Have you ever used something like Super Glue or Gorilla Glue?
Gorilla Glue calls itself “The Toughest Glue on Planet Earth”. It claims to bond with ease to wood, stone, metal, ceramics and more!
I remember from a while back the television commercials for Super Glue when it was first coming out. Do you remember those? I saw a guy who had glued his metal hard hat to a beam and was holding himself up by the hat and the glue didn’t give way. Others had karate guys chopping things that had been bonded with Super Glue and the things always broke, but never where the Super Glue had been used. At least from the commercials, that was some super powerful bonding action.
Well, yes, it’s kind of a corny segue-way but …But Paul reminds us here that all that, no matter how powerful, could compare to the bonding power of the gospel. The gospel of Jesus Christ, when properly applied, is the strongest glue in the world.
The gospel is capable of taking a man who persecuted the church of God, and unite him in fellowship and convicted purpose with that very same church. Saul was a man who loathed the Christian church. He wanted to crush it and destroy it and murder its leaders. He zealously and energetically did this day in and day out.
And then there came a moment when Saul met Jesus Christ face to face, when he encountered the gospel, when Christ revealed it to him. At that moment Saul became Paul. He was no longer the enemy of the church, he became part of the church.
The gospel took a man who wanted to kill the church, and made him a man prepared to die for the church. That’s the uniting power of the gospel.
In our reading for today, Paul and Peter, the leading apostles of the day, disagree. They don’t see eye to eye. Paul rebukes Peter publicly, preaching at him at length. Yet the power of the Gospel binds them together. They do reconcile and support each other, because the power of the gospel is that strong. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is strong enough to overcome any obstacle.
Galatians Chapter 2 [From the NLT – New Living Translation]
1 Then fourteen years later I went back to Jerusalem again, this time with Barnabas; and Titus came along, too. 2 I went there because God revealed to me that I should go. While I was there I met privately with those considered to be leaders of the church and shared with them the message I had been preaching to the Gentiles. I wanted to make sure that we were in agreement, for fear that all my efforts had been wasted and I was running the race for nothing. 3 And they supported me and did not even demand that my companion Titus be circumcised, though he was a Gentile.*
4 Even that question came up only because of some so-called Christians there-false ones, really*-who were secretly brought in. They sneaked in to spy on us and take away the freedom we have in Christ Jesus. They wanted to enslave us and force us to follow their Jewish regulations. 5 But we refused to give in to them for a single moment. We wanted to preserve the truth of the gospel message for you.
6 And the leaders of the church had nothing to add to what I was preaching. (By the way, their reputation as great leaders made no difference to me, for God has no favorites.) 7 Instead, they saw that God had given me the responsibility of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles, just as he had given Peter the responsibility of preaching to the Jews. 8 For the same God who worked through Peter as the apostle to the Jews also worked through me as the apostle to the Gentiles.
9 In fact, James, Peter,* and John, who were known as pillars of the church, recognized the gift God had given me, and they accepted Barnabas and me as their co-workers. They encouraged us to keep preaching to the Gentiles, while they continued their work with the Jews. 10 Their only suggestion was that we keep on helping the poor, which I have always been eager to do.
11 But when Peter came to Antioch, I had to oppose him to his face, for what he did was very wrong. 12 When he first arrived, he ate with the Gentile Christians, who were not circumcised. But afterward, when some friends of James came, Peter wouldn’t eat with the Gentiles anymore. He was afraid of criticism from these people who insisted on the necessity of circumcision. 13 As a result, other Jewish Christians followed Peter’s hypocrisy, and even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy.
14 When I saw that they were not following the truth of the gospel message, I said to Peter in front of all the others, “Since you, a Jew by birth, have discarded the Jewish laws and are living like a Gentile, why are you now trying to make these Gentiles follow the Jewish traditions?
15 “You and I are Jews by birth, not ‘sinners’ like the Gentiles. 16 Yet we know that a person is made right with God by faith in Jesus Christ, not by obeying the law. And we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we might be made right with God because of our faith in Christ, not because we have obeyed the law. For no one will ever be made right with God by obeying the law.”*
17 But suppose we seek to be made right with God through faith in Christ and then we are found guilty because we have abandoned the law. Would that mean Christ has led us into sin? Absolutely not! 18 Rather, I am a sinner if I rebuild the old system of law I already tore down. 19 For when I tried to keep the law, it condemned me. So I died to the law-I stopped trying to meet all its requirements-so that I might live for God. 20 My old self has been crucified with Christ.* It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die.
If you and I share the gospel, then we share fellowship. It doesn’t matter how our church traditions differ, our social backgrounds, our education, our ethnic group, our respective ages, our worship styles – if we share in the gospel, if we share the essential truths of God’s Word, we are one and nothing can divide us. In the gospel, we extend the right hand of fellowship to one another.
As an example of the power of the gospel to unite, consider this. Paul, by his own admission, was brought up a devout Jew. As such he would have despised the Gentiles, the non-Jews. He would have thought of the Gentiles like he would dogs; he would not eat with them or associate with them.
But what was Paul’s strict commission when he met the Lord at his conversion? To preach Christ among the Gentiles!
So if the power of the gospel to unite can bridge even the gulf between Gentile and Jew, how can it not bridge this same gulf between fellow believers?
In our reading, it appears that Peter has moved away from some key points in the essential gospel. He was not teaching a false Gospel, the scripture doesn’t say that, and don’t hear me say that, he had just lost track of the true meaning of Christ crucifixion and the grace that comes through it and was focusing on legalism and Jewish tradition.
That happens a lot today in the Christian church. We get so caught up in rules and commandments, and various church traditions, that we spend all our time in judgment of each other, and forget to truly embrace the Good News of God’s grace through Christ.
So Paul asks “Peter, what about the heart of the Gospel?” Have you forgotten? Do you not know? I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die.
If we jump into the next chapter of Galatians we can see Paul elaborate a bit more.
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree. He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.
So Paul is saying “It’s really important Peter…!”
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law… so that by faith we might receive the promise.
So, stop with the rules and regulations already! Justification is by faith, not by works. Again, and this is an important point, some churches today still don’t seem to get that, and put and place a heavy burden of church rules on their congregations. Establishing an environment of guilt and fear.
Now we know, Jesus didn’t come to abolish the law, but fulfill it. We can’t be sinless, we can’t keep the law perfectly, we need the grace of God of all are doomed.
… if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die.
We are to keep the commandments, but Jesus clarified that the heart of the law supersedes the letter of it.
And we are to keep the commandments and try not to sin in response to Christ’s sacrifice and great love for us, not in an attempt to earn it. We can’t earn it. No other sacrifice was seen by God as acceptable. No other offering worthy.
God’s Gospel of grace is a gift to us. Not something we do, not an idea we have created. It’s all we need. It’s complete and fully meets all the needs of mankind. Perfect in everyway.
And if we dare to add to or take away from the gospel then we rob it of its power.
Famous modern art paintings sell for millions of dollars these days. A few blobs of paint, a scratch here, a line there, a soup can label over here. We might think we could do better ourselves. I know I’ve felt that way. Maybe add some trees and nice river. Put a pony over in the corner.
But if we actually tried to change one of these paintings in any way we would not succeed in increasing its value.
Whatever we did would actually render it nearly worthless.
And so it is with the gospel, and it’s what Paul is emphatically telling Peter. Change the gospel in any way, and it loses all its power, a modified gospel is worse than worthless: it is no gospel at all.
Over history people have tried to modify the gospel in every conceivable way, with the misguided idea that they can improving it.
The Galatians in Paul’s day were saying that the gospel wasn’t sufficient. They said you needed to add some things to it like keeping certain rules and adding certain acts to be saved. For them it was the law and circumcision and Jewish tradition, and again, you can see this same thing in churches today that want to add things to the Gospel, their own special rules, conditions and ceremonies. I call these things “window dressing”. Nice to look at and they may make you feel better or have a good emotional experience, but they really have nothing to do with the heart of Christ’s gospel.
But even more so, people would want to leave things out. A common trend today to try and bring back people to the church is to water down the Gospel, make it easier to accept, leave out parts of the scripture that we don’t care for, soft sell God’s Word, be politically correct and try not to offend.
But adding to and taking away from the gospel makes it no gospel at all.
Paul argues that we must stay focused on the meaning of Christ’s sacrificial death, and understand that the true gospel is a gospel of grace.
And he doesn’t let off of it for a moment.
Martin Luther was reportedly literally transformed spiritually by his first real studies of Romans and Ephesians and Galatians. The church hadn’t taught this and when he read it in the Holy Scripture he couldn’t stop talking about it.
Likewise, Paul almost sounds like a broken record. He speaks over and over again that gospel of Grace and righteousness by the Law are opposed to one another. Law, in this context meaning rules, regulations or rituals that folks might think make them right with God. They all may be good things, but if you believe that those things are earning you favor with God, well, that’s Paul entire point in Galatians is that you are sadly mistaken.
The law is there for a purpose. We should not have the attitude that Jesus died for all so there is no personal responsibility for our behaviors. Don’t get caught up thinking that “God is love -so we don’t need to sweat it because “His love covers a multitude of sins.” Go ahead, Sin all you want so that grace may abound.”
That’s not the gospel either, a Paul addresses that as well elsewhere.
He isn’t saying disregard the law, as some groups were, and still are, also teaching.
He’s saying know the law, because he law was put in place to point us to our need for a savior.
But now there was a new covenant that extended beyond the Jewish people …a new covenant that transcended the limited rules and customs that people knew to include the shunned and dreaded unclean Gentiles.
And Peter knew this. It was Peter, not Paul who was told this by God, in the book of Acts when he was refusing to break Jewish rules by eating certain food provided by God for him in a vision.
God told Peter, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” Made clean by the blood of Christ.
When Jesus cried out from the Cross “It is finished.” it meant “It is finished.” In Him, all the requirements of the law were completed. Jesus Christ makes men and women “justified”, or “right before God”, by the faith they confess in his name and not by what they do.
Only Christ was strong enough to carry cross. The weight was just too heavy, the burden too great for mortal man.
So when we get all focused on legalism, Paul is asking us if we are saying “there was no need for Christ to die”.
“Thanks Jesus, but you really didn’t need to die for my sins. I can handle it. It was a nice gesture though. I’ll just keep trying to be a good person, I’m sure that’s enough for God.”
People say that, and think that.
“Jesus, you sure did a swell thing, but I don’t need you. I’m cool.”
Somebody asked an old Christian gentleman to describe how salvation worked. And the old wrinkled fellow said, “Well, I’m as old as dirt, but I’ll try. [Salvation is getting] something… for nothing. It’s something, for nothing.”
That’s true as far as it goes. But more truthfully, it’s getting everything for everything.
Because eternal salvation is more than just something, it’s everything. A personal relationship with God through Christ is more than just something, it’s everything. Jesus’ life and death on the cross and resurrection is not just something it’s everything.
True, we don’t have to do much, we really can’t do much, but Christ did everything.
We live in a do-it-yourself age. We like to go to Diamond or Home Depot and these places because we like to do it ourselves. We enjoy that. I got a lot of satisfaction from building my own home
But when it comes to being saved, we can’t do it ourselves. We can add nothing to our salvation. There’s not one thing that we can do to add one tiny little bit too it.
Jesus completely provided our salvation for us on the cross.
“Know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ.”
We try to keep the law, because we love Him, and it’s right to do so. Be diligent in good works.
But you’ll never be a “good enough” person to deserve salvation.
Someone said to me “I think everyone will get what they deserve”.
Lord God, have mercy, I hope not. On Christ’s blood, I lay my life that that is not true.
But it’s not something for nothing. We must give ourselves fully to Christ in faith. That’s something to do, that’s a lot.
And in return he gives us everything. We can’t carry the burden our sins and we don’t have to. It’s already been done for us, if we believe on Him.
Only Christ was strong enough to take away the sins of the world. May we trust in His sacrifice, live in His love, and rest in His grace.
©2010 Timothy Henry