the gospel of GO
“When James, Cephas, and John—those recognized as pillars—acknowledged the grace that had been given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to me and Barnabas, agreeing that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised” (Galatians 2:9 CSB).
the gospel of grace is the flag of our unity in Christ
We all come to Christ on the same basis. When I learned that Jesus is God’s only Son and our only sacrifice for sin, I decided to accept him as my Savior. I knew then and there that everyone who accepted the same gospel and made the same choice would be my brother or sister in Christ. They might not look like me, talk like me, or even act like me, but they would be part of my family. We may not have anything in common except the gospel of grace, but that is enough.
We enjoy fellowship with all true believers everywhere on the same basis.
That meeting that Paul had with the church leaders in Jerusalem was crucial because it would decide whether there would be two Christianities – the Jewish version and the Gentile version. Would the leaders in Jerusalem accept a church of Jesus Christ without their Jewish traditions? Their acceptance of Paul, as demonstrated by their giving him the right hand of fellowship represented their understanding of the basis of everyone’s standing with God.
We don’t have to conform to the traditions of others in order to be a part of the body of Christ. But sadly, that was a lesson we had to learn over and over again in Christian history. The Protestant Reformation was necessary because human traditions took control and led the Christian church into bondage for a thousand years.
God sends missionaries out – not to enslave people, but to set them free. That lesson has been very hard for us to learn as well. We have created churches all over the world that look and act just like the missionaries. But when we did that, we ensured that those churches would not be able to reach the unbelievers in their own culture. Thankfully, God’s Holy Spirit has empowered many of those churches to remold themselves into churches that can reach their own people. All around the world today, people are being won to Christ by these transformed churches.
the false gospel seeks to destroy that gospel of grace
Paul knew what was going on in Galatia because the very same thing had been attempted in Antioch when he was there. Proponents of the false gospel were trying to influence the people in the churches to deny the gospel of grace. Paul had opposed that movement in Antioch. He said…
“But we did not give up and submit to these people for even a moment, so that the truth of the gospel would be preserved for you” (5).
What was at stake was the truth of the gospel.
That false gospel replaces freedom with slavery. Paul had said..
“This matter arose because some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus in order to enslave us” (4).
That false gospel replaces integrity with hypocrisy. Paul had related his experience with Peter, also called Cephas:
“But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face because he stood condemned. For he regularly ate with the Gentiles before certain men came from James. However, when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, because he feared those from the circumcision party. Then the rest of the Jews joined his hypocrisy, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy” (11-13).
A Hypocrite is an actor. When someone is acting like he’s better than you, you can bet that behind that hypocrisy is a false gospel, because the true gospel admits that all of us need Jesus equally.
That false gospel replaces the cross with human works. If anybody could have claimed to deserve special treatment because of his works, it would be Paul, but he said…
“I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing” (20-21).
the true gospel is the only one which will reach the nations for Christ
The same gospel was for the Jew as well as the Gentile.
“… they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel for the uncircumcised, just as Peter was for the circumcised, since the one at work in Peter for an apostleship to the circumcised was also at work in me for the Gentiles” (7-8).
It is not that there are two gospels – one for Jews and another one for Gentiles. No, there is only one gospel, and God has sent missionaries to every corner of the globe to proclaim it.
Paul would later write to the Romans that he was not ashamed of the gospel because it is the power of God to save the Jew first (because it came to them first) but also to the Greeks and everyone else (Romans 1:16).
What these leaders in Jerusalem realized is that in order for the Gentile world to hear the gospel, someone had to go, and they recognized that Paul had been called to do so.
The gospel always comes with a mandate to missions work.
Remember those words “…we should go” (9). The Christian gospel is the gospel of GO. None of us have been called to stay. Some of us are called to go overseas, others have been called to go next door. But all of us have a mission.
Remember the great commission, where Jesus told us “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19).
Remember also that the purpose of the Holy Spirit was to empower us for this mission. Jesus told us…
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
the false gospel is the gospel of STAY
Now, here’s the problem. All of us are born into communities, and families and each of us will know the temptation to stay. It’s not just the temptation to stay in one place. It can also be the temptation to stay like we are. Stay isolated. Stay conforming to past norms.
But the gospel of stay is a false gospel. If we are committed to staying like we are, we will never have an opportunity to reach others with the gospel of Christ. The most we can ever accomplish is reaching people like us, who are where we are, doing what we do.
There are nations that are in bondage, who need the message of freedom in Christ.
There are also neighbors who need the gospel, and those neighbors are not exactly like us, either. The gospel of GO for us means that we need to show our neighbors that Jesus can set them free too, and they do not have to become like us for that to happen.
LORD, give us the courage to renounce the false gospel of STAY, and to reach out to those who are different from us, so that they can also know freedom and forgiveness in Christ.