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.