Sermon – November 5, 2017
Paul now reports to the Galatians, and us, of his longest and to that point most important trip to Jerusalem. The threats facing the Galatians are not new; Paul has seen them before. Here, he informs the Galatians of this fateful trip to Jerusalem, provoked by God, so that Paul might show them the threats and dangers the gospel has already faced.
1. Threat of disunity (vv. 1-2)
Why is Paul, who seems so certain about the truthfulness of his gospel, say that he was afraid of running in vain? Why does he feel the need to place his gospel in front of the other apostles? Was he hoping for their approval? No, certainly not! Rather, he had pragmatic concerns about what disunity amongst the apostles would mean for his mission, and the preaching of the gospel on all fronts.
2. Threat of legalism (vv. 3-4)
The major problem that the gospel will always face is a creeping sense of moralism among the people of God. We cannot make ourselves acceptable to God on our own. It is only through Christ that we can be justified. While we should expect growth through the work of the Spirit, but we must never think that we earn the grace of God.
3. Threat of unity (v. 5)
We must cherish unity, but unity is itself the outflow of the gospel, and thus cannot take priority over the gospel. It would have been easy to capitulate, to give in to demands that others see as quite important. But Paul knows the impact that circumcision will have on the gospel: providing unity but losing salvation.
4. Threat of authority (vv. 6-9)
Paul mentions several times that the apostles before him were respected, but clarifies that no one should put too great an emphasis on that. God doesn’t care if they walked with Jesus; God cares about the truth of the gospel. While they did support Paul’s gospel, and recognized its truth, even these apostles’ opinions are not to be valued over the revelation of the gospel!
5. Threat of theology (v. 10)
Given the surrounding discussion, verse 10 seems quite out of place. Why does Paul mention this here? Dropped into the middle of a theological discussion over the nature of salvation and justification is the practical matter of poverty. Paul likely knew, as the other apostles did, that theology cannot simply be an academic pursuit, but must be practical as well. The gospel may be from heaven, but it is meant for those still on the earth!
The threats to the gospel we have mentioned this morning are not outside threats. These dangers surround us, spring up from us, and can easily grow amongst us. We fight these dangers the way Christians have always fought them: clinging to Christ for our satisfaction, justification, and love.