The Gospel of Jesus Christ must be defended. The truth must remain pure, undefiled. Too many of us put up with letting little half-truths into the church for the sake of looking kind. Too often we allow people to speak perversions of the Gospel, which sound right but are not, thinking that everyone has the same foundation, maturity, or knowledge we have and can stand firm against these lies. But not everyone can, because not everyone recognizes the lies. People assume that if we, who are more mature are listening, then it must be sound and their beliefs are confused, their conviction becomes sullied because suddenly it is not the Gospel they are hearing, learning, and living, but a gospel which is filled with deceit and bad news. The gospel of works, laws, religion, and ritual is not the Gospel of Jesus Christ it is the gospel of the one speaking it, the gospel of Satan: I-theism. We cannot let just anyone teach and we cannot tolerate any lies being taught, even accidentally.
Paul was telling the church at Galatia why they should trust that he spoke the Truth to them and why he had the right to preach it to them. He was warning them to keep false gospels out of the church. In chapter 1 he had told them about the education he had received via The Holy Spirit at the feet of Jesus and then how he had learned under Peter and James. In this chapter he continued to explain that he had spent the next fourteen years maturing, developing, and learning before finally being called by God to his ministry. Verses 1-2 read,
Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along with me. 2 I went up because of a revelation and set before them (though privately before those who seemed influential) the gospel that I proclaim among the Gentiles, in order to make sure I was not running or had not run in vain.
Paul didn’t disclose who those influential people were, but simply that they were respected in the church. He went to the apostles and to these influential men and confirmed with them the revelation he had received for his ministry. Paul was an apostle had been a Christ follower for seventeen years but he didn’t presume to keep his revelation secret, he discussed it and was happy to receive the feedback of the others. Even the most mature, the highest up in the church can make a mistake, can hope they are hearing the Holy Spirit but are really hearing themselves. Sharing your revelations with others says you trust that since you all have the same Spirit, He will confirm or refute what He has spoken for all of you together. It gives the body a chance to be united and to share in the work of Christ.
Paul’s ministry was not a run-of-the-mill ministry, it was revolutionary. His ministry was for the Gentiles. For the most part, Christianity in the early church was for the Jews. It was not withheld from Gentiles but it was seen by many as a sect of Judaism. Some people did not think Christianity was ever supposed to be for the Gentile; they fought against it. Paul was ready to fight for it. Verses 3-5 read,
But even Titus, who was with me, was not forced to be circumcised, though he was a Greek. 4 Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in—who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery— 5 to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you.
The enemy Satan is so staunchly opposed to The Gospel of Christ that he had sent spies in, people who pretended to be Christians but were only there trying to bring the sect down. They wanted people back following the Pharisaical traditions of Judaism rather than following Christ and living in His freedom and grace. They had even managed to be among the influential of the church. Acting as if you’re good can get you pretty far in some churches but in the true church the hierarchy is not the same as the world or the false churches. In the true church, if people are paying attention and zealous for the Gospel, the frauds will be revealed. People will be known by who they become as they mature. Jesus described it by comparing wheat and tares (weeds) in Matthew 13:24-30.
He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, 25 but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. 26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. 27 And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ 28 He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29 But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’”
Don’t be deceived, those well-meaning, mistaken people who teach and preach effort instead of faith, ritual instead of relationship, and law instead of love were placed in the church by the enemy. He means to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). There is nothing kind about letting them spread their seeds of deception. But they will be shown for the charlatans they are, they cannot bear the fruit of the Spirit, because He is not in them. But allowing them to spread Satan’s propaganda means they will lead many people to Hell to be burned along with them in the Harvest.
Remember we are not here to please people. We are not here to kowtow to people. We are here to glorify God, please Him and love Him by loving one another. Paul wasn’t inclined to salaaming to anyone, but he did respect the body of Christ and did love them deeply. Paul trusted God enough to know that the Spirit within each of us recognizes Himself in others. Verses 6-10 read,
And from those who seemed to be influential (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)—those, I say, who seemed influential added nothing to me. 7 On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel to the circumcised 8 (for he who worked through Peter for his apostolic ministry to the circumcised worked also through me for mine to the Gentiles),9 and when James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. 10 Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.
That is exactly what happened, James, Peter, and John recognized the Holy Spirit in Paul, they confirmed his ministry to the Gentiles and sent him to his important work. They knew that though different from their own, it went hand in hand with it. Each of us called to a unique ministry, yet the same mission. We are called to make disciples for Christ, but each to varying populations, places, and by differing processes.
There are times though that even those we know to be Spirit-filled, mature, and true must be corrected. We are all flawed and sometimes our flesh or fear overcomes us, sometimes we make mistakes, and sometimes we sin. I’ve been on both ends of the love of Christ shared for one another. I’ve had to pull my pastor aside and say, ‘you said such and such during your sermon, but the Bible says this.’ I’ve had my Brothers and Sisters come to me and say, ‘the revelation you think is from God is not, it does not mesh with what He told us.’ Though difficult, it is love that we exercise when we say these things, it is defense of the Gospel, love for those who will be swayed, and love for the person who sinned. Verses 11-14 describe that happening between Paul and Peter.
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?”
Paul had deep respect for Peter; he had mentored him and he was an apostle and a pillar of the church. But in love he could not let him practice hypocrisy out of fear for pleasing people over God. Peter preached grace just like Paul, because Peter preached the Gospel but he let his fear cause him to practice the legalism the Judaizers practiced. He led several people astray including Barnabas. Paul had to confront him, not to hurt him but to put him and those who followed him back on the right path.
Fear does that, it makes us want to look good in front of people. Honestly consider if you do this. Have you been out with church friends and didn’t order the drink you wanted because it would look bad. Did you pretend in front of them that wine never passed your pious lips? Maybe you gave a ride to a church friend and quickly changed the music from your favorite to the latest acceptable “Christian” music. Those little ears in the back seat are noticing your hypocrisy and learning that pretending to be one way in front of some people is more important than living authentically for Christ. What gospel is your life teaching, the I-theistic gospel of works or the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
It is not abstinence from sinning which saves us. It is not following the traditions of the church or Christian culture that redeems. It is faith in Jesus Christ, it is His blood, His work, and His love that saves. Verses 15-21 read,
We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.
17 But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! 18 For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. 19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.
Jesus saves us, His Holy Spirit transforms us. We don’t have to pretend, we don’t have to live and teach lies. The gospel of works is the gospel Satan would have you believe and live. We died to the law! Why do we keep trying to go back to that dead thing again? We are not slaves to sin who must please Satan by working for salvation that cannot be earned. We are free in God’s grace to live the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If we work to earn salvation then Jesus work on the cross means nothing.
Are you living the Gospel or are you living a lie? Are the people who say they are members of the body with you living the Gospel or are they living a lie? People will follow you, people will follow them. Where are you leading them?