Living In the Realm of A.D.? Why Do You Desire to Return to B.C.?

Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament epistle of the apostle Paul Galatians unto the churches which are in Galatia. More specifically, today’s passage is found in verses eight through twenty of the fourth chapter. As I begin reading in this particular passage of the fourth chapter I am absolutely and completely captivated by the language the apostle Paul uses to speak unto the churches of Galatia. When you read the words which the apostle Paul used to speak unto these churches you will find the apostle Paul speaks very clearly and succinctly about a past life The members of these churches lived prior to their knowing and understanding God. If you turn and direct your attention to the New Testament book of Acts you will find that there is very little that is written concerning these churches which were in Galatia and Phrygia. What we do encounter within the book of Acts is that on two separate occasions the apostle Paul journeyed into and through these two regions and spent time laboring and ministering among the churches. In fact, on one occasion we find the beloved physician Luke recording how when the apostle Paul and perhaps those who were with him first journeyed into and through the regions of Galatia and Phrygia he taught them concerning those things which were established by the apostles and elders within the city of Jerusalem. I am convinced that this actually plays a significant role in what we find and what we read in the new t stamens epistle of Paul unto the Galatians, for undoubtedly these churches were taught the principles that were set forth in the law of Moses, yet not to be a stumbling block, but rather to bring them into the fullness of the grace and truth that is found in Jesus Christ. Luke clearly records for us in the New Testament book of Acts that when the apostle Paul journeyed through the regions of Galatia and Phrygia he sought to establish them in the principles which were set forth by the apostles and elders which were in Jerusalem.

I have to admit that the more I read the writings of the apostle, the more I am realizing and understanding that one cannot seek to understand that which is contained within the epistles without journeying back into the New Testament book of Acts. In fact, the more I read the writings of the apostle Paul unto the various churches which were found within the provinces of Asia the more I am also encountering that which Luke wrote and recorded in the New Testament book of Acts. While there is not much that is written in the New Testament book of Luke concerning the apostle Paul’s visit to and smog the churches of Galatia, we do know that while there he labored among them to strengthen them in the faith and to ensure that they were rooted and grounded in their faith in Jesus Christ. It is necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand the activity of the apostle Paul in the region of Galatia, for not only did he seek to establish them in that which was set forth by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem, but he also sought to strengthen them in the Lord Jesus Christ. Moreover, the epistle of the apostle Paul written unto the churches in Galatia suggests that while he was there he did in fact preach the gospel concerning Jesus the Christ among them. There is not a doubt in my mind that on both occasions—while the apostle Paul was present among the churches in Galatia—he preached the full gospel concerning Jesus Christ and neither held back nor reserved anything. If there is one thing we learn from studying the life of the apostle Paul—both his movement and activity in ministry within the New Testament book of Acts, as well as through his writings unto the various churches in Asia—its that the apostle Paul always preached the gospel concerning Jesus Christ. The more you read and study the life of the apostle Paul the more you will determine that he had absolutely no message without and apart from the gospel concerning Jesus Christ and Him crucified, buried, raised from death to life, and ascended to the right hand of the Father in heaven.

There is a particular passage of Scripture that must be interjected in this writing before even delving into that which the apostle Paul wrote unto the churches which were in Galatia. This passage is found in the fifth chapter of the apostle’s second epistle unto the saints which were at Corinth, and more specifically is found in one single verse. While I do not ever believe it is wise to merely include a single verse to express truth contained within Scripture I will present unto you that which comes before and that which comes after. If you begin reading with verse twelve of the fifth chapter of the second epistle of the apostle Paul unto the saints which were at Corinth you will find the following words: “For we commend not ourselves again unto you, but give you occasion to glory on our behalf, that ye may have somewhat to answer them which glory in appearance, and not in heart. For whether we be beside ourselves, it is to God: or whether we be sober, it is for your cause. For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: and that He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto them selves, but unto Him which died for them, and rose again. Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we Him no more” (2 Corinthians 5:12-16). Within this particular section of verses we find the apostle Paul declaring that if one [namely Christ] died for all, then were in fact all dead. Since Christ died for all, those which should live as a direct result of His death, burial and resurrection should no longer live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them, and rose again. Moreover, the apostle Paul would go on to write and declare that we no longer know any man after the flesh, and that although we have previously known Christ after the flesh, we now henceforth no longer know Him after the flesh. These words and these verses which precede the seventeenth verse of the fifth chapter of this second epistle unto the Corinthian saints bring us face to face with the direct reality we find when we come to the seventeenth verse of this particular chapter.

When you come to the seventeenth verse of the fifth chapter of this second epistle unto the Corinthian saints you will find one of the most powerful truths concerning the manifestation of Christ within our lives. In verse seventeen of this particular chapter we find the following words: “Therefore if any man be in Christ, He is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17). This is perhaps one of my favorite verses in all of Scripture, for it is within this verse where we truly discover where we find the strength and the power for old things in our lives to pass away—and not only old things in our lives passing away, but also all things becoming new. It is absolutely critical that we recognize and understand that it is only to the degree and measure that we allow ourselves to be found in Christ that we can in fact become a new creature. It is necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand this reality and principle, for we cannot, we dare not, we must not make any boast or declaration that we are a new creature if we are not and have not first been found to be in Christ. It is, it has always been, and it will always be only to the degree and measure that we are found to be in Christ that we can even consider ourselves to be a new creature. Is it possible that there are those among us who are making the boast and the claim that they are new creatures, and yet they are not found to be in Christ? Is it possible that there are men and women among us who are making the declaration that they are in fact a new creature and a new creation, and yet Christ has absolutely nothing to do with that supposed transformation which has taken place within their lives. In all reality, I would dare say that we dare not and must not make any attempt to become a new creature without, outside of, and apart from the reality of being in Christ. In fact, it is only in Christ where anything can become new—a completely different reality from that which we find in the Old Testament book of Genesis.

I have previously written that there is a vast difference between what we read and what we find in the Old Testament book of Genesis, for in the Old Testament book of Genesis we find the Lord creating “ex nihilo,” which literally means creating something out of nothing, or something from nothing. When we read the Old Testament book of Genesis we do in fact find the Lord creating everything which is seen in our natural world today, as well as that which cannot be seen—at least not with the natural eye. What’s worth recognizing and understanding is that in the beginning there was an original creation, and in the end of all things there will be a new creation. Even the very earth we walk upon will experience a dramatic moment in time when it will be consumed and destroyed with fire, and the Lord will create a new heavens and a new earth. Consider if you will the words and language that is found in the Old Testament book of Genesis within the first few verses of the first chapter—“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters” (Genesis 1:1-2). Now, consider if you will the words and language that is found in the twenty-first verse of the final book of the Bible—the New Testament prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ. Beginning with the first verse of the twenty-first chapter we find the following words: “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I john saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things are passed away. And He that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And He said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. And He said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the like which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death” (Revelation 21:1-8).

When examining the fullness of Scripture it is absolutely unmistakable that even in creation itself we are confronted with the fact that there was an initial creation, which was the original creation of God in the beginning. The first chapter of the Old Testament book of Genesis brings us face to face with the beginning of all things, and the beginning of the creation of God as we have come to know it. Within the Old Testament book of Genesis we encounter the tremendous reality that there is the act of creation which takes place “ex nihilo,” which is literally creating something from absolutely nothing. We do in fact encounter the reality of the Lord creating the heavens and the earth in the Old Testament book of Genesis, while in the New Testament book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ we in fact find a new heavens and a new earth. Moreover, in this passage found within the New Testament prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ we find the Lord Himself emphatically making two distinct declaration—the first declaration was “Behold, I make all things new,” while the second declaration was “It is done.” It is absolutely necessary that we recognize and understand the strong comparison between the first book of the Scripture and the final book of Scripture, for within both books we encounter an original creation, as well as a new creation which has yet to be created. We dare not miss or lose sight of this fact and reality, for even in creation itself we find the powerful reality that the Lord does in fact make all things new. It is true that if any man is in Christ, He is a new creature, and just as true is it that any man is in Christ is a new creation, so we see this reality powerfully and wonderfully demonstrated in creation itself. I am convinced that even in creation itself we find the gospel concerning Jesus Christ being preached, for even in creation itself we find that which was created, and that which longs for, groans for, and eagerly awaits that moment when old things will in fact pass away, and in fact all things will in fact become new. How absolutely remarkable it is that even creation itself can and will experience this same transformation which that man or that woman who is found to be in Christ can and will experience themselves. I am convinced that with each and every passing moment—with each and every passing hour, every day, every week, every month, every year—creation eagerly groans and longs for that moment when old things will in fact pass away, and all things can and will become new. Consider if you will the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the eighth chapter of the New Testament epistle to the Roman saints:

“For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaned and travailest in pain together until now. And now only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it” (Romans 8:18-25).

This reality and concept of old things passing away and all things becoming new is actually found in the fifteenth chapter of the first New Testament epistle of the apostle Paul unto the Corinthians. Beginning with the forty-second verse of the fifteenth chapter we find the following words written by the apostle: “So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: it is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is down in weakness; it is raised in power: it is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immorality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thank be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord” (2 Corinthians 15:42-58).

It is absolutely necessary that we have this foundation built by what is contained within Scripture, for if we are to understand that which the apostle Paul writes in the fourth chapter of the epistle unto the churches in Galatia, we must understand this concept of old things passing away and all things becoming new. When you come to the eighth verse of the fourth chapter you find the apostle Paul writing and speaking of a time when the churches in Galatia knew not God, and during that time did service unto them which by nature are no gods. Essentially, that which the apostle Paul was writing and speaking about was time past within the lives of the saints of God which were present within and among the churches in Galatia. With these words the apostle Paul spoke of a time when they knew not God, and during that time when they knew not God they did service unto them which by nature are no gods. IN all reality, I am convinced that if we are to understand where we are, and in fact where we are going, it is absolutely necessary that we recognize and understand who we once were, and what our previous life before Christ was like. This reality was expressed within this epistle already when the apostle Paul spoke of and referenced his own life. Beginning with the twenty-first verse of the first chapter of this epistle the apostle Paul writes how “Afterwards he came into the regions of Syria and Cilicia; and was unknown by face unto the churches of Judaea which were in Christ: but they had heard only, That he which persecuted us in times past now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed. And they glorified God in me” (Galatians 1:21-24). Perhaps better than anyone the apostle Paul knew and understand the reality and concept of old things passing away and all things becoming new, for the apostle Paul sought to persecute the churches of Jesus Christ. IN fact, it was while he was on the road to Damascus with orders from Jerusalem to imprison Christians and saints of God that he encountered Jesus Christ along the way, and had his life dramatically and radically altered. Consider if you will the words which the apostle Paul writes in the third chapter of the epistle he wrote unto the Philippians:

“Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinkers that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and to count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death; if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:3-14).

When I read the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the churches which were in Galatia concerning times past when they knew not God and did service unto them which weren’t gods I can’t help but be reminded of the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the saints which were at Ephesus. Beginning with the first verse of the second chapter of this New Testament epistle we find the following words: “And you hath He quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that not worketh in the children of disobedience: among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: that in the gages to come He might shew the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. Wherefore r member, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; that at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world: but now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For He is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; having abolished in His flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in Himself of twain one new man, so making peace; and that He might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: and came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh” (Ephesians 2:1-17).

Please pay close attention to the words and language that is found and contained within this particular passage of Scripture, for within this passage of Scripture the apostle Paul spends a great deal describing who and what we once were “before Christ.” Within the first verse of the second chapter the apostle Paul writes how we were at one point in time dead in trespasses in sins, while in the second verse the apostle Paul writes how in times past we walked according to the course of this world, and according to the prince of the power of the air. When we come to the third verse of this chapter we find the apostle also writing how we had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, and fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were in fact by nature children of wrath. In the fifth verse the apostle Paul goes on to write how we were dead in our sins, which only further confirms the reality of who and what we were before Christ showed up and rescued us from who we once were. It is quite obvious that the apostle Paul uses very specific language to describe who and what we were before Christ, for he wanted us to truly understand who and what we were in times past. Twice within this passage found within the epistle of Paul unto the Ephesian congregation and saints the apostle Paul described how we were in fact dead—dead in trespasses and sins, and again dead in sins. It’s worth noting that within this passage of Scripture—not only did the apostle Paul speak of us in times past as being dead in trespasses and sins, but he also spoke of how we walked and what our conversation was like. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we understand that which the apostle Paul writes unto the saints which were at Ephesus, for the apostle Paul is emphatically declaring that since we are in Christ—not only should our conversation change and be transformed, but so also should the way we walk be changed and transformed. Perhaps the single greatest question I can’t help but ask when reading this particular passage of Scripture is whether or not our conversation has changed since making the decision to follow and pursue Christ, and whether or not the way we walk and conduct ourselves has changed.

Contemporary Christian artist Steven Curtis Chapman wrote a song some time ago bearing the title “What About the Change,” and it is a fitting song and title considering that which the apostle Paul writes unto the various churches. These words “What About the Change” are words which are in fact a question and are directed to us who make the claim that we are in fact in Christ, for if we make the claim that we are in fact in Christ there must be tangible proof that we are in fact found to be in Christ. When you carefully and throughly examine your life, can you honestly say that there has been a true and authentic change that has taken place within you? Has your conversation been completely and radially altered and transformed? Has the way you walk and the way you conduct yourself been completely transformed, or has it remained the same? I am convinced that one of the greatest testaments of truly being transformed by Jesus the Christ is in the way we speak, and the words which proceed from our mouth. We dare not say that we are a new creation in Christ and yet still maintain a conversation that sounds like the world in which we were taken from. We dare not say that we are a new creation iN Christ and yet still walk and conduct ourselves as we did before we ever encountered Christ. I am finding myself—as I’m sitting here right now this morning—asking myself whether or not those around me can in fact see a change and transformation within my life. When those around me look at me and listen to the words I speak, when they examine how I conduct myself, and when they listen to how I interact with others, can they in fact see a change within me? What about the change? What about the change in your life? What about the change in my life? It is absolutely true that if any man is in Christ he or she is a new creature, and that old things are passing away and all things are becoming new, yet we must ask ourselves if we are indeed and are in fact found to be in Christ. It is only in Christ that we can even be a new creation, and there is no way around this reality. Regardless of how much you might try to transform yourself into a new creation outside of, without and apart from Christ, it is absolutely impossible to do so without Him. The apostle Paul spent a considerable amount of time within his epistles writing concerning who and what he was before Christ, and it was from this place of knowing and understand who and what he was before Christ that we are able to encounter his words concerning who and what we were.

What’s important to recognize and realize concerning that which the apostle Paul wrote in this passage is that he appeals to who and what we were before Christ in order to confront who we are at this present moment after Christ. The apostle Paul first speaks of when we knew not God and how we did service to them which by nature are no gods, and then goes on to ask how we could turn again to the weak and beggarly elements wherein we again desire to be in bondage. Quite honestly, this is the same language that is found in the Old Testament books of Exodus, Numbers, Leviticus and Deuteronomy, for you will recall the children of Israel were delivered from their Egyptians slavery, bondage and oppression after spending four-hundred and thirty years living as slaves within a land not their own. Moses records on more than one occasion how the children of Israel murmured, grumbled and complained in the wilderness, and how there were even times when they sought to raise up for themselves a leader who would lead them down into the land of Egypt. A similar reality is found in the Old Testament prophetic book fo Jeremiah, for within this prophetic book we find the remnant which remained in Judah seeking to go down into the land of Egypt for fear of the sword of the king of Babylon. Although they were warned and cautioned against going down into the land of Egypt, the remnant of Judah ignored the warning and choose to make the journey down into the land of Egypt where they were overtaken by the very sword they sought to escape from. Oh, how many times do we do the very same thing the children of Israel did, for we are warned and cautioned against going down into Egypt to avoid the sword, and yet we choose to ignore the warning and go down into Egypt anyway? I can’t help but find the words of the apostle Paul in the epistle unto the churches of Galatia to be directly linked and connected to the children of Israel who in the wilderness sought on more than one occasion to return into the land of Egypt—perhaps to subject themselves once more to bondage, slavery and oppression. The apostle Paul asks the Galatians how they could turn again to the weak and beggerly elements, whereunto they would desire again to be in bondage, and I believe this question can and should be asked of a number of us in this generation, for how many of us are turning ourselves once more to that which would bring us into bondage? If I am being honest, the entire epistle of the apostle Paul unto the Galatians is a discourse of how we not only need to set ourselves free from bondage at the moment we accept in and believe in Christ, but also how we continually guard ourselves against returning once more to being in bondage by those things which we were once set free and delivered from.

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