Tag Archives: Galatians 1

Philip Conley's Morning Thoughts

Morning Thoughts (Galatians 1:24)

Morning ThoughtsGalatians 1:24, “And they glorified God in me.”

This morning, much confusion and miscommunication arises between people, and a sizable percentage of the time the problem stems from people not understanding where the other is coming from. When someone has experienced a life-changing situation that we cannot possibly understand from experience, we may misunderstand some of their interactions with us. Perhaps the emotions that we take personal were not meant personally to us but a product of their new situation in life. Grief, guilt, hurt, resentment, etc. can all be tricky emotions to deal with on the part of the give and the receiver. We all deal with situations and emotions differently, and therefore, human interaction presents a myriad and complex matrix of possibilities.

When reading the Bible, I believe it to be very important for us to try to the best of our ability to put ourselves “there” while reading passages. To put ourselves “there” we need to understand at least three trademarks of a passage: 1. who is speaking, 2. who is being spoken to, and 3. what is the nature or reason for the discussion? When we answer those 3 questions about a passage, we stand better equipped and armed to get closer to personally being there than we would have otherwise. If we answer those questions about our verse, we see that Paul is speaking to the churches of Galatia about his personal experience after the meeting with the Lord on the road to Damascus. The verses immediately prior to ours actually give more detail about Paul’s early church life than anywhere else in the Bible. (Verses 17-23)

With those thoughts in mind let us build to our study verse to see the powerful import that it carries for us today. Paul makes it abundantly clear in the context that there were many in his early church life that did not know all the particulars about what had happened to him. All they knew was that he preached what he once destroyed (Verse 22), but during this personal history, Paul recounts that much of his time is spent with non-Judaea brethren. It is my personal belief that Paul’s “assignment” as the apostle to the Gentiles was a mercy of God so that his primary labours were not among a people that were personally acquainted with his vicious past. However, in the context, the “they” from our study verse is the Jewish brethren, not the Gentiles in other lands.

In my younger days, I would spend time in my Bible reading wondering, “Why is so much space given to this?” Sometimes, I still have those questions, but this used to be one of those places. Why did Paul spend so much time talking – like nowhere else in Scripture – about his early church days? The reason is multi-fold, but the reason we would like to consider from our verse is the profound grace that was manifested and displayed amongst God’s people in his case.

Yet, consider that Paul talks about his past, the brethren, and what they did – or did not – know about him, and the end result is that they glorified God in him. Is this a “WOW!” moment? Let us put ourselves “there” the best way we can. The best way to do that is to transport Saul of Tarsus into our current lives. This man has you thrown in prison for being a church goer and follower of the gospel of Jesus Christ. While you are in prison, you watch your children being tormented, and then have to watch your spouse or closest friend be put to death at the command and behest of this man. Furthermore, when he leaves your presence there in prison, you know that he is seeking your best friends, family, and kindred spirits to launch them to the same place you are.

Then, you do not see him come back. Eventually you are freed from prison, and resume your kingdom service in the church as best you can. Some years later, you hear this interesting story about the man that killed your spouse, imprisoned you and your children and had several beaten and whipped. He is preaching the same gospel that you believe! Miraculous as it would be for him to just believe it; he is actually preaching it in other regions! Wonder if he will ever travel back this way? One day at church, he walks through the door, and preaches that day. After service is over, the church enters into communion, and this man wants to wash your feet!

Now, as frail creatures of dust, how do we react? Honestly, I would likely have a lot to “get over” with this man. If he had killed my wife, beaten my children, and put me in jail for preaching, there might be a grudge or two or ten harbored in me. Mind you, we have never heard his “Road to Damascus” story. All we know is that he believes and preaches what he once destroyed. How hard that would be! Yet, our verse says that they glorified God in him. What power to see and understand a miracle without letting our pride and weak humanity get in the way.

Today, many a grudge would melt in comparison to a scenario like this. Most grudges today do not stem from blood but rather emotional feelings and wounded pride. But, sadly many of those grudges are fiercely gripped for decades. These brethren were willing to forget Saul of Tarsus and embrace Paul the Apostle. Sometimes we need reminding to let go of the past, live in the Lord’s day, and hope for the future. Are there miracles today? Absolutely! Do some of those miracles go unnoticed by us from resentment and anger about the past? Sadly, yes. This short, little verse packs a powerful punch for our present day service.

God’s arm is still delivering today with the same force and success level that it always has. Nothing is too great or big for Him to overcome. We need to glorify God in the miracles we see. Instead of looking at Paul and saying, “There’s that old reprobate that made our lives so miserable. Remember him? He thinks he’s going to preach to us? Good luck fella.” they said, “This is the same guy that was so evil? Wow! What a great God we have to take our biggest enemy and make him one of our most strident allies!” Today, let us look around seeing the power of God in what He has turned around in our lives, do our best to forget things of the past that would hinder us like a ball and chain, but most importantly never forget that our future – one way or another – will be the brightest and best aspect of our existence.

In Hope,

Bro Philip

Morning Thoughts (Galatians 1:8-9)

Galatians 1:8-9, “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.”

This morning, contrasts serve many different purposes. For example, if two people are contrasted in their looks, abilities, or otherwise, we might learn things about unique identities. The Bible does paint contrasts in such ways from time to time – such as the contrasts between Christ and Adam as shown in great detail in Romans 5. On the other hand, contrasts can also show, but are not limited to, completeness of scope. From time to time, we might paint a portrait of contrast to show to a greater degree the “big picture” or the overall sense of the subject matter at hand. It is this vein of thought that Paul employs contrast to the Galatian brethren in reference to the gospel that they had initially rejoiced in but strayed away from.

The book of Galatians seems to be one of the most popular books to discuss by ministers due to some of the language and nuance that Paul brings to the table. Some phrases seem hard to place in their meanings (particularly in the middle chapters of the book), but here Paul almost summarizes their situation by way of exhortation. The summary of the Galatian brethren – and the reason for Paul’s letter to them – was that they once rejoiced in the truth of the gospel but had turned again to the law service of the old covenant. This turning away from the full truth of the gospel (satisfaction made by Jesus Christ in all points) had led the Galatian brethren to return to weak and beggarly elements of bondage. (Galatians 4:9) So, knowing the heart of this letter, let us look at Paul’s strong exhortation and command and see the scope of his intent by the contrast brought to light.

Verse 8 is often quoted and quite popular to many preachers due to its far-reaching power to the authority of apostolic preaching. When looking at the hodgepodge of assorted “denominations” today, most of the newcomers claim something “special” that has not always been around. Perhaps their leader saw a vision, had a dream, received a private revelation, or even that God revealed some hidden portion of truth that was a secret from the first century church until this present hour. Whatever their scenario, Paul destroys the thought in this verse. It matter not who it is that preaches it. If the teaching goes against what Paul and his companions preached (which the word of God teaches), then let that man be accursed: cut off to receive the direst of circumstances. Do not give such a teacher a place or platform to promote ideas that fly contrary to Paul and his companion’s preaching.

On several occasions I had opportunity to visit with a man that believed his ideas superseded what I preached from the pulpit. When I asked him where his authority was to believe and want to teach things contrary to plain Scriptures, he proceeded to tell me of a heavenly vision that an angel had given him. While the story was quite involved and highly entertaining, I seriously doubt a celestial messenger gave him the ideas that he was putting forth. But, let us just give him, for the moment, the benefit and credit that an angel really did give him that vision while he was in a trance. Paul declares that even an angel himself should be accursed for teaching something contrary to Paul’s preaching!

The power of verse 8 shows that God’s authority was stamped and marked over the apostles to teach and preach things that the church needed. Yes, they were verily men who made mistakes: Paul recounts in chapter two of having to upbraid Peter for his faultiness in a Jew/Gentile matter. Yet, even these faulty men could authoritatively speak and preach about things that were unquestionable. These same things they preached, God inspired many of them (Paul particularly) to write. Ministers today have the benefit of being able to quote Paul’s authority with authority, as we know what they taught, stood for, and some of them even died for.

Yet, Paul brings the thought home in verse 9 in what “seems” to be the same statement. He initially starts the verse by saying that he is going to say something again. Then, he starts again by talking about how any man differing from this gospel should be accursed in his condition. Yet, notice the subtle change that Paul makes. Verse 8 describes the gospel “which we have preached unto you” while verse 9 describes the gospel “that ye have received.” Paul initially brings to light his authority of preaching what he does, and condemns those that bring in things contrariwise to it. Verse 9 contrasts what Paul brought to what they received.

We many times think of contrasts as different, but when contrasting to give the scope of something, we may not be giving different things so much as looking from different angles. Verse 8 shows the subject of the authoritative gospel from Paul’s angle of preaching it. Verse 9 shows the subject of the authoritative gospel from the angle of their reception of it. Are the two things different? No, for they received initially what Paul initially brought to them. Paul’s contrasting point is that these people are not ignorant sheep that have never heard the truth, nor know anything about it. His point is simply this: you have had it; stick with it!

If these people have had the truth of the gospel – gladly rejoiced in it as it were – what reason would there be to leave it? What if some teacher comes bringing errant thoughts, and they like the man bringing it? They might be willing to follow the man rather than true teachings. Sadly, hereticks sometimes have the most charming personalities, greatest smiles, and easiest to swallow speeches. These things might make the man appealing, but Paul says if “any man” which gets to any shape, form, fashion, or family he may belong to. Whether or not he is your relation, rich, famous, smooth, or otherwise, do not take the man over true teaching.

Another reason people might leave true teaching is that something else seems novel. Man’s nature at times desires new and fresh things rather than the same old tired and worn-out things. Different teachings sometimes gain popularity based on the fresh newness of them. Some actually revel in the fact that their theology’s paint has not dried yet and mock at those that have “antiquated” and “bygone” religion. Paul said to them then (and by extension to us today) that we should have what he had. We should preach what he preached, and no matter how “old” it might be or sound, we should rejoice in it and count the other accursed. Yes, the preacher should try to make the meal fresh and hot of the grill, but it should be food that people know what they are eating rather than some exotic delight that may be poisonous to the system.

Another point or reason that people might flock to some other system of teaching is that they find it either 1. less condemning to them personally, 2. more exalting to them personally, or both. God’s system in His Book is never popular with the masses. God’s system condemns man’s depravity, exalts only One: Him, and requires that we humbly and joyfully submit our lives to Him. Our grand salvation and home in heaven is completely removed from our control and placed in the secure hand of Christ. His success in His work stands in stark contrast to our daily failings, and consistent reading of His word and heeding His gospel brings out these points often. Not very inviting to the old flesh is it? Not particularly popular politically is it? May not make most people like you. Yet, the truth of God’s exalted work, understanding of our low condition and dependence upon Him, and willingness to follow after Him in thanks for what He has done is what Paul says they initially received.

We are no more immune today than the Galatian brethren were then of stumbling back into some inferior system of belief that deprives us of the rich peace and thanksgiving that our service to God should enjoy. While we may not turn back into Old Testament law service, we could turn back to something just as weak and beggarly in the bondage that it brings to our souls. We who have received the truth from the one true gospel should earnestly contend for it and zealously attend unto it. Zion’s rest will be benefited by such adamant adherence to the same gospel that Paul preached, and whoever may oppose it – whether an angel or otherwise – should be accursed.

This contrast shows that we not only have authority for what we preach, the authority and its associated consequences extend to what we believe. Belief in God’s system of free salvation to His elect family, liberty of walk in our discipleship due to the freedom from the shackles of bondage, love and affection one to another, and ultimately justification by faith (being confirmed righteous in our own mind and conscience) hinge upon Paul’s early warning to the Galatians. He will later discuss each of these other subjects in subsequent chapters, but without earnest heed given to retain and keep what is preached and hear the true gospel preached regularly and consistently, those other subjects will sadly not be realized as they can and should be in our lives. May we hold fast our profession, looking unto Jesus with the highest adoration of praise and thanksgiving for what He has done. By adding to or taking from what He says, we injure our peace with Him here in this world (Romans 5:1), but taking exactly what He says, we ascend with Him in joy unspeakable and full of glory. (I Peter 1:8)

In Hope,

Bro Philip