Consistent with the Gospel: September 24
The Gospel Matters
“…not that there is another gospel.” (Galatians 1:7)
Consistent with the Gospel
Galatians 2:11-21 | September 24, 2017
Introduction: We have heard the cliché that “old habits die hard.” Well, that was certainly the case
for Jewish Christians in the first century. Jews didn’t eat with or enter the homes of Gentiles. That’s because the law was deeply concerned with zealous cleanliness—clean hands, clean food, clean company, and clean speech— in every conceivable dimension of life! Cleanliness kept one in good relationship with God and God’s community. Cleanliness was righteousness. From last week’s text, Paul told us about his herculean efforts at keeping the law and being the cleanest Jew around. And all this zeal for keeping clean led Paul to do some really horrific things, like cheering on those who stoned Stephen, the first Christian martyr.
This is a part of the religious system that Jesus came to judge. Many Jews of the first century, including those who followed Jesus, had cultivated a kind of second nature by which they instinctively avoided unclean things – from pork, or anyone that eats it, to people with leprosy. And the fact of Jesus’ death and resurrection messed up all the categories. Jesus taught that it’s what comes out of a person’s heart that makes them unclean, not what goes into their mouth (Mt. 15:11ff). Consider that Jesus touched those with big-time, scary and contagious diseases (Luke 5:12-14). Jesus had a way of life that reconfigured what it means to be clean before God. Jesus wasn’t concerned that acting compassionately toward a leper would tarnish his health or his good image. That’s because clean isn’t something we do and earn; clean is something we receive and give away.
Pray: Grant, O Lord, that we may trust in you with all our hearts; for, as you resist the proud who trust their own strength, so you are ever the strength of those who boast in your mercy; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (Adapted from the Book of Common Prayer)
Read: Galatians 2:11-21
1. Paul observed that the Jewish Christians were “not acting consistently with the gospel” because Jewish Christians had begun to separate themselves from Gentile Christians. What about this is inconsistent with the gospel?
2. Our text says that Peter kept himself separate “for fear of the circumcision group.” Of what do you think Peter was afraid?
3. Peter was a big shot in early Christianity, so by separating himself he effectively created a tiered hierarchy in the faith. While everyone was a Christian, those who were serious about Jesus kept the Jewish dietary law. And in every age there are implied standards for those who are “serious about Jesus.” What are those standards in our time? What are those standards at First Church? How do you show that you are “serious about Jesus”?
4. The overt validation that Gentile believers were acceptable apart from the law was their infilling by the Holy Spirit. This infilling by God’s Spirit is not earnable. God’s presence and power are not for sale at any price, but are given as a free gift. Have you ever tried to earn God’s presence and/or power? What’s the difference between earning and receiving from God?
Application: Read Jeremiah 9:23-24.
We are justified by faith. So, what is faith? Faith is trust. When Paul writes that we are “justified by faith in Christ”, he is saying that instead of trusting our own law keeping, we are trusting in Christ’s law fulfillment. This invites us to ask the question, where am I trying to earn it? Am I trying to earn it with my family, earn it at work, trying to earn it at church? Am I trying to earn it right now in this k-group (nervously look up and see if anyone is watching you be holy)? Well, just stop. Stop “earning it.” That’s the gospel. You just can’t trust in yourself for anything that really matters. Instead, name Jesus as the one you trust, the one who is sufficient, the one in whom you boast.
Pray: Almighty God, I come to you empty, unable to earn anything from you. But you are generous and loving, so I receive from you that which I need today. I receive these things by faith in you, and not faith in anything in me. I receive from you again today, by faith alone, the power to be your witness at home, at work, in the community, in traffic, in word and deed, in thought and desire. Fill me again with your priceless Holy Spirit and teach me more today how to be led by you into that which is everlasting. I delight in your sufficiency. I set aside the burden of doing life right on my own, and rest in the freedom that you have done life right for me, and give me life as I follow you. Amen.