Summary: Paul’s trip to visit the Jerusalem apostles give insight into the roots of Christian Fellowship.
What’s the Largest Organism in the world? How about the Blue Whale weighing in at 109 tons and over 100 feet? Or maybe a giant redwood at over 200 feet high with a trunk 100 feet around? Or how about this guy right here (Flip to slide of single aspen tree)? The Quaking Aspen. It rarely gets over 100 feet high and you’ll seldom find a trunk more than a foot wide. But the Aspen’s got a secret. What you see in this picture is not the whole story.
(Flip to next slide--photo of aspen grove) This is the rest of the story. The Aspen’s preferred method of growth is by new shoots off the old roots. In this way an individual plant may cover hundreds of acres all growing from a single interconnected root system. While the individual stems rarely live over a hundred years a stand like this one may be 8000 years old.
The interconnectedness of the Aspen gives life and strength. When a fire comes through the forest though every tree may be burnt down the Aspen root survives and quickly reestablishes itself, usually taking over territory formerly inhabited by pines, maples and oaks.
Proposition: We in the church are meant to be like the mighty aspen, not like the oak fighting for survival on our own, but growing from a common root of fellowship in Christ Jesus.
Interrogative: It’s a pretty illustration Pastor but what does that look like in the real world? What is the basis of Christian fellowship, what does it mean to be one stem in the aspen grove.
Transition: In the passage we read today we can see something about that root of fellowship, and what it takes to nourish it as Paul describes the trip that he took to Jerusalem to meet the other apostles. There are seven things I note here that underlie or serve as a basis for our fellowship in Christ the first is...
1Fourteen years later I went up again to Jerusalem, this time with Barnabas. I took Titus along also. 2I 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.
Given what we know about Paul just from what we’ve studied in Galatians so far this is huge concession for him. He was nothing if not sure of his divine call and divine message, yet in humility he goes to see the leaders of the early church and sets before them the message God gave him to make sure that he was getting it right.
It is easy for us to become sure of ourselves in what we think the Lord has called us to, or in what we think "real Christians" ought to think or do or say. A little humility is called for in our life as believers. God has called others too and he may have something to say to you through them. And if you’re sitting there thinking of someone that needs to hear this other than yourself, let me tell you something this is the part of the message that God wants you to hear today.
Christian Fellowship must always be characterized by humility. Next Christian Fellowship has room for...
3Yet not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek.
I believe Paul intentionally brought Titus as an uncircumcised Gentile believer, who was also a model of Christian integrity as a model of God’s grace through faith alone and not by the requirements of the Law. The fact that the Jerusalem brethren accepted him as is became Paul’s proof of the truth that salvation was by God’s grace through faith alone.
That also makes him a model of the fact that salvation and the fellowship of believers transcends racial boundaries. Not only can gentiles be saved, they don’t have to imitate Jews to do so. Not only are blacks and whites brothers in Christ, we don’t have to walk alike, and talk alike, and sing alike, and clap alike to prove that we’re brothers, our bond is deeper than that our bond is in the roots, our trunks don’t have to look the same.
Asian and European, Arab and Latino, Baptist and Lutheran, we are brothers and sisters in our diversity.
The next mark of Christian Fellowship is
4This 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. 5We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might remain with you.