Summary: This message encourages believers to come together in the truth and work together for the truth in order to fight the threats to our freedom in Christ.
Freedom’s Threats (Galatians 2:1-10)
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 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)
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?
vs.1 Fourteen years later – i.e., 14 years after Paul’s first visit to Jerusalem, he says – I went up again to Jerusalem, this time with Barnabas – his mentor and colleague in ministry. I took Titus along also – one of their Gentile converts.
vs.2 I went in response to a revelation and set before them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. But I did this privately to those who seemed to be leaders, for fear that I was running or had run my race in vain.
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 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.
vs.3 Yet not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek.
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.
vs.4 This matter arose because some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves.
They wanted to sabotage Paul’s ministry and turn his converts into slaves to their own religious systems. But…
vs.5 We – i.e., ALL the leaders in the church – WE did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might remain with 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.