Summary: Paul "stood in the gap." Heresy was threatening the churches in Galatia that was so powerful that even Peter and Barnabas were swayed by its influence. What Paul did can tell us a lot about the importance of standing firm against false teachings and standing up to protect God's people
OPEN: About 500 years before Jesus was born in Bethlehem, a famous battle took place in mountain pass called Thermopylae in Greece. The Persians invaded Greece with approximately 150,000 soldiers, and King Leonidas of Sparta led a small force of soldiers to oppose them. The Spartan strategy was to force the Persians to funnel huge army thru a small pass and hold them off until the other Greek cities could get their own army ready. It’s said that the Persians sent a messenger to King Leonidas saying how futile their fight was: “Our archers are so numerous that the flight of their arrows darkens the sun.” But the Spartan King was not intimidated: “So much the better. For we shall fight in the shade.”
You have to admire courage like that. This small Spartan army died in that pass, but their courageous stand delayed the Persians long enough for the rest of Greece to prepare their armies, and later defeat the Persians.
They stood in the gap and ultimately, Spartans helped save Greece. By refusing to yield, King Leonidas was declaring: You shall not pass. As long as I live, I will stand in your way!!!
Now intriguingly, there are times when God calls for us (His people) “stand in the way.” In Ezekiel 22:30 God declared: “I sought for a man among them who would make a wall and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land….” And in Proverbs 25:26 God warns us “Like a muddied spring or a polluted fountain is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked.”
God’s people - at our best - are willing to stand in the gap and resist evil. There will come times when the church will be threatened, both from OUTSIDE and from INSIDE, and how strong the church is will depend on who stands in the gap.
But now, the question is - how exactly are we supposed to do that? How exactly do we “stand in the gap”? Well, A couple things come to mind
1st - God expects us to defend and protect His church. Now, the first line of defense in protecting the congregation are your elders. Paul talked with the Elders at Miletus and told them: “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears.” Acts 20:28-31
You see, ultimately, it’s the job of the Elders to protect the flock. And we (who are part of that flock) have to LET those Elders do their job. But they don’t have to do it alone. YOU have a role in protecting the church as well, and that role has to do with prayer.
In Psalms 106:23 “(God) said he would destroy (Israel)—had not Moses, his chosen one, stood in the breach before him, to turn away his wrath from destroying them.” Moses stood in the gap… and he protected Israel from the wrath of God. While Moses had been up on the Mountain receiving the Law, the Israelites had intimidated Aaron into creating a golden calf. And so when Moses came down from the mountain he found them doing things they ought not to be doing and he was mad. And God was mad. And God said “Let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you.”
But Moses implored the LORD his God and said, “O LORD, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand?...
And the LORD relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people.” Exodus 32:10-11 & 14
Moses - one of the greatest men of the Old Testament – protected God’s people by prayer.
ILLUS: This past week, I was encouraged-talking to one of the ladies of the church. She told me that she regularly prayed for me and Scott, and a number of the Elders in the congregation. You know what she was doing? She was protecting us thru her prayers (And I know that a number of you have been lifting the church up in prayer).
I like this statement: “Prayer unlocks the power of Heaven, and shakes the gates of Hell.” When you pray, you unleash the power of God, and you make Satan tremble.