Tag Archives: Paul

galatians 2.11-14

This Sunday I am preaching from Galatians 2.11-14, the oft discussed collision between Paul and Peter in Antioch.  It is a fascinating scene that understandably flows out of the previous sections even as it captures the magnitude of the theme of Galatians as a book (what it means to have an identity rooted in Jesus and his righteousness, adding nothing else that restricts our freedom).

11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned.12 For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. 13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?”

Here are a few thoughts that will likely not be a major part of my sermon, or mentioned at all.

If you desire to listen to our series in Galatians, visit http://www.westvalleypres.org.

For your consideration:

The flow up to this text could be summarized like this…

In 1.11-24 – A GOSPEL NOT FROM MAN.  Paul is adamant that his gospel did not come from man, but from God by revelation of Christ.

In 2.1-10  – A GOSPEL CONFIRMED BY MAN.  Paul expands his declaration to include an acknowledgment that, while his gospel did not come from any man, he went up to Jerusalem after more than a decade of fruitful ministry (again by revelation) and received confirmation by man that indeed his gospel was from God!   He was affirmed in that the apostles added nothing to his gospel, and he was privileged to preserve it in their midst (2.4-5).

Now, in 2.11-14 – A GOSPEL WORTHY OF CONFRONTATION WITH MAN. Paul recounts a story in which Paul confronted his fellow Christian man (Peter of all people!) in defense of the truth of the gospel and the necessity that one walk in it, adding nothing to it.

Two questions that are worthy of thought…

First, was Peter acting with good intentions in his breaking table fellowship with the Gentiles upon the arrival of the “certain men from James” (which I take to be a delegation of Jerusalem Christian leaders)?

Some cannot fathom that Peter could so boldly deny his revelation in Acts 10, that he is not to call unclean that which God has made clean.  Thus, they propose that Peter was trying to do the right thing by way of the Jewish Christians of Jerusalem, who may have been dealing with factions of zealots who were opposed to the unrestricted table fellowship happening in places like Antioch, where the gospel of Jesus had taken root among Gentile and Jewish “Christians.”  See Acts 11 for clarification on how Gentile/Jew followers of Jesus were first called Christians.

Richard Longenecker, in his brilliantly technical commentary, makes the case that: It was simply a misguided tactical maneuver made under pressure, he became confused under pressure, could not bring himself to express his true convictions, and so found himself retreating from what he knew to be right.

Maybe.  To me, that sounds a bit minimizing.  Paul does not mince words in Galatians 2.11 when he says that he opposed Peter to his face, because he stood condemned (assumedly before God, in Paul’s view).  Even more, Paul describes Peter’s withdrawal from table fellowship as “separating” himself, a theological description of what happened (v.12).  And again, twice in v.13 Paul labels the behavior of Peter, Barnabas and others as hypocrisy.  This all was not in step with the truth of the  gospel (v.14).  There is hardly a minimization, dismissal, qualification by Paul for Peter’s actions!   Rather he uses the strongest semantics possible (condemnation, separation, hypocrisy, non-gospel) to make his case for the gravity of Peter’s actions.

Thus, I will be preaching and applying this from the vantage point that – IN THE MOMENT – something else ruled Peter’s heart/actions other than the magnificent gospel of Jesus that had also been revealed to him.  In the moment, Peter caved to an alternative passion.  This is not unlike our testimony of passionate Peter in other stages of his journey (consider Matthew 16 and his standing toe-to-toe to obstruct Jesus on the way to the cross; also Matthew 26 in his denial of Jesus at the cross).  I am all too like Peter.  In spite of what I believe to be true, confess to be true, long to be true … at unguarded moments I live my life guided by sabotaging “ruling passions” that are not in step with the truth of the gospel.  I need the body of Christ in relationship to show me my blindness.  My guess is that my congregation is no different. We need to weigh this text vis-a-vis our ruling passions as well.  God give us relationships under the umbrella of the truth of the gospel to uncover our deception and blindness for Jesus sake!

Second, why did Paul wait so long to call Peter out in front of other Antiochan Gentile/Jew Christians?  How long did Paul let this un-gospel separation continue before he spoke up?

On one level, we simply do not know how long Paul observed Peter’s “separation” before he publicly spoke up.  We do know, however, that sufficient time elapsed such that Barnabas and “the rest of the Jews” could fall in line with the hypocrisy.  Perhaps Paul waited to watch matters unfold to discern whether he should go to Peter privately (Matthew 18.15-18) or to pursue things publicly due to the communal defection at play.  We do not know.  I simply point out to you that on first read, it appears this whole incident occurs in one lunchroom encounter.  Having examined the text and extant reading, I am now convinced that this situation went on for some while such that it had time to permeate Barnabas and others before Paul was compelled to speak up on behalf of the gospel.

May God work through his Word studied and preached and heard in his local church, such that we will walk in step with the gospel and not bow IN THE MOMENT to our own ruling passions that sabotage what we know to be true in Jesus!

Peace.

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galatians 1.1-10

1 Paul, an apostle— not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father,who raised him from the dead— and all the brothers who are with me,

To the churches of Galatia:

 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,  who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—  not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

10 For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.

 
The greeting of Paul’s letter to the churches in Galatia stands out.  Simply stated, that’s what it does.  
 
It is different.  
 
Of all his thirteen letters, Galatians is unique in that it lacks many traditional elements while it includes additional.  For example, in virtually ever Pauline epistle, there is the naming of Paul, a greeting, a naming of the recipients, and an immediate thanksgiving.  In Galatians, however, we find that Paul names himself and then adds a defense of his apostolic credentials.  Similarly, he extends his greeting with a theological confession and doxology (in v.3-5 he says more than “grace and peace”), even as he replaces the traditional thanksgiving with a shocking word of rebuke.  
 
Perhaps the uniqueness of the Galatians intro could lie in the fact that this was Paul’s first letter and he would develop his “traditional” form in time.  Maybe but doubtful.  More than likely,  the reason for the differentness of Galatians was the provenance of his writing.  Paul had something to share with an attitude of urgency – so his greeting launched with a personal defense, theological underpinning and tenor of astonishing rebuke (why not just skip the thanksgiving when you have something like that to say!)
 
What did Paul have to say?  What is his point in the first 10 verses?
 
What is his point? His point is that anything different than the gospel is not good news!  No, its more than that.  Anything even slightly different than the gospel (as defined in v.4-5 about what Christ gave up for us, not about what we give up for him)… it is no good news at all.  Paul is amped up from the beginning of this letter.  In this section he gets to the point.  He curses (calls anathema twice) anyone who has preached to the Galatians anything other than the gospel of Christ and his righteousness.  He declares that to distort the gospel or to turn to something beyond Christ is to desert God in full (v.6-8).  And all this he says immediately after a bizarre greeting in which he does not thank the Galatians for their faith, but mainly defines the gospel (v.3-5) and defends his authority (v.1-2).
 
There is no fear of man in Paul… only fear of the God of the gospel.  What he says must be said, regardless what his detractors may say of him… not that it matters – for if I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. (v.10)
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two posts, two days… what’s going on!

I wanted to drop another post in the post-box.  Not that I have time to be doing this, but…

In working on my exposition (sermon) this week, I have wrestled with Colossians 1:24-2:5.  It has been exactly  that… a laborious, agonizing prep time.  Some weeks are like this.  I am thankful for the struggle, especially when the text from which I am preaching is about the struggle!  Agonizing to get the fulness of the Word right so as to present people mature in Christ!  So… this week, as I was exposed to the Word – then exposed to myself – then to the gospel for myself… I got a bit poetic.  This never happens.  I am a prose guy who writes with two many fragments and not sentences.  Really.  Oh, and I don’t know how to write poetry.  Apparently there are no rules to it (sentence fragment duly noted).

Here you go – from Colossians 1:24-2:5

the Word is the mystery

the mystery is Christ

(and yet there is more)

Christ is the hope of glory

in you.

___

in the Word I rejoice

for the mystery I struggle

(yet I wish I did more)

Still this is my stewardship

for you.

___

to complete what is lacking, seriously… lacking?

to rejoice in suffering, seriously … suffering?

(I need to know more)

this is a mystery

to me.

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A letter to a young pastor

I have decided that in this pre-season to the West Valley PCA church plant, that I will spend my summer morning study time in the books of 1st and 2nd Timothy.  I have read them numerous times, but if yesterday and this morning are indicative of the timely application by the Spirit – than this time around in this season of life will be both grounding and groundshaking. 

I have always felt like Timothy – for no other reason than age and stage.  Young pastor.  No apologies.  Preach the Word.  But as I have re-entered Timothy’s world, the way Paul exposes himself through his letter engages my need and my church plant context well.

In ch.1, Paul charges Timothy (who he has left in the important city of Ephesus to revitalize the church – in safeguarding doctrine and in encouraging the saints) to “wage the good warfare” of the ministry (1:18-19).  I wonder at the kind of warfare in which Timothy was engaged.  Obviously it was doctrinal and within the church (1:3-11), among other things.  At the moment, while I am called to doctrinal integrity in leading WVPC and as a PCA pastor, I am thankfully not waging doctrinal wars within our core.  At the same time, I know that the minute we formulate a gospel-kingdom vision that is Word grounded (over the next month), we open ourselves up to “identity warfare” from within and without.  God knows I need these Words to Jimothy.

But what hits me is not as much Paul’s instruction to Timothy about doctrine and loving God’s flock (1:5), rather, it is his own confidence in his calling to disseminate the gospel and shepherd God’s church.  Without even calling Timothy to “confidence in his calling” (which I need), Paul begins his letter by modeling such confidence.  How can it be that the apostle Paul is so confident in his weakness to defend truth, to engage culture, to shepherd Ephesus through shepherding Timothy, and to lead a missionary movement of gospel-church planting – all with the Word of God central and powerful with no apologies?!?   In reading yesterday and this morning, in the 1st chapter alone, I am encouraged to find 4-fold reason for his confidence… the same reasons I MUST confidently tread forward as a churchplanting leader (of lay-churchplanters) at West Valley PCA.

The ministry confidence of Paul, modeled for Timothy and Jimothy:

  1. God his Savior had COMMANDED him (1:1).  I am either commanded of God to serve in his ministry as an agent of reconciliation to a broken world/church, or I am not.  I am.
  2. God had ENTRUSTED him with the gospel of the glory of God (1:11).  The same gospel is for WVPC, for Emmaus, for Lower Macungie, for the Lehigh Valley, for the nations, for my family, for me.  Same entrusting.
  3. God his strength-Giver had APPOINTED him for his particular service inspite of all he had been (1:12).  I have been appointed in this moment of time, in spite of all I am, to lead gospel-centered, God-centered church planters to plant WVPC (inspite of all they have been as well).
  4. God had DELIVERED him from his sin (1:12-17).  All of it.  The Gospel changes the message-bearer before it engages the message receiver (Psalm 51:13).  I am equally delivered in Christ from the worst of all I am.

So I ask myself: Jimothy – has God COMMANDED your life into existence, ENTRUSTED you with the gospel of salvation, APPOINTED you to the particular call in the Lehigh Valley, and DELIVERED you daily from your worstness of sins?  

Yes he has.  (say it with confidence please) 

YES HE HAS!!!! 

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