NUGGETS OF WISDOM

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BELIEVING WHAT YOU CAN’T SEE

David recollected that as a young lad, with long unruly hair and a ruddy complexion, sleeping out in an open pasture under a starry sky after watching his father’s sheep all day long; how he would take his little harp and sing to the God above all gods. Looking up, he saw the sky as a huge tent with the sparkling stars as lights that lit up the night. He may have even tried to count them once or twice. But what really impressed him was that each night every star was in exactly the same place, not one of them was missing. He was so overcome with awe that he penned a hymn to the creator of that starry universe.

O my LORD Eternal and heavenly Master, Your awe-inspiring works mark You as a genius, as You display Your grandeur all over the heavens for all the world to see. For through these small and tiny dots of light You communicate as a way of countering those who don’t take You seriously; yes, You do this to silence the doubter and unbeliever. When I look up into the sky and see the galaxies Your hands created, the stars and the moon You put into orbit I ask, “What role do humans play in this vast universe; why do You care and fuss over them?” Then I realized, You created them a little short of being angels; endowing them with attributes of honor and dignity; making them the smartest and most influential creatures on earth; putting them in charge to being stewards of Your handiwork, even taking care of the animals, both domestic and wild, including the birds that fill the sky and the fish that fill the sea. O LORD Eternal and heavenly Master, Your awe-inspiring works mark You as a genius for all the world to see.” Psalm 8:1-9

Reflection: Back in the days of the hippy movement I sat in a coffee house in Stuttgart, Germany talking with a long-haired flower-child about God. The young man was respectful but adamant about his doubts concerning God’s existence because he couldn’t see Him or talk to Him. At that moment the Holy Spirit gave me an inspiration, so I pointed to a picture hanging on the wall beside our table and asked the young man if he believed that picture came into being due to an accidental collision of paint and paper. He laughed and said, “That’s ridiculous; that picture was painted by an artist.” I responded that I wasn’t convinced because I couldn’t see the artist in the picture; how did I know that maybe one day it just appeared on the wall by accident. The young fellow looked at me for a moment and then admitted that even though I couldn’t see the artist in the painting, I had to accept the fact that an artist painted the picture because it just makes sense. I told him that in the same way, one must exercise faith to believe an unseen talented artist created such a beautiful portrait, we can also believe an unseen God created the beauty of the universe. The magnificence of God’s creation shows His responsibility for man’s existence, and man’s responsibility to acknowledge God’s handiwork. The young man smiled somewhat embarrassingly as he bowed his head and said, “Okay, you got me on that one.” I asked him if we could have prayer for him to have faith, but he wasn’t sure. As he went away I asked the Holy Spirit to go with him and open his eyes to the truth.

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POINTS TO PONDER

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English writer Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), a great contributor to English literature as a poet, playwright, essayist, moralist, and literary critic, once wrote: “Great works are performed not by strength but by perseverance.”

I like what Blog writer Corinne Coppola says about that quote. That it may be short, but it has a lot of meaning behind it. Sometimes, less says more. The point that this quote is trying to make is that, one of the most important things in life is having the will to preserve even when things get tough. Perseverance means more than just trying, it means putting everything you have into something. Perseverance gives you the will, strength, and the heart to do anything that you put your mind to. You may have all the strength in the world, but if you do not have the perseverance to push yourself when things get tough, strength means nothing.

Also, Dallas lawyer Jack Robinson noted that President Franklin D. Roosevelt once said that when you come to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on. Perseverance is a very important character trait for you to be successful in life. It means determination at working hard regardless of any odds or obstacles that may exist. It is to insist and to be firm on getting something done and not giving up. In life we will not always have things going our way all the time, sometimes we will falter or fail at completing a task or getting what we want. However, by persevering and sticking to the task we will eventually overcome and be successful. For example, if Thomas Edison, the American Inventor, who invented the electric light bulb, had given up the first time he failed; maybe this marvelous invention might not have been a possibility as early as 1879. Resigning and walking out the door is never a good answer; however, persevering to the end usually reaps great rewards.

But I like best what the Apostle James said about perseverance. He tells us that great blessings belong to those who are tempted and yet remain faithful! After they prove their faithfulness, God will give them the reward of eternal life. God promised this to all people who love Him.1 And the Apostle Paul reminds us that we must not get tired of doing what’s right. We will receive our harvest of eternal life at the right time. We must never give up.2

However, Jesus said it best when He told His disciples that there will come a day when so much evil will be in the world that the love of many believers will grow cold. But the one who remains faithful to the end will be saved. And the Good News He shared about God’s kingdom will be told throughout the world. It will be broadcast to every nation. Then the end, and the rewards will come. – Dr. Robert R Seyda

1 James 1:12

2 Galatians 6:9

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SERENDIPITY FOR SATURDAY

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SOMETIMES, IT DOESN’T HURT TO GET CAUGHT

We may not all share the experience portrayed in this story, especially if you’ve never been pulled over by the police for speeding, but the principle involved can be applied to many other incidents. So look for the moral in this story and I’m sure it will touch your heart.

It is told by a man named Jack, who took a long look at his speedometer before slowing down He was going 73 mph in a 55 mph zone. This was the fourth time in as many months. How could a guy keep getting caught so often?

When his car slowed to 10 miles an hour, Jack pulled over, but only partially. Let the cop worry about the potential traffic hazard. Maybe some other car will clip his backside with its mirror. The cop stepped out of his car with a big writing pad in his hand. Then Jack realized it was State Trooper Bob. Bob, from his Church?

Jack sunk down into his seat. This was worse than getting the ticket. A Christian cop catching a guy from his own church. A guy who happened to be a little too eager to get home after a long day at the office. A guy he would be playing golf with tomorrow.

Jumping out of the car, Jack approached the friend he saw every Sunday, a man he’d never seen in uniform before. “Hi, Bob. Fancy meeting you like this.” “Hello, Jack,” Bob replied with no smile. “Guess you caught me red-handed in a rush to get home to see my wife and kids,” Jack replied. “Yeah, I guess so, said Trooper Bob.” His policeman friend Bob seemed a little uncertain. “That’s good,” Bob mumbled. “I’ve seen some long days at the office lately, said Jack. I’m afraid I bent the rules a little bit – but just at the wrong time.”

Bob toed at a pebble on the pavement. “My wife Diane said something about our having roast beef and potatoes together tonight. Know what we mean?” “I know what you mean,” Jack nodded his head up and down. I also know that you have a reputation in the for being a tough trooper.” Oh my Lord, thought Jack, this is not going in the right direction. Time to change the subject.

“What speed did you clock me at, officer Bob?” “Seventy,” replied Bob. And would you do me a favor, Jack, and get back into your car, please?” “Now wait a minute, snapped Jack. I checked my speed as soon as I saw you. I was barely nudging 65 mph.” Telling this lie seemed to come so easy for Jack with every ticket he got. “Please Jack,” said Trooper Bob in a stern voice, “please get back in your car.”

Flustered, Jack squeezed himself through the slightly open door. Slamming it shut, he stared at the dashboard. He was in no rush to open the window. The minutes ticked by. State Trooper Bob scribbled away on the pad. Why hadn’t he asked for a driver’s license, thought Jack? Whatever the reason, it would be a lot Sundays before Jack would ever sit near this cop in church again. A tap on the window jerked his head to the left. there was policeman Bob, a folded paper in hand. Jack rolled down the window a mere two inches, just enough room for officer Bob to pass him the slip.

“Thanks a lot.” Jack sneered, as he rolled the window back up with anger. Bob returned to his police car without saying a word. Jack watched his retreat in the mirror. Jack unfolded the sheet of paper to see how much this foolish stunt was going to cost him. Wait a minute! What was this? Some kind of joke? It’s certainly not a ticket. Jack began to read:

“Dear Brother Jack, Once upon a time I had a daughter. She was six when she got killed by a car. You guessed it – a speeding driver. A fine and three months in jail, and the man was then let go. Free to go home and hug his other daughters. All three of them. I only had one, and I’m going to have to wait until Heaven before I can ever hug her again. A thousand times I’ve tried to forgive that man. A thousand times I thought I had. Maybe I did, but I needed to do it again. Even now. Pray for me. And be careful, Jack, my one son is all I have left.” Signed, Brother Bob.

Jack looked at his side-view mirror just in time to see Trooper Bob’s car pull away and head down the highway. Jack watched silently until it disappeared. It took a full 15 minutes of thinking before Jack was finally able to pull away and drive home at the speed limit while praying for forgiveness. When he got home, he hugged a surprised wife and kids after he walked through the door.

Lots of times we forget that when anyone, be it a stranger, acquaintance, or even a close friend has a job to do, they must follow the rules. They cannot be partial just because of familiarity. That not only involves those in law enforcement but also in Gospel reinforcement. So the next time you hear your pastor or some evangelist call out a particular wrongdoing that a fellow believer you know did that violated God’s Holy Word, remember this story. There’s no reason for them to get angry with the Holy Spirit because they got caught and He is sending them a message. Remember, there are many of God’s children who were not only hurt but was lost because of the same activity they are now feeling guilty about. God will never give out a ticket or fine for breaking His Word and Will, but He will certainly send a warning to keep any of His children out of Satan’s hands. – Dr. Robert R. Seyda

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CALLED TO LIVE IN FREEDOM

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NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIAN CONGREGATIONS OF BELIEVERS

CHAPTER TWO (Lesson V)

On the other hand, says Calvin, the agreement of all who teach in the congregation is a powerful aid for the confirmation of faith. Since, therefore, Satan was laboring so maliciously to hinder the progress of the Gospel, Paul resolved to meet him head-on. Once he knew that he succeeded in demonstrating that he held the same views with all the other Apostles, every hindrance was removed. Weak disciples were no longer perplexed by the inquiry, who should we emulate. His meaning may be summed up this way: I did this so that all my hard work might not be thrown away as trash, I put to rest the question which distressed many minds, it helped prove that both Peter and I deserve your confidence; for in all that I taught he and I were in perfect harmony. Calvin stated that if many teachers in his own day were as heartily desirous as Paul was to edify the congregation, they would take more pains to be in agreement among themselves.1 To that, we all say “Amen” for our day as well.

One main underlying factor that compelled him to go to Jerusalem was to ensure that all of these new Gentile converts would be accepted as part of God’s one true congregation as fellow brothers and sisters to the believers throughout Judea and elsewhere. Paul mentions a fourteen-year time period here, and that’s a lot of sermons, a lot of conversions, and a lot of new believers in Jesus the Anointed One, the Son of God. It was Paul’s prayer that all of his preparation and all of his travels and hard work would not prove in vain. Revivalist John Wesley (1703-1791), suggests a paraphrase of Paul’s comments on his running in vain, and has the Apostle saying: I want to find out whether or not I should keep running the race, or had already run it in vain; I didn’t want to lose all the fruit that came out of my past and present labors. I didn’t want any disagreement to hinder the spread of the Gospel, I wanted them to be fully satisfied both of my mission and my doctrine. How beautifully, says Wesley, these words run together in expressing the swift progress of the Gospel in that day.2

How many times did you stay up late praying and working on a sermon, then got into your car and drove several hours to a meeting; stood behind the pulpit in front of a small congregation, and after delivering an inspired message no one came forward for salvation; no one was moved to rededicate themselves to the Lord, so you asked yourself later, “Was it worth it?” Truth is, we may not know until the books are open in heaven. Paul wanted to make sure everyone understood that he was carrying out the mission given to him by the Anointed One. But more importantly, he wanted to make sure that those brought into the Kingdom of God benefited from the long hours he spent, by knowing that his conversion with the Apostle was accepted as valid by congregations everywhere.

The great Greek storyteller Æsop (620-564 BC) told this fable that might be used to illustrate the point that Paul makes here about his willingness to listen but an unwillingness to bow to pressure. The Wind and Sun were disputing which was the stronger. Suddenly they saw a traveler coming down the road, and the Sun said: “I see a way to decide our dispute. Whichever one of us can cause that traveler to take off his cloak will be regarded as the stronger. Wind, you begin.” So the Sun retired behind a cloud, and the Wind began to blow as hard as it could upon the traveler. But the harder it blew the more closely did the traveler wrap his cloak round him, till at last the Wind gave up in despair. Then the Sun came out and shone in all his glory upon the traveler, who soon found it too hot to walk with his cloak on. The Sun succeeded where the Wind failed. What can never be done by a violent confrontation may often be accomplished by gentle persuasion. That was Paul’s attitude, and he won!

Literary churchman John Edmunds (circa 1800-1874), Fellow of the University of Durham, points out that the purpose of Paul’s visit to see the Jerusalem congregational Council was that the Judaizers held two things against him upon which they made their complaint. One was that he preached justification without any involvement of the Mosaic Law. And second, that he offered salvation with justification before God to both Jew and Gentile alike, putting them on the same level in God’s eyes. However, this visit was well planned by Paul. He met openly with the Council after he met privately with James, Peter, and John. In the private meeting, he was able to discuss details, argue any sticking points, and answer any objections they might offer. As Edmunds sees it, this is the right way to settle many disagreements peacefully. Officers in the congregation need to understand the details while the public need only be informed of the outcome3.4

Joseph Beet (1840-1924), offers a compelling argument on why we need to understand the importance of the visit by Paul to Jerusalem. Paul’s purpose implies that upon the approval of his teaching by the other Apostles depended on the permanent success of his past and present labors. If it turned out that a great difference existed between the teaching of Paul and the earlier Apostles, Christianity would perish in its cradle. For, the sole and sufficient proof that the Gospel as preached in the early congregation was actually taught by the Anointed One, and was the unanimous testimony of the leaders of the congregation. That principle holds true today.

Beet goes on to say that if Paul’s Jewish opponents in Jerusalem,5 or Corinth,6 or Galatia7 were able to successfully appeal to Peter, their appeal would prove irresistible. It would either discredit his teaching or create serious doubt as to what his actual teaching of the Anointed One involved. Discord between Paul and the Apostles would shake the faith of his converts and prevent the congregation from spreading outside of Israel, making his years of labor totally in vain. His claim of a direct calling from the Anointed One would then be met with scorn and ridicule.8

While Beet does make a valid point, it is difficult to imagine that a person as feisty as Paul and as full of zeal in response to the Anointed One’s personal calling on his life, would pack up his documents and go back to Tarsus to take over his father’s tent-making business. It is my opinion, Paul’s response to such a charge would not earn for him the authority to do to Peter in Jerusalem, and in Antioch, having been thought of as a crybaby who folded so quickly in the face to criticism from his Jewish counterparts. Rather, Paul would have gone off and with the backing of the Antioch congregation and continued to spread the Gospel throughout the Roman Empire. Meanwhile, Peter and the others on his side would have seen everything crash around them when the Roman General Titus came in 70 AD to destroy the city of Jerusalem. So praise God for Paul and Peter seeing the need to stay unified.

James Denny (1856-1917), again speaking about the death of the Anointed One, but this time he focuses on Paul’s reference to an angel who might come preaching another Gospel. But this does not set up a confrontation between Paul and some heavenly being. Rather, it is the logical conclusion drawn from the very first commandment God gave to Moses, “I am ADONAI your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You are to have no other gods before me.9 So if anyone, even an angel, came bearing a gospel other than the one Yeshua the Messiah brought, which was given to Paul, let them be treated like the angels who rebelled against God under the leadership of Lucifer.10 That would not only make them a fallen angel but one bound for the bottomless pit like Satan.11 That’s why Paul says in chapter one, verse eight, let them suffer the timeless curse of everlasting punishment.12

Denny then goes on to point out that the Prophet Isaiah also spoke of the day coming when ADONAI will punish the powers of the high heaven, and the kings of the earth here on earth.13 This certainly presents a picture of two ruling forces, those in the unseen world and those in the seen world. They are not at war with each other. In fact, they are in league with each other. That’s why the forces which Jesus faced when He came to earth were so formidable. And that’s the reason He must defeat the human forces against Him as the Son of Man, but also, as the Son of God take the keys to hell, death, and the grave and hold them only in His hands.14

Kenneth Wuest wants us to understand this fear on the part of the Apostle Paul most certainly does not mean that his past fruitful labors which resulted in the conversion of many sinners and the establishment of a number of congregations would be rendered null and void simply because they would not get the approval of the Jerusalem congregation. It must be that Paul attached great importance to the esteem that his preaching to Gentiles would be held by the Jewish Jerusalem congregation and the Council. Wuest says, that when we think of the strong biases and prejudices among some of the converted Pharisees in the congregations in Jerusalem and in Judea, this feeling of anxiety that his work may be disowned, would be a natural thing.

His real fear, says Wuest, was that those in authority in the Jerusalem congregation, by insisting on the Mosaic ritual of circumcision might spoil his past and present efforts at establishing congregations that would be free from all connections with the Mosaic Ceremonial Law being set aside at the Cross. Paul saw that in the existing situation, there was a danger that his work would be rendered as having no value to Christianity by the opposition of the Jerusalem congregation; that the disapproval of the Twelve would earn such repercussions in the congregation to seriously handicap his work. He took great care to prevent Jewish ceremonial law from being forced upon the Gentiles and the unity of the Christian congregation broken into Jewish and a Gentile branches.15

Thomas Lancaster also sees Paul’s anxiety about running the race in vain as similar to a runner who takes off from the starting line like a flash and soon leaves the rest out of sight far behind. Even when he slows down they don’t seem to be catching up. But he continues for miles, so he assumes that he’s in the lead until someone yells at him, “Hey, you’re off course and you’re running in the wrong direction.” So in Paul’s case, nothing good comes out of expending one’s whole effort to proclaim a Gospel proven to be formulated in error?16 And not only in Paul’s case but in our case as well. Make sure you understand it, are able to prove it by the Scriptures, and feel the anointing of the Spirit when you share it before you propose any different understanding of God’s Word than the traditional interpretation.

1 John Calvin: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit.

Wesley, John: Galatians: Explanatory Notes & Commentary, op. cit., loc. cit.

3 See verse 10 here in chapter two

4 John Edmunds: On Galatians, op. cit., p. 29

5 Acts of the Apostles 15:5

6 2 Corinthians 11:4

7 Galatians 1:7

8 Joseph Beet: On Galatians, op. cit., loc, cit., p. 34

9 Exodus 20:2-3 – Complete Jewish Bible

10 See Isaiah 14, Ezekiel 28, Luke 10:18; Mark 1:21-27

11 Revelation 19:20; 20:10, 14-15; 21:8

12 Cf. Revelation 20:10

13 Isaiah 24:21

14 James Denny: The Death of the Anointed One, Ch. 3, p. 130

15 Kenneth Wuest: Word Studies, op. cit., loc. cit.

16 D. Thomas Lancaster: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit., pp. 56-57

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CALLED TO LIVE IN FREEDOM

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NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIAN CONGREGATIONS OF BELIEVERS

CHAPTER TWO (Lesson IV) 07/18/19

Ernest DeWitt Burton takes special note of what Paul said here about how he “laid before them the Gospel which he preaches among the Gentiles.” It goes without saying, that this was not done in a short amount of time. Paul was not one to be short on words. Burton doesn’t think Paul spent much time explaining the practical method he used in sharing the Gospel with Gentiles, but he focused on the doctrinal portion. This included the significance of the work of Christ on the cross to make us right with God instead of the work people do to be right with God, the conditions upon which salvation was to be received as a gift, not earned, and the consequential obligations of believers once they accepted the Anointed One as their personal Savior, instead of the Law. But the real emphasis, as far as getting the Apostles to understand, was that this was his message to Gentiles. That way, they could compare it to their message to Jews. As Paul himself said, he hoped that after they listened and reacted, all his efforts among the Gentiles would not end up being in vain.1

Jewish writer Avi ben Mordechai is of the opinion that when Paul spoke of the Gospel that he preached to the Gentiles, it was the same Word Yahweh sent to His people, exiled and scattered abroad2.3 If these people were to know the true Yahweh, then they must know Him through the Torah and the Prophets from which He preached,4 because it mirrored Yahweh’s character and reputation.5 He was to do what Yeshua did, go to the Jews first,6 show them God’s divine mercy and call on them to have faith in Him as the Messiah,7 in order to reestablish them in the spirit of the Law as one nation – Jews and Gentiles under one God.8 In Mordechai’s mind, the Law of Moses and the Gospel of the Anointed One together would be their guiding light,9 As such, they were to become a spiritual house unified under the contract10 and referred to in the Final Covenant as the “congregation in the wilderness.”11 12

2:2b I did so because I wanted to make sure that all my work did not end up being a waste of time.

Paul feared that if the Apostles in Jerusalem felt that all of his hard work wasn’t worth the time and trouble, then his call from God to be the Apostle to the Gentiles was a worthless endeavor. What he was hoping and praying for is that it would be accepted by the congregation leaders so that these Gentiles could become equal members of the congregation-at-large. When Jesus told His disciples that He was sending them out like sheep among wolves, Paul wanted to make sure that some wolves who infiltrated the believers were not considered a part of the congregation so as to devour his efforts for Jesus the Anointed One.13

He prayed the same prayer for his work among the Philippians.14 It was for that same reason Paul sent Timothy to the Thessalonians.15 Another thing that drove Paul toward Jerusalem to seek confirmation for his teachings, came from what he was taught by his great teacher Gamaliel about finding a good teacher who will help you stay away from doubt. Don’t become accustomed to doing things by guesswork.16

Either way, Paul did not want to make his visit a big deal. So he contacted several of the leaders and requested a private meeting with them. If Paul needed to feed his ego and do something to show everyone that God chose him and Jesus called him, why not staged his visit with maximum publicity. No, Paul is sending a hidden message to the Galatians that showed his great respect for the leaders of the congregation in Jerusalem, and their great respect for him. One converted African Christian commentator felt that Paul’s concern here was to consult in case he was not preaching the full Gospel. If he were to preach anything less, it would all have been in vain. If it could be proven that circumcision, the observance of the Sabbath, and the rest of the Jewish rites and rituals were, in fact, advantageous to salvation, would that not eliminate the grace of God through the Anointed One? If that happened, then running his race to spread the Gospel meant nothing.17

Again, we do not know how many of the Greek classics Paul read, or whether he became familiar with the opening of Plato’s “Apology,” where Plato laments that those he thought supported him were persuaded to turn against him. However, perhaps Paul felt what the great Orator of Athens experienced. It begins this way: Plato says, “O Athenians, I don’t know if you changed your mind about me because of my accusers; but one thing I know, their persuasiveness almost made me doubt myself; even though nothing they said about me was true. But out of all the lies they told about me, the one that really amazed me, was when they told you to be careful and not allow themselves to be deceived by the force of my eloquence. They already knew that as soon as I opened my mouth their lie would be exposed since I am anything but an eloquent speaker. This falsehood struck me as being an insult – unless, of course, they were implying that the power of the truth I speak is my real eloquence.”

Paul himself admitted that he was anything but a great speaker,18 but more talented as a teacher. Yet it appeared that the Judaizers were just as smitten by how the truth of the Gospel Paul taught changed the hearts and minds of the Galatians in an amazing way. So like the accusers of Plato, the accusers of Paul cautioned the Galatians to be careful what Paul said and not be misled by his supposed eloquence and claims that it was inspired by God Himself. Early church writer John Cassian says that even Paul would not be so presumptuous and blind as to trust his own insights without seeking assurances from his co-apostles.19

Then Paul gives his readers another private peek inside his purpose for going to Jerusalem. The last time he was there only Peter and James were privy to his visit, but now there were others who wanted to hear firsthand his account of how God called him and Jesus ordained him to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles; and all the good that came out of that missionary ministry. It was so important that they personally hear how he acted according to God’s will in every respect and received many blessings in his obedience to his calling. And Augustine believes that Paul is also assuring the Galatians that he experienced no difficulty in getting the approval of the Apostles in Jerusalem for what he did by exempting them from Jewish laws so that his mission to bring them this Good News would not end up being a futile effort because they began to doubt.20

Peter Lombard (1096-1160 AD), Medieval Bishop of Paris, drew a comparison here between Paul’s going to Jerusalem and the command Jesus gave some lepers after He healed them. As Lombard sees it, the decision by the Council at Jerusalem cast out every variety of heretical leprosy. Therefore, they declared Paul’s Gospel as pure. One reads in the Gospel how the lepers cured by the Lord were sent to the priests so that they might show themselves to them.21 It is not far-fetched to take this to mean that those without sufficient knowledge of the true faith may profess various erroneous doctrines. Furthermore, no false doctrine should be allowed to intermingle with things that are true. When this is allowed to happen, it is analogous to those with leprosy being allowed to mingle with those who are healthy. Thus, it was in order to prove that the Apostle’s preaching was free from every corruption of heretical leprosy that he discuss the Gospel with the other Apostles.22

From what Martin Luther says here, we might conclude that one of the roadblocks in the way of converted Jews giving up their circumcision requirement and adherence to the long-held Jewish Law’s rites, rituals, and regulations came as a result that neither their Prophets nor their Rabbis and Sanhedrin offered such choices as an option. After all, wasn’t Jesus circumcised? And where did Jesus say anything about giving up circumcision? Apparently, the word of Paul and the Apostles was not enough for them.23

John Calvin finds two things here in what Paul is telling the Galatians that we need to take notice of and heed his words. On the one hand, it possessed the potential to be an alarming weapon against Paul if his opponents could shake the weak consciences of the Galatians causing them to believe that the doctrine Paul preached was false and at variance with the doctrine of the Apostles. Many were misled this way. The confidence one has in their faith does not necessarily depend on everyone else agreeing with you. However, it is our duty to be part of a consensus with other believers on what is the truth according to God’s Word. That way, neither men nor all the angels together could shake our faith. Believers weak in their faith are fair game for such irresistible persuasion when presented by people with a large following. But strong believers are more likely to resist such a powerful strategy often used by Satan to bring strife and divisions.24 With their spirit bearing witness with the Holy Spirit, the Gospel, and the spirit of like-minded believers, they will not be so easily misled.

Paul gives us a beautiful example of how to address any issue that may be reported back to us that something we are preaching or teaching does not fit the standard, orthodox, doctrine of evangelical Christianity, and how to deal with it. Don’t become angry at those who object, but schedule a meeting with them, present your solid reasons for interpreting the Scriptures the way you do. Don’t be apologetic when you have the Word of God to back you up. But at the same time, don’t hesitate to consider their objections or differences. In the end, you may not fully agree on every factor, but at least you will both understand each other’s point of view. And don’t forget, the Holy Spirit is there to help.

1 Ernest DeWitt Burton: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit., pp 70-71

2 Isaiah 43:5-7, 52:6

3 Acts of the Apostles 9:15

4 Malachi 3:22, 4:4

5 Deuteronomy 28:58

6 Matthew 15:24

7 Hosea 2:23

8 Hosea 1:10; Amos 9:11

9 Psalm 119:105

10 Deuteronomy 29:15

11 Acts of the Apostles 7:38

12 Avi ben Mordechai: On Galatians, op. cit., p. 13

13 Matthew 10:16

14 Philippians 2:16

15 1 Thessalonians 3:5

16 Pirkei Avot: Ethics of the Fathers, 1:16

17 Marius Victorinus’ (c. 355 AD): Commentary on Galatians, Introduction, Translation and Notes by Stephen Andrew Cooper, The Oxford Early Christian Studies, Oxford University Press, 2005, loc. cit., p. 269

18 I Corinthians 11:6

19 John Cassian: Conferences 2.15, Edwards, M. J. (Ed.), op. cit., loc. cit., p. 19

20 Augustine: On Galatians, Edwards, M. J. (Ed.), op. cit., loc. cit., p. 20

21 Luke 17:14

22 Peter Lombard, op. cit., loc .cit.

23 Martin Luther: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 29

24 1 Corinthians 3:3

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CALLED TO LIVE IN FREEDOM

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIAN CONGREGATIONS OF BELIEVERS

CHAPTER TWO (Lesson IV)

Ernest DeWitt Burton takes special note of what Paul said here about how he “laid before them the Gospel which he preaches among the Gentiles.” It goes without saying, that this was not done in a short amount of time. Paul was not one to be short on words. Burton doesn’t think Paul spent much time explaining the practical method he used in sharing the Gospel with Gentiles, but he focused on the doctrinal portion. This included the significance of the work of Christ on the cross to make us right with God instead of the work people do to be right with God, the conditions upon which salvation was to be received as a gift, not earned, and the consequential obligations of believers once they accepted the Anointed One as their personal Savior, instead of the Law. But the real emphasis, as far as getting the Apostles to understand, was that this was his message to Gentiles. That way, they could compare it to their message to Jews. As Paul himself said, he hoped that after they listened and reacted, all his efforts among the Gentiles would not end up being in vain.1

Jewish writer Avi ben Mordechai is of the opinion that when Paul spoke of the Gospel that he preached to the Gentiles, it was the same Word Yahweh sent to His people, exiled and scattered abroad2.3 If these people were to know the true Yahweh, then they must know Him through the Torah and the Prophets from which He preached,4 because it mirrored Yahweh’s character and reputation.5 He was to do what Yeshua did, go to the Jews first,6 show them God’s divine mercy and call on them to have faith in Him as the Messiah,7 in order to reestablish them in the spirit of the Law as one nation – Jews and Gentiles under one God.8 In Mordechai’s mind, the Law of Moses and the Gospel of the Anointed One together would be their guiding light,9 As such, they were to become a spiritual house unified under the contract10 and referred to in the Final Covenant as the “congregation in the wilderness.”11 12

2:2b I did so because I wanted to make sure that all my work did not end up being a waste of time.

Paul feared that if the Apostles in Jerusalem felt that all of his hard work wasn’t worth the time and trouble, then his call from God to be the Apostle to the Gentiles was a worthless endeavor. What he was hoping and praying for is that it would be accepted by the congregation leaders so that these Gentiles could become equal members of the congregation-at-large. When Jesus told His disciples that He was sending them out like sheep among wolves, Paul wanted to make sure that some wolves who infiltrated the believers were not considered a part of the congregation so as to devour his efforts for Jesus the Anointed One.13

He prayed the same prayer for his work among the Philippians.14 It was for that same reason Paul sent Timothy to the Thessalonians.15 Another thing that drove Paul toward Jerusalem to seek confirmation for his teachings, came from what he was taught by his great teacher Gamaliel about finding a good teacher who will help you stay away from doubt. Don’t become accustomed to doing things by guesswork.16

Either way, Paul did not want to make his visit a big deal. So he contacted several of the leaders and requested a private meeting with them. If Paul needed to feed his ego and do something to show everyone that God chose him and Jesus called him, why not staged his visit with maximum publicity. No, Paul is sending a hidden message to the Galatians that showed his great respect for the leaders of the congregation in Jerusalem, and their great respect for him. One converted African Christian commentator felt that Paul’s concern here was to consult in case he was not preaching the full Gospel. If he were to preach anything less, it would all have been in vain. If it could be proven that circumcision, the observance of the Sabbath, and the rest of the Jewish rites and rituals were, in fact, advantageous to salvation, would that not eliminate the grace of God through the Anointed One? If that happened, then running his race to spread the Gospel meant nothing.17

Again, we do not know how many of the Greek classics Paul read, or whether he became familiar with the opening of Plato’s “Apology,” where Plato laments that those he thought supported him were persuaded to turn against him. However, perhaps Paul felt what the great Orator of Athens experienced. It begins this way: Plato says, “O Athenians, I don’t know if you changed your mind about me because of my accusers; but one thing I know, their persuasiveness almost made me doubt myself; even though nothing they said about me was true. But out of all the lies they told about me, the one that really amazed me, was when they told you to be careful and not allow themselves to be deceived by the force of my eloquence. They already knew that as soon as I opened my mouth their lie would be exposed since I am anything but an eloquent speaker. This falsehood struck me as being an insult – unless, of course, they were implying that the power of the truth I speak is my real eloquence.”

Paul himself admitted that he was anything but a great speaker,18 but more talented as a teacher. Yet it appeared that the Judaizers were just as smitten by how the truth of the Gospel Paul taught changed the hearts and minds of the Galatians in an amazing way. So like the accusers of Plato, the accusers of Paul cautioned the Galatians to be careful what Paul said and not be misled by his supposed eloquence and claims that it was inspired by God Himself. Early church writer John Cassian says that even Paul would not be so presumptuous and blind as to trust his own insights without seeking assurances from his co-apostles.19

Then Paul gives his readers another private peek inside his purpose for going to Jerusalem. The last time he was there only Peter and James were privy to his visit, but now there were others who wanted to hear firsthand his account of how God called him and Jesus ordained him to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles; and all the good that came out of that missionary ministry. It was so important that they personally hear how he acted according to God’s will in every respect and received many blessings in his obedience to his calling. And Augustine believes that Paul is also assuring the Galatians that he experienced no difficulty in getting the approval of the Apostles in Jerusalem for what he did by exempting them from Jewish laws so that his mission to bring them this Good News would not end up being a futile effort because they began to doubt.20

Peter Lombard (1096-1160 AD), Medieval Bishop of Paris, drew a comparison here between Paul’s going to Jerusalem and the command Jesus gave some lepers after He healed them. As Lombard sees it, the decision by the Council at Jerusalem cast out every variety of heretical leprosy. Therefore, they declared Paul’s Gospel as pure. One reads in the Gospel how the lepers cured by the Lord were sent to the priests so that they might show themselves to them.21 It is not far-fetched to take this to mean that those without sufficient knowledge of the true faith may profess various erroneous doctrines. Furthermore, no false doctrine should be allowed to intermingle with things that are true. When this is allowed to happen, it is analogous to those with leprosy being allowed to mingle with those who are healthy. Thus, it was in order to prove that the Apostle’s preaching was free from every corruption of heretical leprosy that he discuss the Gospel with the other Apostles.22

From what Martin Luther says here, we might conclude that one of the roadblocks in the way of converted Jews giving up their circumcision requirement and adherence to the long-held Jewish Law’s rites, rituals, and regulations came as a result that neither their Prophets nor their Rabbis and Sanhedrin offered such choices as an option. After all, wasn’t Jesus circumcised? And where did Jesus say anything about giving up circumcision? Apparently, the word of Paul and the Apostles was not enough for them.23

John Calvin finds two things here in what Paul is telling the Galatians that we need to take notice of and heed his words. On the one hand, it possessed the potential to be an alarming weapon against Paul if his opponents could shake the weak consciences of the Galatians causing them to believe that the doctrine Paul preached was false and at variance with the doctrine of the Apostles. Many were misled this way. The confidence one has in their faith does not necessarily depend on everyone else agreeing with you. However, it is our duty to be part of a consensus with other believers on what is the truth according to God’s Word. That way, neither men nor all the angels together could shake our faith. Believers weak in their faith are fair game for such irresistible persuasion when presented by people with a large following. But strong believers are more likely to resist such a powerful strategy often used by Satan to bring strife and divisions.24 With their spirit bearing witness with the Holy Spirit, the Gospel, and the spirit of like-minded believers, they will not be so easily misled.

Paul gives us a beautiful example of how to address any issue that may be reported back to us that something we are preaching or teaching does not fit the standard, orthodox, doctrine of evangelical Christianity, and how to deal with it. Don’t become angry at those who object, but schedule a meeting with them, present your solid reasons for interpreting the Scriptures the way you do. Don’t be apologetic when you have the Word of God to back you up. But at the same time, don’t hesitate to consider their objections or differences. In the end, if you can still not fully agree, at least you will both understand each other’s point of view. And don’t forget, the Holy Spirit is there to help.

1 Ernest DeWitt Burton: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit., pp 70-71

2 Isaiah 43:5-7, 52:6

3 Acts of the Apostles 9:15

4 Malachi 3:22, 4:4

5 Deuteronomy 28:58

6 Matthew 15:24

7 Hosea 2:23

8 Hosea 1:10; Amos 9:11

9 Psalm 119:105

10 Deuteronomy 29:15

11 Acts of the Apostles 7:38

12 Avi ben Mordechai: On Galatians, op. cit., p. 13

13 Matthew 10:16

14 Philippians 2:16

15 1 Thessalonians 3:5

16 Pirkei Avot: Ethics of the Fathers, 1:16

17 Marius Victorinus’ (c. 355 AD): Commentary on Galatians, Introduction, Translation and Notes by Stephen Andrew Cooper, The Oxford Early Christian Studies, Oxford University Press, 2005, loc. cit., p. 269

18 I Corinthians 11:6

19 John Cassian: Conferences 2.15, Edwards, M. J. (Ed.), op. cit., loc. cit., p. 19

20 Augustine: On Galatians, Edwards, M. J. (Ed.), op. cit., loc. cit., p. 20

21 Luke 17:14

22 Peter Lombard, op. cit., loc .cit.

23 Martin Luther: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 29

24 1 Corinthians 3:3

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CALLED TO LIVE IN FREEDOM

9526a07d9f8686ec5667a96cad064ff6

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIAN CONGREGATIONS OF BELIEVERS

CHAPTER TWO (Lesson III) 07/17/19

2:2a I went there because God showed me in a special way that I should go. I then laid out before them the Good News that I preach among the people who are not Jews. While I was there I met privately with those considered to be prominent leaders of the church.

Sometimes the black print on a white page does not convey any real emotion or attitude. But from the way Paul communicated up until now, we should not be surprised that he continued the sense of irony that permeated his discourse so far. Irony is described as saying something serious with humor mixed in. It’s almost like laughing at a person’s misfortune in spite of all the warnings they received. Even though it may hurt, it’s still hard not to laugh. In telling the Galatians about his trip to Jerusalem, Paul indicates that God needed to give him special instructions to go because everyone else told him not to go.1

At this point, Paul makes a very interesting remark about what prompted his visit to Jerusalem. He said it came after “God told him to go.” Some scholars believe it came in a dream, others in a vision, like Peter and John, or, perhaps, an unexpected invitation from the leaders in Jerusalem. In my opinion, Paul’s reference to being told to go refers back to the prophecy by Agabus as a revelation he received to go to Jerusalem. So it did not involve any personal longing, homesickness, a business matter, or anything personal. Paul took what Agabus revealed as the Holy Spirit’s message to him. So whatever conditions existed at the time, he remained convinced beyond any doubt that the time arrived to make a visit to Jerusalem.

So once Paul and his entourage arrived in Jerusalem, they didn’t go sightseeing. Apparently a meeting was hastily called, the Apostles, church leaders, and elders in the congregation were asked to greet Paul and hear from him and Barnabas what God did through their ministry.2 Apparently their testimony proved spell-binding, because Luke records: “All those who were gathered together kept quiet as Paul and Barnabas told of all the powerful works God did through them among the Gentiles.3 It is clear that by now Paul’s standing among ministry leaders was so impressive that just his presence brought them together to hear the great news from the mission field. That’s why one well-known Rabbi and Jewish commentator on the Psalms, expounds on verse two from the Psalms: “But may all those who seek you be glad and take joy in you. May those who love your salvation say always, ‘Adonai is great and glorious!’”4 by indicating that such men of great esteem were spiritual men, capable of judging of all spiritual things; men of full age, whose senses were exercised to discern between truth and error.5

Early church scholar Victorinus offers his opinion on what Paul says here that can be taken as a revelation Paul received in addition to the Word of Knowledge given by Agabus. Once Paul heard the Word from the Lord through Agabus, and the congregation asked him and Joseph Bar-Nabba to go to Jerusalem to get things sorted out, Paul was prompted by the Spirit that once he arrived he should meet privately with the top Apostles to explain his case as to why he didn’t require obedience to Jewish ceremonial law for the Gentiles who were being converted. This would keep them from being embarrassed in front of the Council when asked to explain.6

Chrysostom of Constantinople shares an interesting perspective on Paul’s visit. He starts out by questioning Paul’s intentions since neither at the beginning nor after three years he felt the need to confer with the Apostles, suddenly wants to discuss with them now. After all, fourteen years passed since his becoming an Apostle, so why was he now suddenly concerned that it all was in vain? Wouldn’t it have been better if he did this in the first place than after so many years? Also, why even go at all if he was not sure that he was running doing the right thing? Chrysostom describes it as Paul running a race only to find out he’s on the wrong racecourse. Who would be so senseless as to preach a message for so many years without being sure that their preaching was true?

Chrysostom also feels that there may be an answer to all this by the fact that Paul said he went up to Jerusalem because of a revelation. For if he went up to Jerusalem feeling guilty or as a last-minute decision would make it questionable. This would not be like the person who said, “I run straight for the finish line. I fight to win, not just beat the air with my fists.7 If, therefore, he runs with such certainty, how can he say I didn’t want to be running? It is evident from this, that if he went up without a revelation he’d be laughed at upon his arrival there.8

Early church writer Haimo of Auxerre tells us that Jerome’s comments on this verse ought to be read as a question because its meaning is as follows. Did I confer with them separately because I was afraid they would rebuke me as if my teaching were not true and would be in need of their strengthening; or as if I ran in vain preaching from place to place? The answer is no, for they were the ones who needed to listen to him about such deep and profound mysteries because they proved less competent and thus could not comprehend such things without an explanation.

Haimo also feels that those gathered in Jerusalem were in no position to say to the Galatians: Do not believe Paul, for he is preaching a lie. He preaches and teaches one thing when he is around you and another when he’s with us. When he is with you, he preaches that circumcision should not be observed, and then when he is with us, he circumcised Titus. That could serve as a ploy to get the Galatians to see things their way and lessen Paul’s influence and authority. Since during all the time that Titus journeyed with Paul, he was never pressured to accept being circumcised, so why should he now be persuaded to do so just by the objection of the false brethren who were smuggled into the meeting to challenge Paul’s teaching on circumcision as not being a requirement for the Gentiles?

For this great early Church preacher, anyone hearing Paul’s explanation would be unable to harbor any suspicion of his efforts, since it was by grace that he was changed and it was by the same grace that drew him to Jerusalem. Therefore, this meeting was not the result of human planning, but by divine providence, because it concerned both the present and future of the Congregations of Believers. That’s why, one early church scholar points out that Paul discussed the Gospel he was preaching with the leaders, so they could be assured that Paul never adopted some corrupted doctrine. For Haimo, there is a difference between discussing an issue among each other and teaching or learning. Coequals discuss things, whereas teaching and learning take place between superiors and subordinates. That’s why Paul discussed it with Peter, John, and James.9 So in a way, Paul was saying that he discussed his understanding of the Gospel with people he considered his peers.

Another medieval church theologian, Peter Lombard, felt that Paul was motivated to obey his revelation to go to Jerusalem because he saw the opportunity to discuss with the Apostle, as with friends and equals, the subject of the Gospel he was preaching among the Gentiles. This made it possible for Paul to speak in private and explain his preaching because many converts, having been accosted by the Judaizers, were now worried about the Apostle’s teaching. That is why he says he discussed it with them, thereby, demonstrating greater assurance of the Gospel’s impact by receiving the Apostle Peter’s stamp of approval, as well as others in leadership.10

I imagine the brethren in Jerusalem were all saying to each other, “Why is he here? He didn’t seem interested in what we had to say up until now? Wonder what brought him here?” Augustine of Hippo offered one suggestion. For him, Paul’s going to Jerusalem was in response to a revelation. That would certainly make it easier for him to explain why he was now going up at that this time and not having gone up for some fourteen years. By saying that he came because of a revelation then it was right for him to go up at that time.11 In other words, God instructed him to go and so he went in obedience to God’s will. No doubt Paul felt that the brethren in Jerusalem would not want to argue with God’s decision to send him there.

Martin Luther agrees that without Paul hearing the prophecy by Agabus in which God revealed His will to Him personally for him to go, no scheduled visit to Jerusalem would have occurred.12 And John Calvin is struck by Paul’s use of the Greek verb anatithēmi translated by KJV as “communicated.” It strongly suggests that Paul did not go there to learn but to declare in no uncertain terms why he told the Gentiles that they no longer needed the Jewish Law to their Declaration of Christian Faith. This would then not require them to be circumcised or follow traditional Jewish rites and rituals.13

Sir Robert Anderson (1841-1918), the son of an elder in the Irish Presbyterian Church, and Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police and Chief of the Criminal Investigation Department at Scotland Yard, was often referred to as “a secret service theologian.” In commenting on what Paul says here about going up to Jerusalem to explain to the Congregation Council there the Gospel he was preaching to the Gentiles, Anderson notes Paul felt such an obligation to his own people that he felt the need to defend it. But to Gentiles, he preached a Gospel which he received by special revelation. And the specific purpose of his third visit to Jerusalem was to communicate that Gospel to the other Apostles. In writing to Timothy he speaks of it as “the Gospel of the glory of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust.14 It was this precious deposit which, we are told, that on the eve of his martyrdom he handed back to the God who entrusted it to him by telling Him that he kept the faith and finished the course15.16

Oh, that all of us who are given the privilege of communicating the Good News of salvation to the lost and dying in the world, and as nutrition to His children who need greater understanding of His Word, His Way, and His Will, can do the same when our time comes to lay down our cross and surrender our spirit into His hands.

1 Mark A. Nanos: On Galatians, op. cit., p. 38

2 Acts of the Apostles 15:4

3 Ibid. 15:12

4 Psalm 49:17 – Complete Jewish Bible (This is 49:16 in English versions)

5 Rabbi Solomon ben Melech

6 Marius Victorinus: On Galatians, Edwards, M. J. (Ed.), op. cit., loc. cit., p. 19

7 1 Corinthians 9:26

8 Chrysostom, Homilies on Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit.

Haimo of Auxerre: The Letter to the Galatians (Medieval Bible Commentary series), op. cit., loc. cit.

10 Peter Lombard: The Letter to the Galatians (Medieval Bible Commentary series), loc. cit.

11 Augustine, Commentary on Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit.

12 Martin Luther: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 20

13 John Calvin: On Galatians. op. cit., loc. cit.

14 2 Timothy 1:12

15 Ibid. 4:7-8

16 Sir Robert Anderson: Forgotten Truths, Digitized by AGES Software, Albany, OR, 1997, p. 19

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CALLED TO LIVE IN FREEDOM

9526a07d9f8686ec5667a96cad064ff6

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIAN CONGREGATIONS OF BELIEVERS

CHAPTER TWO (Lesson II)

Jewish commentator Adriaan Liebenberg notes that some Christians fall into the same trap today that Paul warned the Gentiles about. But instead of circumcision, these Christians declare “Water Baptism” as the doorway into the Kingdom of YaHWeH. Many churches in Christendom teach that infant baptism makes them a “member of the church.” In doing so, they place the “cart before the horse” as the Galatian Judaizers did with circumcision. Immersion is Scriptural does not come before personal faith in Yeshua, and the new believer in Yeshua must go through a period of spiritual instruction so that they fully understand the immersion steps they are taking and not be rushed, forced, or compelled into doing so before then.1 We might say, that Baptism is the Christian form of Circumcision. However, for the Christian, it is circumcision of the heart.

Don Garrison puts a special emphasis on why Paul took Titus with him to Jerusalem. As Garrison sees it, Titus is a crucial figure at this pivotal point in the history of early Christianity. It would stand to reason that Paul purposely took Titus along as a perfect example for the Galatians themselves to provoke a confrontation with the Judaizers and to use Titus as a test case to confirm that he and the Apostles were in one accord about not needing circumcision in order to serve the Anointed One.2 In other words, it’s one thing to talk about something, and another thing to offer proof. Paul used Titus to demonstrate to the doubters in Jerusalem, and Galatia, that what he preached to the Gentiles really worked in leading them to the Anointed One, and accepting Him as their Lord and Savior.

Garrison also mentions that New Testament Professor G. Walter Hansen feels that Paul’s inclusion of Titus on his team boldly expresses his conviction that it was not necessary for Greek Christians to change their ethnic identity by becoming Jews in order to be included in the congregation. The presence of Titus forced the conference in Jerusalem to resolve the issue of discrimination against Gentile Christians. Hansen further comments that Paul’s associates included Christian Jew Barnabas and the Christian Greek Titus, thereby providing a living illustration of the new found freedom in the Anointed One. Furthermore, says Hansen, Paul’s team was a mini example of the mighty power of the Gospel to break down the barriers that separated Jews and Gentiles, and to create a new unity in the Anointed One – a unity that transcends all ethnic, cultural, racial, gender, esteem, and social divisions in the world.3

Vincent Cheung adds more things for us to consider about Titus’ character and abilities. Paul called him his “true son,” in the faith.4 Paul entrusted him to deal with the Corinthians, and we know what sort of people they were. Nevertheless, he returned with a good report.5 This shows his ability to remain patient and open-minded. Paul also sent him to collect donations pledged by the Corinthians,6 so he could be trusted with money as well. Regarding God’s work, Titus’ eagerness, zealousness, and a willingness to initiate help when needed really impressed Paul.7 Titus also proved himself to be a dependable ministry worker, and a strong leader. In fact, Paul trusted him to complete what he himself left unfinished on the isle of Crete, implying Paul’s full confidence in his competence and character, so he instructed him to “appoint elders in every town,” something not given to a novice or young man with little experience. The truth is this required authority, knowledge, discernment, and maturity. The fact that Cretans were known in general to be “liars, evil brutes, and lazy gluttons,8 reflects on the exceptional courage and skill of Titus to manage troublesome people. Paul told Titus to “rebuke them sharply9 and “with all authority.”10 No wonder Titus was later appointed Bishop over this area.

Luke tells us that Barnabas’ first name was Joseph, but the people in the congregation in Jerusalem called him Bar-Nabba (which means “Son of the Exhorter),” which interpreted means, “Son of Consolation.” He was a Levite and a native of Cyprus. He sold a piece of land which belong to his family and brought the money to the Apostles.11 He certainly proved to be a source of consolation, for when Paul finally came to Jerusalem after three years on his own in Syria and Arabia, it was Bar-Nabba who befriended Paul and took him to meet the Apostles.12

In the meantime, some trouble was brewing in Antioch because several of those sent out to preach were only reaching out to the Jews, while a number of Jewish Christian converts outside Israel in Cyprus and Cyrene, were also preaching the Gospel to the Gentiles. This caused the Council in Jerusalem to send Bar-Nabba to Antioch to report on how things were going there. So we should count it no wonder that when the congregation in Antioch needed some skilled teachers. It was Bar-Nabba they sent all the way to Tarsus to find Paul and bring him back.13

Paul stayed there for about a year. During that time, another delegation came from Jerusalem to visit the congregation in Antioch. During one of the services, the Holy Spirit gave a word of prophecy to one of the visiting ministers named Agabus. Through Him, the Spirit told the congregation that a famine was coming and it would affect Judea and Jerusalem directly. Luke tells us that this happened while Claudius was the Emperor. It involved the period between 41 to 54 AD. So the congregation took up a love offering and chose Paul and Bar-Nabba to take it to Jerusalem.14

Once they got back to Antioch, they brought along Peter’s nephew,15 John Mark. It wasn’t too long after that, that the Holy Spirit spoke once again and told the congregation to select Paul and Bar-Nabba and send them out to do the work for which the Lord called them. Thus began the ministry of Paul as a missionary with Joseph Bar-Nabba, the Son of Consolation, close by his side.16 Their relationship exhibited its ups and downs, but they remained friends up until the end.

As far as Titus is concerned, Paul mentions him as though everyone knew about him. According to one Roman Catholic tradition,17 Titus studied Greek philosophy and poetry in Antioch until Paul came there preaching the Gospel of Jesus the Anointed One, and when Titus heard about Jesus and what Jesus did in dying on the cross on behalf of his sins to bring him freedom and rising again from the dead in order to give him timeless life, he believed and became a devoted Christian. From that point on, Paul took him under his wing and it’s clear from the twelve different times Paul mentions him, in four of his letters, that he and Paul became best of friends.

We find that when Titus is mentioned by Paul in his letter to the Corinthians, the Apostle is distraught because he could not locate him. 18 And later, Paul is so happy to welcome Titus back from a visit to Corinth and the good news he brought.19 Later, Paul mentioned the good work that Titus did in Corinth and how much it helped them and him.20 Apparently, Titus carried a soft spot in his heart for the Corinthians.21 No wonder Paul referred to him as one of his closest associates. As we say today, his “right-hand man.”22 We see now why Paul put so much confidence in Titus that he would later ordain him as Bishop of Crete.23 Here in his letter to the Galatians, Paul will reveal that Titus, a Greek Gentile convert, never underwent circumcision.24

When you stop and think about this, Paul traveled around preaching the powerful Gospel of the Anointed One and bringing the lost to Him for salvation. Some fourteen years went by before he went up to Jerusalem again to meet with the executive committee of the congregation to get their stamp of approval. And as some scholars point out, this came after the three years he spent in Arabia, for a total of seventeen years. It didn’t mean that Paul was being arrogant or even dismissive of his place in the congregation and the needed guidance he provided. Rather, he found out that they were receiving false information about him and his ministry. If Peter, James, or John disapproved of his work they certainly would have made that known a long time ago. That’s why he calls the accusers, spies.

Thank goodness that the Apostles in Jerusalem exercised good sense to wait and speak to Paul before making up their minds about his ministry. But even more important, Paul knew who he was, and whose he was. Too often ministers seek the approval of their peers or superiors before they seek approval from the One who called them. Even our strongest supporters cannot live our lives for us, nor do the work God called us to do; neither are they able to go with us every place we go and undergo the same pressures and demands that our calling often brings us into. But the One who called us is able to do all of that. Trust Him first, and all others second. While we may rightly respect our peers, we must reverence our Lord and Savior, our Great Shepherd, our Master and Redeemer.

1 Adriaan Liebenberg: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit. p. 31

2 Don Garrison: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 54

3 G. Walter Hansen, On Galatians, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series, 2010, p. 54

4 Titus 1:4

5 2 Corinthians 7:13-16

6 Ibid. 8:6

7 Ibid. 8:16-17

8 Ibid. 1:12

9 Ibid. 1:13

10 Ibid. 2:15

11 Titus. 4:36-37: Complete Jewish Version

12 Acts of the Apostles. 9:27

13 Ibid. 11:19-26

14 Ibid. 11:27-30

15 John Mark should not be confused with Mark, the cousin of Barnabas: See Colossians4:10; Philemon 1:24

16 Ibid. 13:1-2

17 See CatholicNewsAgency.com. Friday, January 26, 2018

18 2 Corinthians 2:13

19 Ibid. 7:13-16

20 Ibid. 8:6

21 Ibid. 8:16

22 Ibid. 8:23

23 Ibid. 12:18; Titus 1:5-6

24 Galatians 2:3

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