Summary: If we're going to enjoy our freedom in Christ, we must come together FOR the truth of the Gospel and work together IN the truth of the Gospel.
An Arab chief tells a story of a spy who was captured and then sentenced to death by a general in the Persian army. This general had the strange custom of giving condemned criminals a choice between the firing squad and the big, black door. As the moment for execution drew near, the spy was brought to the Persian general, who asked the question, “What will it be: the firing squad or the big, black door?”
The spy hesitated for a long time. It was a difficult decision. He chose the firing squad.
Moments later shots rang out confirming his execution. The general turned to his aide and said, “They always prefer the known over the way to the unknown. It is characteristic of people to be afraid of the undefined. Yet, we gave him a choice.”
The aide said, “What lies beyond the big door?”
“Freedom,” replied the general. “I've known only a few brave enough to take it.” (“Reasons to Fear Easter,” Preaching Today, Tape No. 116; www.PreachingToday.com)
The door to freedom scares a lot of people. They prefer the comfort of the known, even if it means death to the uncertainty of the unknown. As a result, very few people actually find freedom from the attitudes and habits that enslave them day after day. They live their lives under a cloud of condemnation just waiting to be shot down in front of a firing squad of self-righteous critics.
My friends, that’s no way to live your life! God intended for us to live free, to enjoy life in His Son, and to enjoy Him in this life on our way to heaven.
The question is: how? How do we get the courage to walk through that big, black door of freedom? How do we get the courage to live free as God intended us to? How do we get the courage to enjoy real liberty in Christ? Well, if you have your Bibles, I invite you to turn with me to Galatians 2, Galatians 2, where we find out how to get that courage.
Galatians 2:1-2 Then after fourteen years [i.e., 14 years after Paul’s first visit to Jerusalem, he says] I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas [his mentor and colleague in ministry] taking Titus along with me [one of their Gentile converts]. 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. (ESV)
Paul was afraid that his ministry among the Gentiles might all come to nothing, because of the false teachers that dogged his steps. Paul would teach the Gentiles that freedom from sin is gained simply through faith in Christ. Then Jewish false teachers would come along right behind him and tell these new believers that they must also obey the Mosaic Law in order to enjoy favor with God. They would teach these Gentiles that in order to be good Christians, they must first be good Jews like they were and be circumcised.
So Paul goes to the leaders of the church in Jerusalem along with Barnabas (his Jewish colleague in ministry) and Titus (a Gentile convert). They are going to try to come together in the truth in order to keep false teachers from blocking the way to true freedom. Acts 15 gives us the full details of this conference, but the upshot of it all is found in the next verse.
Galatians 2:3 But even Titus, who was with me, was not forced to be circumcised, though he was a Greek. (ESV)
The point is Gentiles don’t have to become good Jews in order to be good Christians. They don’t have to be circumcised. They don’t have to keep some legalistic standard in order to find favor with God. All they have to do is trust Christ. This was a very important matter on which all the leaders in the early church were able to agree.
Galatians 2:4 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— (ESV)
They wanted to sabotage Paul’s ministry and turn his converts into slaves to their own religious systems. But…
Galatians 2:5 to them we [i.e., ALL the leaders in the church] WE did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you.
The first century believers came together in the truth of the gospel. They all agreed that our salvation is by God’s grace alone through faith in God’s Son alone without any additional requirements. They stood together against the legalists of their day, not giving in to them for one moment. And that’s what we must do if we’re going to enjoy our freedom in Christ. We must…