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ESGAL02: Galatians 2

Galatians  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  27:34
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Galatians 2

Galatians 2 NKJV
1 Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and also took Titus with me. 2 And I went up by revelation, and communicated to them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to those who were of reputation, lest by any means I might run, or had run, in vain. 3 Yet not even Titus who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised. 4 And this occurred because of false brethren secretly brought in (who came in by stealth to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage), 5 to whom we did not yield submission even for an hour, that the truth of the gospel might continue with you. 6 But from those who seemed to be something—whatever they were, it makes no difference to me; God shows personal favoritism to no man—for those who seemed to be something added nothing to me. 7 But on the contrary, when they saw that the gospel for the uncircumcised had been committed to me, as the gospel for the circumcised was to Peter 8 (for He who worked effectively in Peter for the apostleship to the circumcised also worked effectively in me toward the Gentiles), 9 and when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that had been given to me, they gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. 10 They desired only that we should remember the poor, the very thing which I also was eager to do. 11 Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; 12 for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision. 13 And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, “If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews? 15 We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, 16 knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified. 17 “But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is Christ therefore a minister of sin? Certainly not! 18 For if I build again those things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor. 19 For I through the law died to the law that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ; 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 gave Himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.”
We start with Paul saying he had been preaching was of God as confirmed by the believers in Jerusalem but also being wary because there are false believers among the fellowships. Unfortunately this is true of almost every Church. There are true and false believers. And we have to make sure we stand, like Paul, for the freedom of the Gospel.
Poor Paul ...here he is travelling down the road to Damascus convinced he is doing God’s will by arresting people of the Way and then in a flash his world is turned upside down...and then through Barnabas he discovers that he is now to be sent to the Gentiles. How can this be? This is about as far removed for a Pharisaic Jew like Paul would be able to bear...if he hadn’t discovered that his whole belief system was not founded upon the truth.
Peter, one of the disciples who had been with Jesus from the very beginning, after the ascension of Jesus had his theological understanding challenged when he was invited to go and see the Gentile Cornelius in . Before that happened he had seen a vision of so called unclean food coming down out of heaven three times and heard the command to kill and eat. As we read through the Old Testament especially through Exodus to Deuteronomy we will come across unclean foods in relation to the law. The upshot of it was that God had made the unclean clean. Sometimes it does take something radical for us to give up false beliefs but none of us are without excuse these days…we have Bibles and we should make a habit of reading and studying.
There are still many today who question the authority of Paul – and even say that he is the founder of Christianity rather than Jesus. Whilst it is very true that without Paul’s influence the Gospel would not have had the impact upon the world that it has had but even then God does not ever leave himself without a witness throughout this world. Paul existed because of the Gospel not the Gospel existed because of Paul. God called Paul to be an Apostle and through his ministry we also have his writings. Peter in his 2nd letter speaks of Paul’s writings on the same level as the Old Testament. If the authority of Paul is in question then we have to leave out 13 of his letters from the New Testament and possibly the book of Hebrews.
Peter had his theological understanding challenged when he was invited to go and see the Gentile Cornelius in . He saw a vision of so called unclean food coming down out of heaven three times of which he heard the command to kill and eat. God had made the unclean clean. Sometimes it does take something radical for us to give up false beliefs but none of us are without excuse…we have Bibles and we should make a habit of reading and studying.
Peter also has his theological understanding challenged when he was invited to go and see the Gentile Cornelius in . He saw a vision of so called unclean food coming down out of heaven three times of which he heard the command to kill and eat. God had made the unclean clean. Sometimes it does take something radical for us to give up false beliefs but none of us are without excuse…we have Bibles and we should make a habit of reading and studying.
And so here is Paul now convinced of the truth and he would not let anything to prevent it from being proclaimed or any lies or wrong action from contradicting it.
And so here is Paul now convinced of the truth and he would not let anything to prevent it from being proclaimed or any lies or wrong action from contradicting it. In this passage we see that Paul deals with Peter. One moment he is eating with the Gentiles and then in the next he disassociates himself from them and only eats with the Jews. Something so seemingly small. Yet think of the offence that the Gentile believers felt when they saw that they were suddenly second class…not even worthy of eating with anymore. Peter knew he was allowed to be with and eat with the Gentiles as we have already mentioned with the vision from God in . Then in Peter boldly asserted that Gentiles and Jews are both in Christ by faith. So, why did he and the others suddenly act in such an abhorrent way? Fear. He was fearful. He knew the doctrine, he knew the way to act, but he was afraid of the opinion of others. Specifically he was afraid of the Jews. Their opinion counted above the opinions of the Gentiles for he had already had to explain his actions to the Church in Jerusalem. But he did not know that the outcome of his actions could have blighted the church to this day.
In this passage we see that Paul deals with Peter, the one that many say is the foundation of the Church. One moment he is eating with the Gentiles and then in the next he disassociates himself from them and only eats with the Jews. Something so seemingly small. Yet think of the offence that the Gentile believers felt when they saw that they were suddenly second class…not even worthy of eating with anymore.
Peter knew he was allowed to be with and eat with the Gentiles as we have already mentioned with the vision from God in . In Peter boldly asserted that Gentiles and Jews are both in Christ by faith. So, why did he and the others suddenly act in such an abhorrent way? Fear. He was fearful. He knew the doctrine, he knew the way to act, but he was afraid of the opinion of others but we can easily forget that the opinion that matters most is God’s. Specifically he was afraid of the Jews. Their opinion counted above the opinions of the Gentiles. But what he did not know was that the outcome of his actions could have blighted the church to this day. Paul understood.
It would be easy to be harsh on Peter for he was acting the hypocrite…a hypocrite is someone who says you should do a particular thing in a particular way but then does not do it themselves. Jesus had his hardest words for hypocritical leaders. We have heard it said that the excuse many give for not coming to Church is that it is full of hypocrites – and rightly so, but there is always room for one more!
Robert Redford was walking one day through a hotel lobby. A woman saw him and followed him to the elevator. “Are you the real Robert Redford?” she asked him with great excitement. As the doors of the elevator closed, he replied, “Only when I am alone!”
But Peter was being Peter as he always was: he was very impulsive, he would say one thing such as I would never deny you and then he denied Jesus 3 times; he could act in boldness such as walking on the water and in the next moment sinking into the waves for fear. Peter was pretty much set upon his emotions and becoming a Christian had not changed that.
But Peter knew the truth either way and knew that his actions were wrong but he did not have the courage of his convictions…I suspect he did not know that it could be catastrophic for the Church, and to be frank, who here is perfect and why should we expect Peter to always be right or perfect? Which, by the way, is why leaders are not above reproach…when it is called for.
We put much merit in the opinion of others for in the counsel of many is wisdom….
Paul had a strenuous work ethic – woe betides me if I do not preach the Gospel, he once declared – this was a man at work – and his zeal as a Pharisee was now transferred to his zeal for the Gospel. This is now all-important.
So, what things do we do for God and what things do we do just because we like doing them? Or because someone else is doing them? Or because someone else said we should be doing them? I make no judgement of anyone for how can I judge each person’s motives? We all need to evaluate where God is leading us…and we need to hear God for that. We can be swayed by our emotions or by our will or our impulsiveness or by someone else but unless it is founded upon what God wants confirmed through prayer and his Word then it is not going to be beneficial for us or anyone else and certainly not honouring to God.
Paul has returned from wherever he has been back to Antioch and sees what is going on – how a schism is in effect – and because Paul knows the truth he deals with it very effectively with the truth. Anything that gets in the way of the freedom we have in Christ makes the work of the cross have no value and Paul knew this. Paul knew that this was no small thing to be glossed over.
It does not take much to cause a schism – a division in a fellowship – and it can simply be a decision by one person to do something that is a personal choice. But a personal choice can and often leads others to follow us into it like Barnabas, someone who really should have known better . We really need to make sure that the things we do are not about people-pleasing but God-pleasing. We are not called to please ourselves either but God. The unity of the church is very important and we cannot go off and just do our own thing – as a Church we decide what is good and right in the sight of God with prayer. We are the body of Christ and together we stand or fall. When we are in unity loving one another in the truth of the Gospel then outsiders take note. With unity we are blessed by God.
This is what Paul is fighting for. It seems to be a contradiction to fight for unity but sometimes it is an absolute necessity.
What is this freedom we have in Christ that Paul wants to address with Peter? It is called ‘justification by faith’. This begs the question then: What is justification?
Justification is the act of God whereby He declares the believing sinner righteous in Jesus Christ.
Justification is an act and not a process. No Christian is “more justified” than another Christian.
Romans 5:1 CSB
Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Since we are justified by faith, it is an instant and immediate transaction between the believing sinner and God.
“Having therefore been once-and-for-all justified by faith, we have peace with God” (). Since we are justified by faith, it is an instant and immediate transaction between the believing sinner and God. If we were justified by works, then it would have to be a gradual process.
Justification is an act of God; it is not the result of our character or works.
Romans 8:33 NKJV
Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.
It is not by doing the “works of the Law” that the sinner gets a right standing before God, but by putting his faith in Jesus Christ. God in His grace has put our sins on Christ—and Christ’s righteousness has been put on us:
2 Corinthians 5:21 NKJV
For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
“It is God that justifies” (). It is not by doing the “works of the Law” that the sinner gets a right standing before God, but by putting his faith in Jesus Christ. God in His grace has put our sins on Christ—and Christ’s righteousness has been put on us ().
In justification, God declares the believing sinner righteous; before the sinner trusts Christ, he stands GUILTY before God; but the moment he trusts Christ, he is declared NOT GUILTY and he can never be called GUILTY again!
In justification, God declares the believing sinner righteous; before the sinner trusts Christ, he stands GUILTY before God; but the moment he trusts Christ, he is declared NOT GUILTY and he can never be called GUILTY again!
Justification is not simply “forgiveness,” because a person could be forgiven and then go out and sin and become guilty. Once you have been “justified by faith” you can never be held guilty before God.
This is why it is good news.
When the sinner is justified by faith, his past sins are remembered against him no more, and God no longer puts his sins on record:
Psalm 32:1–2 NKJV
Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, Whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, And in whose spirit there is no deceit.
Romans 4:1–8 NKJV
What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works: “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, And whose sins are covered; Blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin.”
(see ; ). (ESV)
7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,
and whose sins are covered;
8 blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”
When Peter separated himself from the Gentiles, he was denying the truth of justification by faith, because he was saying by his actions, “We Jews are different from—and better than—the Gentiles.” Yet both Jews and Gentiles are sinners () and can be saved only by faith in Christ.[1]
Justification, then, is a doctrine that frees us. We can know this freedom every day…and because we know we only want to live God’s way.
It makes me wonder how far we would go to defend such doctrines. Even how capable we are of doing so. It is not enough that we should defend the freedoms that we have in the Church as Christians but that we should give a good defence to those in the world too. says we should always be ready to give a defence…and this means that Christianity is a logical and reasonable belief system – perfectly capable of standing up to the most intense scrutiny. It is time we took our stand and a good example is shown in this week’s bulletin.
There is a world around us who are looking for the way, the truth and the life…and we have Him in Jesus…we revel in the fact that God loves us, forgives us, cleanses us…and we miss opportunities to tell others about Him for fear of embarrassment – but the Gospel is the power of God – it has power to save today as it did the day we were saved. God is seeking to save the lost.
As we spend time with God he gives us his heart… and his heart desires with great urgency to draw people into his arms. We should pray for opportunities to talk about Jesus and God will gladly answer.
How are we doing? Interesting question that – doing implies action but is it right action? Perhaps a better question should be: How are we being? It is when all action is still, is our rest in God and His presence? Do we there discern his will so that when we are doing again it is found to be the right kind of doing?
How do we fare in answering questions about what and why we believe? We can have absolute confidence that we have the truth. Can we defend the crucial doctrines of our faith? Or do we even know them? God willing, I will start to address these in the prayer meetings from September.
Above all we find that God loves us and has justified us so that we can be free to live life the way he wants it lived…for it is no longer you or I who live but Christ who lives in you and me.
Charles Kingsley once wrote that “there are two freedoms—the false, where a man is free to do what he likes; the true, where a man is free to do what he ought.”[2]
Justification by faith leads some people to think that we then have the right to do whatever we want but as we carry on through Galatians we will find that a right understanding of this will lead to good works done in Christ Jesus.
The life we now live, we live by faith in the Son of God who gave Himself for me. All that we have talked about is only possible because Jesus went to the cross to pay the penalty for our sins. And now what can we say? Out of sheer thankfulness; I no longer live but Christ lives in me.
Today is not so much about what we are to do though we are to be witnesses and defend our faith but it it more about how we are: we have been declared not guilty by God Himself. This is a fact. Get this! You are not guilty, God says. How can this be? It is just as if you had never sinned. Justification. And now how we live the life we have been given in Christ will reveal more and more that this is true.
Bless God that despite the fact we get it wrong…we can turn and get it right and that we are made NOT GUILTY by God himself.

Bibliography

[1] Wiersbe, W. W. 1996. The Bible exposition commentary (). Victor Books: Wheaton, Ill.
[2] Hobbs, H. H. 1990. My favorite illustrations (45). Broadman Press: Nashville, TN
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