Unity of the Church
Paul is no stranger to the problems facing
the typical church congregation. In this section he gives us a
practical example of practicing the unity of the church while
still remaining true to its doctrine.
Running in Vain
Gal 2:1-2 NASB Then after an
interval of fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with
Barnabas, taking Titus along also.
It was because of a revelation that I went up; and I submitted
to them the gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but
I did so
in private to those who were of reputation, for fear that I
might be running, or had run, in vain.
Have you ever wondered if you are really
doing the things God wants you to do? Paul has the same
difficulty here, and we may be instructed by his example.
Paul’s first answer is simply this: God
(somehow) revealed that he should go up to Jerusalem. But does
God still use revelation this way?
· He certainly does reveal His
will for us in the Scriptures. Sometimes this is in the
general meaning of the Scriptures; others find that
certain passages speak to them in a powerful way, as if
it is their special duty to be guided by such.
· Sometimes He reveals His
will directly. Some of us seem to have this as an
everyday occurrence. Others might get once in a
lifetime. Some never have this at all. There’s a lesson
in faith in that, which is left as an exercise for the
· Often, too, He works to
reveal His will by His providences. Have you ever
noticed that He opened this door and closed another?
Checking with others
Not often mentioned, but usually a good idea,
is to ask those who should know. We seldom hear this advice, but
it is very sound.
· First, it is a form of
mutual submission. Not one of us is so wise as to ignore
the wisdom of all of us. Others may see it differently;
take wise counsel as you may.
· Next, note that Paul did
this privately. That way, if he had been in the wrong,
neither he nor the church would be publicly disgraced –
not to mention how much softer the blow when delivered
one on one.
· Today, we also have
generations of Christians whose writings are still with
us, that we may consult. Often enough, the ones that
survive are those of Christians of great strength and
wisdom – which at least is conducive to humility.
It took Paul 14 years to get to this point –
a period which has some numerical-mystical importance. Seven
(days in a week) is often interpreted as being a complete period
of time. Paul has waited twice that. We may see from this,
however, that our impatience and desire for immediate answer
sometimes must wait. Why?
· Some things take time to
develop. Patience is a virtue; perhaps that’s what God
is teaching you.
· There is also virtue in
“waiting upon the Lord.” When you do, you cast your
future upon Him, not giving direction but waiting in
Sources and Solutions
Gal 2:3-14 NASB But not even
Titus, who was with me, though he was a Greek, was compelled to
be circumcised. (4)
But it was
because of the false brethren secretly brought in, who had
sneaked in to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus,
in order to bring us into bondage.
But we did not yield in subjection to them for even an hour, so
that the truth of the gospel would remain with you.
But from those who were of high reputation (what they were makes
no difference to me; God shows no partiality)--well, those who
were of reputation contributed nothing to me.
But on the contrary, seeing that I had been entrusted with the
gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter
to the circumcised
(8) (for He who effectually worked
for Peter in his
apostleship to the circumcised effectually worked for me also to
the Gentiles), (9)
and recognizing the grace that had been given to me, James and
Cephas and John, who were reputed to be pillars, gave to me and
Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, so that we
to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised.
us to remember the poor--the very thing I also was eager to do.
But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face,
because he stood condemned.
For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to
eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he
to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the
The rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result
that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy.
But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the
truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of all,
"If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the
Jews, how is it
you compel the Gentiles to
live like Jews?
If everyone in the church were but pious,
devout and humble, we’d have a lot less friction. They’re not.
So it pays to know who might be the source of our troubles.
There are three we need to deal with as “false brothers”:
· Frankly, there are some who
are really sent by Satan. You might as well face that
fact. But do not worry; you will soon know who they are,
for by their fruits you will know them.
· More common are the
legalists – those with a Bible verse to end any
· We still have the hypocrites
with us too.
More common than any of these are those who
succumb to peer pressure. Most of us are born followers, and
sometimes we see things that way:
· We worry about “who’s who.”
Will the wedding coordinator be offended if we have pink
· We have those who care for
appearance – above all else. We should ask ourselves,
“How would this look?” Sometimes the answer should be,
“It doesn’t matter.”
· One form of this is, “How
would this look to non-Christians?” This often leads us
to soft-pedal the truth.
Lack of clear thought
“Broad-minded is just another way of saying a
fellow's too lazy to form an opinion” (Will Rogers). One of the
reasons a church gets into a muddle is that they do not really
have a clear doctrine. It should be fairly clear that without
same, any challenge will produce a confused, half-hearted
response. Be prepared; know what you believe.
Buildings of brick with no framework collapse
during earthquakes. With no coherent doctrine, the church
collapses too. The difference between a fine building and a pile
of bricks is doctrine; when shaken, the world finds out.
The usual reason for this is that a church
does not emphasize the knowledge of the Bible. That’s not just
memorizing verses – it’s doing the Word.
What to do about church conflict
So what do you do about it?
Seek common ground
You see the example in it here: the care for
the poor. The passage seems superfluous at first; it’s rather an
obvious thing. But do you not see that Paul and Peter sought out
something in which to stand together? When you do this, you have
the beginnings of rational discussion – for you start in
agreement. This common ground minimizes the conflict, and
separates out what needs to be resolved.
If you don’t do this, things can become
rather nasty in a hurry. This method allows only “us”; the
opposite method starts with “them and us.”
Do not yield
It’s a delicate line. You don’t want to
violate what your conscience prohibits – but you don’t want to
have an argument about it either. So it’s importance to see the
difference between permission and commandment. In this section,
they’re arguing about things like dietary law. If you’re the one
who is opposed to this restriction, it’s important that you
don’t give in – but it’s also important that you allow the other
fellow to follow his conscience too.
Want an example? Take the “coat and tie”
issue. I’ve known some that hold that a man must wear a coat and
tie to church; anything else is disrespectful. I don’t see it
that way – but since I permit and they do not, I make sure to
make sure it’s not an issue. I still don’t wear one, but I don’t
debate it either.
So when do you confront someone? I suggest
1. Is the harm being done readily
apparent? Can it be seen that allowing this to go on is
hypocrisy or sin, for example?
2. Is the harm being done immediate?
Or is it something that can wait until the next elders’
3. Is the harm being done
irreparable? Is it something that can be prevented, but
not easily fixed?
Dead to the Law
Gal 2:15-21 NASB "We
Jews by nature and not sinners from among the Gentiles;
nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of
the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed
in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ
and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law
no flesh will be justified.
"But if, while seeking to be justified in Christ, we ourselves
have also been found sinners, is Christ then a minister of sin?
May it never be!
(18) "For if I rebuild what I have
destroyed, I prove myself to be a transgressor.
"For through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live to
"I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who
live, but Christ lives in me; and the
which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God,
who loved me and gave Himself up for me.
"I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness
through the Law, then Christ died needlessly."
Legalism has long been a fruitful avenue of
attack for Satan. A good example is the history of the
Temperance movement – so important at the time; looking back, we
see its legacy and should be warned.
But perhaps a more mundane example might
help. Your author was once an elder in a small church, for which
I ask forgiveness. In the course of events the board of elders
decided that no music should be played during communion. This
decision resulted in much anguish; various people at various
times felt aggrieved, rejected, insulted or left out. Ask the
question: just how important is this?
How important is this?
Very. Paul repeats to us the foundations of
the faith, which are touched here:
· By the law – Jewish or moral
– we are convicted of sin. But there is no hope of
justification by keeping any law. To claim that we can
is to proclaim our moral perfection.
· But the law that declares us
a sinner cannot justify us before God. Only faith in
Christ can do that. Is it not true that the cure usually
doesn’t resemble the disease?
· And as a result of this
justification by faith, Christ now lives in me.
Is it important? If you died today, where
would you be tonight? Heaven, or hell? Is that important?