Tag Archives: Jesus Christ

Christmas “Tree”

I love this image and wanted to share!  It’s from a Tumblr, “Our July in the Rain” (Tess).

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Parousia, Shamoosia, Who Needs Christ’s Second Coming?

The Second Coming of Christ window at St. Matt...

Honestly, I never thought it would be so difficult to find a good summary of the various theological views on Christ’s second coming, or what is more technically called parousia.  By this I mean a summary of the liberal view, and who promoted it and why, that proclaimed that Christ’s second coming was a misinterpretation of scripture – that despite the incredible amount and quality of verses to affirm that Christ and Paul and everyone else actually meant what they said – but that really Christ’s parousia is only His presence with us (so they tried to claim).  So, that means, basically, I guess, that there’s no rapture (no glorified bodies, ever . . . .?), no hope that Christ will actually reign amongst humans, that we can build up His kingdom now and that’s about it, etc.

When I look around, when I experience my daily life with other people, when I read history, I suuuurrrre don’t see that Christ’s kingdom is blooming, growing, and all that.  It seems to me that the opposite is true, that the great apostasy is upon us.  “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables” (2 Timothy 4:3-4) (kind-of sounds like the liberal theology teachers themselves).  Not to say that Christ isn’t among us doing His work, and we with Him.  The Lord is indeed showing His love and Himself to many in many ways.

So what is my point?  Well, I am doing some research for an extensive blog article that involves (it is not at all the main topic) this liberal, anti-parousia, “we can usher Christ’s kingdom in ourselves since that’s all the New Testament says anyway,” idea, and it’s just sad and difficult dealing with it.  But the main thing is that I wanted to pass on some reading materials to show what is actually in the New Testament, and that our hope is not in man and what he obviously can’t do– that our hope is not misplaced in an elaborate myth (what some “Christian theologians” insist the New Testament is).  The number one source is the Bible itself.  Read the entire New Testament a few times and tell me if you really think it’s basically “made up.”   Here is a good short but information packed essay on Christ’s second coming:  Second Coming of Christ.  This is a short, easy read on it:  What is the Second Coming of Jesus Christ?   And, I don’t necessarily agree with all that is in this article – maybe I just don’t know the right Christians – but it’s contents are worth considering:  The Theology of the End and the End of Theology.

Christ is the suffering servant and the King, as outlined in the Old Testament.  He was the suffering servant during His time on earth, and when He returns it will be in His role as King.  Jesus said, “I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:3).  “Men of Galilee . . . why do you stand here looking into the sky?  This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven” (Act 1:10-11; see also Matthew 24:29-30).  “And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming” (1 John 2:28; see also John 3:3).

Is it Rational to be a Christian? (1 of 2)

Good Shepherd fresco from the Catacombs of San...
Good Shepherd fresco from the Catacombs of San Callisto under the care of the Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archeology (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Below is half of a relatively long (but actually concise) treatment of evidences or evidential steps for the view that the Christian faith is rational, and even desirable, to hold.  Thanks for reading, and may the God of all creation bless you.

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For the person who wants to know that there is reason to believe a holy book–that there is evidence to back it up–different areas of apologetics have those answers.  In fact, there is more evidence for the truthfulness of the Bible today than ever before, excepting when the events actually occurred.  This essay assumes that the person searching for a legitimate holy book already believes that there is a deity of some sort; it does not cover arguments for the existence of God.  What this essay does cover, in concise form, are the issues of reliability of the Old and New Testaments, fulfilled prophecies, miracles, and Christ’s resurrection.

Old Testament Reliability

How was the Old Testament written and copied? What we Christians refer to as the Old Testament is the same as the Jewish Septuagint, which is the Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures, called the Tanakh. The content of the Tanakh and the Septuagint is the same, but the two are formatted differently. The Old Testament follows the same formatting as the Septuagint. The Septuagint was translated from about 250 BC to 150 or 100 BC and was used by the scattered Jews of the diaspora.

The Tanakh itself was written from about 1400-400 BC. Moses and other prophets were believed to possess the word of God because of the signs (miracles) they did, coupled with their openness (“transparency”). Moses was obviously literate, and because of his high upbringing, may have been literate in three languages. He no doubt, along with the people in general, knew the stories of other cultures and had copies of various source documents. Moses’ telling and retelling of events was considered God inspired.

At the time of Christ, the books of the Tanakh were established and accepted as canon. Those who copied the Tanakh beginning AD 70 (after the destruction of the temple) were called Talmudists. They had very specific rules for transmitting the Tanakh. Because damaged copies of the Tanakh were purposefully destroyed, very old copies do not exist. The Massoretes (or Masoretes) were the copyists for the Tanakh from AD 500 – 900. They, too, had very specific rules for copying, and any imperfect copies were destroyed. They are noted for adding marks to the text that represent vowels, as Hebrew did not have vowels and concern was growing over the continued pronunciation of the language. Whoever the copyists were through time, they all took God’s command in Deuteronomy 12:32 very seriously: “See that you do all I command you; do not add to it or take away from it.”

There have been archaeological finds in recent centuries to confirm the historicity of the Old Testament, and the Dead Sea scrolls additionally confirm accurate copy transmission.   With the 200+ scrolls that date from approximately 250 BC to AD 125, we have the oldest copies of scripture, and these tell us that the accuracy of transmission is nearly 100%. A Qumran copy of Isaiah 53 has only three truly variant letters from the more recent Massoretic text, and these three letters do not change the text meaning in any real way.

There are many archaeological finds that corroborate the OT, with these representing only a sample:

  • The Moabite Stone. Mentions “Yahweh” and events in 2 Kings 3.
  • The Taylor Prism. From Nineveh, it describes the siege of Jerusalem by Sennacherib an corresponds to 2 Kings 18-19, 2 Chronicles 37, and Isaiah 36-37.
  • The Cyrus Cylinder. After Cyrus began ruling Babylon (539 BC), he ordered that Babylonian captives could return home. This is told of in Ezra 1:1-3 and 6:3 (see also 2 Chronicles 36:23 and Isaiah 44:28).
  • The Tel Dan Stele. This is an Aramaic inscription found in Israel. It is about Hazael’s victory over Ramoth Gilead, as in 2 Kings 8:28-29, and conveys that David’s dynasty ruled in Jerusalem.
  • The Gilgamesh Epic. Found in the great library of Nineveh, it in part describes a flood not unlike that in Genesis 7-8.

New Testament Reliability

There has been a plethora of interest in “lost gospels,” which leads some to doubt the manner in which the New Testament (NT) was put together.  Then there are those who also question the accurate transmission of the words in the NT, saying that parts were added or taken away at later times.  All these issues are really non-issues, promulgated by detractors of the faith and sometimes believed by neutral parties who simply don’t take the time to look into these matters further.  Concerning when the books of the NT were written and how they became canon, providing a chronological order seems like it would be clearest, and that is provided below.  As for the accuracy of textual transmission, however, here is a good summary:

“A simple comparison of the text of the Bible with the text of other religious, historical, and philosophical documents from the ancient past proves the vast superiority of the biblical record.  Less than one tenth of one percent of the biblical text is in question, whereas no such accuracy of transmission exists for the Qur’an, the Mahabharata, or the Iliad.  Some ancient records such as Caesar’s Gallic Wars of Tactitus’ Annals, exist in less than ten copies, and these copies date from 1,000 years after their originals.  By contrast, over 5,000 copies of the New Testament exist, the vast majority of them dating less than 200 years after the original text and some fragments less than 50 years after the original text.  No book from ancient history has been transmitted over the centuries with greater clarity and accuracy than the Bible” (Geisler and Hindson p 100).

So when was the New Testament written?  The books that were considered canon and that make up the New Testament were written not all that long after Christ’s death and resurrection, by those who were Christ’s disciples/apostles or associates of the apostles.   In other words, by close eye witnesses of Jesus, or persons who learned directly from those eye witnesses.  Jesus lived from about 4 BC to AD 33.  The book considered earliest in the NT is James, written around AD 45-48, and the most recent book is Revelation, written by AD 100.  In light of the prior quote regarding biblical transmission, it is known that the copies that now exist reflect the originals very reliably.  That is, what is used for our bible translations today can very confidently be considered “original.”

But how do we know that the books of the NT are the ones that the early church read and thought reliable (had divine inspiration), and that important books weren’t left out?  The books of the NT had been circulated and read amongst the widespread churches (in Europe and the greater Middle East of today), and certainly not in the region of Rome only!  Books considered scripture had apostolic authority, which was important very early on because of the rapid development of false teachings.  So, we know that the books were all written by AD 100, and that they were widely circulated (and copied); there are codices of the gospels and of the letters of Paul from the early 2nd century.

Partly as a result of some influential persons (such as Marcion) trying to redefine and delete parts of scripture, “lists of canon” began to be written down.   The first generally accepted one dates to the late 2nd century and is known as the Muratorian Canon; it had excluded Hebrews, James, 1&2 Peter, and 3 John.  The early church father Tertullian (c. 150 – c. 229) had quoted 23 of the 27 books that became the NT.  Those excluded or disputed on some lists were done so for various reasons, but not because some churches thought they were inauthentic; often it was because a heretical group happened to like the book, so then some questioned it.  The Eastern and Western churches differed early on and this is reflected in the books supported or unsupported at different times (examples are Hebrews and Revelation).  Later, most believers accepted James, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, and Jude, yet some did not want to accept these.  However, the Eastern church accepted an official list in 367 which includes all the books of the present NT.  In 393 and 397, councils of the western church also accepted the NT canon as it is today.

What of some books that weren’t included in canon?  From the church father Eusebius, who had investigated possible canonical books, we know of some old “spurious” books.  The Didache had instruction in it and was used by the early church, but it faded from use and its authorship was in severe doubt.  The Acts of Paul had been written by an overzealous admirer, not Paul.  The Epistle of Barnabas was read and admired, but it was not written by Paul’s partner Barnabas.  The Shepherd of Hermas was widely read and may be all true, but it was written in the early 2nd century by someone other than an apostle or an apostle’s associate.  The Apocalypse of Peter was written in the first half of the 2nd century, so Peter the Apostle was not the author.  Other books that some critics like to bring up, like the Gospel of Thomas, were written far later and were never considered apostolic whatsoever; they are simply made up, forgeries, etc.

Now, are there historical or archaeological evidences that corroborate the NT?  While not everything can be corroborated, there are outside sources that confirm aspects of NT writings.  These help to show that the texts are indeed historical and not made up later.  Written sources for Jesus and Christians are (1) the Roman historian Tacitus (55-117) in his Annals (15.44); (2) Pliny the Younger, a Roman Governor, in a letter to the Emperor in about 112; (3) Josephus, a 1st century Jewish historian (some of his writing or copies of it are questioned, but others are not; there is definite reference to Jesus in Josephus’ writings); (4) Jewish Rabbinical writings called the Babylonian Talmud; and (5), the 2nd century Greek satirist Lucian.

Archaeological finds also corroborate the NT, and they continue to grow in number.  Here is a small sample:

  • The ossuary of Caiaphas (Luke 3:2 and others), discovered in 1990.
  • The Pilate Stone, discovered in 1961, has Pontius Pilate’s name on it and where he governed.
  • The Gallio (or Delphi) inscription (dated to about 52) speaks of Gallio, the same being mentioned in Acts 18:12; discovered in 1905.
  • Sergius Paulus inscriptions (there is more than one inscription bearing that name) confirm the proconsul of Cypress, as is mentioned in Acts 13:7.
  • The Pool of Siloam, excavated in 2004. As recorded in John 9:1-11, Jesus did a miracle there.

Fulfilled Prophecies

When considering the Old Testament prophecies fulfilled by Christ, it is exciting to simply read over an annotated list of them. There are different lists, however, with the highest number of fulfilled prophecies going up to 400. The listed number of “major” fulfilled prophecies varies as well, ranging from about 61 to 121.   In MacDonald’s list of chronologically ordered fulfilled prophecies, he presents 44 (he does not say that these are the only ones he considers “major,” however) (MacDonald 1995). Here is one list just for your quick online reference: Prophecies that Jesus Christ Fulfilled.

One of my favorite lists is by D. James Kennedy – not because of the list itself, but because of the story around it. He had spoken to a highly educated man, a writer, who thought that the bible was simply written by man; he had no knowledge of the evidences for the validity of the scriptures. So Kennedy asked the man to tell him who it was he had read about, after reciting many verses to him.  The man said that the verses clearly referred to Jesus Christ. But the man was completely surprised when Kennedy told him that all the verses he read were from the OT, the last book of which was written 400 years before Christ. He went on to tell him, “No critic, no atheist, no agnostic has ever once claimed that any one of those writings was written after His birth. In fact, they were translated from Hebrew into Greek in Alexandria some 150 years before He was born.”

So it is that verses such as (1) Micah 5:2, “But you, Bethlehem, Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be ruler in Israel, whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting,” (2) Isaiah 53:3, “He is despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him. He was despised, and we did not esteem Him,” (3) Psalm 22:16, “They pierced my hands and my feet,” (4) Psalm 22:18, “They divided my garments among themselves, and they cast lots for my clothing,” and (5) Psalm 34:20, “He protects all his bones; not one of them is broken,” refer to Jesus though written centuries before His birth.

One of the most fascinating prophecies of the Messiah is found in Daniel 9:24-27, and it concerns the timing of His coming. It is not in some of the basic lists, no doubt because it is not easily deciphered or shown in a few words. To put it very briefly, this prophecy provides a window of time as to when the Messiah would be around. When the Hebraic terms are taken into account, and then taking into account which possible scripture(s) is meant by the rebuilding of Jerusalem, and then also taking into account the different calendars (ancient calendars kept 360-day years), a time frame emerges that encompasses the time that Jesus lived (and was crucified) (Powell 2006).

There is so much more that can be known concerning the fulfilled prophecies of Christ that cannot be easily shown in a list, such as Christ in the meanings and symbols of things, like the lamb and shepherd, and symbols and events related to the feast days of Israel. Unique among religious faiths is the fulfillment of prophecies found in the Old and New Testaments.  “You will find no predictive prophecies whatsoever in the writings of Buddha, Confucius, Mohammed, Lao-Tse, or Hinduism. Yet in the Scripture there are well over two thousand prophecies, most of which have already been fulfilled” (Kennedy xxix).

Please also see Is it Rational to be a Christian? (2 of 2)

© Vicki Priest 2012 (this is a modified and edited version of a series of articles published by the author at Examiner.com, 2011)

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Bibliography and Recommended Reading (for both article parts)

Anonymous. “Why should I believe in Christ’s Resurrection?” GotQuestions.org. http://www.gotquestions.org/why-believe-resurrection.html (accessed March 2012).

Arlandson, James. “Do Miracles Happen Today?” American Thinker. January 13, 2007. http://www.americanthinker.com/2007/01/do_miracles_happen_today.html (accessed March 2012).

Chong, Timothy. “Bible, Canonicity.” In The Popular Encycolopedia of Apologetics, by Ergun Caner Ed Hinson, 101-102. Eugene: Harvest House Publishers, 2008.

Copan, Paul. Is God a Moral Monster? Making Sense of the Old Testament God. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2011.

Dowley, Tim, Editor. Eerdman’s Handbook to The History of Christianity. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1977.

Garrett, Duane A, General Editor. NIV Archaeological Study Bible. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005.

Geisler, Norman, and Ed Hindson. “Bible, Alleged Errors.” In The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics, by Ergun Caner Ed Hindson, 97-100. Eugene: Harvest House Publishers, 2008.

Gleghorn, Michael. “Ancient Evidence for Jesus from Non-Christian Sources.” bethinking.org. 2001. http://www.bethinking.org/bible-jesus/intermediate/ancient-evidence-for-jesus-from-non-christian.htm (accessed March 2012).

Hart, David Bentley. Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies. New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 2009.

Keller, Timothy. The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism. New York: Dutton, 2008.

Kennedy, D. James. “Christ: The Fulfillment of Prophecy.” In The Apologetics Study Bible, by Ted, General Editor Cabal, xxviii-xxix. Nashville: Holman, 2007.

MacDonald, William. “Prophecies of the Messiah Fulfilled in Jesus Christ.” In Believer’s Bible Commentary, by William MacDonald, xviii-xxiii. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1995 (1989).

Nappa, Mike. True Stories of Answered Prayer. Carol Stream: Tyndale House, 1999.

Powell, Doug. Holman QuickSource Guide to Christian Apologetics. Nashville: Holman Reference, 2006.

Ricci, Carla. Mary Magdalene and Many Others: Women Who Followed Jesus . Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress Publishers, 1994.

Sailhamer, John H. Biblical Prophecy. Grand Rapids: ZondervanPublishingHouse, 1998.

Yates, Gary E. “Bible, Transmission of.” In The Popular Encycolopedia of Apologetics, by Ed, and Ergun Caner Hindson, 107-110. Eugene: Harvest House Publishers, 2008.

Female Hajj Pilgrims to Saudi Arabia Sent Back Home

This is from a very short article in Bloomberg online, and there are other articles to be found by googling:

Nigeria has protested to Saudi Arabia’s authorities over the detention of more than 1,000 female pilgrims who arrived in the kingdom for the annual Hajj pilgrimage without male guardians, state-run Radio Nigeria said. . . . Saudi Arabia enforces restrictions that are interpreted from the Wahhabi version of Sunni Islam. Women can’t travel or get an education without male approval or mix with unrelated men in public places.

As a Christian, I am at a loss as to why anyone would voluntarily become a Muslim in the first place, but when I see stuff like this, I am out-and-out flummoxed.  So, women must be controlled and herded like lesser beings, AND, they can’t even be in public with other men because . . . why???  Oh, men can’t control themselves.  They’ll just start doing some Mardi Gras moves in the street.  Really??  Belong to a religion that is so controlling, that seems to acknowledge and even promote the idea that human males are as good as randy rabbits, and that seems to not control its tyrannical and extremely violent members no matter what it does?  (And I won’t even get into all the persecution that goes on in the world against Christians at the hands of Muslims.)

Wow.  Sorry, but there is simply no comparison between Christianity and Islam.  And don’t go whining (atheists) about ancient pockets of “Christian” history (a lot of actual Christians died in trying to get false and violent actions to stop).  Sure, there have been wolves in sheep clothing that have done bad things in the name of Christianity.  It happens everyday in every area of life – I mean, charlatans seeking power and all of that, using whatever thing people have positive feelings about.   What you do is look at the founder of the faith.  Is s/he like that (false, after power, money, etc.)?  I won’t get into Muhammad here and the history of Islam, but I think it worth looking at Christ and the history of those who actually follow Him and his teachings.

Christ was sin-free and was not married; he didn’t go after multiple wives or even minor wives; he didn’t leave any heirs for everyone to argue about or over.  He lifted women UP from their low status at the time He visited us here on earth.  Women could follow Him and learn from Him.  In fact, He said it was better for a woman to learn from Him, to take the time and do that – as it was more important – than to serve Him or other men!!!  Wow!!  Why would any woman NOT want to follow Jesus?  If you want to know more and discover some pretty cool information that you just don’t hear about all that often, see New Testament Views of Women.   You may want to read about the woman at the well whom Christ talked with too.

In the future, I’ll try and post an article about the good in the history of Christ’s true followers, like those who founded hospitals (hospitals that were free) and universities.  People seem to have forgotten the parts of Christian history, too, when Christians died in order to stop those who did violence in Christ’s name.   In the meantime, if any Muslims come here, don’t go hatin’ on me.  Actions are actions, and the action reported on in the press was done and promoted by a whole country, and a whole section of Islam.  It’s no secret.  If you want to explain how your own sect of Islam is not like that in the comments, go ahead, but know that WordPress comments are always moderated.

Christian Poems I: Henderson, MacNeice, Greenwell

There Was No

by Stewart Henderson

There was no grave grave enough
to ground me
to mound me
I broke the balm then slit the shroud
wound round me
that bound me
There was no death dead enough
to dull me
to cull me
I snapped the snake and waned his war
to lull me
to null me
There as no cross cross enough
to nil me
to still me
I hung as gold that bled, and bloomed
A rose that rose and prised the tomb
away from Satan’s willful doom
There was no cross, death, grave
or room
to hold me.

In The Poetic Bible, collected by Colin Duriez (Hendrickson Pub.s 2001), 159.

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And the Lord was not in the Whirlwind

by Louis MacNeice

And the Lord was not n the whirlwind.
He sat in the cave looking out and the cave was the world;
Or he sat in his office with in-tray and out-tray
While nobody, nothing, came in but typed memoranda
Although through the curtainless window the wind
was twirling the gas-drums
And whipping all London away into interstellar negation—
But the Lord was not in the whirlwind.
And the Lord was not in the atom.
He sat in a bar looking in (and the bar was the world)
On a high metal stool between intake and outlet
Still breathing in, breathing out, but nothing and no one
Passed the swing-doors while he waited and watched
his tumbler erupting
A genie that grew like a mushroom, deleting the
Words of Creation—
But the Lord was not in the atom.
Yet after all that or before it
As he sat in the cave of his mind (and the cave was the world)
Among old worked flints between insight and hindsight,
Suddenly Something, or Someone, darkened the entrance
But shed a new light on the cave and a still small
voice on the silence
In spite of ill winds and ill atoms blossomed in pure
affirmation
Of what lay behind and before it.

In The Earth is the Lord’s: Poems of the Spirit, H Plotz, compiler (Thomas Y Crowell Co 1965), 154.

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I am not Skilled to Understand

By Dora Greenwell (1800s)

I am not skilled to understand
What God hath willed, what God hath planned;
I only know at His right hand
Stands One who is my Savior.
I take Him at His word and deed:
“Christ died to save me,” this I read;
And in my heart I find a need
Of Him to be my Savior.
That He should leave His place on high
And come for sinful man to die,
You count it strange? so once did I
Before I knew my Savior.
And O that He fulfilled may see
The travail of His soul in me,
And with His work contented be,
As I with my dear Savior!
Yes, living, dying, let me bring
My strength, my solace, from this spring,
That He who lives to be my King
Once died to be my Savior!

In The One Year Book of Poetry, P Comfort and D Partner, compilers (Tyndale House Pub.s 1999).

What is Christian Freedom, Christian Obedience?

Do we have a hard time wrapping our head around Christian freedom? It seems so, as some will say that we Christians need to follow laws and rituals in order to do our part in our own salvation. Others will go to the opposite end of the spectrum, saying that Christians can do whatever they want because they are “free in Christ.” Neither assertion is valid. The first denies the work of Christ, which does not come with an “also” list for salvation; we only need to believe in Him and surrender ourselves to Him (in other words, have faith in Him). The second denies the indwelling of Christ in the believer and the work of The Spirit; God with us and in us will not allow for a life of sin.

But then, what is Christian freedom? In his letter to the Galatians, Paul is upset that those whom he helped lead to Christ and who learned the gospel, were now being lead astray by legalists who were teaching that works of the flesh were also necessary for salvation.

“We who are Jews by birth and not ‘Gentile sinners’ know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified” (2:15-16). “I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” (2:21).

Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? I guess Paul thought so too, since he next exclaims, “You foolish Galatians!” (3:1). Paul believed that the Galatians received God’s Spirit, as he goes on to ask them if they received that Spirit by observing the law, and if they were going to reach their goal of salvation by the law after having received the Spirit. Abraham and others, prior to the giving of the law, were righteous because of their faith (see also Romans 4). So why was the law given?

“The law was given to a nation of sinners. They could never obtain righteousness by keeping it because they did not have the power to obey it. The law was meant to show men what hopeless sinners they were, so they would cry out to God to save them by His grace. God’s covenant with Abraham was an unconditional promise of blessing; the law resulted only in cursing. The law demonstrated the unworthiness of man to receive free and unconditional blessing. If man is to be blessed, it must be by the grace of God” (MacDonald p 1885).

The law was like a guardian for God’s child. Israel was seen as God’s immature child, and the child had to follow the rules set forth by the Father until the child reached the right age. In practical terms, the child was a slave to the law. The child was an heir of God, but could not come into his inheritance until the right time. The child could not come into his inheritance if he did not obey all the laws, either, since the consequence of disobedience was death (now that’s one tough guardian!). At the right time, however, God sent Messiah so that the heir might come into his inheritance. “Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes” (Romans 10:4).* Believers receive God’s Spirit, are redeemed from the law, and are no longer slaves to the law. Because they are in Christ, they cannot suffer death due to legal disobedience.

What the Galatians were doing, then, was making themselves slaves to the law all over again! They were making the law an idol. Were they the children of Hagar the slave woman (representative of the Law), or children of Sarah the free woman, whose offspring are children of God’s promise?

“These things may be taken figuratively, for the women represent the two covenants” (4:24a; emphasis mine). “But what does the Scripture say? ‘Get rid of the slave woman and her son, for the slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman’s son.’ Therefore, brothers, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman” (4:30-31).

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free” (5:1a). Legalism is of no value – “the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love” (5:6b). “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love” (5:13). Since we have the Spirit and are not under the law, we are to live by the Spirit. The Spirit is contrary to sin, so those with the Spirit will not live a life that is enslaved to the sinful nature. Contrary to the “easy believism” types, a person who has God in them is not going to abuse Christian “freedom” by living life “in the flesh.” In fact, we are free from being under the control of sin and are slaves to righteousness (Romans 6:15-23). Although we all sin at times–since we are still physical beings in a corrupt world–we are awakened spiritual beings who have the Spirit of God to give us guidance and strength. Our lives will not be characterized by sin but will exhibit the fruit of the Spirit.

The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. (Galatians 5:19-24)

Therefore don’t let anyone judge you in regard to food and drink or in the matter of a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of what was to come; the substance is the Messiah  (Colossians 2:16-17).

* Interestingly, Paul was not alone in his thoughts regarding the change of status or make-up of the law relating to the Messiah. Many rabbis thought that the Torah was for the age prior to Messiah, and that a new Messianic age would mean changes of some sort to the law (Kaiser et al, pp 564-565).

Sources:

Cabal, Ted, General Editor. The Apologetics Study Bible. Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2007.

Garrett, Duane A, General Editor. NIV Archaeological Study Bible. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005.

Kaiser Jr, Walter, et al. Hard Sayings of the Bible. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1996.

MacDonald, William. Believer’s Bible Commentary. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1995 (1989).