NUGGETS OF WISDOM

__nature3

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.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

CALLED TO LIVE IN FREEDOM

9526a07d9f8686ec5667a96cad064ff6

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIAN CHURCHES

CHAPTER ONE (Lesson L)

When Paul returned to Damascus, in the very city he was headed for to hunt down Christians for execution, and begin preaching Jesus of Nazareth as the Anointed One some people were astonished, some were outraged, and some tried to kill him.1So,” exclaims Paul to the Jews and Gentiles in Galatia, “I am one of God’s chosen instruments; how do you feel about treating one of God’s anointed the way you are doing?” And can you imagine how the good ole boys back in Jerusalem felt about this upstart not coming to explain himself and get their blessing right after his conversion? Why did he wait so long? Who did he learn from? Who gave him their blessing? If these Judaizers thought Paul could be scared if they raised objections to his calling as an Apostle to the Gentiles; or that the higher-ups in the assembly of believers might object to his style of preaching and teaching, they were in for a big shock.

Matthew Henry (1662-1714) outlines some of the things that made Paul such a confident Apostle of the Anointed One to the Gentles. His calling and commission were not accomplished in an ordinary way, says Henry, nor by simple, ordinary means. First of all, God established this plan for him long before he exited his mother’s womb, and before he did anything to qualify himself for such a calling. The next thing, he was called by God’s grace, not as a favor or reward from the Believers’ Assembly Council in Jerusalem nor any of the other Apostles. Nor did he receive such a revelation to announce himself an emissary from God after meditating under a fig tree like Buddha, or in a cave, like Mohammad.

There was something peculiar in the case of Paul, both in the suddenness and in the greatness of the change that occurred in him, and also in the manner by which it was brought about by Jesus the Anointed One’s personal appearance to him, and the immediate command to follow the Lord’s instructions to initiate his calling. As such, it was rendered a more special and extraordinary instance of divine power and favor. Furthermore, the Anointed One not only revealed Himself to Paul but was revealed as dwelling in Paul. This goes for all Christians, comments Henry. It will be of little help to us if we have the Anointed One revealed to us if He is not also revealed in us. We may say that we’ve seen Jesus, but can others see Jesus in us? And finally, this was all designed by God for him to preach among the Gentiles whom, as a Jew, he once hated, and, among Christians whom he once persecuted. For such a radical Jewish Pharisee to suddenly become a Christian and an Apostle by direct revelation from God was something only God could do.2

John Bengel (1687-1752) makes a good point by noting that the good pleasure of God is the farthest point which a man can reach when he is inquiring with respect to the causes of his salvation. Paul attributes nothing to merit, not even his years of study as a Pharisee under the tutelage of the venerable Rabban Gamaliel.3 However, Joseph Benson attributes Paul’s mastery of the Gospel to his three years in Arabia during which time he employed himself in studying the Jewish Scriptures more carefully than ever, with the help of a new light which was bestowed on him; in searching into the true nature of the Law of Moses, and in attending to such revelations as the Anointed One was pleased to give to him. And by these revelations, he acquired a complete knowledge of all the Anointed One’s doctrines, sayings, miracles, sufferings, resurrection, and ascension, and of the design both of the law and of the Gospel, and of the confirmation which the Gospel is derived from the writings of Moses and the prophets.4

Alfred Edersheim (1825-1889), a Jewish convert to Christianity and Biblical scholar, made a trip into Palestine sometime before 1876 and shares what he found there. Upon reaching the city of Capernaum on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee, he noticed that the busiest road in Palestine, was the one on which the publican Levi Matthew sat at the “receipt of custom,” and when our Lord came by and called him into the fellowship of the Gospel. Matthew then made that great feast to which he invited his fellow-publicans, that they also might see and hear Him in Whom he found everlasting life and peace.5 For, it was the only truly international road of all those which passed through Palestine; indeed, it formed one of the great highways of the Middle East’s commerce.

At the time during which Paul wrote, it may be said, in general, that six main arteries of commerce and communication traversed the country of Israel, the chief objective points being Cæsarea, the military encampments, and Jerusalem the religious capital. One was the southern route, which led from Jerusalem, by way of Bethlehem, on to Hebron, and then westwards to Gaza, and branched off northeastwards into Arabia, from which it then led directly north to Damascus. It is by this road we imagine that the Apostle Paul traveled when retiring into isolation in Arabia immediately after his conversion that he mentions here in verses seventeen and eighteen.6 It helps us understand why the Evangelists and Luke gave little time to such detailed directions of where Jesus walked and where Paul traveled. But to know that it did not change all that much in 1800 years is remarkable. How would you like to have today’s technology and be able to travel back in time and visit that area? If you find a way, take me and my wife with you.

Edward Huxtable (1833-1893) sees here in verse twelve, the effects that perception has on the reception of teaching or a message. I remember when studying Psychology at the University of North Dakota that we were told how a teacher wanted to prove this point so he chose a young fellow professor to help him. He picked out a good number of students from Freshmen to Seniors, equal men and women, and of various age groups to attend a seminar on government policies on education. When the first group came in, the older professor introduced young professor as a Senior Student Associate. To the next group he was introduced as a Graduate Student; to the next as a Post-Graduate Student with a Master’s Degree. And finally, to the last group as an Official from the Federal Government’s Department of Education. At the end of each session, the students were asked to fill out a form in which they expressed their confidence in the speakers level of believe-ability. The speaker introduced as a Senior Student Assistant got the lowest score and the government official got the highest score, even the young professor said the very same things to all the groups.

Huxtable believes that Paul is doing a similar thing here to establish his credentials as a bonafide expert on the Gospel of Jesus the Anointed One. In Paul’s own words he told the Galatians: I received my message from no human source, and no one taught me. Instead, I received it by direct revelation from Jesus the Anointed One. You know what I was like when I followed the Jewish religion – how I violently persecuted God’s assembly of believers. I did my best to destroy it. I was far ahead of my fellow Jews in my zeal for the traditions of my ancestors. But even before I was born, God chose and called me by his marvelous grace. Then it pleased Him to reveal His Son to me so that I could proclaim the Good News about Jesus to the Gentiles.

When this happened, says Paul, I did not rush out to consult with any human being, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to consult with those who were Apostles before I was. Instead, I went away into Arabia, and later I returned to the city of Damascus.7 Paul was the only one among the Apostles with that kind of history. The Judaizers who came from Jerusalem were no match for Paul in his knowledge of the Torah and Oral Teachings. Nor were they able to claim any special revelation from Jesus the Anointed One Himself. So isn’t it a shame that the Galatians were ready to believe these pretend apostles instead of a God-ordained and Jesus-taught the Apostle with his great testimony of deliverance and empowerment by the Holy Spirit.

George B. Stevens (1854-1906) spoke earlier about Paul’s disappointment in how the Galatians didn’t seem to appreciate all he went through to bring them the freedom-giving Gospel of the Anointed One. Now here in verses eleven through seventeen, it appears that Paul was led to believe that part of this rejection of him is because they were being persuaded that the Good News he brought them was something he borrowed from someone else or thought up and invented on his own. So with strong language, Paul writes them that the teaching he gave them was not composed by human hands and minds. Rather, it came to him by a personal revelation of Jesus the Anointed One.

Now, just in case they weren’t fully aware of what that meant to him and eventually to them, he reminds them that at one time, not too long ago, he was a zealous defender of the Jewish religion that led him to become a fanatic persecutor of the assembly of believers. So it should be obvious to them that this sudden transformation could not have happened without God working a miracle. And the reason his abrupt change occurred is that God already had plans for him to serve the great purpose of revealing the Anointed One as the truly risen and glorified the Anointed One, Yeshua of Nazareth, to the Gentile world. That’s why this persecutor became a preacher and missionary to the whole world, That is the only way to explain it because that’s what really happened.

Furthermore, after his conversion and anointing by Ananias in Damascus, he didn’t head for Jerusalem to get instructions from the Apostles. Rather, the Spirit led him into the remote regions of Arabia where this was all further revealed to him. Paul is more or less saying, it’s alright if you want to reject me, but you are on dangerous ground by rejecting the Gospel I brought you because it came directly from God.8 This is a lesson for all of us who have been chosen and called to preach and teach the Gospel of Jesus the Anointed One. Let people know it’s alright with you if they don’t want to accept you as a person, they should be careful that they do not reject the message God gave you to share with them.

Then Grant Osborne has an interesting point to make. It is an interesting question whether the Greek preposition/dative pronoun en emoi in verse sixteen should be translated as “in me” (KJV, NIV) or as “to me” (New Living Translation, Good News Translation), which seem more natural. Is the emphasis on the internal change in Paul (in me) or on the vision itself (to me)? Likely the revelation to Paul is implicit in the verb itself, and the unusual language “in me” should be taken literally as a reference to the internal change in Paul – his conversion. It is hard to imagine a more complete transformation. Paul was transformed from an Anointed One-hater to an Anointed One-believer, then an Anointed One-worshiper, and finally to a missionary to the despised Gentiles – all as the result of a single vision! No wonder he spent the next three days blind and isolated in Damascus.9 It took him that long just to begin to process the radical alteration of everything he ever believed and thought.10

1 Cf. Acts of the Apostles 9:19b-25

2 Henry, Matthew: On Galatians, op. cit., (Kindle Location 348-361)

3 John Bengel: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 575

4 Joseph Benson: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit.

5 Luke 5:29

6 Alfred Edersheim, Sketches of Jewish Social Life in the Days of the Anointed One, Ch. 4, p. 41

7 Pulpit Commentary, op. cit., Galatians, Exposition, Edward Huxtable, p. 20

8 The Messages of the Bible, Edited by Frank K. Sanders and Charles F. Kent, Vol. XI, The Messages of Paul by George Barker Stevens, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1901, p. 68

9 Acts of the Apostles 9:8-9

10 Osborne, G. R: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 37

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

CALLED TO LIVE IN FREEDOM

9526a07d9f8686ec5667a96cad064ff6

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIAN CHURCHES

CHAPTER ONE (Lesson XLIX)

Paul wanted to emphasize again that nobody taught him about Jesus. In fact, he was led by the Holy Spirit into the Arabian Desert east of Israel. We have a comparison between what Paul remembers, and what he told Luke about his experience in the desert.1 Paul understood the Torah and the Prophets, but not in the light of the Gospel. Jesus needed to show Paul the connection. In his letter to the Corinthians Paul shares a somewhat hazy account of his experience in the Arabian Desert. He starts out by telling them: “Let me teach you a few things about visions and revelations. I hope you won’t think I’m bragging because I have absolutely nothing to gain by doing so. I personally know a Christian believer, who fourteen years ago was literally raptured into the third heaven. I cannot tell you whether he went there bodily, or whether it was an out-of-body experience, God alone knows. Let me repeat, I know for certain that this man was raptured up into paradise, but as I said, whether it was an in-body or out-of-body experience, I’m certain God knows for sure. While he was there he heard things said that are impossible to put into words; things that the human tongue is forbidden to repeat.2

Bible scholars say that we should remember that the great Hebrew lawgiver, Moses, spent forty years in the desert of Midian before he was prepared to do his great work of leading and delivering the people of God out of Egypt; that Elijah, the great prophet wandered in the desert before he came out to do his great work; the forerunner of the Anointed One – John the Baptizer – “was in the desert until the day he appeared in Israel,” and there he grew and became strong in spirit. Also, the Redeemer Himself was “led by the Spirit into the wilderness” to be tempted and tried after His baptism, and before He entered His public ministry in Galilee as Messiah, the Anointed One.3

Bible scholars tell us we should take note that the Arabic Version reads: “I went to Balcam,” which was a city in Syria; but without any provable facts. It was not Syria, but Arabia to which Paul went. There are three countries which bear the name of Arabia, and which are called such to distinguish them from one another, Arabia Petræa, Arabian Desert, and Arabia Felix. It is very likely it was the first of these which the Apostle went to since it was near Syria, and he went there from Damascus which was at this time under the government of an Arabian king.4

Paul himself gives us some hint of who this Arabian king was when he wrote: “When I was in Damascus, the governor under King Aretas wanted to arrest me, so he put guards around the city. But some friends put me in a basket. Then they put the basket through a hole in the wall and lowered me down. So I escaped from the governor.5 British theologian Adam Clarke states, Paul went to that part of Arabia which was next door to Damascus, over which Aretas was then king.6

In other writings, we are told more about this King Aretas. He was a Nabatæan King who reigned from BC 9 to 40 AD. His full title, as depicted on numerous inscriptions, was “Aretas, King of the Nabatæans, Friend of his People.7 Being the most powerful neighbor of Samaria and Judæa, he frequently took part in the state affairs of those countries and was influential in shaping the destiny of its rulers. His daughter Phasælis married Herod Antipas (BC 4 to 39 AD), otherwise known as Herod the Tetrarch. When Herod divorced Phasælis to take his brother’s wife Herodias, mother of Salome, in 36 AD, Phasælis fled back to her father in Damascus. Relations between Herod and Aretas IV were already strained over border disputes, and with his family’s honor shamed, Aretas IV invaded Judæa, and captured territories along the West Bank of the Jordan River, including the areas around Qumran. The Jewish author Josephus connects this battle, which occurred during the winter of 36/37 AD, with the beheading of John the Baptist, which occurred about the same time.

Jewish writer Avi ben Mordechai offers his answer to those who question, why did Paul go to Arabia? For him, this was the land of Midian where Moses wandered around for 40 years before Elohim met him there on Mount Moriah in the Sinai desert.8 Then, later on, the prophet Elijah came to this same mountain where he sought God for mercy and direction.9 So what better place could Paul choose to go to have God retool his mind and reform his ideas developed by the oral laws of the Rabbis than to go to where the Written Torah was given to Moses. There, the empty cistern of his Pharisaic life could be filled with the true knowledge of Yahweh about Yeshua the Anointed One, who came to fulfill God’s plans for all Israel. God’s people were scattered among all the nations and needed to hear the good news – the Gospel of the Anointed One10.11

One scholar sees Paul’s solitary period as more than simply not seeking instruction from the Apostles in particular, but that he kept himself from being in communication with anyone at all, excluding not only the receiving of instruction but sharing what he was being revealed to him. The most natural, almost the lone possible, implication is that he sought communion exclusively with God.12 In other words, he wanted to be alone with God so he could more fully understand the new revelation he received from the Anointed One, God’s Son. No one should fault him for that.

Historian Pliny tells us that where Syria bordered on lands to the east and south is called Arabia. Among these are Palestine, Judæa, Coele, Phoenicia, and Damascus.13 In other words, Paul did not need to go to the area we know today as Arabia, nor did he need to go far to be in the uninhabited parts of these lands. This raises another question: if he stayed there three years how was he sustained with food and housing? Apparently, it was so private an experience that Paul never felt the need to describe everything in detail. However, Jerome tells us that the river Jordan divides Judæa and Arabia; so that this country into which the Apostle went was not a great way off from Damascus, to which he returned again after some time. This all happened in about three years. We see this in the next verse when he carried out the work and will of God in those parts. No doubt he was the instrument of converting souls and planting churches in that area. In fact, there were churches in Arabia in the decades following the third-century AD, which are mentioned along with the churches in Syria.14

Likewise, church historian Eusebius (260-339 AD) tells us about the work of God that went on in that area. He explains that all the churches throughout the East and beyond were once divided but now united. And all the Bishops are of one mind, and rejoice greatly in the peace which was enjoyed beyond all expectations. Eusebius then names Bishops that were appointed: Demetrianus in Antioch, Theoctistus in Cæsarea, Mazabanes in Aelia, Marinus in Tyre (replacing Alexander who moved on), Heliodorus in Laodicea (replacing Thelymidres who died), Helenus in Tarsus, and all the churches of Cilicia, Firmilianus, and all Cappadocia. He named the more illustrious Bishops so that his letter was not too long and there was so much to read. Eusebius then notes that in all of Syria, and Arabia they sent help when needed, and to whom they previously wrote a letter, namely, Mesopotamia, Pontus, Bithynia, and, in short, people everywhere are rejoicing and glorifying God for being in one accord with brotherly love.15 This should help us appreciate how far and wide the assembly of believers spread and how influential it became by the middle of the fourth century.

Eusebius goes on to tell us that he felt no need to mention the rest by name, or count the multitude of workers, or tell the stories of the admirable martyrs of the Anointed One. Some of them were killed with an ax, as in Arabia. The arms and legs of some were broken, as in Cappadocia. Some were hung by their feet, with their heads down, while a small fire burned beneath them in order to suffocate them with the smoke which arose from the burning wood, as was done in Mesopotamia. Others were mutilated by cutting off their noses and ears and hands and cutting to pieces other parts of their bodies, as in Alexandria. Do we need to be reminded of those in Antioch who were roasted on fire-pit grates, not in order to kill them, but to subject them to longer, painful punishment? Or of others who preferred to stick their right hand into the fire rather than touch the profane sacrifice to idols? Some preferred not to go to trial. So rather than be arrested and fall into the hands of their enemies, threw themselves from rooftops, considering death preferable to the cruel punishment of the godless.16 How long would many believers today remain faithful to the Anointed One if they were treated the same way?

Since there is no other record of any Apostles going into these areas, we may assume that Paul spent his three years there preparing for what would become the greatest missionary journey in the assembly of believers’ history. Paul does not say how long he stayed in Arabia before he returned to Damascus, but scholars reckoned it to be about three years based on this verse here. The one thing he wanted to impress on the Corinthians was that while he spoke so highly of this man’s spiritual encounter with God, he refused to use that as adding any value to himself as a person. Rather, the one thing he would say about himself is how frail and human he was.

Should Paul have kept this experience a secret and thereby avoid any criticism of wanting to appear in the company of Enoch or Elijah? Eusebius doesn’t think so, because he’s telling the truth of what happened. The bottom line was that Paul did not want anyone to think he would use such a heavenly experience to make them feel they needed to treat him as somebody special. He simply wanted them to think of him as an ordinary person they heard and saw. Paul did not envision himself as a renown Pharisee who came to believe in Yeshua of Nazareth through a personal encounter with His Holiness, but as the chief of sinners, a worthless human being who persecuted the assembly of believers, and who did not deserve such grace and mercy from Almighty God. He was not made proud of his experience in the desert. Rather, it made him humble and repentant that God would care that much about him. Perhaps more believers today should adopt Paul’s humble attitude.

1 See Acts of the Apostles 9:23, 26 and 22:17-18

2 See II Corinthians 12:1-6

3 Concise Study of Basic Theology by Henry Epps, Vol. XV, p. 89

4 See II Corinthians 11:32

5 2 Corinthians 11:32-22

6 Adam Clarke: Commentary on Galatians, loc. cit.

7 At its peak, the Nabatæan Empire stretched from modern-day Yemen to Damascus and from western Iraq into the Sinai Desert. No one is really sure how large their empire really was. That is how elusive and mysterious the Nabatæans were. While their caravans traveled widely, it is hard to be certain of the borders of their kingdom or the extent of their travel. The Jewish historian Josephus identified the Nabatæans with Ishmael’s eldest son N’vayot (Nabaioth – NIV) in Genesis 25:13

8 Exodus 3:1; 4:19

9 1 Kings 19:8

10 Deuteronomy 4:26-31

11 Avi ben Mordechai: On Galatians, op. cit., p. 11

12 Ernest DeWitt Burton: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 55

13 Pliny, History of Nature, Bk. V., Ch. 12 (Also see Ch. 14 & 16).

14 St. Jerome, De Locis Hebraicis (On the Location and Names of Hebrew Places), folio 92, G

15 Eusebius, History of the Church, Bk. 7, Ch. 5

16 Ibid. Bk.8 Ch. 12

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

POINTS TO PONDER

silhouette-man-top-mountain-sunset-conceptual-sce-scene-48015806

Here is something to think about. There are many in the world who are more than willing to offer their opinion on how you should deal with certain situations. It is possible to consider their proposals but you are not forced to accept them. You must make up your own mind. Here are some for you to consider:

A man fell into a pit and couldn’t get himself out.

A subjective person came along and said, “I feel for you down there.”

An objective person walked by and said, “It’s logical that someone would fall down there.”

A Pharisee said, “Only bad people fall into pits.”

A mathematician calculated how deep the pit was.

A news reporter wanted the exclusive story on the pit.

A proud person would say, “Try to be more like me and you won’t end up in such a pit.”

A self-pitying person said, “You haven’t seen anything until you’ve seen my pit.”

A fire-and-brimstone preacher said, “You deserve your pit.”

A Christian Scientist observed, “The pit is just in your mind.”

A psychologist noted, “Your mother and father are to blame for your being in that pit.”

A self-esteem therapist said, “Believe in yourself and you can get out of that pit.”

A hateful person would say, “It’s the survival of the fittest, buddy. So you know what that makes you!”

An optimist said, “Things could be worse.”

An egotistical person would say, “I’ve got enough problems of my own to handle, I don’t need yours.”

A pessimist claimed, “Things will get worse.”

Jesus, seeing the man, took him by the hand and lifted him out of the pit

Now ask yourself the question, if someone were to ask your opinion on how to get out of a tight or difficult situation with the least amount of loss or hurt, which on of these categories would they place you in?

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

SERENDIPITY FOR SATURDAY

christian-love-symbol-vector-drawing-represents-design-30448883

HIS EYE IS ON THE SPARROW

This touching story was shared by “TRUTH BOOK” without mentioning the contributor’s name. It shows us that all creatures show their feelings in their own way; feelings evidently are not exclusive to humans. Let this little fellow’s feelings for his soul mate touch your heart as it did mine.

A male barn swallow’s female mate is injured and the condition is soon fatal. She was hit by a car as she swooped low across the road. She looks around desperately to her mate.

Here he comes bringing her food and attending to her with love and compassion.

He comes back again to check on her and is shocked to find she has died. He tries to gently move her….a rarely-seen effort for swallows!

Realizing now that his sweetheart is gone and will never come back to him again, his heart cries with adoring love.

He stands beside her grieving because she’s gone, she meant everything to him.

Finally aware that she would never return to him, he stood beside her body with sadness and sorrow.

Supposedly, millions of people cried after watching this picture in America and Europe and even in Asia. It is said that the photographer sold these pictures for a nominal fee to the most famous newspaper in France. All copies of that newspaper were sold out on the day these pictures were published.

And many people think animals don’t have a brain or feelings…Is it possible that some do? You have just witnessed a scene of Love and Sorrow felt by God’s creatures. Listen to what Jesus said about how much God cares for you. “Don’t be afraid of certain people. They can kill the body, but they cannot kill the soul. The only one you should fear is God, the One who can destroy the body and send the soul to hell. When birds are sold, two small sparrows only cost one copper penny. But not even one of those precious little birds can fall without your heavenly Father knowing it.1

So we should live with what God gives us, love generously with what we have, care deeply and speak kindly to those who need comforting. That is God’s way of reaching down to care for His own, and humanity’s way of reaching up by faith to hold His hand. So if God cares enough to see when a sparrow falls, certainly He cares if He sees you fall? As someone once said, the mind asks is there anything more important than knowledge? The soul answers back, caring and seeing with the heart. So why is it then that those creatures God created in His own image seem to care less about each other than does the small barn swallow? It all starts in the heart so it can be transferred to the mind and then shared in love.

As I began to read this touching story, my mind immediately back to a song by Frank E. Gräff wrote I used to sing that expresses our Lord’s tender loving care.

Does Jesus care when my heart is pained
Too deeply for mirth or song,
As the burdens press, and the cares distress,
And the way grows weary and long?

Does Jesus care when my way is dark
With a nameless dread and fear?
As the daylight fades into deep night shades,
Does He care enough to be near?

Does Jesus care when I’ve tried and failed
To resist some temptation strong;
When for my deep grief there is no relief,
Though my tears flow the whole night long?

Does Jesus care when I’ve said “goodbye”
To the dearest on earth to me,
And my sad heart aches till it nearly breaks—
Is it aught to Him? Does He see?

Chorus:
Oh, yes, He cares, I know He cares,
His heart is touched with my grief;
When the days are weary, the long nights dreary,
I know my Savior cares.

So as you look at these picture of these two precious little barn sparrows, remember that if God is compassionate enough about His creation to look after them, don’t you think He cares enough to look after you? – Dr. Robert R Seyda

1Matthew 10:28-29

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

CALLED TO LIVE IN FREEDOM

9526a07d9f8686ec5667a96cad064ff6

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIAN CHURCHES

CHAPTER ONE (Lesson XLVIII)

Even though Paul saw the bright light in the sky with his eyes, and heard the Lord speaking to him with his ears, that was not the whole revelation. It wasn’t until Ananias’ prayer and prophesy caused the scales to peeled away from Paul’s eyes after he heard what the Lord said to his repentant heart and mind that the revelation began. So as Paul says, it was not flesh and blood that reveals the Anointed One to us. Without the teaching of the Spirit, what we see and hear will only be like the letters of the alphabet in a book to a child that cannot read.1 Both Strong and Matheson are joined by W. E. Channing who stated, we must never forget that being able to perceive and understand things we see and hear is a great gift from God, and for this we should give Him our grateful gratitude.2 Channing goes on to say that he is surer that his mental reasoning nature is from God more than those things written in a book is the expression of His will.3 Channing is referring to books written about God’s will by philosophers and scholars.

Paul’s treatment by the Judaizers after he converted to Christianity makes one think of how the Roman Catholic Church handled Martin Luther and John Calvin, who, after their conversion, went out to preach the Gospel without first going to Rome to get approval. One Jewish commentator says that while Paul was in Arabia, he began putting together his revolutionary version of the Gospel. It was revolutionary in that for the first time a Scriptural and theological basis was given for presenting the Gospel to Gentiles without their having to become Jews first.4

Sir Robert Anderson (1841-1918), notes that what happened to Paul has been true down through the ages. The open revelation of God to mankind has varied again and again, but His secret revelation to the soul that turns a person away from sin to Him has always been the same. That’s what the Psalmist said: “He brought me up from the roaring pit, up from the muddy ooze, and set my feet on a rock, making my footing firm. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will look on in awe and put their trust in Adonai.5 That’s why even as His saints sang this three thousand years ago so we can sing it again today.6 Anderson goes on to note that Paul’s words here in verse sixteen, “It pleased God to reveal His Son in me,” is Paul’s personal testimony. So if Peter recognized Paul as a child of the Living God, what he said was certainly a revelation from the Father in heaven.7 And it was with the rest of those with Peter, they needed to listen to the words of Paul as if they were being spoken by God.8

Bible scholar Walter F. Adeney (1849-1920) focuses on what he sees as Paul’s teaching on destiny. It is clear that the Apostle Paul feels that from his birth he was set apart for the great apostolic work of his later years. In fact, there is a destiny in every life. God has His purpose of calling us into being. This destiny is determined for us, not by us. We do not choose the circumstances in which we are born, nor our own gifts and attitudes. We can sometimes escape from our surroundings, but we can never escape from ourselves. Whether a person discovers the world as a prince in a palace, or as a parentless child in an orphanage, is entirely beyond their control. It is equally impossible for them to determine whether they will have the genius of Einstein or confined to the mind of a two-year-old up until adulthood.

Yet, says Adeney, these differences have a huge effect a person’s necessary future! They may unaware of their destiny for a long time. No doubt the Apostle Paul never dreamed, while he sat at the feet of Gamaliel nor while he was harassing Christians, that he would one day be a Champion for the Anointed One. Our destiny is controlled by the providence of God who gradually reveals it to us. But it is our duty to walk in the path we have been assigned to until our destiny is finally realized. God may show you your destiny but He will not carry you to it. To resist God’s leading is to insinuate He doesn’t know what He’s doing. This often happens, because although we have been set apart for a particular job in His vineyard, we may refuse to follow it by our free-will,9 but at great cost.10

Charles B. Stevens (1854-1906) confesses here in verses fifteen and sixteen that as a radical Pharisee Paul was closed minded to any instruction, critique, or intervention by outside sources. For him, it was the Torah and the oral Teachings of the Pharisees that occupied his mind constantly. However, now that the Anointed One revealed Himself to Paul in such an indisputable and miraculous way, he was now just as closed-minded to any other gospel or teaching that might try and persuade him differently. All his understanding of the Jewish way of approaching God was dependent upon what his natural eye could see and comprehend which required good works in order to show one believed. But this unveiling of the Anointed One on the road to Damascus and the witness of Ananias was seen and comprehended by his spiritual eye. The first one required works, this last one required faith in order to believe.11

Jewish scholar Adriaan Liebenberg offers us some insight into how this verse can be understood in a somewhat different way when we see how it was written in the Aramaic text, the language Jesus and Paul spoke. The Aramaic verb negla, which is akin to the Hebrew verb glah means to “uncover, disclose, reveal,”12 but in Aramaic, it can also mean “manifested,” as in revealing through a visual process. Paul told Timothy how Jesus was manifest in the flesh to be seen and heard.13 This was how the disciples saw Him. So Paul wanted everyone to know that Jesus revealed Himself to him through a visual process. So there could be no doubt that his calling was as valid as that of the other Apostles.14

Several current Bible scholars made a very salient point when they wrote that we should praise God that it was His will to show us grace, not our will. That’s what Paul says: “So then it does not depend on human will or effort but on God who shows mercy.15 Paul didn’t deserve mercy; he didn’t even ask for it. It pursued him. The same holds true for us: we do not deserve God’s mercy, nor do we even know how to seek it. It seeks us. And it finds us. Mercy comes running, and by His grace, God pursues you with His love. His pleasure in you is not dependent on your pursuit of Him, but His pursuit of you. That’s one of the reasons the Judaizers were criticizing the Gospel of free grace that Paul was preaching, and, therefore, tried to discredit his ministry.16

There’s an old Puritan saying that goes, “God does not break all hearts in the same way.” In other words, we all may have our hearts set on what we think God should do for us, but it doesn’t always work out that way. Because of that, it is necessary that anyone chosen by God for a special ministry, like Paul’s should be willing to include their joys and disappointments in their story and do so honestly. For Paul, his story occurred during the period when God chose to unveil Jesus of Nazareth as the true Anointed One; it paralleled the crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension of our LORD and Savior. As a result, Paul’s life, his vocation, his whole identity was impacted by the original Gospel message being carried out in his lifetime. Therefore, since he already received God’s approval and direction, he did not need to get any critic’s stamp of approval.

1:16b-17 But I didn’t rush off right away to get approval from anyone. I didn’t even go up to Jerusalem to visit with those who were apostles before I became one. Instead, I took a trip into the Arabian Desert for a while. After that, I returned to Damascus.

Underlying the attitude that Paul expresses here about not feeling obligated to run up to Jerusalem to get the approval of the Apostles for his conversion is expressed very well in the Book of Hebrews: “It is true that we share the same Father with Jesus. And it is true that we share the same kind of flesh and blood because Jesus became a man like us. He died as we must die. Through His death He destroyed the power of the devil who has the power of death.17 In other words, Paul entered the arena of the ministry on the same level as the Apostles, and his calling to be an Apostle by the Anointed One Himself was no less important than the calling of the others.

What happened in Damascus after Paul’s conversion was proof enough that his calling was genuine. Luke tells us that once Saul began to preach in the Jewish synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God, all who heard him were surprised and amazed. They wondered if this was the same man who beat and killed the followers of Jesus in Jerusalem; the same person who came to Damascus and shackled the followers of the Anointed One in chains and took them to the head Jewish leaders for interrogation. But this didn’t keep Saul from growing in influence. The Jews living in Damascus were astonished by Saul’s preaching. He was proving that Jesus was the Anointed One.18 Later, Paul told the Corinthians that in the city of Damascus the leader of the people under King Aretas put soldiers at the gates to arrest me. But I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall and I got away.19

Augustine of Hippo has a very Roman Catholic view on this part of Paul’s story. For him, if Paul visited Peter after preaching the Gospel in Arabia, it was not for the purpose of learning the Gospel from him. Were that the case, he would surely have seen Peter first. Rather, he visited Peter so that by meeting him in person he might build up brotherly love between them. But he did not see any of the other Apostles except James the Lord’s brother.20 James is understood to be the Lord’s brother because he was one of Joseph’s sons by another wife or perhaps one of the relatives of the Lord’s mother Mary21.22

1 George Matheson: Moments on the Mount, 4th Ed., A. C. Armstrong and Son, New York, 1904, Ch. XXIII, pp.52-53

2 The Centennial Edition of the Complete Works of W. E. Channing, Williams and Norgate, London, 1880, p. 219

3 Ibid. p. 269

4 Stern, David H., Jewish New Testament Commentary

5 Psalm 40:2-3 – Complete Jewish Bible

6 See the hymn “He Brought Me Out,” by Henry J. Zelley, 1898

7 Cf. Matthew 16:17

8 Sir Robert Anderson: The Gospel and Its Ministry, James Nisbet & Co, London, 1876 , p.48

9 See Matthew 21:29-31

10 Walter F. Adeney: Expositors Bible, op. cit., loc. cit.

11 Charles B. Stevens: Pauline Theology, op. cit., pp. 8, 10-11

12 See Leviticus 18:7; Isaiah 26:21; Job 20:27

13 1 Timothy 3:16

14 Adriaan Liebenberg: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 25

15 Romans 9: 16

16 Platt, David; Merida,Tony. Exalting Jesus in Galatians, (the Anointed One-Centered Exposition Commentary). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition, p. 9

17 Hebrews 2:14

18 Acts of the Apostles 9:20-22

19 2 Corinthians 11:32-33

20 Galatians 1:19

21 The question of the Lord’s `brothers’ was hotly debated in the fourth century. Of the two views mentioned here, the former is associated particularly with Epiphanius, the latter with Jerome. Both were intended to safeguard the perpetual virginity of Mary. A third view, associated with Helvidius, Jovinian and Vigilantius but not mentioned here, held that the brothers were sons of Mary and Joseph born after Jesus.

22 Augustine, op. cit.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

CALLED TO LIVE IN FREEDOM

9526a07d9f8686ec5667a96cad064ff6

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIAN CHURCHES

CHAPTER ONE (Lesson XLVII)

1:16a Then, at a predesignated point in time God revealed His Son to me so I could go out and evangelize the Gentiles, telling them the good news about Jesus. At that very moment, I decided not to discuss it with anyone.

Paul’s use of the Greek verb euaggelizō (evangelize) defines the centerpiece of his life and ministry. It is variously translated into English by the King James Version as: “Gospel preached,”1 “glad tidings,”2 “good tidings,”3 “exhortation preached,”4 “to preach,”5 “to declare,”6 “preaching the Gospel,”7 “preaching,”8 etc. So as we can see, it meant to bring good news to announce good things. And in Paul’s case, it involved bringing the Good News about Yeshua the Anointed One whom God the Father sent in order for the whole world to be saved from the death penalty issued by the Law for sinners. But the idea of euaggelizō is not restricted to the Gospel, it can include proclaiming the truth about the Anointed One in order to win souls for Him, and in this case here in Galatians, to instruct believers in knowing the difference between those who share “good news” and those who peddle “bad news.9 We can see this more clearly when we use the term “evangelize” instead of just “preach” or “preaching.”

Here it sounds very much like Paul experienced something similar to what the Apostle Peter did when he too acknowledges for the first time that Jesus was the Anointed One, the Son of the living God.10 In Paul’s case, he gave all the credit to God for using the Holy Spirit to help him see what no teaching or learning from what people said may have communicated. In fact, Paul quotes the prophet Isaiah where it is said, “No eye has ever seen or no ear has ever heard or no mind has ever thought of the wonderful things God has made ready for those who love Him.1112 While some put this verse in the context of the future, Paul saw it as prophesying what was happening in his day. Perhaps we too can take hope that there are some things yet unrevealed that will happen in our day.

Furthermore, Paul told the Ephesians that many times these revelations are simply waiting on the Holy Spirit to help them gain the wisdom they need in order to understand these secrets that are there for the taking.13 In fact, Paul said that God waited to that particular point in time to reveal some of these mysteries, that believers of old would not have understood in their day.14 And what does that mean for us today? Are there things just waiting to be revealed if we get earnest enough and with plenty of fiery motivation to pray for such an anointing? To tarry until they are endowed with wisdom from on high to understand and participate in what God has waiting for us? When we look back at the Day of Pentecost, the calling of Paul, the Reformation, the Wesleyan Revivals, the Pentecostal Renewal, it tells us that the days of revival are not over.

But that didn’t mean it would be easy. It never has been. Paul experienced that first hand when he went back to Jerusalem to deliver the donations he collected on his last missionary trip. Being among Jews again he went to the Temple to pray. But his reception was not cordial. In fact, when Paul told them about his mission, it caused a riot and a demand to have him killed.15 However, Paul was not deterred. He told the occupying Romans how God helped him carry out his mission.16 Yet he ended up in prison.17 But that was not going to stop him.

Why should he stop? He was given the code to a secret part of God’s plan. He was determined not to quit sharing the Good News even if it killed him.18 Many obstacles were put in his way but with God’s help, he found a way over them, around them, and even through them.19 No other religion proclaimed the message he preached.20 And to his young protégé, Timothy, he sent words of encouragement to keep letting God use him for this same purpose. In the end, his trust in God would be rewarded because the Holy Spirit lived in him to help him cope and continue strong to the end.21

So,” Paul is telling the Galatians, “you know God was involved by picking a mean-spirited man like me who thought that Jews, and especially Pharisees, were the elite in God’s kingdom, and send him out to preach to Gentiles, something no self-respecting Jew would even think of doing.” Was Paul telling them this in order to win their approval on how he was carrying out God’s commission to the Gentiles? No! Had Paul doubted his calling, or questioned if this was God’s predetermined plan for his life; he certainly would have been outraged when he ended up with so much jail time during his ministry.

When early church scholar Tertullian (155-240 AD), read verse sixteen, he believes that Paul acted with an ulterior motive by not consulting the Apostles. In one of the earliest Roman Catholic Bibles translated into English, verse sixteen reads, “Immediately I condescended not to flesh and blood.22 Now Paul knew that there might be plenty in the Jerusalem assembly of believers who insisted that only those who were circumcised would rise in the resurrection. So when Paul identified those he decided not to consult with as “flesh and blood,” he was pointing to these Jewish converts who were not yet freed from what Tertullian calls their “old or former conversation” (“way of doing things”).23 In other words, Paul’s intent was to do it God’s way not man’s way, even if it went against custom and tradition.

We know that Paul added to his library of Jewish writings the popular Greek writers of his day.24 Whether or not he read the writings of Plato we don’t know, but perhaps he was aware of the two valuable principles Socrates ascribed to: First, that true knowledge is knowledge of causes. Secondly, the process of learning consists not in what is brought to learners, but in what is drawn out of them.25 One main point of contention between Paul and the Judaizers involved their question of how much was he taught or was he taught at all. Paul’s testimony on the revelation he received from the Anointed One proves that it’s what flows out of him to others that counted most.

Baptist preacher Charles Simeon (1759-1836) in his preaching using the text: Galatians 1:15-16 makes clear to his congregation what Paul seems to be saying to the Galatians, that is, we must not negotiate with uncertainty, but act with promptness and decision. There must be in us a firmness that is immovable: yet such firmness must be moderated with graciousness. There is no reason to think that just because those over us in the Lord are not as eager as we are to grow in the Word and it is inhibiting our growth in the Anointed One, we must not remain submitted to remaining stationary. We have been given the liberty to agree or disagree with their stance just as long as we don’t violate the teachings of the Anointed One.

Simeon finishes by saying that while we guard against any unreasonable conformity to the world’s views and lifestyles, we must also guard against two common corruptive tendencies: they are, “being too much in control of every step believers should take,” and “unnecessary criticism of those who do not agree with us.” Unnecessary criticism has the danger of making something that is not sinful, to be sinful. and too much control can become too out of control when demanding compliance with the rules of sanctification when it has nothing to do with holiness. We must be willing to learn and be taught better ways of doing what we are trying to do in helping others to grow as spiritual adults. When there are differences of opinion, we must be willing to listen. But in matters of remaining faithful and true to God’s Word, we must be firm and faithful no matter what the cost.26 Paul once was that legalistic Pharisee trying to keep people away from the Anointed One, but now he’s learned the Christian way of love, mercy, and grace in convincing people to come to the Anointed One.

Augustus H. Strong (1836-1921), Reformed Baptist minister and noted theologian best known for his Systematic Theology, (and not to be confused with James Strong who published his Concordance in 1890), in answering what he called the “idealists in philosophy,” on the subject or “revelation,” made the point that in order for revelation to be effective it must involve causing a new model of intelligence to develop. In other words, one must have a clear understanding of what they are teaching. However, when it comes to understanding divine mysteries, it is impossible without a divine quickening of man’s cognitive powers. Granted, says Strong, that revelation, when originally imparted, was often internal and subjective. Strong was speaking in reference to what Paul says here in verse sixteen about how God’s Son was to be seen in him in order for him to preach about the Anointed One to Gentiles, that did not come by way of revelation by men but by God.27

Strong then appeals to what George Matheson (1842-1906), blind Scottish minister and hymn writer28 said about Paul’s revelation. Matheson asks, “Can any picture be a vision to the eye? Can a thing be revealed to me which has never been revealed in me?” Looking at a picture of a beautiful landscape is not enough to reveal all that one sees, says Matheson, “There could be no beauty without if there were no sense of beauty within.” The same goes for music, says Matheson, without a sense of harmony within there is no harmony perceived in the ear. Likewise with the beauty and oneness with Jesus the Anointed One.

1 Matthew 11:5

2 Luke 1:19

3 Ibid 2:10

4 Ibid 3:18

5 Ibid. 4:18

6 Ibid. 4:43

7 Ibid. 9:6

8 Acts of the Apostles 8:12

9 Mark A. Nanos: On Galatians, op. cit., pp. 288, 293

10 Matthew 16:15-17

11 Isaiah 64:4; 52:16

12 1 Corinthians 2:9

13 Ephesians 1:17-18

14 Ibid. 3:5

15 Acts of the Apostles 22:22-23; 26:21

16 Romans 15:16-19

17 Ephesians 3:1

18 Colossians 1:25-27

19 1 Thessalonians 2:16

20 1 Timothy 2:1-7

21 2 Timothy 1:6-14

22 Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition, translated from the Latin Vulgate composed by Jerome around 383 AD from a Greek Manuscript

23 Tertullian: The Ante-Nicene Fathers, op. cit., Vol. 3, on “The Resurrection of the Flesh,” Ch. 50, p. 1057

24 See Acts of the Apostles 17:28

25 See Phaedo in Complete Dialogues of Plato

26 Charles Simeon: On Galatians, op. cit., Sermon #2053, pp. 23-28

27 A. H. Strong: Systematic Theology, Vol. 1, The Doctrine of God, Part 1, Ch. 1, paragraph III, p. 46

28 One of Matheson’s most well-known songs is: “O Love That Will Not Let Me Go,” published in 1882

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

CALLED TO LIVE IN FREEDOM

9526a07d9f8686ec5667a96cad064ff6

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIAN CHURCHES

CHAPTER ONE (Lesson XLVI)

Alvah Hovey (1820-1903) focuses on what Paul wanted to say about his being set apart by God for this ministry to the Gentiles. For Hovey, this is to be understood as Paul being assigned or devoted to a special work, even the preaching of the Anointed One to the Gentiles.1 The word separated in the King James and the Revised Versions is ambiguous. Paul represents himself as singled out and set apart by the will of God from his very birth to become an Apostle. And the next clause, “called me by His grace,” directs attention to another act of God – namely, the divine authority in his conversion. The same verb is used in Romans 8:30: “And whom He foreordained, them He also called.” This divine calling encompasses all that God does to bring conviction to the moral nature of sinners and directs them to repentance. In Paul’s case, it was the supernatural radiance and the voice of the Anointed One, together with the work of the Holy Spirit in his soul that made a powerful impact on his moral nature which led him so quickly into the new life.2

J. B. Lightfoot (1828-1889), feels that verse fifteen could be condensed to make Paul’s point about his calling, selection, and appointment this way: God did it, not me!1 Also English theologian William Sanday (1843-1920), Professor of Exegesis on Holy Scripture says of Paul’s selection, calling, and struggle to become an Apostle to the Gentiles, that this was such a crisis that no other being dare interfere, “the soul must wrestle out its own problems between itself and God.”4

Charles Spurgeon thinks that all this points to something to often overlooked when it comes to what happens before regeneration and conversion. He calls it, PRECEDING GRACE. Spurgeon laments that we do not attach enough importance to the Grace of God in its dealings with people before He actually brings them to Himself. Paul says that God designed a way to love him before He called him out of the dead world into spiritual life.5 To put it another way, most of us are totally unaware of all that God did before He ever sent His Holy Spirit to call us to repentance.

British Baptist Bible scholar A. F. Barfield (1869) explained what his concept was of how God’s preceding grace worked. He said that as he looked at this earth in which we live, he finds it captured and clothed by God’s all-embracing laws, just like gravity influences the ebb and flow of the tides, of light, of the procession of the seasons – all utterly and absolutely beyond any human control. They reach above, beneath, around, and within; we cannot touch them. There they are; unalterable, unswerving, and necessary – in its most profound sense, predestinated.6 The same is true of God’s spiritual realm. There are powers and forces at work over which humankind has no control. Anything that moves or comes into being is all done by God’s will and grace. Those who are called and converted owe nothing to themselves for who they are or what they may become. As Lightfoot indicated, God did it, not us!

Canadian George W. Ridout (1870-1954), who accepted the Chair of Theology at Asbury College (now Asbury University), in Wilmore, Kentucky, where he remained until 1927, before going out to do missionary work in Asia and South America, noted from his experience that God commences His work in a soul by causing it to feel alienated from Him. As the old hymn goes, “I’ve wandered far away from God.7 It causes the sinner to experience true grief and sorrow over their sins and knows it may be a long way back to God. But this is a good thing, because it redoubles their restlessness, and increases their desire to reach out to Him.

However, at first, some try to clean up their lives on their own. But it’s only on the outside and does not make any difference on the inside. The wounds that need healing are on the heart, not just the body. When they become unsatisfied with their progress, some give up but others become more eager and struggle with all their energy and resolve to make even bigger changes. But it’s like taking two steps forward and then three steps backward. Now they feel even more helpless. It’s only when the mercy of God is explained to them and they are instructed to seek inwardly for what they’re looking for outwardly. By God’s grace, they are then made aware of the treasure the Holy Spirit helps them to discover in their heart and soul. They went far and wide looking for an answer when all the time it was near to their heart. For Ridout, this is the message Paul is reminding the Galatians of here in verse sixteen.8

Theologian Robert Gundry sees Paul being set apart while in his mother’s womb and then called while on the road to Damascus. This came while he was persecuting the assembly of believers and wreaking havoc on them. This testifies dramatically to God’s absolute sovereign grace, so dramatically, in fact, that the Galatians should retrace their steps back to the Gospel that features this grace undistorted and unappended. And the fact that God was actually “pleased” or “delighted,” as Paul’s Greek verb eudokeō could equally be translated – to reveal His Son in Paul. Nothing need be added to it, Paul wants the Galatians (and us) to know. “In me” doesn’t define the manifestation of God’s Son as an interior revelation that took place only in his mind, although the manifestation certainly did change his mind. For in another place he says that he actually saw the risen Jesus and that the risen Jesus actually appeared to him.9 So “in me” means “in my case.1011 However, Gundry thinks it only fair to consider that Paul’s revelation that he was called while still in his mother’s womb did not come to him until he was converted and became a follower of the Anointed One.

Based on Jewish tradition of his day, at the age of five Paul began to memorize scripture and study the Torah, along with writing and arithmetic. Then at age ten he listened to a teacher recite a compilation of all the teachings of great rabbis down through the ages, later compiled in the Mishnah, which means “to repeat.” All of this while growing up in the city of Tarsus until he reached age thirteen, when he qualified to be a Bar Mitzvah, which means, “son of the commandment.” Then at age fifteen, his parents sent him to Jerusalem to study all the cultural laws and traditions of Judaism at the feet of the highly revered Rabbi Gamaliel. These would later become part of the Talmud, which combines the Mishnah and the Rabbi’s commentary called the Gemara, which means “to complete.” This section of discussions, debates, interpretations, and commentary on the Mishnah begin in 350 BC, and presented in a question and answer style, so the students could memorize them.

Messianic writer Tim Hegg gives us a picture here from a Jewish perspective of Paul’s calling. Paul speaks of “being set apart from my mother’s womb.” This seems too close a parallel to Jeremiah’s calling to be coincidental,12 and we should most likely presume that Paul considered his own calling (and thus his authority) to be like that of Jeremiah’s. Even more so, since the meaning of “Pharisee” is (as many believe) derived from the Hebrew root, parash, “to separate,” then Paul’s claim to have been “separated” to the Lord from the time of birth would be speaking directly to the Judaizers. Paul’s association with the Pharisees (of which they may have belonged to or sympathetic of) came to an end when he recognized his true “separation” being unto God through Yeshua, and his life’s mission for which he was separated from the “separated ones” – Pharisees. But the fact that this separation was from birth would mean that his time within the strict sect of Pharisees of which he was a part, was not wasted but something necessary for his ultimate calling.13

Nevertheless, some of his critics questioned why Paul thought he was so special that Jesus needed to confront him personally to explain the truth. In their minds, it wasn’t because he was exceptional, but that Paul was such a stubborn and hardheaded person that if anyone possessed the persuasive powers to convinced them they needed to change their ways, it would take the Anointed One to do it. Paul did not argue, he openly admitted that he did not deserve God’s mercy and kindness; he knew God selected a special job for him to do. But just in case any of these Judaizers or Gentiles felt that Paul might become bigheaded, he assures them it was all by God’s grace. So it wasn’t that he felt he earned it, but that God deserved all the credit for being so loving and kind to such an undeserving person.

Perhaps the Galatians, and even those who read this passage today, may wonder if Paul is introducing the doctrine of predestination by believing he was picked out for this ministry before he was born, and, therefore, had little if anything to do with how it came into being. In exploring this, let’s first ask these questions: was Abraham just lucky to be in the right place at the right time, or was he called because God made a plan for his life?14 Was Moses simply fortunate to be discovered by Pharaoh’s daughter or was it part of God’s grand design? Or was Jeremiah picked by some divine lottery to be “the prophet of the hour” to the Israelites, or did God already factor him in as part of Israel’s future?15

Needless to say, we can go on and on with Joshua, Daniel, Jeremiah, David, and the disciples, etc. Most Christians accept that God possesses the authority, power, and intellect to do such things without anyone’s permission. But how does it fit into His plan of Divine Will and also human will? Predestination, as it is understood by some, indicates that neither man’s will nor obedience to God’s will plays any role in how they live out their lives. It is preset, and will happen as planned no matter what. But for others, predestination actually refers to predetermination. It’s all part of God’s plan, purpose, and will, but whether or not we participate depends on our willingness and obedience, as Jonah learned the hard way.

But now we need to ask further, even if it is part of God’s plan from the beginning, does it mean that all these people were called and then forced to do what God wanted them to do unwillingly? Moses found out the cost of disobedience when he struck the rock instead of speaking to it as God directed. What if he did what God asked him to do? He would have no doubt entered the Promised Land with everyone else. Judas Iscariot was certainly called, but he gave up his position in the ranks of the disciples because he took things into his own hands. So every believer should strive to syncronize their will with God’s will, and this is done by following God’s Word.

1 Cf. Romans1:1 and Acts of the Apostles 13:2.

2 Hovey, A: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 20

3 J. B. Lightfoot: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 225

4 William Sanday: The Bampton Lectures, Longmans, Green, and Co., London, 1894, Lecture VII., The Genesis of the New Testament, The Epistles and Apocalypse, p. 351

5 Charles Spurgeon: In a sermon (No. 656) preached on Sunday at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, in Newington, England, 1865

6 The Biblical Illustrator – Vol. 48 – Pastoral Commentary on Galatians (Kindle Locations 2473-2479).

7 I’ve Wandered Far Away From God: by William J. Kirkpatrick, 1892

8 George W. Ridout: The Beauty of Holiness, Ch. 3, Souls of the Third Class, pp. 13-14

9 See 1 Corinthians 9:1; 15:8

10 Cf. Galatians 1:24; 4:20; 2 Corinthians 13:3; Philippians 1:30; 1 Timothy 1:16

11 Robert Gundry: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit., Kindle Location 261

12 Jeremiah 1:5

13 Tim Hegg: On Galatians, op. cit., p. 45 [p. 35]

14 See Isaiah 49:1-5

15 Cf. Jeremiah 1:5

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment