Sermon #5 Galatians Series
Title: “What Happened At Jerusalem?”
Text: Galatians 2:1-10 (Read Acts 15:1-29)
Subject: The council at Jerusalem – Law or Liberty?
I have read in your presence two portions of Sacred Scripture that are very often passed over very lightly, because they are considered only as brief instances in the marvelous history of the early church. But I am convinced that these two chapters record for us the first serious crisis, which arose in the church of our Savior, and, though there are portions within these two chapters that require careful comparative study in order to understand them, we will be greatly rewarded if we will apply ourselves in their study.
During the days of the Apostles, and early in the ministry of the Apostle Paul the church had to undergo a very trying crisis. That church which was on the Day of Pentecost “all with one accord” was now seriously divided. As persecutions scattered the early believers into various parts of the world, so also was scattered the precious seed of the Gospel, and many converts were made among the Gentiles. Moreover, Paul had been converted, made an Apostle, and was sent to preach the Gospel among the Gentiles; and many were converted.
Meantime, there were some men, of the sect of the Pharisees, who had falsely embraced Christianity; that is they had joined the church, but through subtlety. They did not really embrace the doctrines of free-grace, but mixed with the gospel the various ceremonies of the law. And, before long many of the truly converted Jews were being mislead so that there were some who said, “Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved.”
Under the old Jewish economy, circumcision had both a moral and a ceremonial significance. For them, to do away with circumcision was to do away with the whole Mosaic law. Many of them were not quite ready for this, as Paul’s letter to the Hebrews clearly shows. The Mosaic law was ordained by God in the hands of angels. It had been the true religion for 4,000 years. It was very difficult for the Jewish believers to realize that they whole Mosaic systems was typical and therefore transitory. Thus, the issue was not merely over circumcision, but over the whole legal system. Are Christians obliged to keep Moses law, or are they free from it? This was the question that divided the church in those early days, and, though the Apostles unanimously settled the question, it still divides the church of Christ. There are still those who insist upon bringing the free men in Christ to the servitude of Moses’ law. It is a very regrettable thing that many of our dear brethren in the rapidly growing Calvinistic movement are strongly teaching the law of Moses to Christians. It is ironic that those who should be most clear in their declaration of the pure gospel of free-grace are most severe in bringing Christians back under the bondage of the law. Let us, my brethren, beware lest we become entangled again with the law. There is no life in the law. Christ only has life. “In Him is life,” and nowhere else. May our lips, our hearts, and our doctrine, never cease to declare…
Free from the law, O happy condition,
Jesus hath bled, And there is remission;
Cursed by the law, And bruised by the fall,
Grace hath redeemed us, once for all.
Now are we free, There is no condemnation,
Jesus provides a perfect salvation,
Come unto me, O hear His sweet call.
Come and He saves us, once for all.
Paul went up to Jerusalem, not to get instruction or authority from the other Apostles, but to settle, once for all, this question of law verses liberty, to show to all the world that he and all the other Apostles were in agreement in this matter of free-grace, and that no place was to be given to the law, as far as the Christian was concerned.
James, Peter, John, and Paul all agreed upon the doctrine of the gospel, their message was salvation by the righteousness of Christ, without anything done by man. Grace alone! (As the motive), Christ alone! (As the Accomplisher), Faith alone! (As the Receiver).
“What Happened At Jerusalem?”
1. There was a direct revelation (1-2a)
2. There was a doctrinal recitation (2b –5).
3. There was a declarative reception (6-9).
4. There was a duty realized (10).
I. There was a direct revelation (1-2a).
Paul went up to Jerusalem by the direct revelation of God. This was apparently Paul’s third visit to Jerusalem, (He for some reason saw fit not to mention the second one recorded by Luke in Acts 1:30), which took place fourteen years after his first visit there. So this trip to Jerusalem took place seventeen years after Paul’s conversion. He was now a seasoned, prudent, powerful, and confirmed Apostle.
A. The cause of this trip – Why was it necessary for him to go to Jerusalem?
a. It was not because he had questions concerning the doctrines he had taught.
b. It was not in order to have his apostleship confirmed.
a. It was to settle a division in the church over this matter of the law.
b. It was to show that he and the other Apostles taught the same doctrine.
B. The companions on this trip.
1. Barnabas was his companion.
a. His name – “Bar” – son, “nabas” – prophecy. He was a “son of exhortation,” or a “son of comfort.” This name was given to him by the apostles, probably as a description of the pre-eminent character of his ministry.
b. His character – He was a good man, full of the Holy Ghost, and faith (Acts 11:24).
2. Titus was his convert.
a. He was a Gentile – Uncircumcised.
b. He was a convert to Christianity under Paul’s ministry.
c. He was a Gospel preacher.
C. The commission of this trip.
1. Paul was sent by God (v. 2).
NOTE: In all matters of importance we should seek to have our course directed by God.
a. He inclines the heart by His Spirit.
b. In providence He open the way.
2. Paul was sent by the church at Antioch (Acts 15:2-3).
II. There was a doctrinal recitation (2b-5).
Paul carefully, frankly, and fully explained his doctrine to the chief apostles at Jerusalem, James, Peter, and John.
A. There was a deliberate communication to true brethren (2b-3).
1. Paul’s prudence.
a. First, he wisely and properly sought the apostles and elders of the church. He sought those who were of reputation. What was their reputation? – Preaching.
NOTE: Anytime a man has a matter of controversy to lay before an assembly he should discuss it with the pastor of that assembly.
b. Secondly, he declared to them his gospel and the success it met with (Acts 15:4).
(1.) He explained his message.
(2.) He explained his miracles.
(3.) He explained his method (Preaching).
(4.) He explained his might (Success, Rom. 1:16-17; 2 Cor. 2:15-17).
c. Thirdly, he declared these things publicly to the assembly at Jerusalem.
2. Paul’s precaution.
He acted in this manner so that his mission might not be in vain. If he had gone directly to the church, he might have caused greater division, and would have been less likely to be understood.
3. Paul’s proof (3).
Paul’s proof of his agreement with the other apostles was that they did not compel, or even suggest that Titus should be circumcised.
NOTE: Paul allowed Timothy, who was part Jew, to be circumcised later; but it was in order not to cause offence, not because of doctrinal compulsion (Acts 16:3). We should learn thus to use our liberty in Christ (1 Cor. 10:28-31).
B. There was a defying confrontation with false brethren (4-5).
1. The brazenness of these Pharisees (4).
The reason for Titus not being circumcised was the presence of these men (Acts 15:5; Jude 4).
2. The boldness of Paul (5).
Brethren, in matters of faith we cannot give even an inch.
III. There was a declarataive reception (6-9).
A. The recognition of the apostles (6-7).
1. Paul’s recognition of the pillars (6).
NOTE: This verse is no sarcasm. It is a recognition of the esteem which these men had of their elders. Ministers of the gospel should be held in high esteem of those among whom they labor (Heb. 13:17).
a. God was not concerned with what men had been (were) by nature, but what they were by His grace.
b. Paul was equal with these men by virtue of his calling, and he knew it.
2. The pillars recognition of Paul (7).
NOTE: They saw that God had entrusted Paul with the gospel to the Gentiles, as he had entrusted Peter with it to the Jews.
a. Paul had a stewardship of the gospel committed to him to go to the Gentiles (2 Cor. 9:17; 1 Thess. 2:4; 1 Tim. 1:11-12; Eph. 3:8).
b. Peter had a stewardship of the gospel committed to him to go to the Jews.
c. The gospel committed to both was the same.
QUOTE: “The essential qualification for any service is trustworthiness (Mt. 25:21; 2 Cor. 4:2). It is in the mercy of God that his servants are enabled to be trustworthy (1 Cor. 7:25; 2 Cor. 4:1), and continue so (Acts 26:22), unto the end (Acts 20:24, 2 Tim. 4:7). (Hogg and Vine).
B. The repetition of the accomplishments (8).
God had honor Paul’s ministry just as he had Peter’s.
C. The reception of the apostles (9).
Paul and Barnabas were received into the fellowship of the Apostles.
1. The meaning of fellowship.
Fellowship is a general term expressing the common experiences, interests, goals, and hopes of Christian men.
2. The basis of fellowship (1 John 1:3-7).
The knowledge of Christ is the only basis of Christian fellowship.
3. The acknowledgement of this fellowship.
It showed that James, Peter, and John looked upon Paul and Barnabas as their equals.
IV. There was a duty realized (10).
A. The command of this duty.
1. This was taught in the law (Ex. 23:10-11, 30:15, Lev. 19:10, Deut. 15:7-11).
2. This was taught by the prophets (Jer. 22:16, Dan. 4:27, Amos 2:6-7).
3. This was taught by the Savior (Mt. 7:12; Lk. 6:36; John 13:29).
B. The continuation of this duty (1 Cor. 16:1-2).
C. The commendation of this duty (2 Cor. 8:9; Mt. 25:31-40).
1. What have we been taught in this passage?
a. The singularity of the gospel.
b. The simplicity of the gospel.
2. What should we do?
a. Publish the gospel.
b. Feed the hungry.
3. Should we use the law? Yes, by all means, to show men their guilt, but for nothing else!