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Sunday, July 02, 2017

[Matt's Messages] “Acting in Line with the Truth of the Gospel”

“Acting in Line with the Truth of the Gospel”
Galatians: The Truth of the Gospel
July 2, 2017 :: Galatians 2:11-16

Our sermon series right now is entitled “The Truth of the Gospel” because that was the very thing at stake–the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The apostle Paul was astonished to learn that these churches the region of Galatia were on the brink of abandoning the truth of the gospel and believing a different gospel, which was really no gospel at all!

There was danger in the churches of Galatia. False teachers had infiltrated the churches and accused Paul of having the wrong gospel. They apparently accused Paul of getting his gospel from the apostles in Jerusalem and getting that gospel wrong.

And because the gospel is at stake, Paul can’t just take that lying down.

He has to write a letter to set the story straight.

And to try to straighten out these churches on the gospel.

Because the gospel is no little thing.

If you believe the wrong gospel or you preach the gospel, you are damned.

So ever since chapter 1, verse 11, Paul has had one major overarching goal. Does anybody remember what it is?

Paul has been trying to demonstrate that his gospel, the good news that he preached, was not something he got from other mere men.

1:11-12, “ I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.”

And Paul’s been giving his personal story to prove that point.

He didn’t go from persecutor to preacher because of some man-made story.

He didn’t get his gospel from Jerusalem. He hardly spent any time therein the first 14 years.

And after he did visit in Jerusalem, he had to defend his gospel against those who wanted his teammate Titus to be circumcised, and the other apostles there (Peter, James, and John) did not add one thing to his message.

Instead, they divided up the labor, agreed to fight poverty, and gave each other the right hand of fellowship.

They were 100% together on the gospel.

Peter, James, and John agreed with Paul’s gospel.

He didn’t get it from them. They didn’t get it from him.

They both had gotten it straight from Jesus Christ.

Now, Paul is going to get to the heart of this letter in the next few paragraphs.

He’s going to reveal the false gospel that was loose among the Galatians and he’s going to counter it with the true gospel of grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone.

But as he approaches that heart of this letter, he’s still trying to make the basic point that his gospel is not derived nor defective. Not derived nor defective.

He didn’t get his gospel from Peter, James, or John.

“Do you want more proof of that?

Well then, let me tell you about the time I had the public fight with the apostle Peter over the truth of the gospel.”

You heard me right. The apostle Peter and the apostle Paul went head to head over a gospel issue, and Peter was in the wrong.

The title of today’s message is “Acting in Line with the Truth of the Gospel.” I get that from verse 14.

Paul says that is the exact opposite of what Peter was doing in Antioch.

He was not NOT “acting in line with the truth of the gospel.”

Paul has one more story to tell before he gets into the heart of his letter.

It’s another story that shows just how independent he really was from the apostles in Jerusalem.

He was so independent, he wasn’t afraid to rebuke the apostle Peter to his face in public!

That’s interesting, isn’t it?

From the gospels and the first part of the book of Acts, it’s clear that the Apostle Peter was kind of the lead apostle.

I don’t think he was the first pope as our Roman Catholic friends do, but he clearly took the lead for the apostles. He was the chief spokesman for them on the day of Pentecost, for example.

But the Apostle Paul was not afraid to stand up to him when he was clearly in the wrong. Verse 1.

“When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong.”

Paul’s gospel was clearly not dependent on the person of Peter!

In fact, Paul’s gospel stood over the person of Peter.

If Peter was opposed to Paul’s gospel, then Peter needed to be corrected, not Paul’s gospel.

Do you see how that works? We’ll come back to that.

What was going on here?

Apparently, the apostle Peter had left Jerusalem and taken a trip up to Syrian Antioch. Yes, the same Syria that’s in the news today.

The church in Syrian Antioch was the one that had sent Paul and Barnabas out as missionaries. Paul and Barnabas were the people on the fridge of the Christians at Antioch.

And there were both Jewish and Gentile Christians in that church.

Which are better Jewish or Gentile Christians?

That was a trick question!

Peter, a Jewish Christian, had come up to visit the church in Antioch, perhaps to see how things were going.

And while he was there, Peter had table fellowship with both Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians. He ate with both.

Is that a big deal?

You bet it is.

From what we know about the Jews of the first century, they were very careful to stay pure in terms of what they ate and with whom.

Think about Daniel and his friends back in Babylon in the Old Testament. How careful they were about their diets.

But Peter has had a vision. Remember the vision that Peter had in Acts chapter 10?

I call it, “Peter’s Pork Picnic.”

The Lord brought down a great big red and black checkered picnic blanket with a big feastful of food on it from Hog’s Galore?

And he said, “Eat it, Peter!”

Remember that? Peter had a hard time with that idea, but eventually he understood that the Gentiles had been included in the gospel. And that all foods were now declared clean.

So when he went up to Antioch, he had bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwiches. He had sausage and cheese omelets. He had whatever the Gentiles there were eating! He ate it, too.

Now, it’s possible that other Jews would have held off on what they ate. Maybe their consciences wouldn’t allow them to eat all of that stuff. Or even to eat with those Gentiles for fear of contaminating the purity of their consciences.

That might have been okay as long as they accepted one another as brothers and sisters in Christ the way we learned about last year in Romans 14 and 15.

But Peter ate it all, and he ate with the Gentile Christians.

Until...

Until a group of guys came from James. Look at verse 12.

“Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group.”

Now, we don’t know much about these guys who came from James.

I always thought that they were “the circumcision group.”

“Certain men came from James” who were the “circumcision group” that Peter was afraid of.

And that’s very possible. Perhaps they had a message from James about being careful whom you offend or how you relate to the Law of Moses. Or perhaps they came from James, but they had their own message for Peter. Or maybe they just looked down their noses at him, and he noticed.

But I’ve come to think that maybe these certain men brought a message from James that persecution had increased in Jerusalem of the Christians by the non-Christian Jews (“the circumcision”) because word had gotten out that the Christians were attacking the Law of Moses.

And if you attack their law, they will attack you.

And not just you, but people you love.

That seems likely to me.

We don’t know what they said, but we do know what Peter did with it.

He slunk back on his principles.

He drew back and separated himself from the Gentiles.

From his Gentile brothers and sisters in Christ.

And not because his theology had changed.

Not because he realized that he had been in the wrong.

This was not repentance. This was not daring to be a Daniel. This was fear.

Paul says he did this (v.12) “because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group.”

He was afraid.

He was afraid of what someone else would think or say or do.

Perhaps he was afraid of persecution, not just of himself but of people he cared about back home in Jerusalem.

Fear is a powerful motive.

Peter compromised on his principles.

And he became a hypocrite.

A hypocrite is someone who says they believe on thing but act in a way that shows that they really do not.

They act the opposite of what they preach.

They talk the talk, but they don’t what?  Walk the walk.

That was Peter at this point in his life.

A man who had walked with Jesus.
A man who had been commissioned and recommissioned by Jesus.
A man who had seen the risen Jesus.
A man who had preached on Pentecost and escaped from prison.
A man who led the church and led the apostles.

Here he is slinking back and taking his tray solely to the Jewish table in the lunchroom alone and never to the Gentile table that he had frequented just last week.

And others followed his lead.  V.13

“The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.”

Do you feel that? “Even Barnabas.”

Paul’s partner. The guy who helped him plant these churches in Galatia.

Even Barnabas was eating only with the Jews.

Because everybody else was doing it!

I don’t know where Paul had been, but when he got back to Antioch, he saw what was the situation, and he spoke up.

Maybe he did it privately, I don’t know, but the sin was public, therefore so was the confrontation.

When he left, there was one church in Antioch, one big happy church fellowshipping together.

When he got back, Peter had effectively divided the church into the Jewish Church and the Gentile Church, and he had given the impression that the Gentile Christians weren’t really Christians. V.14

“When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, ‘You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew [You know you are free to eat Gentile food with Gentiles]\. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs? [To live like a Jew?]”

Do you see his point?

Peter is being inconsistent.

By separating himself NOW from the Gentiles, he’s sending the message that they are not proper Christians.

To be a proper Christian, you have to become a Jew first.

What’s next? Are you going to require they follow the whole Mosaic Law?

Are you going to require that they get circumcised?

I thought we’ve been over that with Titus?

By his actions, Peter was giving the impression that the only Christians who were acceptable as believers were those who had taken on the Mosaic Law.

And that would amount to another gospel.

Do you see why Paul calls this (in verse 14), “NOT acting in line with the truth of the gospel?”

Did Peter actually believe a different gospel?

No. They were 100% together on the gospel. Remember that?

But Peter’s actions were telling a different story.

He was not acting in line with the truth of the gospel.

Here’s application point number one:

#1. ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH THE TRUTH OF THE GOSPEL.

We need, not only to believe the truth of the gospel, but to live in a way that accords with it.

You can preach a false gospel by living falsely.

You can have every box checked correctly on your statement of faith but live in way that denies every word of it.

For Peter, it was not accepting as brothers those whom he knew genuinely were.

How are you and I doing at aligning our lives with the truth of the gospel?

Do we walk the walk or just talk the talk?

If we say that God forgives ours sins, do we forgive those who sin against us?

If we say that God always keeps His promises, do we stay faithful to ours, even if it hurts?

If we say that Jesus changes us by His grace, do we demonstrate a changed life?

I’m not asking if we are living flawless lives of sinless perfection.

I’m asking if we have glaring discrepancies between what we preach and what we live out on a daily basis.

Because people are watching.

And because you are have more influence on others than you think.

If you claim to be a gospel-believing Christian and you live in a way that is not in line with the truth of the gospel, you are sending not only a false message about the gospel with your life, but you are sending the message that it’s okay for others to do it, too!

“Even Barnabas.”

“Even Barnabas was led astray.”

The King James translates verse 14 with the words, “they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel,” and that’s reflects the Greek really well.

The word in Greek is, “orthopodeo.”

What does that sound like?

It’s the root that we get our word, “Orthopedic” from.

Their actions were not in line, they were not straight, they were not upright.

Let me put it this way, “Peter was out of whack, so Paul gave him one!”

Are you out of whack?

Peter’s gospel was good, but he was (at this point) living out whack with his own gospel.

Are you living out of whack with the gospel?

Are there some areas of your life that are just begging for change?

Because they really don’t fit with the good news of Jesus?

I love it that it was Peter who was out of whack.

Because that gives me hope for my own change.

Peter obviously got the message. Maybe not at first. But the rest of his life demonstrated a closer correspondence between his gospel and his behavior.

How about us?

How are we doing at living in the fear of God instead of the fear of man?

Peter had temporarily succumbed to the fear of the circumcision group.

He was acting like he thought they wanted him to.

Whom are you acting for?  Whose drum are you dancing to?

Align your life with the truth of the gospel.

Number two: Call upon others to do the same.

#2. CALL UPON OTHER CHRISTIANS TO ALIGN THEIR LIVES WITH THE TRUTH OF THE GOSPEL.

I’m still amazed that Paul stood up to Peter.

I don’t know that I could have ever done that.

But Paul thought it was necessary.

The gospel was a stake. So he spoke up.

Can you imagine being a fly on the wall for that conversation?!

Other people were following Peter into hypocrisy. Even Barnabas. So Paul spoke up.

Even to an apostle.

When was the last time you confronted a brother or sister in Christ about their behavior that was bringing shame on the gospel?

“Hey, buddy, think about what you’re doing.”

“Hey, friend, that’s no good. Christians shouldn’t do that.”

“Hey, brother, I have to say something to you about that. It’s the opposite of the gospel.”

“Hey, sister, can we talk about what you’re doing there? Because it’s sending the wrong message to the rest of the church.”

We do not like that sort of thing.

(I guess there are some people who do like that sort of thing, but they’ve got another problem!)

I don’t think that Paul liked to do it.

But the gospel was at stake!

And it didn’t matter who the person was.

It could be any Christian, including any church leader.

This was Peter for crying out loud!

What mattered was the gospel. The gospel was worth confrontation about.

Friends, if I live out of whack with the gospel, I invite you to point it out to me.

Give me a whack!

I’m not calling for us to us to run around whacking everybody we disagree with, especially on minor things.

But the gospel is a major thing, and we can’t stay silent. We must speak up.

Peter’s behavior may have seemed like a minor thing. He was just not eating with people he used to eat with.

But his behavior was actually a major thing. He was saying, with his behavior, that only those who were keeping the Law were saved and acceptable to be around.

Paul had to call him out on that.

Is there somebody that you need to call out?

Is there somebody you need to rebuke?

Somebody you have a relationship with?

I remember once I saw a Christian friend who was not acting like a Christian on social media.

They were spreading false stories and doing it in a rude way.

My instinct in most of those cases is to “hide” the person or just scroll by, but I had  a relationship with them enough that I felt I should say something.

So I was no Paul but I tried to say, “Friend, you are better than this. That’s not how a Christian should act on Facebook. That story is not true (here’s the true facts). I’d recommend you take it down.”

And they did. And they even thanked me.

I like to think that Peter thanked Paul, at least eventually, for this rebuke.

The Proverbs say, “Better is open rebuke than hidden love” (27:5).

Who do you need to love like this?

#3. PUT YOUR FAITH IN THE TRUTH OF THE GOSPEL.

Because that’s what this is all about.

Paul continues to Peter, verse 15.

“We who are Jews by birth and not 'Gentile sinners' know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.”

There is so much there, and we’ve run out of time.

We’ll come back to it next week.

But the point Paul is making to Peter is that they know the gospel.

The gospel of grace!

Not the gospel of doing the law.

The gospel of the grace of Jesus Christ.

We are justified in Christ. Remember that from Romans? Dikaiosunai?”

We just had a lesson in it in the adult Sunday School Class today.

Paul says, “As great as it is to be born Jew, we don’t want to make other people into Jews! We want to share the gospel of grace with them.”

You don’t get saved, you don’t get justified, by observing the Law.

You get saved, you get justified, by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone.

Put your faith in Him!

Not in yourself.
Not in your works.
Not in your circumcision.
Not in your clean Jewish diet.

Or hanging out with your Jewish friends.

But in Jesus Christ alone.

Put your faith in the truth of gospel of grace.

Messages in this Series

01. To the Churches in Galatia
02. Turning to a Different Gospel
03. Preaching the Faith He Once Tried to Destroy
04. So the Truth of the Gospel Might Remain With You

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