Galatians 2:11-15 “Confrontation and the Hope of the Gospel”

November 17, 2011



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  • Galatians 2:11 - 15


Water like the scriptures, has many purposes. Water is both meant to purify and cleanse as well hydrate and invigorate. So when it rains, the water will clean a dirty car or road in way that washes away dirt or grime. Water also is good for drinking right? It hydrates and quenches thirst. So after a long day of work or perhaps after working out you have a nice cold drink of water. Now we have an 18 month old boy and he loves bath time. Well, lately he’s been getting in the habit of drinking the water in the bathtub. I know you are all thinking that’s disgusting but I’m sure you did it at one point as well so don’t give him too hard of time. Now its not that water is not meant to be drank. Right? Water is good for drinking. But it’s just that in that context and what it should be used for in a bathtub is not to drink but rather to cleanse. So we say, “no sweetie. Don’t drink the water.”

In the same way, the scriptures both cleanse us and hydrate and invigorate our souls. Well, today might be one of the those cleansing days, where you come and say, “allright, I need a good bath today. I need a good cleansing.” Perhaps God will give me an ice-cold glass later this afternoon or next Sunday. But today I need a cleansing.  So take heart if that is you. God’s word works on many levels and scripture says that is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness…” 

So please accept whatever God’s word has for you today.

My hope in this sermon is to create an understanding of biblical confrontation and why it is necessary for the growth and health of the church.  It is not a manner of if confrontation will come but when it will come. The second half of the sermon title is called “and the hope of the gospel.” I say that because it does not end with confrontation. Confrontation, when it is dealt with biblically, will result in hope because the gospel gives hope.  So when there is confrontation it is in an opportunity to better define the gospel and how we as church live in accordance with it.

The text begins by saying that Peter went up to Antioch and Paul found him there.  This is most likely after they had their meeting in Jerusalem where the apostles all agreed on the gospel.  So theologically, everyone was on the same page. But what will happen when the rubber meets the road (so to speak). Will the apostles live out their convictions or will they cave under pressure? Let’s find out.

Verse 11 says that Paul opposed Peter to his face because he was clearly in the wrong. This indicates two things: that emotion itself is not sinful. You will have emotion at times and there are times when it is warranted. You may ask, “how do you know that Paul was emotional?” Well, it is pretty hard to oppose someone to their face and not have any emotion behind it.  So emotion is just as expression of the heart. It is neither good nor bad. But what we do is trace it back to our hearts and say, “does that emotion come from a good place in my heart or from a bad place?” It is a symptom or response to something from the heart. It gives a window into one’s soul. And when emotion comes from a heart that wants to honor God, then it is a good thing. But it is a matter of the heart.

So that is the first thing this verse teaches us: that emotion coming from a heart that seeks God’s honor and the upholding of His Name is not evil. It is rather good.

The other thing this verse teaches us is that sometimes there will be people who are wrong in the way they live. I know that in an increasing tolerant world, people do not like to hear that. But if the scriptures are our ultimate guide to what is right and pleasing in God’s eyes, then all people must be measured against that. And if the Word of God is our standard, than all of us will be wrong at a certain point in time.  So you can expect it and if you have never been wrong in the last 10 years than you are blind.

So what it Paul so angry about? It says that before certain men came from James, Peter was eating with Gentiles but when they came, he draw back from them because he was afraid of what the Jews would say to him.

So Peter had seen the vision on the rooftop of the unclean animals and how he should call nothing unclean that God had called clean. He had even eaten with the Gentile Cornelius after he had seen the vision.  So essentially Peter was getting comfortable living as a Gentile. He was most likely not acknowledging dietary laws that said you can’t eat certain foods and was quite okay with no longer acknowledging some of the Jewish customs. He may have gotten a little too comfortable for his own good.

But this changed when these men came from James. We do not know exactly who these men were. Presumably they were Jews who maintained that Gentiles still needed to be circumcised in order to be fully included in the family of God.  Whether or not they were false brothers or believers who had strong convictions regarding circumcision does not really matter. Paul’s concern is not with them. He is not concerned with who these brothers were or what they believed about salvation.

Instead, his concern is with Peter. Why? Because Peter was one of the most important leaders of the church and probably the most important apostle to the Jews.  Paul is mainly concerned with him because as Peter goes so goes the church. How do I know this? Look at verse 13. “and all the Jews acted hypocritically with him so that even Barnabas was led astray.” So Peter is in some way guiding and steering the ship of the early church so if he veers off in the wrong direction, the whole church will begin to go in that direction. That is why Paul is so upset.

Let that be a lesson for the leaders of this church. Where we go, so goes the church. That is why the main responsibility for guiding, shepherding and protecting the church lies with us.  And if there are no captains watching the weather pattern, checking the sails, encouraging the sailors and boosting their moral, the ship would be directionless. If someone wants to build the house, their needs to be a contractor reading the blueprint, monitoring the quality of the materials, making sure the walls are square and the floor is level.

In the same way, the church is not a free for all. It is not “Everyone grab a hammer and start pounding things together.” Yeah, something will probably get built but it will look nothing like a house. It will look like something that had no designer, no blueprint, no contractor and no foreman.

My Dad is contactor and he used to bring home blueprints of houses and I was baffled as to what they meant. I was untrained in architecture. I was unfit to read and understand what the blueprint was much less be able to build the house.

What carpentry requires is skill in understanding and implementing a blueprint.

So also leader must be skilled in understanding the meaning of the church and how to implement its role in the world and society.

Without leaders who are charting the path and reading the Bible to understand what we are doing as a church, we will build something. But it will not be a church. The scriptures are our blueprint for how a church is built, how the leadership should operate, what tasks should be done by which people and what the ultimate goal of the church should be.

Do we know what it is? Do we know where we are going? Without vision, there is nothing.

So leaders are given the responsibility of setting the vision of the church, based on scripture and prayerfully implementing that vision.

So Paul is upset with Peter for violating his own conscience and theological conviction and for failing to lead the church. Peter knows what he is doing is wrong. He does not deny or reject the truth of the gospel but rather fails to live by it. So he is acting hypocritically and instead of living to please God, he is living to please other people. Peter’s sin is not theological. It is practical. He is not practicing what he preaches. Have you ever been there? Of course you have. We all have.

How does Paul respond to the fact that Peter is leading many astray?  He talked directly to Peter’s face in front of everybody. Wow.  This is intense.

This text has been interpreted by some as a play Paul set up in order to teach the Jews a lesson. Both ancient and modern scholars have tried to find ways around the intensity of this exchange. The bible does not try to cover up human sin and failings. It in fact does the opposite. Just read the Old Testament to find that out. But some people really want to protect or hide the human frailty all throughout the Bible.

How can two leaders of the church cause such a public spectacle? Wouldn’t it have been for Paul to wait awhile and then talk to Peter after everyone had went home? Didn’t Paul make a mistake by pointing Peter’s failure out in public? What about the reputation of the gospel? Would it have been better to keep it hush, hush? The answer is no. Because if this issue is not taken care of….Peter eating with the Gentiles and then getting scared when the Jews from James come, then the very gospel will be in jeopardy and they will have no gospel at all.  Paul is using this opportunity to remind us. No, this is not my gospel. This is God’s. And I will even call someone out if I have to.

The principle is made here that public sin should be dealt with publicly. If an error is made or a blatant sin is performed in public view, that sin or error should be dealt with in a public place. This is so that the reputation of the gospel is not tarnished and the church is cleansed from any wrongdoing that would bring dishonor to the name of Christ and His Church. So if we do something that dishonors God and puts a stain on or church, we are to publicly apologize for it and make it right before God and the church.

And mistakes will be made. If we are humans then we will make mistakes.  So what is our hope? What is the hope of the gospel?

It is this. That if we are willing to speak the truth in love and seek to honor God by being obedient to His Word, then He will be faithful to unify us, to strengthen us, to make us healthy and holy.

Look at what scriptures say about the church:

And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.

And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church

Christ loved the church and hgave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by ithe washing of water jwith the word, 27 so kthat he might present the church to himself in splendor, lwithout spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth

Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God,1 which he obtained with his own blood

The church is God’s idea. It is his doing. We are not here apart from Him. He is our leader. Christ is our Shepherd. There is no other way to conduct a church than the way that he has described for us in his word. We are not an affirmation club nor a political movement, nor a social entity. We are the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth. In others words, if someone needs to know what the truth is, they find it in the church. If the church falls and fails, the truth falls with it. So what is our confidence? That we as the church will be presented without spot or wrinkle or any such thing. We will be presented as perfectly righteous before God, sanctified by Christ and gleaming with His holiness given to us.

Leaders we have a tall order. And we will be called to account for the things we do. May we lead with confidence in God and in the purity of the scriptures. May we be diligent to study the scriptures and to seek to reflect back to this community and church, a biblical model for spiritual leadership.

And church, may you model back to us sincere devotion to Christ? And would you call us to account when we fail? We are as Corinthians says one body with many parts working together. Ephesians says that we are growing into a holy temple in the Lord. So we are growing together and need each other to do so. Please pray with me….











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