By Adrienne Crist
I would like to start off with a poem called Sincerity
Sincerity - a poem by Kate Louise Wheeler
To self and to God be loyal and true,
Fear not what others may say or may do,
But what at best you appear;
Gird on your armor and stand for the right,
Honest in purpose and earnest in might,
Then shall your soul be sincere.
Banish each doubt and deception and dream,
Be the real saint that to others you seem,
Dare to face tempters alone;
Lift up your banner and fear not the foe,
Valiant in service wherever you go,
Sincerity claimeth her own.
Since the garden man has been faced with the task of deciphering a truth from error. Jesus warned us there will be false teachers;
“For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand.”
Matthew 24:24-25 NKJV
There has been a rise in body language experts with the popularity of YouTube. The experts educate the public to subtle clues of how to figure out if someone is lying. The funny thing about falsehoods is that sometimes even the tellers believe their own lies. Don’t you wish that it was easier to spot when you are being lied to? While I don’t have all the answers on how to spot a liar, we can all be assured that when it comes to the scriptures we all have access to the truth about God. It’s here in our Bibles. The best way to spot false teaching is to know the truth.
Galatians chapter 2 is rife with conflict and confrontation. But it ends with truth. If I was making a joke I would say this chapter is a little like a People magazine article! However, unlike being fed half truths when we read Galatians 2 we are privy to the inner workings of conflict in the church and how to with grace, take a stand for truth.
As we learned last week, it becomes very obvious, quickly, that Paul was frustrated by the news that was coming to him about the churches in Galatia. Paul visited Galatia during his first missionary trip to the region. Located in Anatolia or now modern day Turkey, Galatia was a region inhabited by Celtic people who moved from modern day Western Europe. lol The churches were filled with both Jewish and Gentile believers. Its important to note that this letter was addressed to not one church but all the churches in the region. This means that the false teaching was spreading and right away Paul wanted to squash this heresie.
In chapter 2 Paul begins by Explaining to the Galatians what happened at the council of Jerusalem. You can find this in Acts 15?
This was a big deal. Paul is not just spilling tea. He is contending for the faith against other people claiming to be followers of Jesus. In this chapter we see Paul courageously defending the faith.
There’s a lot of blogs, books, radio shows that are about defending the faith. It’s one thing to write letters to your congressman or senators defending your “rights” as Christians to the world. It’s a completely different situation when you are confronting your fellow brother or sister in Christ. This type of disagreement takes honesty and grace. There are many different disagreements that occur between people in regards to their faith. Unfortunately wars have been waged over how faith is practiced. Take Ireland for example. Lives lost over Catholics vs. Protestants? Where is the love?
But on issues of Salvation truth is of upmost importance.
Let’s look at how Paul handled this controversy and then at how he had a very difficult conversation with the head of the church, Peter.
These first verses are Paul’s side of the story:
Then after fourteen years aI went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and also took Titus withme. 2 And I went up 1by revelation, and communicated to them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but b privately to those who were of reputation, lest by any means cI might run, or had run, in vain. 3 And they supported me and did not even demand that my companion Titus be circumcised, though he was a Gentile.
So 14 years after the events of Chapter 1 Paul receives a revelation from God that it is time to go to Jerusalem to discuss this very important issue of the Gentiles. Paul pretty much has been working independently of the other disciples up to this point. Galatians 1:16-17 Paul states that his preaching did not come from the teaching of men, but directly from God. The body of evidence in our bible does not lie. The majority of the major doctrines of faith have been through the writings of Paul. Romans and Galatians being of great importance to the church’s theology. Paul has a mission in his visit to Jerusalem. He brings two men with him to prove a point. But before he publicly comes out with his reproof, he privately meets with “those who were of reputation”. Who were these people? Many commentators believe that he is referring to James, Cephas (Peter) and John. In v. 9 Paul refers to them as the pillars of the church.
Here is the first point of application: Go to someone you disagree with in private first.
Pray, let the Lord guide you, look to His leading, be prepared, but be open to hear out the other person’s side. Matthew 18
Let’s turn to Acts 15 to read more about this disagreement:?
The Council at Jerusalem NAS
While Paul and Barnabas were at Antioch of Syria, some men from Judea arrived and began to teach the believers * : “Unless you are circumcised as required by the law of Moses, you cannot be saved.” 2 Paul and Barnabas disagreed with them, arguing vehemently. (Note that they came to Paul, if someone walks into your bible study with falsehoods then grab your bible and state your case with confidence!)
Finally, the church decided to send Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem, accompanied by some local believers, to talk to the apostles and elders about this question. 3 The church sent the delegates to Jerusalem, and they stopped along the way in Phoenicia and Samaria to visit the believers. They told them—much to everyone’s joy—that the Gentiles, too, were being converted.
So there’s a movement in the church, the gospel is spreading to the gentiles, what do they do?
4 When they arrived in Jerusalem, Barnabas and Paul were welcomed by the whole church, including the apostles and elders. They reported everything God had done through them. 5 But then some of the believers who belonged to the sect of the Pharisees stood up and insisted, “The Gentile converts must be circumcised and required to follow the law of Moses.”
Now it’s interesting that Luke wrote that the church decided to send Paul and Barnabas, but Paul says that by revelation he went. Sounds like a contradiction but maybe it was both. God told Paul go and when he receives an invitation its confirmation from the Lord to take up this issue. For the church, the Spirit prompts them to invite Paul therefore they will likely be more receptive to Pauls defense of the Gospel.
Here we see that there’s a group of Pharisees who stood up against them. These were the Judaizers. They were Jewish believers, but they could not seem to give up the law. Instead they wanted to make the Gentile believers follow what they have been doing for generations.
In Galatians 2:4-5 Paul gives his commentary on this 4 Even that question came up only because of some so-called believers there—false ones, really* —who were secretly brought in. They sneaked in to spy on us and take away the freedom we have in Christ Jesus. They wanted to enslave us and force us to follow their Jewish regulations. 5 But we refused to give in to them for a single moment. We wanted to preserve the truth of the gospel message for you. So here Paul is referring to the first story in Chapter 15.
The enemy uses this false teaching in the hopes of causing confusion within the church.
But elders are to rebuke them sharply:
Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith,”
Titus 1:13 NKJV
Notice in v.5 Paul says that they refused to give in to them for a single moment. There is no compromise with the word of God. In the tenants of most churches, including ours is the statement or articles of faith. On our website the seventh tenant reads as following:
The Scriptures, which include the Old and New Testaments are fully inspired by God and infallible in their original writings. They are the supreme authority for a believer's faith and conduct.
Consider 2Tim 3:16 - All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.
There is no compromise when it comes to the word of God. There is grace for people and their behaviors but there is no grace for false teaching. Scripture is the final word for reproof and correction.
False teachers typically have hidden agendas. Be it greed, power or pleasure. Titus “For there are many insubordinate, both idle talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole households, teaching things which they ought not, for the sake of dishonest gain.”
Titus 1:10-11 NKJV
False teaching was present at the start of the church and it will exist until the church is removed from this earth. There has been a tidal wave of unveilings in the modern day church. Scandal upon scandal is being uncovered. What does this have to do with false teachers? People who espouse false teachings do not understand or do not want to understand what the Word teaches. They can speak 90% truth and then sneak in 10% lies.
Now they may appear to speak truth in front of the world, but often the 10% of lies are reserved for those followers close to them. For many years I believe that scandal has been hidden due to the fear of bringing reproach upon the name of Christ and His church. But it is clear that God is cleaning up house.
Why do we need to call out false teaching? Because it puts the hearers in bondage. In this case Paul points out that going back to the law makes us slaves to it again. It would be like God sending the Israelites back to Egypt. But false teachers may not always put their followers back to follow the law, they want their followers to obey “their laws”.
Paul was exposing the deeds of darkness. What if he had not done that? Remember I stated that he was writing to the churches of Galatia? When there is false teaching the people must be made aware of it. Some of the Gentiles may have already begun to practice the law.
While it is not comfortable to be in conflict with other believers, when it comes to misleading others in the body then we are actually offering grace through our corrections. Consider Matthew 18:6 the scripture where Jesus says But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to have a large millstone tied around your neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea.
False teaching can lead others to fall into sin.
Lets turn back to Galatians 2:6-10
And the leaders of the church had nothing to add to what I was preaching. (By the way, their reputation as great leaders made no difference to me, for God has no favorites.) 7 Instead, they saw that God had given me the responsibility of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles, just as he had given Peter the responsibility of preaching to the Jews. 8 For the same God who worked through Peter as the apostle to the Jews also worked through me as the apostle to the Gentiles.
9 In fact, James, Peter, * and John, who were known as pillars of the church, recognized the gift God had given me, and they accepted Barnabas and me as their co-workers. They encouraged us to keep preaching to the Gentiles, while they continued their work with the Jews. 10 Their only suggestion was that we keep on helping the poor, which I have always been eager to do.
The Jerusalem Council was a pivotal moment for Paul. He was confronting James, Peter and John with this issue of false teaching. There are some commentaries that imply that they were the ones who sent in the spys to know what Paul was teaching. V6 says But from those who seemed to be something - whatever they were, it makes no difference to me. He did not say whoever they were but whatever they were. He is referring to someone with a position of great authority. James, Peter and John were all apostles.
We all know, even great men can get things wrong. How often did the disciples ask idiotic questions, revealing how little they really understood what Jesus was teaching. They need the Holy Spirit, as do we, to understand God’s word. This disagreement is a perfect example of why God’s word is the final authority. The grace that is extended in this ministerial dispute is that the mistake was not held against James Peter and John. God gave grace to them by not withdrawing the gifts they were given Romans 11:29 says the gifts of God are irrevocable. Instead He used Paul to correct their thinking.
The council also established the grace that was given to each one to minister to the people God has ordained. Have you ever wondered Why did God appoint Peter, a fisherman, who probably didn’t have any higher learning of the Jewish law, to minister to the Jews (who probably would not have respected him)?
And why did He appoint Paul, a Pharasee and former persecutor of the early church, to reach out to the Gentiles? As we know His ways are greater than our ways, however I think these next passages reveal some of the reasons God chose these two men for different positions.
11 But when Peter came to Antioch, I had to oppose him to his face, for what he did was very wrong. 12 When he first arrived, he ate with the Gentile believers, who were not circumcised. But afterward, when some friends of James came, Peter wouldn’t eat with the Gentiles anymore. He was afraid of criticism from these people who insisted on the necessity of circumcision. 13 As a result, other Jewish believers followed Peter’s hypocrisy, and even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy.
This must have been very heartbreaking for Paul and very uncomfortable for Peter.
So even after the Jerusalem Council apparently there was still trouble brewing. Notice who was Peter intimidated by, friends of James. James is the author who tells us that faith without works is dead. I am not questioning James as a writer of the scriptures, however isn’t it interesting that we all have areas of theology that resonate with us? At the Jerusalem Council and in the decree he also insisted that they abstain from eating meat sacrificed to idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled and from blood. Three of those four decrees are dietary laws. Clearly James had trouble giving up the law as we will read shortly. The things that we are passionate about can be our greatest strengths and sometimes our achilles heel. We need to be evaluating our thinking often to bring it back in line with the Gospel.
It’s easy to point the finger at Paul for his hypocrisy.
Peter, the head of the church is a man. He is imperfect. His achilles heel is his fear of man. Remember Jesus knew Peter would deny him 3 times and yet he still appointed Peter to be the head. God continued to refine Peter’s faith. A faith that needed to conquer his fear. When we are people who have a fear of man, and I can identify with that, it can become difficult to decipher lies that come to us from people we want to befriend or impress.
In Peter’s day he gave in to the pressure of pleasing people, or peer pressure. Having to stand up and preach the Gospel to hostile Jews is not easy in our own strength. Peter succumbed to the influence of these friends of James.
We can rest assured that he did conquer his fear. His writings in 1Peter 3:17 in response to persecution peter states:
17 Remember, it is better to suffer for doing good, if that is what God wants, than to suffer for doing wrong!
Peer pressure is not only experienced by the youth. We can all be influenced and pressured to conform by our peers. False teaching is dependent upon peer pressure for it to flourish. How could Paul who was intimately involved with bringing Gentiles into the church, snub his fellow Gentile believers? Peer pressure. May we recognize if we are giving in to peer pressure.
WE DONT WANT TO RUIN OUR WITNESS. DID JESUS CAVE TO PEER PRESSURE? No.
Paul went on:
14 When I saw that they were not following the truth of the gospel message, I said to Peter in front of all the others, “Since you, a Jew by birth, have discarded the Jewish laws and are living like a Gentile, why are you now trying to make these Gentiles follow the Jewish traditions?
Let me note: Now Paul corrects Peter in front of others. He consulted him privately regarding the Gentiles, he was given nods and yeses at the council but still no change. Now he must go public.
15 “You and I are Jews by birth, not ‘sinners’ like the Gentiles. 16 Yet we know that a person is made right with God by faith in Jesus Christ, not by obeying the law. And we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we might be made right with God because of our faith in Christ, not because we have obeyed the law. For no one will ever be made right with God by obeying the law.”
Peter needed to have this correction, Peter knew what the truth was, he needed reminding that faith and belief in Christ is what makes you right with God, he states it twice. Paul’s message is one of grace to the Jews he did not need to argue the fine points of the law, his message is that Jesus fulfilled it when he hung on the cross and declared “It is done” Maybe if Paul were to have ministered to the Jews he would have gone out into the proverbial weeds all the time?
Paul goes on to give an brief summary of that the next chapters entail
17 But suppose we seek to be made right with God through faith in Christ and then we are found guilty because we have abandoned the law. Would that mean Christ has led us into sin? Absolutely not!
Remember these laws were traditions. What did the new believers do without them? How did people around them act? In the eyes of the Jews around them they’re committing crimes. Some may have thought that Jesus was “leading them into sin”
18 Rather, I am a sinner if I rebuild the old system of law I already tore down. 19 For when I tried to keep the law, it condemned me. So I died to the law—I stopped trying to meet all its requirements—so that I might live for God. I don’t know why but that statement stood out to me. I probably skim over it because it is followed by a well memorized scripture. Think about that statement. It takes a lot of time, effort and energy to meet the requirements of the law. God’s people are free to now live for Him!
What laws do you put on yourself so that you impress others or stay in step with someone who has influence over you? Do you act differently around some people rather than others? Stop trying to meet those requirements, live for God
20 My old self has been crucified with Christ. * It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die.
You must remember this truth down to the very depth of your soul. There are people, teachers, book writers, influencers out there that desire to tell you something new under the sun. There is nothing new under the sun! New reformers, de-constructors of faith, and my new favorite: “The American Church just doesn't understand” that one irks me. When you hear haughtiness not humility your ears should be on high alert.
“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”
I John 4:1 NKJV
For me personally, this is one of the truths that drew me to Christ. As a child, raised in the Jewish Religion, I had a desire to be close to God. Going to Synagogue was both confusing and comforting. I knew in my heart that God existed, but it felt very complicated to be able to be close to Him. ???
In studying Galatians more deeply I have found an explanation and a greater connection to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He came to save the Jews from the road He knew they were inclined to go down. One of adding onto the word, one of believing that their faith must be added to.
One of the things that hindered me in my search to be close to God was in effect the law. Or rather the perversion of the law that has occurred in Judaism. A few months back George taught about how the Jews added onto the law. When he taught on Mark 7. Here we are 2000 years later and Judaism has become even more complicated.
As a young girl I often attended Synagogue with my Grandparents on Shabbat, Friday night…
The one thing i knew was that we were special, we were the Chosen ones.
But that was not enough, there was something missing.
I always felt that I needed to know more or do more to really feel close to God. I was not forced to attend Hebrew school and be a BahtMitzvah so I quit. But in my teeen years I struggled with a desire to be more Jewish. I always felt inadequate. But I felt the opportunity was lost, And to my nature, my flesh, it seemed like a lot of work. But I was still left with the yearning deep inside to be close to God. In short, it took a lot of time and God did the work in pursuing me.
God does not need anything I have to give Him. Rather He wants to give, and for me to receive.
In John 4:10 there were just two people at the well; Jesus and the woman.
Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”
Only Jesus, only Jesus + you, that’s all it takes to receive that grace, that living water.
Don’t miss out on the living water, that is the grace that God desires to give you.
When I did accept Christ it was the message of His great love for me and His desire to bless me that drew me to Him…
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God
Matt 11:28 Come to me all who are weary and I will give you rest. Let me teach you for I am humble and gentle at heart and you will find rest for your souls.
So to summarize; Equip yourself with truth, false teaching is poison, it can even cause leaders and those they lead to stumble. Watch for it, research, pray, ask questions before you confront.
It is not comfortable or easy to confront, but if the Spirit prompts you then you must obey. With God’s grace, speaking the truth in love, He will enable you to seek reconciliation on the matter. May His glory always be our motivation.