All posts by rdickson

Gospel Restoration Workshops

We have announced many news reports for many years concerning the outreach ministry of the Gospel Restoration Workshops. We have, however, been somewhat negligent in explaining to people the exact nature, purpose and function of the Workshops. It is this nature, purpose and function that defines the need for such Workshops throughout South Africa, and in particular, throughout the world. Therefore, we thought it would be good to present a brief statement concerning the GR Workshops we conduct in order that everyone have a better understanding of what we are trying to accomplish, and thus, inspire others to do the same in their own nations.

• Restoring our focus on the good news of God’s grace.
When we conduct a GR Workshop, we are expressing our appreciation for the grace nature of the gospel. Therefore, when we use the word “gospel,” we are not referring to a canonized legal system of theology whereby one would seek to justify himself or herself before God through perfect law-keeping. We are not teaching a legal system of “church,” but church as the serendipity of the gospel. We are not, therefore, rejoicing over our law-keeping, but over grace (See Rm 6:14; 11:6). We are rejoicing over the grace of God that was revealed through the incarnate Son of God. We are thus seeking those who would rejoice with us in our efforts to restore the preaching and teaching of the grace of God (See Ep 2:4-10).

Everyone understands that the word “gospel” is an English word that is used to translate a Greek word that simply means “good news.” This good news is in view of the fact of our problem of both moral and legal sin. The gospel motivates us to repent of moral sin, and thus turn to the instructions of God. However, the gospel news is also in reference to repenting of our wayward self-righteous systems of religious laws through which we have also brought ourselves into bondage. We have brought ourselves into bondage by attempting to justify ourselves before God through perfect law-keeping. According to Galatians 5:1 and Colossians 2:6-23, the bondage of supposed perfect law-keeping, through which we have led ourselves into meritorious self-righteousness, also separates us from God (See Rm 10:1-3). From this sin of self-righteousness we must also repent and be converted to the grace that was revealed through the Lord Jesus at the cross (See At 3:19).

Some have freed themselves from the problem of moral sin by repentance and baptism for the remission of sins (At 2:38). But this is only part of our deliverance from the bondage of our past. For example, some today still remain in bondage as many self-righteous Jews of the first century who were also baptized into Christ. However, these Jewish “Christians” often remained in the bondage of their past legal theologies of perfect law-keeping that they practiced while in Judaism. They subsequently brought such thinking and behavior into the church when they were baptized.

Some of the baptized Jews in the first century, therefore, tried to turn the gospel into “another gospel,” thus make the gospel of God’s grace another religious system of meritorious law-keeping (See Mk 7:1-9). They did this by imposing legal rites and rituals of Judaism on their fellow baptized Gentile brethren—specifically, they tried to impose circumcision and other statutes of the Sinai law on the Gentiles. “Truth” in the word of God was thus presumed to be a self-righteous meritorious performance of supposed legal requirements, rather than a road map to freedom for those who seek God for guidance out of the bondage moral sin and self-righteous religiosity. There is a vast difference between a religion of self-righteous keeping law, and a faith that is in response to the incarnational offering of the gospel of God’s grace.

Systematic theologies of law in reference to the righteousness of sinners are simply bad news. They generate sin every time an adherent convinces himself or herself that he or she has successfully (meritoriously) kept all the laws of the system. Systematic theologies are doctrinal outlines to which adherents have convinced themselves that they can legally perform everything on the required list in an effort to self-proclaim their own righteousness.

If we make the “truth of the gospel” a legal system of theology to which one must meritoriously subscribe perfectly in order to be saved, then we have joined the audience to which Paul addressed the entire letter of Galatians. We have, though we may have a “proof text” under each point of our canonized systematic theology, actually produced something that is another gospel, and thus contrary to the grace of God (See Gl 1:6-9). We have turned the law of Christ into a legal system of meritorious self-justification.

We conduct the GR Workshops in order to help people to study themselves out of this quagmire of human religious traditions and self-imposed ritualistic righteousness. In order to accomplish this goal, the Workshops are centered around the simple gospel of Jesus Christ. Essentially, our purpose in conducting the GR Workshops is mandated in the following statement that was originally inscribed by the Holy Spirit: “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage” (Gl 5:1). That “yoke” is any canonized legal system of theology that is composed of meritorious religious rites and rituals, as well as experiential religiosity that is focused on ourselves. Obedience to the gospel delivers us from such a yoke of self-imposed bondage, and thus in GR Workshops we remind people that in their obedience to the gospel they have been set free from self-righteous religiosity, and thus they must stay free.

• Restoring knowledge of and purpose for historical posterity.
When we refer to the gospel in reference to restoration, we are referring to an historical event, the core of which was revealed for posterity in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4: “I declare to you the gospel … that Christ died for our sins … that He was buried, that He rose again ….” The death, burial and resurrection of Jesus is the center core of the gospel from which we must spiral out in study of the whole gospel in the word of God. We do so in order to understand the entirety of what was offered in those few hours Jesus was on the cross, and the three days He laid dead in a tomb.

The totality of the good news, therefore, required a body to be offered, crucified and resurrected, and the same body to ascend into heaven. Put in titular single words, therefore, the gospel is the incarnation, atoning death, resurrection, ascension, present kingdom reign, and eventual consummation of all things (See Ph 2:5-11). When we speak of gospel restoration, therefore, we seek to workshop each of these subjects in order to clearly understand the purpose of these historical events in reference to our transition from our present state of eventual carnal termination in this world into the opportunity of an eternal existence with the One who came in the flesh into this world for us.

• Restoring focus on the incarnate Son of God.
Restoration of the gospel events, with all the salvational gems that surround these events, is the central focus of a GR Workshop. We must be clear on this point in reference to what Jesus cautioned in John 16:13,14. In His personal promise to the twelve apostles, Jesus said that “when He, the Spirit of truth has come, He will guide you [apostles] into all the truth.” We understand this. But what is so often confused in the religious world today is what Jesus said in verse 14 in reference to the work of the Holy Spirit. Because Jesus knew that many would turn their focus from Him as the Savior of the world to the Holy Spirit, who was only a messenger of the truth of the gospel, Jesus added, “He will glorify Me ….”

When we speak of restoration, therefore, we are not talking about restoring the Holy Spirit in our lives. On the contrary, we are reminding people that what the Holy Spirit accomplished when He came upon the apostles has already been fulfilled. We have Bibles in our hands, the historical report of the gospel. We thus call for gospel restoration by studying the Holy Spirit’s report on the matter. Our obsession is with the Lord Jesus Christ. We assume that the Holy Spirit will do His work in our lives today regardless of our knowledge thereof. Restoration is in reference to our beliefs and behavior in response to the gospel.

We are on a mission to restore gospel study that is focused on the incarnate Son of God. As a disciple, it is understood that we study the Spirit-inspired word of God in order to understand God’s eternal plan of redemption. We are thus trying to help people to fulfill the mandate of 2 Peter 3:18: “Grow in grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” We are on a restoration mission, therefore, to encourage people to get into the word of God that the Spirit produced in order to better our understanding of the atoning death of the incarnate Son of God, His resurrection, His present kingdom reign, and His eventual coming again to fetch us out of this world. A GR Workshop is all about Jesus.

• Restoring the ministry of gospel-driven disciples.

Gospel Restoration Workshops are conducted by gospel-driven disciples. This is not a group of ordained “professionals.” On the contrary, these are ordinary members of the body of Christ with an extraordinary faith in the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These are those who sincerely feel that they must do something because the gospel of the heart of God is burning deep in their souls.

The GR Workshop team is composed of disciples throughout the church in Cape Town. These are those individuals who seek to live an incarnational life after the One who was incarnate in the flesh for them. These are those heart-motivated disciples who have allowed the gospel of Jesus to transform their lives (See Rm 12:1,2). They thus seek to work within the boundaries of South Africa, the people for whom they feel responsible as teachers. At the same time, they seek to encourage others to do the same in their nations.

If a GR Workshop outreach does not evolve among the disciples in any particular nation of the world, then that nation must fall under Jesus’ mandate of Mark 16:15. That nation has not heard the true good news of the incarnate Son of God, and thus not had the opportunity to in turn reach out to their nation with the gospel. People who are not gospel-driven will find it comfortable to sit on benches and pews Sunday after Sunday without being energized into action by the gospel. But those who truly understand the empowering nature of the incarnate and offered Son of God cannot sit idle. They are emotionally driven to help others on their gospel journey.

If the gospel has not motivated a team (“church”) of people locally, then it may be necessary to invite a “church” of dedicated gospel-driven people to workshop the gospel locally in order that the local disciples take ownership of their own nation. At least this seems to be the case in reference to Paul going to Roman in order to workshop the gospel among the few first generation disciples who lived there, which disciples still did not fully understand all the implications of the gospel (See Rm 1:13-16). But just in case he could not make it to Rome, Paul wrote a Spirit-inspired letter of the gospel of grace in order that the disciples in Rome connect the dots between the incarnation, cross and their baptism into Christ (Rm 6:3-6).

What we are encouraging is that the gospel-motivated disciples in every nation must generate a GR Workshop team effort in order to do what we are trying to do in South Africa. If a nation of disciples have not been motivated by the gospel to reach out to their own nation with teaching on the gospel, then they may have led themselves into the bondage of a legal system of self-righteous religiosity, and thus have no good news of freedom to proclaim to others. They have thus moved away from the simple freedom of the gospel. And having moved back into the bondage of law-keeping religiosity, they are, as some of the early Jewish Christians, trying to convert others to some system of legal religious theology to which possible converts must meritoriously adhere. And thus, they may be preaching their church as a legal system of salvation, rather than the church being serendipitous of the gospel of God’s grace.

In 2 Corinthians 4:15 Paul explained that it is the gospel of the grace of God that causes thanksgiving for all things that Son of God has done on our behalf. This is the driving force of the GR Workshop team. Our response to all these salvational sacrifices that the incarnate Son did for us causes us to go forth to conduct GR Workshops. What the South African GR Workshop team members are saying, therefore, is that they will take ownership of South Africa as far as conducting workshops, but they want to encourage other nations to be caused by God’s grace to take ownership of their own nations.

• Restoring unity among gospel-believing people.
Regional members of the Western Cape make up the GR Workshop team. In other words, this is not the work of one “local church.” The team is composed of those who attend different assemblies of the church throughout the metropolitan area of Cape Town. These are gospel-motivated members who have determined to explain to others that God works with us as individual members of His one universal church in order to motivate gospel living and to accomplish His mission. Therefore, the Cape Town disciples, regardless of where they sit on Sunday morning, are working together as a “team” in order to reach out to other cities, towns and villages in South Africa.

One of the beautiful serendipitous blessings of the GR Workshop ministry is that the outreach presents an opportunity for every member of the body in a region to work together in a united effort to teach the gospel. Individual members must not allow autonomous theologies to keep them separated from one another as they seek to work together in a team effort. Both Timothy and Luke did not allow such divisiveness to hinder them from joining Paul’s evangelistic team when Paul’s team first passed through the churches in Lystra and Iconium and Troas (See At 16:1-3; 20:4-6).

In order to give and example of this gospel behavior of oneness, disciples throughout the city of Cape Town send their contributions to a single bank account in order to pay for the petrol, housing, literature and equipment that is necessary to conduct the GR Workshops. The team does not ask for any contributions during any GR Workshops. If a city, town or village hosts a Workshop, then team seeks to inform the host that they are not responsible for any expenses in reference to a local GR Workshop they may host. Cape Town disciples willingly pay all the bills. Therefore, local hosts can be assured that there will never be a request for contributions during any GR Workshop.

Please keep in mind that the GR Workshops are not a ministry of any one local group of disciples. Members of the body of Christ in Cape Town have “joined the team” through their contributions. This is gospel behavior. In other words, one does not have to go personally on a GR Workshop trip itself in order to be a member of the team. One can be a member of the team as the Philippian disciples when they sent contributions to the gospel team that went to Thessalonica from Philippi (See Ph 4:15-17). Through their contributions, the Philippians thus became a part of the team that went to Thessalonica, though the contributing members stayed in Philippi.

As mentioned by James, not everyone is a teacher (Js 3:1). Therefore, when there are teachers throughout a region who are gospel driven, then they seek to work together in order to restore gospel teaching in other regions. In our case, several gospel-driven teachers throughout Cape Town seek to work together in the region of South Africa. They do so by actually going on GR Workshop trips. Their collective desire to accomplish what Paul explained in Roman 1:13-16 is realized in the GR Workshops. This is possible because the extended GR Workshop team of many in Cape Town seek to send the “traveling teachers” on their journey (See 3 Jn 5-8).

• Restoring a call for unity that is based on the gospel.
If there are those of any religious faith in a particular city who believe in Jesus as the resurrected, ascended and reigning Son of God, then it is time to call for a GR Workshop in that city in order to encourage people of faith to focus on the unity that is produced by a common obedience to the gospel (See Jd 3). A GR Workshop is focused on calling together all people of faith in a particular city, town or village who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. The Workshops are a call to all the “Apollos” and “eunuch” disciples in any region who are studying the word of God, and thus seeking to link with others who are on the same gospel page. The purpose of a GR Workshop is to encourage people to grow in grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus (See At 8:34,35; 18:24-26; 1 Pt 3:18). For this reason, it is the focus of a GR Workshop to call together and encourage all those who believe in Jesus as the incarnate and resurrected Son of God who is now reigning from heaven over His body of obedient subjects.

As the GR Workshop Team of Cape Town, it is our prayer that this statement will encourage you to conduct GR Workshops in your nation. Workshops are being conducted in South Africa because there are those throughout South Africa who have allowed the power of the gospel to work in their hearts. Because they realize that others are having some difficultly in working themselves out of religious bondage, they are willing to share with others the tremendous motivational power that is inherent in the gospel (Rm 1:16). These grace-motivated disciples are seeking to go from synagogue to synagogue (At 17:1-3), and into every desert place in order to open their mouths for Jesus (At 8:35). They are thus pleading with others to join them in making King Jesus the center of reference throughout the world. If you want to understand better the material that is presented in the GR Workshops, please download the following books. These books will give you more than enough material to conduct a three-hour GR Workshop in every city, town and village in your nation.

Download from www.africainternational.org,
or Whatsapp +27 82 452 8100 for the following books:
Book 33: 21st Century Restoration; Book 34: A Call For Restoration; Book 73: The Gospel Of God’s Heart; Book 76: Escape From Religion; Book 79: Gospel Restoration; Book 92: Releasing The Gospel; Book 103: Living The Truth Of The Gospel

New Testament Commentary

YOU CAN DOWNLOAD ALL BOOKS BY CLICKING ON THE FOLLOWING LINKS:

MATTHEW
http://africainternational.org/mobi/files/New/Mt.pdf
MARK
http://africainternational.org/mobi/files/New/Mk.pdf
LUKE
http://africainternational.org/mobi/files/New/Lk.pdf
JOHN
http://africainternational.org/mobi/files/New/Jn.pdf
ACTS
http://africainternational.org/mobi/files/New/At.pdf
ROMANS
http://africainternational.org/mobi/files/New/Rm.pdf
1 CORINTHIANS
http://africainternational.org/mobi/files/New/1%20Co.pdf
2 CORINTHIANS
http://africainternational.org/mobi/files/New/2%20Co.pdf
GALATIANS
http://africainternational.org/mobi/files/New/Gl.pdf
EPHESIANS
http://africainternational.org/mobi/files/New/Ep.pdf
PHILIPPIANS
http://africainternational.org/mobi/files/New/Ph.pdf
COLOSSIANS
http://africainternational.org/mobi/files/New/Cl.pdf
1 THESSALONIANS
http://africainternational.org/mobi/files/New/1%20Th.pdf
2 THESSALONIANS
http://africainternational.org/mobi/files/New/2%20Th.pdf
1 TIMOTHY
http://africainternational.org/mobi/files/New/1%20Tm.pdf
2 TIMOTHY
http://africainternational.org/mobi/files/New/2%20Tm.pdf
TITUS
http://africainternational.org/mobi/files/New/Ti.pdf
PHILEMON
http://africainternational.org/mobi/files/New/Pl.pdf
HEBREWS
http://africainternational.org/mobi/files/New/Hb.pdf
JAMES
http://africainternational.org/mobi/files/New/Js.pdf
1 PETER
http://africainternational.org/mobi/files/New/1%20Pt.pdf
2 PETER
http://africainternational.org/mobi/files/New/2%20Pt.pdf
1 JOHN
http://africainternational.org/mobi/files/New/1%20Jn.pdf
2 JOHN
http://africainternational.org/mobi/files/New/2%20Jn.pdf
3 JOHN
http://africainternational.org/mobi/files/New/3%20Jn.pdf
JUDE
http://africainternational.org/mobi/files/New/Jd.pdf
REVELATION
http://africainternational.org/mobi/files/New/Rv.pdf

WHATSAPP LIBRARY

THE INTERNATIONAL WHATSAPP CONNECTION

All the DICKSON TEACHER’S BIBLE is being reformatted for the page size of smartphones and Kindles. We have also reformatted some of the books of the BIBLICAL RESEARCH LIBRARY for smartphones and Kindles. All of this material will be distributed worldwide through Whatsapp as a “pdf document.” We send out this notice in order to encourage everyone to get connected with the International Whatsapp liaison in order to receive the material.

DENVILLE WILLIE is the liaison for all international WHATSAPP connections for the distribution of both the Teacher’s Bible, as well as the Biblical Research Library books. In order to get on the international Whatsapp list to receive the material that has been written by Dr. Roger E. Dickson, and reformatted for your smartphone, please Whatsapp Denville in South Africa at 082 452 8100.

Once you have received any of the Whatsapp documents, you can then send the documents on to all your friends. Therefore, feel free to send on the material or have it printed out in hardcopies for distribution.

This is your opportunity to sit in a Bible class with an E-commentary of the Bible right there in your hands, as well as be an international distributor of Bible study material.

Those outside South Africa need to contact Denville at the following international call number: +27 82 452 8100

New Future

READ & SHARE BOOK CLUB
– A New Future –
This short smartphone friendly book will clarify many things in reference to God working in human history in order to bring the faithful in an eternal fellowship with Himself in a new heaven and earth. Please read this eye-opening book. It will unveil why God worked through His in-time judgments in order to bring the Savior of the world into our world in order to take us out of this world.

PLEASE DOWNLOAD SHARE WITH ALL YOUR FRIENDS:
http://www.africainternational.org/files/Book110.pdf

CELLPHONE FORMATING

FINALLY FOR CELLPHONES
The Biblical Research Library contains over 100 volumes of Bible study material. In the past we focused on formatting the books for computer downloading and print out. HOWEVER, we have now succumbed to the reality of all those who download from the internet. Most people outside the western world download materials through their CELLPHONES. So finally, we will be reformatting some past books, as well as writing new volumes, that are cellphone formatted. This latest book is formatted for cellphones. You can write and let us know if it all works well on your cellphone. Download by clicking below:
http://africainternational.org/files/Book%20108.pdf

African Elephants

It was in the dark of the night in an isolated village of Africa over a century ago. Village families had just completed a strenuous day of weeding the garden that would eventually feed the village for months to come. So on this one fateful night everyone had been fed, families snuggled into bed and off to sleep in a cozy, but frail grass hut. But then life changed.

One faithful husband and farmer was awakened in the middle of the night by a crunch and a crash. The sound was coming from the garden that he had worked that day. He knew exactly what was now happening, for it had happened almost every year since he could remember as a small boy. All the fathers and farmers of the village also knew what the crunch and crash meant. It meant that all the hard labor that they had put into their crops for over two to three months was now being both destroyed and stolen. The crunch and crash they heard was the monstrous feet of invading elephants going through their gardens, smashing the crops into the ground, while they dined on the succulent produce of the garden.

The gardens of every farmer in the village lost almost everything that fateful night to some merciless elephants who were trampling and feeding on their way from one village to another. This had been going on for centuries. There was no end in sight, and thus the villagers of Africa simply made the best of it, and struggled on. One thing can definitely be said about African villagers in those days, they were resilient and persistent.

I just finished reading for the second time J. A. Hunter’s book, Hunter, and W. D. M. Bell’s three volumes on his adventures as a “white hunter” in Africa. These were two of the most famous African hunters because they hunted in a different Africa than what exists today. In fact, their Africa will never exist again for there are now too many humans in Africa. Both Hunter and Bell were famous “white” hunters in Africa in the early part of the 1900s. At that time, these, and other African hunters like them, supplied most of the ivory for the world.

In the preceding books, both Hunter and Bell together recorded that they had killed thousands of elephants during their adventurous days of African hunting. In their business of ivory, they were only after the ivory that was shipped off to Europe. In view of the present status of the population of elephants in Africa, you might wonder why they killed so many elephants only for the ivory. Back then, ivory was big business. But there was a serendipity that came with their ivory business. Their hunting was good news for the villagers in Africa at the time who had been suffering from the marauding elephants for years.

When the white hunters entered the scene of the African community the latter part of the 1800s and early 1900s, elephants often rampaged from one village garden to another, destroying one crop after another, year after year. There was no mutual coexistence between elephants and humans. So when the ivory hunters showed up, things changed.

When the white hunters went on one of their one to two year safaris for ivory, it was all good news for African villagers. Once an ivory hunter came to a particular village with his safari of up to one hundred people, wives and children included, they set up camp. All they had to do then was wait.

Word went out to all the surrounding villages that an ivory hunter was in town. Subsequently, from distant villages as far as twenty to thirty miles around came messengers from villages with news of elephants that had raided village gardens. The ivory hunter, with his tracker, gun bearer, and porters would then follow the messengers to the last location of the marauding beasts. In contrast to the village hunters who had only flimsy spears, the ivory hunter had big guns that would bring down with one shot the thieving monsters who had no concern for the local village people. The elephants wanted that for which they had not labored, and thus were willing to steal it for themselves. They simply stole and consumed, leaving the poor villagers with smashed gardens, and destitute of food.

But when the big guns of the ivory hunter arrived, the day was saved. Bell recorded in his elephant hunting adventures that he brought down in one particular day nineteen bull elephants. All he wanted was the ivory tusks. But the villagers swarmed over the carcasses of the now dead thieving elephants, and stripped them to the bone of all flesh. It was a joyous occasion when villages from miles around the killing zone heard the shots of the ivory hunter’s big guns. Everyone rushed to the scene in order to feast on the fresh meat of the now dead marauding elephants.

King Solomon was one of those kings of Israel who had great integrity with all his power. After reigning over all the territory of Israel from the great River Euphrates in the north, to Beersheba and the River Egypt in the south, Solomon deemed it time to build the house of God in Jerusalem (1 Kg 5 – 8). He set out to build the temple because God had given a concession to King David to do so. But King Solomon needed wood for the building of the temple, and the wood was in another country, growing in the “garden” of another king, King Hiram of Tyre.

Solomon then sent a message to King Hiram of Tyre and informed him that he needed some of the trees of Lebanon to build the house of God in Jerusalem (1 Kg 5:1-12). Hiram essentially responded, “We have trees. How many do you want?”

These were honorable rulers over two great nations in those days. So Solomon said to Hiram, “I will pay you wages for your servants” to cut down your trees and sell them to me (1 Kg 5:6). “Then Hiram gave Solomon cedar and cypress logs according to all his desire” (1 Kg 5:10). Solomon then paid for the wood (1 Kg 5:11).

With his great power, Solomon could have invaded Tyre, stolen the trees of Hiram out of his “garden,” “nationalized” them, and then taken them to Jerusalem. But these were kings of nations who had great integrity. They conducted their rule with national moral principles. And thus, they coexisted with one another with honesty and in peace. They did not invade one another’s gardens and take what they wanted. They did not barge into one another’s nations like hungry elephants and ravage the livelihoods of the people. (It seems that we now live in a world today wherein there is little honor among some dictators.)

The two preceding situations seem to reveal that we are living in an “elephant” age in the behavior of some nations. Here is an example. Good investigative reporting is interesting to read and watch. This is especially true in these days when the air waves are filled with so many lies and fake news stories. Nevertheless, there are still out there some very good investigative reporters doing their job in the free world. (We must never forget that democracies cannot exist without a free press.)

We were recently watching and listening to an investigative report that was aired on BBC international TV out of London. One BBC investigative reporter was presenting the results of his most recent research in working among the wheat farmers of eastern Ukraine. In order to do this investigative report, he stationed himself in eastern Ukraine in what is now under Russian control—the reporter probably spoke Russian fluently. He then went to work on a story of theft that was being rumored, but few believed. It was the theft of wheat from Ukrainian farmers.

The report was aired more than once on BBC TV because many people would not believe that such a deplorable deed was being done by one nation against another. For security reasons, the farmer being interviewed was an actor in the shadows with a disguised voice in order to conceal the farmer’s true identity. (More on this later.)

What the BBC reporter had done was to go to the empty wheat granaries where a farmer had stored his wheat from the recent harvest. During the interview, the farmer revealed that one day Russian trucks showed up at his farm and emptied out all his wheat granaries, and also, the granaries of neighboring farmers. The wheat was loaded on Russian trucks, and then, the trucks went on their way, where to, no one knew.

But this was a smart investigative reporter. One may not know what a GPS tracker is, but it is a small electronic device about the size of a man’s hand that communicates with satellites that circle the earth, receiving and sending out the exact location of the tracker. (For pilots, this is the same device as an ELT—Emergency Locator Transmitter—in an airplane.) Once turned on, the GPS tracker will stay in constant contact with the satellites, and then relay its exact location to a receiver on the ground almost anywhere in the world.

So the BBC reporter simply went to another farm where Russian trucks were emptying out wheat granaries. He then threw a GPS tracker into one of the loads of stolen wheat in a Russian truck. The truck went on its way, while the GPS tracker, unknowingly to the truck driver, continually sent to a satellite the exact location of that truck of wheat on its entire journey, and to its final destination.

During the BBC TV interview of this farmer in the eastern region of Ukraine, the reporter pictured the exact route of the truck on our TV screen as it left an eastern Ukraine farm with stolen wheat, out of Russian controlled Ukrainian territory, through Crimea and then on into northern Russia where the wheat was off-loaded into Russian wheat granaries. It was then claimed to be “nationalized” wheat of Russia, and sold to unsuspecting buyers around the world.

We simply cannot help but think of those herds of marauding elephants invading the gardens of innocent villagers in Africa a century ago who would have no harvest for another year. But now the table has turned. Because many African countries buy their wheat for making bread from Russia, some in Africa are now possibly eating sandwiches made from stolen Ukrainian wheat. (There is an awesome irony somewhere in this story.)

The Ukrainian farmer who was interviewed by the BBC reporter made the statement,

“The people who stole our wheat, also stole or destroyed our harvesting equipment. But I wonder if countries that are now buying ‘Russian wheat’ realize that they are actually eating sandwiches made from stolen [Ukrainian] wheat?”

An added irony to the story is that two weeks before the BBC reporter aired his report on international television, two representatives of the African Union went to meet with Putin in Russia in order to negotiate the continued sending of “Russian” wheat to Africa. Their trip was successful, and thus, the “nationalized” Russian wheat is subsequently being sent to many African countries, some receiving up to fifty percent of their supply of wheat from Russia.

As long as the elephants steal from the garden of some other neighbor, can we now conclude that we can eat the stolen crops without violating any moral principles? Maybe the world is closer to the judgment of Genesis 6:5 than we think.

(BREAKING NEWS: Of the estimated 800 thousand tons of Ukrainian wheat that was stolen from Ukrainian farms, the nation of Turkey recently seized a transport ship in the Black Sea loaded with “Russian Wheat” that was headed for sale to some nation in the southern hemisphere. This saga will continue.)

This might be the time to read again the biblical account of the wicked actions of a king in reference to stealing someone’s garden and crops (See 1 Kg 21 — Naboth’s vineyard.)

Macedonian Marvel

The thanksgiving of the free grace of God through the sacrificial offering of the Son of God should cause thanksgiving in the hearts of those who claim to be Christians. This helps us understand why the Macedonian disciples, who were at the time new in the faith (At 16:12), gave so sacrificially when opportunities arose to abound in the grace of God, and thus, freely give. Because they had discovered the power of the gospel of grace, Paul used them as an example to a church with some stingy disciples in Corinth who would not be caused to give in thanksgiving for the grace of God that was revealed to them. We have the Macedonian disciples as an example in Holy Scripture today because their sacrificial giving was a true testimony of people abounding in the grace of God.

A. Overcoming stingy behavior:
Paul wrote to the stingy Corinthians the following grace-responsive example of the disciples in Macedonia: “We make known to you the grace of God that has been given to the churches of Macedonia” (2 Co 8:1)—one does not know if he or she is abounding in the grace of God until he or she is freely giving to others out of a thankful heart. Notice in Paul’s preceding statement that he referred first to the “grace of God” that was given to and received by the Macedonian disciples. They received through Paul a message of God’s gospel of grace. But their free reception of the grace did not stop with saying “amen” to Paul’s sermon. On the contrary, “in a great trial of affliction, and the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty, abounded in the riches of their liberality” (2 Co 8:2).

We must keep in mind why the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, about which Jesus referred in Matthew 10:15, will receive more consideration in the final judgment than stingy Christians, some of whom were in the Corinthian church. If the sacrificial response to grace of the Macedonian disciples teaches any clear lesson, it is that even if one is in deep poverty, he or she is still obligated to abound in living the grace of God. Poverty is no excuse for not giving in a thankful response for the free grace of God. There are no poverty-stricken grace-purchased Christians. Even a poor Jewish widow in Jerusalem gave her last two coins, and this before the revelation of the whole gospel (Lk 21:1-3).

So Paul continued to shame the Corinthians: “For I testify that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability they gave of their own accord” (2 Co 8:3). Paul did not beg the Macedonians to give. On the contrary, they were cheerful givers because they had freely received and comprehended the free grace of God. Those who truly understand the grace of God do not have to be asked to give blessings to others who are in need. They need only to be directed toward opportunities to give. It is for this reason that legally motivated givers often become grudging givers. On the other hand, grace-responsive givers are always cheerful givers, always looking for some need upon which they can release their sincere gratitude for the grace they received freely through Jesus (2 Co 9:6-9). And once the opportunities are made known to grace-driven disciples, they do as Paul testified of the poverty-stricken Macedonians, “. . . begging us with much urgency that we would receive the gift [of their contribution] and the fellowship of the ministering to the saints [in famine in Judea]” (2 Co 8:4).

B. Learning to beg to give:
It is this last statement of Paul that shames so many today who continue to be colonial minded in reference to their behavior as Christians. They function the opposite of how the Macedonian disciples functioned in reference to giving money in order to relieve the famine victims of Judea, the occasion (opportunity) for making the contribution. And—this is important—in order to be in fellowship with all grace-motivated Christians around the world, the Macedonians begged Paul to receive their contribution. They understood that if they did not freely give, then they would not be in fellowship with the universal church of Christ. Colonial-minded disciples, therefore, can never be in fellowship with the universal church of Christ simply because they persist in being takers and not givers.

The Macedonians “begged” to give; they did not beg to receive. This is what grace does to one’s heart. If a Christian continues to beg to receive, then he or she is masquerading as a Christian, having either forgotten or never understood the motivating power of the gospel of God’s grace. Maybe such a person never really understood the nature of the gospel, and thus was baptized only legally in following a command to be baptized. We must keep in mind that if one legally does down into the water, he or she will often come forth from the water and behave as a legal-oriented disciple. He or she may be a good law keeper, but not so much a grace-motivated disciple.

On the other hand, those who are grace-responsive to the gospel are seeking opportunities to freely give as they had freely received the grace of God. If we desire to be a colonial nation in which we may find ourselves today, that in the past some foreign government built all our roads, schools and hospitals, even supported the government officials, then the adoption of this foreign dependency culture will cripple the church, even as it continues to do so in some places today. The disciples who live in former colonial possessions are often cursed with a sense of colonial dependency that cripples their willingness to give freely.

We had to smile when we recently listened to a BBC broadcast out of London that was made by a reporter who was in the former colonial possession of England. The setting for the broadcast was that Jamaica was following the example of the island West Indian country of Barbados. (Keep in mind that these countries are near to our hearts, for during the 1970s and early 1980s we lived and worked in the West Indies.) But now some of these island nations are seeking to leave the trade relationship of the British Commonwealth in order to be totally on their own as a republic, which is a good thing.

So the BCC reporter was out on the streets of Jamaica, interviewing residents concerning Jamaica’s move to be a republic and not a part of the Commonwealth. One old Jamaican resident responded to the reporter, “They [England] never gave us anything; we might as well be a republic on our own.” This is a laughable statement in view of the fact that when we visited Jamaica on several occasions while living in the West Indies, we drove down England-built roads; we met in England-built schools, having passed by numerous England-built hospitals. We bought countless articles in the market that were imported duty-free as a result of the country being a colonial possession in the past and now a part of the Commonwealth. We even spoke English, a blessing from England. And for this particular person to say that England had never given them anything, was simply a failure to remember and appreciate the past history of Jamaica.

Jamaica is a good example of the colonial arrangement of those nations that were created as a part of the world Empire of England. At one time, one third of the world was a part of this Empire. But during the 1950s and 1960s, and under the queenship of Queen Elizabeth, the Empire disengaged from its former colonial possessions. We lived in the West Indies when many of these island nations were informed by England that they were being given their independence. They were thus instructed to get their constitutional and financial house in order for they had to stand on their own. England would not longer hand out free roads, free schools, free hospitals, etc.
Jamaica was released to be a free nation on August 6, 1962. There was no revolutionary war where the Jamaicans fought for their independence. After England had given her resources to the country for over a century and a half during the post-slavery era, it was time to truly release the slaves. The people were subsequently freely given their independence. By the grace of England, these island nations of the West Indies, after being granted independence, were allowed to remain in the free-trading arrangement of the British Commonwealth in order to continue to receive duty-free imports from England and other Commonwealth member nations. So England was expected to continue to give, but the now independent nations were not expected to give anything back to England in return.

(For those of you who might be interested in this matter of history, BCC reporter Jeremy Paxman recorded a five-segment TV series from 2015 to 2020, which TV series was first broadcasted on the BCC network. The name of the series was entitled, Empire. The entire series is now online. At the end of the magnificent series, notice carefully what Paxman stated in summation in about two sentences at the end of segment five. His statement will help Western minds to understand better the nonsense of the statement that was made by the old Jamaican gentleman in the previous BBC comment, as well as the colonial mentality of many of those older Christians who continue to hinder grace-motivated giving in the present church in all the former British colonial possessions.)

Nevertheless, throughout the years we have had the privilege of working with some very dedicated free givers in Africa. They have overcome their culture of colonial dependency by responding to the grace of God. We have found it interesting that as the poor Macedonians, those who qualify themselves to accept the free gift of God’s grace have no fear of impoverishing themselves further in the matter of giving because they are often already poor. For example, we recently sat down on a Sunday here in South Africa and turned on our TV to a channel that was dedicated to religious broadcasting. And there for the next thirty minutes was a second generation brother on the other side of South Africa whom we had known for over forty years. The “poor” churches in his area had scrapped together enough funds to support him on a live TV broadcast. This is the Macedonian marvel in action.

This was a case where Macedonian like-minded Christians had discovered the joy of grace-motivated giving. As the Judean church in the beginning of the gospel had sent out of Jewish missionaries who ministered the gospel to the Gentiles in Macedonia and Achaia, so those who obeyed the gospel in Macedonia in turn contributed to minister the gospel to a greater audience in their own region and beyond. It was as Paul wrote of them, “And you [Macedonian Christians, specifically, you in Thessalonian] became imitators of us . . . so that you were examples to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. For the word of the Lord was sounded forth from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith toward God has spread abroad” (1 Th 1:6-9).

We must never underestimate the power of grace to motivate “poor” Christians who are highly motivated by the grace of God. It is because of the Macedonian church example that a principle is taught that no Christian can ever give an excuse of poverty in reference to giving to the preaching of the gospel. It is for this reason that whenever a supposedly Christian group says, “Give us something because we are poor,” we immediately turn away from them. We do so as Jesus instructed His first missionaries when He sent them out during His earthly ministry. He instructed His missionaries that if they were not received by a particular individual or village that would give them bread and a bed, then they were to turn away and shake off the dust of their feet in rejection of that individual or village. If people do not reveal through sacrificial giving that their hearts are fertile soil for the gospel of grace, regardless of how poor they may be, then they have disqualified themselves to be worthy of the offering of the incarnate Son of God, who, though in the form of God, emptied Himself into the poverty of a fleshly body in order to go to the death of a cross (See Ph 2:5-11). Anyone who does not sacrificially give in response to his eternal sacrifice cannot truly understand the grace of God.

But in reference to the grace of God that should cause thanksgiving in our hearts, this grace is contrary to colonial thinking and behavior. Grace moves us to look for opportunities where we can give, not get. It was for this reason that Jesus warned and cautioned those who would seek to be His disciples: “For which one of you, intending to build a tower [become My disciple], does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it” (Lk 14:28).

Colonial-minded people often seek to be takers, whereas grace-driven disciples seek opportunities by which they can freely give the gospel of grace to the world through their free-will support of evangelists or materials to be sent to those who are yet to hear the gospel. So in order to shame the stingy “takers” of the Corinthian church, Paul again reminded them of the grace-motivated givers of Macedonia:

:Have I committed an offense in humbling myself [while in your presence by supporting myself through making tents] so that you might be exalted, because I have preached to you the gospel of God without charge [your support]? I robbed other churches [who supported me], taking wages from them, in order to serve you [freely]. And when I was present with you and in need [of support], I was not a [financial] burden to anyone [in Corinth], for what I lacked [in funds] the brethren who came from Macedonia supplied [my needs]. And in all things I have kept myself from being [financially] burdensome to you, and so I will keep myself” (2 Co 11:7-9).

There were some among the Corinthians who were taking financial support for themselves. But Paul said of these charlatan apostles, “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading themselves as apostles of Christ” (2 Co 11:13). Deceitful workers who would use the church as an opportunity to receive financial gain, are false. The church must financially support those who preach the gospel to the lost (1 Co 9:13,14). However, the church must not become the occasion for support by masquerading takers.

It was for this reason that Paul did not pass through the Corinthian church immediately, but instead wrote a letter of warning in advance of his coming. He did not go immediately to the church in Corinth in order “to spare you, I did not return to Corinth” (2 Co 1:2). In other words, and according to the authority that was given to the Christ-sent apostles to keep the church pure of financial beggars and deceivers, inflict physical punishment on them, as did Peter and the other Christ-sent apostles upon Ananias and Sapphira many years before (See At 5:1-11; 3 Jn 9,10). Paul thus spared the Corinthian church from being disciplined because some of the members had involved themselves in using the church as an opportunity for financial gain (See 1 Co 4:21).

On the other hand, those who would impoverish themselves in order to freely give the gospel to others, are true and sincere (See 3 Jn 1-6). Paul impoverished himself for both the Corinthians and Macedonians. The Macedonians discovered the blessing of life-changing grace. And for this reason, when he went on from Macedonian, the Philippian disciples sent support once and again to him, even when he was in Corinth (Ph 4:16).


Research: The Godly Giver, Book 57, Biblical Research Library, africainternational.org

Life-Changing Grace

We stand in awe at the profound historical statement that the Holy Spirit made through the apostle Paul: “For all things are for your sakes, so that the grace that is reaching many people may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God” (2 Co 4:15). This would be all the redemptive work of the Son of God from the incarnation to the crucifixion, and finally, the Son’s ascension to the right hand of God. This gospel journey of the Son of God is all for our sakes. When an individual understands this truly indescribable blessing of grace from God, he or she is caused to respond with dedicated thanksgiving. The word “abound” in the text assumes that something is done; something happens in our lives. This is more than a good feeling on Sunday morning. This is a living thanksgiving, a response to the gospel that causes transformed lives (See Rm 12:1,2). As will be noted later, this was an appropriate statement to be written to some of the Corinthian Christians who were not living up to the motivational power of the gospel.

• Discovering the nature of true Christianity: In order to prepare His immediate disciples for this life-changing motivational power that was soon to come after His ascension, and before sending them out on mission trips during His earthly ministry, Jesus said, “Freely you have received, freely give” (Mt 10:8). Unfortunately, this statement of Jesus is commonly misunderstood. As a result of this misunderstanding, a “colonial churchianity” is often allowed to prevail among those who should be abounding in thanksgiving in response to the gospel. When the gospel was first preached to former colonial countries, many did not understand the implications of the 2 Corinthians 4:15 statement of Paul, as well as what Jesus said in being a generous giver. Subsequently, many of the first legally converted people simply carried on with their former colonial behavior.

What makes it difficult for some to understand Jesus’ statement to freely give as one has freely received is the colonial culture in which some find themselves. The colonial empires of the past freely gave to the nations of their empires, not realizing that they were creating a dependency culture within the culture of the nations of their empires. Citizens subsequently developed a culture of freely receiving, but never really learning how to freely give. When the first evangelists (missionaries) went to these colonial “possessions,” they often enabled the colonial practice of freely giving everything to the local folks. Unfortunately, they were somewhat weak in teaching the local folks that the heart of the gospel inspires one to abound in freely giving. Nevertheless, the local folks were very thankful for the free schools, free church buildings, free Bibles, free tracts and free books they were freely given. But because the local folks lived in a colonial culture of dependency, they often found it quite difficult to freely give to others locally in response to the free gift of God’s grace they had received. (We will later compare this colonial culture in the following chapter with the nature of the gospel culture of the Macedonian disciples.)

• Discovering that receiving assumes giving: So maybe it would help to insert interpretive comments in the context of Jesus’ statement to His disciples. We must read the Matthew 10:8 statement of Jesus in this way: “Freely you have received [something], freely give [something].” On the occasion of Matthew 10, Jesus gave His disciples a message to proclaim to the people to whom they were being sent. The message was that the kingdom of God was at hand (Mt 10:7). With the message that the kingdom was at hand, the messengers were also freely given the gifts of healing the sick, raising the dead, cleansing the lepers, and casting out demons (Mt 10:8).

On both of the occasions of sending out disciples in Matthew 10 and Luke 10, the disciples received something freely. They were subsequently to give freely from the blessings that they had freely received in order that others be blessed by their blessing. If we would apply the principle of “freely receiving-freely giving” to ourselves as disciples of Jesus, then freely receiving all things that have been given to us through the gospel of God’s grace assumes that we will freely give in a responsive thanksgiving for God’s grace. In this way our thanksgiving will abound to the benefit of others.

We must emphasize this point because this is the very heart of Christianity, and thus, the definition of Christian behavior. Because Jesus was incarnate in the flesh of man, He paid a great price for being in the physical presence of His disciples in order to freely give them something, that they in turn should freely give. He freely gave up heaven in the form of God in order to be in their presence in a state of poverty (See Ph 2:5-11). “Yet for your sakes He became poor so that you through His poverty might become rich” (2 Co 8:9). There was thus a price paid for their free gift of grace. The condition for their receiving freely was the great price of His incarnation. In order to freely give, Jesus’ disciples must likewise pay a great price of freely giving what they have freely received. This is grace abounding in action. Christians realized that they have been “justified freely by His grace” (Rm 3:24). They realize that they have received the Holy Spirit from God so that they “might know the things that are freely given to us by God” (1 Co 2:12).

• Discovering grace-oriented givers: This is the way grace abounds. This is Christianity in action. See if this is not true in the context of sending forth the early disciples that is recorded both in Matthew 10 and Luke 10. Jesus instructed on both occasions, “Carry no money bag, no wallet, no [extra] sandals” (Lk 10:4). “Provide neither gold nor silver nor copper in your money belts, nor bag for your journey, nor two coats, nor sandals, nor staff, for the worker is worthy of his food” (Mt 10:9,10). Those messengers who were sent out by Jesus were not to rely on themselves. They were to present themselves as an opportunity for others to freely give. In this way, the messengers would be able to identify in the villages those who were inclined to freely receive, and thus, freely give.

This is quite amazing. The messengers were going into villages throughout Palestine to which neither Jesus nor themselves had previously gone. So when they proclaimed, as John the Baptist, that the time of regeneration had come and the sovereignty of God was soon to be revealed, those willing recipients of the message within the villages freely received the messengers into their homes and freely provided for them living quarters and food. We must not miss this point. Those who received the messengers, freely did so. They were thus qualifying themselves to also be messengers of the free grace of God. They freely received Jesus’ messengers, who freely gave themselves and a message of good news to the household. As the hosts freely received, they in turn freely gave to Jesus’ messengers (See the behavior of Gaius in 3 Jn 1-6).

This is what grace does, and this is what Jesus meant when He initially stated to His messengers, “Freely you receive, freely give.” Grace generates thanksgiving within the hearts of those who have freely received. This thanksgiving motivates the receivers to freely give something to others. As a price was paid by Jesus to freely give Himself on the cross, a price must also to be paid by the disciples of Jesus to freely pass on the gift of grace. If the recipients did not freely receive, then certainly they would not be motivated to freely pass on to others that which they freely received. If they did not freely pass on that which they had freely received, then they would be behaving contrary to the behavior of grace. They would not have truly understood the nature of the grace of God. And by not truly understanding, they disqualified themselves from receiving the precious message of the gospel. So Jesus instructed His “missionaries” in such situations to kick the dust off their feet and move on.

So what about those who do not discover the blessing of a grace-motivated life? If one does not fully understand the gospel of God’s grace, then he or she often becomes a religious leech who always wants to freely receive, but never freely give. So in sending out His disciples, Jesus cautioned them on this matter: “And whoever will not receive you [freely] or hear your words [freely], when you depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet” (Mt 10:14). In fact, for those who do not join in the fellowship of thanksgiving in freely receiving and freely giving, Jesus pronounced, “It will be more tolerable for that land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city” (Mt 10:15). These are indeed frightful words.

[To be continued in the next issue of Inscriptions.]

Pure Wisdom

Remember when the Holy Spirit through James revealed, “The wisdom that is from above is first pure” (Js 3:17). There is something about the wisdom that comes from God that instills pure thinking and motives because it originates from our Creator who is pure in all things. So we remember Paul’s advice to Timothy: “Now the purpose of the commandment is love out of a pure heart” (1 Tm 1:5; see 2 Tm 2:22). What better advice could an older man of God give to a young disciple? Paul continued by encouraging church leaders to hold “the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience” (1 Tm 3:9). “Keep yourself pure,” he continued (1 Tm 5:22). The wisdom of Paul’s advice rests in the truth that “to the pure all things are pure” (Ti 1:15). It is this pure wisdom from God, therefore, that one keeps himself or herself pure of the ways of the world.

A truly wise person will first seek to keep his or her life pure. For this reason, and especially for a young person, one should make every effort to flee that which would endanger one’s moral purity (1 Tm 6:11). Therefore, Paul instructed, “Flee also youthful lusts. But pursue righteousness” (2 Tm 2:22). Our character for Christ will be revealed through our pure moral behavior. Those who have corrupted their behavior with the impurity of the ways of the world, will manifest the nature of a dysfunctional spiritual character. There can be no true and enduring happiness if we seek to live after that which is contrary to the moral purity that comes forth from our God.
The wisdom that is poured out from above is manifested in the life of the one who has enough sense not to endanger his or her reputation by hanging around youthful impurity. The wisdom from above, therefore, is smart to do that which is right. The wisdom that comes from above leads one to keep himself or herself from all immorality, and even those situations wherein one’s morals might be compromised, or even questioned. Characters for Christ, therefore, know how to flee.

The wisdom that originates from God is generated within the minds of those who have focused their thinking on the instructions that come from God. No disciple can be guarded from unhappiness without feasting on the pure word of God. As disciples of Jesus, we are simply incomplete unless our thinking is formed and controlled by the pure wisdom that comes to us through the word of God (See 2 Tm 3:16,17). When one allows himself or herself to be instructed by God through His word, then he or she is molding the mind into godly thinking (See Rm 12:2). By being instructed by the word of God, one becomes wise in determining what is the work of the flesh and what is the fruit of the Spirit (See Gl 5:19-23). Being able to make a decision between the flesh and Spirit comes only from God’s word. Correct decisions can be made, therefore, only when one has a correct moral standard by which to make decisions. We must never forget that the truly wise person is obsessed with the pure wisdom that originates with our Creator. It is for this reason that when societies lose the moral standard of God’s wisdom, they move away from God. No society that is agnostic or atheistic will ever maintain a constant moral standard, and thus never enjoy the peace that comes from God.

Gospel Restoration

THE FULLNESS OF THE TIME
Restoration must be generated from within a society by the constant and consistent preaching of the gospel. It is difficult to import restoration movements simply because the movement is often attached to some expatriate culture, or worse, some supposedly “foreign religion.” So for this reason, God destined the incarnation of His only begotten Son into the flesh of a Jewish man in a Jewish society and a local spot on planet earth—Palestine (Jn 1:14). The importation was directly from heaven, a fact with which there could be no argument, though most of the early Jews vehemently denied this. To them Jesus was just another self-appointed Rabbi from an obscure village called Nazareth. Nevertheless, the Jews could not deny that Jesus was of Jewish origin.

The incarnate Son of God was born a Jew, born in a Jewish barn, grew up as a Jewish carpenter in a small Jewish village, and preached and taught only within Jewish territory. He never made a “mission trip” outside Palestine. His mission trips were always confined to His own people, the Jews. He then died as a condemned Jew outside the capital city of the Jews—Jerusalem. He was all Jew, and thus, never sought to change His Jewish heritage that had been laid as the foundation for revelation of the gospel for fourteen hundred years before His coming into this world. And thus, the first “gospel restoration” that took place in history was first among the Jews, as stated by the apostle Paul: The gospel “is the power of God unto salvation to every one who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek [Gentiles]” (Rm 1:16).

When we read the Holy Spirit’s statement of Galatians 4:4, it is incumbent on us to think more historically about the meaning, rather than the fulfillment of prophecy. So when the Holy Spirit said, “when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a [Jewish] woman, born under law” our understanding of the statement goes beyond fulfillment of prophecy. Prophecies were fulfilled because the religious, social and political times were right.

The “birth” in the fullness of time was not inconsequential. That Jesus came into this world was certainly in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. But the statement of Galatians 4:4 does not infer that we should consider the “fullness of the time” with the same meaning of a similar statement that is commonly made throughout the gospel records: “That it might be fulfilled . . .” (See Mt 1:22; 2:15,17,23; 4:14; 5:18; 8:17; 12:17). These statements of the gospel records refer exclusively to the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy in reference to Jesus. But the Galatians 4:4 statement emphasis is on “the time,” not the fulfillment time of prophecy. Galatians 4:4 focuses on the fact that it was the right time in history for the fulfillment of all Old Testament prophecies concerning the coming of the Redeemer into the society of the Jews in Palestine. It was indeed a time of fulfillment, but we believe that something more was in the mind of the Holy Spirit when He made the statement of Galatians 4:4. (If we understand Galatians 4:4 correctly, then we will be looking around the world for similar peoples who are religiously, socially and politically receptive to the preaching of the gospel and a restoration to God through the Lord Jesus Christ.)

The “fullness of the time” referred to the religious, social and political circumstances that prevailed at the time the Old Testament prophecies were fulfilled in the coming of the Redeemer. Because the religious, social and political environment was suitable for the coming of the Messiah into the world, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John thus revealed “that it might be fulfilled” in reference to all the Old Testament prophecies that directed the minds of the Jews toward the coming of the Messiah and Savior of the world (Lk 24:44). Their minds had been prepared for the refreshing times to come from the presence of the Lord (At 3:19).

The preceding meaning of Galatians 4:4-7 was in the mind of the angel who delivered to the shepherds the following message concerning the birth of Jesus: “I bring you good tidings [gospel news] of great joy that will be to all the people. For to you a Savior is born this day in the city of David, who is Christ [Messiah] the Lord” (Lk 2:10,11). It is interesting that the angel did not wait until the second day in order to make this first gospel proclamation. On the contrary, this first announcement of the birth of the Redeemer was far more important than to tarry around for twenty-four hours until it was made. It was urgent that a gospel announcement of the incarnational entry of the Son of God into this world be made. The religious, social and political environment in which the shepherds lived, as well as all the Jews, demanded that the announcement urgently be made the very same day the birth event of the incarnation took place. The times were in their fullness in order that the Messiah and Savior of the world be announced and received. The time of refreshing had appeared from the very presence of the Lord, and thus, it was time for restoration.

It is important to understand the “times” in which the Son of God came. The Holy Spirit turns on the light bulb of understanding by what He had Paul inscribe in Galatians 4:7. The Son of God came “to redeem those who were under law” (Gl 4:4). The word “law” in this text does not carry with it the article “the” in the Greek text. Therefore, reference was to any law, especially legal religious rites and rituals under which we often bring ourselves into bondage, whether Jews or idolatrous Gentiles. This is true because the mission of the Christ was to be a Redeemer. He would bring into freedom those who had brought themselves into the bondage of self-righteous law-keeping. Since the redeemed—that is us—could not redeem themselves through any self-sanctify works of law, or meritorious obedience to any law, whether the Sinai law or some man-made law, they could find redemptive power only in the sacrificial offering of the crucified Redeemer. But in specific reference to the Jews, who would represent all religionists throughout history, they had bound upon themselves all sorts of religious rites and rituals that brought them into bondage (See Mk 7:1-9). Their bondage was so severe that the Jewish religionists of Jesus’ day were doing as Jesus said of them, “All too well you reject the commandment of God so that you may keep your own [religious] traditions” (Mk 7:9). When this spiritual condition prevails within a society, then it is time to call for a restoration in order that refreshing times might come from the presence of the Lord (See At 3:19). The only way to generate such refreshing times is to preach the gospel message that a Redeemer has appeared on earth in order to release us from our own self-imposed bondage.

The Redeemer of Galatians 4:5, therefore, came in a time when the Jews had rejected the law of God in order to enslave themselves in the bondage of their own religious legal traditions. We must never forget, therefore, that in our obedience to the freedom-giving nature of the gospel, we are being redeemed from our own misguided self-justification through an attempted perfect keeping of either law or self-imposed religious rites and rituals. And thus in our response to the gospel, we “are no longer a bondservant” to our own manufactured religiosity (Gl 4:7). For this reason we cry out “Abba, Father” in thanksgiving that we are saved by the gospel of God’s grace, not by any self-imposed religious rites and rituals that we might meritoriously impose on ourselves (2 Co 4:15). Glory HALLELUJAH!

[To be continued.]