In Galatians 2 we see Paul recounting a trip to Jerusalem to meet with Peter once more, and the leaders of the Jerusalem Church; John and James, Jesus' brother. There was trouble being made by a sect that was harassing Paul and the Gentile converts. Let's see what was happening in the Early Church that also has an impact on our faith today.
1. Then after an interval of fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along also. 2. And it was because of a revelation that I went up; and I submitted to them the gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but [I did so] in private to those who were of reputation, for fear that I might be running, or had run, in vain. 3. But not even Titus who was with me, though he was a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised. 4. But [it was] because of the false brethren who had sneaked in to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, in order to bring us into bondage. 5. But we did not yield in subjection to them for even an hour, so that the truth of the gospel might remain with you.
Fourteen years had gone by since Paul had been converted to Christianity on the road to Damascus. God had Paul with Him, teaching and administering the birth of a ministry. Paul had made one visit to Peter in Jerusalem where he stayed 15 days. While there, he met with James, the Lord's brother, but no other disciples. In the interim of these two visits Paul had made several mission trips throughout Greece and Turkey, setting up churches. So now eleven years after the first visit to Jerusalem, Paul receives a revelation from Jesus that he must return. He needs to visit with the church leaders in Jerusalem to discuss a situation that is arising.
Paul knew it was time to have a "sit down" with the leaders of the Church in Jerusalem. A group of "Judaizers" had infiltrated the "Gentile Churches" and were spreading information contrary to the Gospel.What exactly were they doing? These "false brethren" as Paul calls them, were Jews that were trying to convert new Gentile Christians to Judaism. Remember, these Gentiles were Greeks, Syrian, Turkish, etc. they had not been Jewish, and were unfamiliar with Jewish life and custom. They were converted to Christianity without ever having been Jewish.
The Early Church in Jerusalem consisted of mostly Jews who had believed in Jesus as their Messiah, as did the original twelve disciples of Jesus. There were some Gentiles that had earlier been converted to Judaism, but by and large the Jerusalem Church consisted of Jewish converts, not Gentile converts.
The Judaizers were probably "on the fence" so to speak about Jesus. They saw His value, and may have partially believed in His ministry, but were trying to get new Gentile converts to adhere to the strict Jewish laws and customs. This is where the problem lies. Paul's message was one of grace and liberty through Jesus Christ. The Judaizers were trying to pervert this message and drag these new Christians back under the Law. The Law of Moses and the Ten Commandments and all the Jewish rules and traditions. Christianity is a message of Grace. The Old Testament was about the Law, as that was God's plan to keep His people "uncorrupted". But the New Testament Gospel is all about Jesus who is the "fulfillment" of the law. He perfected the laws and rules of the Old Testament. Salvation through Jesus brings us to a place of freedom through God's Grace; His unmerited love and favor.
Paul knew through the Holy Spirit it was time to get this settled once and for all. He needed the endorsement of the Jerusalem leaders to back him and qualify him. Without the agreement of Paul, James, and John the New Church was headed for a split. It was crucial that there be a united front on the ministry of Paul toward the Gentiles. Peter was ministering to the Jewish community, where Paul was ministering to Gentile groups. There aren't two different Gospels, but one. In the beginning of Jesus' Ministry He focused on the Jewish people. After all, Jesus is the Messiah. The savior of the Jewish people. Up until Jesus came on the scene, there was not much thought of converting the masses. The Jews were a people "set apart" for God, His chosen people. But the Bible clearly states that once the Jewish people and leadership rejected Jesus as the Messiah, that He opened the doors for all mankind to be saved..."whoever" as in John 3:16.
This is where this information and these scriptures come into play for us today. Christianity is not a religion of Do's and Don'ts. I think we have all been caught up in this at one time or another. The Church today sometimes gets the reputation as being the arbitrator on our social life, AND our spiritual life. I know when I was young, you COULDN'T dance, play cards, have a drink, say a cuss word, etc. If any of these things happened and you got "found out", good grief, you were in danger of being an outcast or at the least gossiped about. I'll talk about this more later. But today I want to make the point that Jesus is not negative, but positive. We do things in our lives, in all areas; social, job related, family related, and spiritually related because we want to do things Jesus' way. He's not condemning or harsh. He wants us to follow Him in our lifestyles because it's best for us, but He's not standing there with a big stick to beat us over the head with it, if we aren't living a "perfect lifestyle". How many people have been "rejected" by our churches? Jesus stands at the door and grieves for those who have felt left out, turned away, and judged.
So if you aren't perfect, join me in realizing that God is positive, forward thinking and not one to bruise or hurt us. He wants to take us in His arms, love on us, direct us, encourage us, but not punish us. We have the Freedom in Christ to make mistakes, then listen to His Word and counsel. He's for us, not against us. Amen!
love, in Jesus,