During the 18th Century Great Awakening, the great British columnist and evangelist George Whitefield wrote to his converts: “My brethren, let us plainly and freely tell one another what God has done for our souls. To this end . . . form yourselves into little companions of 4 or 5 and once a week tell each other what is in your heart; that you may then pray for each other and comfort each other as need shall require. None but those who have experienced it can tell of the unspeakable advantages of such a union and communion of souls.”
That’s what Paul found in Antioch. The Book of Acts tell us that Barnabas recruits Paul to come to Antioch (the first place Christians were called by that name) to assist him in preaching and teaching. Together they spend a year establishing a church and developing a deep discipleship among the believers of Antioch. After news reaches Antioch that false teachers have arisen in Jerusalem, the Christians of Antioch send Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem to stand up for the truth of the Gospel.
Now the issue in Jerusalem was circumcision. The false teachers were claiming that a person had to keep the ceremonial laws of Israel in order to be a Christian. Think of it. The same laws God gives His people Israel to show them the depth of their own uncleanness, and their need for a substitute, are the same laws those teachers said had to be kept for someone to be acceptable to God. According to these men, it wasn’t that Christ’s sacrifice was ineffectual, it just wasn’t enough.
So listen to what Paul does. Earlier, in Acts 16, Paul goes to preach in a region filled with Jewish residents he takes with him Timothy, a gentile convert, who he circumcises so as not to be a stumbling block to his Jewish hearers. But later when he hears that circumcision has become a requirement for salvation in Jerusalem, he digs in his heels. He says in effect, “over my dead body.” In fact, in Galatians 5, he says to purveyors of “Jesus plus circumcision” theology, “Why don’t you go all the way and emasculate yourselves?”
Now lest you think Paul lacks boldness look who he brings with him to Jerusalem. Not just Barnabas, he brings Titus. You know who Titus is? He’s an uncircumcised Gentile convert. He’s exhibit A. Imagine bringing along an uncircumcised Gentile convert, who’s in love with Jesus, to make a point that it’s Jesus plus nothing equals everything.
Now all of this is background to Sunday’s message entitled, “The Truth of the Gospel.” It’s based on Galatians 2:1-10 where Paul talks of this trip to Jerusalem years after his conversion and years after meeting there with Paul and James. It’s a text that’s full of wonderful truth about the true Gospel of Jesus Christ.
In preparation for Sunday you may wish to consider the following:
1. How important is Galatians 1:11-24 to what Paul says in Galatians 2:1-10?
2. How important is Paul’s Arabian experience to his mission in Galatians 2:1-10?
3. How is Paul’s trip a function of God speaking to him through other believers?
4. What does it mean to say that the doctrine of justification by faith is the doctrine on which the church stands or falls?
5. How do many Christians today rely on their sanctification for their justification? What’s the problem in doing so?
6. Why does Paul say in verse 5 that he didn’t yield for a minute to the teaching of the false teachers?
7. Why do some point to verse 6 as the most important statement Paul makes in the entire letter?
8. How does getting the Gospel wrong promote insecurity?
9. How do the false teachers bastardize the law of God?
10. How was Paul’s victory over the false teachers in Jerusalem perhaps the greatest victory recorded in scripture?
See you Sunday!