The Table

The Table

You may be saying to yourself, it seems like the message is the same message week after week.  Do you remember back in the day of the albums when there was a scratch on the on record and the needle would get stuck?  You wouldn’t recognize it at first, but then it would catch your attention when you heard the same thing over and over.  Some of you are asking, “what’s an album and why are you playing with needles?”

We’ve come to a point where it’s hard to recap all that’s taken place up to the point.  You can catch the previous messages online or download the podcasts.  But at the core, Paul reminded everyone that the message of the church has to be “The Message”.  The Message is that of Jesus Christ and redemption through Him alone.  Nothing else.

So today, when we come to our passage, we are going to be picking things as Paul is continuing in his letter.

Galatians 2:11-14 (NASB) – But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 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. And the rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy. 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?

As we come to verse 11, a transition takes place.  Remember, that Paul is laying everything out here.  Sometimes you want to just ask Paul to take a breath for a minute.  Well, in the previous 10 verses, Paul had laid out his conversation that he had with the church leaders and how they had approved of his ministry and his message to the Gentiles.  And remember, that message was a message of grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.  I know we’ve said that before and I’m going to keep saying throughout this series because we have to keep that in the front of our minds.  We cannot lose sight of that.  It has to be about Christ and Christ alone.

Cephes, which is Peter, has come to Antioch.  Antioch itself was a major trade center and was Paul’s “home base” if you will.  Acts 11:26 tells us that it was at Antioch where believers were first called Christians.  Antioch was also a melting pot of people.  Most historians agree that Antioch consisted of 50% Jews and 50% Gentiles.  We say so what to that.  But to the the Jews, that meant that the city consisted of 50% Religious people and 50% scumbags.  But an exciting thing was happening.  There were people who were coming into a relationship with Christ and regardless of their nationality, that should excite us.  But does it?

Before we get into the scene with Peter, we need to actually see what is happening in the church.  So, jumping to verse 12 for just a second.  There was a fellowship that existed within the church.  And the fellowship was not just lunch on the grounds after service.  What we see is:

1. Authentic Fellowship

Verse 12 informs us, he (that’s Peter), use to eat with the Gentiles.  The reason we know that this is authentic fellowship is because we see an interaction, within the church between the Jews and the Gentiles, which was not normal. When we go back to Acts 10, which we don’t have time to flesh out, we see that Peter had preached the Gospel to the Gentiles and they responded.  This was a major step in the life of the early church.  Like we saw last week, the Gentiles, often referred to as the “sinners/dogs/heathen unclean people” were now a part of the family as baptized believers.

In Galatians 2, when we hear of the mention of eating together, this is a big deal.  Eating was an important part of not only the culture, but was also a huge part of bonding together and investing in each other.  It would not be like going to McDonalds and grabbing a quick bite to eat.  It would be more like going to a place where you spend a significant amount of time together.  But, we need to take a quick step back.

  a.  Before Christ, all are equally separated from God

The meaning here is that before we come to a relationship with Christ, no matter how “good we think we are” and “no matter where we are from”, “no matter how often or how infrequent we go to church”, we are all separated from God.  There is a chasm that separates us from God, and that chasm is called sin.  Sin, by its definition is missing the mark that God has set, coming up short.  Nothing we can do, allows us to cross it.  So, before Christ, we all are separated from God.

  b.  After Christ, all are equally reconciled to God

We see in Acts 10, while Peter is speaking and preaching to the Gentiles, the Holy Spirit comes to the Gentiles.  And it’s important to note that it was not because of the clothes Peter was wearing.  It was not because of the liturgy of Peter’s service.  It was not because of the schooling Peter had.  It was not even because of the pews that his listeners were sitting in.  It was Peter, being obedient to Christ, telling people about Jesus, that God, through the Holy Spirit, worked in the lives of the Gentiles.  And that’s my prayer for each of you, that God would work powerfully in our lives today.  You see, the Holy Spirit was the one doing the saving work.  Peter was just an instrument, used by God.  Peter’s message, like Paul’s, was that of Christ crucified.

  c.  Through Christ, we are all family with no exceptions

So what we see as an outflowing of redemption through Christ is a family unit, brothers and sisters through Christ.  That’s why we often call people “brothers and sisters” b/c we are a family, joint-heirs with Jesus (Romans 8:17).  When you combine these together, what we see is an authentic fellowship that was on display especially between Peter (a Jew) and the Gentiles.  We have to look no further than Jesus.  He was often criticized for who He ate with, wasn’t He?  Peter, following the footsteps of Christ and through the freedom found in Christ, is eating with those that his society considered lower class.  But through redemption, were his family.

Do we have authentic fellowship?  Or are we pretending to “get along” and are really just “tolerating” each other.  Let me ask a question?  When we come into this place with this body, whose needs do you think of first?  Yours or others?  Or another question.  Do we consider believers in other cultures as family?  We do while they are on a screen, like the ones we pray for each week, but what about if they walked in here and worshiped with us?  Would we be as welcoming and inviting?  The fact that we are family with a Christian from Iran and not with a non-believer who is from China Grove causes us difficulty.  If both walked into our church today, would we treat them differently?  Hear me say this very clearly.  In God’s eyes, there is no such thing as an “Iranian Christian” or a “China Grove Christian”.  There is no difference.  There’s just redeemed by Christ and that’s what creates the family.

That little detour in Acts was important to understand our passage today.  Paul is addressing a situation where, while in Antioch, the authentic fellowship which once existed and was an identifying characteristic of the church, was no longer there.  At the head of that table, figuratively speaking, was Peter.  That leads to this question:

2.  Who’s at our Table?

The situation that Paul sees is that where there once were Gentiles and Jews, there are now just Jews.  It’s Peter and all his Jewish friends.  Where once there was authentic fellowship, now there is religious piety.  What has happened?  What has changed?

As Paul is looking at what is going on, his first area of focus is with Peter.  This is actually a pretty big deal.  Peter is in a position of authority.  Peter is a person that others looked up to, as well as followed.  Peter is someone who literally walked with Christ, after all.  So what in the world would have happened to Peter that would have led to a point where Paul had to reprimand him?  Acts 11 happened.  Acts 11:1-3 tell us this:

Acts 11:1-3 (NASB) – Now the apostles and the brethren who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God.  And when Peter came up to Jerusalem, those who were circumcised took issue with him, saying, “You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them.”

Whoa!!!   Step back!!  Did you see what just happened?  An unreached people group, the Gentiles (uncircumcised; us), now know about, have access to, have heard the Gospel in their language (Pentecost Acts 2) and some have even entered into a redemptive relationship with Christ.  Not only that, the Jews, i.e. the religious people, even went so far as to even welcome them into their fellowship and were treating them like family.  This should be cause for great excitement and celebration!!  Right????  Not everybody was excited.  “Those who were circumcised”, the religious ones, were not happy at all.  We have to remember this:

  a.  People are watching

Whether we like it or not, whether we want it or not, whether we think it’s fair or not, people are watching us.  If people know that we are a believer and follower of Christ, they will begin to hold us to a higher standard.  As an extension of that, if they know we go to church, they will hold us to a higher standard.  Our initial instinct and reaction would be, why would I want to be subject to that.  Wouldn’t it be easier for me to not deal with any of this and live the way I want to live?  Hold that thought.  We’ll get to that shortly.

When people watch us, they are going to have questions.  People watching us is not a bad thing though, it is a very helpful thing.  That’s one of the main reasons I asked a couple of guys to “watch over me” during this period of time.  It helps keep me accountable.  It helps make sure I am walking the way Christ commands me to walk.  But the reality is, we don’t like to be watched and we especially don’t like to be questioned.  Why did you act that way?  Why did you go there ?  A phrase that we will hear, similarly to what Peter heard, “I thought you were a Christian” and that phrase will not be in a complimentary way.  In reality though, we should want people to watch us so that we can point them to Christ.  This will bring us to a crisis point and here it is:

  b.  We have a choice to make

When “those that were watching Peter” confronted him about what he was doing (eating with the heathen Gentiles), Peter had a choice to make.  Do I continue in my fellowship and relationship or do I pull away?  What Peter was trying to do was to live in both worlds.  His past, as a Jew, and his freedom in Christ, fellowship with the Gentile believers.  His past was telling him to distance himself from the Gentiles and go back to Jewish observance.  His future was telling him that he had been freed from the bondage his past held him in because of Christ and he is free through Christ to fellowship with the Gentiles.  And that’s what Paul was confronting him about.

3. Our choices impact others

We see that because of what Peter had done, created space between himself and the Gentile believers, Barnabas and others did the same thing.  The fellowship has been broken.  This is a tragic event when the fellowship is broken.  Now, before we beat up Peter too bad, we must realize and acknowledge that there is a bit of Peter in all of us.  There are times in each of our lives where we make the wrong choice, i.e. when we live like a hypocrite.  That’s what Paul said regarding Barnabas.  Barnabas was carried away by the hypocrisy.  In a weird way, that should bring us comfort to know that even people like Peter didn’t always get it right.  So our choices and our actions have an impact on others.  That’s why we must:

  a.  Check your Surroundings

What I mean by check your surroundings is this.  Who or what do you surround yourself with?  Do you surround yourself with things that lead you to pursue and chase after Christ?  Or do you, surround yourself with things that lead you away from that?  When I say “things”, that could mean people, objects or actions.  When Peter no longer was associating himself with those that “believed like he did”, it wasn’t long until he “began to believe like those that did not”.

If we are not real careful though, when we surround ourself with “good things”, and what I mean by “good things” are those things that help point us to Christ, we can use those “things” as a crutch and can begin to lean on those things instead of that which they are pointing us to, and that is Christ.  For example.  There are some people that you can be around that just radiate Christ.  They can help you recalibrate your walk almost within minutes of just listening to them.  If we are not careful, we will try to imitate everything they do in order to try and “obtain” that same relationship with Christ. In reality, Christ just says, don’t imitate them, imitate Me.  Don’t follow them, follow Me.  Spend time with Me.  You see, it’s not about us living for Christ, it’s about Christ living through us.  Why this?  Because He gets the glory.  If it’s about us living “for Christ”, the focus can shift to us.  We must also recognize that:

  b.  We can all be like Peter

As I stated a minute ago, we can all be like Peter.  Remember, when I asked you to hold the thought about “Wouldn’t it be easier to just live the way I want to live an not worry about any of it?”.  Here’s the problem with that.

Ephesians 2:1-3 (NLT) – Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world.  He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God.  All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else.

Apart from Christ, we are under the penalty of sin, which is God’s wrath.  But we do not have to live that way.  Living in sin results in a restless heart.  A longing heart for a better day.  Regardless of how you came in today, you don’t have to leave the same way.

Augustine said “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”

Do you have a restless heart?  Today we celebrate the resurrection of Christ from the grave.  Without the cross, there is no resurrection.  Without the cross, their is no redemption.  As we get ready to observe the Lord’s Supper in just a few minutes, these verses help us understand the magnitude of what the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ mean.

Romans3:10-12(NLT) – As the Scriptures say, “No one is righteous—not even one.  No one is truly wise; no one is seeking God.  All have turned away; all have become useless.  No one does good, not a single one.

But later on in chapter 3, we read this from Paul:

Romans 3:22-24 (NLT) – We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.  For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.  Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.

Because of Christ, forgiveness is available to us through repentance.  God has freed us from the bondage of sin.  Yes, there’s a Peter in all of us.  We all fall short.  But through Christ, restoration is not only possible, it’s available.  That’s what Easter is about.  Redemption through Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection.

As the deacons are making their way to the front, we come into this time of observance of the Lord’s Supper.  If you are Christian, someone who has accepted Christ as Lord and Savior to rule and reign over your life, we invite you to join is as we remember Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, regardless of whether you are a member of this church or not.  However, if you have not entered into that relationship with Christ and you are not a believer, we ask that you let the bread and the juice pass by.  Not because we don’t love you, but because 1 Corinthians 11:26-29 tells us this

1 Corinthians11:26-29 (NASB) – “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.  Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly.”  

If you have not entered into that relationship with Christ, then you are not able to say that you proclaim the Lord’s death and you would be joining in the taking of the elements in an unworthy manner.  It’s also important to those that have accepted Christ that we repent of any unconfessed sin before God so that we are not taking the elements in an unworthy manner.  Outside of baptism, this is one of the most sacred and blessed acts of worship we can participate in because it takes us directly back to the cross and Christ sacrifice.  So as the elements are being passed, ask God to reveal any sins in your life that you need to confess before Him that is hindering the close fellowship He desires.

The Passover was a celebration for when God delivered His people from being slaves and captives in Egypt.  Just as God delivered the Children of Israel, Christ, through His death on the cross, provided the way of deliverance through repentance and His redemption of freeing us from the captivity and penalty of sin.

It was at the observance of the Passover meal, as Jesus was with His disciples that, according to

Luke22:19 (NASB) – And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”

Do this…whenever you take the element of the bread, remember the significance of what I’m getting ready to do and that is giving my very life.  So Jesus gave to His disciples and he said in Mark 14, take and eat.

After taking the bread, Jesus also took the cup.

Jesus poured out His very blood on the cross for your sins and my sins.  In Leviticus when God comes to Moses and talks about the Blood of Atonement or reconciliation, listen to what God tells Moses.

Leviticus17:11 (NASB) – For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement.’

Jesus poured out His very life in order to give us life.

Jesus shared with His disciples in Luke. 22:20 that His blood represented the New Covenant and that new covenant was about His grace, that He is extended to us and a personal relationship with Him is available for us.

Jesus told His disciples to drink, all of it.

Jesus gave His very life as a payment for our sin.  Today, we celebrate that He showed His power over death and the grave when He rose from the grave.  The One who was once dead, is now alive.  The One who was once headed to the cross, is now seated at the right hand of the Father.  The One who gave His very life on the cross, desires relationship with you.  How will you respond?

Let’s stand as we sing……