JANUARY 18, 2015

Rev. Dr. Richard Meyer


Play Audio


           Its amazing what a person with time on his or her hands can find on the internet.  Heres what I found on Tuesday.  I did a Google search for movie sequels and came up with something called The 50 Greatest Movie Sequels on the web site Empire Online. Number 50 on their list was Shrek 2.  Number 49 was Bill & Teds Bogus Journey.   Dont worry.  Im not going to go through all fifty. If you are interested you can do your own Google search on movie sequels.  Instead, I want to share the top three movie sequels of all time, at least according to Empire Online.  Number three is Terminator 2: Judgment Day.  Number two is The Godfather: Part Two and number one is drum roll please Aliens.  If you are a fan of that movie genre, which I am not, the first in the series was titled Alien and the sequel Aliens.  Im just not all that big on parasites growing in a persons body, and then bursting out of someones chest and rapidly growing into an eight-foot tall creature that kills everyone in sight, but if thats your cup of tea, Im sure you loved the four-part series concluding with Alien Resurrection. 

            Today, as we continue our sermon series titledWintering in Galatia, we are doing our own little sequel.  Last Sunday we looked at Pauls account of his first trip to Jerusalem.  Today we will look at his second trip to that holy city. So, take out your bible and lets start reading through our passage for today, which I am going to divide into three sections.  Lets read section one, verses 1 & 2.  Lets call it The Revelation.


            Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along with me.  I went up in response to a revelation.  Then I laid before them (though only in a private meeting with the acknowledged leaders) the gospel that I proclaimed among the Gentiles, in order to make sure that I was not running, or had not run in vain.


            If you were here last week, you recall Paul's first to Jerusalem trip took place three years after his conversion, when he went to Jerusalem to meet and to confer with Peter.  James, the Jesus brother, popped in on their time together, but Paul went expressly to Jerusalem to confer with Peter.

            He goes again a second time, this time in response to a revelation, and there are a couple of things to clarify here.  First, he says nothing about how the revelation came to him. Did God speak to him directly, Spirit to spirit, or did the revelation come from another who spoke the right word at the right time, or did it come in the form of a dream like it did to Joseph concerning Mary, or did the revelation come while he read Scripture, in this case the Hebrew Scriptures because the Greek Scriptures, the New Testament did not yet exist?  Paul simply does not say.

            Second, though he does not specify how the revelation came to him, he does allude to its content.  He went to Jerusalem to explain his approach to proclaiming the Gospel to the Gentiles.  Apparently word had reached Paul that some from the mother ship, some from the church in Jerusalem, questioned if Paul was using the right approach with the Gentiles, so he went to Jerusalem to assure the powers that be that he was not running awry. He hoped the mucky mucks in Jerusalem would give him their blessing.  We get the impression, however, that he would have continued on without their blessing.

            Before we move onto section two, let me elaborate a bit more.  At this point Christianity was still viewed as a sect of Judaism, and the first converts in Jerusalem and in Judea, would have come out of the Jewish faith.  They would have been circumcised, they would be followers of the law of Moses, and the question became, "Did you need to become a Jew to become a Christian."  Well, Paul ministering to Gentiles came out on the side of No, you did not.  You didnt need to embrace Judaism and all its trappings to become a follower of Christ.  But some did, and well see that come into play as we continue working through our passage.  Let's move onto the second section of our passage, verses three through five.  Lets call this section The Dust Up.


            But even Titus, who was with me, was not compelled to be circumcised, though he was a Greek.  But because of false believers secretly brought in, who slipped in to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might enslave us - we did not submit to them even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might always remain with you.


            Paul shows a lot of wisdom here. Its one thing to discuss abstract theological issues; its another thing to see how they apply to real people. Paul brings Titus with him to Jerusalem certainly because he was one of his regular traveling companions.  We see this in Acts and his other letters, and possibly not just as a traveling companion, but also as a test case, so that everyone knows theyre talking about people, not just abstract theory, but about a real person.  Titus was a Gentile and he had never been circumcised.

            Paul's second visit to Jerusalem got a little dicey, however, when some outside agitators pressured Titus, to be circumcised. Paul tells the Galatians that he stood his ground on that point, that he resisted pressure to have Titus, a Greek like them, to be circumcised. He said he didnt even give it a second thought. For Paul, though Christianity originated in Judaism, it was not bound to Judaism. In part, because of what happened on that trip to Jerusalem thats the reason you and I do not need to be Bar Mitzvahed or Bat Mitzvahed as part of being followers of Jesus Christ.  We dont even think about it today, but back then it was an issue.  Back then some thought you needed to embrace all of Judaism if you decided to embrace Jesus.

            Its amazing some of the laws still on the books today.  According to Business Insider in Florida its unlawful to permit or participate in dwarf tossing.  I guess the politically correct term today is little person tossing.  In Minnesota any game in which participants attempt to capture a greased pig is illegal.  In Arkansas it is illegal for a person to blare the horn on a vehicle at any place where cold drinks or sandwiches are served after 9 p.m. In North Carolina bingo games can only last up to five hours. In Marietta, Georgia, it is illegal to spit from a moving car or bus, but is okay from a moving truck.

            Im sure, at one time or another, those laws were relevant, but today most of them sound ridiculous.  For Paul it was ridiculous to force Mosaic law, particularly the rite of circumcision, on a Christian male.  Lets continue on to the last section, verses six through ten.  Lets call this, The Happy Ending.


            And from those who were supposed to be acknowledged leaders (what they actually were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality) - those leaders contributed nothing to me. On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel for the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel of the circumcised (for he worked through Peter making him an apostle to the circumcised also worked through me in sending me to the Gentiles), and when James and Cephas and John


            A quick clarification if you where here last week.  Remember I said that Peter was the leader of the original apostles, and he was always listed first in the gospels?  In the gospels it was always Peter, James and John, not here where the list is James and Cephas and John.  Well, note this list does not occur in one of the gospels, this is Pauls list of the pillar apostles and the person listed first,James, had risen to be the head of the church in Jerusalem, not Peter, so Paul lists him first.  Also, this is not the James, the brother of John.  That James was killed by Herod, the first of the apostles to be martyred for the faith.  This James, this pillar of the Jerusalem church, was James, the brother of Jesus. Lets continue reading


            And when James and Cephas and John, who were acknowledged pillars, recognized the grace that had been given to me, they gave to Barnabas and me the right hand of fellowship (in other words The Good Housekeeping Seal of the early church) agreeing that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised.  They asked only one thing, that we remember the poor, which was actually what I was eager to do.


            So, it all worked out in the end.  The church pillars endorsed Pauls approach to the Gentiles, which resulted in two different strains of Christianity the Jewish strain and the Christian strain. We might point to this as the beginning of Christian denominations.  One approach was no better than the other, just different.  Paul didnt need to insist on circumcision.  He did, however, have to have a concern for the poor, which he said he already had.

            In closing I could comment on the importance of fighting for unity in the Body of Christ, that they had this difference about circumcision and Jewish law, but they worked it out.  I could talk about that, but instead I want to focus on something else.  I want to draw your attention to verse 6


            And from those who were supposed to be acknowledged leaders (what they actually were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality) those leaders contributed nothing to me.


            At first glance Paul seems a little snarky here. Those who were supposed to be acknowledged leaders those leaders contributed nothing to me sounds like a cheap shot, but we need to remember couple of things.  First, hes defending this authority as an apostle, that it came directly from God and not any other human, so his saying those leaders contributed nothing to me," fits his argument.  Second we need to remember that in the original Greek, the sentence that begins here contains ninety-five words, strung together with relative pronouns and tumbling participles.  Its typical of Pauls headlong style.  He started out simply to say that James, Peter and John had no problem with his gospel, that they found nothing lacking in it, but as the began to dictate this, a big thought flashed through his mind, that I want to end upon today.  The thought: God shows no partiality.

            Paul reminds us that when we stand before God, nothing apart from Jesus matters. Our rank, our status, our reputation, and our accomplishments dont do anything for us. We cant add anything to what Jesus has done.  What matters to God is that we are in Christ.

            In light of this, let me close with a question. When we look at others, how do we see them? The problem in Pauls day was that some in the church were looking at Gentiles who believed in Jesus but hadnt been circumcised, and they saw them as deficient. Its the same problem that we face today when we look at someone whos trusted in Jesus Christ but looks or acts differently than us. We have a tendency to judge them based on external factors, when in reality Jesus is enough. Theres no favoritism with God.  Theres no partiality with God. The newest Christian with tattoos and nicotine stains and other questionable stuff stands beside the most mature believer whos a pillar of the church. Before God theres no difference. The grounds of our acceptance is Christ. God shows no partiality.  God shows no favorites.  Thanks be to God.  Amen.