your understanding of God’s intent for His creation.  Through the sin of Adam and Eve, and all the rest of us, this world has become a place of sin and sorrow.  It has fallen far short of its original glory, which delighted God and moved Him to pronounce that it was very good (Gen. 1:31).  From that condition of goodness, Man plunged himself into sin, and he, and all of creation, fell under the wrath and curse of God (see Gen. 3, especially verses 14-24).  But things will not remain in this fallen condition forever.  One day God will restore His creation, by bringing all things together under Christ (10).  It is for this reason that God created the heavens and the earth, and Man.  This is the will and purpose of God made known to us, which “He hath purposed in Himself” (9).

By His grace, you have an inheritance in that Kingdom.  But your inheritance does not only wait for you at the end of this present age.  It is here for you to enjoy now, at least in part.  You live by grace, and by grace you are already a citizen of Heaven.  You are part of God’s redeemed family, and in that family, the Church, you have a foretaste of the glory of the time when all things are made new and right under the rule of Christ.  You even have the Spirit of God living in you as the earnest, or, downpayment of that inheritance (13, 14).

Verse 15 begins Paul’s wonderful prayer for the Church, both in Ephesus and in all places and all times.  If you want to know how to pray for the Church, and for yourself, read this prayer, which continues to the close of the chapter.  The spirit of wisdom and revelation (17) are not charismatic “gifts of the Spirit.”  Wisdom is the fear and knowledge of God.  Revelation is the knowledge of God and your salvation given in the Bible.  Paul is praying that you will be enabled by the Spirit to have the fear and knowledge of God.  through a growing understanding  of the teachings of the Bible.  This enlightening (18) enables you to know the things Paul prays for you in the following verses.

This is a very important point.  Many people, then and now, want exciting experiences and sudden gifts of knowledge and understanding of God.  The false teachers in Ephesus know and capitalise on this.  They tell the people they can have special gifts of knowledge through sudden, ecstatic experiences, if they will follow their teachings and practices, which often use drugs and alcohol to achieve the experience. These teachers, and their followers, are the forerunners of a movement known as gnosticism, from the Greek word “gnosis”, meaning, knowledge. Paul is saying their teaching is false.  While it is true that spiritual understanding comes as a gift from God, He gives it through time and effort spent learning the Bible and praying.  Paul is telling the Christians in Ephesus they already have the true knowledge of Christ, therefore, they should not worry about the false knowledge claimed by the gnostics, nor should they attempt to gain such knowledge through the experiences and teachings of the gnostics.  The Christian’s understanding is opened by the Bible, not experiences.  Growing in that understanding takes time and effort, not sudden revelations.

October 22

Hos. 9, Eph. 2
Hos 10, Jn. 5

Commentary,

Ephesians 2

The first chapter of Ephesians ends with the subject of the Church, which chapter two continues.  Note that the reference is to the Church, not the churches.  The idea that churches exist independently of one another without accountability, and that the Bible always mentions "churches," but never "the Church,” is false.  Paul never considered any of the congregations he corresponded with independent of him, or as anything but a local manifestation of the one true Church, which he calls the Body of Christ.  1 Corinthians 3:9-17, for example, is about The Church primarily, and, secondarily, how the church in Corinth is to function within the wider Church.  The Church, collectively, is the Temple of God.  Local churches are part of the greater Church, all together form the spiritual Temple, or house of the Holy Spirit of God.  The Corinthian church had its own ministers, yet Paul, writing from Ephesus in A.D. 57, excommunicated members of that congregation, and told the ministers and remaining members to stay away from them (1 Cor. 5:1-13).

Far from being independent congregations, the Church is God's appointed way of bringing people together in one body in Christ.  God is already working in this world to achieve His ultimate goal.  Eph. 1:10 is not just something for the end of time; God is at work now, accomplishing His purpose in the Church.  The Church is that people which has already become one Body, one Temple, one Family, one Nation, in Christ.

Chapter two reminds us how God has brought us into the Church.  There was a time when we lived apart from God, and were under His wrath (3).  By His own grace (8, 9) and for the purpose of showing the riches of His grace and kindness (7) He raised us out of the death of sin and placed us in Himself and in His Church where we are one in Christ (2:6-7, 1:10).  Thus, even while we live in this world, we sit in heavenly places and have a foretaste of the great and final goal of God, which will one day be brought to its completion.  Since we are His workmanship we are to do the things of Godliness, to which we have been called and for which we have been created (10).


 The great purpose of God to bring all things together in Christ is continued by His bringing Gentiles into the Church.  The Gospel of Christ is for all who will receive it in faith.  Heaven is for all who will enter through Christ.  The Church is for all who will believe.  In Christ there are no strangers or foreigners (19) only one Nation and Household.  In Him all believers are being built up into one holy Temple in the Lord (19-21).  There was a time when most Gentiles were excluded from the House of God (11-12).  Having chosen to exclude Him from their own lives, God allowed them to live apart from Him, and to reap the just rewards of their sin.  But God's ultimate plan of gathering all things together in Christ was not blocked by human rebellion. He gathered Abraham and his descendants, to whom He gave His Word and Commandments, and through whom He would give His Messiah. In the New Testament era He began to bring in the Gentiles.  In His New Israel, the Church, all believers, whether Jews or Gentiles, are made one body in Christ.  The work of gathering all things together in Christ continues, and will continue until the Last Day, when all of His people will be gathered Home to Him, all of His enemies will be cast out forever, and the heavens and earth will be made new.