Sunday, June 12, 2011

What is at Stake: Truth of the Gospel / 何が問われているのか:福音の真実

Espionage in the Early Church. 
It was a fact that some wanted the Christian Message to end; Paul had been part of that group. Power and authority was behind this movement as it is today. There are governments and religious groups that desire to see the Church collapse. People are still sent into prisons to silence the Gospel’s Message. Why? Because they hate Christ that much!  Let’s read Galatians 2:1-10 and see how Paul, the one time terrorist handles these people.   <Galatians 2:1-10>

Spies came into the Believing Church, (vs. 4) quasi-Christian, or sham Christians, who spied out how Believers lived their lives. They were gathering information to be used to exploit the Church and to see it brought down.

We are going to see, very quickly, seven factors that Paul used to expose these enemies of the Cross for who they really were: Anti-Christ. They were against Christ.

How do we know we are Christians? By our love. Unity is an important factor in the growth of the Gospel. This evening, that is the heart intent of those who put together the United Day of Prayer to both see and experience Unity in Prayer.

A. A Question Of Orthodoxy. 
The Unity of the New Church was verified by the make up of Paul’s team. 

Paul went back to Jerusalem as a team player.
Barnabas, a Jew, was a bridge builder between one group and another. He sought out Saul and brought him to the Brothers at Acts 9:27.  His name was really Joseph but the early Brothers gave him the name which means: “Son of Encouragement” because he had the spiritual gift of encouragement.  Time and time again, Barnabas was selected because of his spirit of unity.  He was an outstanding Jewish Christian Leader in the early Church.  He worked well in his ability to work between diverse factions of the Church. This man was part of Paul’s Dream Team.  The Team that lived out unity 24/7.

Another team player was a Greek Believer named Titus. His presence in the Team assured those outside the Jewish faith that they would not need to become a Jew first to become a Believer in Jesus. It was not necessary to change their ethnic identity by becoming Jewish first to be included in the Church. Jews and non-Jews were regarded as equal members of Christ Body!

To find a team like this, God had worked a major miracle. The Team showed the world the unifying power of the Gospel.  That kind of unity was so unseen in the world at that time—or since—except with in the Body of Christ.

2. Paul went to Jerusalem in response to revelation
(see vs 2). Here again, we can see that Paul is taking his direction and instruction from the Hand of the Lord, and not from humans. Neither the Jerusalem apostles nor any other pressure group summoned Paul. He went there because God told him to go there. This is a hard act to follow and it is a hard line to attack or even defend. “God told me!” Really? How can we be sure? Does it fit with Scripture? Does it run in unity with the Teaching of God? Is there support from His Word that what you said He said IS what He said?

3. Paul went to Jerusalem to have his message evaluated
Some feel that if they delivered a message from the Lord, all discussion should stop.  Very dangerous position to take.  If a person has this sort of message, and it is from the Lord—or so they said—all discussion should stop. Paul was not approaching this group with that kind of spirit. He had nothing to fear from the Apostles evaluating his message. He had everything to gain.  God had, in fact, appointed him to take the Message of the Gospel to the Gentile world.  He put himself under the watchful eyes of the senior leaders of this new Church. It was very humbling for Paul.  “Am I right?  Is my message from God?” He wanted unity in the Faith.  He really wanted the boys in Jerusalem to support or approve his mission to the non-Jews.  In fact, few of them wanted to do what he was so willing to do! Paul was convinced of the truth of his message. He really did not fear the evaluation.

See when Paul said: he presented his gospel for fear that I was running or had run my race in vain, he did not second guess his message. His confidence in his call from God was very strong. (1:1, 15-16) He knew that the unity of the message could not happen if there was a division in the Church.  He did not NEED their HONKO of approval, but it would make things a lot easier if he had their support! And that is just what he got: they enthusiastically supported him.  Unity with the Message was maintained. The Gospel works! Yeah God!

4. Paul strongly opposed those who questioned the ESSENTIALS of the Gospel.
Paul was not willing to compromise the Gospel Message. What is at Stake: The Truth of the Gospel. He was not into Tolerance.  The Message he was given to tell the Non-Jewish world was not to be compromised.  His message was that we are ONE in Christ. He would write elsewhere that very thing. Later in chapter 3:28, There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

B. It was a Matter of Urgency! The Gospel needed to be maintained!

Here is where the spies came in.  These “false brothers” tried to make Titus be circumcised to follow the Jewish law and customs. They taught that everyone HAD to become a Jew to become a Believer in Jesus. (There was and is some doubt that they really believed the Gospel message to begin with.) To make Titus go through with this requirement denied the equality and unity of the Non-Jewish believers. They would be considered second-class citizens in the Church.  Paul would have nothing to do with that! He fought to protect the unity of the Church and the unity of the Church’s teachings.

It was not a matter of grace but of race. Just one letter off (in the English).  Those spies and false brothers followed the Jewish customs as a basis of acceptance rather than basis of God’s Grace—ALL TO BE SAVED! To follow their teachings would lead to slavery to the standards or ethics of the world. Not the Gospel!

In verse 5, Paul reports: 
“we did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might remain with you.”
What Paul was fighting for was security of the Gospel Message. The Truth of the Gospel was that there would be NO compromise of the essentials of this Message.  The Truth of this Gospel was nonnegotiable.   The Gospel must be preserved.

Even today, such claims, as “We today know better because we are more well informed.” “We do not need to follow the miss-teachings of those many, many years ago.  Welcome to a New Order!”  The New Gospel today does not put limits on what we can and cannot do. It gives us complete freedom—as long as we believe, we are OK.”  Do you see that as a problem?  Compromise, watering down the message so that it is more acceptable for today’s sinners...or rather those who are spiritually challenged.

5. Paul was concerned that the Truth of God’s Message was God’s impartiality.

Impartiality means God’s fairness, His neutrality, and His lack of prejudice.  He is open to one and all, BUT they must play the game on His terms as He is much the wiser than Man.  Who can stand before God and say they know better than He? Ps 8 speaks about that.

Ps 8:1 O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is Your Name in all the earth! You have set Your glory above the heavens. 2 From the lips of children and infants You have ordained praise because of Your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.
Paul was not too impressed with (those who seemed to be leaders [v. 2]; those who seemed to be important [v. 6]; those reputed to be pillars [v. 9]) their credentials did not move him—makes no difference to me (v.6). God does not judge on the basis of what you are or who you are or even what you do.  He is concerned what you do with the Gospel.  God judges on the basis of response to the Gospel.  These men not only agreed with his message, they could add nothing to it.  We must remember that God does not measure persons by their public reputation, but by their response to the gospel. We must not be afraid to do the same. I heard it said, "Great works of art, `the originals,' are not judged by us; we are judged by them." In the same way, great leaders do not judge the gospel; great leaders are judged by it. Paul’s message checked out to be originally from the Lord.

C.  It was a Picture of Unity.
6. The Focus on God’s Work is maintained when it is in the right order.
When the leaders of the Church saw and understood that this Apostle-come-latter’s message was genuine, they extended him the right hand of Fellowship.

A Church divided will not stand. We all need to come to the foot of the Cross and see that our goals are the same.  We may get there in a different way, which is free choice. A church could be divided because some like contemporary choruses and others prefer traditional hymns. While they argue over their tastes in music, they might lose sight of God's work in their midst. If only we could keep our eyes on what God is doing, we would be able to transcend the things that divide us and accomplish the tasks that God has given to us. We are doing the best we can to clearly bring the Gospel’s Message to life. Isn’t it brilliant how God uses the likes of us to give Him Glory!  What a God, What a Savior!

The result of this meeting in Jerusalem allowed the church to grow much faster with a strong Gospel message. Paul and Barnabas were allowed to take this message to the Gentiles. Even Paul had strong feelings for his own countrymen. His Gospel was always preached to the Jew first and then the Gentile.  His mission was confirmed.

The world is huge. No one person can reach them all. That is why He gave us each other. There are people only you can reach with this message.  Go and do that. Don’t keep the Gospel to yourselves, spread it gently.  Harmony in the work of the Gospel must be built on the willingness of each of us to accept and follow up on the particular assignment He has given us.

Having said that, notice how the Apostles responded to Paul. They extended the right hand of fellowship to him. We are part of you and you are part of us. We have unity without compromise.

7. We can really learn from this experience of Paul that the Church can be maintained by practical service. 
The work Paul had should not in any way be looked on as a separate work of God.  It was God’s business to save souls. Either Jewish or Gentile. The Team at Jerusalem wanted Paul to always remember the poor—not to take away from the Message of the Gospel but to be careful to meet the needs of the poor around him. Paul was eager to do that as he was already doing that very thing.  Later in Paul’s ministry, we find Paul bringing money to Jerusalem during a hard time for the Mother Church. His collection from the Gentile Christian churches blessed the Jewish Christian church. 
"For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews' spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings" (Rom 15:27)
Much like the Churches in Haiti sending $10,000 to the relief effort in Tohoku. Part of the Body reaching out to help another part of the Body of Christ.