Summary: A part of the Romans series. How did Paul deal with the conflict over "salvation?"
DEALING WITH CONFLICT
* What comes to your mind when you hear this word; Conflict. For the normal person, the very word brings about some physiological changes which correspond to apprehension and stress. Perhaps your heart races, your blood pressure raises a bit, maybe your hands begin to sweat a little, and (depending on the level of these) your skin may “flush” a little. There exist a couple of reasons why just the mention of this word possesses such a response. One reason might be because we approach conflict like we do a sporting event, with a declared winner and a devastated loser. (Our culture has attempted to take away the concept of “losing”, but it is a humanistic attempt which will never take the sting out of losing.) While many other reasons exist as to why we get so stressed at the prospect of conflict, please allow me to mention only one more. Many, it appears, expect to live life without conflict. Incredibly, some seem to believe that “my life should go so smoothly that if I do right, there should never be a problem.” Now, if they don’t believe this, certainly the attitude with which they approach conflict says this is their belief. Because, when conflict comes along, most of the time, we want to ignore it, minimize it, or sweep it under the rug, and hope it will go away and will not grow. Know what I have discovered? Conflict, left unattended, is the most prolific and self-perpetuating of any of life’s experiences. Conflict can be compared to James’ teaching on the tongue. “One little spark (of the tongue) can grow into a wildfire.” So it is with conflict.
* As we continue in our Romans study, we find Paul attempting to teach (particular) the Jewish believers in Rome about salvation and he was having quite a time with them about this thing of salvation. For you see, they had been taught (it was their tradition) that it was through circumcism that the Jewish man would be saved and now Paul was saying that a people were justified (that is, made right before God) by something else. When you add to this scenario that the churches in Southern Galatia were also being infiltrated with those who still believed in Judaism (called judaizers) Paul had the prospect of a real conflict on his hands. Turn with me to Romans 4 and let’s read verses 9-12.
* While it is true that these verses are not normally used to teach about “conflict”, I believe without stretching the point one iota, that we can discern a lesson from Paul about handling difficult situations or dealing with conflict. Let’s read.
* Conflict comes in all sizes shapes and forms. We are a “Baptist Church” and by history and tradition it has been proven that we can get crossed up over the most trivial thing. I read a story about a woman who changed churches because a new woman convinced the hospitality group to change where they placed the pie for the Annual Thanksgiving Dinner.
* We Baptist are known to go to war over things which are equally unimportant (I.E. the color of the carpet, placement of the piano, lights, rooms, styles of music, pews or chairs, choirs or praise teams, and more). The interesting thing to me is this; most of that which we are willing to engage in conflict about has little meaning for eternity. People can be saved on any color carpet, under any type of lighting, whether Jennifer sits on the left, right, or center stage, choir or praise team, these things really do NOT MATTER in light of eternity. (There are many more, very personal things which could be named and be true).
* The conflict which should fill our time is conflict which has eternal value. This is the conflict we see in our text today. In effect, Paul shows us how to deal with conflict. As an aside, conflict (whether trivial or fundamental) must be handled. Conflict which is ignored and left alone will ultimately grow to the point of being a divisive problem. Paul knew this.
* Let see the 3 steps Paul took in dealing with this problem.
1) Ask the Difficult Questions. Generally, people don’t mind the easy questions. Those are the ones which can be easily answered, are non-threatening, or even non-challenging. When the difficult questions begin, many want to scatter like a flock of birds.
* Paul begins like a “Perry Mason” or “Matlock” asking questions which are` at the very heart of this “Faith-works” issue. He asks, “Can only people who are circumcised be saved or can God’s grace actually extend to those who are uncircumcised?”
* We need to understand how serious this issue was (and is) for the Jewish believers and ultimately extends to all people. This was not a “color of the carpet” type of issue. It was a “how to be saved” or “how to miss hell” issue. This controversy struck at the very heart of the doctrine and theology of salvation. Jewish history records the Rabbis making these types of statements; “no circumcised man will ever see hell,” or “if you’re circumcised—that’s it. You’re prevented from hell you’ve got it made” or “Circumcism saves from hell.” By teaching and tradition, this was almost a concept (as John McArthur says) of “salvation by surgery.” Every boy baby was to be circumcised when he was 8 days old and that was it, salvation was based on what we read in Genesis 17. For the sake of you not just taking my word for it, turn to Genesis 17 and let’s read verse 10-11. Notice the word “covenant” in verse 10. What is a covenant?