We Are Family

We Are Family

I really enjoy watching detective shows.  In the famous show “Columbo”, he is known for his investigative work.  But there’s a catchphrase that he always uses and became known for “..Just one more thing…”  I almost feel like that’s where Paul is leading us.  As we come to chapter 2, Paul is almost acting like Perry Mason, he is not letting up coming out of Chapter 1.  Let’s take a brief trip back to Chapter 1 to see what has lead us to this point.

Paul is writing this letter to the churches in Galatia.  There is a battle that is taking place because there is a group of people known as the Judaizers that have told these Gentile Christians that there is more to coming to Christ than just accepting His finished work on the cross.  In addition to that, you need to also adhere to the Old Testament traditions and circumcision.  Christ has made a way for us to be freed from the powers of this world through a relationship with Him.

Then Paul shares with us about his credentials for making the claim that salvation is found only through grace alone by faith alone in Christ alone.  Last week we looked Paul’s story of how Christ changed or transformed his life into that which went from one who followed the law to a “T”, but yet was killing Christians to one who was redeemed through the finished work of Christ on the cross and who was preaching and teaching about the sufficiency of the cross and the grace of Christ.

So, today, we come to chapter 2.

Galatians 2:1-10 (NASB) – Then after an interval of fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along also.  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. But not even Titus, who was with me, though he was a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised.  But it was because of the false brethren secretly brought in, who had sneaked in to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, in order to bring us into bondage. But we did not yield in subjection to them for even an hour, so that the truth of the gospel would remain with you. 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.  But on the contrary, seeing that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been to the circumcised (for He who effectually worked for Peter in his apostleship to the circumcised effectually worked for me also to the Gentiles), 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, so that we might go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. They only asked us to remember the poor—the very thing I also was eager to do.

As Paul continues his thought from chapter 1 here in chapter 2, Paul talks about his trip back to Jerusalem, making this a 2nd trip.  What Paul is describing is what is normally thought to be the narrative of Acts 15.  Paul, under the prompting from God, went back to Jerusalem to talk to the early church leadership.  When Paul goes back to Jerusalem, he does not go alone.  He takes with him, Barnabas and Titus.  The religious landscape following the resurrection of Christ, a shift and transition is taking place and it’s a major shift.  The church has been created and the make-up was not what the normal “church people” thought it would or even should look like.

    1. The Church in transition

That phrase makes us a little uncomfortable.  But it shouldn’t.  We we look at Scripture, we see that transition was a constant within the early church.  Not because of it’s doctrine, but because of its make-up.  Jesus’ command after all was to go into all the nations to spread the Gospel.  With that, different cultures, backgrounds, and experiences are brought into the church family.  Back to Galatians.  When Christ came, died on the cross, and rose from the grave, a way was made for all to enter into a relationship with God.

Do you remember that in the “temple”, the temple was sectioned off such that there was a section that was designated specifically for the Gentiles.  It was called the court of Gentiles.  That specific region was in the outer most areas of the temple.  When Christ came as the atoning sacrifice, all of those walls were torn down and now a way was made for the Gentiles to come “inside” if you will.  No longer were they “outsiders”.  They had direct access to God, through Jesus, just as we do, once we enter into that relationship.  That brought great joy, hope and encouragement to many, but it also brought, heartache, angst, and headache to others because it crumbled everything that they “thought” it should be like.   Their focus was misplaced. Instead of it being on Christ, it was on themselves.

  a.  Where there’s people, there’s problems

The problem was not with the way these Gentiles became insiders.  After all, that was Jesus Christ himself.  The problem was with those on the inside, i.e. the religious people.  As a dedicated and devout Jew, a lifetime was spent observing the Law, the customs and traditions.  It was a part of your DNA, if you will.  It was what you hung your hat on.  It was your heritage.  With that though, it created some pompousness, elitism and ethnocentrism.  As if that was not bad enough, those items were elevated to a level of “sacredness” that led to legalism, which is totally contrary to the message of Christ.  But as a Gentile, they did not have that history.  They did not have that heritage.  Their history was always through the lens of being a 2nd class citizen.  The Jews referred to them as dogs and they were considered unclean.  Those on the inside were trying to put a to-do list together so that the outsiders could become insiders.  And that’s what Paul is addressing.  When Paul goes to Jerusalem, he was not being called there “by the church leaders”, the apostles, and that’s an important distinction to make.  He’s not being “called to the principal’s office”.  After all, he had been preaching for 14 years as we read in verse 1.  There was never any issues with his message, from their perspective.  Paul was going to Jerusalem, to convey his message of Christ crucified, as well as to clear the air about himself.  As we have talked about the past 2 weeks, anything other than Christ crucified, is a false doctrine and Paul gave strict warnings to those who were not teaching that doctrine.  Paul did not go to the church leadership in order to gain their approval.  Paul was going for the consistency of the Gospel message being preached.

    b.  The message is The Message

That may sound a little odd.  So often, church has morphed into this entity such that The Message actually gets lost.  It becomes about this program or that activity or this event or that committee and if The Message does not remain in the forefront, The Message get’s lost.  We can, and have, programmed church very well.  We often get more focused with “how do we get people into church” instead of “how can we be the church to the people outside”.  When people see the difference Christ has made in the lives of those inside of the church, they will want to be a part of that.  If there is no noticeable difference between the lives of those inside of the church as those outside of the church, then their conclusion is Christ makes no difference, I have enough things pulling at my time already.  Here’s the point.  If we are not careful, we will program-ize, schedule-ize, and busy-ize ourselves into such an entity that we lose site of why we are doing what we are actually commanded to do, and that is proclaim the Good News of a life-transforming relationship with Christ.  So as Paul goes back to Jerusalem, he is focused on “The Message”.

When he goes to Jerusalem, he does not go alone.  He takes some of his “friends” with him.  Those that he takes with him are not just “anybody”.  Paul takes Barnabas with him.  Barnabas was the one who convinced the other apostles about the authenticity of Paul.  Listen to this from Acts:

Acts 9:26-28 (NASB) – When he came to Jerusalem, he was trying to associate with the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took hold of him and brought him to the apostles and described to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had talked to him, and how at Damascus he had spoken out boldly in the name of Jesus.  And he was with them, moving about freely in Jerusalem, speaking out boldly in the name of the Lord.

So Paul brings Barnabas back to Jerusalem with him which was important.  Additionally, Paul brought Titus along with him to Jerusalem.  Titus was not a Jew.  Titus was a Gentile or a Greek. So by bringing Titus along with him, Paul was bringing a living testimony of the change that Christ-alone made in the life of Titus.  He was bringing evidence of “The Message”.   Remember last week we talked about “our story”.  Paul was bringing Titus with him, because Titus has literally a life-changing story and it had nothing to with following the Jewish customs nor was he compelled to be circumcised.  So Paul brings a living testimony from both classifications of people, Jews and Gentiles to point out, that’s it’s Christ and Christ alone.

When we get to verse 4, we see that these Judaizers, which are referred to as “false brethren or false brothers” or some translations say “pseudo-Christians” had “snuck in”.  You get the idea of a stealth military operation taking place.  Some scholars think that they may have been a plant by the Pharisees b/c they thought that the traditional Judaism was being corrupted.  This is the only place in scripture this idea and these words are used.  From the Pharisees viewpoint, if people could come directly to God, what role would they have within the church?  But notice the mission that Paul outlines for these “false-brethern”.  Paul said that their purpose was to take away the freedom that is found in Christ and instead, enslave them.  Last week we saw how Paul’s mission before he met Christ was to destroy the church.  This week we see that the Judaizers’ mission was to corrupt the church.  Folks, Satan does not want the church to be alive and thriving and he will do whatever he can to disrupt it.  That’s why it’s imperative, that the message of the church be “The Message”.  If we allow “The Message” to to take a back seat, trouble is imminent.

  2. The Church must not compromise

In verse 5, Paul makes His proclamation.  They did not yield, not even for an hour.  They did not give in to the “false-brethern”.  They would not compromise the message of the Gospel nor would they alter the message, which would lead to its compromise, in order to retain the “customs and traditions” that the Judaizers were trying to bring in.  And that is a message that we should latch on to.  We must remain strong in our commitment to proclaiming the Gospel, regardless of the opposition that may come. But notice that Paul also says in addition to not budging, the Gospel remained in them.  What he’s leading to is that the Gentiles will continue to be a part of the fellowship and in carrying out the message of the Gospel.  They were now believers, part of the family, and that truth will remain in them.

Listen to what Paul said in Romans 8.  We could read all of Romans 8, but listen to just verses 1-4.

Romans 8:1-4 (NLT) So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.  And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.  The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit.

Jesus, had this conversation with the Pharisees in John 8:33-36

John 8:33-36 (NASB) – They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never yet been enslaved to anyone; how is it that You say, ‘You will become free’?”  Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin.  The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever.  So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.

We look again to what Paul said in Romans 6.  Similar to chapter 8, we could read all of chapter 6, but listen to verse 14.

Romans 6:14 (NASB) – For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.

I bring you to these verses to highlight 1 thing.  The finished work of Christ on the cross and entering into a relationship with Him, brings us freedom to live in Christ and breaks the power of sin.  That’s not to say that we will not sin, but the penalty of sin, which is death, has been paid.  And that’s the Message that the church cannot compromise on and that has to be the message of the church.  Which brings me to my last point.

  3.  Jesus stands alone

In v. 6, Paul said that it didn’t matter who he was talking to, his message was the same.  Grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.  That message would not change, no matter who you were, because God is the same God, regardless of your background, your nationality, your history, or your family.  That should bring us great comfort.  But notice what these church leaders did.  NOTHING!  There was nothing that could be added to what Paul had shared with them.  When we preach and teach Christ crucified, His truth stands alone.  It’s not about whether we agree with that truth or not.  It is the TRUTH.  If we preach or teach anything else, then we have shifted the focus off of Christ and instead placed it on something else, and that is usually ourselves.

The early church leaders confirmed and re-inforced that, just as God used Peter (Cephas) to preach and go to the Jews (circumcised), God had entrusted the Gospel to Paul to go to the Gentiles (uncircumcised).  But given Paul’s past, notice that he accepted that call and went boldly to the Gentiles.  We too, have been given the responsibility to carry that message.  That’s why, since it’s inception, the church has never been about bringing people to a place, it’s been about bringing people to a person and that person is Jesus Christ and Him alone.  If we make this or any other about church anything other than Christ, we are living in sin, corporately, and we need to repent.

As the band comes up, let’s be candid for a moment.  Christ designed His church as a group of imperfect people, who come together to lift up the Name of Christ, worship Him for who He is, and share this Good News with a world that does not know Him.  We see that all throughout Acts.  As the body of believers, we are far from perfect, but we’re family.  In fact, we are full of flawed people.  So how in the world, can a group of flawed people, working together, bring about glorifying Christ?  That’s the beauty.  It’s only by His grace.  Because of what Christ did on the cross, we are allowing His perfect grace, to work through His imperfect people, to point people to His perfect redemption.  Because of what He did on the cross, He desires close fellowship with us, but our sin fractures that fellowship.  Our sin leads to death.  If you have unconfessed sin in your life that is hindering your relationship with Christ, confess it now, turn from your sins and turn to Him.  As we approach Easter, it’s a time of recognizing what we have been teaching on all throughout Galatians.  We are all sinners in need of a Savior.  Christ came from heaven to earth, lived the perfect life that we cannot live, and gave His lif.  Not as a the payment for sin, but as the payment  for sin. He conquered death and displayed His power through His resurrection from the grave.  If you’ve never placed your faith in that finished work of Christ, don’t leave here today without doing so.  There’s nothing special about this altar.  This altar has no saving power.  This altar is not a fountain of grace.  You can pray where you’re at and you can repent where you are standing.  But the altar does allow people to come alongside of you, to walk with you, and to partner with you in prayer as each of us turns back to Christ and seeks to follow Him more obediently in order to live more fully for Him.  So today, if you would like for people to walk alongside of you, we are family here.  Don’t be afraid to walk across the aisle, and ask someone to pray with you.  Don’t be afraid to come to the altar for people to pray with you.  As God leads you, you respond to Him, not to me.