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02 Jun 2024

One Worldwide Gospel [Galatians 2:1-10]

Overview

There are many races, many languages & many religions in the world, but there is only one gospel of Jesus Christ. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes. Whether you are a Jew, or a Greek (Chinese, Indian, Malay, Caucasian), we are all saved by this one worldwide gospel. The gospel to the Jews is no different from the gospel to the Gentiles. There is therefore no need to become a Jew to be saved. There is no need for circumcision or festivals for salvation. In fact, Baptism does NOT save. The Lord's Supper does NOT save. Tongues do NOT save. Church attendance does NOT save. Your good works do NOT save. The gospel is simply "Jesus paid it all". Jesus alone died and rose again to save us from all our sins. Jesus alone saves! This worldwide gospel is for the world. And this worldwide gospel also unites the world. The church is thus to display this unity in the gospel to God's glory.

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I'm looking forward to the camp, hearing our various speakers teach us through the book of Psalms. And just a friendly reminder, if you are driving up to Malacca yourself, please remember to bring a, or to have a charged up touch and go card. Because if you don't have this card, you will not be able to get past the gantry. The toll charges are necessary. You need to make a payment in order to enter Malaysia.

That reminds me that if we, or anyone of us, is to enter the Kingdom of heaven, there must also be a payment. But this payment is something that none of us would ever be able to afford. It's an insurmountable amount for any human being. This payment is not just in dollars and cents. This payment must be by your blood, by your life, and that's something none of us can do because none of us is worthy of paying that price. But that that price, however, is paid for when God sent His Son to die for our sins.

This is the message of the Apostle Paul. Paul went preaching the Good News of Jesus Christ in the various cities of the Roman Empire. He therefore came to the cities in Galatia and he brought the simple but powerful message of salvation. Jesus Christ, God's Son, was born into this world of the virgin Mary so that He might die to pay for our sins. He was buried and He rose again the third day and appeared to more than 500 over people proving that He finished the debt. He paid it all. He can now save you and I from our sins.

In essence, the Good News of the Bible is not you pay, but Jesus paid it all. The beautiful proclamation on the cross, it is finished. All your past, present, future sins are paid for by Jesus 2,000 years ago on the cross, if you are to repent and to believe in Him. Jesus paid it all. Nothing else you need to pay for.

But as Paul left the cities of Galatia, there were people who are false, false teachers who creep into the church. And they have another message, they say to the Galatians, Jesus is not enough. Yes, Jesus Christ died and rose again, but there's something else you need to do in order to be saved. You can't just rely on Jesus alone.

You need also to be circumcised to be saved. You need also to keep the festivals, the Jewish festivals, in order to be saved. You also need to keep the law in order to be saved. Again, these are not bad things in and of themselves. God has a purpose and plan for circumcision, for festivals, for the Old Testament laws, but you don't do these things in order to be saved.

But that's what the false teachers are saying. Jesus is not enough. You need Jesus plus something.

In our CG leaders' huddle, I asked the CG leaders, someone asked, what are the something we do today, or people think today, you need to do in order to be saved? Some people would say, Lord's Supper, baptism, speaking in tongues. And I say, that's correct. There are many people today who assume that you need to do these things in order to be saved. It's the same error of Jesus plus something.

The Gospel is Jesus plus nothing. But the false teachers have crept in, and the Galatians, a portion of them, have come to believe the false teachers.

So, Paul now writes the book of Galatians, the letter of Galatians, a letter that is meant to be passed around in the various churches. They're saying, no, no, no, no, no, Jesus alone is enough. The Gospel message is Jesus plus nothing.

So, the Galatians must be asking, huh, so who do I believe? Paul or the false teachers, whose message is the reliable truth? That's why Paul, in the sermon we read last week, laboured to explain that his message is not from man, but received directly from God Himself at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

And he also said that he did not have any consultation of worth with the apostles in Jerusalem. His point here, is that my message is the reliable and true message from God.

Today, after looking at chapter one, that's all the past two sermons, the third sermon today transits to the second chapter of Galatians. In Galatians chapter two, Paul is going to emphasise that the message he has been preaching amongst the Gentiles is also the same message that is supported, endorsed by the Jerusalem apostles. That's what it is. It's a very simple account.

So, with that, I think let's plunge into Galatians chapter 2, verses 1 to 10. The apostle Paul said, after fourteen years, so he has been travelling, preaching. He says, after fourteen years, I went up again to Jerusalem. This is a long time after he had been there for fifteen days with Cephas and James. Fourteen years later, he went up with Barnabas and Titus.

Barnabas is a Jew, the man who helped Paul in his early days. And Titus, as you will read later on, is a Gentile, a Greek. I went up because of a revelation. Now, why did you go up to Jerusalem after fourteen years? Did someone invite you? Did the Jerusalem apostles call for you? No. I went up because of a revelation, because God revealed it to me.

It's probably a supernatural revelation that is spoken of, of here. When and what is not given to us. Paul just said, I went up because God directly instructed me to do so. We are not told the content, but just the intent. The intent here is Paul did not go to Jerusalem because he was called by some man, but by God Himself.

So, he went up. And the reason he went up is to set before them, and the them here are those who are referred to who seemed influential, to set before them the Gospel that I proclaim among the Gentiles.

So, God instructed Paul to go to Jerusalem, and Paul at Jerusalem presented the Gospel that he has been preaching for the past fourteen years to the Jerusalem apostles.

Now, those who seemed influential, I think, refer to the pillars of the church. Later on in verse 9, i.e. James, Cephas, and John. They are the main or key apostles in Jerusalem at that time.

So, Paul went up by revelation from God and declared to these pillar apostles the Gospel that he has been proclaiming amongst the Gentiles. He tells them the details of what he has been preaching. And he said he did so, in order to make sure I was not running or had run in vain.

Now, this might be tricky to interpret, because many of us, when we read this, would assume Paul is saying, I'm checking with the apostles in case my message is salah. I want to make sure that my message is correct. So, that would be the immediate understanding most of us would have.

However, I think that would be quite wrong, because if you remember chapter 1, Paul had already said, my Gospel is not received from men. There is no possibility of transmission failure, because it is direct, as it were, from the horse's mouth. And later on, in this same chapter, Paul said, no matter what other people say, no matter what other people suggest, we did not yield in submission, even for a moment. He remained resolute, and in a good way, stubborn in the truth he has received.

So, Paul, I think, is not really saying that I'm presenting the Gospel to the pillar apostles, checking with them in case what I've been preaching has been wrong. But I think, this setting, or this making sure, should be related to the word privately.

So, he's saying, I'm presenting the Gospel not to everybody in the Jerusalem church, but privately, only with these pillar apostles, in case they do not see eye to eye with what I'm preaching. You must understand, they have not had WhatsApp or email communications. No Facebook messenger.

So, out of an abundance of caution, Paul says, in case they do not agree, at least it is within the private group, and the damage to the Gospel ministry would not be too great. And whatever fallout we can have, we might be able to recover, or deal with it properly.

So, if I may paraphrase it in simpler terms, I think verses 1 and 2 is Paul saying, I was directed by God to present the Gospel that I've been preaching to the Gentiles in Jerusalem. And I did so privately, before the pillars of the church, James, Cephas, John, in case we have a disagreement that hurts the ministry.

So, I just wanted to keep it small, and find out what the apostles have to say. If they disagree with me, they are in the wrong, not me. But if they disagree with me, the ministry may be damaged or impeded, because if this is done publicly, it will not be a good testimony. That's why I chose to do it in private.

So, what do the Jerusalem apostles say? What is the verdict of the Jerusalem apostles, when they hear Paul tell them the message he has been preaching for the past one or two decades? The answer is given in the next verse, when Paul raised a test case of Titus. He says, but even Titus, the man I brought along, the Jew.. or the Greek or the Gentile I brought along, Titus was with me, was not forced to be circumcised.

In other words, the implication here is, the Jerusalem apostles heard the preaching of Paul, saw Titus, a Greek or a Jew, uh, a Gentile, and said, it's fine, Titus doesn't need to become a Jew in order to be part of the same body of believers. Yes, Paul, we agree with you because Titus believes in Jesus and Jesus alone is part of the church. He doesn't need to be circumcised. We agree with you, Paul, that Jesus plus nothing is enough. That's, I think, the conclusion the council had when Paul met with James, Peter, and John.

Now some time ago, there was a Bruno Mars concert, right? I know you all know about Taylor Swift concert. Uh, there was also a Bruno Mars concert and apparently tickets are not easy to get to or very pricey so I, I read about someone who tried to sneak into the concert without having to pay.

He was quite clever, actually, because he deliberately went to speak or strike up conversations with people who are working during the concerts. And he will carry a camera that will film the security pass of the staff. And after he gets the footage, he will go back, download and Photoshop the pass and create his own staff pass.

He actually managed to sneak into the stadium until he was caught by someone at the VIP access area. He's a Cameroon national who has been here. He even publicised, I think, on Instagram or something that he's going to the concert this way, but he was eventually caught and jailed. This man forged the staff pass and wanted to sneak into the concert.

Now that's what I think of when I read, yet during those days, when Paul met or intended to meet only with the pillars of the church, he realised that there were false brothers who secretly brought in and who slipped in. So they were people who sneaked into this very private meeting.

And what is their purpose? Their purpose is not there to watch the show, but their purpose is there to sabotage the proceedings. They were there to spy out our freedom. The word there, spy out, means to inspect closely with a view to overturn. There's a negative nuance to it.

So these false brothers, they're not Christians. They're not part of the church. They're hypocrites. That's what Paul says they are. They are false brothers who sneaked in in order to look at the freedom we have in Jesus Christ, Jesus plus nothing, and they want to overthrow that. Because they want to bring us into slavery. What kind of slavery? Slavery to the rituals and rites of the Jews and to the Old Testament laws in order to earn our way to God. That's bondage. That's slavery. And that's what they wanted to do.

So they came to influence the proceedings and Paul noticed it and he said, to them, we did not yield in submission even for a moment. Try as hard as they can, we will not budge. We maintain the Gospel is Jesus plus nothing and not Jesus plus something.

And Paul was resolute even though he himself was a Jew. He himself had been circumcised. He himself follows many rituals in time past, but he himself would say, don't you impose this on the Gentiles. That's slavery. That's unnecessary. That's confusing. That's deadly.

So we would not yield even for a moment, no matter how hard they try, so that the truth of the Gospel might be preserved for you. So that there is no confusion whatsoever.

So this is a little snippet as to the, a little diversion. And we are now back to the apostles. Paul says in that meeting with the apostles, and from those who seemed to be influential, I think again, it refers to James, Peter and John, what they, what they were makes no difference to me. God shows no partiality. Paul is saying it doesn't matter whether they are the great, great, great apostles or not.

What matters is what God says, not what the apostles say. He's not disrespectful here, I think. He's just maintaining his impartiality. He's maintaining his independence from the Jerusalem apostles, because Paul has been maintaining my message. My mission is directly received from Christ. So he says, these influential apostles in Jerusalem, they are not my masters. They did not add anything to me. My commission and my message is from Jesus and Jesus alone.

So, on the contrary, when they, the apostles, saw that I had been entrusted with the Gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the Gospel to the circumcised, i.e. the Jews, for he who worked through Peter for his apostolic ministry to the circumcised, God who worked through Peter, is the same God who also worked through me for mine to the Gentiles. So you see an A, B, B, A kind of structure, right?

So this is, this is Paul, Paul, Peter, Peter. So in essence, the apostles are simply saying, we recognize, just as God has blessed Peter and his ministry to the Jews, God has evidently also blessed and worked through you, Paul, to the Gentiles. Very clear. We see that. Jews, Gentiles, same God, same message, same blessings. So because we recognize that, when James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be the pillars, perceived the grace, the enabling of God given to Paul, they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me.

In other words, they say, you are legit. You guys, we are part of the same team. It's just that we serve different peoples. But it's the same ministry, same message, same Gospel, and so you should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. So that's a rundown of the first nine verses.

Summary, Paul is saying, I was directed by God to present the Gospel to or in Jerusalem. I did so privately, not publicly, before the pillars of the church in case we have a disagreement that may be damaging to the ministry. So out of an abundance of caution, I meet with a few. Thankfully, we agree that God has blessed our ministries and there is no difference in our Gospel. Jesus alone is enough, is both for the Jews and the Gentiles.

So, akin to how today or two weeks' time you may drive up to Malaysia and uh go for church camp, we all, regardless of whether you are a Malaysian or a Singaporean, regardless of whether you are driving a Singaporean-registered car or Malaysia-registered car, you go up to Malaysia with this one same card. Touch and go. And whether you are a Jew or a Gentile, you enter the Kingdom of heaven with this one payment. Jesus paid it all and all to Him we owe.

There's no one who is going to heaven because he says, Jesus paid some for me and I was circumcised. Jesus paid some for me and I kept all the laws. No, if you do that, you did not depend on Jesus. Jesus did not pay it all. If it is by grace, then it's no more of your works. Jesus paid in full. All my sin, paid. Shame, paid. Pain, paid. Everything, paid. Amount due, zero dollars. Nothing you need to pay because Jesus paid it all.

And this same message is a message for the whole world. Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Malay, American, doesn't matter. Jesus paid it all. That's what Paul has always been saying. He said, I'm not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believes. What do you mean by everyone? To the Jew first and also to the Greek.

One message. One Gospel. Not one Gospel to the Jews and another gospel to the Gentiles. It's the one same Gospel. So, a kind of a journey back. We started Galatians, noting that Paul says, there's only one Gospel, there is not another. Anyone who comes up with another version is perverting, distorting and corrupting the Gospel. Then we learn that Paul is emphasising that this one Gospel is not man's gospel but God's message directly downloaded to me.

One Worldwide Gospel

And so today in the third sermon, we are noticing, if you're asking what's the sermon title, here it is. I think what Paul is saying is that we have one Gospel that is for the whole world. One worldwide Gospel. And I think Paul went on with the same idea when he said in verse 10, the last verse, only they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do. The Jerusalem apostles are telling the apostles to the Gentiles to remember the poor. And I think he's talking about remembering the poor in Jerusalem.

Now that's a really neat little verse. A lot of us, we kind of don't understand why he puts it in. I think the intention why this is put in is Paul's saying, because we are all saved by the same Gospel, belonging to the same God, under the lordship of this one Saviour, Jesus Christ. Therefore, though you are Gentiles, or the people you save are from the Gentiles, and our people here suffering are the Jews, there is now no difference. We are now one in Christ. And therefore, get them, the Gentiles, to help the poor in Jerusalem.

Paul would later on say, in Galatians 3:28, there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female for you are all one in Christ Jesus. This is the beautiful thing about the Gospel. It's that same one message for the whole world and it's that same one message that breaks down barriers and unites the whole world. Therefore, one Gospel for Jews and Gentiles and one Gospel that makes them one.

Or if I may put it in another way, Paul is speaking about one worldwide Gospel for the whole world and one worldwide Gospel that unites the world. This is beautiful, isn't it? Because we live in a world where there are so many barriers and boundaries and red lines between people groups. Racially, we are divided. Nationally, we are divided. Ideologically, the world is divided. Morally, the world is divided. The world is a very divided world. And that's all because of sin.

The moment sin came into the world, Adam and Eve divided. Cain and Abel divided. And we have been at war ever since. But the beauty of God's plan is that with this one message of faith in Jesus Christ, He's going to unite the world, gather us as one people. Regardless, sounds a little bit like a Singaporean pledge, but regardless of race, language, now religion is important, regardless of race and language, we are one united people.

See, this is what the Gospel is about. The Gospel is intended to call out men and women from all walks of life to create the Church of Jesus Christ. And the Church of Jesus Christ is to display the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Church is to live out that love for God's people. That's why the Jerusalem Apostles said to Paul, remember the poor. Get the Gentiles to care for the poor in Jerusalem because the Church is to display the Gospel of love.

And that's what Jesus said, isn't it? By this shall all men know we are Your disciples. You are my disciples if you have love one for another. The great distinctive of the Church of Jesus Christ is that we are one. One Gospel, one people, one Lord and Saviour.

And therefore, I think Christianity is to be lived out. I hope your Christianity is not just about coming to attend a sermon. Neither is it about you switching on to YouTube videos. But it's for you to gather, get to know one another. This, I, it's a quite cool. We had a promo about what it means to love one another. And I think that's what it is, that we intentionally build relationships that we may love one another. Why? So that we may display the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

In a world that is fractured and fractionated, we should be a people who are united in love to display the Gospel.

I hope your worship to God is going to be meaningfully lived out. That's why when we design this building, the first priority is, not the toilets, the first priority is this place you are here in. Level 4. Main auditorium, the second priority is the kitchen. And the eating space we have at level 1. Because to us, that's not, that's not immaterial.

That's very important. Because we trust that God's people, those who are mature, those who understand God's Word, would say, I want to make it an effort to know people, to love them, and to serve them. Regardless of race, language, socioeconomic status and background, because we want to display the unity of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That's what worship is about. That's what Christianity is about.

I want to also highlight that as the Gospel creates the church, the church displays the Gospel, and the church should also defend the Gospel. It is quite sad. I think about one or two weeks ago, I read that Rishi Sunak, the Prime Minister of Britain, of England, had to apologise for an, for infected blood scandal cover-up. This is reported in BBC News.

This is something I did not know until this article surfaced. Basically, since the 1970s. That's about 50 years. The government, the doctors, NHS, National Health Services in England, they have hidden the truth from the people because they have been giving blood treatments that are infected with HIV and hepatitis. And 30,000 people have been infected with these blood contaminants. 3,000 have since died, and many are children.

It was a shocker. It was a day of shame, the Prime Minister said. But I think he's not the one really at fault, isn't it? Because this has been on for five decades. People after people, leader after leader, doctor after doctor, authority after authority, just decided to cover it up and not mention it. And because they cover it up, people continue to receive such contaminated blood products and continue to get infected and die. If only someone stood up when they knew it, then lives would not have to be lost this way.

The Apostle Paul was very alert to the virus of legalism. He could have just melted at the pressure of facing these influential people, false brothers who may be creeping in, who are exerting pressure to say, you know, you've got to get the Gentiles circumcised so that we may be one. Paul says, no, we did not yield even for a single moment.

How we thank God for men with backbone. And it's not just Paul. Throughout the Christian ages, there have been countless preachers who will not yield for a single moment. And it is because of them, we have the truth that we have today. The freedom fighters, they are the ones who defend the Gospel.

Last week, we said that the best defence is a good offense. We need to make the Gospel explicit and clear. But even when we do give a good offense, teaching the Gospel, there will be inadvertently people who will still creep in and bring false teachings. At that point of time, will you and I be vigilant to defend the Gospel, even when it is tough? Paul did. And we thank God for that. That's the only way for us to remain Gospel-centred, isn't it?

Finally, I want to remind all of us, the Church does not only display the Gospel with our lives, the way we love one another, does not only have the responsibility to defend the pure message of the Gospel, but we must be a people who would declare the Gospel. I mean, that's what Paul did. He emphasised the message of first importance, how that Christ died and was buried, how that Christ was risen and appeared, for the forgiveness of sins. Jesus paid it all. Jesus is enough. The message of the Gospel is Jesus plus nothing.

There are people today who say, you need to be baptised to be saved. No. You need to be saved, then you get baptised. But it's very different from, you need to be baptised to be saved.

There are people today who say, you must speak in tongues to be saved. No. Tongues is a gift. It is not universally given to every single Christian. Otherwise, it's no more a gift.

And later on, we are going to take the Lord's Supper. You don't take the Lord's Supper to be saved. There's nothing you do that is worthy of salvation because Jesus paid it all. Our reliance is on the finished work of Jesus Christ. This is a great message to tell the world.

I think Spurgeon puts it best when he said, Whitfield and Wesley might preach the Gospel better than I do, but they cannot preach a better Gospel. We have a wonderful Gospel to tell the world. Jesus paid it all. Today, I have a wonderful message to tell you. My Saviour Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, died on the cross, rose again to pay for all your sins. If you repent and believe in Him, you will be saved.

Let's bow forward of prayer together. Father, we thank You this morning. Thank You for the simplicity and the clarity of the Gospel. The human heart is inherently proud. And we like to say to ourselves, we can do it, I must do it. But thank You that this simple Gospel cuts down all human pride. Because this simple Gospel is saying, we are totally impotent. We are totally unworthy. We are totally incapable of earning a single merit. But this simple Gospel reveals the generous and gracious God that You are. That You sent Your Son, Jesus Christ and Jesus paid it all.

So dear God, melt our hearts today. Those who are here who do not know Jesus as yet, help them to Savior cling on to this simple message that is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes. Grant to them this heart of humility to turn and to believe. And we pray that as Your people, Your church here, once again we would be reminded of the great debt of sin that has been paid for us. May we then live our lives worthy of Your calling. Help us to be a people who endeavor to love one another, hard as it may be. Grant us that grace to intentionally give ourselves to the building up of the relationships and the body life of this church, that we may display this Gospel in our lives.

Protect Gospel Light dear Lord, give us men and women with spiritual backbone. Not that we are picky over every single thing, but that we are vigilant to guard against the attacks against the Gospel. Thank You. We have this glorious Gospel for the whole world, and this is the glorious Gospel that one day will unite the whole world. Glorify Yourself through Your Word. We thank You in Jesus' Name. Amen.

 

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