Friday, July 31

Judge not! Really?


 sole survivor washed ashore on a small island and wasn’t found for years. When rescues discovered him they found he had built three huts. When asked, he pointed to the one and said, “That’s my house.” Then he pointed to a second, and said, “That’s my church”.
After a bit of silence, the rescuers asked about the third hut. Nonchalantly, he said, “Oh that was the church I used to belong to.”

In some towns, the preachers know the families who ‘church hop’. They’re at this place one week and a month later they’re down the street with another group. Someone says something to them or doesn’t say something to them and they’re off looking for the next place where God is calling them.

These are examples of what it means when Jesus tells us “Judge not” as in Matthew 7:1. John Stott describes much of the judgment is along lines of the form of baptism, if the person ordained is properly in line with the apostles, the color of their skin or the from the right social class (Stott).

Matthew 7 ends calling us to make a judgment call as to whether Jesus’ words are worth dedicating our life or not.
 “24Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock…26And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.”  
In Matthew 5, Jesus calls for self-judgment in areas of anger and lust. Jesus judges the Pharisees of his day and calls them white-washed tombs. God judges a couple in Acts 5 for lying to the church. Acts 10, as we’ve read, Peter makes a judgment and baptizes a Gentile family on whom the Holy Spirit had fallen.  And in Antioch, the church makes a judgment and separated Paul and Barnabas to a new ministry. Today, in 1 Corinthians 6 Paul expects the church to be able to judge issues that crop up between members without taking it to pagan courts.

So why, do we hear people telling us, “don’t Judge”; “Christians are too judgmental”, or “who are you to judge?” Here’s the answer. First they don’t understand what judgment is and isn’t. Second, they are guilty and don’t want to be held accountable Third, they don’t have any foundation from which to properly exercise judgment. The conflict between Paul and Peter is a great example of these three issues

What is and isn’t judgment?

Do not mistake an opinion for judgment. Opinions can flow from our “fears, pride or ignorance” (Smedes). Dr. Smedes says, “Judgments are opinions that we form only after we have made a serious effort to know the facts, and, for those of us who are Christians, only after we have consulted the moral teachings of Scripture and prayed for Spirit-informed discernment.” Then there is this great summary, “Any lazy or biased fool can have opinions; making judgments is the hard work of responsible and compassionate people.” (Smedes).

When Paul confronts Peter it isn’t based on some opinion of what is and isn’t right behavior. Peter has, up to the time these other guys showed up, been eating and visiting with Gentiles like it was no big deal. This other group shows up and he starts to pull away, to become aloof and distance himself.

It becomes so obvious even Barnabas, who has been Paul’s partner steps away from the very churches he’s helped establish.

Paul doesn’t mince words, Peter “stood condemned”. The word indicates someone “condemned before God” (Kittle TDNT 8:568 n. 51). He’s just not wrong. He didn’t simply make a mistake.

Guilty as charged

Why did this happen? The simple story is one of peer-pressure, of giving into the expectations of others instead of standing for what we know is true or right. It is a story as old as sin itself. Remember Ralphie in A Christmas Story? He’s fine till, “the coup de grace of all dares, the sinister triple-dog-dare” (A Christmas Story). Go ahead, everyone’s doing it, are you chicken… are other such things we have heard in the past.

Peter is pulled away from the expectation of others. There is something nice about knowing that even now, with the church growing, God working and the kingdom expanding that Peter still caves. I love the quote from Dunnam’s commentary.
It is to our spiritual benefit, growth, and maturity, not that we are fickle in our loyalty, wavering in our convictions, but that, like Peter, when our weakness is revealed we acknowledge our betrayal, repent in sorrow, and dedicate ourselves again to be Christ’s representatives and servants. (Dunnam and Ogilvie p 41).
But his failure at this place not only overcame him but caused him to betray the hope of the Gentile believers who thought they had a friend in Peter.

Paul lays it out for Peter in clear, unmistakable terms. Peter may believe the right way but he isn’t living the ‘truth of the Gospel’ (v. 14) which literally means ‘not walking straight’. When he confronts Peter he does so by relating to him by saying “We ourselves…” (v.15). Here’s my paraphrase of the meet of verses 16-17. “Peter, you and I know this truth of the folly of the Law and the power of Jesus. And if we keep trying to do it by our efforts we’re going to go to hell as sinners.”

There is humility in Paul’s confrontation. He includes himself with Peter in the issue.

No foundation for proper judgment

Last week I mentioned, ‘line in the sand’ type of choices we face and how Paul faced this with the issue of circumcision of Gentile believers. Here is another line over the issue of justification.

The basis for any judgment is Jesus Christ, who loved us and gave himself for us as Paul writes in v. 20. Paul doesn’t say, “I feel that Jesus would have us…” He goes to the facts of Jesus’ life and death; of the revelation he, Paul, had experienced of Jesus himself and of his call. Today we do the same thing, but we do it by referring to the book in which these are recorded, God’s Word.  

The foundation of Christ and His word give us the facts which takes from mere opinion to a place of judgment. And it is the only vantage point from which one can hope to rightly judge oneself or another. Our ability to stand on this vantage point comes only when we are justified by God through Jesus Christ.

Justification isn’t a common word today. We hear it along with ‘making excuses’ or to explain away something we did or didn’t do. We sometimes use it when we type a document and have to justify margins. Trust me, the Biblical meaning is different.

It takes something that is out of place and moves it into the right place. It refers to something that is ‘straight’ as opposed to bent or crooked. It refers to God taking us from where we are, in sin, and putting us where we should be, in a relationship with Himself. When a person does God’s will, which involves believing Jesus is the Messiah and Savior they are righteous. It is so central to the faith Luther called it the “principle article of all Christian doctrine.” And “So necessary it is, therefore, that we should know this article well, teach it unto others, and beat it into their heads continually” (Luther)

Paul underscores for Peter, the Galatians and us just how important it is to know the basis for our justification. If we allow the works we do to make us worthy we fall short. If we allow Jesus to be the one we trust we stand strong.

Turning the corner--Application

The world strives to make ‘opinion’ and ‘judgment’ interchangeable. When opinions rule there is no basis for judgment. Judgment is bad because it includes guilt, restitution, payment, punishment, sorrow and other un-nice feelings. The world wants to keep un-nice things away from us. 

With opinions truth becomes whatever is trending on Twitter, FOX news or the latest trend in news reporting. Look to God’s Word, for God’s judgment and instructions. It’s not easy, it takes work, and it takes time. But it is THE source of God’s judgment and hope for everyone around us including our neighbors and friends.

Remember to judge others with a humility and grace.

Be quick to confess when you have failed, as Peter did. One of the things that I should do with this table is remind us that we aren’t to eat and drink if we don’t know Jesus or we have unconfessed sin. Paul says some of the Corinthians had even died because they took the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner.

Works Cited

A Christmas Story. 2015. DVD.
Dunnam, Maxie D, and Lloyd John Ogilvie. Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982. Print.
Kittel, Gerhard, G. W Bromiley, and Gerhard Friedrich. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1964. Print.
Luther, Martin. A Commentary on St. Paul's Epistle to the Galatians. Cambridge, Eng.: J. Clarke, 1953. Print.
Smedes, Lewis. 'Who Are We To Judge?’ N. p., 2015. Web. 31 July 2015.
Stott, John R. W. The Message of Galatians. London: Inter-Varsity P., 1968. Print.

Sunday, July 26

Rule Keeping for a Christian Galatians 2:1-11 3rd sermon on Galatians

aving come to faith just as the “Jesus movement” of the early 70’s took off I have a special place in my soul for the music, teachers and some of the theological teaching that came out of that period of church history. When a group of ‘kids’ like us got around someone usually brought up how the First Century Church was so much better than the church of the 70’s.
It was simpler, purer, and less driven by money. It cared for people more and took God’s Word serious. Now, 40 years later, I see how stupid we were. To quote one blogger, “The church in Acts was immature” (Unger). The church in the first century had people bragging about sleeping with their step-moms and during communion, some got drunk and ate most of the food before others could get off work (1 Cor.). They fell for teachers who claimed Jesus had already come back (1 Thess.). 

In fact what should have been common was held up as a great mark of maturity for the followers of Christ in Berea who “Received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11). One more thing the church in Acts had was oversight. No congregation did things on their own. None went their own way and decided to believe what they wanted. The Apostles were in Jerusalem and served as the council of the Church and made the determination as to what God was doing. Structures are important, even in the 1st Century (Dunnam and Ogilvie p 33). That is proven in the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15.

Paul, Barnabas, and Titus have come back to Jerusalem with an offering for the poor but also with a story to tell of how God had touched Gentiles with Christ. Standing there, against them were a group of people who had tried to enforce Jewish rules of eating kosher and even circumcision on these Gentiles.

The Galatian account of Acts 15 only affirms what the Apostles told Paul and Barnabas—that there is only one gospel. There is not one gospel for Jews and another gospel for Gentiles. And we do well if we do not forget this truth today because there are many different gospels being proclaimed in our world today.

What we need to know

There is no perfect church

To quote an old saying, “If you joined the perfect church it would no longer be perfect.” Oh, I’ve met people looking for them. They’ve run from multicultural to house churches and eventually into the Greek Orthodox Church.

Because of this fact, we should never be surprised when there are issues such as Paul faced. Last Thursday an article was published about a paper Pope Francis might sign which would declare an end to the rivalry between the Evangelical Christians and the Catholic Church. Problems will still happen from “The most rabid, anti-Catholic, fire-breathing fundamentalists right through to the prosperity gospel televangelists, ‘Evangelical’ Anglo-Catholics, charismatics and modernist Protestants. (Dwight Longenecker in (Coppen)).

In the midst of any concerns, arguments, schisms, disagreements, revolts or whatever word you want to use the key is to discern is they are ‘line in the sand’ issues or ‘something you can live with and work around’.

What Paul was facing was the first type of issue. No compromise could be made with these people who wanted to include Jewish law in the Gospel. The false brothers in vv. 3-4 are described as traitors or spies who infiltrate an enemy camp. Not only were they spies but their spying intruded into the ministry Paul was attempting to carry out (Logenecker p 51).

There is ONE Gospel

Today there are those who want to make Paul a second-class apostle. They will separate the “Gospel of Jesus” from the “Legalism of Paul”. At their best they are deluded. At their worst they are demonic.

Paul does not stand outside of Christ but smack dab in the center of what Jesus’ gospel was all about. “As strong-willed and independent as Paul was, he gave authority due respect. He may have gone his own way, but he did so in the context of structure and relationship. Even though he differed from the leaders in Jerusalem he went and talked with them, kept communication open, and recognized authority and structure” (Dunnam and Ogilvie p 33). 

Jesus is portrayed by some as a love of everyone, who criticized the 1%, helped the poor and was killed because he was a political threat. These same people see Paul as bipolar, who writes about no male or female only to command women to be silent, who supports slavery be telling slaves to submit (Elliott). John Stott writes how today we are told we “do not need to pay too much attention to his [Paul’s] writings. They forget or deny that he was an apostle of Jesus Christ, uniquely called, commissioned, authorized and inspired to teach in His [Jesus’] name” (Stott p 32). 

Ironically, the Judaizers are the one who claim Paul’s gospel is different than that of Peter’s and the other Apostles. How does Paul confront this sabotage? He brings with him a Jewish leader known to Peter and the others—Barnabas and a Gentile believer who was being trained by Paul—Titus as examples of the Gospel he’s been preaching.

What Jerusalem and these apostles do is offer Paul the right-hand of fellowship. They do not demand Titus be circumcised. They did not place limits on or added anything to Paul. Paul’s letter to the Galatians demonstrates that

The Gospel has to be maintained

There is line to be walked between sisters and brothers who believe the same gospel we do but do things differently or emphasis different aspect of theology and those who are ‘sham-Christians’ as the NEB refers to Paul’s enemies.

Not only did the Apostles in Jerusalem recognize and accept Paul’s ministry there was a division of labor with Paul focusing on the Gentiles and the others on the Jews. Let me go back for a moment to the 1970’s and the Jesus movement. There were those who wanted those who were coming to know Jesus to look like their parents. Tim Wise, who tried to bring about change in the church he had started to attend was told by the pastor, “'Ted, perhaps you're not a Baptist... I should have suspected it; I had hair down to my shoulders, a beard and was the only one in hipster clothes…many of my friends where becoming Christians; some even attended church with us. The pastor, in an effort to keep the peace with his regular congregation, put us in a special category. He called it a ministry; I called it prejudice (Wise).”

What his preacher and others forgot was that THE ONE Gospel confronts people and transforms them, not into clones of what came before but into new creations. At First Presbyterian in Richmond, Lloyd Gaut was freaked out not by our clothes and like, but by the fact we brought our bibles, sat in the first three pews in front of the pulpit, and wrote notes in them as he preached. We were doing things our parents would have never considered.

In the years to come those who want to maintain this one gospel are going to be pressured to accept a sham-gospel from sham-preachers. We’re going to hear ‘God is all about Love’ when what is being taught is sentimentality. We’re going to hear ‘God is accepting’ and verses where people walk away from Jesus will be ignored. We’re going to hear we shouldn’t make people feel bad, guilty, uneasy, or sad. We need to remind people such experiences are what leads to repentance and the chance to start over.

How do you tell the fake Gospel from the real Gospel? It’s like a diet. Any diet that says you don’t have to change what you eat or exercise is a lie. Likewise, any Gospel that claims you can keep on doing what you’ve always done and never read the Bible or pray is a lie. Let’s strive for the truth. Let us pray.

Works Cited

Coppen, Luke. "The Pope's great Evangelical gamble"." 23 Thursday 2015. Cahtolic Hearld UK. .
Dunnam, Maxie D. and Lloyd J. Ogilvie. Galatians / Ephesians / Philippians / Colossians / Philemon. Vol. 31. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982. Print.
Elliott, Neil. "The Apostle Paul on Sexuality." n.d. .
Logenecker, Richard N. Galatians. Volume 41:. Word Biblical Commentary. Vol. 41. Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1998. Print.
Stott, John. Only One Way. Inter-Varsity Press, 1973. Print.
Unger, Lyndon. "Should we strive to be like the church in Acts?" 19 September 2014. The Cripplegate: for a new generation of non-conformists. .
Wise, Tim. "Jason Questions a Jesus Freak." 13 September 1997. .