Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Stay True to the Gospel of Jesus Christ - Don’t Abandoned Your Convictions! Galatians 1-6

"But even if we or an angle from heaven should preach another gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned.” Gal 1:8
I started to look at Galatians in November of 2010. It appears to me that everything that followed was addressing the main concern that the Apostle Paul first articulated. I was encouraged to learn, after coming to my own conclusions, there was debate in the Christian community, if the letter was addressing one continuous theme or several issues. You will need to draw your own conclusions.
Paul was addressing Christian believers that were deserting the grace of Jesus Christ by turning to a perverted gospel preached to them by men with twisted minds. This resulted in division of the Christians into different factions, confusion, envy, jealousy, strife, loss of joy and most importantly loss of effectiveness in peaching the true gospel of Jesus Christ.
“Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of  Christ.” Gal 1:10.
I believe what Paul was stating, and what he was about to say, stemmed from the problems associated with and caused by the desire of church leaders and other Believers who became more concerned about being accepted and pleasing to men than God.  Peter and others abandoned their convictions and contributed to perverting the gospel of Jesus Christ by teaching and preaching another gospel by their actions and example. As an example, Paul cited they drew back from other believers and taught others to do the same. There is no place in the Bible the LORD commands believers to separate themselves from other believers - unless they are involved in practicing sin. Peter would have done well to separate himself from those of the circumcision group - because they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel! Instead - he joined them. Please help me LORD Jesus. This is an example of what not to do.  “They were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel. They were, by their actions, in effect preaching another gospel. Paul said, I don’t care who it is that is preaching it! I guess he meant that. Paul was being true to his convictions by serving God and not pleasing men. Paul brought rebuke to Peter and others because they weren’t lining up! Peter was afraid of men who came from James in Jerusalem and the Jewish believers on the ground in Galatia. Peter was more concerned about what the clergy from Jerusalem was going to think about him mixing with other believers, than what God commanded! Peter was more concerned about what the “laity” of the “Circumcision Group” was going to think about him mixing it up with other non-Jewish believers, than what God had commanded him. WE WILL do the same things, if we care more about pleasing men, and having their approval, than serving God and what he has commanded! The result of their actions caused the separation of believers into different camps; it caused confusion, upheaval and loss of joy. It caused conceit and envy within the church and got them out of step with the Spirit of God. It caused one group to think they were 2nd Class Kingdom citizens and the other group to think they were something special because they were…. Jews… they practiced separation, circumcision or other traditions. 
Wanting to please men caused Peter to abandon his convictions, embrace the traditions of men and move away from the truth. He led others in the wrong direction - We cannot substitute our traditions for the commands of God and call it the truth! What can we learn from this? Said another way - the fear of men, and the desire to please them, will cause us to compromise our convictions and accept substitutions (traditions) for the truth (the Gospel). Be a servant of the LORD Jesus Christ and never allow the fear of men or the desire to please men cause you to abandon your convictions and stop serving Jesus Christ.
“When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face,  because he was clearly in the wrong. Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But whe  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. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.” 2:11-13.
“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, ‘How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?” 2:14
Paul was an expert on Jewish customs and traditions. He knew bondage, error and hypocrisy when he saw it. “.... he was clearly in the wrong.” See Galatians 2:11.
Traditions and customs in line with the truth of the gospel are fine. Be careful the traditions and customs you elect to follow don’t cause you to conduct your life in a way contrary to the truth and the gospel of Jesus Christ. The fear of men can cause us to embrace another gospel and miss the purpose to which Jesus Christ has called us - to bring others to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ! Not convinced? Look at Galatians 1:10 “Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
To add more gravity to Paul’s concerns, Galatians 1:6-15. He wanted anyone, angels and himself included, to be eternally condemned for preaching another gospel. I believe Peter, who he was to confront, because he was not acting in line with the truth, was preaching another gospel. He was preaching another gospel by the example he set of separating himself from other believers, because “they were not of the circumcision group.” Gal 2:12 It is hard to think, the Apostle Peter, was back to denying the LORD by compromising with those that were teaching observance of circumcision was necessary, in addition to believing in Jesus, for salvation.  It may have been that the circumcision group was teaching, if you were circumcised, it would make you a better Christian! I have heard many “teachers” add to the “requirements for salvation” that would make you a better or special Christian...
Here, Paul was setting the example of serving Christ, by not being concerned about pleasing men, by confronting Peter about his hypocrisy. Peter, was setting the example of what happens when you compromise your convictions and you become more concerned about what others think of you. This is an example of what happens when your fear men. It was the example of compromise. From time to time, we will be faced with a choice to make regarding who we will serve. Will we be a servant of Christ, or a servant of man? A Christ pleaser or a man pleaser?

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