Galatians Bible Study, Pt. 12: St. Paul Swears

Class #12: In Gal. 1:20, St. Paul swears for the sake of the Gospel (Heb 6:16).  He transitions from his defense of his immediate divine call to a defense of the content of “the faith” (Gal. 1:23)—“the truth of the gospel” (2:5).  The gospel which St. Paul preached among the Gentiles was presented to the leaders in Jerusalem both privately and publicly when he went to the Apostolic Council recorded in Acts 15.  They were in complete agreement with St. Paul.  Furthermore, regarding the test case of his companion, the gentile Titus, they did not require him to be circumcised.  Faith in Jesus Christ alone saves, apart from any requirements of the law.

Handout: Galatians-study-overhead-nov-27-2016

#1- The Devil is a Master of a Thousand Arts

INRI-Cross reload     “How very true is the proverb that the devil is master of a thousand arts! This he proves beyond question in all the stratagems by which he rules his world, as in outward, palpable deeds of guile, intrigues, wickedness, sins, murder, destruction, etc. But especially and supremely does he demonstrate his craftiness in spiritual, inward matters which concern the glory of God and conscience. How he can slither and squirm, twist and turn in all directions, and hinder and thwart us on all sides, that no one may be saved and persevere in the Christian truth. As an example of the devil’s work let us take the history of Christianity (I shall not mention the ancient fathers and the Jews). In the beginning of the gospel, when God’s Word was preached by the apostles purely and clearly, and no human commandments but simply the holy Scriptures were set forth, it seemed as if there would never be any trouble, since holy Scripture was the empress among the Christians.

But what could the devil not do? He finally permitted the Scriptures to be the sole authority, and allowed no pharisaical, Jewish commandments or laws concerning works to prevail any longer. But he also had some of his followers in the Christians’ schools, and through them he stealthily sneaked and crept into the holy Scriptures. Once he had wormed his way in and had things under control, he burst out on all sides, creating a real brawl over Scripture and producing many sects, heresies, and factions among Christians” (Luther’s Works, vol. 37, p.13).

God Prepares Us to Pray with Faith

cropped-Luther-seal.jpgIn short, the Word and the Holy Spirit, who prepares us for prayer, are in God’s power. It is the Word which we believe—this is what makes our hearts so bold that we dare to call ourselves the children of the Father. Where does this come from? The answer is: From God, who teaches us to pray in the Lord’s Prayer and puts into our hands the book of Psalms. For if we prayed without faith, this would be to curse twice over, as we learned in our nasty papistical holiness. But where there is a believing heart and that heart has before it the promise of God it quite simply and artlessly prays its “Our Father” and is heard. Outside of this church of God you may present your prayers and supplications to great lords and potentates to the best of your ability, but here you have no ability to pray except in Christ Jesus, in order that we may not boast that we are holy as they do in the papacy, who protest, of course, and say: Oh, it would be a presumption for anybody to call himself holy and fit; and yet they teach that man of himself has a “certain preparation” for prayer.

They also teach prayer according to this doctrine in their chants and say: I have prayed in despair as a poor sinner. Oh, stop that kind of praying! It would be better to drop such praying altogether if you despair. For despair ruins everything and if you go to baptism, prayer, and the sacrament without faith and in despair, you are actually mocking God. What you should quickly say, however, is this: I am certain that my dear God has so commanded and that he has assured me of the forgiveness of sins; therefore I will baptize, absolve, and pray. And immediately you will receive this treasure in your heart. It does not depend on our worthiness or unworthiness, for both of these can only make us despair. Therefore do not allow yourself by any means to be driven to despair. For it is a mockery of God when we do not believe the words, “Go and baptize” [Matt. 28:19], that is, baptize those who repent and are sorry for their sins. Here you hear that this is not human work, but the work of God the Father; he is the Householder who wills to dwell here. But if we despair, then we should stay away from the sacrament and from prayer, and first learn to say: All right, it makes no difference that I am unworthy, God is truthful nevertheless, and he has most certainly promised and assured us; I’ll stake my life on this” (Luther’s Works, Volume 51, p.307-308).

Galatians Bible Study, Pt. 11: The Medium and the Message

Class #11:  St. Paul defends both his apostolic office and the gospel message which he had preached to the Galatians.  The message of the gospel is that man is saved by grace through faith alone apart from works.  The ultimate proof that salvation is apart from any merit or worthiness in man is the Scriptural teaching of God’s eternal foreknowledge and election.  (See Handout on Election.)

Similarly, even before his birth, St. Paul was predestined by God to serve as the Apostle to the Gentiles.  God’s eternal foreknowledge and election had determined “to reveal His Son” in St. Paul apart from any merit or worthiness in him.  When Galatians 1:15 says, “it pleased God,” those words show that it is the graciousness of God which is the cause of St. Paul conversion and his appointed mission to preach Jesus among the Gentiles.

God was not pleased with the faithless sacrifices of the Israelites(Ps 40:6-8), nor was He pleased with the unbelieving rabble(1 Cor 10:5).  However, the heavenly Father was well-pleased with the sacrifice of His Son (Mt 3:17, 17:5).  Furthermore, “God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe” (1 Cor 1:21).

Handout: Formula of Concord Ep XI

Whoever Desires Grace and Forgiveness Should Come

cropped-Luther-seal.jpgFor this reason, such persons should learn that the greatest wisdom is to know that the Sacrament does not depend on our worthiness; for we do not permit ourselves to be baptized, as being meritorious and holy; nor do we confess our sins, as being pure and sinless; but on the contrary, we confess as being poor and miserable, and even because we are undeserving; yet, if any one should neither desire grace nor absolution, nor think of amending his ways, he is unworthy to approach the Sacrament. But whoever desires to have grace and consolation, should urge himself, allowing no one to deter him from it; and he should say: “I would truly desire to be worthy, but I approach, not upon the merit of any worthiness, but upon the authority of thy word,—because thou hast commanded it,—as one who desires to be thy disciple, let my worthiness remain where it can.” But this is a difficult and a grave resolution; for the fact that we look more upon ourselves than upon the word and voice of Christ, continually lies in our way, and impedes us. For human nature ardently wishes so to act that it may firmly rely and depend on itself ; if frustrated in this attempt, it will not approach” (LC V, 61-63, Henkel p. 540-541).

Galatians Bible Study, Pt. 10

Class #10:  The false judaizing prophets, who were troubling the Galatians, had denied St. Paul’s apostolic call and perverted the Gospel. St. Paul’s response was to defend his call and to intricately connect it with the true Gospel message. St. Paul was called immediately by Jesus (not by or through men) and the Gospel of salvation by grace through faith apart from works came “through the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

The Galatians are “brothers” in the faith, because they had received the the true Gospel taught by St. Paul.

Handout: Galatians Bible Study Handout-for-11-13-2016

Worthiness Not Determined by Individual Piety or Purity

cropped-Luther-seal.jpg“But if you ask,—What then, if I feel that I am unfit to receive the Sacrament? Answer:—This feeling troubles me too, resulting especially from the old impression made by the teachings of the Pope, under whom we tormented ourselves to a very great degree, in order that we might become entirely pure, and that God might not discover the slightest imperfection in us; in consequence of which we felt so intimidated, that every one immediately became alarmed, and said: “O, alas! I am unworthy.” For human nature and reason begin to estimate our worthiness in comparison with this great and precious blessing: here they find themselves as an obscure lantern compared with the meridian sun, or as dust with precious stone; and because they feel this, they are unwilling to approach the Sacrament, deferring it until they become fit, to such a length of time, that one week brings on another, and one half year another. But if you wish to take into consideration your piety and purity, and to strive after these, so that nothing may disturb you, you can never approach the Sacrament”

“Therefore we should make a distinction here between persons. For those who are intractable and obstinate, we should advise to abstain from the Sacrament; for they are not prepared to receive the remission of sins, having no desire for it, and not wishing to be pious. But others who are not so rude and dissolute and who earnestly desire that they might be pious, should not be absent from the Lord’s Supper, even if they are otherwise weak and defective, even as St. Hilary has said: “If a sin is not committed in such a way that the perpetrator can be justly excluded from the congregation, and regarded as a heathen, he should not stay away from the Sacrament, so that he may not deprive himself of life.” For no one will arrive at such a degree of perfection, as not to have daily defects in his flesh and blood”   (LC V, 55-60, Henkel p. 540).

Galatians Bible Study, Pt. 9

Class #9:  The work of a faithful pastor over many years can be ruined by a heretic so quickly.  Though we should rightly be concerned about falling into the gross outward sins(Jude 4) of immorality, there is a sneakier way in which we can fall away from the true Gospel.  In Galatians, the Judaizers are wanting the people to trust in Jesus AND the morality of their works righteousness(Acts 15:1ff).  When even one law requirement is added to the free gift of salvation through faith in Jesus, the Gospel is perverted and ceases to be the true Gospel.

The Holy Scriptures, which teach salvation by the Gospel apart from Law, are the norm by which the church and her teachers are judged.  St. Paul’s varying approach with regard to Timothy (Acts 16:1-3) and Titus (Galatians 2:3), makes it clear that circumcision is not necessary for salvation.  If St. Paul would give in to the Judaizer’s legalistic demands, he would be guilty of removing the offense of the cross (Galatians 5:1).

Handout: Galatians Bible Study Handout-for-11-6-2016