Dr. Danny Campbell
This young convert was deeply impressed and determined to make these the rules of his life. From that day onward throughout his life he made it a rule to spend the first moments of his day alone with God and God's Word. Before he read a letter, looked at a paper or even read a telegram, he went first to the Bible, that the first impression of the day might be what he got directly from God.
- Series: Facing Life's Challenges with the Apostle Paul
- Scripture: Galatians 2:1-21
Part 5 of Dr. Danny Campbell's "Facing Life's Challenges with the Apostle Paul" series. This is Dr. Danny Campbell's sermon from the 8:15 a.m. service.
Saul Fights for Integration
Happy Birthday America!
I love our Declaration of Independence.
Let me read from the start of it.
In Congress, July 4, 1776. The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen United States of America, When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…
I love it – all men are created equal and have unalienable rights!
This is the fifth message in a series entitled Facing life with the apostle Paul
We seen Saul get saved and baptized. We have seen him grow in Christ. We saw him come to grips with the fact that his thorn in the flesh would remain, and realize that God’s grace is sufficient.
And last week we saw him recruited by Barnabas to minister in Antioch, the first church to include both Jews and Gentiles. Saul was uniquely qualified to reach both, because he was well acquainted with both the Jewish and Gentile mind.
Our founding fathers were among the first political leaders in world history to dare and assert that all men are created equal and have unalienable rights! But today we will see that Saul blazed the way in fighting for unalienable gospel rights in the church 2,000 years ago!
Read Galatians 2:1-21 Saul Fights For Integration Let’s Pray!
Jews and Gentiles were turning to Jesus and the faith was spreading. Acts 11:26 tells us that the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch. It was a growing multicultural church with a big heart for God, just like Barnabas and Saul.
In AD 47 the church at Antioch heard that the saints in Jerusalem were experiencing a great famine. Here’s what Acts 11:29-30 says –
Then the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea. This they also did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul. -Acts 11:29-30
Think of it – the church in Jerusalem had helped them get organized as a church plant, and now the church plant was helping the mother church. I love that it says they each gave according to their ability to do so. That’s what God asks each of us – give 100% of ourselves to God, anf give as we can to meet needs.
Now this trip probably corresponds with what I just read in Galatians 2, when it says that Paul, Barnabas, and Titus went up to Jerusalem 14 years after Paul’s conversion.
What Barnabas had done for Paul Paul was now doing for Titus. The Bible makes very clear that Titus was a Gentile Christian who never got circumcised.
You will remember that all Jews were required under the Old Covenant to be circumcised. Some Jewish Christians thought all Gentile converts should be required to be circumcised and obey all aspects of the Mosaic Law. This became a key question facing the early church.
Look at Galatians 2:2
In Jerusalem Paul shared that when he evangelized Gentiles with the gospel of Jesus Christ he did not require them to observe the cultural expectations of Jews, including circumcision, manner of dress, and dietary restrictions.
Neither the Apostles Peter and John, nor Pastor James told Paul he was wrong. They did not make Titus the Gentile get circumcised. They agreed with Paul against those who were insisting that circumcision was necessary for salvation.
But make sure you get this –
Unfortunately the same major church leaders who agreed circumcision was not necessary for salvation were still reluctant to try and integrate cultural Jewish believers and cultural Gentile believers like was happening in Antioch.
Now to fully get this we have to take a look at what God was doing in Peter’s heart. Turn to Acts chapter 10.
In Acts chapter 9 Peter had taken a trip out of Judea into Samaria and Galilee to minister to Jewish believers. He had healed Aeneas in Lydda and raised Dorcas from the dead in Joppa.
Read Acts 10:1-5
A God-fearer like Cornelius was a Gentile who had come to believe that YHWH was the one true God but balked at adopting the Jewish cultural laws, starting with the act of circumcision. Gentiles who DID get circumcised and become Jews were called proselytes, whereas those who DID NOT were called God-fearers.
The synagogues received their money and let them sit in a different area, but they were not included in the fuller life of the Jewish synagogue.
While staying with Simon the Tanner in Joppa, God came to Peter in a vision.
Read Acts 10:9-16
Those words are key to understanding that the Old Testament civil law, or cultural laws, were no longer binding on any Christian, Jew or Gentile.
Peter went on to Cornelius’ house and led him to Jesus and ate with him there. It doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it was a huge deal as God was bringing down cultural walls in the name of Jesus!
Read Acts 11:1-4
How could you do such a thing, Peter!
God told me to, fellows! Let me ‘splain!
Read Acts 11:18
They all understood that God saves Jewish background people; they now believed that God saves Gentile background believers as well. That did not mean they were ready to come together across their different backgrounds.
That was the backdrop for what we saw last week with Saul and Barnabas’ ministry in Antioch that brought together Jews and Gentiles in church services – it really had not happened yet!
So when Saul and Barnabas went to Jerusalem and conferred with the leaders there about expectations of Gentile disciples, it really was a big moment. But there would still be growing pains!
Turn back to Galatians 2 Look at verses 11-13
Paul challenged Peter over his hypocrisy in gospel application
Peter took a trip to Antioch, I’m guessing to thank the Antioch church for their generous financial assistance during the famine.
And while there he remembered what he had learned in the vision and the time with Cornelius. So he sat down and had a barbecue lunch with the church – Jewish believers and Gentile believers at the same table. Pass the ham boys!
But then some other Jewish believers came from the church in Jerusalem to Antioch. And a second table was set up – there was now one for Jewish believers and one for Gentile believers. Separate seating for different cultures.
Peter got his tray in the cafeteria that day. The day before he ate with Gentile believers. Today, he walked right past them and sat at the Jews only table. And so did Barnabas.
And what had happened was obvious to all those new Christians from a Gentile background. Just like God-fearers sat in a different part of the synagogue, they were expected to sit in different places at church.
Had this not been confronted there might be 2 kinds of churches to this day. They would never really fellowship together because of their differences, despite the fact that all were created in God’s image and Christ had died for them all.
But praise the Lord it did get confronted!
Saul came in to the cafeteria and said, “Oh Heavens no!”
It needed to be addressed publicly, and he did!
Read Galatians 2:14-16
In my mind this is as big a deal in the Bible as when Christ turned tables over in the Court of the Gentiles at the Temple. In that case the issue was gentiles having access to the message of forgiveness. In this case it was access to fellowship.
What an image to think about the great Peter rebuked by the upstart Paul. This could have gotten ugly in a hurry!
There are two hard responsibilities in making Biblical progress on divisive issues– the first is the responsibility to courageously rebuke those in sin; the second is the responsibility to humbly receive rebuke when necessary.
Thank God Saul courageously rebuked Peter and his mentor Barnabas.
The gospel and its implications was at stake, so Saul did not hold back.
Thank God Peter received the rebuke and didn’t split the faith down the middle.
He knew Paul was right. Later this issue was settled at the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15. Look what Peter said there to those who continued to insist the act of circumcision was necessary for salvation –
Why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they. -Acts 15:10-11
Look what Peter later wrote about Paul.
Consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation – as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you. -2 Peter 3:15
Aren’t you glad that Peter received Paul’s rebuke in humility because he knew Paul was right?! I sure am!
Humility and ongoing growth are what it’s all about for believers – along with courageously living out the gospel’s implications for all of life!
We need this in our day.
Think about how much Paul had grown!
As a Hebrew of Hebrews he had discriminated against Gentiles.
Then when Jews started becoming Christians he discriminated against them.
Now he was a Christian, with a deep love that cut across the old cultural barriers.
You have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all in all. -Colossians 3:10-11
The other apostles joined with Paul in agreeing that what Christians become in Christ supersedes any other thing we identify as.
It is more important than our ethnicity, country of origin, political views, sports team we cheer for. Anyone who repents of their sins is welcome in a true church of Jesus Christ. And once a church is planted, it is for everyone!
Unfortunately this is a message that has had to be re-learned across church history as the gospel has cut across deep cultural divides in countries. It takes courage to act like Paul did, it takes humility to act like Peter did.
To sum it all up, let’s state again what Paul does in Galatians 2:6b
God shows personal favoritism to no man. -Galatians 2:6b
God doesn’t do it, let’s not do it either!
Tabernacle family, let’s show all souls the double value God’s Word does, and lets welcome red and yellow black and white and all shades in between!
For it to be a reality, Galatians 2:20 needs to be true in our lives.
I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. -Galatians 2:20