Boasting in the Cross

Boasting in the Cross

Scripture: Galatians 6:14, Romans 6:1-6, 2 Corinthians 4:10
Date: 09/30/2017  Lesson: 14
"How differently do you live now than you did before giving yourself to the Lord, who died for you?"

The Savior and The Serpent (PB) by Doug Batchelor

The Savior and The Serpent (PB) by Doug Batchelor
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Good morning, friends, and welcome to Sabbath school study hour, coming to you here from the Granite Bay seventh-day adventist church. I'd like to welcome our online members and those of you who are watching on the various television networks - always a joy to be able to get together on Sabbath morning and study the Word of God. I'd also like to welcome our regular members and our visitors, always here Sabbath morning - good to see you today. We're working our way through our lesson quarterly dealing with the Gospel in Galatians. Actually, today, we find ourselves at the very end.

We're on lesson #14 entitled boasting in the cross - that's lesson #14. Usually there are 13 lessons in a quarter, but we have an extra one this quarter. Our final one today is boasting in the cross. We will be starting a new lesson study next week, and I'm very excited about this. This one's on the book of Romans.

So, for our members right here and those who are visiting, you might want to get a copy of our study guide for next quarter. Also, for our friends who are watching, I encourage you to contact the local adventist church and you can get a copy of the lesson, or you can download at the Amazing Facts website - just amazingfacts.org - and you can start preparing for next weeks' study on the book of Romans. Before we get to our singing this morning, we do have a free offer that we'd like to tell our friends watching in north America that would like to receive this book entitled hidden eyes and closed ears, the number to call for that is -788-3966 and you can ask for offer #726 - that number, again, is 866-788-3966 - ask for offer #726. We'll be happy to send this to anybody in North America. If you're outside of north America and you'd like to read this book, just go to the Amazing Facts website - amazingfacts.

org - and you'll be able to download the book and read it there. It's time for us to sing so I hope you're ready to life your voices in song. I'd like to invite our song leaders to come forward and we'll start by singing together. Thank you, Pastor Ross, and we have been warming up our voices here at Granite Bay and so we are ready to join with you around the world. So, I encourage you, if you have a hymnal, pull it out and join with us on #306 - draw me nearer - this goes along with the theme of our lesson today, and we're going to do all three stanzas - #306.

Is that your prayer today - and every day? Draw me nearer, nearer, nearer blessed Lord. Continuing with this theme, we're going to sing, I know, a favorite around the world - near the cross - this beautiful hymn you can find on #312 in your hymnal and we're going to sing the first, second, and fourth stanzas - #312. That day is coming very soon, when you see what is going on in this crazy world - very soon. Rest beyond the river. At this time Pastor Ross is going to have our opening prayer for us.

Let's bow our heads for a word of prayer. Dear Father in heaven, what a privilege to be able to gather in your house this Sabbath morning and open up Your Word and study together. Father, we recognize the Bible is your book and in order to correctly understand it, we need the leading of the Holy Spirit. So we'd ask, once again, that you would come and speak to our hearts and our minds as we look at this great theme of the cross - about that plan of redemption that's been provided for each of us that we might be saved. Bless our time together, today, for we ask this in Jesus' Name, amen.

Amen. Our lesson today is going to be brought to us by our new family life pastor here at the Granite Bay church. We're delighted that pastor shawn brummund is with us and he'll be bringing us our lesson. Thank you, shawn. Good morning.

Good morning. It's good to see you all here in Granite Bay, our family's new church. And it is such a blessing to be able to come together on Sabbath school and to be able to study, one more time, this great book that God has given to us - the book of Galatians - and it's also good to be able to study with all our online members, as well as those who are watching on tv and I want to start by sharing a bit of a story, and this particular story just happened a couple of weeks ago and my wife shared with me, as she came to me with a very serious look on her face, because she had received a very disturbing text on her cell phone. And this particular text had come to her from a random stranger. As we looked it up online or searched it somehow on Google and discovered where this phone number had come from, we discovered that it was somebody in the bay area.

Somebody in the san francisco bay area had texted her. Now, I have to say that everything on that text is not repeatable here in our lesson study today. The beginning of the text started to tell denise that she needs to get her act together and then it went on to use some very colorful language that, again, I won't be repeating here today. The most disturbing part of that particular text is that it went on, then, to threaten her life and also the life of her children. And so, not exactly the nicest 'welcome to America'.

Some of you know that I'm from Canada and our family has moved here from Canada but, even as I say that, I have to say that on every other front, coming here to America has been positive and I'm just so thankful for the warm welcome that we have received from the Granite Bay church. We have beautiful neighbors - wonderful neighborhood that we live in here in carMichael, at the time. And, you know, on every other front, since we've been to America, we have seen nothing but positive and we're very, very thankful for that. But this particular experience was not quite as positive. Now, as you can imagine, when denise showed me that particular text, it was not only disturbing to her, but it got my goat very quickly and my blood pressure went up, my temperature went up, and I found myself very disturbed and very concerned by the wording of this particular text.

At the same time, I have to say that what lit me up, at the moment and, especially after the day had come when we received this text, is the knee-jerk reaction that I soon discovered denise had already texted back to this particular culprit. And when I looked at her response, I was surprised and a little bit - found it humorous - that her first word with an exclamation Mark was "whatever!" (Laughter) and I thought to myself - in fact, our family has been kind of giggling and making light of it since, because we've been, kind of, imagining this kind of hardened, psychotic, criminal hiding in some dark room in his house in the bay area, texting death threats to random different people, and then when denise had responded, his head's cocked and he's looking a little bit puzzled as he looks at it and he says, 'I've never gotten a response to a death threat this way - 'whatever!' (Laughter) now, I have to say that when I went on and continued to read that particular text, denise went on and said, you know, 'listen, I think it's important for you to understand that you are never to text this number again and that you have been reported.' It's interesting, over the next day, he ended up texting her again anyway, but this time with an apology and, as it turns out, denise had just received this new number as we got our cell package here in Sacramento, and so it must have been a previous owner of that particular cell number and he was intending to reach a woman by the name of blainey, he said, and 'I apologize, it wasn't intended for you.' The other thing that we had discovered as we had researched and looked at what the authorities do on such an event as this because we were not only concerned for our lives, but then we began to be concerned about this other woman. You know, sure it's not intended for us - apology accepted, I suppose - but what about this other poor woman? As it turns out, the authorities don't respond to death threats unless it comes at least two times - at least two times - so I guess the rationale behind it is that most or, I'm guessing and hoping, all of them survive between the first death threat and the second death threat. And I hope that's the case, in every case, when it comes to this kind of activity. When the apostle Paul learned that the new churches in the area of galatia were being misled with a very serious heresy, while he was away from that particular area, away from those churches in which he had planted and, on top of it, and even worse, Paul had discovered that the bulk of the new believers were falling for it, he, too, was very understandably upset.

He, too, was also disturbed. He, too, was also very concerned about what was going on in these precious churches that he, himself, again, had planted. Now, rather than texting back, he had done something different. the Lord had called him to be a prophet and so he - the Lord sent him to pen and paper - and when he went to pen and paper, he wrote out a very inspired, important letter to straighten things out as best as he could in that particular area. I'd like to invite you, as we open up to Galatians - Galatians chapter 6 - Galatians chapter 6 - as we wrap up the last verses of this important book of the new testament - Galatians chapter 6 - and we're going to start with verse 11 - right to the end of the chapter - right through to the end of the book.

Again, as we have already heard through our introduction, we're in the book of Galatians. We're finishing the last study, for those of you who might be just tuning in, the Gospel in Galatians is the book that we're reading, or at least the study guide that we've been going through and it's the last study guide - #14 - boasting in the cross. And so, we're just going to go ahead and read those last seven or eight verses. Verse 11, it says this: "see with what large letters I have written to you with my own hand! As many as desire to make a good showing in the flesh, these would compel you to be circumcised, only that they may not suffer persecution for the cross of Christ. For not even those who are circumcised keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh.

But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation. And as many as walk according to this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God. From now on let no one trouble me, for I bear in my body the Marks of the Lord Jesus. Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

Amen." Now, as we come to verse 11, in particular, as we look at this last passage - but not just the last verses, in particular, but starting with the very first verses and all the way through the letter. If there's one thing we discovered very quickly, is that the author, in this case the apostle Paul, was a very riled up shepherd - a shepherd of a flock in which he, himself, had birthed many of those believers which he was writing to, which he was concerned about - and the reason he was a riled up shepherd is because wolves had come in among the sheep and he had a very personal investment in these particular believers and sheep. And so, Paul makes it very clear that he wasn't going to stand by and let them be devoured with the heresy that would effectively bring them into the very experience that Christ had delivered Paul from several years beforehand. Now, as we come to verse 11, we find here that it points out to its readers - to its listeners - it's original readers - it's original listeners - to how personally involved and concerned Paul was for them. It's a very unique statement that I don't believe Paul makes in any other part of his writings in the new testament.

In the Bible, verse 11, again, says, "see with what large letters I have written to you with my own hand!" You know, sometimes, when we're e-mailing somebody and we're not using audible voices, obviously when we e-mail, perhaps even when we're texting, but probably more often when we're e-mailing and we're really excited about something or we're upset about something, and so what do we do? We don't just use the regular font, we take the regular font of 10 or 12 size and we might bump that up to 14 or maybe even a 16 size, and then if we really want to say something just a little bit louder than that, what do we do? Bold it. Alright, somebody says we click on the bold, alright? So we choose the bold option - and then somebody else says here, also, the capitals. So we choose the capitals. So now we have bold capitals with an enlarged font. What have we done when we've done that? What do we hear when we read that? Alright, we hear somebody raising the volume, don't we? Somebody said, 'shouting' alright? So here, most likely - the most reasonable interpretation here is that Paul is saying, as he wraps up this particular letter, he says, 'listen, I'm pointing to the fact that I'm using large, capital, bold letters because I'm trying to raise the volume.

We find that same principle kind of found - now, of course, they didn't use bold, they didn't use larger fonts and capitals - in fact, there were no capitals - there was no punctuation in the original Greek that Paul was writing in, and so, their writing style was much different than ours, but they used words to be able to say that. And so, he points out to his large letters. In this case, Revelation chapter is another passage that came to mind. And there is an introduction there as we come to the first angel's message. 'And I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven having the everlasting Gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth, to every nation, tribe, tongue and people saying with a' - loud voice.

Okay, many of you know it off by heart. That's good. '...saying with a loud voice, 'fear God and give glory to him'...' And so on and so on. And then, as we come down to the third angels message, here we find that the volume is also revealed to be turned up 'and a third angel followed saying with a' - 'loud voice' - and I believe that's verse 8 as we continue on to verse 9, as we continue on down to that third angel's message. And so, why do you suppose that God would want to turn up the volume when it comes to the third angel's message? The three angels' messages I general? Why? Because it's a life and death issue, isn't it? In fact, by the time you come to the third angel's message, he very clearly tells us, in the strongest language, 'hey, this is life and death.

' And God wants us to choose life, doesn't he? And so he says, 'listen, I'm going to turn up the volume because what I'm saying right now is of utmost importance, especially in the very last years of history. And so, we need to turn up the volume as a church, don't we? With the third angel's message. We don't need to start to put it aside and try to come up with something else. No, God wants us to turn it up louder than ever before. In fact, prophecy tells us that that's what we'll be doing as the Spirit rains down upon us and we come into the latter rain.

There's going to be a powerful increase in the volume of the three angels' message. One of the largest challenges that the original Christian church faced was how many - was how the many thousands of first Christians - the original Christians who were all predominantly Jewish, by the way, were going to accept and deal with a growing population of gentiles or non-Jewish people that were also accepting Christ as the Messiah who were also becoming Christians and becoming members of the church. And this was no small challenge, in fact, this challenge was so large that it almost split the church. And so, the very first serious challenge to the unity of the church, took place over the issue that's being discussed, in a large manner, in the book of Galatians. There was a number - a growing number of gentiles that were coming in.

God was choosing different evangelists and missionaries, such as Philip, Paul, barnabas, and several others that were bringing in this growing population of gentile Christians. Now, the reason that this was such a challenge for the church that was predominantly Jewish is that a good Jewish family always raised their children in that generation to look down their noses at those who were not Jewish by race or by faith. And so, in fact, they even referred to - quite often - to non-Jewish people as dogs and they were unclean animals in their minds and in their hearts. And so there was some very real prejudice that was taking place from that of the jews towards those who were not. In fact, if you kind of brushed up against the non-Jewish or gentile person or maybe you ended up inadvertently drinking from the same cup or, God forbid, you ended up at the same table eating with them, why you would become religiously and spiritually defiled.

And so, the Jewish fathers had developed a whole system of traditions and practices to be able to deal with this and so, they came up with this kind of ceremonial washing where you had to go before you ate and wash, you know, with this kind of special consecrated water up to the elbow and down to the bottom of your hand before you ate a meal so that you could re-undefile yourself just in case you had inadvertently touched something that a non-Jewish person had touched. And so, that was a big challenge for the Jewish Christians. This was no small thing to be able to undo, in their minds and their hearts. Now, on top of that, the second question that they had is 'should we be compelling - should we be telling these new converts to observe the ceremonial law of Moses?' Okay? Should they observe the ceremonial law of Moses, including the act of circumcision? Which was also wrapped up in that, starting with Abraham, but it was also in the covenant with Moses and with the Israelites at sinai. Now in addition to that, I think it's also important to understand that they were also asking themselves - and wrapped up very inseparably in the mind of a religious jew back in that generation was the traditions of The Fathers, such as the ceremonial washing - the very washing that Jesus snubbed his nose at and said, really, that's irrelevant - it's man made - it's not inspired - it's not in the Bible and - but it's a system of works that had been developed in addition to the ceremonial law of Moses that Moses, himself, had written in the torah.

And so, this was essentially inseparable in the minds of the jews and even of these early Christians and, probably, even to a large degree, in the apostles as they were working through this as well. And so, should we compel them to follow the traditions of the fathers? Should we compel them to follow the laws of Moses and the ceremonies and the sacrifices and the feasts that were found in the writings of Moses? Now, as it turns out, circumcision - circumcision is one of those visible signs that is very easy to be able to discover, at least from a man to a man. And the reason I say that is, back then, the men, more commonly than not, found themselves cleansing themselves in public bathhouses - roman bathhouses. Maybe the jews had separate bathhouses - I'm not quite exactly educated on if there was a separation there, but the men would share gymnasiums and bathhouses, and so on, and so they were able to see each other in their birthday suits quite often. And so, if the man - if a man sees you in the shower or in the bathhouse and you're circumcised, why that was an immediate sign that would tell that observer that you had both accepted and submitted to the old testament covenant of Moses and of the Israelite and judaism.

And so, it was a very fitting symbol - circumcision - to really represent the whole package deal. And so, when Paul mentions circumcision, I think it's important for us to understand that he's talking about more than just circumcision, but he's using that as a symbol of the whole package of both the traditional fathers' theologies that they had added to the Bible, as well as the writings of Moses and the ceremonial law itself. God had led Paul and barnabas to understand that gentiles were not unclean dogs inferior to the jews. Now, this is a natural thing, because Paul and barnabas had been commissioned by God - had been ordained by God to go and to bring the Gospel to the gentile populations. They went way beyond the borders of Israel, left the majority of the populations of the jews behind, and they, predominantly, labored and were winning people from the gentile populations to Christ.

And so, it was a very natural thing for God to work with them first, right? And so, they were the first ones to see the light clearer than the rest of the church, even the apostles in regards to the fact that God is no - God has no partiality to any single human being. Every single person, no matter what your race, your ethnicity, your culture - no matter what it is, God sees us all equal, on an equal plane, amen? Amen. And so, Paul and barnabas were one of the first ones to understand this and see it in its clearest light. They also were brought to understand that observing the law of Moses was not part of God's plan for the non-Jewish Christian. And so they continued on baptizing gentile people, but not instructing them to keep the ceremonial feasts and the sacrifices and the different laws that were written up, both in the writing of Moses, as well, again, in that generation, also the writings of The Fathers that was also a very real part of the judaic experience.

Now the problem that the church faced is that not all were on board at the same time. Even some of the apostles were still working through this. And so, it all led to a very heated conversation - a very heated conference that took place in the city of Jerusalem, among the leaders, including Paul, that eventually concluded that gentiles were not required to observe the writings - or not the writings, I should say, but to observe the ceremonial law of Moses, nor the traditions of the Jewish fathers. Now, we can read all that in the book of acts, so if you've never read the book of acts, it's a good book to go to be able to see the background of that, because every detail of that day that took place is written in that important chapter. Now, as a result of that particular conference, the apostles then commissioned - described - to be able to write up a letter that confirmed this conclusion, and then they sent those letters out to the existing churches.

Now this is a good lesson for us in regards to God's plan for an organized church. God has always intended for all of us to work together, not just as a local congregation, but as a world-wide congregation, amen? Amen. And so God has called us into a worldwide family of believers, and so, Jerusalem didn't just kind of decide this and say, 'you know what? You guys in antioch, do whatever you want. We're going to do what we want here.' No, they sent letters to all the existing churches from Jerusalem, which, at that time, was what we would call the gc or general conference of the church, and then the rest of the church would take heed to that a decision that was made at this highest level and conference. Now, as a result of receiving this, different members that were hearing this letter being read in their churches for the first time, spread out through Israel and beyond even Israel at that time, but the jews, in particular, that were of a humble and of a teachable spirit, came to see the light in this and they allowed the holy spirit to lead them to overcome this prejudice that they had been conditioned in, in regard to their view of non-Jewish populations - non-Jewish people - that they weren't superior simply by race, but they were equal with gentiles and also, just as importantly, they allowed the Holy Spirit to help them to understand that, indeed, the sacrificial system had been fulfilled in Christ to allow them to start to see that the old testament temple had fulfilled its purpose and now was a very interesting sacred relic.

But really, now, we have a new testament sanctuary in heaven, in which Christ, himself, is our high priest - he's our priest, he's our sacrifice, and he's in a heavenly temple. And so, all those three elements that are wrapped up, then, at the very center of the ceremonial law, was now fulfilled in Christ. Amen. And we have a new testament system that's in heaven, not on earth. And so, they allowed the Holy Spirit to guide them into understanding and to coming to a full comprehension of this.

Now, unfortunately, both the book of acts, as well as many of the writings in the book and letters of Paul, we find that there were many that were not on board with this - they were not so humble - they were not so teachable - and so, not all were on the same page. And so, when we come to books like Galatians and some of the writings in Ephesians and other places - many places, actually, in the letters of Paul, we - it reveals that there were some within the Christian church, among the original Christians, that accepted Jesus as the Messiah and Savior of the world, but they only did it on an intellectual basis. In other words, they had only allowed it to enter into here, but not down in here. And so there's a whole world of difference, isn't there? And so, perhaps a Christian had faithfully brought him through, like we do in our prophecy seminars - they had brought different individuals - different Jewish counterparts in Israel - and walked them through all those dozens of prophecies in the old testament that shows all these amazing details hundreds of years beforehand, in the birth, the death - the life, the death, and the resurrection of Jesus. And when they saw that, they were intellectually compelled to see that there was no one that could fulfill this except Jesus, the promised Messiah.

And so, they intellectually accepted Jesus as the Messiah, but they didn't open their heart to Jesus. And so there was a world of difference. And that world of difference brought some very serious challenges to the church. And so there were two serious threats that were brought to the church, because there were some that didn't have this heart experience - they weren't really born again, as Jesus had taught, in John chapter 3 - they weren't fully in that conversion experience. What are the two threats that they brought to the churches in the province of galatia that Paul is writing so strongly against? Well, the first challenge is this: that they appointed themselves - they would go into these churches and they would appoint themselves to compel all new believers to observe a ceremonial law of Moses, of course, including that of circumcision.

Number two, they were also convincing the church members that the observance of the law - the works of the law as it sometimes also referred to, was a power in and of itself to save us and to change us. Now Paul was very concerned about both of these challenges, to be sure. In fact, both of these threats he saw as a very serious threat to the church and to his new converts and to his new believers in, not only the province of galatia, but in all areas in which he had been winning different people to Christ and to the Gospel. But I believe that Paul was more concerned about threat #2 than even threat #1 and, thus, we find that he's writing more concerning that than even concerning the first threat. So, again, with today being a natural summary and the study conclusion of this particular book, we can safely say that the book of Galatians was a powerful defense of true internal conversion above all things.

In other words, Paul saw that that second threat was threatening the conversion experience - the born-again experience of these precious believers. Paul knew, by personal experience, that the law was powerless to change the heart. He knew that only Christ, through the Holy Spirit, can do that special work. He knew that we needed Christ. He knew that was essential for us to have the Holy Spirit.

And now, there were judaizers in the camp that were pointing people to the religion of the flesh. And that's why we see two key words that continue to come up all the way through the book of Revelation - Revelation, are we in Revelation? No, we're in the book of Galatians, aren't we? Okay, so all the way through the book of Galatians we find that flesh and spirit are repeated over and over and over again. And so, in summary, we find, here, that there were those who were trying to reconvert those who were in the church back to a religion of the flesh, rather than a religious experience in the Spirit. And this is very critical for us to be able to understand and pull away from the book of Galatians. And I'm just summarizing many of what the other pastors and teachers have taught already, over the last three months.

There's a popular teaching today and we find it in our popular talk shows, we can find all kinds of books that have been making money for different authors over the last few decades. In fact, I can still remember, I was only just a teenager some thirty, forty years ago and already it was a popular movement - it's called the 'new age' movement. Everybody's heard of the new age movement. In fact, it's been around so long it's not really all that new, is it? In fact, even when it came out and called itself the new age movement, the fact of the matter is the devil's been recycling that teaching since the garden of eden. So it's actually an ironic name for it - it's a false name because it's really not all that new.

Finding the God with in you - have you ever heard that term? Okay, I remember watching oprah, or something, one day and, you know, she's got a guest on there trying to convince us all that 'all of us, you know, if we just find the God within us, we're all going to be way better people. We're going to find perfect harmony around the world. You're going to be prosperous. Everything is going to fall into place, and everything's going to be wonderful in your life if you just find the God within you. Tap into your inner power and follow your heart.

' Okay? Now this is all at the heart of this very popular teaching. And, by the way, this is not only found outside of Christian circles, but it's also made its way, sometimes, into Christian circles as well. And so, we're not safe just within the church, we need to be able to understand that some of these things are also challenging us from within, so we need to be able to know what is being talked about here. And the reason I'm bringing it up now is because it really, in principle, is really the same as what the judaic religion had become by the time Paul and his generation were living in Bible times and in new testament times, and so, it's important for us to be able to understand that. Now, I've got a text that, kind of, just says the exact opposite of follow your heart.

Now, I know it sounds romantic, it sounds wonderful. I feel all warm inside when I hear, you know, 'just follow your heart'. You, you know, see it some of our family movies and so on, you know, 'if you just follow your heart everything's going to be okay. Well, this is what the Bible has to say about the human heart: Jeremiah chapter 17 and verse says it the most bluntly and that is, it says, "the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?" Now does that make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside? Not at all. Not at all, does it? Okay, so it's not nearly as popular as the, kind of, disney slogan and lines that we find so often being propagated - 'if you just follow your heart everything's going to be warm and fuzzy and everything's going to be okay.

' But that's not what the Bible says. The Bible says, 'don't follow your heart, follow Jesus.' Amen. Right? Okay, so the devil comes along and says, 'oh, just follow your heart. Let's be all warm and fuzzy together.' God says, 'no, don't follow your hearts - follow Jesus - if you follow Jesus you're in good stead. Then you're safe.

Then things are going to go much better for you and, not only that, then you're going to live forever in perfect harmony and love for all of eternity. And so, don't let the devil deceive you. And so, there's modern versions of that in which Paul, in Galatians, is speaking against for us, even as we look up this important subject. So I think it's helpful for us to understand that Paul was once a very zealous follower of the religion, according to the flesh and not according to the Spirit. Paul was there.

He had already experienced that for the bulk of his life, at least as a growing boy and then, in the early years of his life as a man. He knew all about that experience. In fact, let's just review that. We're in Galatians already. Let's back up to a chapter that we studied just three months ago.

In Galatians chapter 1 and verses 13 through 14 - Galatians chapter 1, verses 13 through 14 and it says this: "for you have heard of my former conduct in judaism, how I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it. And I advanced in judaism beyond many of my contemporaries" - in other words, he's saying, 'listen, I was a star student.' In fact, in other letters he writes that he was at the feet of the most - the most prestigious rabbi and teacher of his generation, gamaliel. And so, his parents must have been very wealthy and had invested or sacrificed a lot to be able to put their boy at the feet of the most expensive, most prestigious judaic teacher there was. And then he says, 'listen, I was at the top of my class when it comes to the judaic religion and experience' - "in my own nation, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers." Okay? So there's the tradition and there's, again, a very important clue that tells us that judaism was more than just what Moses wrote by the time Paul came along. A large part of the judaic experience was a lot of this extracurricular stuff that had been developed for the centuries before Paul, through The Fathers.

And so, there's a lot of traditional junk, if I could put it frankly, that came with what Moses had brought to the people at Mount Sinai. And so, Paul and Jesus, before that, were speaking and preaching and teaching very strongly against that. And so, once upon a time, in fact, no - sorry, I want to go back. Let's go to Philippians before we go ahead. Philippians chapter three - we're going to look at two texts - two different passages that give us some clues on where Paul was at before he - before he found Christ.

And so, Philippians chapter 3 and we're going to start with verse 2. It says, "beware of dogs," - now he's not talking about gentiles in this case - we just talked about gentiles and dogs - it's not - he's referring, now, to dogs as false brethren. He's talking about wolves within the sheep of the church and the churches - "beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation!" - Now he's talking about circumcision. Now, he's not into mutilation, but he's referring to circumcision in a negative way, now, because of the way that it's been abused among the gentiles - "for we are of the circumcision," - now he's Not talking about physical circumcision, now, but he's talking about spiritual circumcision and we're going to look at some texts if we have time before our time is up for study, today, and look at some texts that explain that - "for we are of the circumcision who worship God in the Spirit," - there's that key word again - spirit - remember, flesh and spirit are the key words of Galatians - "rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh," - so there's the other key word, isn't it? - "Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so.

" - He's saying, 'listen, if anyone can brag about having confidence in the flesh, I was a star - I was a champion, okay? I was the' - what do they call it - the mvp - most valuable player - 'I was the mvp of judaism.' - "Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews;" - he was one of the rare remaining purebreds of one tribe - "concerning the law, a pharisee" - the strictest sect of judaism - "concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless." - He said, 'I was a champion of the law' - "but what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excEllence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having my own righteousness," - and Isaiah, of course, calls our righteousness like filthy rags, doesn't he? - "Not having my own righteousness which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith;" - now, I have to confess, when I came to this particular passage, I was tempted to go into the imputed and the imparted righteousness of Christ and the Gospel of Jesus, and so on. And then I remembered that, not only do we not have time for that today, but there's lots of time to study this in the next quarterly, and so I don't want to steal the thunder of the next quarterly as we look in the first chapters of Romans and we look at the ins and outs of the imputed and the imparted righteousness of Christ and how that gives us victory. But today, let's stick with conversion - let's just stick with conversion today. Once upon a time, Paul was without the Holy Spirit and he looked to the law, both the ceremonial law, the moral law - the traditions of The Fathers - and he looked to the works of the law to find fulfillment and salvation.

And, essentially, if we were to boil all of the book of Galatians down into one saying that Paul, perhaps, if he was speaking today in our moderate language, would say, 'been there, done that, never go back again.' And so Paul is taking this very personally, as well as theologically, when he's writing to his galatian churches. I want to have a bit of an exercise with the last few minutes that we have here, together, and the exercise is looking at Paul before and after he finds Christ in the Spirit. And so I could start with the question, 'what kind of person did Paul become in his previous religious experience? What kind of person did Paul become with his previous religious experience - before Christ? M'kay, zealous is what he says, yes. Let's look at some Scriptures on that. Now, there's many Scriptures in the book of acts and the letters of Paul, himself, but I want to invite you to come with me to acts chapter 7 and Luke was inspired to write a very important milestone in the history of church, as well as in prophecy.

In fact, acts chapter 7 is the recording the event that really is the culmination and the last - the end of one of the longest time prophecies in Daniel 9 - we've been studying that on Tuesday nights, for those of you who have been coming - those of you who have been watching on Facebook online - we've been looking at Daniel 9 and discovering that that last seventieth week of the seventy-week prophecy that represents seven literal years, came to its conclusion three and a half years after Christ died and resurrected. And this is the last appeal that God is making to the council and the represesntatives of the nations of Israel. So the context that we come to in acts chapter 7 and the event that's taking place, is that God had instilled on one of the first deacons - his name was stephen - and stephen was called to be a deacon, but God had also worked through him to work miracles, and we find that in the first verses of that chapter. And so, he was doing many signs and wonders - most of those signs, like Jesus, were inevitably healing people supernaturally. Now stephen was just like Jesus and he was like Paul and Peter and the others that were also given this gift and were working miracles.

They weren't doing it for a show - they weren't doing it to entertain the people - it wasn't a las vegas magician show that they were trying to act. No, they were doing that to show, first of all, that there is a living supernatural God that exists and they are the ones that are worshiping the real God. But, just as importantly, it was revealing that that same God loves you and that he cares about you and that he wants you to be whole. And so we find here that Jesus is revealing that God cares and loves the people that stephen was interacting with. And then, after they got their trust and showed that, not only did they care, but stephen cared, then stephen would go and preach the Gospel to those same people.

And so, this was an inroad to be able to be able to bring the Gospel to its listeners and to those who were seeing and receiving the miracles. Well, there was a very prestigious synagogue that was existing in Jerusalem at that time, it was called the synagogue of the freed men, and it was an international synagogue that had different, very prestigious jews and leaders - religious, political probably, I'm sure, in there as well, that came from different nations and cities, even as Paul was likely in that synagogue as well, as he was from tarsus way up north. And so Paul was a star jew - he was a star pharisee - and he was also on the council of the sanhedrin of Jerusalem and of Israel. And they heard about this great preaching and power of stephen and they went to publicly dispute and Paul was kind of like, you know, one of these great debators and he would start to debate. He thought, 'okay, I'm going to clean this guy up and wipe him off the table.

' And he lost. The Bible tells us, in verse 2, that he lost and the others that tried lost as well. And so, their pride was broken and they went back and they did plan b, just like they did with Jesus, they went and got some false rumors going amongst the people and they rounded up some false witnesses and then they called stephen before the council and said, 'hey, listen, you know, we've got witnesses, we've got rumors, you know, this is it. You're charged.' So God inspired stephen to give this last appeal to this counsel that represented Israel and he starts to trace the covenant from Abraham and he's going to move all the way to Jesus as the promised seed of Abraham. But he didn't get past Saul.

He started to trace all the way through this very long chapter - by the time we get to verse 51, we find, here, that the people - the listeners - were becoming so upset - their countenance - their expressions were becoming so mean looking and, likely, even verbally interrupting stephen, that stephen just knew he wasn't going to get to the punch line. And so, he cuts his speech short. In verse 51 he addresses them very frankly. He said, "you stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the holy spirit; as your fathers did, so do you." And so, this is describing Paul - he's part of the group that stephen is addressing. And so, we find that Paul is stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears.

And so, he was a very hard-hearted man. So that's the first thing that we find that Paul was - the kind of person he was. Number two - he resisted the holy spirit, and so, he was in the habit of pushing back the voice of the conscience and of the Holy Spirit in his life. And then we come to verse 53; it says, "who have received the law by the direction of angels and have not kept it." And so, now stephen is, kind of, speaking more frankly than ever and he's, kind of, putting himself on the line now because he's exposing the lives of those and who are listening. Now, you don't expose the most powerful, the most prestigious religious and political leaders and embarrass them in this way.

Your life is on the line if you do it, and the following verses prove that, don't they? They demonstrate that because they went out and they killed stephen that day. What parts of the law did Paul not keep that day? What parts of the law did Paul not keep? Well, in the very heart of the law - Leviticus - the writings of Moses, itself - Leviticus 19, verse 18 says love your neighbor as yourself. Now, was Paul loving his neighbor as himself? No, not that day, anyway. Did he love his neighbor as himself afterwards, when he persecuted and imprisoned Christians simply because they believed in something different, on a religious basis, than he did? No. So he was breaking the second greatest commandment in the law of Moses.

Number three - Jesus put it another way, he said, 'the golden rule is 'do unto others as you would have done unto yourselves.' Now, if we switched the tables that day, and stephen and his deacons and Christians had the upper hand and they were the authorities, and they dragged Paul in front of them and said, 'listen, you either accept Christ as the Messiah, or we kill you.' Okay, do you think he would appreciate that? No, Paul wouldn't appreciate that at all. So, was Paul doing unto others as he would have done unto him? No, no, not at all. Okay? And then, what about do good - love your enemies? Did Paul do good and love his enemies? No, he counted stephen and the Christians as an enemy and he wasn't doing good to them at all. Proverbs 25, verse 21 says this: "if your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink;" - in the heart of the law of Moses, Exodus chapter 23 and verse 4, it says, "if you meet your enemy's ox or his donkey going astray, you shall surely bring it back to him again." And so, these principles that Jesus drew out in the sermon on the mount were not new. They were new to their listeners, but they weren't new to Moses or to the Bible.

Paul should have been acquainted with them as well. And then, of course, the fourth part of the law that Paul was breaking on a serious matter was the sixth commandment. In Exodus 20, verse 13, it says, "you shall not" - "you shall not murder." Was Paul murdering that day? Sure. Okay, according to our justice system, here in America, he would be an accomplice to murder, wouldn't he? Okay? Chapter 8, verse 1, it says, "now Saul was consenting to his death." Paul was the one that was watching the coats of those who were picking up the rocks and throwing the stones at stephen until stephen was killed. And so, Paul was guilty of an accomplice to murder.

After that, he was directly involved in having Christians murdered and imprisoned as well. And so, he was a law breaker, even though he claimed himself to be a champion of the law. And so, the following verses go on and explain how they responded and the group eventually dragged stephen out and had him stoned until he was absolutely, completely gone. And then there was a persecution - verse 3, it says, "as for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison." And so, he was arrogant, he was zealous, he was intolerant to religious disagreement, he was easily angered. And Jesus calls that kind of condition like a white-washed sepulcher, or tomb.

You're all beautiful on the outside, but on the inside you have dead men's bones and all kinds of uncleanness. And Jesus, himself, spoke to the Pauls of his generation while Jesus was on the earth. So what changed Paul so dramatically? The very next chapter - verses and 18 - is what we're going to have to close with here, today. Verses 17 and 18 it says, "and ananias went his way and entered the house; and laying his hands on him he said, 'brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.' Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he arose and was baptized." What's the key ingredient that he received that day? The Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit.

Now he was of the experience of the Spirit. Do you see, the power is not in the law itself to change us, the power is in Christ, the God of the law. And once you have the God of the law in your heart, then God is able to write his law upon your heart. And that's the whole goal, isn't it? For us to be able to keep the law from the inside out. And that's what Paul was concerned of.

That's what God was concerned of, as well. Well, we want to thank you for studying with us here, today. And those of you who are online, or are watching on tv, I just want to remind you one more time that there is a free offer that's available called hidden eyes and closed ears, by joe crews - hidden eyes and closed ears - and that's offer #726 and you can just simply dial -866-788-3966 - 866-788-3966 or -study-more - that's offer #726. Just call in if you're in north America and we'll send that to you. God bless you and we look forward to studying with you next week.

Five hundred years ago, God used martin luther to inspire a great reformation; however, in the centuries that followed, the church has slipped off the bedrock of truth into the valley of Lukewarm worldliness. That's why, this fall, I'll be presenting a brand-new nine-part series called foundations of faith. Please plan, now, to join me in person, online, or on television and be sure to invite others to join you as well. The reformation continues. Let's face it, it's not always easy to understand everything you read in the Bible.

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