The Unity of the Gospel - 2017

Scripture: Philippians 2:2, Galatians 2:1-14, 1 Corinthians 1:10-13
Date: 07/15/2017 
Lesson: 3
"What issues are more important than unity itself? How do we learn to distinguish between what must remain and what we can, if necessary, let go of? How can we learn to accept and even enjoy the diversity of cultures and traditions among us, while at the same time maintaining unity?"
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Hello, friends, and welcome to Sabbath school study hour coming to you here from the Granite Bay seventh-day adventist church near Sacramento, California. I'd like to warmly welcome our online members who are joining us across the country and around the world. And, also, those of you who are watching on the various television networks, a very warm welcome to you. And, as always, I want to welcome our members and visitors right here at the Granite Bay church. It's good to see you week after week coming to Sabbath school to study the word together.

Now, we have started a brand-new set of lessons on the book of Galatians. That's actually the title of our quarterly: the Gospel in Galatians. Today we find ourselves on lesson #3, which is entitled the unity of the Gospel. Well, before we get to our study this morning we'd like to let those watching online know about a free offer that we have. Our free offer today is a book written by Pastor Doug: compromise, conformity, and courage - this is our free offer.

If you'd like to receive it, call the toll-free number -788-3966 and you can ask for offer #774 and we'll be happy to send that to you. Well, before we get to our study, we always like to begin by lifting our voices in song, I'd like to invite The Song leaders to come forward. Thank you, Pastor Ross. We have an extended family all over the world and we love to sing together and part of our name is 'adventist'. Why is that? Because we are looking forward to his soon coming and we are going to sing about that today.

So those of you that are at home, get out your hymnals and sing with us hymn #633 - when we all get to heaven - #633 - we're going to sing the first, the second, and the last verses. (Lively piano music) at this time Pastor Ross will lead us in prayer. Dear Father in Heaven, what a privilege and a joy to be able to meet together in your presence on this, your Sabbath, and open up Your Word and study this fantastic Gospel that's revealed in the book of Galatians. Lord, we ask for the Spirit to come and guide our hearts and our minds, as always. Lead us into a clearer and fuller understanding of the good news, for we ask this in Jesus' Name, amen.

Our lesson today will be brought to us by Pastor Doug. Thank you, Pastor Ross. Good morning. Good morning. Everybody - I want to welcome, again, not only those who might be worshiping with us here at Granite Bay, we have our class around the world that studies via the various television, satellite networks, internet sites.

We're continuing our study in the book of Galatians. And let me just say something to explain to those who are watching online or some who are watching the stream right now - some are watching, now, I think we've just begun today to stream live, now, on Facebook. At this moment of the broadcast we study the lesson here at Granite Bay three weeks in advance of the rest of the country because then when they edit the programs and they put in closed captioning, by the time they send it off to the various networks, it just takes a little while to get it to them. And so, in order for us to then broadcast it on television, on the right date with everyone else, the live recording is early. But some people enjoy tuning into the live early study, so we started making that available.

So that's why we're in Galatians - the lesson on Galatians - lesson #3 - and it's the unity of the Gospel today - a very important study - the unity of the Gospel - and we have a memory verse. And the memory verse is from Philippians 2, verse 2, and this is from the english standard version - Philippians 2, verse 2. If you say it with me, I'd really appreciate it. You ready? "Complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind." So we're going to talk about this very delicate line - this balance - and the importance of having unity as Christians, but not sacrificing truth in order to achieve unity. And you will face this many times in your life as a Christian.

Well, let's begin with our first section here, talking about the importance of unity. I've got a lot to cover. Normally, when I prepare my notes, I've got like one page - both sides; today I've got two pages - both sides - so I know I'm in trouble. Alright, first of all, the importance of unity - you read in Ecclesiastes 4, verse 12, "though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

" And so, it just explains here that, obviously, there's greater strength in unity, right? We all know that. Someone's going to read for me, in a moment, 1 Peter 1:22 - who will that be? Just - in a moment we'll get to you. Ephesians 4:3 - here Paul says, "endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." You ever take your car in for scheduled maintain - ence? Maintenance - it means something you give ongoing attention to. Well, when it comes to unity in the church, it requires ongoing attention. Amen.

It's that way in marriages. And a church is, actually, a bunch of people working together and it requires attention to maintain that unity. If there are offenses, we hope they're all unintentional, but if there are offenses between brothers and sisters in the church, what should you do? Deal with it right away. Go to them. Jesus said, 'be reconciled with your brother and your sister.

Apologize as far as possible. Live peaceably with everybody.' And it doesn't mean you're always going to agree with everyone, but you can still have unity in those areas. Go ahead, read for me - what did I say? 1 Peter 1:22. "Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart.' So he talks about obeying the truth and then he is also talking about a unity. He's talking about there should be sincere love of the brethren.

So notice the - the marrying between the unity and the love. If you read in Ephesians 4:13, here Paul says, "till we all come into the unity of the faith and of the knowledge" - notice the connection between unity and knowledge - what you know - "of The Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;" Colossians 3:15, "and let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful." So we're called to this unity, we're called to this oneness - but here's the important part: when you think of a chapter that deals with the subject of unity, what chapter do you think of? Chapter in the Gospels - a prayer of Jesus - giving you hints. John 17? John 17 is the great prayer of Christ, but what's the central theme? He's praying for unity, saying, 'I'm praying that they may be one, father, as you and I are one.' That's a pretty tall order, isn't it? But it's a great prayer for unity because he knew - you've heard 'divide and conquer', isn't that right? Yes. And isn't that what the devil does? You know how wolves get the sheep is they scatter the flock and they single them out by breaking them up. When a school of fish is together or when a flock is together, they have more protection.

The devil knows that and he tries to scatter us and divide us. E. Pluribus unum - you know what that means? That's latin for a disease you get from eating the wrong thing in uruguay. No, e. Pluribus unum - out of many, one.

We're united, right? Yes. And so listen to what Jesus says now in John 17:17, "sanctify them by your truth. Your Word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth.

" - Notice the emphasis - what word keeps appearing? TRuth. TRuth, truth, truth, truth - John 17. Now jump to John 17, verse 22. Jesus is praying: "and the glory which you gave me I have given them, that they may be one just as we are one: I in them, and you in me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that you have sent me, and have loved them as you have loved me." So first you notice Jesus is talking about truth and then he's talking about oneness. So, how do we, as Christians, arrive at unity? I will tell you that before you can have unity, you need to have truth, because truth is what unites us.

Matter of fact, me talking to you right now about the importance of unity is a truth. So if it clicks with you and you say, 'oh yeah, we need to be united.' That's because I have first communicated a truth about unity. So the first thing that is going to unite people is what happens here. It's a knowledge of the truth - a love of the truth - you've probably heard it said before - in marriage counseling I'll often tell a couple, 'the closer you come to a common object, the closer you will inevitably come to each other. In other words, if you've got two people and they are both drawing closer to Christ, they will be drawing closer to each other.

Isn't that right? And so, if Jesus is the truth, the closer we all come in unity to the truth, what happens? Unity comes together. We're coming closer to the truth. We can't help but come closer to each other. So the more we study the truth and the more we study Christ, it is to bring us together. And it doesn't mean we're always going to understand and see every verse the same way - we'll get to that in a minute.

Let me read a couple of quotes to you. Here's some from Gospel workers - I think this is a section from page 92 and 391.1, "through the Holy Spirit will" - I'm sorry, "through the Holy Spirit Christ will open more clearly to those who believe on him that which he has inspired holy men to write concerning the truth. And it is thus that the unity for which Christ prayed" - we're just reading John - Jesus' prayer in John 17 - "and it is thus that the unity for which Christ prayed is to be effected." - Notice, it's through the truth - "we are to receive sanctification through obedience to the word and the Spirit of truth. We cannot surrender the truth in order to accomplish this union, for the very means by which it is to be gained is sanctification through the truth." - The unity - the union is - comes through sanctification through truth. - "Men would effect a union through conformity to popular opinions, through a compromise with the world.

But truth is God's basis for the unity of his people." Alright, so upon what are we united? TRuth. TRuth. And, you know, it's wonderful that, as Karen and I travel around the world and we go to different countries with very different customs - and, you know, we've been everywhere. We just came back from new guinea and they had a lot of interesting customs there. But it was amazing, they - when we worshiped with them, they believed the truth that we believe.

There were, of course - there's customs differences, but when it comes to their world view about the priorities of Christ and the Christian life, they believe like us. And, in japan, and in korea, and australia and russia and all over the world we go, there is a unity because of a common belief in truth. Amen. That unites. But you'll hear voices in the church today, and they've been around for millennia, that will say 'unity is more important - you should sacrifice your particular doctrinal views to achieve unity.

' Now there might be some areas where that's true. Now I'm just going to give you a little quiz. I want to stir up your pure minds a little bit - and let me give you an example: do we have a lot of unusual beliefs even within the church today? I mean, there's maybe some divergent ideas and there's some conflict over certain theological points. You know, there are members of our church that don't agree on the subject of the trinity, and there's probably three or four variations of that. Can we be united if we don't agree on that? Don't - you don't have to answer me.

What about evolution? I know very dear people, they believe our message in every point except they cannot bring themselves to believe that God created the world in six literal days. That is the one sticking point. 'Pastor Doug,' - and I've asked several pastors this to see how they would deal with it. I told this lovely family, I said, 'you know, I'm not comfortable baptizing you into membership' - they worshiped with us for years and we're still dear friends, but they - because they couldn't agree with this because I said pretty clear, 'if you're a seventh-day adventist and you believe the Lord made the world in six literal days and then he has the Sabbath, if the Sabbath is really some long, million year - multi-thousand year epoch of time, then it's different.' I said, 'this is a problem.' And the word is really clear that God made - Jesus said it and Moses said it. Jesus said, 'if you don't believe Moses, you don't believe me.

' There are seventh-day adventists that believe the first eleven chapters of Genesis are fables that are designed to teach lessons. Up until the tower of babel they think - after the tower of babel then it starts getting literal with Abraham. Before that it's all legends. Can they be united in fellowship? There are some who have differing views on same-sex marriage. Baptism by immersion - they say, 'you know, it's a symbol.

Baptism is a symbol so why would you prevent a person from joining by profession of faith if they were baptized by sprinkling or another method of baptism? They're sincere. On one - that little point? Can't we be united without making that one little sticking point?' I think that everybody knows that the women's ordination is a big issue also - what the different roles are. Is it the egalitarian or the complementarian views? Vegetarianism? Can people have fellowship if they have different views on that? Foot washing? I know some people, they say, 'you know, I believe - I agree with everything, but I think foot washing was just for Jesus back then. He didn't really mean for everybody to do it today because most of us wear shoes and socks and' - so how do you know where you should say, 'we're willing to not debate or divide over a certain issue? Would everyone agree with me there are some things that we should not make sticking points? Yes. And there are some things that we should make sticking points.

How do you draw the line? You've really got to study and you've got to have wisdom to know what are the priorities. Now, for Seventh-day Adventists, a lot of that homework's been done. We have something called our '28 fundamentals' and so a person, if they're going to be united in fellowship and membership - it doesn't mean people can't - everyone can worship together and work together. And we do at this church - we've got a lot of guests and visitors that come that are part of the family but maybe they're not baptized yet or maybe they're stuck on some point, but if you're going to have - be united in membership, we've got the 28 fundamentals, you should be able to say yes to those. As soon as you start to get mushy about those, and you say, 'well, for the sake of unity, let's not make this a big deal.

' Pretty - it's like sand in a storm. It just washes away. You lose your foundation. And so, that's a - just a - does that make sense? Amen. Unity in truth - very important.

Alright, now, in - as we delve a little deeper now into Galatians, I'm going to go to 1 Corinthians chapter 1, verse 10. Paul says, "now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same things," - now doesn't that sound a little dogmatic for a pastor to say to his congregation? 'You all speak the same thing.' I remember another pastor from another denomination, he says, 'brother doug,' - he says - 'you Seventh-day Adventists, you're cookie cutters. You all want everyone to believe the same thing. We can have unity in the body of Christ and have greatly different beliefs.' I think we can love each other and respect people as Christians, but, I mean, you know, when one person thinks that Jesus is created and another person believes that Jesus is God, I think that's a very big difference. And I think that those things matter.

When one person says the fruit of the Holy Spirit is love and someone else says the fruit of the Holy Spirit is speaking in tongues, that's a big difference. And so there are some things that really are critical. But is Paul a cookie cutter when he said, 'I plead with you, that you all speak the same thing'? Does that mean he all wants us to go around echoing the same mantras? No. He means be united. There was division in the corinthian church - "but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.

For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of chloe's household, that there are contentions among you." Now what was the contention? Was the contention Paul's talking about is Jesus divine or is he a man? No. The contention was, they were choosing favorite pastors and evangelists. He goes on to say, 'some of you are saying, 'I am of Paul' or 'I am of apollos' or 'I am of Peter' - cephas - or 'I am of Christ'' - he's saying, 'is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul?' People were saying, 'well I'm a - I was baptized by Paul so I'm of this group.' And someone else said, 'well, I was baptized by apollos' - 'I was baptized by Peter. Peter's more important that Paul or apollos' - and they all began to argue. Now, is that the kind of thing you'd divide a church over? Paul is saying, 'that's nonsense'.

Do we sometimes get divided over similar things? Now this is a great church. This is a loving church. But I have known of churches where there was a terrible rift in the church and it started with the decorating committee. (Laughter) and I know a church where it got - the architect and decorating and design got so severe that they split and built two separate churches because they could not agree. Right here in town.

And the Lord worked it for good - they ended up with two churches. You know, there are actually times where God takes the divisions that happened and he works it for good. Was there a division between Paul and barnabas at one point? Yes. They couldn't agree whether or not to take Mark with them and it turns out, in that one, Paul was actually wrong. Barnabas said, 'well I'll take Mark' and Paul said, 'I'll take silas' and so they went and they ended up with two missionary groups instead of one.

So God worked it together for good. But this is the kind of thing they were arguing about. Now, with that lengthy introduction, our mission today is to do the first fourteen verses in Galatians chapter 2 - Galatians 2:1-14. We may not get to it all, but we'll do our best. Let's read verses 1 and in Galatians chapter 2.

Paul is speaking, we already covered Galatians 1, "then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with barnabas, and also took Titus with me." - What is he talking about? Fourteen years after what? His conversion. Probably it's fourteen years after his conversion or his first visit to Jerusalem after his conversion. He had been out doing missionary work. They came back to Jerusalem because there was a big dispute about circumcision, among other things, and Paul says, 'I took Titus with me.' This is one of the first references you would find there. If you read in acts 15, verse 2, it talks about Paul and barnabas going down from antioch to Jerusalem, to get some word from the counsel in Jerusalem about what they were to do about the subject of circumcision and the division that was happening, because he says that - you can read here in acts 15:1, "and certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren," - they came from Judea to antioch - "unless you are circumcised according to the customs of Moses, you cannot be saved.

" That's pretty serious business. It wasn't like, you know, you're a little better off - they said, 'you can't be saved.' Now they're not telling the jews this, they're telling the new gentiles - and the Greeks - 'unless you're circumcised' - and it created a big division. Paul said, 'look, let's settle this.' Now they didn't just get on the phone - they didn't have a teleconference. They didn't get online for one of these 'gotomeeting' things where you've got web cameras, they had to take a ship and it took them weeks, if not months, to come down to Jerusalem and it says, 'and others went with us', so it was Paul, barnabas and others. Probably one of the others was Titus.

Why did Paul take Titus? He took Titus because Titus was a Greek and Titus was not circumcised, but he was a thoroughly converted Christian. And Titus, if you read all the references to Titus, was a preacher and a coworker with Paul - but he was a Greek and he was uncircumcised. So Paul kind of took him along as exhibit a, that's what we're gathering, and he says, 'Titus was with me' - "and I went up by Revelation, and communicated to them that Gospel which I preach among the gentiles, but privately" - it wasn't a public hearing; he met with the elders - the leaders - "but privately to those who were of reputation," - some of the leaders in the church - "lest by any means I might run, or had run, in vain." - He says, 'if I was doing something wrong, I wanted them to tell me and they could do it privately. And I brought along Titus' - and so - and then you go to Galatians - and this, now, leads into the next section - Galatians chapter 2, verse 3, "yet not even Titus who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised." In other words, Paul is saying, to the Galatians, 'why are you getting all mixed up on this issue of circumcision? I went and met with the church leaders at Jerusalem and they did not even tell me that Titus, who was with me, who they knew was a Greek, had to be circumcised and yet now you're saying you can't be saved unless you're circumcised.' And he's saying, 'that doesn't make sense.' "And this occurred because of false brethren secretly brought in (who came in by stealth to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage), to whom we did not yield submission even for an hour, that the truth of the Gospel might continue with you." Now, I mentioned this briefly last week; I'm going to say a little more about it now because it can be easily misunderstood. The big debate was over the ceremonial laws and the laws of ordinances.

When I was a kid we used to tell a dumb joke in New York city. We would ask our friends, 'who's buried in grant's tomb?' And they'd get all mixed up and they'd think it was a trick question and they'd start guessing, 'Abraham lincoln?' They didn't know. And we'd say, 'grant!' And then we'd laugh at them. Of course grant is buried in grant's tomb. Or we'd ask another dumb question: 'what color was george Washington's white horse?' And, again, they were sure that it was a riddle - a trick question - and so they'd think - 'brown?' 'Black?' 'Gray?' We'd say, 'no, white.

' Alright, so how many laws are in the Ten Commandments? Ten. Do you get the point? Some people tried to melt the Ten Commandments in with the ordinances and the statutes and the other laws, but you can't get around the fact that God says, 'ten'. He uses the number ten, and so, he sets them aside as separate. So, when we talk about the laws of Moses, we're not talking about the Ten Commandments written by God, but there were a lot of ceremonial laws that came after sin, that were shadows and types that showed Christ. And, once Christ came, it wasn't necessary anymore to impose circumcision on them, as well as some of the other ceremonies.

Do we now sacrifice lambs? Do we now have to go to a levite to find forgiveness? The Bible says, since the time of Christ, we have a royal priesthood. The day that Jesus was crucified, the high priest tore his garments. Remember caiphas? We have a new priesthood now - a royal priesthood. We have a new nation now. In the same way, what about a temple? Do we have to go to the Jewish temple? Or did Jesus say, 'destroy this temple made with hands and I'll make one without hands.

He spoke of the body of Christ - the church. What happened to the Jewish temple when Jesus died? Was there a tearing there? Priests garments were torn - new priesthood. Temple veil was torn - new temple. 'What? Don't you know you are the temple of God?' And so, from the sacrifice of Christ, the shadows and types were fulfilled. We now have the substance in Christ.

And so, do we now require physical circumcision? What do you think? Let me read this to you - acts 10:45. "And those of the circumcision who believed" - these are Christians; they believe in Christ - "were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the gentiles also." Now, you and I can't appreciate - because we now know, after two thousand years of seeing that Christians now are largely non-jews. The early church - all Christians - were jews. When the Holy Spirit was poured out at pentecost, it says, 'now that we're dwelling in Jerusalem, devout men of every nation under heaven,' - jews out of every nation under heaven. This are the jews that had come to worship at pentecost.

Thousands were baptized - three thousand the first time; five thousand the next time - all jews. Some converted to judaism. So the early church was largely Jewish. When Peter goes to cornelius' house - he's a roman, uncircumcised, gentile - and the Holy Spirit falls on cornelius, you can understand why it said the believers of the circumcision were astonished 'they can be saved?' That was amazing to them, because the gift of the holy spirit had been poured on the gentiles. What? Gentiles? There's a little bit of discrimination going on, wouldn't you say? They thought that it was just, you know, 'we're the chosen people.

'"? But they had been informed about you that you teach all the jews that are among the gentiles, to forsake Moses.' Now he's not saying the Ten Commandments. He's talking about the mosaic laws. To forsake Moses, saying that they ought to - ought not to circumcise their children or walk according to the customs. There was a big dispute when Paul came to Jerusalem, they said, 'boy, rumor's out that you're telling everybody to forsake the laws of Moses.' Paul said, 'that's not exactly true. I'm telling the gentiles they are not required.

' And this ended up getting Paul arrested. Now, the big debate in acts 15 had nothing to do with the Ten Commandments. Matter of fact, take your Bible - after this counsel they meet together and they finally come up with a resolution. Go to acts 15 - I think it's in verse 20 - it appears twice, actually, in acts and I want to make sure I give you the right one. Yeah, acts 15:20.

So finally, after the council met, "therefore" - James is speaking, I believe - verse 19, "I judge that we should not trouble those from among the gentiles who are turning to God, but that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols," - they were saying, 'don't eat things offered to idols - "from sexual immorality," - from fornication - "from things strangled" - they were to observe the health laws and not eat things with the blood and from blood. You know, I never - this is something that always is amazing to me: I've been in a lot of churches, a lot of different denominations - I've yet to hear a Sunday pastor preach from acts and tell his congregation they must abstain from blood, but that was clearly given to the gentiles in this verse. He's saying - so does that mean, now, they don't have to keep the Ten Commandments? I've had people read this before saying, 'see, he doesn't mention the Sabbath. We don't have to keep it.' Well, he also didn't say, 'honor your father and mother' - he also didn't say, 'don't have other Gods' - he also didn't say, 'don't take God's' - he's not addressing the ten commandments here. He's talking about the other things that were issues among the gentiles.

And so, this was dealing with specific questions they had among the gentiles. Okay, with that, you know, I've got to be careful how I do this, but I think it's - it's almost impossible to study Galatians without saying a few words on the subject of circumcision. Circumcision - the covenant first shows up in Genesis. I think it's mentioned sixteen times in Genesis. Circumcision is mentioned more in Galatians than any other book in the Bible - twelve times.

The purpose of circumcision - it represented a covenant with God. There was a spiritual meaning behind it, that the promised seed - and the analogy will be obvious to you - the promised seed of the Messiah was going to come through the jews. It also represented not being controlled by the flesh, but being controlled by the Spirit. It was a cutting away of the flesh. The first time Jesus shed the blood was when he was eight days old and he was named, and he was circumcised.

And that's interesting that when he got his name 'he will save his people from their sins' is when he also - the first time - they shed blood. The reason that the Lord told the children of Israel the boy was to be circumcised on the eighth day was because the vitamin k, I understand, that helps the clotting factor, doesn't fully form until the bacteria develop in the stomach and that's usually about the eighth day - or at least it's safe by the eighth day. And so, it was a very important thing. Now, while it is manifestly clear in the new testament, through the writings of Paul and others, circumcision is not required for any spiritual reason. There is no spiritual value in circumcision.

Paul says circumcision is nothing; uncircumcision is nothing. But some people take that to mean that the practice of circumcision was something barbaric - I've actually read this before - that Abraham got from the pagans and they blamed God for it. And people have often asked, 'why in the world would God design a human body a certain way and then say, 'I'm going to make an improvement by doing something that would seem like some form of mutilation. Of course, the world changed because of sin. Well, let me just share something with you here.

There was - there's some notes I thought I'd read to you - there were, actually medical benefits connected with circumcision. This is an article by jessica firger, cbs news, April 2, 2014, "circumcision for male infants is becoming less common in the u.s., Raising medical risks, according to new data published by the mayo clinic proceedings." And so, it wasn't barbaric, there was actually medical value. Their findings further back up a public statement from the American academy of pediatrics, in support of widespread education initiatives and access to infant male circumcision. The reasons that these non-religious doctors are saying that there's value in it - matter of fact, one doctor from the university of sydney, brian morris, he said, "infant circumcision should be regarded as equivalent to childhood vaccination" because of the advantages. His colleagues found that circumcision rates in newborns in America had declined from 83% in 1960 - this kind of surprised me, and it had nothing - obviously 83% of males in north America were not jews.

Is that clear to you? % In 1960 to 77% in 2010. It was declining, which caused concern among the medical community. The study says the benefits to newborn - boys obviously - of circumcision exceeds the risks by 100 to 1. Clinic - now here's some of the reasons for that - clinical research has found that circumcision can safeguard an infant from a number of health complications, most notably urinary tract infections, kidney damage, for infants, can be very severe connected with that infection. Circumcision has been found to lower one's risk for contacting hiv and hpv.

Another study published in the journal of American medical association reviewed more than 500 studies, finding that circumcision reduced the risk for hiv transmission. Some suggested that circumcision in infancy actually lowers the risk for prostate cancer. I don't understand it, I'm just reading the study - cbs news - mayo clinic. So the reason I'm sharing that with you is to let you know that it wasn't barbaric, there was actually - God knew what he was doing. But even though there might be medical advantages, is there any salvation advantage to circumcision? No.

Paul is saying, 'circumcision is nothing; uncircumcision is nothing, but keeping the commandments is what matters.' Matter of fact, I want to read that to you. Go - 1 Corinthians chapter 7, verse 19 - you got your Bibles? I'm going to read you several verses very quickly. "Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing, but keeping the commandments of God is what matters." Alright, now wait a second, I thought circumcision was a command. So if he's saying circumcision is nothing, but keeping the commands is what matters, doesn't that mean there must be some commands that have nothing to do with circumcision? Circumcision was part of the ordinances. The commandments are the Ten Commandments.

Listen to Paul in Galatians - I'm going to read Galatians 5:2, 5:6, and Galatians 6:15. Paul says, "indeed i, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing." - In other words, if you're getting circumcised - he's telling the Galatians - gentiles - for the benefit of salvation, you don't understand salvation by faith. Galatians 5:6, "for in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love." So one time he says, 'but keeping the commandments'; the other time he says, 'but faith working through love. Galatians 6:15, "for in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation." So what - if we've got a spiritual priesthood now - if we've got a spiritual temple - if we're now the body of Christ, do we sacrifice lambs anymore? Jesus is our lamb. So, do you see how things went through a big change with Christ's coming? What about circumcision? Is there a spiritual equivalent? Moses is speaking here and he says, 'the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendents to love the Lord your God with all of your heart and with all of your soul, that you may live.

" Now, what he's talking about is not having a hard heart, but a sensitive heart. You'll also find it again in Deuteronomy 10:16, "therefore circumcise the foreskin of your heart, and be stiff-necked no longer." Jeremiah 4, verses 3 and 4, "for thus says the Lord to the men of judah and Jerusalem: 'break up your fallow ground and do not sow among thorns. Circumcise yourselves to the Lord, and take away the foreskins of your hearts, you men of judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, lest my fury come forth like fire, and burn so that no one can quench it, because of the evil of your doings.'" Now those are old testament there - going back to another new testament example - Paul speaking - Romans 2, verse , "for he is not a jew who is one outwardly," - now what do you think he's talking about? Outwardly - meaning skin is your outer organ of your body - "he is not a jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God." So, if you had to choose between being spiritually converted or physically converted, what is Paul saying the priority is? Spiritually. Yeah. Let me read Galatians - I already read that to you - yeah, I read that one.

Alright, let's go to the next section: unity in diversity. So I probably said a lot more about circumcision than you even want to know, but that just - it's the problem in Galatians, can everybody see that? Okay. I didn't pick the lesson, I'm just teaching the lesson. Unity in diversity - Amos 3:3, "can two walk together unless they are agreed?" This is going back to that question we talked about a minute ago. How do we have this unity, yet when we're - there's such a difference? Galatians 2 - now we're reading verses 4 and 5, "and this occurred because of false brethren secretly brought in. stealth" - and I talked about this - "( spy out our liberty...)" - What liberty is he talking about? - (...which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage), to whom we did not yield submission even for an hour," - these jews were coming back trying to tack them back and keep these old ceremonial laws and that just made the religion a drudgery. Go to - did I give somebody John 8:31? You've got John 8:31, okay. John 8:31-32, "then Jesus said to those jews who believed him, 'if you abide in my word, you are my disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.'" So there's something liberating about the truth. Ignorance can enslave you.

I just read a study this week - someone sent me an e-mail, they said that cigarette smoking is becoming a disease, principally, of the poor. That people who may not have the same educational advantages are being preyed upon by the tobacco companies, but cigarette smoking among wealthy and educated people is very low. Why do you think that is? If a person's educated about that, they know the dangers of it, they know that it's just going to cost them - it's going to take away their life - there's all - it's socially, now, unacceptable and people, because of the truth they're learning, they find victory and they give it up. But people who are in ignorance are often held in bondage. And so, truth - knowledge liberates people.

That's why education is so important. In John 8:34 Jesus said, "most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the [house forever] but a son abides forever. Therefore if The Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed." Amen. How many of you remember when there was a big dispute among the disciples? And this passage is often misquoted in Mark chapter 7, where some of the pharisees became indignant because the disciples sat down to eat lunch on the road and they did not ceremonially wash their hands.

Now, the pharisees, when - I mean, we all think it's a good idea to wash your hands when you eat, right? I'm not going to ask you to raise your hands, but have any of you eaten, even though there was no place to wash your hands before? Yeah, and you survived. So how many of you and your kids ate a little bit of dirt? How many of you have seen - your kids or other kids - eat a whole lot of dirt? I know you would never admit to that, but maybe someone else - and here you are. But when the pharisees saw that the disciples did not go through the regular pouring and washing of hands - and it was more ceremony than anything - they said, 'how is it that your disciples eat without washing their hands?' And Jesus said, 'it's not what goes in your mouth that defiles you, but it's what comes out of your mouth.' Now, does that mean that Jesus is saying it doesn't matter what goes in your mouth? Have you heard people use it that way? Yes. I used it that way, years ago. Christian friends were telling me, 'doug' - you see, when I was a Christian, I accepted Jesus but I kept smoking.

And I was not a member of this church, but I was going to church, I was smoking - I said, 'look, Jesus said it's not what goes in my mouth that defiles me.' (Laughter) 'and so, there's nothing wrong with this.' And I used that as my argument for awhile. And then I even argued - I said, 'God made all the herbs of the field for us to use and enjoy. He made tobacco.' I had all these dumb arguments. I picked up a guy hitchhiking one time and he just reeked from marijuana and he asked me if I had any. I said, 'no, I don't smoke.

' And I said, 'I don't think you should.' He said, 'oh no, God made these herbs for us to enjoy.' (Laughter) and then he quoted, 'it's not what goes in your mouth that defiles you, it's what comes out.' Was Jesus talking about eating anything that crawls across your plate or was the context talking about eating without ceremonially washing your hands? That's what Jesus is talking about there. He says, 'you're not going to have your heart defiled because you touched something and didn't wash your hands.' So, knowing these things actually sets you free. Alright, now I'm not suggesting you all wash - eat without washing your hands, you understand what I'm saying? Romans 6, verses 6 and 7, "knowing this, that our old man was crucified with him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin." So what is it that Jesus sets us free from? Sin. Sin. What does the truth set us free from? Sin.

From sin. We are saved from sin. And then, let's see, where am i? Romans 8:2, "for the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death." And in 1 Peter 2:16, "as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God." Now this is another subject I've often heard misapplied and misunderstood, is that the freedom we enjoy through Christ is not a license for sin. We have been set free from the curse of the law. The curse of the law is a penalty for sin, but when you're set free from the penalty of the law, it does not mean, now, that you are free to sin.

But I've heard some use it that way. Paul said, 'we are free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice'. I've met people before, they're drinking alcohol and I'll say, 'I don't believe a Christian should drink alcohol.' And they say, 'well, I am now free in Christ.' I said, 'well, what you're doing kills people.' I said, 'it's the most destructive drug in North America.' 'Oh, don't put that burden on me. I am free in Christ and I do this with a clear conscience.' I said, 'well, you might talk yourself into having a clear conscience but, by your example, you're going to make your brother stumble and some people become alcoholics and their lives are destroyed by alcohol. So you keep talking about your freedom, but you're using it as a cloak for vice.

' You see what I'm saying? People do it with other doctrines - they say, 'I'm free' - they're not very careful about maybe keeping the Sabbath - 'oh, I'm not under the bond - I'm free. I keep it in my spirit. I'm free.' And so, just disobeying is what they're doing, but they're claiming the freedom card and that's not good. Alright, Galatians 2, verses 11 to 13, "now when Peter had come to antioch," - Paul is speaking - "I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; for before certain men came from James," - in Jerusalem - this is James, the chairman of the board for the church in Jerusalem - "he would eat with the gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision." - When the jews came and they saw, up here in antioch, how Peter was hobnobbing with the gentiles - remember what Peter said? 'We're not even supposed to go in and eat with a gentile' - so when the jews came he said, 'i'd better not let them see what I'm doing. They might not understand.

' Paul said, 'you're being a hypocrite, Peter. You're trying to look like you agree with the ones who have come from Jerusalem, but you know as soon as they leave town you're hanging out and eating with the gentiles and going into their homes and' - so Paul, here in Galatians, is actually - this is one place where you find one apostle chastising another apostle. But was Paul totally innocent of that himself? You remember the story where Paul went to Jerusalem and - this was before he was arrested. They said, 'look, some of the jews here in Jerusalem, they hear that you're up there and you've cast aside the law of Moses. And we don't want to get these rumors out there, so tell you what, you need to do a vow with us.

You need to shave your head, you need to pay your vows - we'll supply the money for it - you need to go to the temple and go through these rituals and show that you still keep the law.' You remember that? Then he got arrested in the temple because they already knew that - what he was doing up in asia. Listen to what Ellen white says about that in the book Acts of the Apostles p. 404, "The brethren hoped that Paul, by following the course suggested, might give a decisive contradiction to the false reports concerning him. They assured him that the decision of the former council concerning the gentile converts and the ceremonial law, still held good. But the advice now given was not consistent with that decision.

the Spirit of God did not prompt this instruction. It was the fruit of cowardice and the leaders of the church in Jerusalem knew that by non-conformity to the ceremonial law, Christians would bring upon themselves the hatred of the jews and expose themselves to persecution." So trying to compromise and get rid of the persecution - she calls it an act of cowardice. Paul got caught up in that and he ended up getting arrested. Who here can say that we are immune from, sometimes, hypocrisy or being two-faced - which means the same thing? Have you ever been in a group and people are clapping but you don't feel like clapping but you want to look like everybody else so you clap? There's the bandwagon effect and we've all fallen for that before. We've tried to look like those around us and act like those around us and fit in and so, sometimes we'll compromise what we know is right and our convictions because we don't want to look like we stand out.

And that's where it takes real courage. I think I'm out of time. Let me just read for you Galatians 2:14 to 16 - we're almost done here. "But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the Gospel, I said to Peter before them all, 'if you, being a jew, live in the manner of gentiles and not as the jews, why do you compel gentiles to live as jews?' We who are jews by nature," - physically - "and not sinners of the gentiles, knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law" - ceremonial law - "but by faith in Jesus" - actually, we're not justified by any law - "but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified." No people are justified. It doesn't matter what you do to your flesh, it does not justify you, is what he's saying there.

Alright, well we pretty much covered the lesson. Thank you very much. And I want to, again, thank those who are watching online. God bless you. We look forward to studying his word together again next week.

Let's face it, it's not always easy to understand everything you read in the Bible. With over 700,000 words contained in 66 books, the Bible can generate a lot of questions. To get biblical straightforward answers call in to Bible answers live - a live nationwide call-in radio program where you can talk to Pastor Doug Batchelor and ask him your most difficult Bible questions. For times and stations in your area, or to listen to answers online, visit We're here in ponce, puerto rico in an iguana park surrounded by big lizards or small dinosaurs - depends on how you look at it.

These magnificent creatures are found mostly in Mexico, central America, and south America - and the caribbean islands. Here's a few Amazing Facts about iguanas: iguanas come in a great spectrum of colors. They can be brown, green, blue - and their skin will often work as camouflage, allowing them to hide in the jungle. They're social creatures who like to eat together and, what's really interesting, even though they look fierce, iguanas are vegan/vegetarians. They're regarded as popular pets though, if they're not cared for, they can actually just stop eating and will themselves to die.

Typically iguanas just lay eggs and they abandon their offspring. So those little iguanas have to fend for themselves from the time they're born. If they're attacked, they'll fight with their tail, either punching or whipping their opponent. It's interesting seeing a dog running for mercy after being whipped by an iguana. Also, to ensure a fast escape, they can detach their tail and later grow another one.

Iguanas generally like to live around water and they can swim away escaping from predators. Green iguanas, in particular, are excEllent swimmers. They have the ability to inflate themselves and swim incredible distances. This is one way they've been able to populate the different islands of the caribbean. What's incredible is these creatures have lungs where they're able to hold their breath for up to twenty-eight minutes, putting even a crocodile to shame.

They also know how to compensate for when things get hot or cold. They can regulate their body temperature using the loose flaps of skin they have under their throats and under their legs. You might even say an iguana has esp because God made them with, sort of, a third eye on top of their head. They can't really see with it, but it's a photo receptor that helps them to regulate their bodies' circadian rhythms. You know, in the same way that God made iguanas where they're some of the toughest creatures in God's natural kingdom, Christians need to learn to be resilient in the Spiritual realm.

Through God's grace we can learn to be great survivors. Paul says, in 2 Corinthians 4, verses 8 and 9, "we are hard pressed on every side yet not crushed. We are perplexed yet not in despair, persecuted yet not forsaken, struck down but not destroyed" - I think, friends, we all know sometimes life can be tough. We feel like we're being beaten and pressed on every side. Sometimes there's health problems, relationship problems, financial reverses - but in the same way God made the iguana resilient, God can help you to bounce back.

Jesus said that through his help we can be overcomers and we are able to endure. If you turn to him and ask him for his help and his spirit he will recreate you and make you even tougher than an iguana. Wouldn't you like to ask him now?

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