Sunday, May 29, 2016
Galatians 1:18 to 2:21
Does anyone remember the movie City Slickers? There is a line in the movie that I love. Curly is talking to Mitch, Billy Crystal's character. He says to him that life is about this (hold up one finger). Life is about one (1) thing. Mitch asks what that one thing is and Curly says “that is what you have to figure out” and he rides away.
I agree with Curly. But... I know what that one thing is. Do you know how I know? God told me. Does that sound arrogant? It probably does, but that is okay.
I have this little plaque on a tripod stand. It was a gift and I love it. It has been my motto for a long time. It says, “May I always be a man of Your Word.”
I love the Bible. It is the one book I want to know more and more about. But the Bible is not that one thing. God used the Bible to tell me what that one thing is.
We are studying the book of Galatians. This is a letter from the Apostle Paul to some of the people he had introduced to Jesus, the Christ.
Last week we looked at his testimony of his conversion. He tells of how he came to know Jesus as Lord and Savior. Paul had been living a passionate life. He had been passionate about his religion. He was a Pharisee of Pharisees. He was so passionate about Judaism that he was going around arresting those he thought were out to destroy Judaism. He was having them put to death. Those he was having killed were people who had put their faith in Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah.
Then Jesus met him on the road to Damascus. He was never the same. Now he had a new passion. He now knew that the religion that he had been passionate about was missing something. He had met God and God had given him a message to take to the world. He came to understand that God had a purpose for his life and God wanted to lead him to fulfill that purpose.
This letter to the Galatians was written because he was concerned that those he had won to Christ were in danger of losing their faith. They were in danger of putting their faith in something other than God. They were in danger of putting their faith in religion and ceremony instead of God. They were in danger of losing the life, the abundant, eternal life they had found in Jesus.
Read with me as we pick up his testimony in verse 18 of chapter 1:
18 Then three years later I went up to Jerusalem to become acquainted with Cephas, and stayed with him fifteen days. NASB
Cephas was another name for Simon Peter. Cephas meant 'rock' in Aramaic. The name Peter was from the Greek, it also means 'rock'. Most of the people in Palestine during the New Testament period were bi-lingual, they had a working knowledge of at least two (2) languages. Aramaic was a mixture of many languages. It was primarily Hebrew in origin, but also had taken words from other peoples in the area.
I ask myself why Paul used Peter's Aramaic name Cephas here. In this passage he goes back and forth between using Peter and Cephas. I have a hunch, but I am not sure why he would have done that.
So Paul said he had gone up to Jerusalem to become acquainted with Cephas, or Peter. Picking up in verse 19:
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 And 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.
2:1 Then after an interval of fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along also. 2 And it was because of a revelation that I went up; and I submitted to them the gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but I did so in private to those who were of reputation, for fear that I might be running, or had run, in vain. 3 But not even Titus who was with me, though he was a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised. 4 But it was because of the false brethren who had sneaked in to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, in order to bring us into bondage. 5 But we did not yield in subjection to them for even an hour, so that the truth of the gospel might remain with you. 6 But from those who were of high reputation (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality) — well, those who were of reputation contributed nothing to me. 7 But on the contrary, seeing that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been to the circumcised 8 (for He who effectually worked for Peter in his apostleship to the circumcised effectually worked for me also to the Gentiles), 9 and recognizing the grace that had been given to me, James and Cephas and John, who were reputed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we might go to the Gentiles, and they to the circumcised. 10 They only asked us to remember the poor — the very thing I also was eager to do. NASB
Paul's gospel had come from God through his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus. Anyone not familiar with that story?
He had not gotten the message second hand from other believers or even from James or Peter. Now he tells us that the leaders of the church in Jerusalem, the Apostle Peter and James, the brother of Jesus, have heard what he preaches and they approve of it. In fact, they are glorifying God because Paul is taking this gospel message to the Gentiles. Even after the church in Antioch sends a delegation back to Jerusalem to settle the dispute about whether or not the new Gentile believers need to circumcised, Paul is encouraged by the leaders of the church in Jerusalem to continue sharing the gospel as he had been preaching it. Gentiles did not need to be circumcised. We are justified by grace, a free gift, as we put our trust in Jesus Christ. We are not saved by becoming a Jew. Those who are of the true circumcision are those who are circumcised in heart, not in the flesh.
WE are saved, not because we come to church, or because we take communion, or because we have been baptized, but because we have had an encounter with the living God and we are trusting Him to love us, forgive us and walk with us through life.
Even though the leaders in Jerusalem have officially accepted the truth of Paul's message, the matter is not settled. Pick up reading again in verse 11.
11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned.
Peter, one of the inner circle of three (3) among the disciples of Jesus stood condemned. He was guilty and Paul was going to point it out to him. To Paul this was a serious matter. The very nature of what it means to be saved was at stake here. Paul was passionate about this. I am passionate about this. So Paul opposed Peter to his face. What was it Peter had done? Read on, verse 12:
12 For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision. NASB
“The party of the circumcision” - Here was the crux of the matter. Peter gave in to the temptation to go against what he and James had said. Before James and others from the church in Jerusalem had come to Antioch, Peter had eaten with the Gentile believers. He had treated them as equal brothers in the Lord. But when his brothers from the church in Jerusalem came, he stepped back from that and because he did not want to offend the “party of the circumcision” he no longer treated the Gentile believers as his equals, he went back to his old ways of refusing to eat with Gentiles. He in essence said that he did not really believe Gentiles were brothers in Christ, but were less than the Jewish believers. To Paul, a Jew himself, this was a crucial matter for the church. This was a turning point and he called James and Peter on it.
He was asking them if they really believed what they had said and that Gentile believers did not need to become Jews in order to be fully accepted as believers in Jesus Christ. Let's read on, at verse 13:
13 And the rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of all, "If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews? 15 "We are Jews by nature, and not sinners from among the Gentiles; 16 nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we may be justified by faith in Christ, and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law shall no flesh be justified. 17 "But if, while seeking to be justified in Christ, we ourselves have also been found sinners, is Christ then a minister of sin? May it never be! 18 "For if I rebuild what I have once destroyed, I prove myself to be a transgressor. 19 "For through the Law I died to the Law, that I might live to God. 20 "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me. 21 "I do not nullify the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly." NASB
Paul was so concerned about this matter that he was willing to confront the recognized leaders of the whole Christian movement. He could see that the problem with Judaism was the fact that they were putting their trust in their bloodline, and in their religion instead of in God.
So, where is your trust today?
Do you believe that God loves you and that He is the Lord of your life? Are you living to please Him instead of yourself and others?
Sometimes we are so caught up in the trappings of religion that we forget the real meaning behind them. We go through the motions of going to church and singing the songs, giving a token in the offering plate, if that much. We forget that the real meaning of the Christian life is a relationship with the One True God.
Paul said, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me. 21 "I do not nullify the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly." NASB
Dying to self and living for Christ. Is your all on the altar, or do you just go through the motions, doing enough to be accepted by your peers, but not really walking in the Spirit?
What is that “one thing” for you? Are you living to bring honor and glory to God, or for some other less important thing? Who or what are you worshiping today?
God wants to do a miraculous work here with the Green Valley Church. WE need a revival. I am not talking about special meetings with a special speaker. I am talking about getting serious about our relationship with God. We need to be asking Him what He wants us to do here.
We need to stop being worried about what others think and bow our hearts and our knees before God and seek Him with all our hearts. HE will lead us and work through us to win the lost for the Kingdom of God.