LED BY THE SPIRIT

The Judaizers in Paul’s day brought false charges against him much like the Judaizers of this century. Because he taught that people are saved by grace, not through observing the law, the Judaizers accused him of teaching lawlessness. Paul wrote the epistle of Galatians to deal with the deceptive effects of the Judaizers bewitching the Galatians with their distorted gospel.

Salvation is only through faith in Christ, not religious works. Paul points to Abraham as an example. Romans 4:3 quotes Genesis 15:6, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him as righteousness.” In Galatians 3:17, Paul writes, “the law, which was 430 years later, cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before by God in Christ.” Clearly Abraham was not saved by keeping the law or by circumcision. Passover, the feasts, and the sacrifices did not come until after the 400 years of slavery in Egypt.

The Life Application Study Bible lists three distortions of Christianity: Judaized Christianity, Legalistic Christianity, and Lawless Christianity. Judaized Christianity’s definition of a Christian is: “Christians are Jews who have recognized Jesus as the promised Savior. Therefore, any Gentile desiring to become a Christian must first become a Jew.” This is what the Hebrew Roots movement wants to do today. They say that Christians must observe the same rituals and festivals that Jesus and the apostles did. The New Testament never teaches that Gentiles must become Jews first, in fact, it teaches quite the opposite.

Legalistic Christianity defines Christianity this way: “Christians are those who live by a long list of don’ts.” Good behavior earns God’s favor. Lawless Christianity says, “Christians live above the law. They need no guideline. God’s word is not as important as our personal sense of God’s guidance.” True Christianity teaches, “Christians are those who believe inwardly and outwardly that Jesus’s death has allowed God to offer them forgiveness and eternal life as a gift. They have accepted that gift through faith and are seeking to live a life of obedient gratitude for what God has done for them” (Page 2149).

The Judaizers’ claim that true Christianity leads to lawlessness shows that they did not understand the basis of salvation. Paul summed it up well: “Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16). You received the Holy Spirit when you accepted Christ. The Holy Spirit will not guide you into lawless activities. In Galatians 5:18 Paul wrote, “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” Later he enumerated the fruit of the spirit in verses 22 and 23. The Holy Spirit will not guide you into the works of the flesh mentioned in verses 19-21.

Accepting Christ means that we have a new master. We are no longer slaves to sin. We no longer live lives of lawlessness. Accepting Christ means that we have repented from our old way of life and have been raised with Christ to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4).

2 Timothy 2:19 says, “Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” True Christians must turn away from sin and let the Spirit produce fruit in our lives. So what law do Christians follow? In the Old Testament we find three categories of laws: Ceremonial law, Civil law, and Moral law. As Christians we are certainly to keep moral law. Being free from the law does not mean that we are free to murder, steal, or commit adultery. Laws against those things still apply to Christians today, but the Jewish Ceremonial law no longer applies to Christians. Its purpose was to point toward Christ. These laws are no longer necessary after Christ’s death and resurrection. Although not binding upon us, they teach us a great deal about a holy God. We can learn from their principles, but we do not have to become Jews first.

The Judaizers in Galatia had convinced the Christians to return to the “weak and beggarly elements to which [they] desire again to be in bondage. [They] observe days and months and season and years” (see Galatians 4:9-11) like the Jews had. Paul felt as though he labored in vain since they were returning with the Judaizers to the Jewish ceremonial law which Christ had fulfilled.

Walking with the Spirit is more difficult than being able to check off a list of religious activities. Walking with Spirit requires a relationship, not merely external behaviors.

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THE FALLACY OF ANALOGY

 

Arguing from Analogy Rather Than Reasoning from Scripture

By Mike McGuire

Many false teachings arise from using analogies to derive doctrine rather than scripture. Analogies can illustrate or enlighten a teaching, but when the Bible clearly teaches a different message, we must follow the Bible.

An analogy is simply an inference that because two known things are alike in some ways, they must be alike in other ways. Analogies can help; they can explain or illustrate, but they can also distort clear teaching of Scripture. When analogies fail, they must give way to the authority of Scripture.

Cults often use false analogies to promote false teachings contrary to the Bible. One recent example is the “God the Mother” cult. They are a growing religion with between 2-3 million followers focusing on rich college students. To be saved, one must believe in “God the Mother.” This “mother” is a seventy-something Korean woman.

Their rationale is that since the beginning of Christianity, we have been taught to pray to God the Father, and we are his children. So, their rationale continues, we cannot be children on earth without both a mother and a father. If that is true, and we have a heavenly father, then we must also have a heavenly mother. That is how the analogy goes. The Bible does not support this doctrine.

For more information, click here. In the description below that video is a link to the direct website about the “God the Mother” teaching. You can verify my assertions there.

Here is another take on it all.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses use another false analogy to identify Jesus Christ. Rather than using the scriptures accurately, they take bits and pieces of scripture to create a doctrine. I call this “Frankenstein Theology.” In the novel, Dr. Frankenstein took bits and pieces of recently deceased cadavers and knit them together into a body that became known as “Frankenstein’s Monster.”

Let’s examine their teaching. The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (Their official name) denies the deity of both Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. Their deity is a tenet of Orthodox Christian belief. To make the Watchtower’s case, they rely on analogy and non-logical thinking.

Quoting from their book Reasoning from the Scriptures: “Is Jesus Christ the same person as Michael the archangel? … Michael means ‘Who is like God?’ The name evidently designates Michael as the one who takes the lead in upholding Jehovah’s sovereignty and destroying God’s enemies.

“At 1 Thessalonians 4:16 (RS), the command of Jesus Christ for the resurrection to begin is described as ‘the archangel’s call,’ and Jude 9 says that the archangel is Michael. Would it be appropriate to liken Jesus’ commanding call to that of someone lesser in authority? Reasonably, then, the archangel Michael is Jesus Christ” (page 218). They leave out the part about the trumpet. Is Jesus Christ a trumpet?

Can you spot the false analogy here? This faulty reasoning causes persons lacking formal training to fail to spot this error. This is a logical non sequitur, that is, it does not logically follow their rationale. In those days a forerunner preceded an official to make an announcement saying, “Hear ye! Hear ye!” That preceded a formal proclamation. The official did not make that announcement; a subordinate did. The same here. The subordinate, Michael the Archangel, shouts the command preceding the coming of Christ. Christ is not making the announcement. The Jehovah’s Witnesses are in error. Their logic similarly fails regarding the deity of the Holy Spirit.

A final false analogy is that of Judaizing legalism, saying that Christians must follow a Jewish lifestyle to be true Christians. I recently heard this analogy: When you are adopted into a family, you adopt their customs as well. Since we have been adopted in God’s family (they say the Jews), we must adopt their customs. Therefore, Christians must obey all the Old Testament rules and regulations.

A detailed reading of the book of Galatians will refute the heresy of this doctrine. It is a different gospel that the apostle Paul warned about in Galatians 1:8. Adding anything to Christianity is both heresy and deceptive teaching. Reading from Acts 10 through 15, you will see that Gentiles were never obligated to follow Jewish customs, not even the Sabbath.

Whenever someone tries to argue a point from analogies, remember that analogies are illustrations at best. Draw your doctrine from a close study of Scripture, not simply analogies.

 

 

Back To School

“What purpose then does the law serve?…before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. Therefore, the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.”

It seems we barely get used to school being out, and before long, you notice “Back to School Sale” signs in stores. All the supplies are mounted up for easy access. Lists are posted so parents know what to buy. You can even hear the kids groan about having to go back to school. Parents rejoice.

Even in the first century, kids did not like discipline and instruction; therefore, they were placed under the care of guardians. The Greek word used in Galatians 3:24 was “pedagogue.” The KJV translates this as “schoolmaster.” The NKJV translates it as “tutor.” The Greek word means “to lead children,” particularly boys. This schoolmaster, tutor, or guardian was the servant in charge of leading the master’s son to his training. When the child grew up, the guardian was no longer necessary.

According to The New Manners and Customs of Bible Times by Ralph Gower, “Greek children went to school at the age of seven if his parents could afford to pay the fees. He studied basic skills (reading, writing, counting), music (poetry, dance, musical instrument), and physical skills (wrestling, boxing, running, throwing the javelin and discus… At 16, he went to the gymnasium to study literature, philosophy, and politics” (p. 82). (In Russian, high school is still called gymnasium.) The household servant made sure that the child was led to school.

Paul asks a question in Galatians 3:19, “What purpose then does the law serve?…before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. Therefore, the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.” We are no longer under the law. The tutor has served its purpose. We have come to Christ.

No one can keep the law. The Law justifies no one. Even under the New Testament, we cannot hold the standards of the Sermon on the Mount. Though the Jews outwardly kept the commandment regarding adultery, Jesus said even a lustful look was equivalent to adultery. All the law can do is show us how far short we fall. It leads us to Christ where we must cry out, “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Paul said that if righteousness came by keeping the law, Christ died for nothing (see Galatians 2:21).

When Nicodemus came to Jesus by night, Jesus affirmed him as a great teacher in Israel. However, Jesus did not say, “Nick, you just need you to try a little harder to keep the law.” He told Nicodemus that he had to be born again (see John 3:3–5). Although Nicodemus was “the teacher of Israel,” keeping the law was not enough. All the law can do is bring us to Christ.

About the law Paul wrote: “For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity” (Ephesians 2:14-16 NKJV). Notice that we were not reconciled to God through keeping the Law (Torah), but through the cross.

The law can never make us acceptable to God. It can only point out our depravity. It points to our need for a Savior. Christ fulfilled that role. It is not a matter of whether or not you eat bacon, attend church on Saturday, or wear purple tassels on your robe (See Numbers 15:38 NKJV), it is a question of being born again.

Jesus told Nicodemus that if he was not born again from above, he could not enter, he could not even see the kingdom of God. Have you been born again, or are you trying to make yourself acceptable by your own efforts of keeping the Law? Jesus said, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29).

Get a copy of these devotionals in my Collections below.

Embracing Faith, Vol. 1

Embracing Faith, Vol. 2

FREEDOM IN CHRIST

Not long ago the sound of fireworks started splitting the air. At all hours of the day and night you can hear fire crackers and rockets. It reminds us that Independence Day is coming soon. We will celebrate two-hundred and forty-two years of Independence. Many of our ancestors came to this country because they wanted to experience freedom to worship God the way they felt led. They wanted to break away from the forced religious practices of Europe only to establish colonies that were just as religiously oppressive and legalistic as in Europe. Although free from European religion, their colonies were not free. You were free to worship if it fit within the religious framework of that colony.

Christ brought freedom from the religious legalism of the Pharisees of His day. His was the sacrifice that did away with the sacrificial system of the Torah. Galatians is the Apostle Paul’s treatise against the Judaizers who followed him and wanted the Gentile Christians to follow all the Mosaic law before becoming Christians. Paul preached freedom in Christ. Speaking to the Galatians who had been “bewitched” (3:1) by the Judaizers, he wrote, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage” (Galatians 5:1). That yoke of bondage referred to the covenant of Mount Sinai in Galatians 4:21-31.

Today there is a movement of Judaizing among Christians. A website I have seen recently is New2Torah.com. They teach that real Christians are discovering and returning to the Torah and becoming better Christians. Referring to the rite of circumcision that the Judaizers wanted to impose upon Gentiles, Paul wrote, “For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law” (5:3). If anyone wants to keep a part of the Law, Paul says he or she is obligated to keep all the law. “Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear?” (Acts 15:10). The Jews couldn’t keep the Torah. Neither can Christians.

No one can keep all the Torah. You cannot pick and choose what parts you want to keep such as Sabbath worship or dietary laws. To keep the Torah, you must keep the required sacrifices of the Torah. Take this passage referring to making a sacrifice to God in Leviticus 3:1-2 from the Torah: “And if his oblation be a sacrifice of peace offering, if he offer it of the herd; whether it be a male or female, he shall offer it without blemish before the Lord (Yahweh). And he shall lay his hand upon the head of his offering, and kill it at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation: and Aaron’s sons the priests shall sprinkle the blood upon the altar round about.” Aaron is no longer alive, and if you tried to perform this today you would be arrested for cruelty to animals. What’s more, there is no place to offer such a sacrifice as the Roman Army destroyed the Temple in AD 70. Further, “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4). There is no forgiveness in the sacrificial system, only a reminder of sin (Hebrews 10:3).

Hebrews 10:1, “The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason, it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship.” The substance is of Christ (Colossians 2:17).

The problem with Judaizers like those of New2Torah is that they accuse of lawlessness anyone who does not fall back into their system. That is a false dichotomy. Being free from the law does not mean freedom to sin as Judaizers misinterpret it. Paul dealt with this charge as well. He recognized that Christians are no longer under the law, “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means!” (Romans 6:15). Peter echoed in 1 Peter 1:16, “Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves.”

Galatians 3:10-12a, “For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law to do them.’ But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.  And the law is not of faith’” If you go back to the Law, you are cursed. The purpose of the law was to point to the need of a Savior. No one can keep the Torah. The law is like a mirror that a person looks into and sees himself or herself. (James 1:22-25) The perfect law of the Spirit gives freedom, but the letter of the law kills. (He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. (2 Corinthians 3:6) Paul also wrote, “If righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”(Galatians 2:21).

For more about the Hebrew Roots movement, see: https://www.watchman.org/staff/jwalker/ProfileHebrewRoots.pdf

 

What Does the Bible Say About Falling From Grace?

“You have fallen from grace.” Galatians 5:4

You often hear this quote from church groups that believe that it is possible for people to lose their salvation. They will tell you that this means that a person can live like a believer for many years, attend church, tithe, and perform all the outward works of a good Christian. At some point, the person “backslides” and loses his or her salvation. They either commit some egregious sin, or perhaps a large number of lesser sins, and they fall from grace. In all the years that I have discussed this topic with those who believe in falling from grace, no one has ever been able to tell me what that point is. How does a person know when he or she falls from grace and loses his or her salvation?

One of the major themes of the Book of Galatians is the conflict between the doctrine of grace and works. Paul wrote Galatians in response to the movement of the Judaizers. This false teaching arose from a group of people who felt that it was necessary for people to become Jewish before they could become Christian. This meant that males would need to undergo the ritual of circumcision, which had been a standard mark of being Jewish or an Israelite for centuries going back to the time of Abraham.

The question of circumcision was one of the first controversies of the early church. The record of the Jerusalem Council is found in Acts 15. Verse one explains the controversy. “And certain ones came down from Judea and taught the brethren, ‘Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.’” Paul and Barnabas “had no small dissension and dispute with them” (verse 2). The question went to the Apostles and elders in Jerusalem to deal with it.

The Apostle Peter testified at that council about his dealings with Cornelius, the centurion of the Italian (Gentiles) Regiment (Acts 10). He gave as evidence the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the Gentiles without their being circumcised. Peter concluded, “God shows no partiality” (verse 34). The Jerusalem Council rendered their decision and wrote a letter to the Gentiles: “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality.  If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well.” (Acts 15:28-29).

Notice they said nothing here about circumcision, Sabbath worship services, animal sacrifices and Jewish feasts. This would have been a good time to have said, “Look guys, if you want to be good Christians, you must be circumcised as we are. You must do church on Saturday as we do, and you must observe the Passover and all the other Jewish feasts as we do. If you do these necessary things, you will be good Christians as we are.” Remember Peter’s question at the Jerusalem Council: “Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?” (Acts 15:10). Not even good Jews could be good-enough Jews. Why then demand that Gentiles become Jews first?

We cannot keep the law. That is the point that Paul is making in the Book of Galatians. In Galatians 4, Paul compared the Law to a guardian to have authority over the son until he matured. The guardian took the son to be trained. He pointed the way to his teachers. The Law was never meant to save. It was only meant to point out our need for a Savior. Dealing with a similar problem in Colossians 2, Paul pointed out that laws regarding festivals, New Moons, and Sabbaths were “only a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ” (Colossians 2:17).

For Christians, trying to be saved by observing the Law is very dangerous. The Apostle James wrote: “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all” (2:10). If you are going to emphasize going to church on Saturday, then you are obligated to keep all the Sabbath law, not just Saturday church attendance. The Commandment reads: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God” (Exodus 20:8-10ff). Notice it does not say to work five days and have a two-day weekend. You must work six days. That is the commandment. If you fail in one point, you are guilty of breaking it all.

These same principals can apply to many man-made requirements today. Acts 15:1 “Unless you…, you cannot be saved.” You fill in the blank. Unless you get baptized, go to church, take Communion, speak in tongues, wear certain clothing, read the Bible, tithe or whatever you want to add to it, you cannot be saved. That is what Paul meant by falling from grace. It means the exact opposite of what groups use it for today. They say unless you keep our list of rules, you will fall from grace as though we maintain grace by our own ability. In fact, Paul wrote that ones who are fallen from grace are precisely those who come up with lists of saving activities.

The rest of Galatians 5:4 reads: “You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.” In verse 1, Paul referred to the observance of the Law as a yoke of bondage”. He wrote that if anyone submitted to circumcision as a basis for salvation, that person was obligated to keep the whole law (verse 3), “which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear” (Acts 15:10).

“Falling from grace” is a club that is often used to beat people into submission to a group’s distinctive marks. It compels people to regular religious activities and compliance with group standards, but it leads to a yoke of bondage. Christ’s yoke is easy and his burden is light. Stop trying to please people. Relax in Christ. “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).