Everybody likes to be liked. Many people betray their core beliefs just in order to be approved by others. Even great Christian leaders–men with a reputation for standing solid on the truth–will do this sometimes. In fact the first great Christian leader after Christ ascended, the Apostle Peter himself, played the hypocrite on at least one occasion until Paul called him out in public:
When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs? (Galatians 2:14 NIV).
Peter’s (Cephas) hypocrisy here was very serious because his public actions were undermining the truth of the gospel. Peter knew that God did not play favorites: He accepted uncircumcised gentiles who believed in faith just the same as He does circumcised Jews. In fact, God had directed Peter to give up some of the Jewish taboos and start living as a Gentile, in order to become more humble and more accessible to Gentiles (Acts 10:9-16 NIV). But suddenly, now, when Peter is under pressure from other Jewish Christians who claim that you must be circumcised to be saved, Peter’s courage fails and he crumbles. Rather than oppose this heresy, he implicitly endorses it by breaking off contact with his Gentile friends. Imagine how hurt they must have been! Fortunately the Apostle Paul was there to put a stop to his hypocrisy by challenging him openly, forcing him to either make a stand for the truth, or publicly explicitly deny the one true gospel that Peter himself had risked his life for. The events of Acts chapter 15 indicate, fortunately, that Peter made the right choice, and eventually accepted Paul’s criticism and openly rebuked those who were trying to change the gospel (Acts 15:7-11).
Christians are not supposed to be trouble makers. We are not to be prideful people that are always argueing with other people. Instead, we must be characterized by gentleness, patience and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
However, in addition to being gentle and loving, we also need to stand firm on the truth of the gospel. As a result, we will be required to “make a scene” from time to time. Whenever another Christian does and says something in public that directly undermines the message of the gospel, we need to make a public stand against them so that those watching do not fall into the same heresy. The Apostle Paul once did this to the Apostle Peter:
When Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. 13 The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray. (Galatians 2:11-12 NIV).
The Apostle Paul, in this case, was correct to oppose Cephas to his face, because Cephas stood condemned by his own public actions. Peter (Cephas) had in the past openly eaten food with the Gentiles, but when some other Jewish Christians came to visit them, he stopped eating food in the houses of uncircumcised Gentile Christians. This act was essentially an act of heresy, because it implied that those who were not circumcised according to the law of Moses were not worthy of his fellowship, presumably because they were not saved. Peter himself knew that the gentiles were saved, but he was acting out of fear from those who belonged to the circumcision group rather than out of genuine conviction. All the other Jewish Christians noticed his actions and they joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.
Peter’s actions were seriously wrong. They could have caused an early death of the Christian religion, because, if unchecked, it could have resulted in the Gentiles being excommunicated from the church. However, fortunately, the Apostle Paul stood firm and publicly rebuked Peter, reminding him and the others listening that Jesus died for the uncircumcised as well as the circumcised, and that circumcision is not required for salvation.
Therefore, it is sometimes right for a Christian to “make a scene”. You must not permit other Christians to behave such a way in public as directly undermines the truth of the gospel. For example, if the pastor at your church preaches against the bodily ressurrection of Christ, you have a responsibility to either stand up and contradict him, or at least visibly walk out of his sermon. Likewise, if he wrongly and viciously criticizes some of your brothers and sisters in Christ, unfairly accusing them of not being Christians, you should probably make a public stand against that too. Some behavior simply cannot be tolerated in the church, not even for a moment.
On the other hand, though, it is not necessary to publicly contest every thing a preacher may disagree with you about. I do not think it would be right, for instance, for you to stand up in a sermon and argue with a preacher over such doctrines as end times prophecy or mode of church government. In addition, I do not think it is appropriate to interrupt a sermon with accusations of a pastor’s private sins. His private sins, ones that have not been committed in full view of the public, need to be addressed in a careful, orderly fashion which begins with a private confrontation, and may later involves reputable witnesses (Matthew 18:15-17) before finally resulting in an orderly, public excommunication. The method of direct, sensational, public confrontation should only be used to address serious offenses that do not require the calling of witnesses because they were committed in public.
Many critics of Christianity have tried to claim over the years that the Apostle Paul preached a different gospel than the other Apostles, and that there was a constant debate between the two factions. It is true that there were various factions that broke off from Christianity that tried to change the gospel, but the Apostles themselves were united with each other in their beliefs. When the Apostle Paul came to Jerusalem to meet with the other Apostles, they agreed with him that he was preaching the one true gospel:
As for those who were held in high esteem—whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not show favoritism—they added nothing to my message. 7 On the contrary, they recognized that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the uncircumcised,[a] just as Peter had been to the circumcised.[b] 8 For God, who was at work in Peter as an apostle to the circumcised, was also at work in me as an apostle to the Gentiles. 9 James, Cephas[c] and John, those esteemed as pillars,gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the circumcised. 10 All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along. (Galatians 2:6-10)
We see here that the other apostles recognized Paul’s message as the same as theirs and added nothing to it. They realized that God was working through the Apostle Paul to preach the gospel to the uncircumcised, that is to say, to non-Jewish people. The Apostle Peter, on the other hand, was preaching the same gospel to the circumcised, that is Christian converts who were also Jews. Peter and Paul were on the same team: the same God who had sent Peter as an apostle to the circumcised was also at work in Paul as an apostle to the Gentiles. In fact the “big three” Peter James and John, whom many of the Christians esteemed as pillars accepted Paul and Barnabas with the right hand of fellowship. They agreed that Paul should keep preaching the gospel to the Gentiles. They did not add any doctrine to Paul’s gospel, although they did remind him that in addition to teaching the way of salvation, he also needed to do good works such as remembering the poor. Paul did not mind this encouragement, since he himself had been eager to do this all along.
The Apostles were in complete agreement about the gospel, that it was by grace through faith and not of works. The Apostle Peter, whom some have tried to depict as being hostile to Paul, accepted Paul’s calling, and even admitted that Paul’s writings were inspired Scripture:
Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. 16 He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction. (II Peter 3:15-16 NIV).
Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham. 8 Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.”[d] 9 So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. (Galatians 3:7-9 NIV)
God loves all people and desires for them to be saved regardless of their ethnicities. A long time ago God called Abraham to serve Him, and chose Abraham’s descendants, the Jewish people, to be a special people for God. But God did not call the Jews in order to damn the gentiles, rather, he called the Jews to bring the truth to the Gentiles so that “all nations will be blessed through you.”
Abraham was saved by faith (Galatians 3:6). He was not saved by perfectly following the law, for no one is capable of doing that. Abraham’s spiritual descendants, then are those who are also saved by faith. They are true Christians, who believe in Jesus Christ who died for them, and who have now been reborn by the Holy Spirit. The God of Abraham is the God of all those who are justified by faith rather than works. All true faith in God is faith in Christ.
The gospel message is God’s message to all who are perishing. It is the promise that we can be saved from our sins and spend eternity in fellowship with God if we repent of our sins and believe in Jesus Christ alone for salvation. This message will always be true, because it was sent directly to us humans from God and was validated by great supernatural signs such as the raising of Jesus from the dead and his ascension into heaven.
Therefore, because the gospel message came directly from God, it does not need to be endorsed by influential, respected humans in order to be true. Popes, Bishops, Kings, and Presidents may either agree with it or disagree with it, but it does not stand or fall based on their judgment: rather they are the ones who will be judged by it.
In the book of Galatians the Apostle Paul tells us how some so-called Christians attacked the gospel message that he was preaching, claiming that it was a different gospel message than what the other apostles were teaching. Paul’s gospel–these false brethren claimed–was insufficient because it did not require Gentile believers to become circumcised and practice the Jewish traditions. These trouble-makers told Paul that the other Apostles were teaching a different gospel than he was.
Ultimately, though, these accusations were not true. “Paul’s” Gospel was really God’s gospel, the only message from God concerning how people must be saved. It was the same gospel that the other Apostles were preaching. Paul was not intimidated by these false brethren: he knew that he was speaking the truth. Nevertheless, he went to meet with the other Apostles in order to put to rest the false rumors about him. When he met them, the other apostles agreed with him, and told him that the gospel he was preaching did not need to be changed:
As for those who were held in high esteem—whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not show favoritism—they added nothing to my message. (Galatians 2:6 NIV)
These apostles and leaders in Jerusalem that Paul was conferencing with were held in high esteem, meaning that they were recognized as the leading Christians of their day. They were indeed great and godly men, yet their reputation made no difference to Paul, because he cared less about their reputation and more about whether they truly obeyed the one true gospel. They, like all church leaders, had no authority to judge the gospel; the gospel message would judge them. Paul knew that God does not show favoritism: no one gets away with changing the gospel message just because of their position in the church. Ultimately, however, these church leaders had no quarrel with Paul. They agreed with him that he was teaching the truth, and added nothing to his message.
Christians need to stand firm for the truth of the gospel. We need to resist those who invade our churches and tell us that there are special rules, rituals we must perform in order to make God happy. These false teachers tell us that God is not satisfied with our simple faith in the blood of Jesus Christ for salvation, but requires something more for salvation.
The Apostle Paul had to face down many false teachers like this in his day. Some of them, who happened to be born Jewish, tried to force him to begin circumcising gentile converts to Christianity. The reason they wanted to do this was to elevate themselves above the Gentile believers: they were already circumcised themselves, thus of the gentiles had to become like them, it would imply that Jewish believers were spiritually superior to begin with, and should be obeyed and followed in many other things as well. What these “judaizers” were trying to do was to take away the joy of these young, new, believers, and make them their own spiritual slaves:
This matter arose because some false believers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves. 5 We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you (Galatians 2:4-5 NIV).
We need to be on the guard for false believers who infiltrate our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ. They are offended not just with us, but at the God of the Bible, who would grant grace to us freely without demanded us to change to be just like these false, self-righteous believers. Their goal in their religiousity is not to elevate God in our hearts, but to elevate themselves in our hearts, thus making us their slaves. We must never give in to them for even a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for all.
We should never let any other Christians take away the simple joy of our faith by saying that we need to follow some special religious calendar or eat food in a special ritualistic way in order to be saved:
Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. 18 Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you. Such a person also goes into great detail about what they have seen; they are puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind. 19 They have lost connection with the head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.
20 Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: 21 “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? 22 These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings.23 Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence. (Colossians 2:16-23)
In my previous posts I explained how the Paul of the Bible, although not one of Jesus’ original disciples, was a full fledged “apostle” of Christ because he had received the gospel directly from Christ like the other apostles. The other apostles had received it in face to face conversations with Christ while He walked on Earth, but Paul received it in a vision after Jesus descended to heaven (Galatians 1:16, Acts 9:17). I further went onto explain how Paul was able by direct revelation to preach the gospel with wisdom and understanding without ever receiving significant training from the other disciples (Galatians 1:17-24).
Yet despite the fact that Paul had not learned it from them, his gospel was the same as theirs, because he, like they, had received it directly from God. After years of preaching, Paul went up to Jerusalem to meet with the other Apostles, who agreed with him that he was preaching the gospel truthfully:
Then after fourteen years, I went up again to Jerusalem, this time with Barnabas. I took Titus along also. 2 I went in response to a revelation and, meeting privately with those esteemed as leaders, I presented to them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. I wanted to be sure I was not running and had not been running my race in vain. 3 Yet not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek. (Galatians 2:1-3)
What happened here is that Paul met privately with the leaders of the home church in Jerusalem, to assure them that he was speaking the same gospel as they were: grace by faith in Jesus Christ, not by works (Ephesians 2:8-9). He brought along with him Titus, who was a test-case. Titus was a gentile believer who, unlike the Apostles, had never under gone ritual Jewish circumcision. Paul claimed that Titus did not have to be circumcised: he was complete in Christ simply by believing and obeying the gospel, there was no need for him to follow the Jewish rituals. The Apostles agreed with Paul, and did not compel Titus to be circumcised.
When Jesus came to Earth as a man 2,000 years ago he chose twelve men to be his disciples, to learn the gospel from Him directly so that they could teach it to others after he ascended into heaven. But one of the 12 men betrayed Him, as He knew he would, and so the disciples were one man short. Ultimately, God chose to add the Apostle Paul to their number, a man who may have never met Jesus in the body, and actually persecuted the Christian “sect” in it’s early days. Paul later became the most fluent and persuasive writer of the 12 Apostles, and penned more of the New Testament than any one other man, except perhaps the Apostle John. I think the reason why Paul was given this special mission was to keep the rest of the Apostles humble. God sometimes gives the greatest assignments to some of the least qualified people: this is so that God’s servants do not individual steal the glory due to God.
In order to be included as an Apostle, Paul needed to receive the gospel from Christ directly, just as the disciples had. So for this reason Jesus appeared to Paul in a vision on at least one occasion (Acts 9:1-9). The visions were private, but God publicly endorsed Paul’s calling by giving him the ability to perform miracles, just as had been given to the other Apostles (Acts 19:11-12).
Here is how Paul explains his calling to receive the gospel in his own words:
But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased 16 to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being. 17 I did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went into Arabia. Later I returned to Damascus. (Galatians 1:15-17 NIV).
First of all, Paul recognizes that it was always God’s plan for him to be a preacher of the gospel. God had set him apart from his mother’s womb, even before Paul had become a Christian. Paul’s mission was not the result of any inherent superiority on his part, but rather God’s mercy, for he was called by God’s grace. When Paul was converted he was indwelt with the Holy Spirit as all Christians are, so that God’s son was revealed in him. Paul realized that he had been called to preach Jesus among the Gentiles. In order to confirm that this was a direct Apostolic mission from God, Paul’s immediate response was not to consult any human being. Therefore he did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before him, but he went into Arabia, that is, the mostly uninhabited desert. There, no doubt, God revealed to him more of what he needed to preach.
Afterwards, Paul returned to civilization and made contact with other believers. But he did not come to learn the gospel from them, God had already gifted him with the knowledge he needed to preach it:
Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Cephas and stayed with him fifteen days.19 I saw none of the other apostles—only James, the Lord’s brother. 20 I assure you before God that what I am writing you is no lie.
21 Then I went to Syria and Cilicia. 22 I was personally unknown to the churches of Judeathat are in Christ. 23 They only heard the report: “The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” 24 And they praised God because of me. (Galatians 1:18-24)
Paul’s gospel that he received was not any different than the gospel that the other Apostles preached. But he had to recieve it directly from God, in order to have the authority of an Apostle, as God had intended for him. Today, when someone becomes a Christian, I do not recommend that they go off into the desert by themselves, seeking direct inspiration from God, for God has promised them none. Rather, normally, God works through His written word, the Bible, and through fellowship with other believers. Any so-called vision from God that is at odds with the one true gospel is not from God and must be rejected (Galatians 1:8). The early Christians recognized Paul’s preaching as valid because it was the exact same message that the other Apostle’s were preaching.
We American Christians like to have our careers all planned out from the moment we graduate from Highschool. We like to be sure by the age of 18 where we are going to go to college, how long it is going to take us to graduate, what our degree will be in, and what job/career we will have for the rest of our life. It is only natural, that some of us choose to go in the ministry. Many American Christians decide at a very young age to become missionaries and preachers.
But ultimately, it is God who decides what we will do with our lives. We need to be submissive to his leading and do our best to do what we think he wants us to do, not what we want to do. Many Christians want to go into the ministry, and yet that is really not the plan that God has for them. I myself enjoyed studying the Scriptures by from a young age and participating in church life, so as a teenager I was very open to the idea of becoming a missionary someday. And yet, at the age of 31, it hasn’t happened yet, nor is their any strong indication that it every will. I am willing, but I honestly do not think that I am called to do that. I am strongly convinced that I am supposed to be raising a family and doing work as a forklift driver in Wisconsin, which is exactly what I am doing.
But there are other people who have the opposite experience of me. They have no plans or desire at first to go into the ministry, and yet God changes their hearts and calls them anyway. The Apostle Paul himself falls into this group. He was trained from child-hood to become a rabbi: he had no intention of joining a minority sect and preaching the name of Jesus for salvation. And yet that was God’s plan for him:
For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. 14 I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers. (Galatians 1:13-14 NIV)
Originally Paul was persecuting and killing Christians, and yet God changed His heart and chose Him to be an apostle for Jesus Christ:
Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by a man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead (Galatians 1:1)
The point is that our plans are not always the same as God’s plan for us. Nobody can really choose to become a pastor or a missionary, it’s a decision that God makes. Surely there were many devout Christians in Paul’s day who would have wanted to be Apostles–specially mandated preachers who had been given the gospel message directly from Christ. But God did not choose them. Instead He chose a man who didn’t even want to be an apostle. I think this is typical of the way God works. He doesn’t often do what we want, rather He teaches to change our will to match with his. This is good for us. So let us be open-minded when we ask God about His will for our life. Let us be genuinely willing to do whatever He has planned for us.
On this website I preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. I believe that Jesus Christ the Son of God (second person of the trinity) came to Earth to die on the cross for our sins. His sacrifice will save all those who believe in Him and repent of their sins. You cannot work your way into heaven, because you are wicked. You must believe and be transformed by the saving Grace and power of God. Those who are saved will spend eternity in perfect fellowship with God. God will love them and care for them for ever. But those who do not believe will be damned to hell forever for their sins.
This gospel is not my gospel. I didn’t make it up. I heard it from others, who ultimately got it from the New Testament, which is the writings of the twelve Apostles, who were witnessess of Jesus Christ. These men received the gospel through personal contact with Jesus Christ and or direct visions from God. They were not the originators of the gospel, they were only God’s messengers. They had no mandate to alter the gospel according to their individual preferences, only deliver it to others in the same form that God had revealed it to them.
In the opening of the book of the Galatians the Apostle Paul explains that he, himself, did not make up the gospel message which he preached:
I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. 12 I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ. (Galatians 1:11-12).