Dave Black’s Paul, Apostle of Weakness

is now up on Amazon.  Here is a snippet from Chapter 5 that he posted on his blog:

In another vein, Paul can also use the words in several instances in the specific sense of bodily weakness, i.e., physical illness, thus approximating the fundamental usage common to all literature in antiquity. He clearly uses the root for sickness with reference to Epaphroditus (Phil 2:26-27), Timothy (1 Tim 5:23), and Trophimus (2 Tim 4:20), his close companions in the gospel ministry. Paul probably uses the root for sickness with reference to himself when he speaks of an “infirmity of the flesh” as the cause for his initial preaching of the gospel among the Galatians (Gal 4:13).

If we are correct in concluding that Paul is referring to a physical infirmity, we can think of this weakness as a particular disease or ailment, the specific diagnosis of which is, however, a mystery. Cases of illness among Christians in NT times indicate that the apostolic commission to heal (cf. Mark 16:18) could not be effected indiscriminately to heal oneself or one’s friends. Normal means of healing were available for Timothy’s gastric problem, for instance; and even in the company of Paul Trophimus became too ill to travel any further.

The classical Pauline passage on illness (2 Cor 12:7-10) is in this respect most striking of all, in that Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” remained with the apostle despite even the most intensive prayer for its removal. Paul states three reasons for its existence: to keep him from becoming proud because of his revelations and visions (v. 7); to enable him to experience the power of Christ (v. 9); and to teach him the true purpose of hardships, persecutions, and personal difficulties (v. 10). Indeed, the entire passage is concerned more with the power and grace of the Lord than with the weakness of the apostle. Physical infirmity is evidence that the body “is sown in weakness” (1 Cor 15:43) and is a cogent reminder of the creature’s dependence upon the Creator. In this respect, the case of Paul is remarkably like that of Jacob, who learned to depend totally upon God only after he had been inflicted with a physical injury (Gen 32:24–32).

These instances of illness show that the real issue in the matter of human suffering is our relationship to God rather than our own physical condition, as painful as it may be.

Dave is going through a difficult time right now with his wife Becky being so ill and in the hospital (all this you can read about on his blog)m he doesn’t just write this stuff, he lives it – be lifting them up in prayer and show your support and encouragement to him by buying a book and sharing about it on your own blog!

Happy 4th!

just wanted to wish everyone a Happy Fourth of July!   Stay cool and be well fed!

I think it is perfectly okay to be a Christian enjoy the day we take as a nation and celebrate our independence though I always appreciate what I consider to be the theme of Paul’s letter to the Galatians: Gal 5:1

τῇ ἐλευθερίᾳ ἡμᾶς Χριστὸς ἠλευθέρωσεν: στήκετε οὖν

καὶ μὴ πάλιν ζυγῷ δουλείαςἐνέχεσθε.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

Let us too celebrate our spiritual independence from our former way of life and bondage to sin NEW LIFE in Jesus Christ!

Remember, it is for FREEDOM that Christ has SET US FREE!  Go now and proclaim that FREEDOM to all that they too may be FREE to live a new life in Jesus Christ!

Blessings!   :-)

Repost: Galatians 5:1 flub…

I was reading through a ministry periodical associated with a certain denomination recently and was stunned by a comment regarding Galatians 5:1 in an interview with a local international pastor.   The comment goes as follows:

(question): What does freedom in Christ mean to you?

(pastor’s answer): Galatians 5:1 tells us the Lord has made us free.  We have many freedoms, especially in America.  Back home under the communist government, Christians could be persecuted, and no one openly said they were Christians.  When we came to America, we experienced freedom to preach, to worship, to witness, to do everything.


I’ll leave it all for you to digest, but this is a classic way of interpreting the Bible in the denomination this international pastor serves in.   I am still not sure what to think.  I guess at this point all I can think is: WOW!

On the Fourth of July and Galatians 5:1-2

I don’t think the Fourth of July is really about celebrating our Independence from Britain anymore so much as it is about celebrating the freedoms we have granted to us under the U.S. Constitution.

(though we are a lot less free than we think we are or than we have been in decades past).

The Fourth is also a day when we celebrate common American values of Faith, Family, Friendship, Independence and so on (too bad we can’t really celebrate our interdependence… and dependence on God for all things. Well, I guess we can, but do we?)

And I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. We should celebrate it, hold on to it, and cherish it, not let it go nor forget it. Some despise it and that is a shame on them.

But as Christians I think we must, and, we should celebrate the spiritual freedom we have “in Christ.”  However, we must not confuse our spiritual freedom “in Christ” with the personal and political freedoms granted every American citizen under the Constitution.  They are not the same, and to think so, is to confuse God with Country, which should not be done.  So with that I want to share the following thoughts I put together in Galatians 5:1…

on Galatians 5:1-2

I am working a sermon on this part of Galatians for my 4th of July sermon and appreciated come thoughts on this verse from John Stott:

As the New English Bible puts it, ‘Christ set us free, to be free men.’  Our former state is portrayed as a slavery, Jesus Christ as a liberator, conversion as an act of emancipation and the Christian life as a life of freedom.  This freedom, as the whole Epistle and this context make plain, is not primarily a freedom from sin, but rather from the law.  What Christ has done in liberating us, according to Paul’s emphasis here, is not so much to set our will free from the bondage of sin as to set our conscience from the guilt of sin.   The Christian freedom he describes is freedom of conscience, freedom from the tyranny of the law, the dreadful struggle to keep the law with a view to winning the favor of God.  It is the freedom of acceptance with God and of access to God through Christ.

Since ‘Christ has set us free’ and that ‘for freedom,’ we must ‘stand fast’ in it and not ‘submit again to a yoke of slavery.’  In other words, we are to enjoy the glorious freedom of conscience must not lapse into the idea that we have to win our acceptance with God by our own obedience.   The picture seems to be of an ox bowed down by a heavy yoke.  Once it has been freed from this crushing yoke, it is able to stand erect again (cf. Lev 26:13). which Christ has brought us by His forgiveness. 

It is just so in the Christian life.  At one time we were under the yoke of the law, burdened by its demands which we could not meet and by its fearful condemnation because of our disobedience.  But Christ met the demands of the law for us.  He died for our disobedience and thus bore our condemnation in our place.  He has ‘redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us’ (3:13).  And now he has struck the yoke from our shoulder and set us free to stand upright.  How then can we dream of putting ourselves under the law again and submitting to it’s cruel yoke?

What I noticed is that often times our freedom in Christ, be it either from sin, or from a guilty conscience, is something we have to intentionally walk in, live in, and live out. We have to stick to it and not let the things of this world (or our faults, failures or shortcomings) tempt us back into living a guilt-ridden life.  In contrast, we are to walk in the freedom God has given us through the cross and resurrection of Christ.

Paul later says in Gal 5:4 –

You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.

When we stop walking in the freedom we have in Christ and start relying on our efforts to please God, we’re no longer walking in grace – we actually begin to step out from God’s favor – it displeases him when we try to live a legalistic life, which as my friend Bill Heroman noted, can sometimes be unintentional.   Trying to live a life based on good works alienates us from God where as reliance on his mercy and grace brings us into his favor and brings freedom into our lives.  Real and lasting freedom.  Once we have been in God’s favor why would we want to leave that by trying to live in slavery to a guilty conscience again?

I don’t know about you all but I am not aware of a greater freedom than freedom from a guilty conscience that was bound by the law or efforts to please God or others.  There is just nothing like it.  A guilt ridden conscience is indeed a heavy yoke and burden.  And Paul, who know what that kind of life was like (see Romans 7), urged the Galatians not to go back to that way of life – so much so, he called anything other than freedom in Christ “another gospel” and a gospel that condemns, not one that brings freedom.

So let’s remember Christ has set us free from the need to please him through legalistic actions or through obedience to a set of rules and regulations (Gal 1-14) – all that is needed to live the life of freedom he has called us too is to simply live by faith in him and what he did on the cross and through the resurrection from the dead.

Have a great day today!

The Bible and History

I recently got a copy of Thomas Schreiner’s commentary on Galatians in the newly developing Zondervan Exegetical Commentary set and he start out the commentary with a quote from Martin Luther and then writes the following:

Here is the Martin Luther Quote:

Therefore, God accepts only the forsaken, cures only the sick, gives sight only to the blind, restores life only to the dead, sanctifies only the sinners, gives wisdom only to the unwise fools.  In short, He has mercy only on those who are wretched, and gives grace only to those who are not in grace.  Therefore, no proud saint, no wise or just person, can become God’s material, and God’s purpose cannot be fulfilled in him.  He remains in his own work and makes a factitious, pretended, false, and painted saint of himself, that is, a hypocrite.

then Schreiner goes on….

Amazingly, Gordon Fee writes from quite a different perspective, saying that his goal is to help people read Galatians “as if the Reformation never happened.” (cited from his Galatians commentary in the Pentecostal Commentary set). On the one hand, Fee’s goal is laudable.  He wants to read the text on its own terms.  On the other hand, it is remarkably naive and ahistorical, for he pretends that he can read Galatians as a neutral observer of the text apart from the history of the church.  I am not suggesting that we mist read Galatians in defense of the Reformation, no am I denying that the Reformation may be askew in some of its emphasis.  But it must be acknowledged that none of us can read Galatians as if the Reformation never occurred.  Such a reading is five hundred years too late.  Nor can we read Galatians as if the twentieth century never happened or apart from the works of Ignatius, Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, and the like.  We can consider whether Reformation emphasis were wrong (I will argue that they were not), but what we cannot do is read Galatians as if we were the first readers (21).

As I ponder this more I wonder because how are some who may not be well read on the Reformation know what happend?  and what of the supposed lay person who may not have access to those kinds of resources?  Why can’t a person just come to the Bible as it is and glean from it, its message (and for Galatians, the message of freedom in Christ; freedom from feeling as if we have to somehow earn or work for our salvation)?

To really understand this ever and always pertinent letter, must we read it as the reformers did, or in conversation with the church fathers?

What say you?

Just how important is reception history in the reading and study if the Bible?