A text without a context is a pretext.
SEPTEMBER 17, 2020
A text without a context is a pretext. Let’s talk on Key Life.
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Thank you Matthew. If you have your Bible and I’m not going to take the time to read it, but we’re looking at the first 16 verses of the second chapter of Galatians. And we’re going to spend a good bit of time in defining exactly what the gospel is. You know, if you spend a lot of time with religious people, you will think that the gospel is a bunch of different things and it’s not, it’s very defined. It’s very simple. It’s very good news. But we’re going to spend some time defining exactly what it is and allow Paul to do that for us. As I said, I’m not going to take the time to read that text to you again, we read it yesterday. But if you were listening or you are familiar with the second chapter of Galatians, you know that Paul talks about circumcision and un-circumcision. He says that the church had affirmed his ministry to Goyim, to the Gentiles. And that Peter was supposed to go to Jews. And then he says some bad things about Peter, but true things. Peter was a hypocrite because, well you’ll find it in the text. And the apostle Paul said that because he was making a point. And what was the point? This is the gospel. It’s freedom. It’s salvation by faith in Christ alone. And it has nothing to do with whether you’re circumcised or uncircumcised, which was the big deal to the Jews. Now in order to understand what Paul is saying here, you have to understand something of the issue with which these verses deal. It is the particular specific issue with which, in a sense, the whole book of Galatians deals. And it is this, the gospel of Jesus Christ, before Paul’s ministry and the decision of the council of Jerusalem in Acts 15, the gospel had been primarily a Jewish phenomenon. If you had lived before Paul and had heard the gospel of Jesus Christ, you would have had to do two things. What are they? Well, in order to be recognized as a Christian, first you would receive Christ. Or open your heart or your life or however you phrase it to Christ. And secondly, you had to become a Jew. Now I get that. I really do. If you’ve been listening to me very long, you know how I feel about Israel. I am a cheerleader for Israel and I love my Jewish friends. I just can’t tell you. And I can’t imagine heaven without them. I don’t know what God’s going to do, but as you read Romans, it seems that God’s gonna do something. So I get that. I mean, I sometimes wish I could be a Jew and then have found Christ, to be a part of that ancient heritage to keep kosher, to have Seder and to know Jesus. That would be so cool. But Paul was preaching to people for whom that was not true. And the question was whether or not they could be saved without becoming Jewish. Now on the one side of the issue were the Judaizers, those who tried to make Gentiles into Jews, and on the other side of the issue was Paul, who said that Gentiles became spiritual Jews at the time of their new birth. But they were not bound by the religion and ritual of Judaism. Paul’s position held forth. And today you’re worshiping in a church instead of a synagogue. I sometimes they could be better to do it in a synagogue. However, as clear as Paul’s position seems today, it was by no means clear in the first century. The question was this, is it possible for Jewish Christians to draw a circle, which will not let Gentile Christians in. Now because of the clear way in which this issue was settled, we can draw a very important principle. And I want to discuss that principle with you, before we turn to the main theme of the teaching that’s in this text. The principle is this, the circle of Christendom is narrow, but it is wider than many within that circle believe. That’s still true. Anthony Hoekema in his very good book, The Four Major Cults, lists five major signs of a cult. And one of those signs is this. The group sees itself as the exclusive community of the saved. That’s what was going on here. I mean, the Judaizers were sure that they had the truth and all of the truth. And if you didn’t accept that, there was no way you were allowed into the kingdom, and Paul cuts their legs off. He depicts the metaphor, eats their lunch. There are some people who feel if they aren’t reformed to apply this or charismatic or Armenian or dispensational or Baptist or Presbyterian or Lutheran or independent or, it goes on and on. If you’re not in their group, there is some doubt about the fact of who you belong to. It is a normal human proclivity and it’s a sinful one too, a very sinful. One of the great tragedies of our time is that Christians often look like they’ve been poured out of the same mold and while that’s a tragedy, there’s a greater one, and it’s this, some Christians feel that that’s the way it ought to be. I have a friend and we were having lunch and we were talking about racism. Now he’s a white brother. And we were talking about some of the really bad things that have been done by people of our color. And he said, do you know when God revealed to me my racism? I said, no. And he said he did it in the middle of the night. I said, what did he say? He said, I was a lot worse than I thought I was. He said, it wasn’t just race, it was everything. You don’t even like, he told me, a haircut that’s different than yours, or music that’s different than the music you like. And you certainly don’t like anybody who’s a different color than you. It’s a human sinful proclivity. And when it becomes a part of the people of God, it becomes a very dangerous proclivity. So that’s what’s going on in this second chapter of Galatians. These guys, who had been Presbyterians found that there was a church being started down the street that was independent. And we all know that can’t be a real church if it’s not Presbyterian or Baptist. And Paul said, are you out of your mind, are you crazy? God is a lot bigger than you think he is. And he loves far more people than you think he does. And he saves far more of those people than you can possibly think that he does. And that’s a good thing for all of us to remember. I remember one time when I was on the committee that did a major Christian movement in South Florida, it was called the I Found It campaign and it was sponsored by what was then called Campus Crusade for Christ. And we divided all of South Florida up into segments and we assigned churches to each of those segments. And some of the main line churches would not work with the charismatic churches. And they said, we’re not going to participate if we have to work with them. And they told me, and I thought Lord what am I going to do with this? And so I talked to the charismatic pastors and I said to them, these other guys think you’re ugly and your mother dresses you funny and they don’t want to work with you. And do you know what they said? They said, that’s okay. We understand what they’re saying. We have trouble working with us ourselves. So if you want to assign us to another area, we’ll be glad to do something there. How gracious, how kind, I almost became a charismatic as a result of that, but that’s what’s happening here. The apostle Paul says God’s kingdom is big, really big. God reaches out to people who look funny, who don’t talk to what you talk, who like music that you don’t like, who are different than you. Rejoice because everybody who belongs to Jesus belongs to everybody who belongs to Jesus. And then Paul said, smiling, deal with it. You think about that.
Thank you Steve. That was Steve Brown, continuing his guided tour of the book of Galatians. And we shall continue that tour on Monday, but tomorrow it’s time again for Friday Q & A. That’s when Steve and our friend, Pete Alwinson answer the deep and ponderous questions of our faith. Be sure to check it out. Well, as we heard today from Steve, the gospel is freedom and it’s salvation by faith in Christ alone. It’s not about the things we have to do, when we go down that path, religion can sometimes become a dangerous thing. Steve spoke about this very topic in a message called Grace in Freedom. It is such a memorable and classic sermon. If you’ve never heard it, do yourself a favor, get the full message on CD for free. Just call us right now at 1-800-KEY-LIFE. That’s 1-800-539-5433. You can also email Steve@keylife.org and ask for that CD. If you’re mailing us, send your request to
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