The Importance of the Gospel
The third message in the Galatians series.
(Find the other messages from this series here)
The Importance of the Gospel
How many of you remember how good McDonald’s French Fries use to be? When I was a kid there was a McDonald’s was right down the street form our house and they would have these runs where Cheeseburgers were only $0.35. 35 Cents! We would go there and get a burger each and split a big fry and play on the playground.
In 1990, McDonalds changed their fries. A man by the name of Phil Sokolof began to pressure McDonalds to make their food less fatty and more healthy. Sokolof was a reasonably healthy person who had a heart attack in his mid 40’s, so he used his amassed wealth to take on big food companies, pressuring them into changing their menu and recipes. He took out full page ads telling people how unhealthy the fries were because they were cooked in Beef Tallow. The VP of McDonalds went toe to toe with Sokolof on Good Morning America. Sokolof talked about the fat in Big Macs, the unhealthy chicken nuggets, but his primary argument was the French fry.
McDonalds had used the same recipe since it was started in the 50’s- Ray Croc who took the company national said that the preparation of the French fry was sacred. But after continued pressure from Sokolof, they changed the oil they cooked the fries in from Beef Tallow to mixtures of vegetable oils- cottonseed oil and the like. (Hear more about this on Malcom Gladwell’s Podcast)
They caved to the pressure and the fries were never the same- and it seems that the fries were actually less healthy because they were filled with trans-fats. Now the fries are like something made in a lab- if you don’t eat them within 3 minutes they start to turn hard like plastic. If you ever come across a French fry that fell under the seat of your car on that road trip 6 months ago, it looks identical to how it did when it you dropped it.
McDonalds did what many companies and organizations do- they caved on what they profess to hold in highest regard to appease the largest or loudest crowd.
In Galatians 2 we see that Paul cared about nothing but the gospel. He was dedicated to it and it alone-
Paul was too committed to the gospel to cave for largest or loudest crowd.
To see this in action, you need to understand that Paul’s opponents in Galatia churches were trying their best to discredit Paul. They had said who is Paul? And then they had tried to say that Paul’s gospel was different from Peter’s gospel and the gospel of the teachers in Jerusalem.
They were highlighting the differences between Paul and his team and Peter and his team. They were making this about Team Paul and Team Peter and people were divvying up like pre-teen girls reading young adult fiction. When Paul would write to the Corinthians he had to deal with people being Team Apollos, Team Barnabas, and Team Paul. That was a popularity contest. It was about which teacher they liked best.
This was about supposed differences in doctrine. However, it was a made up controversy used for political purposes by the false teachers. They were trying to create a gap between Paul and Peter when there wasn’t one- John Stott said, “they weren’t robbing Peter to pay Paul, but rather they were praising Peter to spite Paul.”
Paul had established that his gospel came from the lips of God through Jesus Christ’s appearance to him.
Paul had established that his gospel was not from Peter and the others, but now he wanted to clarify that while it wasn’t from Peter and others, it was from the same source as Peter’s. Their gospel was that of Jesus Christ and so was Paul’s.
They both proclaimed an authentic gospel. So when Paul was gearing up his ministry, he consulted with them to be sure that they were not running in vain.
This was not the meeting of the minds over the circumcision issue, it was just a meeting to be clear that Paul was called to preach the gospel to the gentiles. Paul says when he went there to talk about ministry to the gentiles, he brought Titus along and what happened then shows us that
The Gospel is more important than Our Preference (1-5)
When Titus and Paul get to this meeting, there were some that shouldn’t have been there- they were either false brethren or weak brethren who weren’t leaders, but had come into the meeting as impostors- portraying themselves as strong and mature-
They said that Titus should be circumcised (which for obvious reason would be the ultimate gesture of becoming a Jew)- but Paul says in verse 5, we didn’t submit to them for even an hour- not even for a moment in our vernacular- so that the gospel wouldn’t be withheld from you.
Paul says no, we are not going to tell Titus that he has to be circumcised to be a Christian… However, another of Paul’s young greek ministry partners named Timothy would be circumcised later on so that it would not be a reason to hinder his witness. I would LOVE to look back on the conversation that Paul had with Timothy about this…
Paul is saying- this is not a requirement for salvation- there are things that we will do so that the ministry is not hindered… What was the ultimate priority? The Gospel. When circumcision was going to threaten the purity of the gospel, it wasn’t considered for a moment. When a lack of circumcision was going to hinder the expansion of the gospel, it was undertaken.
NOTHING IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN THE GOSPEL!
Paul is saying that we are not going to weaken the gospel by saying that you need to be a Jew or make an effort to be like a jew- we are not going to weaken the gospel for the sake of your feelings!
So Paul says, my gospel didn’t come from them, but it has been considered and approved by them.
Paul says those that were the “Pillars” Peter, James, and John – they didn’t require this- they stood with us. They didn’t add anything to my gospel and they gave me the right hadn’t of fellowship, they welcomed me and they supported my ministry to the greeks as they ministered to the gentiles. They were focused on a different calling, but our gospel and doctrine were exactly the same. When Paul and Peter did come to a place of opposition was later in Antioch. Peter came there to visit them and while there he ate with gentiles like Paul and Barnabas did- but then something happened. Jews that held to the Jewish customs and would not eat with a gentile showed up and Peter didn’t want to offend them so he shunned the greeks.
The Gospel is greater than our Race
Peter feared the opinion of the Jews and capitulated to it in a way that harmed the greeks that he had ministered to- he was being a hypocrite. Paul would have Timothy take steps to be able to minister to Jews, but he never took steps that would hurt believers or give an inaccurate picture of the gospel.
There are times that I respect the preferences and tastes of others so that I can minister to them, but I will never honor the preferences of another over the cause of the gospel or to the detriment of others. That is what Peter was doing, he was respecting the preferences of others to the detriment of others, so Paul confronted him.
This is crazy. After all, Peter had received a vision from God telling him to no call unclean what the Lord had called clean. Peter was the first to the share the gospel with gentiles. Peter had stood with Paul on the issue with Titus. But he caves in Antioch out “fear of the circumcision party.” For some reason, they intimidated Peter. Peter looks like the same guy who denied Jesus when asked by a servant girl if he knew him.
Peter fell prey to the opinions of others. He had a problem with a fear of man. He was scared of what they would say about him, what rumors would be spread about him back in Jerusalem.
Peter wasn’t a racist, but he was capitulating to the opinions of the Jews who wouldn’t eat with the gentiles. This wasn’t just about religious practices, this was about people refusing to eat with others- this was about who you got to sit with at the lunch table.
The Judaizers were once again acting like snobby teenagers- trying to split into cliques.
I was born in Nashville- the south. However, my father had lived in Columbus, OH as a teenager. My mother had lived in Norfolk, VA. My mother’s maid of honor and best friend through my childhood was a woman of color. I saw her regularly until she went to serve on the mission field as a teacher. When we moved to VA I belonged a baptist church with diversity on the deacon board. I didn’t think anything about the fact that there were people of color serving in ministry alongside of me and teaching Sunday school classes. It seemed totally normal to me.
When I went to North Carolina to attend Bible College is when I realized how segregated churches are… There are didn’t encounter overt racism, but what I did find is that a lot of people capitulated to racism. They shrugged it off as “just the way it is down here” or it’s a generational thing…
I wrote this message on Wednesday- then I watched the news from the campus of UVA with horror this weekend. What has happened in Charlottesville this past weekend is despicable. People marching with torches, giving the Nazi salute, and hurling racial slurs is anti-gospel and anti-christian.
Racism isn’t something to shrug off. Paul apparently didn’t think so. He thought it was worthy of speaking up about- because Paul spoke up about any sin that would hinder the gospel.
We must not compromise on the gospel to avoid standing against the opinions of man.
I’ve had to say goodbye to people because I would not require a dress code. I’ve had tense conversations with frustrated people because they don’t like our hymns- We do not do what we do here because we are catering to preference, we do what we do here because we are passionate about the gospel.
The gospel is more important than your preferences and your opinions of me. We will not capitulate to your preferences or prejudices- the gospel is far too important for that.
Today our world is full of people who think our gospel is unhealthy. They think our stand for truth is like frying potatoes in beef tallow- but we will not capitulate to appease this world- the gospel is far too important than that…
The Gospel is greater than your Status.
So Paul confronts Peter and this was HUGE. Peter was THE guy. He was the church father that had walked on water. He had preached on the day of Pentecost. He had been delivered from jail and death. Paul himself had called Peter a pillar of the faith earlier in the chapter. Who was Paul? Not only was Paul the newer guy, he was in the minority. Even Paul’s ministry partner Barnabas had followed Peter’s lead- I mean it’s Peter.
When the actions of anyone runs contrary to the gospel, it’s not our right to hold them accountable, it’s our responsibility. BIG DIFFERENCE between a right to call someone out and the responsibility to do so…
Paul went to Peter and spoke directly to him to his face and before them all. This was a public head on collision. The wrong had been public, so the correction needed to be public as well. There have been times that we’ve had to deal with public sin and we’ve had to deal with it in a public way. At times there has been private sin and we’ve dealt with it in a private way. None of this Instagram Worthy. This is all awkward.
Accountability is awkward but essential.
This is more than dealing with people, this is confrontation. This is disagreement. This is not caving to the expectations of others even when they’re powerful or loud. This is not going with the flow…
However, just as he had referred to the importance of the matter in Jerusalem as the “truth of the gospel” in verse 5, he does again here in verse 14- the truth of the gospel. Paul says here that Peter is not walking straight or in accordance with the gospel. The gospel was at stake and the gospel is more important that Peter or Paul’s reputation.
Paul wraps all of this up by giving a concise but clear presentation of this gospel in verse 16, but right there in it we see that Paul puts he and Peter in the same boat. He says in verse 15, “We who are Jews by nature.” In verse 16 he says, “even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ”
You know what he’s saying? He’s saying “Me too.” He had called out Peter, but he hadn’t put Peter down. He had pulled Peter down. There’s a difference. He hadn’t put Peter in his place, he had put Peter in their place. Paul didn’t see himself as greater than Peter, he saw them both as lost and broken, just as saw all the gentiles and jews.
Paul didn’t believe that Jews were superior or that Gentiles were superior, Paul believed that all were lost and needed the gospel.
In Acts 15 we read that after all of this happened in Antioch that the brothers gathered in Jerusalem for a meeting. Peter stood and defended Paul and Barnabas. He called out the Judaizers. He said, let’s not lay on them a burden we’ve been unable to bear-
Peter had failed to sit with the gentiles in Antioch, but he stood up for them and the gospel Jerusalem. Most importantly he stood for the gospel. Peter, once again finds the right- God was gracious to Peter, like he is to all of us…
What have we made more important than the gospel? What have we chosen to hold in higher regard than the gospel? The opinions of others? Our preferences? Our Comfort? We say that the gospel is important to us, but we hold greater allegiances to our own preferences, the are biased toward our own comfort, and we are most invested in our own status. Oh that people were as passionate about the gospel as they are about politics, hobbies, sports, and career!