Paul Defends His Ministry (Gal. 1:11-24)

Paul Defends His Ministry(Galatians 1:11-24)

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church on Sunday, November 11, 2018

Sometimes the uniqueness of the revealed Word of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ is seen most clearly when contrasted with other spiritual beliefs.

Lauding the Dalai Lama as one of the world’s 100 most influential leaders, author Deepak Chopra wrote in Time magazine: 

The most inspiring thing [the Dalai Lama] ever told me was to ignore all organized faiths and keep to the road of higher consciousness. “Without relying on religion, we look to common sense, common experience and the findings of science for understanding,” he said.

The Dalai Lama sounds wise, and his words certainly fit the mood of our culture. But we must see clearly what his advice means. It means you ignore Christianity because it is an organized religious faith. It means you ignore the church of Jesus Christ, which Jesus himself said he would build. It means you reject the gospel of Jesus Christ—the Son of God in the flesh, crucified for our sins, raised from the dead—because the gospel flies in the face of all common sense, human experience, and science.

Make no mistake, the gentle-looking man in the maroon robe is offering advice that will lead you far from the only way of salvation.[1]

We are continuing our sermon series on Galatians. As we get to Galatians chapter 1:11-24 we see Paul defend himself a little bit. What is important is he is defending himself so that they can be confident in the Gospel he taught them and the Gospel they committed to. Remember that a major theme in Galatians is grace. Paul is encouraging them that they do not have to keep the Jewish law and they are saved by grace and not works. We are made right with God by grace through faith.

Today my theme is:

The Gospel comes from Jesus (We see this in verse 12).

Let’s read Galatians 1:11-24:

For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. 12 For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.

13 For you have heard of my former manner of life in Judaism, how I used to persecute the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it; 14 and I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my countrymen, being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions. 15 But when God, who had set me apart even from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, was pleased 16 to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood, 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went away to Arabia, and returned once more to Damascus.

18 Then three years later I went up to Jerusalem to become acquainted with Cephas, and stayed with him fifteen days. 19 But I did not see any other of the apostles except James, the Lord’s brother. 20 (Now in what I am writing to you, I assure you before God that I am not lying.) 21 Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. 22 I was still unknown by sight to the churches of Judea which were in Christ; 23 but only, they kept hearing, “He who once persecuted us is now preaching the faith which he once tried to destroy.” 24 And they were glorifying God because of me.


  1. In verses 11-12 we see that Paul’s revelation came from God and not man.
    1. In verse 11, we see that this Gospel is not according to man.
    2. This gospel was preached by Paul.
    3. This is a really important truth that we need to take in. Why is this important right now? It is important because these Judaizers had followed Paul and tried to tell them that they had to keep the whole law. They are claiming the Jewish tradition, but recognize the Gospel comes from Jesus and He is the highest authority.
    4. Paul still uses a term of endearment, calling them “brothers.” This could be translated as “brothers and sisters.”
    5. Paul says he also wants them to know the following information.
    6. The ESV Study Bible summarizes:Paul received the gospel directly from Jesus Christ on the Damascus road. His gospel was not derived from Peter or any other human authorities. His gospel was validated by the “pillar” apostles (2:9) in Jerusalem. The authority of Paul’s gospel is evident in his rebuke of Peter when he failed to live in accord with the gospel (2:11–21).
    7. Paul apparently is responding to criticism that he is peddling a gospel received from man, not from God, and that he is doing so simply to please man rather than God. Paul does not simply defend himself out of resentment or wounded pride but shows a pastoral concern: to reassure the Galatians that the gospel they received was the authentic one, not a false message delivered by an untrustworthy messenger(e.g.,2:5).
  2. In verses 13- 14 Paul speaks about his life before Christ.
    1. Acts 8:3 it records some of Paul’s past, also Acts 22 and 26.
    2. Verse 14, Paul was advancing in Judaism more than his contemporaries. Paul was very zealous. The NET Bible shares: The traditions of my ancestorsrefers to both Pharisaic and popular teachings of this time which eventually were codified in Jewish literature such as the Mishnah, Midrashim, and Targums.[2]
    3. One source adds “Advancing” (v. 14) is the technical language of philosophical schools for progress in one’s studies, but it was also current in Diaspora Judaism and could naturally be applied, as here, to a rabbinic student. The Palestinian Jewish image of “zeal” was commonly rooted in the models of Phinehas (Num 25:11) and the Maccabees, who were willing to kill for God. “Traditions” could refer to general community customs, but given Paul’s Pharisaism (Phil 3:5), it probably refers to Pharisaic traditions, on which Jews discussing Pharisaism generally commented. (Pharisees were known for their adherence to oral tradition.) Paul actually understands the Palestinian Jewish piety of his day far better than his opponents do. His position and activities are reported in greater detail in Acts 8:1–3 and 9:1–2.[3]
    4. Paul was very much set on the rules and rituals of Judaism. We like rules, don’t we? Rules give us an adrenaline boost. Think about this:

A constant state of adrenalin arousel, although physically damaging, is often experienced as pleasant excitement and stimulation. And it is this that makes it most dangerous, because we can come to think of the arousal state as “normal” and to depend on the high it gives us to get anything accomplished. I believe there is a corresponding spiritual danger.

Becoming dependent on adrenalin arousal for the good feelings of life can create an association between spirituality and high arousal. In other words, one doesn’t feel “spiritual” unless one is being stimulated by adrenalin arousal. Many expressions of spirituality have become linked to adrenalin arousal, and this can be very harmful. A great many of the true saints of God have found their peak spiritual experiences in quietness and solitude. But many modern “saints” look for it only in exciting challenges or emotional catharsis.[4]

  1. Paul is giving them the Gospel which is about grace and this comes from Jesus.
  • In verses 15- 24 Paul talks about his early Christian life.
    1. In verse 15, this is comparable to Jeremiah 1:4-5 which was about Jeremiah being called from the womb.
    2. God set apart Paul from the womb in order to declare the Gospel to the gentiles. This calling came from God, so Paul did not consult a human being.
    3. In Acts 9:15 Paul had his calling and God talks about Paul’s mission to the gentiles.
    4. Verse 17 is recorded in Acts 9:19-22.
    5. The ESV Study Bible summarizes: The journey to Arabia and back to Damascus takes place in the gap betweenActs 9:25 and 9:26.
    6. Paul goes to Arabia and Damascus to spend time with the disciples and then he preaches.
    7. The NET Bible adds: As a geographical region Arabia included the territory west of Mesopotamia, east and south of Syria and Palestine, extending to the isthmus of Suez. During the Roman occupation, some independent kingdoms arose like that of the Nabateans south of Damascus, and these could be called simply Arabia. In light of the proximity to Damascus, this may well be the territory Paul says he visited here.[5]
    8. He goes to Jerusalem and was acquainted with Peter.
    9. In Acts 9:26 it records him coming to Jerusalem and the people afraid of him.
    10. Paul stayed with Peter 15 days.
    11. In verse 19 he specified that the only other one he saw was Jesus’ half brother James.
      1. This is important in context because Paul is making the case that he received the Gospel of grace from God and not from the other apostles.
      2. Though he was affirmed by the pillars of the church is Gal. 2:9.
    12. Verse 21: Paul travels to Syria and Cilicia. Acts 9:30 shows that he travels more to Ceasarea and Tarsus. Acts 15:23 and 41 records Paul’s travels in Syria and Cilisia.
    13. One source adds: Whether or not Paul means the whole province of “Syria-Cilicia” (as he could have in this period), Paul spent time both in Cilicia (Tarsus) and Syria proper (Antioch, its capital); cf. Acts 9:30, 11:25–26 and 13:1.[6]
    14. This chapter concludes with a really awesome statement: but they were hearing that the one who persecuted them is now proclaiming the faith they once tried to destroy (We see this in Acts 9:21) and they glorified God because of Paul.
  1. Applications:
    1. Can we be content to trust in Jesus and the Gospel of grace? Or, do we always want to go back to a gospel of rituals and rules?
    2. Can we trust verse 12, that the Gospel comes from Jesus?
    3. Also, can we give God the glory? Notice verse 24, they gave God the glory for the transformation in the Apostle Paul.
    4. They saw a changed life in the apostle Paul. Here is a question, do people see that Jesus changed your life?
    5. Are you living for Jesus?
    6. Give God the glory.


Robert Webber writes:

I was traveling on a plane from San Francisco to Los Angeles a few years ago. I was sitting next to the window, reading a Christian book. The man next to me, obviously from the Eastern hemisphere, asked, “Are you a religious man?” “Well, yes,” I said. “I am too,” he responded. We began talking about religion. In the middle of the conversation I asked, “Can you give me a one-liner that captures the essence of your faith?” “Well, yes,” he said. “We are all part of the problem, and we are all part of the solution.”

We talked about his one-liner, a statement I felt was very helpful. After a while I said, “Would you like a one-liner that captures the Christian faith?”

“Sure,” he responded.

“We are all part of the problem, but there is only one man who is the solution. His name is Jesus.”[7]

Jesus is the solution and Paul is proclaiming to the Galatians that the Gospel is about the grace of Jesus.

Do you know Christ?

Luke 9:23

God created us to be with Him. (Genesis 1-2)

Our sin separated us from God. (Genesis 3)

Sins cannot be removed by good deeds (Gen 4-Mal 4)

Paying the price for sin, Jesus died and rose again. (Matthew – Luke)

Everyone who trusts in Him alone has eternal life. (John – Jude)

Life that’s eternal means being with Jesus forever. (Rev. 22:5)


[1]Craig Brian Larson, editor of; source: Deepak Chopra, “Dalai Lama,” Time(5-12-08), p. 43

Mishnah Mishnah, a codification of Jewish rabbinic oral tradition collected c. A.D. 200–220

[2]Biblical Studies Press, The NET Bible First Edition Notes(Biblical Studies Press, 2006), Ga 1:14.

[3]Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament(Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), Ga 1:13–14.

[4]Archibald D. Hart in Adrenalin and Stress. Christianity Today, Vol. 34, no. 1

[5]Biblical Studies Press, The NET Bible First Edition Notes(Biblical Studies Press, 2006), Ga 1:17.

[6]Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament(Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), Ga 1:21.

[7]Robert Webber, Who Gets to Narrate the World? (IVP, 2008), p. 26


No Other Gospel (Gal. 1:6-10)

No Other Gospel(Galatians 1:6-10)

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on Sunday, November 4, 2018

A new, highly efficient system is being used by San Francisco and New York City to detect the presence of toxins in a city’s water supply, a possible sign of a terrorist attack. They have found that the best tool for monitoring such threats are bluegills, those little fish so many catch on a lazy summer afternoon.

According to an article by the Associated Press, a small number of bluegills are kept in a tank at the bottom of a city’s water treatment plant because they are highly attuned to chemical imbalances in their environment. When a disturbance is present in the water, the bluegills react against it. If the computerized system of the treatment plant detects even the slightest change in a bluegill’s vital signs, it sends out an e-mail alert.

Bill Lawler, the co-founder of the corporation that makes and sells these bluegill monitoring systems, said, “Nature’s given us pretty much the most powerful and reliable early warning center out there.”[1]

We need a type of test with our doctrine as well. Our test is the Bible.

Some time ago a rash of flying accidents for single-engine planes occurred across North America. When a comprehensive study was conducted of the 44 most recent fatal accidents involving Cirrus aircraft, a few lessons stood out. First, all but one of the accidents listed pilot-related causes. Second, and most surprisingly, experienced pilots were responsible for a majority of the accidents. A few of the accidents were caused by pilots with less than 150 hours of flight time, but over 75 percent of the accidents were caused by pilots with over 400 hours of flight time. Apparently, these pilots assumed that because they already had a lot of hours under their belts they could cut corners and get sloppy. By contrast, beginning pilots with fewer hours were extremely careful, even painstaking in their preflight routines, meticulously inspecting every rivet of the airplane. They did it by the book. The study concluded that pilots who get overconfident and stop pursuing ongoing safety training are four times more likely to have a fatal accident.

Sometimes we as Christians are 400-flying-hour disciples. Accidents take place because we stop doing it by the Book. We stop studying the Word of God. We compromise on devotions …. We slump on allowing the standards of Scripture and the Holy Spirit to inspect every “rivet” in our hearts and lives. We go on day after day cutting corners, wondering why we lose power on the climbs, and we stall. Accidents may often be the consequences of thinking we know better.[2]

Today, I wish to keep moving through Galatians. We are in our second sermon on Galatians.


My theme today is that there is no other Gospel.

My application is:

Doctrine matters and seek to please the Lord.

Let’s read Galatians 1:6-10:

I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!

10 For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.

In verses 6-7 we see Paul’s amazement and his rebuke.

Notice that Paul is amazed. Some translations say “marveled.”

He is “amazed” or “marveled” because they deserted God.

He is “marveled” or “amazed” because of how quickly they deserted God.

Notice that this happened quickly. Galatians is one of the earliest letters of the New Testament and Paul might have started that church on his first missionary journey, which might have been A.D. 46-47. So now it is likely A.D. 48-50 and they have already turned on their faith.

Paul goes further to say that they are deserting Him who called them. They are deserting God.

This calling being referred to is God’s calling on them. They are deserting Jesus despite the fact that He called them.

They turned aside so quickly after their conversion. Paul seems to be maybe accusing them of being fickle.

There is indication that they have been Christians for some time. But they still turned aside when these teachers or Judaizers came into the picture. The Judaizers were teaching that they had to follow the Jewish law to be saved. This is a Gospel of works and not grace.

If that is what Paul had in mind the issue was gullibility. They will believe everything they hear. The first thing they hear.

Easy believism.

In Acts Luke describes Paul’s ministry among the Thessalonian Jews. They chase him off (Acts 17:1-9). Then they go to Berea and the Bereans are described as searching the Scriptures (Acts 17:10-15).

This word for call: not used to call someone but God’s creative act of summoning into existence things that didn’t previously exist.

Creation: God called, and they were created, same thing with God’s people Israel

God caused Israel to exist as His people.

God calls and creates the church today.

God called them into the sphere of grace or by means of grace.

They have deserted God’s way. They have turned to a different Gospel.

This happens quite simply. If we mix a little bit of a lie with a lot of truth we start to veer out of correct Theology.

In an interview with New York Magazine, Lady Gaga said, 

What I’ve discovered is that in art, as in music, there’s a lot of truth—and then there’s a lie. The artist is essentially creating his work to make this lie a truth, but then he slides it in amongst all the others. The tiny little lie is the moment I live for, my moment. It’s the moment the audience falls in love.[3]

This is why I make the case to you that Theology matters. Doctrine matters.

Remember that Theology is the study of God. Remember that doctrine is that theology that has been organized to form a set of beliefs.

These people are not swaying on small things. They have veered off to a “different” Gospel.

There are many topics where good Christians have held different views through the ages, we have held different views on: end times, the amount of God’s sovereignty in our salvation which we may call “election” and “predestination,” we have differed about eternal security, we have differed about spiritual gifts.

However, what the Galatians have gotten into is a serious matter. They have gotten into works-based salvation. They have gone from “salvation by grace through faith” to salvation by keeping the law.

The Galatians didn’t believe that faith was unnecessary. They thought faith was necessary to get into the faith and then you stayed in by works.

In verse 7 Paul says that some are “disturbing” or “troubling” them. The word for trouble: could mean frighten to create mental anguish or fear. This means severe mental anguish. This involves mental anguish in that it causes emotional stress. These people create great fear.

Paul says that they have “distorted” or “perverted” the Gospel. This has the idea of changing something to the opposite.

In verses 8-9 we see Paul’s judgment.

Paul says that even if they or an “angel from Heaven” should preach a different Gospel let him be accursed.

Paul is saying that it does not matter who teaches it, if it is a false Gospel it is wrong.

The people of Galatia might have been attributing this law based Gospel to the apostles from Jerusalem, but Paul says it does not matter. Even if it came from an angel from Heaven.

Paul gives a strong word for judgment. If it is a different Gospel they should be “accursed.”

Mormonism is an example of a religion that is based on revelation supposedly given by an angel and that teaches a gospel different from justification by faith alone in the substitutionary death of Christ.

Paul pronounced a type of curse on these false teachers. Later in church history this would include the idea of church discipline and delivering the teachers over to the world.

In verse 9 Paul repeats this idea. Paul said, “as we have said before…” This could be something he shared when he was with them, though he had just said it in the previous verse.

In verse 10 we see Paul’s defense.

Verse 10 Paul is saying that he is only there to please God.

Paul is a “bond-servant” of Christ.

This has the idea of being a willing servant of Christ.

Basically, we cannot serve man and Christ.

We must aim to please Christ.

Some applications:

Doctrine matters, we must take seriously proper doctrine.

Doctrine matters, we must study proper doctrine.

We must study the proper doctrine of salvation.

We must study the proper doctrine of God.

We must study other doctrines.

We must start by studying the Bible.

Then, we must study what Christian writers have written about the Bible.

Doctrine matters, we must guard the churches doctrine.

We must pray about this.

We must not be led astray.

We must lead church discipline on those that teach false doctrine (Gal. 1:8-9; see also 1 Cor. 5 and Matthew 18:5-7).

We must recognize essential doctrines versus things that are not as clear. In this case they were teaching a different gospel (verse 6). This was not a small difference.

Verse 10: We must seek to please the Lord.

This must be true in our personal life.

This must be true in our family.

This must be true in all other facets of our life.

Lee Strobel gives this example of something getting “lost in translation:”

I don’t know if you’ve seen the new machines they’ve got—you can do this on the Internet—that will translate English into whatever language you want. Type in a phrase and push a button, and it will translate it into French or Spanish or German or whatever. I’ve always been curious: How do you know the translation is good?

A guy had a similar question and did something fun. He took the song “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” typed it into the computer, and translated it into German. Then he translated it back into English to see if anything got lost in the translation. You know the song:

Take me out to the ballgame. Take me out to the crowd. Buy me some peanuts and Crackerjack. I don’t care if I ever get back.

Let me root, root, root for the home team. If they don’t win, it’s a shame. For it’s one, two, three strikes you’re out at the old ballgame.

He translated it into German and then back into English. Well, something got lost in the translation. It sounds a little militant, like Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Execute me to the ball play. Execute me with the masses. Buy me certain groundnuts and crackerstackfusig. I’m not interested if I never receive back.

Let me root, root, root for the main team. If they do not win, it is dishonor. For there are one, two, three impacts on you at the old ball play.

Something got lost in the translation. The same is true about Jesus. Something through the centuries gets lost a bit. I don’t mean the translation of the New Testament text; I’m talking about the way people perceive Jesus. Often Jesus ends up a caricature of who he really is.[4]

We must beware by comparing all teaching about Jesus with the Bible.

Do you know Christ?

Luke 9:23

God created us to be with Him. (Genesis 1-2)

Our sin separated us from God. (Genesis 3)

Sins cannot be removed by good deeds (Gen 4-Mal 4)

Paying the price for sin, Jesus died and rose again. (Matthew – Luke)

Everyone who trusts in Him alone has eternal life. (John – Jude)


[1]Kristen Scharold, Wheaton, Illinois; source: Marcus Wohlsen, “Fish used to detect terror attacks,” (9-19-06)

[2]Adapted from Wayne Cordeiro, Jesus: Pure and Simple (Bethany House, 2012), pp. 121-122; Dave Hirschman, “Surprising Cirrus Stats,” AOPA Pilot blog (12-10-09)


[3]Vanessa Grigoriadis, “Growing Up Gaga,” New York Magazine (3-28-10)

[4]Lee Strobel, Meet the Jesus I Know, (Preaching Today Audio No. 211)

Jesus is Tempted by the Devil, the Spiritual Realm Is Real (Matt 4:1-11)

There is a war going on but we cannot see it. There is a battle going on but we may not feel it. The enemy speaks words to bring us down but we may not hear them. We are all under attack but we may not realize it. We cannot perceive of this war because it is a spiritual war. There is a spiritual battle going on. It is real, though we cannot see it, touch it, taste it, feel it, or hear it.

As a Christian, to deny this spiritual war greatly jeopardizes one’s relationship with God. As a Christian, to deny this spiritual war will keep one from being on the offensive rather than the defensive. As a Christian, to deny this spiritual war will mean being attacked. A Christian who denies spiritual warfare is like an aircraft carrier during World War II sitting in front of a German U Boat. A Christian must realize the war that is going on in the spiritual realm.

I mentioned attacks. You may wander, “what do these attacks look like?” As a Christian the attacks that we will experience are usually temptations to sin against the Lord. You may not realize it, but the main way we will experience this war that is going on is when you are attacked. The enemy, the devil and his forces, breaks through from the spiritual into the carnal world and attacks with an enticement to sin. And all sin is against the Lord (Psalm 51: 4).

In Matthew 4:1-11 Jesus is attacked by satan. Jesus models a way of handling spiritual warfare. He models a way to deal with the enemy. Let’s read that passage and talk about it for a minute.

My theme today is:

Jesus is Tempted by the Devil, the Spiritual Realm is Real (Matthew 4:1-11)

Read Matthew 4:1-11:

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry. And the tempter came and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.’”

Then the devil *took Him into the holy city and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and *said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it is written,

He will command His angels concerning You’;


On their hands they will bear You up,
So that You will not strike Your foot against a stone.’”

Jesus said to him, “On the other hand, it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory; and he said to Him, “All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Go, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.’”11 Then the devil left Him; and behold, angels came and began to minister to Him.

  1. First, practice Spiritual disciplines.
    1. Jesus was led by the spirit to be tempted.
      1. That is not to say that God tempted Him. James 1:13-14 tells us that the Lord doesn’t tempt. However, the Lord will test us and allow us to be tested.
      2. God allowed Job to be tested. In Job 1-2, Job is tested by God. And know that the devil is on a tight chain. The devil came to the Lord to ask permission to test Job. The devil came to the Lord twice.
    2. What does verse 2 say? The text says that Jesus was fasting for forty days. Fasting is a spiritual discipline. This is a spiritual discipline that we hardly ever practice, including me. But Jesus was fasting. When you fast, you are sacrificing something in order to give the Lord something. Let me explain: I may give up meals for forty days and in exchange for meals I will give the Lord that time. When I would be eating I am praying, memorizing Scripture, etc.
    3. Jesus was fasting. He was communing with the Lord.
    4. If we want to go against the devil, we must be communing with the Lord. We must be spending time with the Lord. We must be ready. Then we must be on guard. Guard your strengths as well as your weaknesses.
  2. Know God’s Word
    1. Jesus knew the Word of God. I once heard, “Let the Word of God do the work of God.” Let’s look at the first attack. Jesus was hungry. The devil attacked Jesus where He was weakest. The devil says, “If you are the Son of God…” Now, just because the devil used “if,” which is a subordinating conjunction, that doesn’t mean the devil didn’t believe Jesus to be the Son of God. “If” can also be translated “since.” So, Jesus had just been baptized, the Holy Spirit came down and said, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” And now the devil says, “Since you are God’s Son, why don’t you feed yourself.”
    2. But Jesus was ready. Jesus had ammunition to take out that U boat. Jesus used Scripture. Jesus quoted Dt. 8:3. The Word of God is my food.
    3. Eph 5:17 Scripture is the Sword which is the only offensive weapon in the armor of the Lord.
    4. In the next temptation Jesus will use Scripture again: Deut 6:16. Then in the final temptation Jesus uses Deut 6:13.
    5. Jesus used Scripture repeatedly to rebuke the devil. This implies that we must Study Scripture and know Scripture. Psalm 119:11 says, “Your Word have I hidden in my heart that I will not sin against the Lord.” God’s Word keeps us from falling during an attack. Study it and memorize it.
  • Be prepared for repeat attacks.
    1. Jesus was tempted three times.
    2. Stand firm: read Eph 6:10-14: when you have done everything you can do, stand firm. Jesus stood firm and resisted the devil.
  1. Take the spiritual realm seriously.
    1. I fear that we live our lives as if there is no spiritual realm.
    2. My mentor Rick Sams writes:


  This controversial “holiday” does have an inglorious history, which may help explain why it’s a “hot button” among Christians. My source is Halloween Through The Twenty Centuriesby Ralph Linton, Stirling professor (ret) of Anthropology at Yale. The name originated because that is the eve of All Hallows (All Saints) Day created by the Catholic Church to honor all martyred saints.

  The earliest Halloween celebrations were held by the Druids, a cultish religious order in ancient Britain, Ireland and France. These celebrations, starting in the 2nd century BC, honored Samhain, lord of the dead. Human victims were sacrificed at this festival held on Nov. 1, the Celtic New Year’s Day. Black cats were put in wicker cages and burned alive on Halloween because they believed black cats could be witches who had changed into cats.

   Samhain was supposed to gather all the spirits of the dead on Halloween night. Gradually fairies, goblins and witches were added to this assembly. People practicing witchcraft, being opposed to all the church stood for, would gather on Halloween to mock the All-Saints services and engage in their own occultic rituals. Eventually the church charged them with heresy.

  These rites migrated to this country over the past three centuries. The addition of American traditions have become embedded into this day. The jack-o-lantern represents a dead man, “Jack,” sentenced to roam the earth with a lantern, a pumpkin lit with a coal given to him by Satan. He was to continue till judgment day, because neither Heaven nor Hell wanted him. This evolved into carrying jack-o-lanterns to ward off evil spirits.

  Few people would oppose the fun of children dressing up, eating candy and having parties, but when the fun becomes entangled with death and destruction, what are we to do? Aren’t there plenty of ways we can celebrate the glories and goodness of God, expressed in the fall colors and harvest without celebrating the scary, superstitious and satanic?

  On the one hand the apostle Paul encouraged us to follow his example to “…become all things to all men, so that by all possible means I might save some” ( I Corinthians 9:22). He learned the cultures of the people he was trying to reach with the Good News of Jesus Christ so he could better tell them about Christ’s love and life-giving ways. He also adopted some of the customs and cultural practices of those people as long as it didn’t require him to compromise Christ and His life-giving ways and words.

  On the other hand there are those who would have us run as far away as possible from anything questionable, even quoting the same apostle to justify their separatism: “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them” (Ephesians 5:11).

  It’s our challenge to study Jesus’ and Paul’s words and follow their examples today, having their same passion for God and for people. This requires a large measure of wisdom that only comes from drawing closer to the Lord, Himself, the Giver of all good gifts: “Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of…lights…” (James 1:16-17).

  1. Our view of Halloween may show that we do or do not take the spiritual realm seriously.
  2. The text says that Jesus was tempted by the devil as opposed to hunger, pride and to test God.
  3. Call it what it is. The devil is the tempter.
    1. Now, I must add: sometimes we may not be tempted by the devil specifically; we may be tempted by our sin nature. We may be tempted by the sin of the world around us. We may be tempted by some of the devil’s demons.
    2. Rev 12:3 gives indication that satan took 1/3 of the angels when he rebelled against the Lord. These became demons.
  4. But sometimes because we don’t take the spiritual realm seriously we give the devil a foothold and sometimes we even commit idolatry.
    1. Eph 4:27 says to not give the devil a foothold, but many times we do things that we may know will cause us to sin, we go places where we know we may be weak. We put ourselves in situations. We must be careful!
    2. Watch out! 1 Peter 5:8 Be on alert the devil goes around like a lion seeking whom he may devour!
  • I am sad to say that far too many Christians are fascinated by the spiritual realm and they are putting Halloween before Jesus. They are putting ghost stories before Christ. Ghost stories, really? Yes, really. There are so many “ghost hunter” shows on television and to entertain those means giving the devil a foothold. The devil wants the attention. Hebrews 12:2: Fix your eyes on Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith.
  1. Applications:
    1. We must respond to temptation with Scripture, as Jesus did.
    2. We must take the spiritual realm seriously, as Jesus did (Jesus was led by the Spirit (vs 1)), Jesus was tempted by the devil, it doesn’t say hunger, pride, power, to test God; but the devil, Jesus was ministered by angels (vs 11).
    3. We must be prepared to respond to repeated temptations.
    4. Jesus also had fasted. He was in a state to be close to God. When we are involved in spiritual disciplines we must guard ourselves from attacks.
    5. We must be involved in spiritual disciplines as Jesus was so that we are prepared to take on the enemy.

So, how do we fight the fight? How do we stay on the offensive?

Jesus was involved in the spiritual disciplines. He was fasting. Fasting is a spiritual discipline. Prayer is a spiritual discipline. These are disciplines that help us grow closer to Christ. Studying is a spiritual discipline. Confession is a spiritual discipline. I would say meeting as a body of Christ is a spiritual discipline.

Jesus knew Scripture. He knew how to respond in Scripture. He knew not to give thought to the devil’s temptations because He knew they contradicted Scripture.

Jesus was prepared for repeated attacks.

Jesus didn’t take spiritual warfare lightly. He was tempted by the devil. From the rest of His life we see Him taking the spiritual realm seriously.

Let’s do the same.


Do you know Jesus? Luke 9:23

God created us to be with Him. (Genesis 1-2)

Our sin separated us from God. (Genesis 3)

Sins cannot be removed by good deeds (Gen 4-Mal 4)

Paying the price for sin, Jesus died and rose again. (Matthew – Luke)

Everyone who trusts in Him alone has eternal life. (John – Jude)

Life that’s eternal means we will be with Jesus forever. (Revelation 22:5)



Intro to Galatians

Introduction to Galatians(Galatians 1:1-5)

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on Sunday, October 21, 2018 

Let’s talk about rescue:

On a cold winter day Gabriel Estrada, a high school senior in Twin Lakes, Wisconsin, did the unthinkable. When his 17-year-old girlfriend secretly gave birth to a baby boy on January 15, 2002, she dressed it and asked him to deliver it to a church. Instead, Gabriel wrapped the baby in a canvas bag and left him in a portable toilet in a nearby park to die. But against incredible odds the baby was saved.

According to police there was virtually no chance the infant would survive. Temperatures were well below freezing. Lack of snow meant the nearby sledding hill would not be frequented by kids. And the sanitation company’s scheduled pick-up at the port-a-potty was days away.

Village of Twin Lakes police credit a father and son for saving the child’s life. About 4 o’clock in the afternoon on January 16th a father (wishing to remain anonymous) and his young son stopped at the abandoned West Side Park in need of a bathroom. Hearing a whimpering sound coming from the port-a-potty, they knew something was wrong. They called 911 to report what they had discovered. 

When Officer Randy Prudik responded to the call, he pulled the canvas bag from the outdoor toilet and raced to nearby Burlington Memorial Hospital where the baby received emergency treatment.

“There’s no way he would have survived that,” Prudik said. “That little guy had somebody watching over him.” 

As a testament to the boy’s survival, the nurses at the hospital dubbed him William Grant: William for the will to live and Grant for not taking life for granted. 

On a grander scale, another Father and Son rescue team intervened on behalf of doomed humanity. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son that whosoever believes in him would not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).[1]

We are going to start studying Galatians and what we see is that Jesus rescues us. Jesus rescues us from this present evil age by giving Himself for our sins.

Today’s Theme: Jesus died for our sins and we are saved by His blood on the cross.

Application: I encourage you to have a relationship with Jesus that is grounded in your love for Him.

  1. Galatians, let’s talk about this letter:
    1. I am beginning a sermon series on Galatians and so it is helpful to think about this short letter.
    2. In this short letter Paul is rebuking the churches of this region for abandoning the TRUE Gospel and getting stuck on works based salvation.
    3. Paul is also defending his apostleship.
    4. Paul planted these churches and then some people came in and messed up his foundation. Often times we call these people judaizers as it appears they were trying to convince the people that they had to keep the whole law. The Archaeological Study Bible points out: Judaizers were Jewish Christians who believed that a number of ceremonial practices of the Old Testament were still binding on the New Testament church.
    5. The Archaeological Study Bible points out the following themes:
      1. Paul vigorously defended his apostolic calling (1:1, 15; 2:1–10) and his gospel (1:11–12). He was not trying to protect his wounded reputation as an apostle but was defending the truth of the gospel as it had been revealed to him by Christ.
      2. Salvation by faith alone: Paul’s definition of the truth of the gospel affirms God’s universal grace for all people: In Christ there is “neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for . . . all [are] one in Christ Jesus” (3:28). Justification by faith, a doctrine central to this letter, creates harmonious community.
  • Legalism versus freedom: Believers do not need to be under the law to lead ethical lives (5:1—6:16). The Spirit, whom they receive when they believe (3:1–3), empowers them to live the way God wants (5:16–17, 22–25). The law can neither produce the fruit of the Spirit (5:22–23) nor restrain people from sinning. Its function is to identify sin and pronounce God’s judgment (3:19–24), and it is through the believer’s union with Christ that he or she is truly set free. This liberation is not freedom to sin, but freedom to “serve one another in love” (5:13).
  1. A Spirit-empowered life. Believers are not to rely on their own power to live the Christian life. The Spirit-led Christian does not live for self (5:16) but allows the fruit of the Spirit to shine through his or her everyday activities (5:22–23).
  1. Galatians is a circular letter written to the “churches” of Galatia, plural.
  2. It is debated where these churches were. The addressees may have been believers in northern Galatia in the region of Ancyra (these churches would have been founded by Paul during his second missionary journey; see Ac 16:6; 18:23) or churches founded by Paul and Barnabas (Ac 14:1–23) during Paul’s first missionary journey into southern Galatia included Pisidian Antioch as well as Iconium, Lystra and Derbe—the more widely accepted view.[2]
  3. This may have been Paul’s earliest letter, possibly written as early as AD 48.
  4. Now, let’s move on to look at the text.

Let’s read

Gal. 1:1-5:

Paul, an apostle (not sent from men nor through the agency of man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead), and all the brethren who are with me,

To the churches of Galatia:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forevermore. Amen.

  1. Notice Paul’s introduction in verse 1.
    1. In the introduction itself Paul is defending his apostleship.
    2. Paul is an apostle, not sent from men, nor through the agency of man, but through Jesus Christ…
    3. One source points out: Thus in the first clause he distinguishes himself from the false apostles, who did not derive their commission from God at all; in the second he ranks himself with the Twelve, who were commissioned directly from God. The prepositions therefore retain their proper sense.[3]
    4. The nickname (cognomen) “Paul” is from the Latin Paulus, which means little. The earliest physical description of Paul we have comes from a second-century apocryphal writing. It described Paul as “a man of small stature, with a bald head and crooked legs, in a good state of body, with eyebrows meeting and nose somewhat hooked, full of friendliness; for now he appeared like a man, and now he had the face of an angel.”9The apostle’s Hebrew name was Saul. As the apostle to the Gentiles he consistently used his Gentile name, Paul, in his epistles.[4]
    5. Apostle means “one who is sent” which can be used generically, but Paul meant this here as being sent from God.
    6. In verse 2 Paul includes others who are with him.
    7. Paul then addresses the “churches” of Galatia.
    8. Paul abruptly moves on to Theology.
    9. One Theologian points out since Paul abruptly moves on to Theology it is showing how deep their apostacy is.
    10. Usually Paul would give a commendation. One writes: The abruptness of the language here is remarkable. Elsewhere the Apostle adds some words of commendation. The Church of the Thessalonians, for instance, is ‘in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ’ (1 Thess. 1:1, 2 Thess. 1:1): that of the Corinthians is composed of those ‘sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints’ (1 Cor. 1:2, comp. 2 Cor. 1:1). The omission of any expression of praise in addressing the Galatians shows the extent of their apostasy.[5]
  • Notice Paul’s Theology for Galatia in verses 3-5:
    1. Who died to save us: This is really important. Verses 3-4 is touching on exactly what their problem was. The churches in Galatia had almost taken away the blood of Jesus saving us from our sins. They had nullified the grace of God (Gal. 2:21).
    2. But Jesus gave Himself for our sins.
    3. Jesus did this in order to rescue us from this present evil age. In the New Testament we see a contrast between the ways of the world and the ways of God.
    4. This age is the present evil age and God rescues us.
    5. Rescue: Time magazine carried an interesting story about former President George Herbert Walker Bush. It described a trip he took back to the South Pacific. During World War II, Bush had been a bomber pilot, and was shot down by Japanese antiaircraft fire. The article detailed Bush’s return to the very spot where he was rescued from his downed aircraft. During his return visit, Bush met with a Japanese gentleman who claimed to have witnessed Bush’s rescue back in 1944. The man related that as he and others were watching the rescue take place, one of the man’s friends remarked, “Surely America will win the war if they care so much for the life of one pilot.”[6]
    6. Verse 5 is a beautiful doxology.


I encourage you to have a relationship with Jesus that is grounded in your love for Him.

Let’s think about some applications under the main application:

  1. We must recognize that we are not saved by works.
  2. We are to do good works in order to show our faith (James 2:14-18, specifically verse 18).
  3. We must trust in Jesus alone for salvation.
    1. We are not saved by church attendance, but should go to church to worship the Lord, grow in our relationship with Him, serve others and be disciples.
    2. We are not saved by our prayers, but pray to know Jesus and have a relationship with Jesus.
    3. We are not saved by serving people, but serve to love people.
    4. We are not saved by anything other than the blood of Jesus on the cross.
    5. We must not nullify the grace of God (Gal. 2:21).
  4. We must share this good news of the Gospel with others.
  5. We must worship Jesus for His atoning death.
  6. Galatians teaches that doctrine matters and wrong doctrine is DANGEROUS. We will watch over the church’s doctrine.

Are we grateful for our salvation?

Jared Wilson defines “gospel wakefulness” as treasuring Christ more greatly and savoring his power more sweetly. He illustrates with the following:

Imagine you are driving down the road and your car stalls at a railroad crossing. You are understandably nervous as you try to reignite the car’s engine, but you become even more so when you see a train turn the corner in the distance and begin quickly closing the gap between it and you. The train engine’s horn is blaring and the engineer has thrown on the brakes, but you are too close and he’s coming too fast. You move from trying to get the car to start to trying to unfasten your seatbelt, but fear has made your hands stiffen and shake. You can’t get your seatbelt unfastened. The train is rushing toward you, and you know you’re going to be hit. And you are. Suddenly and from behind. A man in a truck behind you has decided to ram into your car and push you off the tracks, even as he is destroyed by the impact in the very spot you once occupied.

You get out of the car, shaken and still frightened. You are terrified by the gruesome scene, in shock over your rescuer’s sacrifice. You are grateful in a way that you’ve never been grateful before. … Even in your terrified awe, it feels good to be alive. You feel woozy, so you sit down on the trunk of your car, and as you’re trying to retrieve your cell phone from your pocket to call 911 and marveling at how little damage the violent shove did to the rear bumper, you hear a whimper from inside.

You didn’t know that before you’d left the house, as your kids were playing hide-and-seek, your youngest son decided to hide in the trunk of your car. As you open it up frantically and discover that he is miraculously unharmed, you suddenly realize the total greatness of the loss you almost suffered. Your gratitude, your amazement, your new outlook on life takes a giant leap forward. That is the difference between the gospel wakefulness of conversion and the greater wakefulness that often occurs later.[7]

Luke 9:23

God created us to be with Him. (Genesis 1-2)

Our sin separated us from God. (Genesis 3)

Sins cannot be removed by good deeds (Gen 4-Mal 4)

Paying the price for sin, Jesus died and rose again. (Matthew – Luke)

Everyone who trusts in Him alone has eternal life. (John – Jude)

Life that’s eternal means we will be with Jesus forever. (Revelation 22:5)


[1]Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (1-7-02); submitted by Greg Asimakoupoulos, Naperville, Illinois

[2]Archaeological Study Bible

[3]Joseph Barber Lightfoot, ed., St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians. A Revised Text with Introduction, Notes, and Dissertations., 4th ed., Classic Commentaries on the Greek New Testament (London: Macmillan and Co., 1874), 71.

  1. 9 E. Hennecke and W. Schneemelcher, eds., New Testament Apocraypha, 2:354.

[4]Tom Constable, Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible(Galaxie Software, 2003), Ga 1:1.

[5]Joseph Barber Lightfoot, ed., St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians. A Revised Text with Introduction, Notes, and Dissertations., 4th ed., Classic Commentaries on the Greek New Testament (London: Macmillan and Co., 1874), 73.

[6]Canadian Edition, Time Magazine (11-23-02); submitted by Darin Latham, St. Catherines, Ontario, Canada

[7]Jared C. Wilson, Gospel Wakefulness (Crossway, 2011), pp. 24-25; submitted by Van Morris, Mt. Washington, Kentucky

Pray Persistently (Luke 11:5-8)

Pray Persistently (Luke 11:5-8)

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church on Sunday, October 14, 2018 

John Ortberg, in The Life You’ve Always Wanted, tells about the time that Tony Campolo, the college professor, popular speaker and author, was about to address a college chapel service. Several men from the school gathered with Tony for a time of prayer before he spoke. They circled, knelt, laid hands on him and began to call out for God to bless their speaker.

Campolo shared that his men prayed a long time, and as they prayed, they grew tired and started leaning more and more on Campolo. The prayers were earnest, but their weight was getting too much to bear.

On top of that, one guy was not even praying for Tony. He was praying for someone named Charlie Stolzfus.

“Dear Lord, you know Charlie Stoltzfus. He lives in that silver trailer down the road a mile. You know the trailer, Lord, just down the road on the right hand side.”

Why was the man praying for Charlie? Tony was the speaker, not Charlie Stoltzfus. In addition, the Lord already knew where Charlie Stotzfus lived.

“Lord,” the man continued, “this morning Charlie told me he’s going to leave his wife and three kids. Step in and do something, Lord. Please bring that family back together.”

Finally, the prayer time ended, they had a great chapel service, and Campolo headed home. Just as he was merging onto the Pennsylvania Turnpike, he noticed a hitchhiker on the side of the road and decided to give him a ride.

As they rode along, Tony introduced himself. The man stuck out his hand and said, “My name is Charlie Stoltzfus.”

Campolo could not believe his ears. What are the chances . . . ?

At the next exit, Tony left the interstate and turned the car around. As they returned to the interstate, Charlie said, “Hey, mister, where are you taking me?”

Tony said, “I’m taking you home.”


Campolo said, “Because you just left your wife and three kids, right?”

The man was stunned. “Yeah. Yeah, you’re right. I did.”

He moved over against the door and never took his eyes off of Campolo. Then, when Tony drove right into the guy’s yard, that really did it.”

Charlie’s eyes bulged out. He said, “How did you know I live here?”

“The Lord told me,” Tony said. (He didn’t explain how the Lord told him).

The trailer door threw open and Charlie’s wife ran out. “You’re back! You’re back!”

Charlie whispered in her ear what happened. The more he shared, the bigger her eyes got.

Campolo then said with real authority, “The two of you sit down. I’m going to talk and you two are going to listen!” And he laid it on, and they listened.

That afternoon, Campolo helped those two receive Jesus Christ as Savior, and that was the start of the healing of a marriage.

Now, was that coincidence that Tony Campolo happened to pick up that particular hitchhiker? Or did God answer the praying man’s petition to “step in and do something?”

James 5:16 reads, “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” Prayer unlocks divine power, heaven’s blessing, and God’s answer. How many of our coincidences are really answered prayer?[1]

Today I end the sermon series on Scriptures that I have been convicted to pray. I began the sermon series talking about spiritual leadership in the home. I want to end the series talking about persistent prayer.

Today my theme is:

Pray persistently

Please turn to Luke 11:5-8 and let’s read the passage:

Then He said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and goes to him at midnight and says to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has come to me from a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and from inside he answers and says, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been shut and my children and I are in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will get up and give him as much as he needs.

  1. In context Jesus has been teaching on prayer.
    1. The disciples saw Jesus praying frequently and so right now they had asked him to teach on prayer.
    2. In verse 1 it mentions Jesus praying and then the disciples asked Him to teach them to pray.
    3. Do people know you as a prayer warrior?
    4. Now, be careful, you do not pray to be seen by others. However, do your children and grandchildren know that you have a life of prayer?
    5. Jesus taught the disciples what we call the Lord’s prayer and then He gave some illustrations.
  2. Persistent prayer is emphasized.
    1. See verse 5, how would you feel if a friend came to you at midnight?
    2. A few years ago, I read an interesting book titled, “Night in Times Past.” The book talked about the way we view night and how it has changed because of electricity. Electric lighting has changed everything. In the past people would have sleep cycles. They would go to bed early and then they would wake up in the night and actually do something and then go back to bed. So, being up at midnight may not be as uncommon as we think. Still, the family is asleep.
    3. Look at verse 6: this neighbor has had a friend come and he has no food for him. Hospitality was very important in the middle east and still is very important. This neighbor has had a friend come over and has no food for him.
    4. Remember they had no hotels like we think of them. They have no 24 hour stores or restaurants.
    5. But verse 7 shows the neighbors reaction: he answers from inside.
    6. The door is shut, the children are in bed.
    7. The doors had elaborate locking mechanisms and it would not be easy to open the door.
    8. The kids are in bed. One source says: All the family was sleeping (on mats) in the same room, and an attempt to open the bolted door would have awakened the whole family.
    9. Now, I don’t know how old his kids were, but suppose they are babies. When you have a baby in the home and asleep you want to harm anyone who wakes the baby.
    10. But verse 8 is key: because of the friends persistence or some translations say “shamelessness” or “impudence” he will get up and give him what he needs.
    11. This term translated “persistence” or “shamelessness” or “Impudence” has the idea of a “lack of sensitivity to what is proper.”
    12. This is a parable about prayer. Jesus gives this as an example. This is an example of how we are to go to God.
    13. How are we doing with prayer?
  • Applications:
    1. Let’s think about this in the sermon series.
    2. This series has been about praying Scriptures.
    3. When we pray are we praying spiritual prayers?
    4. When we pray are we praying for physical, felt needs, or for spiritual needs?
    5. What is more important that we pray that our children have an education or that we pray that they know the Lord?
    6. I encourage you to make sure you are praying for spiritual needs:
      1. Pray that your descendants know Jesus.
      2. Pray that they are active in the church.
  • Pray that they are in the Word.
  1. Pray that they pray.
  2. Pray that they are active in the spiritual disciplines.
  3. Pray the Bible for them. Pray that they live the Bible.
  • Pray the passages which I have preached on.
  • You may have other passages you have been convicted to pray, awesome, keep praying them.

Here are some tips from the book, “A Praying Life”:

If you are not praying, then you are quietly confident that time, money, and talent are all you need in life.

Here are seven simple suggestions for how you can spend time with your Father in the morning: 

  1. Get to bed. What you do in the evening will shape your morning. The Hebrew notion of a day as the evening and morning (see Genesis 1) helps you plan for prayer. If you want to pray in the morning, then plan your evening so you don’t stay up too late. The evening and the morning are connected.          
  2. Get up. Praying in bed is wonderful. In fact, the more you pray out of bed, the more you’ll pray in bed. But you’ll never develop a morning prayer time in bed. Some of my richest prayer times are at night. I’ll wake up praying. But those prayer times only began to emerge because I got out of bed to pray.          
  3. Get awake. Maybe you need to make a pot of coffee first or take a shower.          
  4. Get a quiet place. Maybe a room, a chair, or a place with a view. Or maybe you do better going for a walk. Make sure that no one can interrupt you.          
  5. Get comfortable. Don’t feel like you have to pray on your knees. For years I was hindered from praying because I found it so uncomfortable to pray on my knees.          
  6. Get going. Start with just five minutes. Start with a small goal that you can attain rather than something heroic. You’ll quickly find that the time will fly.        
  7. Keep going. Consistency is more important than length. If you pray five minutes every day, then the length of time will slowly grow. You’ll look up and discover that twenty minutes have gone by. You’ll enjoy being with God. Jesus is so concerned about hanging in there with prayer that he tells “his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up” (Luke 18: 1, NIV).

We tell ourselves, “Strong Christians pray a lot. If I were a stronger Christian, I’d pray more.” Strong Christians do pray more, but they pray more because they realize how weak they are. They don’t try to hide it from themselves. Weakness is the channel that allows them to access grace. I’m not referring to well-known Christians. An interviewer once asked Edith Schaeffer, author and wife of evangelist and philosopher Francis Schaeffer, “Who is the greatest Christian woman alive today?” She replied, “We don’t know her name. She is dying of cancer somewhere in a hospital in India.”[2]

Do you know Christ?

Luke 9:23

God created us to be with Him. (Genesis 1-2)

Our sin separated us from God. (Genesis 3)

Sins cannot be removed by good deeds (Gen 4-Mal 4)

Paying the price for sin, Jesus died and rose again. (Matthew – Luke)

Everyone who trusts in Him alone has eternal life. (John – Jude)

Life that’s eternal means we will be with Jesus forever. (Revelation 22:5)



[2]Miller, Paul (2014-02-01). A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World (p. 50). NavPress. Kindle Edition.


Pray for a Sanctified Mind (Phil. 4:6-9)

Pray We and Our Children Sanctify our Minds (2 Corinthians 10:5; Philippians 4:6-8)

Praying Scripture Series

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church on Sunday, October 7, 2018

 People’s biggest fears are public speaking and death.

Jerry Seinfeld says people would rather be in the casket at the funeral than giving the eulogy.

I am a worrier. I can worry about anything and everything. I realized the day after Mercedes was born that God gave us children to help us learn how to trust in Him. And if you don’t have children, I know that God gives us parents to help us learn how to trust in Him. This is because we all have to care for others. We grow up and then eventually we help care for our aging parents, or aunts, or uncles, or close friends. I am a light sleeper and there have been many nights in which I am going in to check on the children. It would be great to be content. I think the Bible helps with that.

Mark Twain said: “I’ve lived a long time & worried a lot & most of the things I’ve worried about never happened.”

A problem with worry, or let’s call it anxiety, being anxious can steal our peace away from us. Being anxious can keep us from rejoicing.

I want to read Phil 4:6-8 and I believe you will see that God gives us a way to sanctify our minds. I have been preaching on convictional Scriptures. I have been preaching on Scriptures that I have been convicted to pray for myself and my children. Today, we come to a couple passages dealing with the mind.

My theme today is:

Pray We and Our Children Sanctify our Minds (2 Corinthians 10:5; Philippians 3:10; 4:6-8)

Read text: Phil 4:6-8:

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. 

Paul tells them not be anxious but to pray giving their request to God with thanksgiving

When Paul was writing this letter, he was under house arrest. There were guards around him. We know there were guards because he says so in chapter 1:13 and following.

Paul is writing this to the Philippians who were persecuted for their faith in Christ.

The city of Philippi was a Roman colony. They were very Roman in culture; they probably even spoke Latin which was a little rarer at this point.

By this point in Paul’s life he had already been shipwrecked, beaten, stoned and so much more (Acts 14; 2 Cor 11)

I think Paul could have had a lot to worry about. I think Paul could have been concerned about many things.

In the previous few verses (verse 5), Paul tells them to be gentle or let their gentleness be known to all. Again, Paul doesn’t say let people know you are gentle when things are going well and people are nice to you. No, let your gentleness be known to all.

Prayer with thanksgiving is what they need to do. That is the cure for anxiety.

However, the Philippians did face persecution, but what did Jesus say about this:

Matthew 5:44: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you

Matthew 5:11: Jesus says that we are blessed when persecuted for Him

Acts 5:41 the people leave a persecuting situation rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer for Christ

Not to be anxious is difficult. Like I said, I worry a lot. But Paul gives an antidote to anxiety and even to the time we are spending being anxious.

The antidote is prayer and Paul tells us how to pray.

Paul actually lists 3 types of communion with God in this passage: 1) prayer, 2) supplication or petition, 3) thanksgiving.

We pray in everything. Not in some things but in all things. And we pray with petitions. This petition means that we have a list of needs that we are giving to God.

Please understand: all prayer is not petition. Some prayer is just listening to God, worshipping God, praising God. But in this case Paul says: pray and give your list to God. But Paul also says do this with thanksgiving. Tell God what you are thankful for.

But you know we usually forget the most important. We usually put the physical, felt needs in front of the spiritual.

We have salvation in Christ. We have the Holy Spirit as our comforter (John 14). Jesus said not to fear the person who can harm our body but the person who can harm our soul (Matt 10:28).

About the year 125 A.D. a Greek by the name of Aristeides was writing to one of his friends about the new religion, Christianity. He was trying to explain the reasons for its extraordinary success. Here is a sentence from one of his letters:

“If any righteous man among the Christians passes from this world, they rejoice and offer thanks to God, and they escort his body with songs and thanksgiving as if he were setting out from one place to another nearby.”

—J. G. Gilkey[1]

Having been banished, Cyprian suffered martyrdom in Carthage in 258. When the sentence of death was read to him he said, “I heartily thank Almighty God who is pleased to set me free from the chains of the body.”[2]

Paul says they will have peace from God that passes understanding as a guard

This is not a peace as the world needs. This is not a peace from war. This is an inner peace which we receive spiritually.

This peace will guard our hearts and minds. I think by saying that Paul is saying that the peace will guard our whole person.

The term used for guard is a military term. This type of guard has to do with a soldier on wall guarding a city.

The peace of God will guard us and the peace of God is guarding us in Christ Jesus

Sanctify your mind for Jesus.

Paul had said, not to be anxious, but pray. Before we move on, come back to that word, “anxious.”

Looking at the Greek this has to do with an anxious concern, based on apprehension about possible danger or misfortune[3]

To look at anxiety I looked at some notes from a seminary counseling class. This is what I found: Annual survey of counseling center directors show that anxiety is now the most influential emotional and physical (spiritual?) variable on college campuses since 1996. In general population, 30% of persons have or have had an anxiety disorder – the most common of all psychiatric illnesses. With subclinical features, this number easily moves to include the majority of our population.

The brain doesn’t know the difference between stress. Whether you are standing in front of a dog that is about to attack the brain does the same thing as if you are sitting in the office with a lot of work to do. Cortisol is a chemical that is released to give power during stress. Too much of this causes you to gain weight. This also causes memory issues. This causes brain cell death. This is why diet in itself may not help with weight gain. One must exercise and or do something else in order to decrease stress.[4]

Robert M. Sapolsky, Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers: is a book about dealing with stress. You can see that stress can cause anxiety and anxiety can cause drastic problems. Paul says do not be anxious about some things??? NO!— Don’t be anxious about anything!

Now, let’s move on. Look at verse 8:

“Finally, brethren…” Paul gives a nice loving address calling them “brothers.” That Greek word can actually be brothers or sisters.

Paul is about to tell them what to think on. Now, follow me here, the cure for anxiety and the cure for worry is to pray, but then it is to change our thinking.

I pray that I can live this passage. I pray that my children and descendants can live this passage.

I said, “sanctify our minds.” What does that mean? “Sanctify” means to “set apart for a purpose” or declare holy, or “consecrate.” We need to set apart our minds for God and for His glory and His purpose.

Listen, it will be much easier to pursue God when you declare your mind His. It is much easier to keep from sinning when you declare your mind His.

In 2 Cor. 10:5 Paul says: We aredestroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ

Think about that, take every thought into captivity, now that is powerful. That is sanctifying your mind.

So, think on things that are:






Of good repute

Anything of excellence and anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.


I am not saying that this is easy. I believe it is difficult to take our thoughts captive, but don’t focus on what not to think about, focus on what to think about.

A love that can never be fathomed;

A life that can never die;

A righteousness that can never be tarnished;

A peace that can never be understood;

A rest that can never be disturbed;

A joy that can never be diminished;

A hope that can never be disappointed;

A glory that can never be clouded;

A light that can never be darkened;

A happiness that can never be interrupted;

A strength that can never be enfeebled;

A purity that can never be defiled;

A beauty that can never be marred;

A wisdom that can never be baffled;

Resources that can never be exhausted. [5]

Luke 9:23

God created us to be with Him. (Genesis 1-2)

Our sin separated us from God. (Genesis 3)

Sins cannot be removed by good deeds (Gen 4-Mal 4)

Paying the price for sin, Jesus died and rose again. (Matthew – Luke)

Everyone who trusts in Him alone has eternal life. (John – Jude)

Life that’s eternal means we will be with Jesus forever. (Revelation 22:5)


[1]Tan, P. L. (1996, c1979). Encyclopedia of 7700 illustrations : A treasury of illustrations, anecdotes, facts and quotations for pastors, teachers and Christian workers. Garland TX: Bible Communications.

[2]Tan, P. L. (1996, c1979). Encyclopedia of 7700 illustrations : A treasury of illustrations, anecdotes, facts and quotations for pastors, teachers and Christian workers. Garland TX: Bible Communications.

[3]Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Vol. 1: Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament : Based on semantic domains(electronic ed. of the 2nd edition.) (312). New York: United Bible societies.

[4]PC510 pastoral counseling notes. Asbury Theological Seminary, fall 2009

[5]Tan, P. L. (1996, c1979). Encyclopedia of 7700 illustrations : A treasury of illustrations, anecdotes, facts and quotations for pastors, teachers and Christian workers. Garland TX: Bible Communications.

Pray that We and Our Children Are Ready for Persecution(Matthew 5:10; Acts 5:17-42; 2 Timothy 3:12)

Pray that We and Our Children Are Ready for Persecution(Matthew 5:10; Acts 5:17-42; 2 Timothy 3:12)

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Praying the Scriptures series

Did you know:

It is illegal to read the Bible in the public schools of Illinois, but a law requires the state to provide a Bible for every convict! Don’t worry, kids, if you can’t read the Bible in school, you’ll be able to when you get to prison![1]

This brings up the idea of persecution for Christian faith. I recently read a series of articles on persecution in the early church. A few years ago, Dr. Witherington commented and reposted another scholar’s comments on a book by Candida Moss about persecution in the early church. I have often thought about persecution. I have thought about how we can stand strong when one is inflicting pain because of our view of Christ. Sometimes we can simply think that they wish for us to deny Christ and that may be true, but from what I have read usually things come up differently than that. Usually a church is meeting and worshipping the Lord, then all of a sudden, government authorities barge in hurt many and put others in prison. Some of you have read and heard about something that Francis Chan shares in his book Forgotten God. He shares about a few Christians, one of whom is a pastor, and they are all taken prisoner in the Middle East. Yet, they are Americans and eventually the Americans came to rescue them. During their time of persecution, at least one of them is killed. After they are rescued and sent back to America they said that they would have rather been in the Middle East under persecution because the Holy Spirit was so strong there. Clearly, many are persecuted for their faith in Jesus Christ and God is present with them. Jesus said in Matthew 5:10:

“Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven…”

Jesus also said in Matthew 10:19:

 But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say.

We are going to look at one of many passages in the book of Acts dealing with persecution. In this passage, notice how the disciples boldly proclaim Christ and are obedient to God. Notice also how the disciples proclaim that they must obey God and not human laws. As we look at this passage, I hope you are encouraged by the way God took care of them in persecution. I also hope that you are encouraged to also obey God and not human laws. I hope your Christian faith is so important to you that you will live it and share it no matter what the consequences and I hope that you can rejoice with the disciples even in persecution.

Let me set the context. In the verses prior to today’s section the Bible talks about the many signs and wonders happening through the apostle. Verse 14 even says that multitudes of new believers were constantly added to their numbers. So, the Lord is doing many things through the early church. I believe strongly that God’s Spirit is still at work in amazing ways.

God is still active and what we need to know and be aware of is that the more you step out into faith to follow God, the more you will see amazing things through the Holy Spirit. You will not see miracles if you are not following the Lord.

So, God is at work in the early church and some of the Jewish leaders are not at all happy about this. Let’s get into the passage. This is a long passage, so I will break it up into sections in order to talk about it.

My theme today is: Pray that We and Our Children Are Ready for Persecution

  1. In verses 17-21 we see the apostles imprisoned and miraculously released, let’s read the section and then I will share a few thoughts.
    1. 17 But the high priest rose up, along with all his associates (that is the sect of the Sadducees), and they were filled with jealousy.18 They laid hands on the apostles and put them in a public jail. 19 But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the gates of the prison, and taking them out he said, 20 “Go, stand and speak to the people in the temple the whole message of this Life.” 21 Upon hearing this, they entered into the temple about daybreak and began to teach.
    2. What an amazing passage! Doesn’t that just excite you? As we look at the rest of this passage you will see even the great irony in this passage. But now notice that the Jewish High Courtis not happy with what is going on in the new Christian faith. I am calling them the Jewish High court, but we have at least two major groups. We have the Pharisees who accepted our whole Old Testament. They accepted the Ten Commandments and the books about them, they accepted the prophetic books. They also believed in the resurrection. Paul, the apostle, was a Pharisee. Then we have the Sadducees. They were much smaller and they were politically tied to Rome. They didn’t believe in the resurrection. In reality, Jesus’ resurrection meant that they were no longer in power. If the resurrected order is taking place that means that the Sadducees and their ties to Rome are no longer in power.
    3. The Bible says that they were filled with jealousy so they took the apostles and imprisoned them. Now, it appears that they took all of the apostles, all twelve and imprisoned them.
    4. The Bible says that they were put in “public jail.” This could mean that they were in a public jail or that they were publicly put in jail. They may have wanted everyone to see this.
    5. Okay, so at night an angel from the Lord let them out and told them to go and speak to the people the whole message of the Lord. Interesting that the angel did not tell them to flee or anything else. They were to go back to the very place where they were taken prisoner. So, they obey.
  2. In verses 22-26 we see some very ironic events. Let’s read them.
    1. 22 But the officers who came did not find them in the prison; and they returned and reported back,23 saying, “We found the prison house locked quite securely and the guards standing at the doors; but when we had opened up, we found no one inside.” 24 Now when the captain of the temple guard and the chief priests heard these words, they were greatly perplexed about them as to what would come of this. 25 But someone came and reported to them, “The men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people!” 26 Then the captain went along with the officers and proceeded to bring them back without violence (for they were afraid of the people, that they might be stoned).
    2. So, the people were guarding an empty jail cell. I find that funny.
    3. The people who were supposed to be in power, were clearly not in power at all.
    4. In verse 24 the chief priest heard about this and he was very perplexed. This means literally that he was in doubt. He didn’t believe it. But then he finds out that the people who were put in prison had not fled, but they were now teaching.
    5. It is fortunate for the guards that they were guarding a Jewish prison and not a Roman prison. Later in Acts 12 an angel lets Peter out of prison and Herod has the guards put to death for losing a prisoner.
    6. By the way, back then you went to jail until trial, that was all. They didn’t have long term prisons with cable television as we do today. After trial you were sold into slavery, beaten, killed or released.
    7. Then, notice in verse 26, the ones in charge were worried that they would get stoned bringing the apostles back.
  • Now in verses 27-32 we see the apostles’ response.
    1. 27 When they had brought them, they stood them before the Council. The high priest questioned them,28 saying, “We gave you strict orders not to continue teaching in this name, and yet, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” 29 But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. 30 The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had put to death by hanging Him on a cross. 31 He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him.”
    2. In verse 28: they say, we gave you strict orders not to teach in “this name.” Notice they will not say the name of Jesus.
    3. Then in verse 29 Peter is once again the spokesperson for the group. He says they must obey God and not man. What does that mean to you? How much does the Gospel mean to you? So, put yourself in the place of the persecuted. Say that you are a school teacher and you hold a Bible study in your room and then after a while you are told you can no longer do this? Suppose that you are a school teacher and a student brings up the Christian faith and he is interested in how you become a Christian, do you share with him? You could not do that because you would be fired! Is your job worth this person’s eternity? Suppose that church is illegal and so a church meeting is happening in a home, do you attend? That is what they face in other countries.
    4. In the book of Acts we see that it is so very important to share the Gospel with people. They must follow out the great commission. Jesus is eternal life.
    5. So, now Peter shares about Jesus to this group. He shares the Gospel. Verse 31:
    6. Peter says that they are witnesses of these things and so is the Holy Spirit.
  1. In verses 33-42 we see the ruling:
    1. 33 But when they heard this, they werecut to the quick and intended to kill them.34 But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the Law, respected by all the people, stood up in the Council and gave orders to put the men outside for a short time. 35 And he said to them, “Men of Israel, take care what you propose to do with these men. 36 For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a group of about four hundred men joined up with him. But he was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. 37 After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census and drew away some people after him; he too perished, and all those who followed him were scattered. 38 So in the present case, I say to you, stay away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or action is of men, it will be overthrown; 39 but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God.” 40 They took his advice; and after calling the apostles in, they flogged them and ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and then released them. 41 So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His  42 And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.
    2. Gamaliel was the one who trained Paul. He was a brilliant scholar revered for a long time after this and he says, if this is of man, it will diminish and he sites two examples. But he says if this is of God, you will be fighting God. Wow!
    3. But notice the end of this passage: The disciples leave rejoicing that they were counted worthy of persecution. This is right after they were beaten 39 lashes. This is how that was done:
    4. It consisted of thirty-nine lashes, often referred to as the forty less one (cf. 2 Cor 11:24). Based on the provision for forty stripes given in Deut 25:3, the practice had developed of only giving thirty-nine in the event of miscounting, preferring to err on the side of clemency rather than severity. It was still a cruel punishment. With bared chest and in a kneeling position, one was beaten with a tripled strap of calf hide across both chest and back, two on the back for each stripe across the chest. Men were known to have died from the ordeal.[2]
    5. Lastly, the disciples still every day, in houses and in the temple, were teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.


2 Timothy 3:12 says:

Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.

The birth of a healthy baby girl is usually a joyous occasion. But when Meriam Ibrahim gave birth to her daughter, Maya, on Tuesday, May 27, 2014 it triggered a two-year countdown to her execution.

On May 15, the 27-year-old Sudanese doctor was sentenced to death for apostasy by a Sudanese court. In addition, she is to endure 100 lashes for the crime of committing adultery—with her Christian husband. The judge ruled that the lashing would be carried out after she had recovered from delivering her baby and that her death by hanging would occur when her baby reached age two, so she would have time to nurse the infant.

During her trial, the judge asked the young woman three times to recant her Christian faith, but she refused each time.

That was recent. In fact, I read that over 100 million people are persecuted right now. A few years ago I read that the Bible is illegal in 52 countries.

But Christianity is growing in these persecuted countries. Figure that out.

Jim Elliot wrote, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” We must be prepared to do this.

Jim Elliot wrote that and then he was martyred for Christ.

I am not going to ask you about commitment, that is implied.

I am going to ask you about prayer. Pray for the persecuted church.

Pray for the church in America, yourself, children, this church that we can be strong witnesses.

Others, do you know Jesus, why would people go through this for Jesus?

For life everlasting, that is the answer. We are always trying to live longer, but we never will, not on our own.

Luke 9:23

God created us to be with Him. (Genesis 1-2)

Our sin separated us from God. (Genesis 3)

Sins cannot be removed by good deeds (Gen 4-Mal 4)

Paying the price for sin, Jesus died and rose again. (Matthew – Luke)

Everyone who trusts in Him alone has eternal life. (John – Jude)

Life that’s eternal means we will be with Jesus forever. (Revelation 22:5)



[1]Tan, P. L. (1996). Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times. Garland, TX: Bible Communications, Inc.

[2]Polhill, J. B. (1995). Acts(Vol. 26, p. 174). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.