Chapter # 2 Paragraph # 2 Study # 1
Thesis: There are no "safe" places, or times, wherein a person can "relax" in the face of his/her own known weaknesses.
Introduction: One of the problems with Paul's efforts to provide the evidence for the legitimacy of his message is that human beings are notorious for their willingness to capitulate to the irrational fears that drive them through life. Paul claims in our current context that Peter was moved by "fear" to do something that had the smell of the smoke of Hell all over it. Later he felt constrained to write to Timothy to tell him that God has not given us a spirit of "fear", but Timothy was yielding to it anyway. The author of Hebrews says that men can be kept in bondage all of their lifetime by "fear". And Paul asked the Philippians to pray for him that he would not capitulate to "fear" in his legal difficulties, after having admitted that many were "afraid" to speak the word with boldness. Therefore, we note that the vast majority of human beings never really get over their fears.
One of the benefits of Paul's efforts is that there are some who take courage from the details of the Truth and live above themselves by the Fearless Spirit of God. Another of the benefits is that such a common failure actually argues mightily for the truth of Paul's gospel of grace (who would be saved if achieving fearlessness was the prerequisite?)
This evening we are going to begin our study of Paul's final argument that we ought to trust in the Gospel of God's Grace which does not require that we "achieve" anything in order to be acceptable to God through Christ.
June 12, 2011
- I. The "When" Factor.
- A. A casual reading of Galatians 1-2 will lead most people to conclude that it is a chronological record of certain events that "prove" Paul's Gospel is God's Truth.
- 1. There is no disputing the necessity of chronological progression in chapter one and the opening verse of chapter two.
- 2. But that "no dispute" reality is "event driven", not simply "time references driven".
- B. The facts, however, argue that such a casual conclusion will be wrong because the "events" in play do not allow it.
- 1. According to Acts 15, three major facts make a trip by Cephas to Antioch to do what he is accused by Paul of doing impossible.
- a. First, Peter was a primary supporter of Paul's Gospel in public and against the "party of the circumcision" -- making "fear of them" almost impossible after that event.
- b. Second, James was a primary supporter of Paul's Gospel -- making it impossible that anyone "from James" could be yet a false brother with strong intimidation powers.
- c. Third, the Church sent forth a letter plainly saying that no one was sent by Peter, James, or John to contradict Paul's message.
- 2. Paul's use of the event in Antioch to further his argument is not based upon chronology, but personality -- his record is a head-to-head between himself and Cephas.
- a. There is no record in Acts of this event.
- b. Paul declared that the leaders of the Church "saw" that he was the key by God's choice to provide the Gospel to the uncircumcised just as Peter was the key by that same choice to provide the Gospel to the circumcised and that they "knew" the grace given to him.
- b. The point is that when push came to shove, it was Paul's understanding of the grace of God that triumphed over "Cephas".
- 1) This is no small matter.
- 2) Paul's use of "Cephas" is a tacit acknowledgement of the promises in the Gospel that God does triumph over the weaknesses of His people in their lives if they will trust in His grace.
- a) A "Simeon" became a "Cephas" by the grace of God through faith.
- b) That there were residues of "Simeon" in "Cephas" does not alter what God did; it only stands as a warning that we can never "relax" in the battle.
- c) This is fundamental to Paul's Gospel: Grace stands even when its recipients do not.
- II. The "Where" Factor.
- A. The success of the Gospel among the Jews was destined to be a short-lived reality.
- 1. This meant that the efforts of the "apostle to the circumcised" were going to be, relatively speaking, short-term.
- 2. In less than one lifetime, the apostleship to the circumcised was nullified and Jerusalem was destroyed along with the Temple and all of the religious practice of the Jews.
- B. Antioch was the new base of operations for the long-term impact of the Gospel.
- 1. It was from Antioch that the missionary journeys were launched and it was to Antioch that the missionaries returned to make their reports.
- 2. The Truth originated, and was validated, in Jerusalem according to the plan of God to make Jerusalem the center of Messiah's world (Isaiah 2), but it was disseminated from Antioch.
- C. For Cephas to go to Antioch before Paul's Gospel was validated in Jerusalem made it possible for Satan to make an attempt to subvert the Gospel that would be preached in the nations.
- 1. Satan knew Cephas had a serious "Simeon" weakness (a deep-seated need to be the center of approving attention).
- 2. Satan created a scenario of "fear" by organizing the arrival of "certain promoters of circumcision" that came "from James".
- 3. Satan created a plausible framework for the distortion of the Truth -- so plausible, in fact, that even Barnabas fell for it.
- 4. The larger goal was to insert a small, but fatal, distortion that would, over time, make "justification by faith" impossible.
- III. The "Opposition" Factor.
- A. Paul claims that he "stood against" Cephas in his behavior-based corruption.
- 1. The word-choice here indicates Paul's attempt to block the outward ripples of the impact of the behavior of Cephas.
- 2. Paul's opposition to the "behavior" was rooted in deep wisdom: he knew that the words of true doctrine do not carry the day in terms of how Truth is understood; actions do that.
- B. Paul's explanation was that Cephas "was to be blamed".
- 1. The word-choice here is rare; only used once by Paul and twice in 1 John.
- 2. The word actually signifies the state of the heart in two areas.
- a. First, the heart knows its guilt.
- b. Second, the heart makes confidence in God impossible.
- 1) Notice John's context in 1 John 3:18 -- the insistence that behavior transcend words.
- 2) Notice John's interest in 3:19 and 21 -- the ability to be confident before God.