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Friday
Apr012011

Called According to Paul: Galatians 1

This is another repost of an old post in the Called According to Paul series. I’m reposting them all, one per week (sort of), so I can link to them in the sidebar under Favorite Posts. An explanation of this series can be found here, and the already reposted pieces are here.

The word called is used twice in Galatians 1, first in verse 6:

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are following a different gospel… (NET)

The phrase the one who called you refers to God the Father. The unified purpose but distinctive roles of the Father and Son are seen throughout the previous verses, and in this verse, Paul refers to the role of the Father, who calls people by the grace of Christ.

As we saw in 1 Corinthians 1, this call to the true gospel is a call that changes how the message of the gospel is perceived. The Galatians, then, having been called by the Father, have known the true gospel and have understood the power, wisdom and redemption in it; yet now they are turning away from it to “another gospel” that is not really the gospel at all.

It would be a mistake to think of their turning away as merely a turning from a proper understanding of the gospel. It is more than that: Turning away from the gospel is also leaving behind “the one who called.” God’s call is personal. It is not just a general and unspecific call, but a call from a personal God to individual people, so that following a different gospel is a personal betrayal of the one who called them.

To sum up what we can glean about the call of God from this verse:

  • It originates with the Father
  • It is a call based in grace, which means it is underserved.
  • It is grounded in Christ’s work, for it is “the grace of Christ.”
  • It is personal, coming from a personal God to individual persons.

Moving on  to verses 15 and 16 of this chapter, where the word called is used again:

But when the one who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I could preach him among the Gentiles, I did not go to ask advice from any human being… (NET)

In context, I’d think this call is Paul’s call to apostleship. It was a call that was founded upon a choice (or a setting apart) by God before Paul was born. It resulted in God’s work within Paul’s life to accomplish the purpose for which he had set Paul apart. The point stressed is God’s sovereignty in the the whole thing: choosing Paul, calling him, saving him, and equipping him for service. This was a call to an office, apostleship, that was planned and accomplished by God.

What more can you glean from these two texts in Galatians 1 about Paul’s use of the word called as it refers to the call of God?

Thursday
Mar312011

Round the Sphere Again: Books, Book, Books, The Sequel 

Three with More to Come
There’s a new series of children’s books written by Sinclair Ferguson (Andrew Naselli). Heroes of the Faith is about people from the past who have shown moral fibre, overcome difficulties and opposition, and been tested and stood firm. Ferguson writes, “This series aims to cover the centuries-long story of the church and to introduce children to heroes of the faith in every period of history.”

Four….No, Five
Hurrah for book giveaways!

Thursday
Mar312011

Thankful Thursday

Let’s go with a list for this week’s Thankful Thursday post.

  • I’m thankful for the spring weather that makes it fun to be outdoors. 
  • I’m thankful for painting projects that keep me challenged and give me a sense of accomplishment when I’m finished.
  • I’m thankful that God gave us work to do.
  • I’m thankful for the times I’m home alone. Some people hate it, but I need it.
  • I’m still thankful for my car.
  • I’m thankful for my little pot of daffodils.
  • I’m thankful that God’s mercies are new every morning.
  • I’m thankful for costly salvation.
  • I’m thankful for this reminder from Thomas Brooks.

How about you? For what are you thankful?

Throughout this year I’m planning to post a few thoughts of thanksgiving each Thursday along with Kim at the Upward Call and others.

Wednesday
Mar302011

Looking at the Cross As Sacrifice

Updated on Wednesday, April 6, 2011 at 11:28PM by Registered Commenterrebecca

And another book giveaway. See bottom of the post for details.

From The Atonement: Its Meaning and Significance by Leon Morris, this is a summary list from the chapter on the term sacrifice used of the atoning work of Christ. These are a few things that are highlighted regarding the meaning of the cross when we view it as a sacrifice:

  1. Sin is defiling. In an ancient sanctuary everything was arranged to put emphasis on the holiness of God. Even ceremonial faults were seen as defiling and sin was much more so. Sin stained the worshipper and made him unclean. Sin meant that he was not fir to approach the holy God.
  2. Purification. When a sacrifice was offered the worshipper was cleansed. Whether it was a ceremonial defilement of a moral lapse, the offering of sacrifice was seen as purging the sin so that the worshipper was now in a state of purification. His sin was completely removed.
  3. The death of the victim counts. In a sacrifice the blood must be manipulated in prescribed ways and part or all of the animal must be burnt on the altar. All this speaks of the necessity for death, nothing less, if sin is to be put away. Sin is not some trifle, to be airily dismissed with no effort. Sin means death (Ezk. 18:4; Rom. 6:23) and nothing less suffices to take it away.
  4. Salvation is at cost. David showed an insight into the meaning of sacrifice when he said to Araunah, ‘I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing’ (2 Sa. 24:24). The use of the terminology of sacrifice means that the way of forgiveness is costly.It is not until we come to the death of Jesus on the cross that we can see the full meaning of costliness. But inherent in the concept is that forgiveness comes only at cost.
  5. Spiritual sacrifices. The New Testament writers look for a reponse to the sacrifice of Christ. The believer must offer himself as a living sacrifice, which certainly means that his whole way of life is to be different because of what Christ has done for him. The sacrifice of Christ means that the way of salvation is free; but it does not mean that it is cheap.

This is one of my all time favorite books and one I’d put in the must-read for every Christian category, along with, for instance, Knowing God by J. I. Packer. You can read my review on Amazon here.

Since I have still more Amazon earnings to spend, I’m giving away one copy of The Atonement: Its Meaning and Significance. To enter the draw, click through to fill out the entry form.

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Mar292011

Theological Term of the Week

libertarian free will
A conception of freedom that “proposes that a moral agent is free so long as, for whatever choice he makes, he could have chosen differently; that is, given all the conditions that are true of the situation in which he makes his choice, the agent is free so long as he could have chosen differently within that identical situation in which he makes the choice”;1 “the ability to choose with equal ease between alternatives out of pure contingency and no necessity,”2 which, according to the proponents of libertarian freedom, is necessary for moral responsibility.

  • Scripture that disproves libertarian free will:
     …for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. (Acts 4:27-28 ESV)
    And they will listen to your voice, and you and the elders of Israel shall go to the king of Egypt and say to him, ‘The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us; and now, please let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the Lord our God.’ 19 But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless compelled by a mighty hand. 20 So I will stretch out my hand and strike Egypt with all the wonders that I will do in it; after that he will let you go. (Exodus 3:18-20 ESV)
  • From the London Baptist Confession 1689:

     Chapter 3: Of God’s Decree

    1._____ God hath decreed in himself, from all eternity, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably, all things, whatsoever comes to pass; yet so as thereby is God neither the author of sin nor hath fellowship with any therein; nor is violence offered to the will of the creature, nor yet is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established; in which appears his wisdom in disposing all things, and power and faithfulness in accomplishing his decree.

    Chapter 9: Of Free Will

    3._____ Man, by his fall into a state of sin, hath wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation; so as a natural man, being altogether averse from that good, and dead in sin, is not able by his own strength to convert himself, or to prepare himself thereunto.

  • From Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God by J. I. Packer, arguing that libertarian free will is not necessary for moral responsibility: 

    Scripture teaches that, as a King, [God] orders and controls all things, human actions among them, in accordance with His own eternal purpose. Scripture also teaches that, as Judge, He holds every man responsible for the choices he makes and the courses of action he pursues. … God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility are taught us side by side in the same Bible; sometimes, indeed, in the same text. Both are thus guaranteed to us by the same divine authority; both, therefore, are true. It follows that they must be held together, and not played off against each other, Man is a responsible moral agent, though he is also divinely controlled; man is divinely controlled, though he is also a responsible moral agent. God’s sovereignty is a reality, and man’s responsibility is is a reality, too…

    To our finite minds, or course, the thing is inexplicable. It sounds like a contradiction, and our first reaction is to complain that it is absurd. Paul notices this complaint in Romans ix. “Thou wilt say then unto me, Why does he (God) yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? (Rom. ix.19).” If, as our Lord, God orders all our action, how can it be reasonable or right for Him to act also as our Judge, and condemn our shortcomings? Observe how Paul replies. He does not attempt to demonstrate the propriety of God’s action; instead, he rebukes the spirit of the question. ‘Nay but, O man, who art though that repliest against God?” … Our part, he would tell us, is to acknowledge these facts, and to adore God’s righteousness, both as King and Judge. … The Creator has told us that He is both a sovereign Lord and a righteous Judge, and that should be enough for us.

Learn more:

  1. GotQuestions.org: What Is Libertarian Free Will?
  2. John Byl: Free Will and Responsibility
  3. Scott Christensen: Comparing Libertarian and Compatibilistic Beliefs on the Human Will (pdf) 
  4. Bob DeWaay: Free Will or the Bondage of the Will: Definitions are Critical
  5. John Hendryx: Eleven Reasons to Reject Libertarian Free Will
  6. Ronald W. Di Giacomo: Free Will - Confusion Abounds

Related terms:

1From God’s Lesser Glory by Bruce Ware
2From Free Will - Confusion Abounds by Ronald W. Di Giacomo

Do you have a theological term you’d like to see featured here as a Theological Term of the Week? If you email it to me, I’ll seriously consider using it, giving you credit for the suggestion and linking back to your blog when I do.

Clicking on the Theological Term graphic at the top of this post will take you to a list of all the previous theological terms in alphabetical order.