“Son Of A..!”: Thoughts on Softening the Bible

Earlier this morn, in 1 Samuel 20:30, I came across King Saul calling his son, Jonathan, a “stupid, son of a bitch!” Not your average morning devotional reading, eh?

This got me thinking: How can this kind of language be in the Bible?

The Bible is full of tenderness and toughness and translators have been known to take the tough edges off a bit.

Well, actually it is not. I found it in the notes in my Bible. The translation I have been reading from lately is the NET Bible which has over 60,000 translation notes within it, and they translated Saul’s angry outburst toward his son: “You stupid traitor!” Yet in the notes they make the following admission:

A better English approximation of the sentiments expressed here by the Hebrew phrase would be “You stupid son of a bitch!” However, sensitivity to the various public formats in which the Bible is read aloud has led to a less startling English rendering which focuses on the semantic value of Saul’s utterance (i.e, the behavior of his own son Jonathan, which he viewed as both a personal and a political behavior [= “traitor”]). But this concession should not obscure the fact that Saul is full of bitterness and frustration. That he would address his son Jonathan with such language, not to mention his apparent readiness even to kill his own son over this friendship with David (v. 33), indicates something of the extreme depth of Saul’s jealousy and hatred of David.

So, the translators, of the NET Bible and many others, decided to soften the blow of the Hebrew to make it more sensitive to various listeners even though the Hebrew itself wasn’t nearly as sensitive. Now, I am sure they had good reasons for doing so, but I think it brings up an important point. We love to soften the hard edges of the Bible.

Now in no way am I trying to give everyone who wanted to have an excuse to cuss a biblical reason for doing so. Clearly Saul’s statement was the result of sinful anger. Nevertheless, the Bible is full of tenderness and toughness and translators have been known to take the tough edges off a bit.

Holiness is humble but it is not always nice.

For instance, in Philippians, Paul compares all of his religious accolades to “rubbish” or “dung” in comparison to knowing Christ. Yet in all probability he wasn’t just saying “rubbish” with a British accent over tea; instead, as the NET Bible puts it,

The word here translated “dung” was often used in Greek as a vulgar term for fecal matter. As such it would most likely have had a certain shock value for the readers.

Obviously, “dung” isn’t very shocking or vulgar. I could say that to my (almost) three-year-old and not blush. However, I can think of other words I could say that would be more alarming about fecal matter that I would not say in front of my three-year-old. That is what the Holy Spirit inspired apostle is after here.

I am not pretending to be a Bible translator. I am nothing of the sort and don’t even know the Greek or Hebrew alphabet. But I think there is a desire here by translators to temper the Bible a bit that carries over to the pulpit and to the daily lives of Christians.

We want to be able to read our Bible’s without being provoked with foul language. We want to hear sermons with the offensiveness drained out. We want to be good, nice Christian people that say nice Christian things. The problem is the original languages of our God-breathed book sometimes says “son of a bitch” and calls idolaters whores and even our Savior, Jesus, calls the Pharisees names.

Bible-reading, you can call it devotions, is meant to kick us in the gut sometimes and not just massage our nice-and-neat hyper-spiritual sensibilities. It is meant to awaken us to the reality of sin and the beauty of scandalous grace in Jesus.

This isn’t about cussing. This is about our sinful tendency to soften God’s word to us and his call to us.

I think there are a few things to take away from this:

1) The Bible isn’t a cutesy story full of butterflies and rainbows. It is the story of men and women who were created in God’s image being broken by sin and redeemed by the gracious plan of the Triune God. We should expect scandal and uncouthness in the Bible.

2) Preachers aren’t supposed to preach sermons to make you feel good and Christian books aren’t supposed to be written to entertain you or improve you. They should awaken you.

3) Godly communication is tough and tender. The way you communicate differs depending on who you are talking to, what the circumstances are, and what you are talking to them about. For instance, sarcasm can be a biblical means of communication when used in rebuke.

4) We, like translators, have a propensity to soften God’s word to us in the Bible. We naturally want to weaken the offensiveness of the cross, tone down the exclusivity and sufficiency of the work of Jesus, soften our Bible-translations, only experience encouraging encouragement and avoid encouraging rebuke, have devotions and listen to preaching that massages what we already know and doesn’t call us higher, etc.

This isn’t about cussing. This is about our sinful tendency to soften God’s word to us and his call to us. Jesus laughed and played with little children, wept with Lazarus’ family, and he also made a whip to drive out salesman in his house.

Let’s not soften the Bible and lets not repackage holiness into niceness. Holiness is humble but it is not always nice.

Preaching the Book of Galatians to Yourself – Chapter Six

This post concludes my series on “Preaching the Book of Galatians to Yourself”, and is derived from chapter six of Galatians.

  • When one of my brothers and sisters is caught in sin I will restore them with gentleness.  I will not rejoice in the sins of others or lift my nose at them, but will seek their restoration.  Correction is always to be for the purpose of restoration.   (6:1)
  • I recognize that sometimes I take pride in not committing the sins that other Christians have committed.  I will resist that form of pride, and I will be watchful and stay vigilant in my fight against sin recognizing that I could sin in the same ways.  I know that present victory over a particular sin does not guarantee future victory over a particular sin.  (6:1)
  • I will not only gently correct those who are caught in sin, but I will carry other people’s heavy burdens.  These burdens may not always be sinful but circumstantial or pertaining to personal weakness whether in their body or in their faith.  I resolve to be a self-giving and gracious person.  When I live like this I fulfill the law of Christ and walk like Jesus walked.  (6:2)
  • I declare war on self-righteous tendencies in my life, and will regularly remind myself that I am not “something”.  Thinking that I am something special is self-deception. (6:3)
  • I will not compare myself to other people to gauge my spirituality, but I will compare myself to Jesus who always has a higher standard of godliness and will rest in his grace and empowerment. (6:2-4)
  • I will examine myself not in order to compare myself to other people, but to seek the approval of God in my life.  I will pursue the godliness modeled in the person of Christ above the godliness modeled by my peers or heroes. (6:2-4)
  • I will not live in weakness but will accept responsibility for my own load.  I will not live in constant need of assistance from someone else but will take responsibility for my own life.  However, I will not walk in the pride of never admitting that I need help, nor will I live in the false humility of always being needy—whether physically, emotionally, spiritually or financially—and mooch off of other people thereby unnecessarily burdening them.  (6:5)
  • I will bless those who have taught me.  I will find tangible ways to bless my pastor(s) and other men and women of God who have had an influence in my life. (6:6)
  • I will not be deceived and mock God by believing that I will not reap what I sow.  When I sow to the flesh I will reap corruption and when I sow to the Spirit I will reap eternal life.  Therefore today I resolve to sow to the Spirit. (6:7-8)
  • I know that it easy to grow weary and lose heart when doing good and when sowing to the Spirit, and I will guard my heart against becoming passive.  The Gospel of grace enables me to walk actively after the Spirit and is not an excuse for spiritual passivity.  I will keep my eye on the prize of eternal life that is reaped by those who sow to the spirit. (6:9)
  • I will live a life that blesses unbelievers—the poor and rich, black and white, people of differing political affiliations, people of other religions or no religion at all, and even my enemies.  Most of all though I will concentrate my efforts upon blessing fellow Christians in my local setting and around the world.  (6:10)
  • I know that there are those who would seek to bind my conscience into legalistic thinking and subjection to the Law because they do not want to deal with persecution that comes from embracing the scandal of God’s grace in the cross of Christ.  I will not submit to them. (6:12)
  • I know that the Gospel of grace is consistently attacked by religious people within church, and that I will suffer persecution for believing in radical grace.  When that sort of persecution comes, in whatever form, I will not devalue the glorious Gospel by being compelled to trade the substance of the true Gospel for their form of the false gospel. (6:12)
  • I will resist hypocritical teachers that place upon me external religious principles or traditions because of their desire to boast in their influence over what I have done, and I will be a teacher that teaches and highlights the grace of God in the work of Jesus more than any other thing. (6:13)
  • I will only boast in the cross of Christ.  The cross is the most significant event in human history, and I will live like that is so.  I desire that my thoughts, my affections/emotions, and my actions all come under the influence of the centrality of the cross.  The cross is the pinnacle of my doctrine and the pattern by which I am to live life.  I will live defined by the cross because in Christ I am defined by the cross.  (6:14)
  • At the cross I died with Jesus and the world has been crucified to me and I to the world.  Therefore I will not follow the lusts and mindset of the world, but walk according to my identity in Christ desiring Jesus and resting in his work not my works.  I know that the boasts and pleasures of this world are empty, and that in Christ true pleasure is found.  I ask the Holy Spirit to eliminate areas where I am engaging in self-boasting and cause me to live a life of one boast in Jesus. (6:14)
  • I cannot boast in the fact that I am new creation anymore than I can boast in the fact that I was created—that is something God did not something I did.   Therefore my boast is in God who launched new creation in the person and work of Jesus.  (6:14-15)
  • I am a new creation in Christ and realize that circumcision and uncircumcision isn’t anything.  I refuse to fall into the trap of believing that external religious traditions matter.  (6:15)
  • Because in Christ I am a new creation and I am a part of the Israel of God and one of God’s people.  Therefore I receive the mercy and peace of God that comes from being his possession and covenant bride.  (6:16)
  • I receive the grace of Jesus extended through this letter and through the person and work of Christ.  I ask that my Lord Jesus will grace my spirit right now. (6:18)

Preaching the Book of Galatians to Yourself – Chapter Five

My series on “Preaching the Book of Galatians to Yourself” continues with chapter five:

Chapter Five

  • Jesus set me free.  Therefore I will not submit to any “yokes” of slavery that are add-on’s to the Gospel no matter how spiritual they may seem.  My freedom hinges on Jesus’ work—nothing else.  (5:1)
  • I will stand firm in the Gospel.  My right-standing before God is due to Jesus not something that I do or don’t do.  I stand firm in Christ not self.  I know that love for the Gospel will breed humble Christ-confidence not prideful self-confidence in my life.  (5:1)
  • I recognize that if I receive something else besides Jesus, like circumcision, to increase my spiritual standing before God Jesus is no benefit to me.  The benefits of the Gospel come from Jesus alone. (5:2)
  • When I receive religious traditions and law as well as the person of Jesus, I place myself under obligation to keep the whole law.  In light of this, I trust Jesus and thus reject everything else as a means to finding favor with God. (5:3)
  • I know that seeking justification from law is falling from grace.  Falling from grace isn’t so much a direct rejection of Jesus, but an indirect acceptance of anything else besides Jesus to make me right with God.  If I treat Jesus as only a piece of God’s saving work, I sever myself from Jesus.   Therefore I will seek to sever all those things from my life which disconnect me from Jesus even if others think those same things connect me to Jesus. (5:4)
  • I wait for the hope of righteousness through the Holy Spirit and by faith.  Righteousness comes from the work of the Spirit not through my works. (5:5)
  • I believe that faith works through love.  Faith is not empty.  Faith is filled with love.  Therefore by faith I believe that Jesus alone means everything, and that religious traditions like uncircumcision or circumcision mean nothing. (5:6)
  • I desire to run my race well, and I believe that I run best not by adding things to the truth of the Gospel, but by trusting the truth of the Gospel.  I will train myself daily with the Gospel believing Jesus’ work on my behalf.  I will begin my days not doing work for Jesus but trusting Jesus’ work for me. (5:7)
  • God calls me to Jesus—not Jesus plus something or someone else.  God loves persuading people to the sufficiency of his Son not to self-sufficiency.  (5:8)
  • I know that my life and the church as a whole can become filled with leaven—filled with things other than Jesus.  Since leaven spreads quickly I will seek to be on guard against any particles of the leaven of legalism and law-living in my life and the community of faith that I am a part of.  (5:9)
  • I recognize that false teachers who sneak into the community of faith and preach another Jesus or in addition to Jesus will come under judgment.  (5:10)
  • I believe that the cross is a stumbling block.  It is offensive.  I will not be surprised then when moralists are offended by the radical grace of Jesus, nor will I be surprised when false teachers attempt to undermine the centrality of the cross of Jesus in the church.  (5:11)
  • Paul uses harsh language when speaking of false teachers.  He wishes that those who advocate circumcision along with Jesus as a means to salvation would go all the way and castrate themselves.  Therefore I will not be soft on false teachers who know better.  (5:12)
  • I will use sarcasm for the sake of the Gospel to reveal the foolishness of false teaching.  Sarcasm is not to reveal my cleverness but to point people to Jesus.  (5:12)
  • My freedom in Christ is not a freedom to sin.  Therefore I resist tendencies to turn the radical grace of God into license.  Instead Gospel-freedom moves me to serve and love others, not serve and indulge myself.  (5:13)
  • Since the Law is fulfilled in loving my neighbor as myself—I will love Jesus and love other people.  Radical grace emboldens me to love radically not sin radically.  (5:14)
  • I will not engage in biting and devouring other people through my self-centered words and actions, but will seek to build up the church.  (5:15)
  • By faith I will walk by the Spirit so that I do not carry out the desires of the flesh.  I will not fight flesh with flesh, but flesh with Spirit.   (5:16)
  • I know life is war and that an inner conflict of flesh versus Spirit wages within me, and within those in the church.  Therefore I will seek to live by the Spirit, and will strive to be patient with others and forgiving toward others knowing that perfection will not be achieved till Jesus returns.  (5:17)
  • Because of Jesus I am not under the law, but led by the Spirit.  I will avoid living a life led by law, and pursue the Holy Spirit’s work in my life.  (5:18)
  • I will seek to kill the following sins in my life: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and other things similar to these.  I take the warning of Paul against these things seriously, and will not play with sin.  I know that playing around with particular sins end in practicing and being addicted to the same sins.  At times I will examine myself and ask the opinion of others to see that I am not engaging in these sinful deeds.  (5:19-21)
  • I know that those who practice and live consistently in these sinful lifestyles will not inherit the kingdom of God.   I will not lift my noses at others who engage in these things, but will live soberly knowing that I too could become entangled in them.   Also, I will not be controlled by my past when I have engaged in these things (even if the past means yesterday), but I now ask Jesus to forgive me and ask for the Holy Spirit to enable me to kill my sin and bear the fruit of the Spirit. (5:19-23)
  • I desire and ask the Holy Spirit to produce the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control in my life.  I know that these aren’t fruits plural but fruit singular, and that I am called to walk in all of them not just some of them.  I will not settle with my current level of maturity, but desire growth in the Spirit. (5:22-23)
  • Because I have died with Jesus, I have died to the flesh and these sinful passions and desires.  Therefore I will live and act like I am dead to them, because I really have died to them.  I don’t kill sin in order to die to sin and in order to be alive to Jesus.  I kill sin because I’m dead to sin and alive to Jesus.  (5:24)
  • Because I live by the Spirit due to the person and work of Jesus I will walk by the Spirit.  I know that this is not passive, but an active pursuit.  Therefore I ask God for help and for more of the Spirit’s work in my life.  I desire continual fillings of the Spirit so that I am empowered to walk filled with the Spirit.  (5:25)
  • I know the Spirit hates boasting, and challenging, and envying my brothers and sisters in Christ.  Therefore I will strive to boast in others successes, encourage others in their faith, and rejoice when others are blessed.  I believe that the Holy Spirit works supernaturally, but sometimes the great work of the Spirit is found in the “simple” things like an encouraging word or holding one’s tongue.  (5:26)

Preaching the Book of Galatians to Yourself – Chapter Four

This post continues my series on “Preaching the Book of Galatians to Yourself.”  What follows is chapter four:

Chapter Four

  • As a son of God, I am no longer a slave to the elemental spirits of the world.  Satan and demons do not have authority over me because I am God’s son.  (4:1-3)
  • I have been redeemed because God sent Jesus who is a man like me, yet who fulfilled the law of God on my behalf.  Jesus has redeemed me from living under the curse of the law because he bore the curse and fulfilled the requirements of the law for me. (4:4-5)
  • I am God’s adopted son.  He did not have to love me, but he chose to love me.  (4:5)
  • God has sent the Spirit of Jesus within me so that I have an intimate relationship with the Father like a child has with his/her Daddy.  (4:6)
  • I am no longer a slave to anything, but Christ, and Christ is my brother and God is my Father. (4:7)
  • As God’s son, I am an heir of a great inheritance beyond any wealth that can be achieved in this world or bigger than any estate in this world.  I am an heir through the means of God’s grace, and am an heir of God Himself and all that Jesus owns, which is everything.  (4:7)
  • Because God has known me and chosen me, and I have known and chosen Him, I will not turn back to slavery to demons or anything else, but will live as a son in the freedom Jesus has purchased for me and in the victory Jesus has won for me. (4:8-9)
  • I will not be held captive to observing special days and religious traditions, but I will be captivated by Christ and not the shadows that pointed to him.  (4:10)
  • I recognize that sometimes God uses physical infirmities, whether sickness or pain, in believers to further the spread of the Gospel.  More than physical prosperity I desire that the Gospel prosper throughout the world.  I will value the Gospel as the greatest good and not my own health as the greatest good.  (4:13)
  • I will welcome those who have physical infirmities, and not despise them.  I will seek to do all I can to help alleviate the physical infirmities of others. (4:14-15)
  • I desire Paul’s passion that Jesus be formed in those around me.  Similar to a mother enduring the pain of childbirth to enjoy a baby, I will endure all things to see that Jesus is formed within my friends and family.  When life is difficult, trials come, and those around me disappoint and begin to drift away from the Gospel.  I will not lose hope, but I will strive even more, even when it causes me emotional pain, to see that they love and trust Jesus. (4:19)
  • I will listen to the true meaning of the law, as it always points to the freedom that Christ brings. (4:21, 31)
  • I recognize that Abraham had a child of promise from Sara who is free and a child of flesh from Hagar who is enslaved, and that I am a child of promise who should live in freedom.  (4:22-28)
  • I will not trust in a life of law-centered living, which is the false gospel of Ishmael and Hagar and Mt. Sinai, but will entrust my whole being to Jesus, which is the Gospel of Isaac and Sara and the Jerusalem above.  Therefore I do not need to follow the Jewish law to be a true son of God or to reach a higher level of Christian spirituality; I just need to trust the person and work of Jesus alone, which is the only pathway to Christian maturity.  (4:22-28)
  • I will not take things into my own hands like Abraham did with Hagar to achieve the blessing of God, but I will trust God’s promises that he will accomplish what He promised in due time.  (4:23)
  • I will live a life of joy because I am a child of the free woman. (4:27)
  • I believe that God does supernatural miracles and brings supernatural blessing to desolate people. (4:27)
  • I know that there are those, children of the flesh, who would seek to bring me back into enslavement according to law and legalism, and persecute me because of my freedom, doing it in the name of God and covenant.  I will not  submit to them and act contrary to who I am in Christ, as if I am a son of bondage to law, but will live as a son of God in freedom. (4:29)
  • I believe that those who distort the truth of the Gospel of Christ and turn it into slavery to law, like Hagar’s children, are to be driven out of the church.  (4:30)

Preaching the Book of Galatians to Yourself – Chapter Three

What follows is my third entry in my series of continued posts on “Preaching the Book of Galatians to Yourself”.  Here is my first and second post.  This post covers chapter three of Galatians.

Chapter Three

  • I will not be foolish and be cast under the spell of trading the true Gospel of grace for a different one.  My greatest remedy against false gospels is to be infatuated and continually familiar with the true Gospel.  (3:1)
  • I will not be impressed with preachers that do not focus my eyes on Jesus Christ and whom do not consistently paint the picture of the crucified Jesus before me no matter how clever and inspiring and motivating they are in their preaching. (3:1)
  • I receive the Holy Spirit by faith, not by works.  I desire more of the Holy Spirit’s work in my life, and I receive the Spirit by faith in the finished work of Christ not by doing works. (3:2)
  • I will not pursue sanctification by works, but by faith.  I recognize that justification and sanctification are both by faith.  (3:3)
  • When suffering comes I know that it is not in vain, but that the Holy Spirit is still working.  Therefore I trust Jesus for endurance through suffering. (3:4)
  • God generously provides me with the Holy Spirit and works miracles through faith, not works.  I desire God’s gifts of a greater filling of the Holy Spirit and miracles, and I trust Him to provide them. (3:5)
  • I will not despise the preached word, but will believe the preached word that glorifies Jesus and emphasizes the work of the Holy Spirit.  I recognize that hearing the word is critical in building my faith. (3:1-2, 5)
  • I know that God counted Abraham righteous because he believed God.  (3:6)
  • I am a son of Abraham because I believe the Gospel.  My brothers and sisters who believe the Gospel are sons of Abraham as well. (3:7)
  • The Old Testament Scriptures foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith.  Abraham had the gospel preached to him, as all nations are blessed in Abraham.  Therefore I will not ignore the Old Testament, but trust God’s word and God’s gospel in all the Scriptures. (3:8)
  • The blessing of Abraham is upon me because I am a believer like Abraham. (3:9)
  • When I work from law I am returning to the curse because I do not do all that is written in the law.  I refuse to live under the curse that the law brings, because I am now in Christ. (3:10)
  • It is evident that no one is justified by law-keeping, because in the Old Testament God has made clear that the righteous live by faith.  God’s righteousness is imputed to me by faith in Jesus not by law-keeping, and I am justified before God by faith not by law-keeping.  (3:11)
  • I will not live with the idea that the Old Testament was about law, while the New Testament is about faith.  God has always, in the Old and New Testament, said that the righteous live by faith not law. (3:10-12)
  • Jesus, the Messiah and promised one of the Old Testament, has redeemed me from the curse of the Law by becoming a curse in my place.  Jesus has taken the curse that I deserve, and has blessed me with the gift of grace that I do not deserve. (3:13-14)
  • Jesus has suffered public humiliation and shame by becoming a curse for me so that I will not face the shame my sins deserved.  Jesus has removed the shame of my sinfulness at the cross, and he has completely absorbed God’s wrath that my sins deserved by taking my place and the place of all who believe. (3:13-14)
  • Jesus became a curse for the purpose of giving me and the rest of the Gentiles the blessing of Abraham. (3:14)
  • By faith in the finished work of Jesus I have received the Holy Spirit.  Jesus death on my behalf not only removes the curse it grants me the gift of the Holy Spirit. (3:14)
  • Human covenants are not set-aside and neither are God’s covenants.  Since the law came after the covenant with Abraham, the covenant with Abraham is not annulled.  God’s law does not annul God’s covenant. (3:15, 17)
  • I recognize that God’s promise is to Abraham and to Abraham’s Seed not seeds.  The Seed of Abraham is Jesus Himself, and therefore every nation is blessed in Jesus.  Since I am in Jesus by faith I am a son of Abraham and a part of a multi-national community of faith.  I will seek to have a global-perspective and not just a local-perspective.  (3:16)
  • The inheritance given to Abraham came from a promise not from a law.  Therefore my inheritance is based on God’s promise not on God’s law. (3:18)
  • I recognize that the law was added because of sin, until Jesus, the seed of Abraham, came.  (3:19)
  • Faith in Jesus is superior to law-keeping, because the law was given by mediators, and in Christ God has dealt directly with His people.  Therefore I will spend my day running to Jesus not to the law. (3:19-20)
  • The law does not impute life or righteousness.  In the person and work of Jesus is where life and righteousness are found.  God’s work in Jesus has imputed life and righteousness to me (3:21)
  • I understand that the law is not contrary to the promises of God, but that the Scriptures shut up everyone under sin so that the promises of God in the person of Jesus would be received by faith.  The law and the Scriptures show me my sinfulness and my need for Jesus. (3:21-22)
  • I, like King David, love the law, because I recognize that the purpose of the law is to bring me to faith in Jesus.  Through the law I see my sinfulness and I turn to Jesus by faith.  (3:23-24)
  • The law is my tutor teaching me to go to Jesus, and now I live Christ-centered not law-centered. (3:25)
  • I am a son of God because I believe in God’s Son, Jesus. (3:26)
  • As my baptism has publicly declared, I am clothed with Jesus Christ. (3:27)
  • I repent of my racism, and I recognize that in Christ God is making a diverse people one. (3:28)
  • I repent of my feelings of superiority over people because of their class or social status, and I recognize that Jesus makes slave and free, rich and poor, employee and employer one. (3:28)
  • I repent of my sexism and I recognize that men and women have equality in Jesus. (3:28)
  • I am a part of God’s covenant people because I belong to Jesus not because I keep the law. (3:29)
  • I am an heir according to God’s promise because I belong to Jesus not because I keep the law. (3:29)

Preaching the Book of Galatians to Yourself – Chapter Two

This post is my second entry in a forthcoming series of posts on “Preaching the Book of Galatians to Yourself”.  This post covers chapter two of Galatians, while my initial post covered chapter one.

Chapter Two

  • I will entrust myself to others and seek the encouragement and correction of other Christians.  I will seek godly counsel and community, so that I do not live in self-deception and the error of hyper-individualism.  (2:1-2)
  • I recognize that there will be some in the church who will seek to bring me back into bondage to man-made tradition and legalisms, and I will not submit to them even for a moment.  My aim is not primarily to preserve my own personal freedom and liberty, but so that the Gospel will remain with those around me and not be compromised by man-made religious traditions. (2:3-5)
  • I will not be awed by the reputation of ministers of the gospel.  I will strive to honor them, but since God has no partiality, I will not give an improper amount of affection to them or treat them like a celebrity. (2:6)
  • I will not have a narrow view of God’s work in the world thinking that his Gospel must work in the same way it does in my context.  God works through Peter’s and Paul’s alike, and within the circumcised and uncircumcised alike.  I recognize that the Gospel will effectually work through different kinds of men and women in different kinds of contexts.  I will seek to have Gospel-shaped humility in contextualizing the Gospel and Gospel-shaped integrity in the content of the Gospel.  (2:7-9)
  • I will strive to remember the poor in everything that I do.  The grace and freedom of the Gospel launches me into compassion for the poor it does not exempt me from it.  (2:10)
  • I am not surprised that Paul opposed Peter publicly to his face or that Peter stood condemned because he compromised the Gospel—the core of our faith.  I will not be a person saturated with negativity nor be on a crusade of doctrinal head-hunting, but I will be a person who recognizes that when church leaders compromise the Gospel they deserve rebuke. (2:11)
  • I recognize that if men of God like Peter fear men, I will be prone to fear men too.  I repent of the fear of man in my life and desire the Spirit to work in my heart the joy of fearing of God.  (2:12)
  • Gospel denial is not merely doctrinal, but practical.  I will strive to live out the practical implications of the Gospel in community, and not just understand the doctrinal principles in my head. (2:12-13)
  • I recognize that even if my sphere of influence is small my actions influence other people in either adorning the Gospel or in bringing shame to the Gospel. (2:13)
  • I will be straightforward about the truth of the Gospel.  I will live a life that not only assumes the Gospel but makes much of it.  (2:14)
  • In Paul’s rebuke of Peter I see that justification by faith alone in Christ alone is critical to the content of the Gospel, because Paul essentially says the same thing three times:
    • I am not justified by works of the law, but through faith in Jesus.
    • I have believed in Jesus, the Messiah, and therefore I am justified by faith not by the works of the law.
    • No human being can be justified before God by doing the works of the Law. (2:16-17)
  • I understand that Gospel-repetition is central to Gospel-fidelity.  Therefore I will review the Gospel consistently in my life, and strive to preach the Gospel to myself everyday. (2:16-17)
  • I believe that justification is God’s objective legal pronouncement over my life where he declares me righteous in Christ Jesus.  My standing before God is not determined by my life and actions, but my standing before God is determined by Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.  The future verdict at the final judgment when I meet God face to face has already been pronounced over my life in the present because of the person and work of Jesus on my behalf.  I have been justified by faith in Jesus’ work not my own works.  (2:16-17)
  • I am saved by faith alone in Jesus Christ alone.  His work on my behalf saves me.  My religious strivings and religious associations do not save me.  I recognize that law is not the way to a mature Christian life, but that Jesus is the way to a mature Christian life. (2:16-17)
  • Though I am justified apart from works of the law Jesus is not a minister of sin.  Therefore I will not sin so that grace may abound. (2:17)
  • I have died to the law for the purpose of living to Christ.  Therefore I live for Jesus not for law.  I will live by faith not by works. (2:18-19)
  • I died with Christ at His crucifixion, and was raised with Him in His resurrection.  Therefore I am dead to law and Jesus is alive in me.  I will live life, all of life, by faith in Jesus who loves me and gave Himself for me. My Christian life is built on an internal relationship with the resurrected Jesus not on service to a written code of external law. (2:20).
  • I refuse to nullify the grace of God by attempting to earn righteousness by law-keeping.  I recognize that when I attempt to be righteous by my own efforts I am saying that Jesus died for no purpose.  My righteousness is in Jesus alone.  By faith I receive the righteousness that God has freely given me in the work of Jesus. (2:21)

Preaching the Book of Galatians to Yourself – Chapter One

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones asks a provoking question, “Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself?”  (Spiritual Depression, p. 20)

He then offers an equally provoking remedy to this condition: “The main art in the matter of spiritual living is to know how to handle yourself.  You have to take yourself in hand, you have to address yourself, preach to yourself, question yourself.” (Ibid., p. 20, emphasis mine)

I too am convinced that preaching the Gospel to yourself is a wonderful “art” to develop as a Christian.

I need the Gospel every day, and because I need the Gospel every day I need ways in which to remind myself of what God has done in Christ.  Since Paul’s book of Galatians is a kind of Gospel punch-in-the-gut, I figured that’d be a good book to start preaching to myself.  Therefore I will be doing a series of blog posts on “Preaching the Book of Galatians to Yourself”.  I will be taking, for the most part, every verse in Galatians and turn it into self-sermons.

There are two main caveats to what follows.

First, it could be argued that some of these are more like resolutions from the book of Galatians, and that if a person took only one particular bullet point it could turn into moralism.  That is true. These bullet points are meant to be taken more in chunks rather than just one at a time. They are not meant to be some sort of positive-thinking or self-actualizing  mantra.  My hope is that they are Gospel laden.  However, if you want to call ’em resolutions from Galatians go for it.

Second, some may think this is a bit individualistic and introspective.  I do not mean it to be so. Preaching the Gospel to yourself should lift you out of preoccupation with yourself and move you into preoccupation with God and what he has done in the person and work of Jesus Christ.  A preoccupation with what Jesus has done will overflow with greater love for God and greater love for your neighbor.

With that in mind, here goes…

Chapter One

  • Paul is a man on a mission sent from God not from other men, and thus I believe that his message to the Galatians is a message sent from God not from man. (1:1)
  • I too am on mission sent from God.  God is a sending God doing mission on the earth and I am a Gospel-missionary to my surrounding context no matter what my social or “ministry” status.  (1:1)
  • Paul’s message to the Galatians is sent to churches not to an individual.  Therefore I recognize that God’s Gospel is not just for me, but to a wider community of brothers and sisters in Christ.  I will not live a life centered upon “I” but upon “us.” (1:2)
  • I receive the grace and peace that God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ has given me through the Gospel and within Paul’s letter to the Galatians. (1:3)
  • Jesus gave Himself for my sins in order to rescue me from this present evil age.   Therefore one of the reasons my sins are forgiven is to rescue me from living a life committed to the values of the world. (1:4)
  • God’s rescue and Gods’ gift of salvation in Christ are the plan of God.  It was God’s will to save me.  My salvation is a result of God’s initiative not my own initiative. (1:4)
  • My salvation is more about God’s glory than it is about me. (1:5)
  • I, like the Galatians, am prone to desert the true Gospel of the grace of Jesus for something different. Therefore I repent of my Gospel-forgetfulness and will seek daily Gospel-wakefulness (1:6)
  • I recognize that there are those in the church who want to disturb God’s people and distort the gospel of Christ. Therefore I will not live gullibly, but circumspectly in life and doctrine (1:7)
  • Any “gospel” message that de-emphasizes and de-centralizes the grace of God is a distortion of God’s Gospel.  Therefore I will reject any message that seeks to combine the work of man with the work of God in salvation.  (1:6-7)
  • If any man or woman preaches a message contrary to the grace of Christ: let them be accursed. (1:8)
  • Even if angels were to show up and give me a message different from Paul’s message to the Galatians: let them be anathema. (1:8)
  • Since Paul repeats this I recognize that Gospel repetition is important, and I believe that any human being or any angel who preaches something contrary to God’s grace in Christ and that which is different than Paul’s message to the Galatians is to be damned to hell. Therefore I will not trifle and tinker with the Gospel, because it is a matter of an eternal blessing or an eternal curse. (1:9)
  • I will not seek the favor of men, but the favor of God.  (1:10)
  • The Gospel of Jesus Christ was not made up by men, but originates in God.  Since Paul was taught the message of the Gospel through a revelation of Jesus Christ I will reject any supposed revelation that subverts or minimizes his message. (1:11-12)
  • In the Gospel I am a recipient of divine revelation not man-made tradition. (1:11-12)
  • Before Paul became a Christian he was zealous for man-made traditions and was one of the best students of Judaism, and even persecuted the church of God because he thought he was defending the truth and doing righteousness.  In light of this, I will seek to be zealous not for man-made traditions and religion, but for God’s Gospel. (1:13-14)
  • I, like Paul, have been set apart by God from my mother’s womb and have been called by the grace of Christ.  I am encouraged that God’s loving pleasure in me precedes my birth and precedes my faith in His Gospel. I am also encouraged that God’s call does not rest on my faith, but that my faith was born out of God’s call.  (1:15)
  • I will seek to preach Jesus and not myself to those around me. (1:16)
  • I do not need validation from the culture or men and women that surround me to confirm the truth of the Gospel.  God has already publicly validated his message by raising Jesus from the dead. (1:1, 1:16-21)
  • I will glorify God when He saves wicked men like Paul, because I recognize first and foremost that he has saved wicked men like me. (1:22-24)
  • I will not be frustrated by the fact that God chooses and saves those who have mistreated his church, ones I love, and even those who have mistreated me, but I will glory in the gracious work of God. (1:22-24)

Chapter two: HERE; Chapter three: HERE; Chapter four: HERE; Chapter five: HERE; Chapter six: HERE.