LINK: Galatians 2
We get a fascinating look in this chapter at an issue that nearly split the early church!
Paul uses circumstances from the past to continue his argument that the gospel set those who believed it free from the requirements of the law. He points to Titus, who accompanied him to Jerusalem. Titus was a Gentile, and therefore uncircumcised. The leaders of the Jerusalem church did not ask Titus to be circumcised ( a requirement of the Jewish law). Those leaders - Peter, James, and John - saw that God had given Paul the task of taking the gospel to the Gentiles, just as Peter had to the Jews. They had seen God at work in Paul's ministry and recognized that God had called Paul.
There were others who did want to add to the gospel, who wanted to make requirements of converts. These false brothers wanted to bind the gospel to the law and they infiltrated the church and influenced the church leaders in Jerusalem and elsewhere.
We often compare ourselves to each other. One way to make ourselves look good is to put some standard in place that we have met, so that we can feel superior to others. That's a trap. What we think will help us actually binds us. Adding anything to the grace that is offered us through Jesus Christ's death and resurrection is legalism.
The early church came out of Judaism and it would have been easy for a kind of two tier Christianity to have developed, with the Jews occupying the upper tier and all those Gentile converts on the lower tier. If the Galatians had continued to insist on keeping the Jewish law, a kind of spiritual snobbery would have resulted. "It's great to have faith in Jesus, but it's better to be a circumcised Jew who continues to keep the law." Just think how that would have affected the spread of the gospel and how the gospel would have been hindered!
It is so easy for those kind of subtle distinctions to creep in. Paul points out here that "God does not judge by external appearance." (v 6). Adding to the gospel of grace doesn't add anything, it takes away. It puts man at the center rather than God.
Spend some time in prayer today and ask the Lord to reveal your heart. Do you categorize other believers based on some requirement that they meet or don't meet? Do you think of some Christians as "better" than others? What are you basing that belief on?
How do you view yourself? Do you determine your worth in God's eyes based on how well you keep some standard? We can't keep any standard we set. That's why Jesus came to die and rise again.
The gospel is about what Jesus has done for us, not about what we do for Him.
Help us not to deceive ourselves, Lord, into thinking that anything we do makes you love us more. You love us because of who you are, not because of what we do. Help us to love you and so to love others - not erect walls of good, better, best. Thank you for the grace that you give us through Jesus Christ, that you have set us free from the handcuffs of self absorbed legalism. Help us to live free!