Published October 17, 2013
Bible Studies for Life, Nov. 3
Few people enjoy confrontation. Yet at some point it is necessary to take a stand. It is difficult to do so, especially when you are confronting friends, perhaps even in your church.
As much personal risk as may be involved in taking a stand, there may be even greater danger in backing down. For the Christian, it is important to know the Biblical doctrines on which we stand.
Our focal passage for this week gives us a scriptural model for taking a stand on Biblical truth. At a previous time God had revealed to Peter that the observance of Jewish ritual was not required for salvation (Acts 10:34-43). Salvation came by Christ alone.
Yet now because of cultural pressure Peter was caving on this critical Scriptural truth. The church was at a crossroads. Someone had to take a stand.
Paul was Godís chosen man to take the Gospel to the non-Jewish populations outside of Israel. These people are referred to in the Biblical text as Gentiles. Even though the Jews in the church at Jerusalem and the Gentiles from the surrounding nations had believed in the same Jesus for salvation, their paths to conversion were very different.
The Jews came to Christ out of a background of strict adherence to Old Testament law. Their path would have included religious rituals focused on cleanliness and strict observance of holy days. Another important element of the Jewish practice was circumcision. A Jewish male who did not receive circumcision was considered outside of Godís covenant blessing.
Even after conversion to Christ, the Jews of the Jerusalem church held to observance of the law, including circumcision, as a core value.
This strict observance created a tension for the new Gentile churches. Coming from a background of paganism, the Gentiles were uncircumcised and strangers to the promises and covenants of God (Eph. 2:12). Conflict arose when some Jews began to demand that Gentile converts add circumcision to faith.
Even though there was a lot of tension in the situation, there was even more at stake. Paul decided to take a stand.
Difficulty of taking a stand
It is not easy to do what is right, especially when doing right brings us into confrontation with people with whom we may be very close. There may be great personal risk involved.
Paulís culture had a deep sense of personal honor and shame. If Paul had failed in his appeal he would have embarrassed himself and in his words have ďrun in vain (2:2).Ē His ministry to the Gentiles would have become invalid.
The closer our relationship we have with those we are confronting, the greater the emotional risk. Barnabas and Titus were partners in Paulís ministry. Peter was a fellow apostle. James and John were great influencers, ďpillarsĒ (2:9) in the Jerusalem church. Yet Paul counted the truth of the gospel greater than the risk.
Paul was not cavalier, but cautious. We must have a process that focuses on truth rather than oneís personal feelings. Paul substantiated his position both through the Word and counsel with the church.
A Biblical process keeps confrontation from becoming a personal attack. If confrontation becomes an emotional powder keg, we risk not only losing relationships, but we risk losing focus on the issue at hand.
Danger of not taking a stand
As personally difficult as taking a stand may be, we must be like Paul and count Biblical truth as greater than ourselves. The church will always be challenged by cultural pressure. In Galatians 2, Jewish religious culture were at odds with Biblical truth.
Recently the U.S. Supreme Court took action that paved the way for the legalization of homosexual marriage. Despite the American people voting down such legislation, the court succumbed to cultural pressure. This pressure will inevitably turn toward the church.
The greatest dangers are not outside the church, but inside. Pastors, theologians, teachers, and those that appear to be fellow brothers and sisters in Christ will succumb to cultural pressure and rethink longstanding, scriptural doctrines of the church. This is already happening as some challenge the translation of passages in the Bible that clearly condemn homosexuality.
The Galatian issue and the current issues are on the same slippery slope. When we compromise the Gospel it will divide the church, destroy our mission, and nullify our preaching. Paul understood these dangers in his context and we must recognize them as well. It may be difficult to stand, but again, the danger to the Gospel outweighs the risk.
Doctrines on which we stand
For Paul the issue in Galatians 2 was not personal, but Biblical. He was not there to win an argument or win a vote. Paul stood before his brothers and personally opposed Peter for the sake of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The inerrancy, infallibility, and authority of Scripture are worth taking a stand. Salvation by grace through faith, plus nothing and minus nothing, is worth the stand. Marriage as defined by God, one woman and one man living in covenant together, is worth the stand. The church has no choice between Godís authority in Scripture and cultural compromise. We must stand on truth.
Our culture pressures us toward tolerance. Despite the pressure, the church must see the danger and suffer the difficulty rather than forsake the doctrines of the Biblical text handed down by the apostles and prophets and affirmed by the long tradition of church history. If we see brothers and sisters begin to stray in the faith and compromise the Gospel letís avoid an emotional powder keg by clearly defining the issue and respecting the process.
The truth is worth the risk. Take a stand.
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