(PODCAST) APOLOGIES OR APOLOGETICS?
The true source of religious authority
BRIEF RECAP: Jesus, along with the twelve, had just left the region of Gennesaret, where they were met by a multitude of people that had heard about Him and the miraculous things He was doing (6:53). It appears some people may not have been healed that day because “as many as touched it (the fringe of His cloak) were being cured” (6:56). It wasn’t the “fringe” that had healing power; that’s what animism teaches. Animism is the belief that objects, places, and creatures all possess a distinct spiritual essence and have healing power. Jesus is not an animist!
Instead, their healings took place when faith was exercised in Jesus (5:34 as an example). I venture to guess that some did not have faith in Him to heal or anything else.
7 The Pharisees and some of the scribes *gathered to Him after they came from Jerusalem, 2 and saw that some of His disciples were eating their bread with [a]unholy hands, that is, unwashed. 3 (For the Pharisees and all the other Jews do not eat unless they [b]carefully wash their hands, thereby holding firmly to the tradition of the elders; 4 and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they [a]completely cleanse themselves; and there are many other things which they have received as traditions to firmly hold, such as the [b]washing of cups, pitchers, and copper pots.) 5 And the Pharisees and the scribes *asked Him, “Why do Your disciples not walk in accordance with the tradition of the elders, but eat their bread with [c]unholy hands?
FOCUS ONE: Pharisees and their traditions
As this chapter opens, we immediately notice the initial audience that gathers around Jesus. It seems that this is taking place in Capernaum where His home base was (7:17; Matthew 4:13). The Pharisees and some scribes had made the trip from Jerusalem to watch and confront Him (v.1).
This section begins with them “seeing” some of Christ’s disciples eating bread with unclean hands (That is, ceremonially unwashed hands according to the “traditions of the elders). This upset them because they would not eat unless they observed the washing first (v.4)!
We have not heard from these people in a while. As I look back in the gospel, it appears the last time we heard anything from them was way back in chapter three (3:22), when they rejected Him and accused Him of doing works by the power of Satan!
Now, here they are again, unchanged in their thinking, and they are offended when they see some of the disciples eating with “impure hands” that are unwashed.
“1The scribes were learned men who’s business it was to study the Law, transcribe it, and write commentaries on it. Ezra from the Old Testament was a scribe (Ezra 7:6). The scribes took their job of preserving scripture very seriously. The Pharisees were an influential religious sect within Judaism in the time of Jesus and the early church. They were known for their emphasis on personal piety, their acceptance of oral tradition in addition to the Law, and their teaching that ALL Jews should observe all 600 plus laws in the Torah, including the rituals concerning ceremonial purification.”
“The traditions that they held in such esteem were written down centuries before and were still oral in Jesus’ day.” These traditions were “traditions of men,” NOT laws from God! This means that over the years, they had elevated them to the status of scripture, and so by not observing them, a person could be found guilty of violating them. So, in their view, a person was obliged to follow them. But, as we will see shortly, that was not the view that Jesus held!
- What is the washing of the hands?
The Law of Moses required external cleanliness as a part of their religion. Moses prescribed them in moderation as was suitable for various occasions (Leviticus 5:2-4; 11:29-45; 12). The Pharisees added many ordinances on top of what Moses gave, and ultimately they began to be viewed as Law.
“For the Pharisees, the ‘impure hands’ refers to a state of ritual impurity. So they are accusing His disciples and ultimately Him as well, of behaving in a way that makes them unclean in respect to their traditions. Mark, understanding that non-Jewish readers may not understand about these ceremonial washings explains briefly what ‘washings’ means” (7:3).
And there are other things mentioned that they do according to the tradition of the elders. Washing cups and pitchers and copper pots!
So, they approach Jesus and ask Him about the disciples not following the tradition of the elders.
6 But He said to them, “Rightly did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites, as it is written:
‘This people honors Me with their lips,
But their heart is far away from Me.
7 And in vain do they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’
8 Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.”
9 He was also saying to them, “You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God to keep your tradition. 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘The one who speaks evil of father or mother, is [a]certainly to be put to death’; 11 but you say, ‘If a person says to his father or his mother, whatever I have that would help you is Corban (that is, [b]given to God),’ 12 you no longer allow him to do anything for his father or his mother; 13 thereby invalidating the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down; and you do many things such as that
FOCUS TWO: The hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees
After reading those verses, some issues come to light:
- They neglect the commandment of God to observe the traditions of men (v.8)
- They “nicely set it aside” to keep their tradition (v.9)
- Example given in verses 10-12 (What Moses commanded vs. their rule)
- The results: Not allowing people to obey the commands; Invalidating the word of God, and that’s just for starters (v. 13)!
The whole context is about the “traditions of the elders” and the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees proclaiming to follow God while setting aside His word for their traditions (v. 9,13).
What was Jesus’ response?
- He uses OT scripture from Isaiah 29:13 to reveal their hypocrisy and call out their neglect of the commandments God has given them to observe.
- He exposes how “nicely” they set His word aside to do this (v. 9). “The tone of sarcasm in Jesus’ use of the word (kalos) emphasizes the charge of hypocrisy, because it commends them for the cleverness with which they disobey God and yet still portray themselves as righteous.”
- He Uses another OT scripture to prove the point (Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 5:16).
I can’t help but notice the arrogance in their thinking: Moses said, but you say. What better example than this to show how they invalidate the word of God by those traditions!
A good reminder for us in these passages is to learn that the religious things we do and the various holy days we observe can never make us clean before God. External things, even traditions, are all in vain when the heart is not right with God.
8 “See to it that there is no one who takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception in accordance with human tradition, in accordance with the elementary principles of the world, [a]rather than in accordance with Christ” (Colossians 2:8).
16 “Therefore, no one is to [a]act as your judge in regard to food and drink, or in respect to a festival or a new moon, or a Sabbath [b]day— 17 things which are only a shadow of what is to come; but the [c]substance [d]belongs to Christ” (Colossians 2:16-17).
Later we will see that things that defile us are not from the outside but come from within our hearts.
1 got questions.org
2 Exegetical guide to the Greek NT
A PARALYTIC HEALED
BRIEF RECAP: Mark’s emphasis in his writing is to reveal Jesus, the son of God, as a suffering servant who ultimately gives His life as a sacrifice. The spotless lamb of God in place of filthy (sin) sheep without a shepherd (Matthew 9:36)! For his readers to understand who Christ is, God in the flesh, he must reveal Christ’s authority over all things. He does that by sharing particular events in the life of Christ that do just that; shine a light on His divine power and authority in His teaching and over disease, paralysis, fever, demons, and nature.
So far, he has shared the synagogue accounts in Capernaum (1:21-22) that shed light on His authority in His teaching (1:22). Then a man with an unclean spirit (authority over demons or the spirit world) is healed (1:23-28). Simon’s mother-in-law is healed (1:30-33). His power and authority cast out many more with various diseases and demons, clearly revealing to all with “eyes to see and ears to hear,” that He has divine authority over every area of creation!
And this focus continues into our next chapter with Mark sharing the account of Jesus healing a paralytic and forgiving his sins!
2 When Jesus came back to Capernaum a few days later, it was heard that He was at home. 2 And many were gathered together, so that there was no longer space, not even near the door; and He was speaking the word to them. 3 And some people *came, bringing to Him a man who was paralyzed, carried by four men. 4 And when they were unable to [a]get to Him because of the crowd, they removed the roof [b]above Him; and after digging an opening, they let down the pallet on which the paralyzed man was lying. 5 And Jesus, seeing their faith, *said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” 6 But some of the scribes were sitting there and thinking it over in their hearts, 7 “Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins except God alone?” 8 Immediately Jesus, aware [c]in His spirit that they were thinking that way within themselves, *said to them, “Why are you thinking about these things in your hearts? 9 Which is easier, to say to the paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven’; or to say, ‘Get up, and pick up your pallet and walk’? 10 But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—He *said to the paralyzed man, 11 “I say to you, get up, pick up your pallet, and go home.” 12 And he got up and immediately picked up the pallet and went out in the sight of everyone, so that they were all amazed and were glorifying God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this
FOCUS ONE: He goes BACK to Capernaum, from the Galilean region, and I find it interesting that it took “several days” for the news that He was at home to get around usually the people are “hot on His heels.” This home is considered most likely Peter and Andrew’s house (1:29). Remember, Jesus stated that He has no place to lay His head (Matthew 8:19-20)! Most likely, this was His base of operations in that part of the country. We quickly learn from Mark that even this place He called His home afforded Him no privacy.
Mark tells us this house quickly filled up once the people learned that Jesus was there. So much so, there was no more room inside, “even near the door.” Perhaps these people wanted to see more miracles. Who wouldn’t? BUT Jesus wasn’t doing miracles in the house; He was speaking the word to them (2:2).
For us to understand the actions of these four men who brought a paralytic on a pallet to Jesus, we need to be able to visualize the layout of a typical Palestinian peasant’s house:
“*It was usually a small, one-room structure with a flat roof. Access to the roof was by means of an outside stairway. The roof itself was usually made of wooden beams with thatch and compacted earth in order to shed the rain. Sometimes tiles were laid between the beams and the thatch and earth placed over them.”
These four men carry this paralytic to see Jesus. They quickly observed how over-crowded this house was, and apparently, they were persistent in their endeavor and promptly came up with “plan B.” They carry the man up the stairs and proceed to take Peter and Andrew’s roof off! That is not something you can plan for when contemplating going into ministry.
I wonder what expression Jesus had on His face as that roof opened up and the man was let down to the floor. Indeed He recognized their “ingenuity and persistent faith” (2:5). But Jesus seeing their faith (especially the four men), tells the man that his sins are forgiven rather than healing him. My guess is that wasn’t what they expected.
6 But some of the scribes were sitting there and thinking it over in their hearts, 7 “Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins except God alone?” 8 Immediately Jesus, aware [c]in His spirit that they were thinking that way within themselves, *said to them, “Why are you thinking about these things in your hearts? 9 Which is easier, to say to the paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven’; or to say, ‘Get up, and pick up your pallet and walk’? 0 But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—He *said to the paralyzed man, 11 “I say to you, get up, pick up your pallet, and go home.”
FOCUS TWO: CONFLICT WITH SOME SCRIBES
If we read through the gospel accounts, we would quickly observe how hard-hearted the scribes and Pharisees were. They often “reasoned in their hearts” that what Jesus was doing was powered by the devil and what He was speaking to the crowds was blasphemous (Matthew 9:3-4, for example). Jesus, “being aware of their thoughts,” confronts them!
The scribes say that He is blaspheming because only God can forgive sins. They are 100% correct that God alone can forgive sins, but their thinking is incorrect is that Emmanuel (God with us) is committing blasphemy when He exerts His divine power to do so! Many of the scribes and Pharisees did not view Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah that was prophesied about in the Old Testament.
The scribes most likely expected healing, but Jesus pronounces that the man’s sins are forgiven. Jesus confronts them with the probing question, “which is easier to say? Your sins are forgiven or rise and walk?” Jesus doesn’t give the scribes time to answer. The question He posed is meant to elicit deeper thinking on their part.
Obvious, even to us, is that telling someone that their sins are forgiven is the easiest of the two. Why? Because no one can see that take place. No one can prove that they have or haven’t been forgiven. On the other hand, healing someone entirely of their life-crippling physical condition would be VERY apparent to all!
So, Jesus does both! How cool is that? But His purpose in doing so was much more profound than simply healing one of His creations, as awesome as that is. His greater purpose is expressed in verse 10″ “But in order that you may know that the Son of Man (messianic title) has authority on earth to forgive sins, He said to the paralytic, ‘I say to you, arise, take up your pallet and go home.'”
FOCUS THREE: The whole point of Mark sharing this account – Jesus working this way, IS “So that you will know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins.”
It is about His authority on earth!
Mark, like Matthew, chose to share these miracles and healings of Jesus to help their readers grasp the simple truth that Jesus, the Son of Man, is the long-awaited Messiah! He is the suffering servant that Isaiah prophesied about (Isaiah 53)!
These words to the paralytic would become two things:
- * A test of faith
- A demand for obedience
The paralytic arose (acted in faith) and walked out of the sight of everyone there (obedience), including the hard-hearted and skeptical scribes! There can only be one correct response to the power of God when it is manifested.
The appropriate response to His authority can only be to glorify Him! The wonder and amazement at what just took place overcame them all, INCLUDING the scribes (v. 12).
Christ is not physically walking on earth with us, healing people, and casting out demons, BUT He still does such things on a daily basis around our world. Cancerous cells are no longer in the body. People who should no longer walk, talk, or even see again ARE! Sinners living life under the influence of Satan (John 8:44-45) are redeemed, cleansed, and made new!
Which is easier to believe? That these people were lucky, OR that the Son of Man (Jesus) still exercises His authority over all creation?
But so that you may know that the Son of God has authority over all His creation, He led these gospel writers to write down these accounts so that you and I would be amazed at His compassion, astounded by His power, and would give Him praise to the glory of His name!
He then leaves home and goes to the seashore. All the multitudes were coming to Him!
*The Expositors Bible Commentary, pg. 632; pg. 113
God’s power to change lives
Extended reading: Mark 1:21-28
Devotional verse: Verse 27
“Amazement gripped the audience, and they began to discuss what had happened. ‘What sort of new teaching is this?’ They asked excitedly. ‘It has such authority! Even evil spirits obey His orders!’”
Many people seem to falsely believe that Jesus would never forgive them of their sins. Others erroneously state that they have “gone to far” this time and have forfeited God’s love. But these verses teach otherwise! They are too vile, too horrible for Him to forgive.
They teach us that Jesus not only has the authority to cleanse, heal, and redeem. He also is willing to reach into our lives and deliver us from these things, to pour out His grace upon us and save us from something far worse than a physical disease; the sickness of our sinful hearts!
*“God’s power to change lives was demonstrated as Jesus cast out an evil spirit. If Jesus has the power to cast out evil spirits, He certainly has enough power to free us from the sins that entangle us. We need to recognize our problems and sins, confess them honestly, and call out to Him for help.”
Delay no longer. Call out to Him, and you will find grace greater than your sin! What is the gospel?
*Some parts adapted from the “Every mans Bible” NLT
THE SYNAGOGUE SITUATION
Brief intro: Previously, in my last posts, we discussed how Jesus had been prepared for His ministry (baptism and the temptation in the wilderness). We then observed Him gathering followers (2 sets of brothers who were fishermen) to become part of the “12” men that would make up His whole group of disciples. With these four by His side, they travel into Capernaum, “a prosperous fishing village on the NW shore of the Sea of Galilee,” and on the Sabbath, enter a synagogue where Jesus begins to teach.
I see two different aspects of this visit within this next portion of scripture that we will be meditating on, but they point to one thing! Mark shares this historical account for a reason; let’s go find out what it is!
21 They *went into Capernaum; and immediately on the Sabbath Jesus entered the synagogue and began to teach. 22 And they were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.
FOCUS ONE: The first aspect: His teaching
Here is an idea of what the synagogue might have looked like in Jesus day.
We read that Jesus, along with Simon, Andrew, James, and John, travels to Capernaum in these verses. He (Jesus) went into the synagogue on the Sabbath and began teaching as will become His custom. Luke also shares this account in His writing (Luke 4:31-32). What is rather interesting about both reports is that they are very brief. Neither has seen fit to elaborate on what Jesus said in His teaching.
All we can gather from these testimonies is that:
- He went into the synagogue
- It was the Sabbath
- He taught them
- His teaching had authority, not like the scribes
- And, the results of His teaching: they were amazed (astonished)
So, what is the one central element of this short account that the reader, then and now, ought to observe? HIS AUTHORITY!
We do not know what He said, but it is apparent that He said it far differently than the scribes and Pharisees did. We do not know what facial expressions He made or what His body language might have conveyed. But, we do know all of it personified authority!
Jesus, unlike the scribes and Pharisees, had “authority” over all mankind, and that was given to Him by the father (John 17:2). This authority was not a secret or only perceived by those who heard Him, not at all; He verbalized it at times to those around Him (Matthew 9:6; John 7:16; Matthew 28:19-20). And as we will witness shortly, He manifested it to the people through miracles! His words, those given to Him from His Father, He gave to His disciples and others (John 17:8).
FOCUS TWO: The results
What is apparent is that Jesus and His teaching were noticeably and radically different than the people were accustomed to. The people were “amazed” at His teaching. The verb used here in Greek for “astonished or amazed” has a powerful meaning. It is not used superficially, as we might express amazement today. Instead, Seeing that Jesus did not have to quote other rabbis as His authority to say what He was saying, the people noticed that what He said had behind it real, authentic authority. And why? Because His power came straight from God.
“His authority was inherit within Himself.”
Mark used two different Greek words for “astonished” (v.22) and “amazed” (v.27). This isn’t obvious in our various translations because most translate them both as “amazed.” So, there is no reason to elaborate on them here since there is no significant value in it for our understanding of the text.
BUT, by using them, Mark does emphasize an important reality: what they heard and witnessed was so much better and higher and impactful that the only response to it was utter amazement (great wonder)!
This contrast between Jesus and the religious leaders of His day is expressed elsewhere in scripture. Places such as Matthew 7:28-29; Mark 2:6-17; 7:1-13; 14:1- the ultimate contrast: Christ taught the truth, they rejected it and sought to kill Him.
23 Just then there was a man in their synagogue with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, 24 saying, “What [a]business do you have with us, Jesus [b]of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are: the Holy One of God!” 25 And Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be quiet, and come out of him!” 26 After throwing him into convulsions and crying out with a loud voice, the unclean spirit came out of him. 27 And they were all amazed, so they debated among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him.” 28 Immediately the news about Him spread everywhere into all the surrounding region of Galilee.
FOCUS THREE: The second aspect, rebuking the evil spirit
We read in these verses that a man appears in the synagogue who had an unclean spirit (morally and sexually impure). Notice how Mark relates it to his reader, “just then.” One commentator observes: “The spirit HAD control of this man. He was in his possession; He led him captive to his will. The man was there but not to be taught or to be healed!” He was there but not causing any disruptions until Jesus was present! His teaching and authority sparked this man, and he cried out.
The unclean spirit recognizes who Jesus is (holy one of God). Sad to say, that many in our day do not. This unclean spirit acknowledged Christ’s name and where He is from (humanly speaking v. 24). He also professes that “I know who you are-the Holy One of God!” Friend’s, not only do demons believe that there is one God and tremble (James 2:19), they also know that their time to do such things in this fallen world is short (Matthew 8:29).
- Jesus then rebukes him (personal pronoun), not an “it,” force, or illusion, but a created being with personality.
- He commands him to come out of the man, and the spirit obeys, but not without causing distress in his victim (convulsions, loud voice)!
- The spirit despairs being saved by Him and dreads being destroyed by him!
And, in this encounter, we have the second aspect of our study. The first related to Christ’s teaching; the second to His ability to cast out demons. We see this in verse 27.
The people in the synagogue were astonished at what had just happened. This “amazement” led to a debate among those in the synagogue regarding a new (not like the scribes) teaching with authority and His casting out unclean spirits. “What is this?,” is the response of many. These folks are stupefied at all that just transpired in the synagogue. “New teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him” (v.27). They do not know how to react to what they just heard and seen.
So, the question posed at the beginning of our study was: what do the two aspects of the synagogue story point to? What do they teach us about Christ? What is Mark’s purpose in n sharing this?
- A signal that warfare on earth with the Son of God present has begun between the Son of God and Satan.
- Who are said to be hypocrites by Christ (Matthew 7:5), and add man-made rules to the Law. Jesus speaks from the core of His character and nature as God! As such, He has authority, which is very apparent to all. But, he teaches as “one sent from God,” He displays His deity by revealing His sovereignty over all things, including the spiritual realm! Unlike the scribes and the Pharisees who reference other scribes and the like as their authority.
The things that happened in the synagogue (both aspects) were meant to display the power, authority, and deity of this “Jesus of Nazareth!”
So, what were the results of this complete encounter? People started spreading the news about Jesus EVERYWHERE in the areas surrounding Galilee. Many concluded He was a teacher sent by God. It raised Christ’s reputation!
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THE LORD BE WITH YOU
2 Thessalonians 3:16-18
Brief intro: Well, faithful readers, we have finally come to the end of Paul’s epistles to the Thessalonians! We have witnessed much love, concern, and pastoral care on the part of the apostle towards this young church. We also experienced something that, perhaps, we weren’t expecting: finding so many grand doctrinal themes present within the small number of words that had been written to this church. Themes related to the church, end times, faith, unity, fellowship, deception, and leadership. Others such as prayer, missions, hope, encouragement, discipline, and the congregation’s role. Take some time and read through these letters again, and I am sure you will locate others!
This has been an exciting journey for me, and I hope for you as well. I learned a lot and was reminded of many things. With that said, let’s take a look at Paul’s concluding remarks to the Thessalonians.
“Now may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance. The Lord be with you all.”
FOCUS ONE: In these word’s we find another prayer on their behalf. One thing you should have noticed throughout this study is Paul’s passion and persistence for prayer. I pray that such a passion and endurance would be growing in our hearts as well. In verse 16, we find these two petitions:
- “May the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance.”
- The Lord be with you all.”
I want to zoom in on two things that stand out to me in this verse. One being the topic of peace and the other found in the statement “the Lord be with you.” What does the apostle mean by that statement?
So, let’s put our focus on the word peace for a moment. In this text we see that the Lord is called the Lord of peace. In Romans 15:33, He is called the “God of peace.” Isaiah uses the term “prince of peace” (Isaiah 9:6), and in Galatians 5:22, the Holy Spirit, the third person in the trinity, produces as one of the fruits of Himself, peace! It makes sense, considering that He is part of the Godhead: one God who eternally exists as three distinct persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. As such, 1 Corinthians 14:33 states that He is “not a God of confusion but of peace!”
Why do I mention all of that? Because Paul knows, as should we, that the godhead, in perfect unity, manifests as one of its attributes, peace, divine peace! And, actively seeks to bestow this peace unto His Children! How amazing is our God, dear Christian? Because the God of peace raised Christ from the dead (Hebrews 13:20-21) and has place His Spirit within each of those He redeems (Romans 8:9; 1 Corinthians 3:16), He constantly seeks to give strength to His people and bless them with His peace (Psalm 29:11).
His peace passes all understanding. It “guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Psalm 23:1-6 is an excellent example of His perfect peace as it relates to earthly experiences. Please take a moment and read that Psalm and write down all the reasons you see in it for you to have peace. This peace has two realms or facets to it. The positional (Romans 5:1-2) and the experiential (Psalm 23; Romans 14:13-19).
One last point to make regarding peace. The peace that our Lord gave to us through the gospel – is a peace that is meant to be shared with others (Ephesians 5:6). Are your feet prepared with the gospel of peace?
The next statement I want to discuss with you is the “be with you all” statement. Does it seem odd to you that Paul, the great apostle to the gentiles, would ask for such a thing in his prayer? After all, the Lord promised to be with us always (John 14:18, 20, 23). It isn’t if the apostle was led to ask for such a thing.
Paul knows, as should we, how important it is for God’s people to know His indwelling presence in their day-to-day lives. He knows that it is essential for us to grow in His grace and knowledge. He understands that such an experience can be hindered by un-confessed sin that we try to hide, thereby grieving the Holy Spirit and hindering His working within us.
As followers of Christ, we find our strength to live daily in Him alone (2 Timothy 4:17). He not only strengthens us, but provides comforts, equips, and leads us down the narrow way as He works out our sanctification. So, for believers to grow in Christ and experience His presence more wholly, they must submit to His word, His authority, and His will.
“I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand, and this is a distinguishing mark in every letter; this is the way I write.”
FOCUS TWO: It appears that Paul felt it necessary to confirm his authorship of this letter. He states that:
- This is his greeting in his own hand. And, this is what he does in every letter.
We see this in his other letters, for example:
- 1 Corinthians 16:21 – “in my own hand.”
- Galatians 6:11 – “large letters in my own hand.”
- Colossians 4:18 – “I Paul write this with my own hand.”
- Philemon 1:19 – I Paul am writing this with my own hand.”
Paul seems to have felt it necessary o leave a distinguishing mark in his letters to verify that his writings were from him and not from someone posing as him. Remember what he mentioned in chapter 2:1-3? Paul wants to make sure something like that doesn’t happen again.
Many of his letters were written by others at his dictation, (but) to guarantee their genuineness, he closes each one with a line or two from his own hand. Do some research on your own, and you will find the science of handwriting fairly interesting. “Such analysis is based on the premise that no two individuals can produce exactly the same writing.” So, Paul understands this truth and thereby closes each letter by writing something in his own hand, noting that it would be recognizable from others!
“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.”
FOCUS THREE: “Grace, grace, God’s grace. . .” Grace is unmerited or unearned favor. It is the opposite of what sinners deserve! Paul always begins and ends his writings with his earnest desire that his readers experience God’s grace and peace! Please take a moment and reflect on his many preambles and benedictions. It is in God’s grace that Christians live, move, and have their very being. And, take notice that Paul does not exclude anyone he addresses in his letter from this blessing. Not even those he rebuked earlier (3:11-12)!
What will strengthen his readers as they continue to face opposition? What would be their ever-present ally as they share the gospel of peace? God and His amazing grace!
“What will go before them as light, as a shield, as a defense? In all their suffering, in all their temptations and despondency, God’s grace will go before them.” His grace will be sufficient!
For further thought:
- 1. How have you been affected by what you have learned and been reminded of in this study?
- 2. In what ways have you been applying Paul’s teaching in your own life?
- 3. Any questions regarding this study? Email me, and I will do my best to help find the answer.