Sermon notes: Galatians Series, Number 9...

Note that God does not simply predestine the salvation of men, but also the means of their hearing that salvation message—namely, the preaching of Jesus Christ by men set apart to this work. Both the end and the means are the decree of God.

Today we like to think that so long as we know God’s ends, His purposes and goals, we ourselves are free to choose the tools as we like. So there is a tendency in the church today to denigrate the call of preaching, and to lift up the call of evangelistic Bible study leaders working out of their homes and dorm rooms; and gifted women Bible expositors who can be franchised across the country and whose evangelistic message can be broadcast through books and radio waves and study guides and videotapes far more effectively than the rather limited reach of a preacher of the Gospel speaking in the pulpit of a local church.

Surely our goal is not so much to contravene God’s divine purpose as as it is to assist the Holy Spirit’s efficiency. This is the great idol of the evangelical age, that the call of God to men to preach His Gospel, and the purpose of God in loving his Bride, the Church, and the promise of God of sanctification through the officers of that Church loving and exhorting and disciplining those sheep under their care are all rather dated methods for our own so-very-sophisticated age.

NOTE: This is number 8 in a series on Galatians. If this is your first time reading sermon notes here, please take time to read a helpful explanation at the bottom of this post.

From the Pulpit of Church of the Good Shepherd/Clearnote Church, Bloomington

January 4, 2004; AM
Galatians Series No. 9
They Were Glorifying God Because of Me
Sermon Text: Galatians 1:11-24

This Lord’s Day, we turn to our ninth in a series of sermons on the New Testament book of Galatians...

* And this week, again, we turn to Galatians 1:11-24 This is the Word of God, eternally true:

11 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.

We said last week that with these verses we come to the body of the letter to the Galatians. In verses 1-10, the Apostle Paul completed the introduction of this letter in which he set out his authority and purpose for the letter. Next he turned to a more full development of this purpose.

And central to this purpose is the writing of history, specifically the history of his own conversion and the method by which he came to believe and teach the doctrines he’s about to defend within the Galatian church.

Beginning with verse 11 the Apostle Paul opens up the first major part of his letter—an autobiographical section containing the largest amount of information recorded anywhere concerning Paul’s life, taking up about one-fourth of Galatians.

Section 1: History—Paul’s autobiography; chapters 1 & 2.

Section 2: Theology—Paul’s doctrinal instruction; chapters 3 & 4.

Section 3: Ethics—Paul’s exhortations; how should we then live; chapters 5 & 6.

Here in the first section of Galatians, then, the Apostle Paul sets out to make the point that he is not beholden to man, and particularly not beholden to the apostolic leaders of the home church in Jerusalem, for the Gospel he has received and preaches.

As we have noted before, a central part of the controversy for the souls in the Galatian church is the question of Paul’s authority and the legitimacy of his Apostolic credentials. It’s apparent that the false teachers who have infiltrated the Galatian church are accusing Paul of departing from the true apostolic doctrine of the Jerusalem church.

How then does Paul respond to this accusation, that he has failed to preach and teach the whole Gospel, instead trimming it to suit the ears of the Gentiles?

First, by making it clear that personalities are not the center of the issue, but doctrine.

No man is to be trusted. Only God and His Word alone. To raise a man into a position of infallibility is idolatry. So the Apostle Paul goes through a list of those who, should they deny the Gospel, are to be anathematized. And who is at the head of the list?

Paul himself.

Paul starts with himself, then goes to the angels, and finally to any other man, and he says that any one of them who denies the true faith by seeking to turn souls away from grace to the Law is to be accursed before God. And he, Paul, pronounces that curse.

Then remembering their accusations against him, the Apostle Paul turns from calling down fire from heaven on the false shepherds, back to the sheep. And on a gut level, he pleads with them to stop and consider whether things really are as the false preachers claim?

If they are claiming Paul is a trimmer because he wants to please his congregation, then the question must be asked, “Who is scratching itching ears; who are the man-pleasers?”

Verse 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.

Paul is no counterfeit shepherd; his message cuts against the grain of his listeners—indeed, it is wildly unpopular. So it is obvious he is not trying to win the affection or approval of his readers or listeners; rather, his message is the product of a man who is a “bond-servant” of Jesus Christ, a man who is fully intending to please, not his congregation, but his Master Jesus Christ.

And this is the theme Paul goes on to develop more fully here in the rest of chapter 1—that he cannot be anything other than a largely-independent witness to the Gospel, a witness directly from Jesus Christ; and that the entire history of his own conversion and preparation for ministry is proof of the claim that his own conversion, as well as the doctrine he preaches and teaches, are both the product of God’s extraordinary work of revelation to him, personally, beginning on the road to Damascus.

11 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.

This statement echoes the declaration the Apostle Paul made at the beginning of the letter, where in verse 1 he said:

Galatians 1:1, 2 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 so, just as the Apostle Paul declared right at the beginning of his letter, he declares again now that the good news about Jesus Christ (‘gospel’ simply means “good news”); this good news is not of man, but of God. And everything the Apostle now proceeds to say is only a reinforcement of that first statement. He, Paul, did not come up with this Gospel; he did not invent it. Rather, he received it. And not from any man—especially not from the other apostles—but from God Himself.

Normally, instruction is received from man—whether a teacher or professor, mother or father—and there is no claim to the contrary.

Paul was, himself, the product of the normal Jewish rabbinical instruction, well-known to have risen to the highest levels of religious training, and every word of his instruction was carefully cross-referenced, meticulously attributed to the proper rabbi.

Footnotes—endless footnotes—had been the Apostle Paul’s breakfast, lunch, and dinner from earliest days, and his discipline and zeal in this work caused him to rise to the exalted level of being a personal student of the chief rabbi of their nation, Gamaliel. So Paul knew all about truths that were according to man.

Here, though, he explicitly says this is not the case with the Gospel he has been proclaiming since the road to Damascus—this good news has not come out of rabbinical tradition, with all the citations to show its proper pedigree. Rather it has come directly by revelation of God Himself, through and in the Person of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Opposing any idea of this Gospel being his or any other man’s, the Apostle Paul states, explicitly, just the opposite—that it is not of man, but of God; that it originated with no man, but God Himself; that it is the very opposite of everything that consumed his life and doctrine prior to the time he met Jesus on the road to Damascus:

Acts 26:10-12 And this is just what I did in Jerusalem; not only did I lock up many of the saints in prisons, having received authority from the chief priests, but also when they were being put to death I cast my vote against them. 11 And as I punished them often in all the synagogues, I tried to force them to blaspheme; and being furiously enraged at them, I kept pursuing them even to foreign cities. 12 While so engaged as I was journeying to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests

And so, the Gospel of Jesus Christ for which Paul is contending, and will contend throughout this letter to the Galatians (but really, throughout his post-road-to-Damascus-life) is “through,” “by way of,” Jesus Christ.

12 For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.

In other words, this message of salvation is directly from God; it was an “apocalypse” (the Greek word translated “revelation” in verse 12), from Jesus Christ.

This word ‘apocalypse’ means revelation, a laying bare, an unveling; and it is the nature of the Gospel that it always is an apocalypse, a revelation:

Matthew 16:13-17 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” 15 He *said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.”

And this is the way the Apostle Paul speaks throughout his epistles of this revelation:

Ephesians 3:1-6 For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles-- 2 if indeed you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace which was given to me for you; 3 that by revelation there was made known to me the mystery, as I wrote before in brief. 4 By referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit; 6 to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel…

So also the Apostle Peter speaks of the revelation of the Gospel:

1 Peter 1:10-13 As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries, 11 seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. 12 It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven--things into which angels long to look. 13 Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

We must never forget that the Gospel is, and will always be, a revelation of Jesus Christ through the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart and mind of man. No matter how sincerely the Word is preached, how zealously we give a reason for the hope that is within us, how faithfully we call sinners to faith and repentance, God must open the eyes of the blind, unstop the ears of the deaf, breathe life into the valley of dry bones.

Only God can change a sinners heart; only God gives the gift of faith—and thereby, eternal life.

1 John 4:19 “19 We love, because He first loved us.”

And who is a better example of this truth than the Apostle Paul himself?

Acts 26:10-15 “10 “And this is just what I did in Jerusalem; not only did I lock up many of the saints in prisons, having received authority from the chief priests, but also when they were being put to death I cast my vote against them. 11 “And as I punished them often in all the synagogues, I tried to force them to blaspheme; and being furiously enraged at them, I kept pursuing them even to foreign cities. 12 “While so engaged as I was journeying to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests, 13 at midday, O King, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining all around me and those who were journeying with me. 14 “And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew dialect, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ 15 “And I said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.”

And if we compare this text in Acts 26 with the Apostle Paul’s account here in the first chapter of Galatians, we see the same theme struck—namely, the direct work of God in revealing to those He chooses the Lord Jesus Christ, and giving them the gift of faith.

John 15:16 “16 “You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you.”

This is the claim the Apostle Paul makes concerning the work of God in his own life:

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.”

Paul explicitly claims that God “set him apart…from his mother’s womb,” “called (him) through His grace,” and “was pleased to reveal His Son in (him).” And if you are a student of Scripture, the words of this claim in verse 15 will remind you of other places in Scripture where the work of God in setting a man apart is spoken of similarly.

Jeremiah himself:

Jeremiah 1:4-5 Now the word of the LORD came to me saying, 5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, And before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

The Suffering Servant, our Lord Jesus Christ:

Isaiah 49:1-6 Listen to Me, O islands, And pay attention, you peoples from afar. The LORD called Me from the womb; From the body of My mother He named Me. 2 He has made My mouth like a sharp sword, In the shadow of His hand He has concealed Me; And He has also made Me a select arrow, He has hidden Me in His quiver. 3 He said to Me, “You are My Servant, Israel, In Whom I will show My glory.” 4 But I said, “I have toiled in vain, I have spent My strength for nothing and vanity; Yet surely the justice due to Me is with the LORD, And My reward with My God.” 5 And now says the LORD, who formed Me from the womb to be His Servant, To bring Jacob back to Him, so that Israel might be gathered to Him (For I am honored in the sight of the LORD, And My God is My strength), 6 He says, “It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant To raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also make You a light of the nations So that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”

Is God fulfilling this prophecy concerning the Messiah, that He will be “a light of the nations,” and that His “salvation (will) reach to the end of the earth?”

Yes; right here He is doing so through the Apostle Paul who also was set apart from his mother’s womb.

But in fact, the call of God did not start in Paul’s mother’s womb. Rather, it had its beginning (if we can speak of its beginning) much further back:

Ephesians 1:4-6 …He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.

How then can the Apostle Paul be accused of being a man-pleaser in His Gospel preaching and teaching if he is simply fulfilling the call of God given him before the foundation of the world? What agency can Paul be said to have in a matter predetermined, predestined by God before he was conceived in his mother’s womb? Long before he knew where the Galatians’ ears itched and how best to scratch them?

In other words, Paul is declaring in the most emphatic way that neither his conversion nor his calling nor his Gospel are his own inclination or choice, but all are of God.

God set him apart before he was capable of making any choices—and not simply to salvation, but to his work, his calling, of carrying His Messiah’s light to the Gentiles as an officer of Christ’s Church, an apostle.

Galatians 1:15, 16 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…

Note that God does not simply predestine the salvation of men, but also the means of their hearing that salvation message—namely, the preaching of Jesus Christ by men set apart to this work. Both the end and the means are the decree of God.

Today we like to think that so long as we know God’s ends, His purposes and goals, we ourselves are free to choose the tools as we like. So there is a tendency in the church today to denigrate the call of preaching, and to lift up the call of evangelistic Bible study leaders working out of their homes and dorm rooms; and gifted women Bible expositors who can be franchised across the country and whose evangelistic message can be broadcast through books and radio waves and study guides and videotapes far more effectively than the rather limited reach of a preacher of the Gospel speaking in the pulpit of a local church.

Surely our goal is not so much to contravene God’s divine purpose as as it is to assist the Holy Spirit’s efficiency. This is the great idol of the evangelical age, that the call of God to men to preach His Gospel, and the purpose of God in loving his Bride, the Church, and the promise of God of sanctification through the officers of that Church loving and exhorting and disciplining those sheep under their care are all rather dated methods for our own so-very-sophisticated age.

We almost think that what is needed is not the Church, purchased by Christ’s blood; and not the preachers, called by God’s spirit from their mothers’ wombs; and not the deacons and elders, set apart for their work by prayer and the laying on of hands; but rather magazines and books and cassette tapes and movies and radio stations and conventions and seminars and Bible studies and television stations and MP3 files and the internet.

Certainly these are good tools, all (or almost all) of them; but never at the expense, or to the depreciation, of God’s decree, that He is pleased to purchase Christ’s Bride, the Church, and that the gates of hell will not prevail against Her. That He is pleased to set apart officers for His Church, officers who will serve as the guardians of His Truth and the sheep of His pasture, and that those male guardians are to be honored and obeyed because of the work they do, and its extreme benefit to us, to our souls; and that He is pleased to call, from their mothers’ coils (what we call the “womb”), preachers of righteousness, of the Gospel of the righteousness of Jesus Christ.

Note carefully the exact statement made in Scripture concerning the method the Holy Spirit uses in evangelism:

Romans 10:12-17 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; 13 for “WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.” 14 How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? 15 How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GOOD NEWS OF GOOD THINGS!” 16 However, they did not all heed the good news; for Isaiah says, “LORD, WHO HAS BELIEVED OUR REPORT?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.

Ephesians 3:4b-9 …the mystery of Christ, 5 which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit; 6 to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel, 7 of which I was made a minister, according to the gift of God’s grace which was given to me according to the working of His power. 8 To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ, 9 and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things

Ephesians 4:11-13 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.

1 Peter 1:12 It was revealed to them that they (the prophets) were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven--things into which angels long to look.

And Paul was not simply called to be an apostolic preacher, but an apostolic preacher to the Gentiles, for which we may rejoice!

Galatians 1:15, 16 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…

Romans 11:13 But I am speaking to you who are Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle of Gentiles, I magnify my ministry,”

1 Timothy 2:7 For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying) as a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.”

* * *

WORD TO THE READER: Sermons are pastoral, and therefore of only limited value to those who are not present when a pastor feeds the flock God called him to serve. Yet, knowing even notes may be of some value to others, I'm posting past sermon notes here on Baylyblog. Because the notes weren't written for publication, no editor has cleaned them up for reproduction on the web. So, for instance, although the notes I take into the pulpit have formatting that highlights quotes, I haven't taken the time to reproduce that formatting here. Please keep in mind these are only notes and not a transcription of the sermon that was preached.

Bible quotes are from the New American Standard Bible (Updated '95 Edition). This is the best Bible available in the English language, having by far the closest correspondence of any English Bible in common use today between the original Hebrew and Greek and the English translation. Here are the NASB Bibles that will read easily and hold together best for twenty years. Their paper is opaque, their type is clean, their binding is superb, and I have no hesitation saying you would do well to spend one or two hundred dollars on one for yourself, your wife, and each of your children.

If the reader has good eyes, buy the Pitt Minion. It's very small and light and will last for decades. If the reader has fading or poor eyesight, buy the Clarion Reference. It has the larger typeface, and again, will last for decades. If the reader likes writing notes in the margin, buy the Wide-Margin Reference. It's big and heavy and you will be able to write to your heart's content.

May God bless you, dear brother and sister, as you study the Word of God and, only by faith, find it sweeter than honey.

Tim Bayly

Tim serves Clearnote Church, Bloomington, Indiana. He and Mary Lee have five children and fifteen grandchildren.

Comments

So there is a tendency in the church today to denigrate the call of preaching, and to lift up the call of evangelistic Bible study leaders working out of their homes and dorm rooms

Even with an eye to the wider context of your message, I have to confess that I don't see how 'evangelistic Bible study leaders working out of their homes and dorm rooms' is denigrating the call of preaching the Gospel. If I have misread what you are saying, my mistake, but I would also have thought, with an eye to Ephesians 4:11-12, that 'equipping the saints for works of service', would also include teaching in how they can share Christ for themselves in their own areas. Is this worth unpacking a bit more?

Dear Ross,

Small group Bible studies are a key part of our work at Clearnote Church, Bloomington. Each week around 95% of our congregation are a part of a home fellowship group that meets Sunday afternoon and evening for (often) a meal and (always) Scripture and praise in song and prayer. We have serious Biblical and theological reasons for doing this and many Reformed men have expressed their disapproval, saying a preaching corporate worship service would be better. 

So the above was no attempt to denigrate small group Bible studies. What I preached against in this sermon is the denigration of preaching endemic within Evangelicalism and the Reformed world, while the same people make much of small group Bible studies, "sharing the Gospel," conferences where lectures are given, etc. 

Having said that, small group Bible studies are not preaching just as an individual "sharing the Gospel" is not a man ordained through the laying on of hands and prayer preaching the Gospel. A study of the Scriptural doctrines of preaching, church office, and ordination might be helpful.

Love,

Tim -

Thanx, understood. The context of my question is some experience with 'group formats' (Alpha, Christianity Explored) for presenting the Gospel, which I have seen work well; hence my initial puzzlement, because it seemed that you were being quite critical of that approach and it wasn't obvious as to why. Your points about preaching/office/ordination are noted.

>>it seemed that you were being quite critical of that approach...

Well, I am somewhat critical of that approach insofar as it relegates preaching the Gospel to subordinate status and expectations. Honestly, I believe in most cases our modern emphases on "sharing the Gospel" and evangelistic Bible studies are a function of the death of preaching. We sit under lectures or helpful thoughts for the week and know good and well no one will come to faith under such betrayal of the preacher's calling, so we turn elsewhere. 

Mother was involved in Neighborhood Bible Studies for most of her life and saw a number of women come to faith, there. This is effective, especially with Roman Catholics who are inoculated against Protestant churches and preaching. But let's keep things Biblical.

Love,

With the threat of snow and sleet last week, I did home church with my children and as father took the place of the preacher. Thus, this post made me think: how is a home church's teaching different from a small group meeting or a Bible study? The answer may be that (1) I spoke with authority, the natural authority of a father, and (2) My teaching was completely customized for my "congregation". A parachurch doesn't have authority and, I think, doesn't pretend to. And bible study materials are prepared without knowing the individuals who will use them.
This is not to say that home church is as good as real church. But it can be useful in bad weather or on vacation.

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