Sunday Evening Bible Study
January 7, 1996
Paul is writing to a group of churches which he had helped to establish.
After having established these churches, there were a group of teachers called "Judaizers" who came in and began spreading their own doctrines.
The Judaizers felt that a Gentile couldn't really be saved apart from first becoming a Jew, and that started by being circumcised.
We've had Paul describe his conversion, and how he was taught his theology not by man, but God had taught him.
Then we read at the beginning of chapter two that 14 years after his conversion, Paul went up to Jerusalem to have the apostles listen to his teachings, and make sure that he was doctrinally correct.
While Paul was in Jerusalem having his doctrine checked, one of his Gentile companions, Titus, wasn't told he had to be circumcised.
This is the man to whom Paul later wrote the letter (our epistle of Titus).
Verses 4 in NAS read:
4 But it was because of the false brethren who had sneaked in to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, in order to bring us into bondage.
The Judaizers had already had their sights on Paul, and had tried to infiltrate the meetings where he was.
These Judaizers were watching Paul and the "liberty" he had in Christ.
Paul and Titus' liberty was a freedom from the Mosaic Law with things like circumcision.
Don't you just hate it when you know that people are watching your every move, just waiting for you to make a mistake?
These Judaizers were wanting to have Paul circumcize Titus, and have him become a Jew, and in bondage to the Law.
NAS 5 But we did not yield in subjection to them for even an hour, so that the truth of the gospel might remain with you.
It's interesting that Paul is using a phrase that was used by his Jewish teacher, Gamaliel:
``it happened to Rabban Gamaliel, that he read the first night he was married; his disciples said to him, master, hast thou not taught us, that the bridegroom is free from reading the Shema, i.e. "hear, O Israel", &c. the first night? he replied to them, I will not hearken to you to cause to cease from me the yoke of the kingdom of heaven, txa hev wlypa, "even one hour".''
Paul didn't even give these guys an hour of his time.
Paul didn't allow these men to even think that they were making headway with him.
He didn't want them to be able to write in their newsletters that the apostle Paul agreed completely with their positions.
Keep it clear.
Sometimes we can try to "keep the peace" with people in the cults.
We let them go on and on about their ideas, and we don't say much in return but just nod.
We give them the idea that they're beginning to influence us, while we're just not wanting to make waves.
Remember that the rulers of the Jews got themselves misunderstood by the people when they hesitated to speak out about Jesus:
John 7:26 But, lo, he speaketh boldly, and they say nothing unto him. Do the rulers know indeed that this is the very Christ?
Paul wanted to make it clear to these men that he didn't hold to their position at all.
They weren't going to be able to come back and say that Paul was on their side.
NAS - those who were of high reputation
Paul is talking about the apostles and elders of the church in Jerusalem.
I think he has kind of a cute way of talking about them.
He's not talking about them as if they had big heads or something, but only that they had pretty heavy reputations.
It didn't make any difference to Paul what a person's reputation was.
Don't be afraid of a reputation.
I have to confess that I find myself kind of awed with what God has done in the lives of some people.
And I'd have to admit that I think Chuck Smith is a pretty neat guy.
Last Wednesday, Danny was down at Calvary Costa Mesa, and during a few spare moments was sitting on a wall near the office, and up walks Chuck.
Danny says, "Hi there big fella!"
And Chuck sits down and starts talking to Danny.
Then Chuck invites Danny into his office and they sit and talk and eat jelly beans for 45 minutes.
Chuck says to Danny, "Come here and see what I really hate", and takes Danny out to the outer office where the secretaries all practically bow in worship of Chuck.
Chuck liked Danny and sat and talked with him for so long because Danny was treating him just like a regular guy, which he is. (or is he?)
When we show consideration for people's reputation, giving them special favors, we are showing partiality.
James 2:1-9 NIV My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don't show favoritism. 2 Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. 3 If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, "Here's a good seat for you," but say to the poor man, "You stand there" or "Sit on the floor by my feet," 4 have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? 5 Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? 6 But you have insulted the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? 7 Are they not the ones who are slandering the noble name of him to whom you belong? 8 If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, "Love your neighbor as yourself," you are doing right. 9 But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers.
God isn't impressed with a person's background or deeds.
When Peter was at Cornelius' house, and the Holy Spirit came upon all those pagan, Gentile believers, he said,
Acts 10:34 Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:
This morning we read:
2Corinthians 5:16-17 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
It's not reputation that should impress us, it's whether they know Jesus or not.
In other words, when these "important" men got together to discuss Paul's teachings, they couldn't find anything wrong in them, nor could they come up with something that Paul had left out.
The apostles could see that as clearly as God was using Peter with the Jews, God was also using Paul with the Gentiles.
The same word is translated "wrought effectually" and "mighty"
energeo - to be operative, be at work, put forth power
Note: Paul doesn't say, "I was able to work the same kind of miracles that Peter did..."
Paul knew where the power was coming from.
The same God that was working in Peter was working in Paul.
God had displayed miracles through Peter's life, healing people, even raising people from the dead.
God also displayed miracles in Paul's life as well.
The secret is to let God do the work!
It's not in learning how to squeeze more hours out of the day.
It's not in learning ten steps to successfully lead a person to Christ.
The secret to power in ministry is to let God be God, and you take the back seat.
You have the same power as Peter and Paul:
Romans 8:11 But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.
Philippians 2:13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
If there's a secret to power in ministry, it's simply learning to get out of God's way and let Him work!
These were the head honchos in Jerusalem at the time.
James - the head of the Jerusalem church, it's pastor, was the half-brother of Jesus. This is not the James of the "inner three", Peter, James, and John. That James was already dead, killed by Herod (Acts 12).
Cephas - Peter
John - the apostle John, author of the gospel.
Other people in the church considered them very, very important.
Kind of like forming a partnership with Paul and Barnabas, signifying that they were all in this together.
When I was in the Baptist church, they had a neat thing they would do with new members of the church, extending to them the "right hand of fellowship", shaking the pastor's hand, etc.
They realized that they had specialized ministries.
Know who you're called to minister to.
It's not hard for Christians to put each other on guilt trips.
When you hear some people speak about witnessing, you get the feeling that we should all be out on the street, handing out tracts, etc.
Those are valid ministries.
But there are other ones as well.
I believe that God has specific people that He calls us to minister to.
The enemy wants us distracted by getting involved in areas we shouldn't be in.
And the ones we're supposed to be ministering to go without.
We are all different parts of the same body, with different gifts, and different ways of applying those gifts:
1Corinthians 12:4-6 Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. 6 And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.
You may even have the same gifts as another person, called to the same group of people as another person, yet still have a different "effect" or "operation" of your gifts.
Be careful of comparing yourself with others.
Just know where God has called you, and what he's called you to do.
You can read all about this first church council in Acts 15:1-29.
Here seems to be the only suggestion that the church in Jerusalem makes of the Gentile churches.
Which Paul and Barnabas had already done, in taking contributions to the poor in Judaea:
Acts 11:28-30 And there stood up one of them named Agabus, and signified by the Spirit that there should be great dearth throughout all the world: which came to pass in the days of Claudius Caesar. 29 Then the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judaea: 30 Which also they did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.
Paul later on would head up the collection of an offering to take to the poor in Jerusalem:
1Corinthians 16:1-3 Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. 2 Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come. 3 And when I come, whomsoever ye shall approve by your letters, them will I send to bring your liberality unto Jerusalem.
Remember the poor.
The Bible has much to say about caring for the poor:
Psalms 41:1 Blessed is he that considereth the poor: the LORD will deliver him in time of trouble.
Proverbs 14:21 He that despiseth his neighbour sinneth: but he that hath mercy on the poor, happy is he.
Proverbs 19:17 He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the LORD; and that which he hath given will he pay him again.