Epistles of Paul Audio and Written Bible Commentary

Paul's Epistle to the Philippians Part 4: Self-sacrifice is the Way to Life

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Paul's Epistle to the Philippians Part 4: Self-sacrifice is the Way to Life

Here we shall commence with our presentation of Philippians chapter 3. When we had discussed the beginning of this chapter, it is evident that Paul had begun to conclude this epistle, and immediately digressed into a warning concerning trust in the flesh. Many denominational Christians abuse this passage and cite it in order to justify the assumption that the flesh does not matter. However when we compare statements concerning the children of Israel “according to the flesh” which Paul had made in several places elsewhere in his writings (Romans 9, 1 Corinthians 10), it is evident that by repudiating trust in the flesh here in Philippians, Paul was not repudiating the flesh itself. Rather, he had only explained that one should not trust in the flesh for any means of justification, as he had stated in verse 9 of the chapter: “not having … righteousness that is from law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, that righteousness of Yahweh by the faith”.

This is the same conclusion which Paul had come to following a long discussion of the works of the law and the faith in Christ in Romans chapters 2 and 3, where he had written: “28 We therefore conclude by reasoning a man to be accepted by faith apart from rituals of the law. 29 Is Yahweh of the Judaeans only? [referring to the circumcision of the remnant of Israelites in Judaea] And not of the Nations? Yea, also of the Nations, [referring to the dispersions of post-captivity Israel, the people of the nations of the seed of Abraham described Romans chapter 4, which are the “Israel according to the flesh” Paul had mentioned in 1 Corinthians chapter 10] 30 seeing that it is Yahweh alone who will accept the circumcised from faith [the remnant of Israelites in Judaea], and the uncircumcised through the faith [the dispersions of post-captivity Israel]. 31 Do we then nullify the law by faith? Certainly not! Rather we establish the law.” In chapter 2 of that epistle Paul had already commended the Romans for exhibiting the works of the law written in their hearts, as opposed to the works of the law in the Old Testament rituals, showing that they were indeed of the Israelites of the Word of God with whom the New Covenant was made, when He had promised them mercy in their punishment, as it is prophesied in Jeremiah chapter 31.

Paul's Epistle to the Colossians Part 1: Rescued from the Authority of Darkness

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Paul's Epistle to the Colossians Part 1: Rescued from the Authority of Darkness

Colossae was a city of Phrygia on the Lycus River, one of the branches of the Maeander, and 3 miles from Mount Cadmus, which is 8,013 feet high. It stood at the head of a gorge where the two streams unite, 13 miles from Hierapolis and 10 from Laodicea. Colossae, which was situated along the great highway that crossed Anatolia from Ephesus to the Euphrates valley, was mentioned by Herodotus, where he described it as being along the route of the Persian invasion of Greece by Xerxes. It was also mentioned in Xenophon's Anabasis, where he described it as being along the route taken by Cyrus when he marched against his brother, the Persian king Artaxerxes II, around 401 BC.

According to William Smith's Classical Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography, Mythology and Geography, Colossae was “a city of Great Phrygia in the plain on the river Lycus, once of great importance [citing Strabo and others], but so reduced by the rise of the neighbouring cities of Laodicea and Hierapolis, that the later geographers do not even mention it, and it might have been forgotten but for its place in the early history of the Christian Church. A fortress called Chonae was formed (probably by Justinian) on a precipitous hill 8 miles S. of Colossae, the position of which was not not defensible; and in the course of the 8th cent. [B.C.] A.D. altogether absorbed its population, so that its name passed away, and the village near its site bears the name Khonae.” While Smith, whose dictionary was published in 1904, believed the site of ancient Colossae to have been 8 miles north of Chonae (the modern Khonos), another site has since been discovered, 3 miles north of Chonae, where the remains of the ancient Greek city of Colossae have been located. There have been found extensive ruins of an ancient city, large blocks of stone, foundations of buildings, and fragments of columns. For a long time the ruins were known, but the site was not excavated. Recently, within the past 20 years, the site has been excavated and many inscriptions and other discoveries have been made and published.

Paul's Epistle to the Colossians Part 2: Jesus Christ is God

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Jesus Christ is God, or as we are more inclined to say, Yahshua Christ is Yahweh. I was startled, when I first became acquainted with the Christian Identity world, that so many people have not understood that, and there are still those who deny it. They want to limit God to a spirit world disassociated from reality. Those are seeds that the jews have sewn, and they still do, but in the end, they shall bear no fruit.

Paul's Epistle to the Colossians Part 2: Jesus Christ is God

The children of Israel had in ancient times sold themselves into sin, and for their sin Yahweh their God delivered them into captivity. From thence they were alienated from God, having been lost in paganism and a multitude of errors, and the resulting state in which they were found is frequently described in the books of the prophets and in the Gospel as darkness. This brief description encapsulates one aspect of the prophecies such as that which is found in Isaiah chapter 59, where in verse 2 the words of Isaiah in reference to Yahweh read: “2 But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.” Then in verse 9 he speaks for all of Israel and says: “9 Therefore is judgment far from us, neither doth justice overtake us: we wait for light, but behold obscurity; for brightness, but we walk in darkness.”

The Gospel message is a message of reconciliation for those same children of Israel, that they repent and return to obedience to Yahweh their God in the mercy which is offered through Christ. So in the opening of this epistle to the Colossians, Paul exhorts them to “to walk worthily of the Prince in all complaisance”, and to do so while “12 being thankful to the Father, who qualifies us for that share of the inheritance of the saints in the light, 13 who has rescued us from the authority of darkness, and instead gave us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, 14 in whom we have redemption: the dismissal of errors.”

Paul's Epistle to the Colossians Part 3: The Handwriting Against Us

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Paul's Epistle to the Colossians Part 3: The Handwriting Against Us

Thus far three topics have stood out in the discussion found in Paul’s epistle to the Colossians: the fact that Jesus Christ is God come in the flesh, and that He had come to reconcile His household to Himself, redeeming them and forgiving their sins. In relation to this, Paul explains that he, being assigned the administration of this household, suffered many things for their benefit in the execution of that assignment. Here in Colossians chapter 2 Paul will continue expounding upon all three of these topics as he also adds some admonitions as to how Christians should conduct themselves on account of these things.

1 For I wish you to know that as great a struggle as I have for you, and those in Laodikeia, and as many as have not seen my face in the flesh,

Laodikeia was about 10 miles from Colossae. In Colossians chapter 4 we learn that Paul also wrote an epistle to the Laodikeians (popularly Laodiceans), which has not survived to us. The Laodikeians are mentioned again in the Revelation, where they are the seventh of the seven assemblies which had received messages from Yahshua Christ.

Here we see evidence in support of the fact that Paul himself had not brought the gospel to the Colossians, or to the Laodikeians, since those people had not seen him in person. Rather, as we had discussed presenting chapter 1 of this epistle, it seems to have been Epaphras who had brought to them the Gospel, as Paul had written there concerning the favor of God, “7 As ye also learned of Epaphras our dear fellowservant, who is for you a faithful minister of Christ”. In chapter 4 of this epistle, Paul informs us that Epaphras is also a Colossian.

Paul's Epistle to the Colossians Part 4: Salvation is not by Legalism

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Paul's Epistle to the Colossians Part 4: Salvation is not by Legalism

Many Identity Christians profess to keep the laws of God, and for the most part they do. But then they adopt and intermingle a lot of their concepts of right and wrong from the greater society, or from their own personal judgment of things transpiring in society, good or bad, whereby they are really not following Yahweh’s law in the degree which they imagine. Of course, none of us follow it perfectly, and that is why we require the mercy which is found in Christ. But Yahweh’s law is much more than just church law. It is a schematic for the coming Kingdom of Heaven, and Christians should seek to live by it and establish it now. They should base their everyday decisions and their judgments of right and wrong upon God’s law first. In our time of punishment we may be compelled to obey some of the laws of men, but of course we should not do so to the point of negating or invalidating the laws of our God. When man and God disagree, we must choose to follow God.

I had initially thought to subtitle this segment of our presentation of Paul’s epistle to the Colossians as Puritanical Pharisaism, or perhaps Pharisaical Puritanism. These titles would be appropriate within the confines of our modern vernacular use of those terms, but are not really fair to most of the original Puritans, or even to at least some of the original Pharisees.

Paul's Epistle to the Colossians Part 5: Bad Words and “Filthy Communications”

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Paul's Epistle to the Colossians Part 5: Bad Words and “Filthy Communications”

Thankfully, bad words and filthy communications are not all we have to discuss this evening, however we seem to constantly be confronted by what I can only call “word Pharisees”, and they certainly need to be addressed.

In our recent discussions of Colossians chapter 2, we had seen Paul of Tarsus assert that because the children of Israel were freed from the ordinances of the law by the sacrifice of Yahshua Christ, Christians should not seek to judge one another based on those ordinances. Therefore Paul said “no one must judge you in food and in drink, or in respect of feast or new month or of the Sabbaths.” Of course, Paul was not telling Christians to disregard the sabbaths and the feasts, which he had advised them elsewhere to observe. Rather, he must have meant that no one should judge them as to how they observe those things, and especially concerning all of the commandments of men that were added to God’s laws regulating them.

Paul's Epistle to the Colossians Part 6: The Indwelling Word

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Paul's Epistle to the Colossians Part 6: The Indwelling Word

Presenting the last two segments of Paul’s epistle to the Colossians, we made digressions to discuss several things which Paul may not have addressed explicitly, but which certainly are related to Paul’s message. The first of these addressed substance pharisaism. There are many substance pharisees who seek to judge other men for partaking of things which Yahweh’s law does not proscribe. Some of these things are a part of Yahweh’s very creation, and therefore He provided them. So if our God provided them, and did not prohibit them in His law, how could we justify prohibiting them? How could we condemn men for using such substances? The truth is that we cannot justly prohibit our brethren from anything which the law of our God does not prohibit. If we do, then we imagine ourselves to be as gods, like the high priests that Paul had scathingly criticized in his second epistle to the Thessalonians. They were sitting in the temple of God, exalting themselves above everything that was truly godly, and imagined themselves to be as gods. When man makes his own laws rather than seeking to uphold Yahweh’s law, he becomes an idolater because he is certainly not God. Yahweh did not give men laws as a supplement to man’s law. Rather, He gave men laws to live by, and when they do, they are free of the tyranny of men.

Another sort of pharisaism which we addressed was word pharisaism. The word pharisees insist upon controlling the lexicons of others. So where Paul had advised at Ephesians 4:29, for instance, to “let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth”, as one translation has it, they imagine that to refer to literal words rather than to lies, flattery, threats, provocations, ribaldry, statements which are actually damaging regardless of what sort of words are used to express them. Likewise, here in Colossians 3:8 Paul admonished against “filthy communications”, or as we would translate the phrase, “abusive language”, or perhaps “shameful language”. The shallow, Judaized denominational Christian imagines these passages to be talking about certain words when they are really admonishing men not to lie to one another, not to slander one another, not to blaspheme God, not to use flattery and deceit, or any of the other things which men say and do to one another whether they be done with language that is "nice" or "naughty". But these passages do not advocate word pharisaism.

Paul's Epistle to the Colossians Part 7: Christianity and Slavery, with Philemon

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Paul's Epistle to the Colossians Part 7: Christianity and Slavery, with Philemon

One of the underlying themes we have been building upon from what Paul of Tarsus has taught us in the first several chapters of this epistle to the Colossians is judgment. Paul of Tarsus began when he advised these Christians of Colossae that they should let no man judge them concerning feasts, sabbaths and other celebrations, and then he also informed them that they should not submit to the ordinances of the men, nor should they worship angels, as he called them, who would prevent them from the use of those elements of God’s Creation that are beneficial to the satisfaction of the flesh, which was basically a refutation of both Pharisaism and asceticism, or, as the King James Version translates the term, “will worship”, which describes asceticism.

However Paul also informed these Colossians that, because they had an assurance of life in Christ, they should choose to abstain from the sins of the world, fornications, evil desires, covetousness, which Paul identified as a form of idolatry, and “filthy communications”, among which are blasphemies, deceits, slanders, ribaldry, and even the wrath of men.

Saying these things, Paul explained that in Christ “one is not Greek and Judaean, circumcision and uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, slave, free, but altogether and in all ways Anointed.” Paul made a similar statement in Galatians chapter 3, where he had said, as it reads in the King James Version, “26 For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew [properly Judaean] nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” And here is where many supposedly pious Christians have found, or have even created much confusion.

Paul’s First Epistle to the Thessalonians, Part 1: Mercy may be by grace, but election is by race.

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Paul’s First Epistle to the Thessalonians, Part 1: Mercy may be by grace, but election is by race.

In the Christogenea New Testament, Thessalonians is spelled Thessalonikeans, as that is a transliteration of the way that it was spelled by the Greeks, and in our translations we endeavored to maintain the Greek forms of at least most of the names. But before speaking about Thessalonika, we will speak briefly about Thessaly, from whence the name of the city had originated. However Thessalonika was not properly in Thessaly, at least so far as the borders of the Hellenistic and Roman periods were defined. We spoke of these places in our Acts chapter 17 presentation two-and-a-half years ago, and noticed an error which we must correct.

Thessaly was the part of central mainland Greece north of ancient Attica, Boeotia and Euboea, with Epirus to the west and Makedonia to the north. The Aegean Sea was on the east. It must be noted, that in ancient times the Greek provinces never really had definite borders. They more or less described the somewhat fluid areas of habitat of the Greek tribes, which occupied greater or lesser territory as their populations or military strength either increased or diminished over time. As Makedonia increased in political power, the perceived territory of adjoining regions such as Thessaly and Thrace was diminished.

Strabo, in the ninth book of his Geography tells us that Thessaly was in early times populated by the same Phoenicians who built the Greek city of Thebes (9.2.3). There was even a river in the area named Phoenix. However the Pelasgians were imagined to have inhabited the area originally, even before the mythical flood of Deucalion, after which they were said to have been driven out. Strabo says later in that same book “Now the largest and most ancient composite part of the Greeks is that of the Thessalians, who have been described partly by Homer and partly by others.” Makedonia did not exist as a political entity in the period of which Homer had written. There are ancient connections between the inhabitants of Thessaly and Aeolia, a region on the coast of Anatolia near the Troad which included a group of islands in the adjoining sea. Certain peoples of Thessaly, namely the Magnesians and the Aenianians, are said to have been Aeolian in origin.

Paul’s First Epistle to the Thessalonians, Part 2: Persecution of the Saints

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Paul’s First Epistle to the Thessalonians, Part 2: Persecution of the Saints

The Roman historian Suetonius, who lived from about 69 AD to about 140 AD, had a career as the director of the imperial archives under the emperor Trajan. So he must have had a lot of first-hand information upon which to base his histories of the lives of the Roman emperors. In his Lives of the Twelve Caesars, in The Life of Cladius, chapter 25, Suetonius said of Claudius, in brief, that “Since the Judaeans constantly made disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, he expelled them from Rome.” In spite of the bickering over this passage by modern Jews and assorted other scoffers, this brief note must be a reference to the same event which is also noted in Acts chapter 18, where it is recorded that as Paul is in Corinth, he meets Priscilla and Aquila, who were there “on account of Klaudios ordering all of the Judaeans to depart from Rome”. Those who doubt the connection of this reference in Suetonius to early Christianity conveniently assert that there must have been some other Chrestus who caused such a disturbance, among other claims. (It seems that Suetonius did write Christians where he mentioned them again in his life of Nero, 16.2.) But there were certainly Christians in Rome by this time, which is evident as Paul, writing his epistle to the Romans in 57 AD, attests that many Christian assemblies were already established in Rome, and one of the major themes of that epistle is the reasons for the divisions between Christians and Jews.

The mistaking of Chrestus (meaning The Good One) for Christos (meaning The Anointed One), or Christ, was not uncommon among the Romans, Tacitus was also confused over the name in that same manner. But the error even appears in some of the Greek manuscripts of the New Testament writings. In Acts 11:26 and 26:28 the Codex Sinaiticus (א) has Chrestian(s) rather than Christian(s). Certain early and notable Christian writers made remarks attempting to correct the confusion. In the late 3rd century the Christian writer Lactantius wrote concerning the name of Christ because, as he himself had said, “the meaning of this name must be set forth, on account of the error of the ignorant, who by the change of a letter are accustomed to call Him Chrestus.” (The Divine Institutes, Book 4, Chapter 7) But perhaps a hundred years earlier, Tertullian had written that “The name Christian, however, so far as its meaning goes, bears the sense of anointing. Even when by a faulty pronunciation you call us “Chrestians” (for you are not certain about even the sound of this noted name), you in fact lisp out the sense of pleasantness and goodness.” (Ad Nationes, Book I Chapter III) Then, at least threescore years before Tertullian, in the mid-2nd century, the Christian apologist Justin Martyr, writing only a short time after Suetonius had made a play on words relating to the error, by writing “For we are accused of being Christians, and to hate what is excellent (or chrestian) is unjust.” (The First Apology of Justin, Chapter IV)

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