Liberated From Legalism - pt 5 [5-23-21]


Here's where we're at.


Paul had established his standing as an apostle. After he was called by the Risen Christ to repent of persecuting the church and follow him, Paul spent the next three years growing in his understanding of what it means to follow Jesus.


Everything Paul said and wrote was consistent with what Jesus taught during his three years of ministry. And Paul never contradicted himself nor changed the essential truth of the gospel he taught.


Paul was astonished that the Galatians had fallen under the spell of those who preached a false gospel. They were being told that following strict Jewish law was necessary for salvation. Paul taught the one, true gospel:

SALVATION BY GRACE ALONE THROUGH FAITH ALONE ON THE

BASIS OF CHRIST ALONE.

The false teachers were teaching something different. Paul could hardly believe it. As he writes in 1:6-7, "I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel - not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ."


Paul then told them there was no other gospel by which they could be saved. Here's one of the simply finest ways I've ever heard it put:

Life is Short.

Death is Sure.

Judgment is Coming.

Heaven is Glorious.

Hell is Dreadful.

Jesus is Savior.

- Steven Lawson

Can you imagine messing that up? Can you imagine someone coming in and making it more complicated? What is it I like to say? Fresh…Simple… and Honest. Wonderfully uncomplicated.

In fact, Paul said if anyone tried to tell them there was any other way to be saved from sin and hell:

As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

In other words, he can go to hell.


That's where we're at at the end of chapter one.


Now on to chapter two.


Verses 1-2:

Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along with me. I went up because of a revelation and set before them (though privately before those who seemed influential) the gospel that I proclaim among the Gentiles, in order to make sure I was not running or had not run in vain.

This was a bold move. Paul took Titus, an uncircumcised Gentile convert into the mouth of the dragon. Fierce opposition came from Jerusalem. The false teachers who snuck into Galatia came from Jerusalem. And here

came Paul, with Titus, in a bold move to make a dramatic point.


Remember, the false teachers said Gentile converts had to become Jews in order to become Christians. As Acts 15:1 reported, "But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, 'Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.'" What did they do? They added something to the gospel. Why do people make things so complicated?


To answer that question, let's now look at verses 3-5:

But even Titus, who was with me, was not forced to be circumcised, though he was a Greek. Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in—who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery - to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you.

The friction was palpable. Two things jump out at us in verse 4. First, when Paul called them false brothers he was clearly and directly saying they were pretending to be true Christians. Oh, how we need that kind of directness today, whether talking about the prosperity gospel or those who want to change the Biblical definition of marriage between one man and one woman. True followers of Jesus Christ stand up for the truth. Second, when Paul said they slipped in to spy out our freedom, he used a Greek phrase that pictured spies or traitors entering by stealth into an enemy's camp. The Judaizers tried to sabotage the true gospel.


Paul would have none of it. The true gospel was at stake. Not a truth. But the truth. Here are two places where Jesus clearly talks about the truth:

  • John 8:31-32 - "So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, 'If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.'”

  • John 14:6 - "Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'"

How clear is that? The truth…not a truth. There is only one Christ…one truth…and one gospel. So when Paul said false brothers, he signaled there was a freedom worth fighting to preserve. There is a determined vigilance required to contend for the truth.

John Mason, who goes by @LivingGodsTruth {how appropriate} says this about our current state of affairs regarding marriage:

Jesus created a man and a woman for His own glory.

If you have a problem with that, you have a problem with Him. If you want it another way, then you don't know Him.

Come into a relationship with your Creator today and live out His design and purpose founded on love and truth.

When you think Biblically about churches and pastors and writers and even denominations who reject that, then you understand what Paul is talking about when he uses the descriptive of false teachers.


Here's something you might want to write down:

It Is Not Easy to Defend the Truth in an Age of Lies.

That's what Galatians is all about - doing the hard work of the gospel.


Turn with me now to verses 6-9:

And from those who seemed to be influential (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)—those, I say, who seemed influential added nothing to me. On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel to the circumcised (for he who worked through Peter for his apostolic ministry to the circumcised worked also through me for mine to the Gentiles), and when James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised.

This was one of the most important moments in church history. In fact, Acts 15 is basically the recorded minutes of this meeting and its outcome.


Unity of purpose was reached. Paul first stated the obvious…God shows no partiality…in other words, they were all equal partners in this. No one was better than another; no one was subservient to the other. Together they served Jesus Christ and the one true gospel. That is a beautiful thing. And what it means is that God gave Paul the privilege of bringing the one true gospel to Gentiles and Peter and the others continued their ministry to Jewish converts. The gospel wins. They did not fracture or water down the gospel. They did not compromise with the truth. They were unified in message. That's why their agreement was a beautiful thing.

Paul left this meeting fully confident that the gospel was safeguarded from one of its earliest threats. What a gift and a lesson to us. Everything we do is built on the foundation of salvation by faith in Christ alone. That is our unity.


Next week, we're going to develop the importance Titus played in all this, before moving on to verse 10 - "Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do." As we'll see, while helping the poor is not the gospel, it is the logical result of the gospel.


Until then remember this:

THE GOOD NEWS IS THE CROSS AND THE EMPTY TOMB.

Nothing else added or taken away. All it takes to belong to God is faith in Jesus Christ. Either you have it or you don't.


SOLI DEO GLORIA…

To the Glory of God Alone!