Galatians – A Call to Freedom – 3.No Longer Slaves
Key Text: (2:1-10)
Please turn with me to Galatians 2:1-10
Galatians 2:1-10New International Version (NIV)
Paul Accepted by the Apostles
2 Then after fourteen years, I went up again to Jerusalem, this time with Barnabas. I took Titus along also. 2 I went in response to a revelation and, meeting privately with those esteemed as leaders, I presented to them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. I wanted to be sure I was not running and had not been running my race in vain. 3 Yet not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek. 4 This matter arose because some false believers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves. 5 We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you.
6 As for those who were held in high esteem—whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not show favoritism—they added nothing to my message. 7 On the contrary, they recognized that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the uncircumcised,[a] just as Peter had been to the circumcised.[b] 8 For God, who was at work in Peter as an apostle to the circumcised, was also at work in me as an apostle to the Gentiles. 9 James, Cephas[c] and John, those esteemed as pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the circumcised. 10 All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along.
So we are in week 3 of our study through Galatians; looking at the entire book week by week. We have established that I can know if I know the gospel because I Know Him, I know His power in my life I know the nature of the gift of grace and I understand the significance of the gospel.
Last week we saw that we can trust the validity of the truth of the gospel; because it is backed up by fact and personal experience. And this week we will look at how truth sets us free. That is why I have called this message no longer slaves.
Now the statement that the truth sets us free, doesn’t gel with the worlds idea; for they would ask what truth; and what does it mean to truly be free?
I guess it was the advancement of the free love and sexual revolution in the 1960 that set our world on the course that we find ourselves; where the only goal in life is to be happy and experience as much as you can.
The interesting reality is that this is not a new idea; for a Greek philosopher who lived from 341BC-270BC had the ideas that most people govern the lives by today.
His ideas were that the gods were at best irrelevant and at worst evil; and therefore should be ignored. So he pushed for a life of experience; the pursuit of pleasure was the sole reason for existence! Pleasure and comfort were the ultimate goal and consequence was only bound to this life.
Now, if we are honest with our observations of the world this is exactly where we find ourselves. Live for pleasure and comfort; there are not eternal consequences so live life.
It’s my life I’ll do as I please! Now the problem of all this is found through experience. Pleasure is not our goal, try discover meaning from pleasure, you will be disappointed. In fact, if we live a life for pleasure it will master us and use us up!
We can’t live for pleasure; I would argue that we should live for truth. If truth goes freedom goes, as Paul puts in in verse 4 and 5; these men spied on our freedom, we did not give in that the truth might remain.
You see church truth and freedom are intimately linked. Jesus says “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”
We find this difficult to understand in our world because, it has been pushed for so long that freedom is personal; doing what I like, and truth is subjective; I dictate truth. And anyone who says anything else is bigoted and narrow minded.
And so, we have a world of intimacy without commitment – people sleeping together but without marriage. What we are saying is I want the experience of intimacy without actually giving each other everything. Marriage states I give you my everything; I promise before all people that you are the only one and then that leads to intimacy – we have reversed that. And we wonder why it doesn’t work.
And we have brought this into our religion; I want intimacy with God; I want to have a relationship with Him; but I don’t want to really bring my whole to that relationship; I don’t want to commit to actually knowing him; of digging deep into scripture to find him; to learn doctrine (or the teachings of scripture) to know who he is; we want the experience of God without actually committing ourselves to knowing Him!
This is the whole context of what Paul is trying to say to the church and to us tonight; we can’t hope of knowing God’s freedom and intimacy if we have no desire for his truth. Which is my first point for tonight;
1.The truth that sets you free
So, what is this truth that sets you free? Well again the context of this verse and this whole book is the gospel! Paul is showing how he fought for the gospel to remain!
Paul is speaking of how some people (commonly known as the Judizers) slipped into the rank of the believers and had started convincing people that People needed Jesus and the law.
Paul says these guys had come in to the ranks of the church to spy on the freedom they had!
So, what was the freedom that Paul had? Well, again, it was the freedom of the gospel!
The truth that sets you free is the gospel of Jesus Christ. Why does this set you free? Because it declares to us our state; both previous and current.
The gospel exposes the absolute horror and depravity of our sin, and it exposes the immeasurable love of God for us at the same time.
It shows that we can never fully understand how desperately evil we are; and yet at the same time it shows us that we will never comprehend the depth of God’s love.
It is because we are loved in our sin that the gospel truly frees us! It frees us because it changes us:
It changes us relationally (intimately) – we knew we were estranged now we are welcomed. God comes close to us
And it changes us legally (commitment) – He fulfils the requirements for that love so we can be committed to him without fear of failure – because Christ has already fulfilled the requirements.
This is the narrow truth that Paul fights for here in Galatians.
And it is narrow because:
2.The truth plus something equals nothing
What is truly interesting is that these people were called by Paul false believers and among the rank. In other words they were in the church. They said you needed Jesus!
But they said you needed Jesus and the Law of Moses; which included the moral law and the ceremonial Law.
In verse 6 Paul say three very interesting things; firstly; these men were held in high esteem, secondly; God does not show favouritism and finally; they added nothing to my message.
In terms of these men being held in high esteem it shows that what these people were saying (even though Paul said it was wrong) was being accepted there in Jerusalem. There is a lesson here; just because something is popular doesn’t make it true or right.
Paul rebuttals their high esteem by saying God does not show favouritism. The Greek here is very interesting because there is no direct way to translate it; it literally says “God does not accept a man's face.” In other words; God doesn’t look to the outside he looks at our heart.
Going back to the core value of the gospel; The acceptance of God does not rely on your doing but rather on your being.
Paul spends the previous passage building the fact that all he did was nothing compared to what God made him. This is the essential nature of the gospel it is not what we do; it is all about what Christ has done. And because of this we can spend our lives trying to be; but unless we are we have missed it.
Why because we are not accepted on the merit of what we do; we are accepted by what Christ did for us on the cross!
Finally, Paul says “They added nothing to my message.” Now the thing is that they did actually add to the message; and so what Paul is saying if you add to Christ you end up with nothing.
Christ plus something equals nothing; you have become a slave to that which you added to Christ.
These false believers were saying, as I have said already, that you need Jesus; yes, but to be a real Christian you need to follow the Law.
Now we don’t have the law today so we struggle to understand the true subversive nature of this this temptation.
The Law was essentially broken into two main sections; the moral Law; which was the 10 commandments and the call to holy living. And then there was the cultural Law; which were all about being clean for worship.
Now many of us don’t follow the cultural laws of Moses; and have no temptation to do so; so is this passage still relevant. I mean none of you are going through a crisis of conscience whether you should go out and get circumcised or if you should or shouldn’t eat that bacon.
You see church; in Christ we are to honour the purpose of every law in Scripture. We don’t lie; because to do so would dishonour the purpose of that Law; which was to make us love each other in the way we treat each other with our words.
So what about bacon?
Well the purpose of the cultural laws was to set the people of God apart; to make a cultural barrier between the people of God and the people of the land of Canaan where God was sending them. This barrier would affect the way that they would do business and who they would get married to; to protect Israel in her cultural infancy so that she would be tempted to worship idols of the Canaanites.
It had another purpose; it was there to show that no matter how hard you try you can never actually be clean. You cannot make yourself acceptable. There are hundreds of them and are impossible to keep. And yet in Christ we are made acceptable.
This is the fundamental reality; and is repeated throughout the testimony of the New Testament. Christ, and Christ alone is the one that makes us acceptable to God.
And this is what Paul is trying to say here. Paul is saying if you add anything to JC as a requirement for being acceptable you have destroyed the freedom and you have become a slave.
So circumcision may not be a thing that you are trying to do to be acceptable to Christ; however, there are things in your life that you are adding to Christ to make you acceptable to God.
In this we lose our freedom and become a slave to the very thing that we are hoping in to make us acceptable.
Church in Christ you are accepted; He did it all, he fulfilled all the requirements of God so that in him we are full accepted; there is no condemnation.
So I want to ask you tonight; are you free? Has the gospel freed you? Or are you a slave?
Are you a slave to acceptance? If I do this people and God will accept me.
Are you a slave to things? If I just have this thing (be it the right cloths or toys) then I will find fulfilment and acceptance.
Are you a slave to control? If I just make sure that I have good kids; a good job, do everything right; then I will be accepted?
Or church are you free in Christ? Has he truly become your all; truly his grace has shown you that in Him you are fully accepted and fully loved.
If you have discovered this; you will act as a freeman because you are.
Church in Christ; you are no longer slaves!