Galatians – A Call to Freedom 4. Uncovering our Hypocrisy
Key Text: 2:11-14
Galatians 2:1-14New International Version (NIV)
Paul Opposes Cephas
11 When Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. 13 The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.
14 When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?
This passage forms the second visit that Paul recounts in his letter to the Galatians. The first visit he went down to Jerusalem and last week we looked at that controversy; how there were the Judisers there; who said effectively that you needed Jesus plus you needed to follow the cultural Laws of Moses in order to be saved.
The emphasis is last week; was the emphasis of the gospel. Jesus plus nothing equal the gospel.
In other words what I bring to the cross is nothing! Not my self-worth, not my good works, I bring nothing.
Effectively it is what is so offensive about the gospel. The gospel makes us desperate. No one appreciates that. The Cross shows that we are desperate and without Christ we have no hope of salvation.
So tonight, we move on to the second visit; and something incredible comes out here; the gospel makes us culturally accepting. What do I mean by that? Well this is what we will unpack this message:
So let’s start with the first point;
1.The gospel plus culture equals nothing
What I mean by this is that our culture does not save us and it cannot save us. Now, why would I even have to say this? Surely this is quite obvious? Well, no it is not. In fact, many of us are quite blind to the fact that we have a cultural bias. A thinking that believes that the way our people do things is the best.
We secretly; or some of us quite openly criticise other cultures as being evil, wrong, backwards etc. The sad reality is that we actually believe that our culture somehow makes us better.
This has been so bad in the past that it was literally blended with the gospel; unless you dress like us; act like us; think like us; you simply don’t know the gospel. This was the great problem with the colonial mission movement. Now it must be said that these movements did bring the gospel! But they infused culture with this.
The problem with this type of thinking is that it can be anti-gospel.
We see this reality in this passage; you see there was a group of people who had “Come from James.” (vs 12) this is James the pillar of the church; who had been with Jesus.
Now, on a side point; but an extremely important point; people often come from somewhere without actually being engaged with what that place, church or person actually believes.
People could come from a church and say we are followers of that church; yet their beliefs are not what that church believes. I say this because James had got the gospel and was a champion of cultural integration that the gospel brought.
Anyway, these people came from James and in this a cultural bias came to the fore. And this cultural bias started to sway Peter and even Barnabas.
What was this cultural bias; well it is revealed to us in the text; Peter and even Barnabas separated themselves from the gentiles; because they were not “clean”.
In other words; they were not following the ceremonial laws of Moses. And you could not eat with those who were unclean.
Now we have to recap what we spoke about last week again; the Law of Moses was essentially split into two groups. The moral Law and the ceremonial Law.
This reality is deeply confusing to those inside the church and even more so to those outside the church.
So often people react to what Christians say by pointing out some arb Law that Christian’s don’t follow today. And let’s be real, most of us struggle to answer why it’s not okay to lie, but we are fine with eating bacon, or wearing clothing of two different materials.
It comes down to the purpose of those Laws; the moral Laws were established to show us the heart of God and they are typified by real love. For example; we don’t murder; because to do so would be an act of incredible hatred to that person and everyone they love.
Now the purpose of the ceremonial laws was to show that we need a Saviour; that we cannot come to God as we are; we need to be cleansed; and in order to be cleansed we needed someone beyond ourselves to do the cleaning.
The ceremonial Laws showed us that we had to be holy to come to a holy God. Something we simply could never be; that is why when Christ died on the cross His holiness was given to us; so that in Him and only Him we can be holy!
Now this is interesting because the Judisers were saying you needed Jesus and the cultural law to be saved.
That is like saying you need to pretty yourself up to go have a bath. You don’t dress yourself and put on makeup and clean yourself up to take a bath; no, you take a bath to be clean.
You don’t need to the law to follow Christ; you need Christ to be holy and live that way from the heart.
These Judisers thought that their culture made them holy; that the Jewish culture was needed in order for them to be made acceptable to God.
However, the truth of the gospel is that in the gospel you are stripped to nothing before God through Christ and then all you need is Him to be acceptable to God; therefore, you can live out your culture in light of Christ; in this all cultures are equal; culture doesn’t save you Christ does!
This is what was so incredible for the movement of Christianity in the world; you did not need to become a cultural Jew to follow God; you followed God and then the Spirit reformed your culture to His commands.
But the warning that Paul gives is a warning even to us today; we are very tempted to add to Christ our culture; and say even sub textually to others; unless you dress like us; unless you behave like us; you are not worthy of the love of God. We are breaking the gospel!
Essentially our culture becomes the prerequisite for salvation rather than faith in Christ.
But if we get the gospel and allow it to pierce us we move beyond the outward appearance and see people as God sees them.
What do I mean by this this well it’s my second point:
2.The gospel frees me from persecuting
If we get the fundamental reality of the gospel that I am saved by Christ and nothing else. Then Like Paul we will see that culture is simply the diversity of God, not something to be forced out so everyone is the same. There is a reality of common grace through every culture; now it must be said that there are things that will obviously be incompatible with the gospel life; but Christ redeems our culture and allows us to live his truth in the light of our culture.
Now the opposite of this is a religious spirit which is the reality of these Judizers; who had spied on Paul and the Gentile Christians freedom and who had come in to cause division in the this passage.
They couldn’t handle that others could be welcome unless they were like them why?
Well if your hope is in your ability to keep yourself “good” for God it will result in two things:
I. You are insecure
This is because you can never actually know if you are good enough, and all religions have this similar problem. You can never be certain that your effort it sufficient. Therefore; you are chronically insecure.
And it has been said that the more moral teaching one receives the more insecure they become. Because the more they are aware of how much we miss it.
So, the more religious someone becomes the more they have to oppress and persecute because the more they know that they might not be making the cut.
Which leads to the second reality
II. You are superior
The way you compensate for your insecurities is to create a superiority complex a; “them and us reality”.
You have to bash people because it is easier than looking into your own heart; so, you see the language come out; it would be better if we could just get them to change.
The they can be anyone; but we give ourselves away when we target some other group as essentially evil without looking into our own heart.
I’m amazed how still in this country I still hear people saying to each other; “you know corruption is part of their culture.” “rape is part of their culture” let’s be controversial; “You know they are all terrorists”
What have we done here; we have elevated our culture and its reality and stated blanket-ly that if they were simply a part of our culture they would never do these kind of things.
Let’s get honest tonight; these evils are a the product of the human heart; they are there because we are all sinful; and but by the grace of God do I not do these things.
The gospel forces us to see that we are more desperate than we first believed; and yet God loves us more than we could ever know!
That realities breaks in us the heart of persecution; look at Paul; Paul was someone who killed the church; why because these people were inferior to him and his chronic insecurity over whether he was actually good enough for God forced him to hate others enough to kill them!
The gospel forces us to see our sin and then sympathize with the sins of others. Not condone, but simply see that these people are just as broken as we are; and we sympathize because we know that we didn’t fix ourselves; we aren’t our own saviours; so rather than persecute others we point them to healing the wonder of grace that set our hearts free and forgave us so completely that we rest in Him who died for us.
The gospel has an incredible power to reform us and change us; and I fundamentally believe; it is the power we need to heal our land.
We live in a time where every group is trying to win power over another and each is calling out the other on the evil that they did. And yes we live in a country where incredible evil has been done again peoples and people groups.
However, it is only when we see that the evil we are pointing out actually lives in our own heart; that we see that these people that we have poised as an enemy in our minds are actually – in terms of our humanity – brothers.
And the gospel that has set us free is the same gospel that has the power to set all of us free.
I believe in the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ for this country; for it is the power of God unto salvation, but faith.
It is the only force in the world that can make us truly united. For it is the only message that exposes us for who we are and then gives us what we truly need; redemption.
So I wonder as we close tonight; if you have thought secretly that it is people who are like me who are naturally better? Maybe it is because you have not let the truth and wonder of the gospel to pierce your heart to expose your need and the desperate state you are in.
For if that was exposed you would not be a culture hypocrite; you would be alive to share the only hope that any culture in the world has; to believe in the death of Christ and receive His righteousness.
Christ and nothing else! That is what we truly need!