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Weekly Word

Monday
Sep262011

Protecting the Pure Gospel, Part 5

It is very important that we not lose sight of Paul's point in chapter 3 that the purpose of the Law was not to "save" Israel, but rather to point it to Jesus, the Messiah.  Thus, Christians need to be careful that they use the Law and the Gospel properly.  It has been said that the Law thunders from Mt. Sinai and uncovers sin to bind all under guilt.  But the Gospel speaks softly from Golgatha and offers forgiveness of sin and sonship with Jesus.  The key is to understand that the Law teaches us why we need the Gospel.  So Christians can use the law to convince people that they are sinners, but should never use the law to "convince" other believers in the Gospel of Jesus, that they can't be saved because of their lack of performance.

The Child-Heir Analogy

In Galatians chapter 4, Paul begins to more fully explain the truth that in Jesus we have become "sons of God."  He does this by pressing home more fully the analogy of a child-heir.  The first point he makes is that as long as the heir is a child it is functionally a slave.  There is no current difference even though things will change in the future.  The Father puts the child in the hand of guardians and tutors in order to prepare it for a life of working with the Father and eventually taking over for him.  The second point is that this situation always has an appointed end.  In fact in vs. 4 it is phrased this way, "when the fulness of time had come."  This "fulness" can be pictured like a ship that is being loaded with its shipment.  When the bill of shipping has been completely loaded onto the ship then it is full.  Paul compares these two points with Israel.

Israel was in such a relationship.  God made Israel his child and placed it under the supervision and training of the Law.  But this relationship had an appointed end.  That appointed time is both a quantity and a quality of things to occur.  When the time arrived that God had appointed then the Messiah, Jesus, would come forth and lead Israel into adult sonship.  Paul makes sure to emphasize that Jesus was in every way an Israelite, born of a woman, under the law.  Thus the Messiah identified with Israel and suffered with them in their trials, in bondage to the elements of this world.

Paul inserts the idea of redemption in verse 5.  This goes beyond the analogy.  Israel was not just in need of training.  But in a way similar to how Gomer was so adulterous that she sold herself into slavery, so Israel as God's child was a slave to sin and needed to be redeemed or bought back.  In this sense the prodigal son cannot get up and come home because he is in jail and his fine must be paid before he can go home.  Jesus came to pay their fines so that they could experience adult sonship in God's family.

Paul's use of the word adoption is somewhat confusing at first in light of the analogy.  But as I have said Paul has begun to go beyond the analogy and somewhat leave it in the dust as he explains the greater truth of what Jesus has done for Israel.  Adoption makes sense when we look at the Gentiles.  They did not know God and were never part of his family.  Thus they are being adopted into his family.  But how can we say that Israel is adopted?  Perhaps it would be best to ask ourselves how the Gentiles were so estranged from God.  No matter what if you follow any nation's history backwards you will eventually get to Noah, Ham, Shem, and Japheth.  That is somewhere back there they all "knew" the truth.  There had to be a process of rejecting the truth that became so entrenched and so far back into the past that they were completely spiritually lost.  I believe that Paul is saying a similar process had gone on in Israel in spite of God's continual faithfulness to speak to Israel through the prophets.  Though God had treated Israel as a son, because of its sin it was a slave in prison completely estranged from God and in need of redemption and adoption.

The Adoption of Sons

Paul has made it very clear that the adoption of sons is connected to putting our faith in Jesus Christ in Galatians 3:26.  Thus putting our faith in Jesus Christ becomes that final test to entering into adult-heir status.  Those who believe in Jesus are given the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.  This is a picture of the new birth that Jesus speaks of in John 3.  Being born from above, born again, or born of the Spirit is the point at which our spirit-man becomes alive to God.  Before this we may be religious, pray, and sing worship songs, but our spirit is not alive to God.  Our flesh is running the show satisfying desires that are not as altruistic as they appear on the surface.  But when the Spirit of God dwells in our hearts, He enables our hearts to call God, Abba Father.  A term that a child would use of a Father.  It means a close intimate relationship with God our Father.  This means we are no longer slaves under the Law but sons who are heirs and co-workers with God in his business of saving men through Christ.  

This does bring up a point of contention.  Some Christians seem to cop an attitude that says something to the effect that since I'm an adult son and not under the Law then I can do anything I want.  God's grace covers it all.  I know this isn't spoken of in these verses, but give a second to tie this in.

The question really is this, Does the Law have anything to say to us any more?  Once the child becomes an adult his relationship with the tutor changes, but it doesn't necessarily sever, does it?  In fact governments have long understood that laws must be passed in order to have a society, much less a civil one.  So the Law can give us understanding into man's sinful nature as we craft civil laws.  Also the same lessons that the Law taught us we can teach to others who have not been under the tutor.  Thus the Gentiles are made aware of their sin and coming judgment.  The apostles pleaded with Gentiles to save themselves from their wicked and perverse generation in order to avert the judgment of God.  The law can also personally give us wisdom and insight on those things that tend to bondage in life and seek to avoid them.  Thus Christians have not graduated into a life of lawlessness, but rather are now above the law.  It has been said that we walk upon the law instead of being tread down by it, which is a fair point.  However, even in that we must be careful that we are not trying to re-establish the performance of works in our approach to God.  We now have an intimate, adult, relationship with God by which we need not fear and yet, we still desire to be like him.  May the Spirit of God continue to cry out through us Abba Father, as we give ourselves to his business of saving the lost.

Galatians 4A

Friday
Sep232011

Protecting the Pure Gospel, Part 4

Paul reasons with the Galatians that the law did not cancel the promise to Abraham, nor was it God's plan for saving Israel.  This brings up the natural question, "Wait a minute.  Why was the law given to Israel?"  So beginning in verse 19 of chapter 3 Paul begins to deal with this.

Purpose of the Law

First, we need to see the promise to Abraham as two bookends.  God had given Abraham his Promise, which he was to hold onto by faith, until his Seed would come who would bless all the earth.  Paul inserts in verse 16 that the Seed God was pointing to was Jesus, the messiah.  Thus there is this period of nearly 2,000 years that the descendants of Abraham needed to hold onto this promise by keeping their faith in God.  However, God knew, and even hinted to Abraham, that his descendants would have trouble.  When we think of the context of Moses leading Israel out of Egypt and giving them the law, we see that they were in bondage physically.  But, worse they were in bondage spiritually.  They had begun to worship the gods of the Egyptians and yet, they still had 1400 years until the messiah.  They weren't going to make it and I am not just talking spiritually.  This leads us to the first purpose of the law, which is to restrain the outward actions and effects of sin.  This added restraint would serve to help Israel survive as a nation until Jesus came.  As it is, even with the law, God removed them from the land for 70 years and then brought them back.  

Notice that Paul says that the law was added until Messiah.  That means Jesus is the end of God's desire to use the Law within Israel to restrain the growth of sin.  Of course the people of Israel saw the Law as their means of salvation.  So all this is quite puzzling to the religious leaders of Jesus day.  In fact, it was more than puzzling, it was heresy to them.  

The next question Paul answers is whether or not the Law was "against" the promises of Abraham.  The idea here is that if the law doesn't get rid of the promise then does it somehow conflict or interfere with the promises.  In fact, without getting too technical, the word translated against has more the sense of this, is the Law better or above the promises.  Paul's answer to that is a very strong negation, certainly not!  If the law could have given anyone life then God would have used the righteousness of the Law to justify people.  Only the Promise can give life.  This leads to Paul's second reason for the law.

Not only did sin need restrained, but Israel needed to be trained so that they would be able to recognize the messiah and understand what he was doing.  In fact the metaphor given by Paul is that Israel under the law was like a young child being trained by a tutor to prepare them for life as an adult.  In fact, we can see this analogy in a simpler form, which is pointed out in Hebrews 12:6-11.  That form is the family.  Parents train their children, as they see fit, in order to prepare them for life.  Many "laws" that parents give are not purely moral issues.  They are created to prepare the kid for doing well in life.  Here is an example.  A parent may tell a child that they have to go to bed by a certain time at night.  We can debate about whether that is a good rule or not.  But no one can really argue that there is something inherently good about the hour of 9:00 PM that causes all who go to sleep at that time to be blessed somehow.  In other words, there is nothing inherently evil in a child going to bed at 9:30 PM.  So why does a parent make such a law?  For various reasons.  Some that have immediate applications, such as, restraining a child's immature desire to never go to bed.  However, there are also future implications, such as, knowing how much discipline is needed in going to bed to be able to faithfully satisfy the requirements of a job or business, and taking care of a family.  These type of "laws" are like training wheels that are meant to come off when the child is able to keep their balance on their own.  Granted, the Law of Moses did have some purely moral commands, you shall not kill.  Killing will always be an obvious moral wrong.  But the Law also had preparatory laws that were meant to be "dropped" off when Israel reached national adulthood, which was initiated by the coming of Jesus the Messiah.

The Law restrained sin, and prepared Israel to recognize messiah, but there was one more thing it did.  This is shown in verse 22.  For the person who truly loved God and worked hard to fulfill all the requirements of the law there would be a dark side to the law.  Or better yet, it would reveal a dark side within them.  No one is perfect and even when we are successful on the public persona our private self feels the condemnation of the law.  Thus the Law ends up imprisoning each and every son or daughter of the law under the condemnation and guilt of God's wrath.  This may be a horrible idea, but the point is that those who were being honest with themselves would be driven to the place David was in Psalm 51.  Which is quite simply a series of recognitions:

 

  1. Though I want to please God, my heart is drawn to sin.
  2. I am now under the just condemnation of God for sin that even I despise.
  3. Oh God if I am to be saved it will only be by your mercy and loving kindness.
  4. Please save me from myself!

 

The Pharisees' problem was that they hypocritically justified their sin and "muted" the Laws ability to teach them their need for Jesus.  When he tried to show them this they hated him and "muted" him by crucifying him on a cross.  The law is a witness to us that we are sinners and need God to come down and do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.  It is the foundation to the gospel that allows us to stare at the cross and go from horror to brokenness to surrender, and lastly to joy.

Now here is a very important point.  In verse 25 Paul says that Faith takes the place of the tutor or the Law.  We have a tendency to think that grace got rid of the law.  Actually grace satisfied the law and made Jesus the known object of our faith, rather than a "hoped for" act of God.  Let me just say this.  Paul makes it clear that no one has ever been saved by the Law, they have only been cursed by it.  However, in that curse is a blessing for those who will humble themselves and simply wait upon God.  How can they do that?  By faith.  Abraham was saved by faith that looked forward to an unknown blessing of God.  David was saved by believing that God would make a way for his sins to be covered.  Isaiah was saved by trusting God would do what he said he would do, make salvation by his own right arm."  Isaiah waited on the Lord in faith, even though it didn't come in his life time.

Becoming Sons

Paul goes on to talk about the Galatians current "adult" status in God.  Because of their faith in Jesus they were now sons of God who were no longer under the Law.  In fact he points out that those who are baptized in Jesus' name are actually baptized into him and, also put him on.  This may seem puzzling but remember that baptism symbolized death.  Just as Jesus died and was resurrected with the new glorified body provided, so we too die to our old self and take on a new spiritual body.  Definitely these things will be literal and actual in the Ressurrection.  However they have a spiritual application in the now.  Christ becomes the body that we cloth ourselves with spiritually.  I no longer live to please my dead, rotting, flesh but live in order to demonstrate the life and mind of Christ by the help of his indwelling Holy Spirit.

Paul points out in verse 28 that the old distinctions of the Law no longer apply.  Why?  Because both Jews and Gentiles are in the same boat, sinners under God's condemnation.  All may be a part of God's family by faith in the only one who ever "made it" on his own merits, Jesus.  What were those old distinctions that no longer have spiritual implications?  Race.  Economic social status.  Gender.  We all become Abraham's seed in Jesus.  In fact Jesus is the true "melting pot" of the world.  In this sense America doesn't even come close.

Galatians 3B

Monday
Sep052011

Protecting the Pure Gospel, Part 3

Today we will look at chapter 3 of the book of Galatians.  Up till now in this letter, Paul has made the point that man received the Gospel of Jesus through revelation rather than through human reasoning.  Jesus was God himself (not just a human prophet) revealing to us the perfect truth of God.  However the Galatian believers were beginning to listen to human reasoning that led them away from the revelation of God.  In a sense Paul is saying, "I have given you the truth.  So hold on to it and don't let it go.  Don't try to improve it through additions, deletions or both."

Too often people try to pit reason and revelation against each other.  But it is not intended to be so.  They do not cancel each other out.  In fact in chapter 3 Paul continues to reason with the Galatians, but he reasons within the bounds of God's revelation.  So here is the key.  We cannot reason our way into new revelation.  We can only reason within the boundaries of the revelation given by God.  When reason goes beyond the revelation of God it quickly goes astray whether through the good motivations of the righteous or the bad motivations of those who do not believe the revelation of Jesus.  Human reasoning should be restrained like a horse with a bit in its mouth.  When it is unrestrained it can cause all manner of damage and harm.

The Spell-bound Galatians

Paul rhetorically asks who has bewitched them, not because he seeks the identity of the false teachers but to contrast them to the source of the Gospel, Jesus.  You received the gospel from Jesus, but, who has bewitched you.  They are like a snake that has been charmed by some piping professor and, in fact, they are being foolish.  They are acting like they have no understanding of the gospel.

This foolishness has led them to be dissuaded from the truth.  They are no longer obeying the gospel.  A wicked person who enjoys doing wrong is a bad thing, but even worse is a person who does the same and believes they are doing good.  At least the previous person is not deceived about what they are doing and can perhaps be persuaded.  But those who believe they are doing good are difficult to persuade.  They have been dissuaded and are deluded.  That is why Jesus dealt more severely with the Pharisees who thought they had no sin than he did with the woman caught in the act of adultery.  She not only knew she had sinned but was humiliated by it.  She could receive the gospel, but the pharisees, by and large could not.  It is foolish to think that we need more than the gospel, it is the power of God for us, which brings salvation into our lives.  Paul now continues to lay Arguments for why their current position is error and foolish.

Reasoning #1, The Giving of the Holy Spirit

When there is a disagreement about one thing it is often helpful to move to an issue that is not under contention and then compare.  Paul does this by bringing up the giving of the Holy Spirit.  Both sides of this issue accept and agree on the giving of the Holy Spirit.  Thus Paul points out that it was not great performance of the Law that brought about the giving of the Holy Spirit.  Comparitively it wasn't performance of the law that brought about the gospel.  Those reading Paul's letter can remember a time when the Holy Spirit had not been poured out upon them.  The reminder from Paul is that the gospel came to them in the same way as the gift of the Holy Spirit, by their faith in Jesus, and through the means of grace.  Neither did the Holy Spirit/Gospel go out to Israel or the Gentiles because of great performance of the Law.  Quite the contrary, Jesus publically undressed the Pharisees and their false righteousness to demonstrate that they did not "deserve" the Anointed One of God nor the Truth he came to reveal.

The Holy Spirit was poured out on the faithful in spite of national and personal failure.  The apostles all testified to this when they were in the Acts 15 Council.   The Holy Spirit was sent to whosoever would believe regardless of past performance.

In verse 5 Paul contrasts the works of the law with the hearing of faith.  Even the action of this phrase is passive, hearing.  Hearing must be actively mixed with faith or belief.  It is not just hearing which supplies the Spirit, or salvation for that matter.  But the hearing that then mixes it with faith.  There is a mystery of those who hear the same message, but not all mix it with faith.  We must be careful that we do not share the Gospel with only those people "we think" are ready or deserve it.  Many who are steeped in great sin will hear and believe.  Likewise many who are very righteous by the world's standards will hear, but never believe.  The Spirit/Gospel has been made available to all, but only received by those who believe what they hear.

Reasoning #2, Abraham was Justified by Faith

Abraham is not shown to be perfect.  In fact, even his trust in God is mislead by Sarah's plan to have a "Promised Child" through Hagar her maidservant.  Now Abraham, like the Holy Spirit, that both sides were quick to embrace.  Thus Paul takes them back to the Law that they cling to and shows them that Abraham was justified by grace through faith.  He quotes Genesis 15:6 to show that Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness.  Yes, Abraham did some works and even circumcised himself and his child, but it was his belief that was credited as righteousness.  Otherwise we would have to talk about Abraham's slip up with Hagar a different way- "Abraham trusted Sarah and it was debited from his account as unrighteousness."  In fact, none of the patriarchs and godly kings were depicted as perfect law performers.  David's Psalm 51 forever stands as a tribute to his understanding that if it wasn't for the grace of God he would be lost.

If you want to be a "True" son of Abraham who is to inherit the Promise then you need to believe God's testimony about Jesus.  So the question, can we take over for God and perfect ourselves?  It is the Holy Spirit that works within us to perform sanctification over the top of the struggling of our flesh, which we are called to kill daily.  My hope is not that I can now fix myself, or that now that God has set me free from my sins I can do it myself.  My hope is that the Spirit of God will complete that work of making me over into the image of Jesus and that when I see him in the future, I will be like him. 

Reasoning #3, The Law can only Curse People.

Now Paul presses the point home.  The law that they are being told to lean on is quoted in order to demonstrate the curse that is on them.  In other words the very thing they are beginning to trust in is the thing that is condemning them before God.  Quoting from 4 different places in the law he points out that he who embraces the law must perform it completely to live.  But if you fail to keep all the law you are under a curse.  This highlights Jesus statement to those who wanted to stone the adulteress, "He without sin may throw the first stone."  The Prophets that they claim to believe testified that the "just shall live by faith."  If it was up to the law they were all condemned under a curse.  In fact the gospel says that not only shall the just live by faith, but they are the "just" precisely because of their faith in God.

The law operates much like a ratcheting system.  We use that system to tighten bolts or screws and to also loosen them.  Notice that the ratchet moves easily one way but takes force, power, to move the other direction.  Our sin problem causes the laws punishments to ratchet easily against us, but then we are powerless to force it back.  We keep being locked up under the curse and doom of God's wrath, tighter and tighter and less and less able to force it back.  Even our "self-righteous" actions are like filthy rags, unacceptable.  It is precisely this situation from which Christ freed us.  He bought us back from the prison of the laws judgment.  Here is the problem.  Paul tells them that they were under a system that treated them harshly and only condemned them, even when they tried to do good.  It enslaved them and cursed them.  Jesus set them free from it, why, then, would they go back to the law?

Do Christians still do this today?  Let me ask you, have you ever felt that if you did the right things or prayed the right prayer surely God would give you the miracle or answer to prayer you want?  Have you ever contemplated what good things you should do in order to get what  you want from God?  This mentality is contrary to the gospel.  Paul, elsewhere, says that this type of thinking has an appearance of godliness, but it denies the power of God.  You see God loves faith and honors it.  He does not love smug pride in our own performance.  It may look godly to others, but it leaves a foul taste in the mouth of God.

Reasoning #4, The Promise to Abraham vs. the Law.

God made a promise with Abraham and his Seed.  This seed was the Messiah, Jesus, who was to come.  Notice that the Promise was given 430 years before the law.  God did this on purpose to demonstrate that the Promise was superior and not impacted by the law.  The law was not replacing the law nor being added to it.  Next time we will answer the question, so why was the law given? 

Abraham was not called the father of Faith because he performed the law.  Neither did he receive the Promise because of his great law keeping.  God's Promise was for those who believed him like Abraham did.  In fact, it is not the biological blood of Abraham that makes one a child of Abraham and thus inheritor of the Promise.  Rather, it is the spiritual blood (life) of Abraham found in believing God that makes us a child of Abraham.  That's why Jesus charged the Pharisees of being children of the devil, not Abraham in John 8.

Let me ask you, are you a child of God?  It is not by how well you keep the law that makes you a child of God.  It is a combination of God's will and your faith.  God chose to send his son Jesus to reveal the gospel.  If you will embrace that in faith then you will become his child and inheritor of the Promise.

Christian, are you walking by faith in God over the top of your outward circumstances?  Our challenge today is not to make Jesus into the image with which we are comfortable.  We cannot make Jesus into what we want.  Rather we must receive him as he is, and he is the crucified savior.  Yes, he perfectly fulfilled the law, but then was crucified to the things of this life that he might live to God.  We will not follow him by exalting our actions of the flesh.  Rather we follow him by dying to the pride of our flesh and embracing the power of the Spirit made available through the grace of the Gospel.

 

Galatians 3A mp3

Monday
Aug082011

Protecting the Pure Gospel

We are going to be looking at the letter that the Apostle Paul wrote to the churches in the area of Galatia.  This would be central Turkey in our times.  Paul had invested himself into the Galatian churches and, like a father with his children, he is concerned by reports that he hears.  These reports tell of teachers who are misleading these Christians into thinking that they need to keep the Law of Moses in order to be a follower of Jesus.  Paul's concern arises from the fact that what seemed like a slight change that doesn't affect who Jesus is, completely changes the gospel.  It in fact changes it so much that it ceases to be the gospel, it has become a lie that leads people into bondage.  Throughout the letter Paul rebukes, reminds and teaches the Galatians what the gospel is and exactly why salvation is not a matter of Jesus plus the Law of Moses, but rather faith in Jesus alone.  Let's look at the first  two chapters.

The True Gospel

Of course Paul opens by making explicit who is authoring the letter and to whom it was written.  It is here that we see the letter was initially intended for distribution among the churches of the Galatian region.  Even in his greeting to the churches of Galatia we get a foreshadowing of his concerns for them.  He reminds them that the Lord Jesus Christ who gave himself for their sins for the purpose of delivering them from the evil age in which they lived.  This was God's will.  Paul quickly moves to point out the problem that he wishes to address.

The Galatian christians are turning away from Christ in order to embrace a different gospel.  Paul sees Jesus and the gospel as so integrally connected that to change the gospel is to leave Jesus.  Paul's point is not necessarily about the finer fringe points of doctrine to which we may have different opinions.  But rather those issues that are at the heart of the gospel and define what it means to be "saved."  That is what is happening in this situation, which will become evident as the letter progresses.  Suffice it to say that they were being led to believe that faith in Jesus alone was not enough to be saved.  Rather, they also had to keep the Law of Moses.  Paul says this is a different gospel.  In fact it is no gospel at all because gospel means good news.  Thus perversions of the gospel are pointed out by Paul as temptations to draw us away from Christ, even though they pretend to give us greater teaching in Christ.

Next he makes it clear that the gospel they received from him was the "True" gospel.    Here the problem is not angels, nor apostles who have changed their minds.  But Paul starts with the stronger argument that even if he and his companions were to come back and begin teaching a different "gospel" that the Galatians should reject them and let the be under the wrath of God.  He also mentions angels.  Even if an angel were to show up and teach a different gospel then they should reject it and leave that angel to its coming wrath.  The fact that Paul says this twice demonstrates the forcefulness by which he intends to impress upon the Galatians that they already have the True Gospel.  Of course throughout church history false apostles and angelic visitations have led to many perversions of Christianity, otherwise known as cults.

Paul then highlights part of the problem.  He points out the twin issues of persuading and pleasing.  Whom should Christian's persuade and whom should they please?  We ought to persuade men and please God.  But, too often we get this backwards.  In trying to please men we adopt ideas and actions that "plead" with God to change his mind. 

"Surely, you didn't mean what you said, Lord.  You had to really mean this.....  So I will just go along believing what I want to believe.  You agree don't you Lord?"

We don't actually says these words, but our actions are presumptuous.  The presume upon God to agree with us or back us up.  Paul says, his job is not to try and persuade God to change the gospel in order to please teachers who want to add the Law of Moses to it.  Rather, his job is to hear what God says and then to please Him, by pleading with men and persuading them to believe God.

It is important to notice the personal nature of this issue.  Paul is the one who brought them the gospel.  Now that gospel is being perverted.  Thus Paul will spend more time than he is comfortable with talking about himself so that they will be confident that they already have the Pure Gospel.

The Source of the Pure Gospel

Though God used men, the revelation of the gospel came from God himself.  Paul neither made it up nor received it from "wise men."  Rather the Son of God, Jesus Christ himself gave Paul the gospel.  The gospel is not some science experiment's hypothesis, open to further tweaking and refinement by wise men. 

Paul reminds them of his history.  He was very active in persecuting those who followed Christ and tried to destroy the church.  But God powerfully and graciously confronted Paul with the truth of who Jesus was and why he died on the cross.  Paul points out that he didn't confer with the other apostles and run down to Jerusalem to make sure he had heard Jesus correctly.  He had received the gospel from Jesus himself, just like the apostles who were in Jerusalem.  In fact it was three years before Paul went to Jerusalem and even then the only apostles he talked with was Peter and James.  He then continued to preach the gospel throughout the area of Syria and Cilicia (the seacoast area around the Northeastern corner of the Mediterranean Sea).  He did this for 14 years before he ever headed back to Jerusalem again.  Paul's point is to show the confidence in which he held and gave the gospel.  He knew quite clearly that Jesus had appeared to him (more than once) and confirmed the truth of who he was and what the gospel was.  This leads us into chapter 2 of Galatians.

Paul Confronts the Apostles

Paul tells them of a trip he took, at least 17 years after his conversion to Jesus Christ, to Jerusalem after having a revelation from God.  Though he doesn't go into the details of this revelation, it clearly has to do with the "false brethren" (Gal. 2:4) who were stirring up trouble in the areas where Paul preached.  These men were coming from Jerusalem and appeared to have a connection with James, the converted brother of Jesus.  Paul went to Jerusalem to make sure that the Apostles in Jerusalem were teaching the same gospel he was.  He did not want to be risking his life to create converts that someone later would come along and persuade to believe another gospel. 

Several things come of that meeting.  First, Titus, a gentile believer, was not compelled to be circumcised at the time. The point being that if these perverters of the gospel were right then it would have come out then.  The apostles of Jerusalem did not tell Paul that Gentiles had to be circumcised.  Paul uses a term here that gives us a flavor of the gospel versus the law.  Paul says that the false brethren came by stealth to spy out the freedom that Paul's churches had in Jesus.  Thus the law is equated with bondage and the gospel of Jesus is equated with freedom.  This will be further developed later.

Paul points out that the apostles didn't "add anything" to him.  Thus Paul was not deficient in their minds.  Instead they recognized that God had worked powerfully through Paul as an Apostle to the Gentiles like He was working powerfully through Peter as an Apostle to the Jews.  The apostles instead of correcting Paul, gave him the right hand of fellowship.  The one thing they encouraged Paul to do, remember the poor, was something he was already doing.

Paul then brings up a later story in which Peter comes to Antioch to see what is happening there.  At first Peter would eat with the Gentile believers.  But when "certain men" from James came to Antioch, Peter "withdrew and separated" himself from the Gentile believers.  Why?  He feared those of the "Circumcision."  Whether this was a title that they used of themselves or Paul coins it, it becomes an apt description of what they believed and taught.  Peter knew how they thought as well and he, in trying to please men, acted hypocritically.  Notice Paul points out that though Peter knew the truth he was being manipulated into not acting in accordance with the truth.  Paul publically confronted Peter about the hypocrisy of his action and its discordance with the truth of the gospel.  The eloquent defense of Grace that follows (Gal. 2:14-21) is a powerful sermon in itself.  Here we see why Paul is making a big deal of this perverse teaching.  Even the Jews themselves knew they couldn't be justified by the law and that is why many of them followed Jesus.  If it was possible for righteousness to come through the law then Jesus' death was for nothing or unnecessary.  Of course, it was necessary and righteousness is not possible by the law.  Thus, to try and please God through the fleshly requirements of the law, especially circumcision, would be to push aside the grace that God is offering in Jesus.

Today we see all kinds of threats to the Pure Gospel.  In fact, many would throw up their hands and say how can I know that I have the Pure Gospel?  There has been 2 thousand years of people perverting it and twisting it.  This is where we remind ourselves of the Protestant cry of old- "Sola Scriptura," only Scripture.  When we hear the gospel preached today, we do not receive it from a man like Paul or Peter.  These apostles had received the gospel directly from Jesus and were uniquely empowered by his Holy Spirit to have the gospel written down for us.  No matter how many perversions have arisen, the Bible we have today is essentially what the Apostles wrote.  Thus the written word of God and the assistance of the Holy Spirit are the only witnesses that we need of what the pure gospel is.  The false brethren have continued in every generation to try and manipulate God's people into embracing that which is not really a gospel and in so doing to turn them away from the Lord Jesus who died for them that they may know the grace of God.  But their perversions are always obvious when viewed in the light of the Scriptures.  Whether it is a focus on legalism today or a plunging into the pleasures of this world the real question is not what works have you done, but do you really trust Jesus?  Those who trust Jesus will know that they can add nothing in themselves to be acceptable to God.  And, those who trust Jesus will also pick up their cross and follow him.  Let us do so today!