Galatians 1 Part 1–Christ + Is Not the Gospel

The Galatian people were being subverted by Jewish Christians.  They pushed for Christ Plus Judaism–variance in the Gospel. Many Jewish Christians of the time were displeased that the Gospel spread to the Gentiles. There was a council called in Jerusalem and the leadership (Which included Peter, James, and John as well as Paul and others) agreed after much prayer and discussion, that the Gentile Christians were only responsible to accept Christ and follow Him.  They were not subject to Jewish circumcision or dietary laws. In addition, there were groups called Gnostics that believed that one should have Christ + knowledge to be saved. So, Paul again had to address the idea that Christ+ anything (including Knowledge) was not true salvation.
 
So as Paul returned to the mission field, he was being followed and criticized by these Jewish Christians. They claimed that for the Gentile Christians to be truly saved, they had to follow Jewish tradition, dietary and circumcision law.  So Paul was being discredited as an apostle and as a teacher.  In the process, people were being drawn away from following Christ and causing division. So, Paul was calling those teachers out as frauds and telling the church that the gospel remained simply to know Christ and to follow him.  It required nothing extra. It was bad enough that they were undermining Paul’s ministry, but, they were also teaching doctrines that simply did not line up with the truth. 
 
Then and now, our salvation comes from accepting Christ as Lord and Savior of our lives–nothing more. There is no dress code, dietary law, traditional holiday to follow–we simply need to trust God and follow Christ.  Amazingly, that looks different to different people.  The bottom line as Paul spoke it so clearly was that Christ + anything is not the true gospel.  If we begin to make Christianity a rules-based religion, we lose the very essence of grace and freedom.  We have to trust Christ, follow Him closely and honor His will on our amazing journey.
 
God Bless You
 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all. Evidently, some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!

10 Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.

Paul Called by God

11 I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin.12 I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.

13 For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. 14 I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers. 15 But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased 16 to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being. 17 I did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went into Arabia. Later I returned to Damascus.

18 Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Cephas[b] and stayed with him fifteen days. 19 I saw none of the other apostles—only James, the Lord’s brother. 20 I assure you before God that what I am writing you is no lie.

21 Then I went to Syria and Cilicia. 22 I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. 23 They only heard the report: “The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” 24 And they praised God because of me.

The Letters…Galatians–God Knows How To Pick’ um

Paul was an ultimate Jew. He kept the law flawlessly, trained under the most respected Rabbi. He was a political superstar and he persecuted the church.  Then God got ahold of Paul on the road to Damascus.  There He called Paul out and changed his life. The result was amazingly ironic. Paul was called to spread the Gospel to the Gentiles around the known world. This, of course, was a mission started by Peter. When God sent Him to lead Cornelius, the Roman Centurion, and his family to the Lord.  So Paul set out with Barnabas and the two of them preached the Gospel throughout Asia.  
 
From the onset, Paul had enemies. Many thought him a fraud since he was not an original disciple, others did not like his message since it allowed Gentiles to become God’s chosen without being circumcised or remaining kosher. So, Paul is writing to the churches he visited to reinforce the truth of Christ and the validity of his mission and message.  In the weeks ahead, we will look at several critical themes in walking with God related to faith, family, and grace. Because, as Paul sent these letters to the various churches, they were to shore up what was critical in following God and what was not.  We all will understand more the critical nature of changing our hearts to be like Christ–not changing our diets or checking certain boxes.
 
God Bless You

Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by a man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— and all the brothers and sisters[a] with me,

To the churches in Galatia:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

No Other Gospel

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all. Evidently, some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!

10 Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.

2 Corinthians 13–Paul’s Final Message

Paul’s last message to the Corinthians was simply to take a good long look at themselves. They needed to check their hearts and lives and make sure they were walking with the Lord.  Paul was coming back for a third visit and when he did, he wanted it to be a time of celebration and encouragement not one of discipline and sadness.  Paul loved the Corinthian Church.  It was never his intention to make them not want him around. Like a parent, Paul simply wanted the best for them.  So as a parting word, Paul reminded them to put their house in order so his visit would be a pleasant one.
 
God tells us the same thing. He loves us. He simply asks that we examine our hearts and lives and put things in order so that our time with Him would be times of encouragement and joy.  We can always improve. We need to live lives that are full of grace and humility–simply following and becoming more like Christ. God loves us.  He simply wants to complete us, prepare us and bless us. Help me, Lord to live in a manner that allows You to complete Your plan in my life.
 
God Bless You

This will be my third visit to you. “Every matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.”[a] I already gave you a warning when I was with you the second time. I now repeat it while absent: On my return, I will not spare those who sinned earlier or any of the others, since you are demanding proof that Christ is speaking through me. He is not weak in dealing with you but is powerful among you. For to be sure, he was crucified in weakness, yet he lives by God’s power. Likewise, we are weak in him, yet by God’s power, we will live with him in our dealing with you.

Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test? And I trust that you will discover that we have not failed the test. Now we pray to God that you will not do anything wrong—not so that people will see that we have stood the test but so that you will do what is right even though we may seem to have failed. For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth. We are glad whenever we are weak but you are strong; and our prayer is that you may be fully restored. 10 This is why I write these things when I am absent, that when I come I may not have to be harsh in my use of authority—the authority the Lord gave me for building you up, not for tearing you down.

2 Corinthians 12–God’s Grace Is Sufficient and Made Perfect in Our Weakness

Paul was trying to make a point.  The Corinthians were looking for a RockStar Preacher.  They wanted flash, Charisma and Dashing good looks would be a nice touch as well.  It was the same attitude the Israelites had about wanting a king.  God gave them Saul, the RockStar King and he nearly destroyed Israel. When he put David on the throne, however, Israel saw unity, peace, and prosperity. God looks at the heart. Paul was an apostle that loved God and wanted nothing more than to share the Gospel of that love to any and all who would listen.  In the midst of that discussion, however, Paul speaks of his vision of Heaven and his thorn in the flesh.  God took Paul to the highest heights; but, then left him with a weakness he could not overcome.  Paul begged God to take away the weakness, but God told him that His grace was sufficient and his power was made perfect in weakness. So Paul was determined to celebrate his weakness; since he knew God was in it.
 
In our lives, we work to honor God and live lives that seem amazing. Still, there are things that are far less than desirable that drive us crazy.  We cry out to God to take them away but, as with Paul, God reminds us that His power is made perfect in our weakness.  He also reminds us that His grace is sufficient to meet our needs–even in our weakness.  Like Paul, it is not always the answer we wish to hear, but, it is the truth. We must cling to God’s grace and allow Him to lead His way and simply follow and trust Him. On most days, we can accept that His grace is sufficient, but on the rest, it drives us to our knees. From there, we have no other choice than to simply pray and allow the Lord to prepare us, protect us, and provide for our needs.
 
God Bless You

I I I must go on boasting. Although there is nothing to be gained, I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord. I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows.And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows— was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell. I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses. Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say, or because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan,to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 11–It is NOT About You

It was simple, Paul was sick of the roadshow evangelists touting their difficult journies.  They had it so tough.  They would come to the churches with tales of adventure about God delivering them to preach the gospel. Paul was sick of it.  If it was modern days, Paul simply would have said–“it is not about you!”.  Instead, Paul tells the Corinthians where God had taken him.  Once a Jewish star, now beaten, starved, stoned, naked, and shipwrecked.  There was nothing glamorous about Paul’s missionary journies.  That was his point–The journey was about honoring and sharing Christ.
 
In our lives, it is still about honoring God and sharing the gospel with any and everyone who would listen.  We conduct our lives in a manner worthy of Christ, but, we do not shift the focus from Him to ourselves. Paul was trying to state the obvious–If we make it about ourselves, then why bring Christ into it at all.  We need to live lives that honor God. We do not need to receive awards for that, we simply need to trust God to prepare us, protect us and to provide for our needs. If we will, as we humbly seek the Lord, He will use us in ways we never would have imagined.  That is the reward–not what we receive, but what we leave behind as a legacy to Him.
 
God Bless You

Whatever anyone else dares to boast about—I am speaking as a fool—I also dare to boast about. 22 Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they Abraham’s descendants? So am I. 23 Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. 28 Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?

30 If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. 31 The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, who is to be praised forever, knows that I am not lying. 32 In Damascus the governor under King Aretas had the city of the Damascenes guarded in order to arrest me.33 But I was lowered in a basket from a window in the wall and slipped through his hands.

2 Corinthians 11–There is Still Only One Gospel

Paul next took on another difficult issue–variance in the Gospel. Many Jewish Christians of the time were displeased that the Gospel spread to the Gentiles. There was a council called in Jerusalem and the leadership (Which included Peter, James, and John as well as Paul and others) agreed after much prayer and discussion, that the Gentile Christians were only responsible to accept Christ and follow Him.  They were not subject to Jewish circumcision or dietary laws. 
 
So as Paul returned to the mission field, he was being followed and criticized by these Jewish Christians. They claimed that for the Gentile Christians to be truly saved, they had to follow Jewish tradition, dietary and circumcision law.  So Paul was being discredited as an apostle and as a teacher.  In the process, people were being drawn away from following Christ and causing division. So, Paul was calling those teachers out as frauds and telling the church that the gospel remained simply to know Christ and to follow him.  It required nothing extra. It was bad enough that they were undermining Paul’s ministry, but, they were also teaching doctrines that simply did not line up with the truth. 
 
Then and now, our salvation comes from accepting Christ as Lord and Savior of our lives–nothing more. There is no dress code, dietary law, traditional holiday to follow–we simply need to trust God and follow Christ.  Amazingly, that looks different to different people.  Some walk-in freedom to eat or drink in moderation; while others abstain from certain food or drink. Some folks dance and go to movies–while others completely refrain from those forms entertainment. Bottom line–salvation is still knowing Christ personally and following Him daily. If He leads you to live a structured and disciplined life, awesome! If he leads you to relax and enjoy socializing in the world–great. We are neither to judge or condemn. 
 
Jesus said it best, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness–and all these things will be added to you!” Matthew 6:33
 
God Bless You

I hope you will put up with me in a little foolishness. Yes, please put up with me! I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him. But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the Spirit you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough.

I do not think I am in the least inferior to those “super-apostles.”[a] I may indeed be untrained as a speaker, but I do have knowledge. We have made this perfectly clear to you in every way. Was it a sin for me to lower myself in order to elevate you by preaching the gospel of God to you free of charge? I robbed other churches by receiving support from them so as to serve you. And when I was with you and needed something, I was not a burden to anyone, for the brothers who came from Macedonia supplied what I needed. I have kept myself from being a burden to you in any way and will continue to do so. 10 As surely as the truth of Christ is in me, nobody in the regions of Achaia will stop this boasting of mine.11 Why? Because I do not love you? God knows I do!

2 Corinthians 10 Part 1–Spiritual Warfare

Paul was defending his ministry. Specifically, He was defending his approach to ministry.  His letters were and are packed with power. But, as Paul was sending the messages by letter many argued he was only bold from a distance. I am sure that there were days when Paul thought, “I gave up my life and role as a Jewish leader–for this???”  But Paul made clear that we are in a spiritual war. It is a battle that requires spiritual weapons.  We use those weapons for tearing down the strongholds in our, lives so that we can follow God closely. Paul faced the battle daily, he attacked it with prayer, study and continued faith in the God that brought him across the known world to bring Christ to the Gentiles.
 
In our lives, the formula remains the same trust God, follow Him read His word, pray–and remember our battles are spiritual ones.  We can never give up, give in or simply ignore the daily battles we face.  We have to attack them with the faith that God is with us and will assist in tearing down the strongholds in our lives.  We, as His children, can fully rely upon God to carry us through the battles we face.  We simply have to trust and follow him–no matter where that takes us.
 
God Bless You

By the humility and gentleness of Christ, I appeal to you—I, Paul, who am “timid” when face to face with you, but “bold” toward you when away! I beg you that when I come I may not have to be as bold as I expect to be toward some people who think that we live by the standards of this world. For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, once your obedience is complete.

You are judging by appearances.[a] If anyone is confident that they belong to Christ, they should consider again that we belong to Christ just as much as they do. So even if I boast somewhat freely about the authority the Lord gave us for building you up rather than tearing you down, I will not be ashamed of it. I do not want to seem to be trying to frighten you with my letters. 10 For some say, “His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing.” 11 Such people should realize that what we are in our letters when we are absent, we will be in our actions when we are present.

2 Corinthians 9–Cheerful Giving

Cheerful giving is one of the most difficult disciplines for Christians to acquire.  We are taught from early days in our walk with God to give back what God has provided us.  The tithe was the example God set early on. Giving back the 1st 1/10th of what you earn.  Tithing frees people from being controlled by their pocketbooks.  If God gets our 1st fruits and we manage the rest, we are able to see His blessing for ourselves and a discipline passed on to our kids.  
 
Like the rest of the relationship, however, we need to treat giving not as an obligatory act, but as an act of worship.  It should bring joy and thanksgiving to our hearts. God is not in it for the money…He is in it to free us from that which entangles us. Money remains one of the most entangling tools used by the enemy. We have to have money to survive. It is not a luxury. What we do with our money, and the way we regard it makes all the difference.  We have to come to a place where we allow God to have control of our money, then we can be free of its control on us.  That is the discipline. Help me, Lord, to let you be in control of my money! 
 
God Bless You

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written:

“They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor;
their righteousness endures forever.”[a]

10 Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.

12 This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. 13 Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. 14 And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. 15 Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!

2 Corinthians 8–Giving From The Heart

Paul was addressing another difficult subject–giving. The Church in Jerusalem was in dire straits. They had been persecuted by the Jewish community and by Rome and it left them decimated.  Paul was asked to collect an offering to support the Church. The Corinthians had assisted before, but now they hesitated in giving–(partly because of Paul’s disciplining of them).  So Paul confronted the issue directly–please give what you can not because of obligation, but for the simple ability to trust God and see him work.
 
Nothing has changed. God does not tax his kids. He asks us to give generously to support the church and His plan. Often we give out of wealth, but sometimes we are called to give from our poverty. It is that giving that defines our faith. He will provide and he will bless our generosity.   We take steps of faith in giving and we watch God use what we have given to touch lives. We have no expectation for a return but know that God will prepare, protect and provide for us! We simply have to trust him in all things, even in giving back.
 
God Bless You

And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us. So we urged Titus, just as he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you[a]—see that you also excel in this grace of giving.

I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.

10 And here is my judgment about what is best for you in this matter. Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. 11 Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means.12 For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have.

2 Corinthians 7–Discipline and Growth

Paul delivered a difficult message. In his first letter to the Corinthians–Paul discussed issues of unity, purity, service, and love. The words were rebuffing and correcting–no child wants that kind of message from a parent. Paul birthed the Corinthian church and for him to mentor them so strongly hurt their feelings and drove them to examine everything they were and everything Paul taught them.  They were heartbroken, and so was Paul.  The rest of the story, however, was that they took Paul’s rebuke to heart and they matured. When his friend and compatriot Titus visited the church–he saw unity, love, discipline, and selflessness. They truly refreshed the weary friend and when he reported that to Paul, it brought him deep and lasting joy and peace.  Nothing is more enriching than to see his church come to life and mature to become a spiritual factor for the region!!!
 
It is so difficult to bring hard messages–but, if God leads–those messages can bring growth and strength and prepare those that receive them for the spiritual warfare that lies ahead.  We can never be truly joyful when we are called out on our stuff, but we can also never ignore the message from our Father and we can only trust him to lead us to the truth.  We always have to look to him for direction and purpose and accept that we are not perfect and subject to correction.  We need to accept it humbly and graciously and trust that God will use the discipline to prepare us for the journey! Help me, Lord to hear your truth and accept your truth with the love that you send it!
 
God Bless You

Make room for us in your hearts. We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have exploited no one. I do not say this to condemn you; I have said before that you have such a place in our hearts that we would live or die with you. I have spoken to you with great frankness; I take great pride in you. I am greatly encouraged; in all our troubles my joy knows no bounds.

For when we came into Macedonia, we had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn—conflicts on the outside fears within. But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort you had given him. He told us about your longing for me, your deep sorrow, your ardent concern for me so that my joy was greater than ever.

Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it—I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while— yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. 10 Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. 11 See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point, you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter. 12 So even though I wrote to you, it was neither on account of the one who did the wrong nor on account of the injured party, but rather that before God you could see for yourselves how devoted to us you are. 13 By all this we are encouraged.