Lunch with the Apostle Paul,
Pt. 4: Dessert
A dramatized sermon by Dr. Jim Somerville, Pastor
Richmond’s First Baptist
June 23, 2013
The Fifth Sunday after Pentecost
The Book of Galatians
If you are just joining us you may need to know that for the past few
weeks I’ve been having lunch with the Apostle Paul, played by Dr. Scott
Spencer, Professor of New Testament and Biblical Interpretation at the
Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond. And if you’ve been here I think
you’d agree with me that Dr. Spencer has done an outstanding job of helping
us get inside the mind of Paul, and understand some of those more difficult
passages in his letter to the Galatians. So far he and I have worked through
the appetizer course, the soup and salad course, last week we had the main
course, the entree, and today we are having dessert together, with the
Apostle Paul, and in the role of the interrupting worship leader, our own
Dr. Phil Mitchell.
Jim Somerville: Well Paul, look, we’ve got pie, a
lovely piece of pie. It looks like apple pie, which is good.
Spencer: Oh, apple pie!
JS: It reminds me of the fruit of the spirit
you talk about in Galatians 5. I want to talk about that today, but...
Phil Mitchell: Wait just one minute.
been sitting over there in the penalty box for three weeks. Waiting for you
to ask the one question that all of wants to ask the Apostle Paul.
JS: What question would that be? Phil?
PM: What is the thorn in the
SS: You all have been concerned about this?
SS: Well, let me just ask first of all, I thought you said
that my letters had become part of the Bible? Yes?
JS: Yes, your
letters are in the Bible.
SS: And many folks take the Bible
JS: Yes, they do.
SS: OK, and do you not have
bushes with thorns in your country?
JS: Yes. Yes, we do.
Then I’m not sure what the problem is. I have a thorn in my flesh. I mean...
JS: There you go.
SS: Well, I’ll give you a little more. I don’t
share this with everyone, but I’ll go ahead. I had a bad accident one day. I
travelled a lot you know, on the road side and what not. Well, I’m a bit
clumsy. I wound up stumbling and falling back on this big rose bush, and a
big thorn got stuck in my fleshy part. Thorn in the flesh.
don’t think you refer to that anywhere in your letters.
SS: No, not,
not in so many words. It’s not true. I had you going there for a minute. No
no no, good gracious!
JS: That didn’t really happen?
not that way, and I’m glad you take the Bible literally but you shouldn’t
take all of it literally. There are metaphors and figures of speech and
that’s what this thorn in the flesh is all about. It’s a figure of speech
for certain ailments and suffering and the hardship that I went through, and
I don’t want to get into specifics. I’m sorry, because I don’t want to
glorify any particular ailment. Oh this thing is really bad as opposed to
anything else. No no no. It was part of my suffering. And, I do want to say
this though, whatever the specifics, and you don’t really need to know
those, it was something serious. It was something painful, not just a little
splinter in the finger, or a little paper cut or pin prick or anything like
that. No, it was something quite serious, in fact the word that I used, I
mean thorn is ok, it’s the Greek term scallops. And it means anything that
is pointed and that pierces, and particularly can mean something more like a
stake in the flesh. And that’s getting a little closer to the idea.
Particularly because of the tie-in with my identification with Jesus and his
suffering and his crucified life.
SS: It’s, as it
were, and I’m not remotely pretending to be Jesus of course, but there is
this sense of bearing in my body the marks of Christ. Now, I do not glorify
pain or suffering for me or for anyone else, and I tell you what I prayed as
hard as I’ve ever prayed, three times, get this thing out of me, God! And
God said, No. God doesn’t always do exactly what we want. But, he has a
larger plan in mind, and again, I think the important thing is not to focus
so much on the particulars, but to realize how this functioned in my life.
And God said, No Paul, we’re going to leave this in. You’re going to
continue down this particular road of hardship because you learn something
from this. I had a bit of a problem of stubbornness, pride, and what not in
my former life, and continued to even after I followed Christ, and this
thorn became a constant reminder to me that I could not do this work on my
own. And God said as clear as a bell, This thorn is like a symbol for you to
remind you that my grace is sufficient for you. And Lord knows, I needed all
the grace in the world. And when I was weak, that’s really when I was
strong. Now again, I don’t wish suffering or pain on anyone. There’s nothing
admirable in it in and of itself, but it can point us to what God needs to
be doing in our lives. I came to view this stake more like a chisel that was
chopping away at my rough bits and forming and molding and shaping Christ
within me. I hope that helps a little bit brother Phil. I know I didn’t give
you a specific answer, but, but maybe, I don’t know, maybe that helps.
PM: The preachily non-answering. I have four to one odds with Ralph
SS: Oh yeah?
PM: ...that it was a Texas-sized
bunion. But I appreciate the answer, and I appreciate the personal nature of
it, but we still love you, and we appreciate you being here.
thank you, and I appreciate you asking the question. That’s how you learn,
yes indeed. I love that man.
SS: Even though he
interrupts a little bit.
JS: From time to time, he does.
A wonderful musician, my goodness! These weeks, the music has been
unbelievable! You all are so fortunate, I hope you’re paying the man what
JS: Well, no one could pay him what he’s worth, but we
do try to show our appreciation. We do.
SS: Oh, well good.
Now where were we before we were so rudely interrupted?
JS: We were talking about dessert, and about this lovely apple
pie, and about....
SS: You keep talking about it and I’m just going
to start eating it.
JS: I’m going to try it. I was actually hoping
that that waiter would come around with some coffee, but, I don’t see him
SS: I think we sufficiently offended him, I think he’s
JS: Apple pie. Apple pie, one of the fruits of the earth, and I
wanted to talk about the fruit of the Spirit. Something you focus on here in
chapter five of Galatians.
JS: In fact, if we know
anything from your letters, most of us know something about the fruit of the
Spirit. We talk about that, love, joy, peace, patience, etc.
JS: But I noticed as I was re-reading your letter that you say to the
Galatians here in chapter three, did you receive the Spirit by observing the
law or by believing what you heard. And I just wanted to ask you, there was
some experience behind that. How did the Galatians receive the Spirit? Tell
me about that?
SS: That’s a great question. And the short answer
there is exactly what you read. Simply by faith, not by keeping the works of
the law. But maybe a little bigger picture. Actually here I’m gonna appeal
to my friend Peter who I was a little hard on earlier in our meal, you might
remember, but he got some things right and he really got this thing about
the Spirit and how it’s received right, because he was there at the day of
Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the early church. Everyone
was filled with the Spirit and it blew in like a mighty gust of wind. It was
wonderful, and then Peter began to preach about Jesus, and his life and his
death, and his resurrection. And the larger crowd began to gather around,
realized something was going on here. Something was happening that they
hadn’t expected, and they just said, Peter what do we do? How do we get
this? What’s going on? And he very succinctly replied, he said look, this is
not just some little private Holy Ghost thing we have, it’s for everyone.
It’s for you, and your children, and anyone who is far off...
Like the Galatians.
SS: He didn’t know about the Galatians at that
time but it certainly included that. And he said, look, all that you need to
do is repent, turn your life toward this one I’ve been speaking about, and
be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus for the forgiveness of sins, and
you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, just like we did. That word
gift, is so key. We don’t go out and buy it, we don’t go out and work it up,
God just simply gives it to us as part of our family inheritance, as being
part of the family of God. And that’s exactly how the Galatians received it.
JS: So, you talk about this, about the Spirit, and certainly part of
your everyday experience in the life of that early church, but, for our
larger audience, and maybe for some people who are not as familiar with it,
what is the Spirit? How would you describe it for modern day people?
SS: That’s a very good question. And I do find, I did find in my day, and I
have the idea even in your day that people don’t really know that much about
the Holy Spirit. In fact I met a group one time, Luke talks about it in
Acts, a group of, well they called themselves believers, in Ephesus, they
knew a good bit about the Lord, and they had been baptized by followers of
John the Baptist. They were good folks. And I just asked them, I just met
them, there were about a dozen of them, I said, Oh well have you received
the Holy Spirit since you believed? And they came back and said what are you
talking about? We don’t even know there is this, what, Holy Spirit?
JS: Sounds like some of the Baptists I’ve talked to.
SS: If you say
so. I have sort of gotten this impression that there’s just this kind of
fuzziness and vagueness. Well there’s no way in a short period of time, or a
long period of time, that I could define the Holy Spirit. That’s quite the
opposite of Holy Spirit that’s dynamic and that defies all boxes and
definitions. But, just to get us thinking in the right direction, the Holy
Spirit as I see it is this living, pulsing, dynamic presence and power of
God. Working in our world and in our midst. I mean it is the very person of
God in this force. Just the two words, Holy Spirit, are kind of interesting,
haggion pneumata. Haggion, holy. Well, one of the main reasons, and we
sometimes forget this cause we get caught up in all sorts of things, but the
Holy Spirit is active in our midst to help make us holy. Not holier than
thou or putting on holy airs, but being set apart, but helping form Christ
within us so that we may live that Christ-like life. That’s why the Spirit
is given for purposes of helping us become holier than we are. And then this
Spirit word, this pneumata, really means something like wind, or air, or, my
favorite term, it’s really the very breath, the breath of God. Just like in
the very beginning of creation, God created the first human creature and
then breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. That’s the Spirit, and
that animated the human being, that’s what gave the human real life, the
very life and spark of God within, and that’s how we are animated to live
the Christian life.
JS: So, I’ve been trying to listen carefully to
everything you’ve said and to read your letters, and it seems to me that
this is how it was for you. You would go from place to place and preach the
good news about Jesus, the Messiah, who had died, and been buried, and been
raised from the dead by God.
JS: You would preach
that gospel and people would hear it, and some of them would believe it.
JS: And then they would be baptized in the name of the
JS: And they would be filled with Holy
JS: This was just how it was.
gift simply came.
JS: In fact you said to those Ephesians, you know,
didn’t you receive the Spirit when you were baptized?
SS: I assumed
they had. Yes.
JS: Something must be wrong.
JS: I don’t know that for us these days it is always like that. I think
sometimes people are baptized without ever thinking that they will receive
the Holy Spirit, and maybe it’s because we don’t understand what the Spirit
is or how it manifests itself. For example...
Among those Ephesians, after they had been baptized in the name of Jesus,
and after you had laid hands on them, prayed for them, they began to speak
in tongues and prophesy.
SS: Oh they did, yes.
JS: And I’ve
got to say, there aren’t many of us here who would say that we speak in
tongues and prophesy but we might all say that we have the Holy Spirit. Tell
me about that.
SS: Well that’s very interesting. There are different
ways that the Spirit can manifest itself, and again just like we talked
about earlier about the law is very good but it’s not an end in itself, so
these various manifestations of the Spirit are fine. It was indeed very
common in my day for people to burst out with these sort of ecstatic words
of praise. They didn’t quite know what they were saying but they were just
so overcome with joy. Some called it a heavenly language, they spoke in
tongues. I spoke in tongues from time to time. It wasn’t a huge deal that I
made of it, but that’s one manifestation. There’d be prophesying, there’d be
miracle working, so there’d be sometimes a lot of loud, exuberant joy. That
was pretty common, but it didn’t have to be that way. That was just one
manifestation. The Spirit can also come in that quiet, still voice. You know
the Corinthian church.
SS: I’m sure you’ve read those
JS: Mm hmm.
SS: There was no more Spirit-filled
church than those folks, oh! Gifted, and the Spirit was moving, and all
kinds of ways. Gifts were just flowing. Things got a little, should we say
wild there? It was great, but sometimes things can get a little bit out of
hand. For example, in a worship service, I’m actually quite, I’ve enjoyed
being here, people are actually pretty quiet during the worship service, and
yeah, the occasional chuckle, I don’t even, do you all say Amen ever? I
JS: No, never.
SS: Well ok, that’s all right.
That’s all right. You know and you don’t interrupt, well except for Brother
SS: But very, very polite, now you all
stand and sing together and this.. Well, in the Corinthian church, if you
came in, man, one would be popping up speaking in tongues, one group over
here would be singing like crazy. You’d have a three-piece band over here, I
mean it was great in one sense because everyone was making a joyful noise to
the Lord, but it got a little disorderly, and can you imagine a visitor
coming in to that three-ring circus? They might say, something’s going on
here but we don’t have a clue. You know, this is almost a little scary. So I
wrote them and said, don’t quench the Spirit, it’s great that you have all
these gifts, but some order, being concerned about others, because, you
mentioned this a while back, the most important chapter I wrote, most
important part of that First Corinthians, was about love. And I wrote about
it in the middle of all these gifts that were going on because the
Corinthians were becoming a little too caught up in their own spiritual
experience. They were having a great and wonderful time, but not being very
concerned about their neighbor or visitor, and I just told them flat out,
look, the Spirit, the fruit of the Spirit is first of all love, ministering
the life of Christ with us, and serving one another with these gifts. And I
don’t care if you’re speaking in the tongues of man and of angels, if you’re
working miracles, if you’re moving mountains with your faith. I don’t care
what big stuff is going on, if it’s not done in and through love for one
another it profits nothing. And they needed to hear that. And that I think
is the balance here. So, if you’re not into, I guess is the word, speaking
in tongues or whatever, that’s fine. It’s not a particular manifestation but
it’s still knowing and sensing that the Spirit of God is moving and gifting
everyone for service.
JS: I think it’s here in Corinthians you talk
about the body of Christ.
SS: Ah, yes, yes.
JS: Which is
SS: It is indeed.
JS: But it’s a powerful
metaphor to imagine that these people here, for instance, make up the body
of Christ, and the Spirit is the breath...
SS: Yes indeed!
...that animates the body, that gets it up and moving and working in the
SS: Beautifully! Absolutely.
JS: I love you say here in
First Corinthians, there is one Spirit..
controls all of this activity...
SS: That’s right.
there are these different gifts. There is wisdom, and knowledge, healing,
and prophesy, and miracles, and all of these gifts are given out to the
members of the body. But one Spirit controlling all of this, working through
all of this, animating the body of Christ in way that it works together.
Those various gifts, you know I think about those and the way they are
manifested. I think about these people, some of them have wonderful gifts,
of hospitality, evangelism, friendship, and teaching, and comforting, and
prophesy. All of those things. And it reminds me of what you say in
Galatians about the fruit of the Spirit. You mention all kinds of fruit. you
say the fruit of the Spirit is love, and then there’s joy and peace and
patience, and I’m going to turn to the list just so I can get it right.
Kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. But somehow
all of this is the fruit that comes from a life lived in the Spirit.
JS: Does that sound like what...
beautifully put. A life lived richly and fully. And it’s a life lived over a
life time. It doesn’t all happen at once. We still struggle with counter
forces and all of this. We don’t always love as we should, but yes, there is
this constant impulse, and I love how you paraphrased or read my stuff, if
that’s the word, very well, that it all comes together as this one body, and
we all play different roles. And you mentioned some of them beautifully.
Some of us play the role of a hand, some of an arm, some of an ear, you
know. We have all different parts, but they’re connected together. Some are
more, should we say, glamour parts, some are less special in that outward
sense, but oh my, all are vital and important working together with this
breath of the Spirit. And in this context of this fruitfulness of character
that starts with love, it isn’t accidental that I started with the fruit of
the Spirit is love. That sums up the whole law, that sums up what we are to
be about as the people of God. If what we do in the Spirit and through the
Spirit, really serves others, I think I use a phrase in Galatians, bear one
another’s burdens. If it really becomes that sense of you’re part of my
family, I’m a part of yours, and we’re in this together, we’ve got each
other’s back, then that is how the Spirit desires for us to work. That’s
beginning to develop that fruit of love.
JS: You know, I was asking
you Paul how the Spirit is manifested in the life of the believer, because
it’s true. That we are supposed to hear the word, and believe it, and be
baptized, and receive the Holy Spirit. Then there should be some evidence in
our lives that we have received the Spirit.
SS: Indeed, yes.
JS: There should be some fruit. Didn’t you say somewhere, didn’t your people
say that, you know, by your fruits you shall know them?
SS: Oh yes,
absolutely. It’s actually a very simple image. I mean we were primarily an
agricultural society so fruit trees and such were abundant and all around. A
big part of our diet, and yes, how do you know? What, you said this was
JS: Apple pie.
SS: Well, how do you know you got
yourself an apple tree out there? To make your apple pie? Well, you got
leaves, you got bark, you gotta have fruit on there, otherwise it’s just a
pile of leaves.
JS: So in your thinking, for the average believer,
there has to be some fruit, some evidence..
SS: Indeed, yes.
JS: ...of the Spirit, and the fruit that you’re looking for most of all is
the fruit of love.
JS: Is that right?
Absolutely, yes. And again, whether these other things, whether you’re
shouting, speaking this or that, those are nice, but it’s that, well, I’ll
come back to that holiness thing again. It’s not holiness is some sort of,
you know, artificial piety, whatever that might mean. No, it’s holiness that
works itself out in love. God is love. The Spirit is love. Jesus said, how
are folks going to know that you’re followers of me? Well, they will know
you are my followers because of the love that you have one for another, and
the standard of that love, because love can be another one of these things
that can be kind of mushy to define, you must love as I have loved you. And
he spoke that by the way in the gospel of John, just after he had washed
their feet, which is a pretty dramatic illustration of what love is all
about in this is the master serving by washing the feet of the disciples.
That is the fruit of the Spirit. It’s how we love and care for one another
as Christ has cared for us. And everyone of us can do that, quietly, loudly,
it doesn’t matter, but that’s the evidence the Spirit is working.
I don’t want to go into this too much and we really do need to wrap up. I
hate to say that, but, but the other side of life in the Spirit is life in
the flesh, as you say here in Galatians. And I just want to touch on this
briefly. Because I don’t think you’re saying that the flesh is evil.
JS: That the body is evil.
JS: The body
SS: Oh absolutely!
JS: It can do good things, it can
do bad things.
JS: It seems to me that you’re
saying a life that is led by the appetites of the flesh, by giving your body
whatever it wants whenever it wants it, that kind of life will lead you down
the wrong path. And you say here all kinds of things.
SS: I have a
whole list of them don’t I?
JS: Sexual immorality, impurity,
debauchery, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage,
selfish ...you go on and on..
SS: I know, I got on a roll there.
JS: You really did. But you’re saying this is the opposite of life in
the Spirit. Life in the Spirit seems to be controlled by the Spirit of love
and always has the other person in mind. Whereas this life, life in the
flesh, where we are controlled by our desires, it seems to be all about us.
Selfish, and only concerned about our own appetite. Does that...
Oh yes, that’s very well put. And there is this struggle, there is this, and
again, I’m using flesh as a metaphor for our sinful nature, not this.
Because again, our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit. But there is
this conflict that I continue to struggle with myself. In Romans I was very
honest and said the good that I want to do some days I just, I want to so
badly, and I do exactly the opposite. And I keep doing it day in and day
out. Who will deliver me from these works of the flesh? So there is that
struggle and I want everyone to know that that this is not a simple one,
two, three magic formula, but the Spirit is there, is our helper. Not to
say, oh you’re doing the works of the flesh, bad you! But to say, I can
animate a different kind of life. Let’s go this way. Because that is the way
of love. Because as you said we often do these works of the flesh because
they focus on ourselves and we think we’re doing ourselves all these favors
by ignoring everyone else and the irony, the tragic irony is that that’s
actually the path to our own ruin. The more we turn in ourselves, and serve
ourselves, we do not live according to the way God has made us. And that
becomes the road to ruin.
JS: In the same way, the Holy Spirit
animates the body of Christ, the church. That Spirit can animate the
individual believer. That it is the source of our power and the possibility
of living a life in Christ that is pleasing to God. I really have to cut us
short Paul, but I...
SS: I’m getting that impression, yes.
I wonder if you could do this, I wonder if you could do this, could you say
a prayer for us, for the people of Richmond’s First Baptist Church, that
each of us individually would be filled to overflowing with God’s Holy
Spirit and that this body of Christ in this place would be animated by that
same holy breath.
SS: May we pray. Lord we thank you for the gift of
your Holy Spirit, whereby we can cry out, softly or loudly, or even without
words, just feel inside, Abba, Father. Lord, thank you for that gift
individually in each of our lives, and thank you for that gift corporately,
as it joins us together in this one body. Lord I do pray for this church,
clearly these folks love you, clearly there is evidence of the fruit of the
Spirit and love for you and one another here. Thank you for the work that
they do and continue to do. And fill them even more to overflowing, and as
they struggle, as we all do, we pray that the Spirit’s power will be
stronger than any force that pulls against them. Breathe Holy Spirit, afresh
on this body of believers. In Christ’s name, amen.
JS: Paul, thank
you so much, it’s been great having you here for lunch. I hate to say
goodbye. Let me say goodbye with a holy kiss.
SS: Thank you brother.
JS: Thank you.
Our closing hymn is Hymn 431, Jesus is Lord of
All. I invite you to come forward. Respond to the good gifts Christ has
given, give your life to him as we stand and sing Hymn 431.
—Jim Somerville © 2013