Gospel Integrity Demands Truth and Unity

Galatians #02—An exposition of Galatians 2:1-10. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday morning, January 18, 2009.

What are we to do when we disagree?  How are we to handle problems that arise within the church?  Is every issue the same?  Is there “a” way to approach every situation?  What is “the” governing issue?  Is it truth?  Is it love?  Is it the integrity or wholeness of the gospel or is it fellowship and harmony among the members?  These are not merely rhetorical questions.  I don’t know if you are aware of this but Baptists have a reputation for well, “spirited” disagreement.  If you put three Baptists together in a room you will have 5 different opinions!  It is no surprise that the number one means of new Baptist church starts is the church split.  This group gets upset and goes down the street and starts a new work “to the glory of God.”  I know Baptists who think it a badge of honor to stand over the bruised and bleeding body of some misinformed brother whom they have just bludgeoned with the truth.  I know others who would never rise in opposition to any wrong for fear they might disrupt the fellowship.  Both these extremes are patently unbiblical.  They are both unbiblical for the same reason.  They have created a false dichotomy.  They believe you must choose either truth or love.  But the two are not mutually exclusive.  The two go together.  We are told in John chapter 1 that grace and truth have their being in Jesus Christ who is the Word made flesh.  Our Lord was full of both grace and truth.  Biblical truth is grounded in the love of God.  And genuine love is firmly rooted in biblical truth.

The apostle Paul finds himself in a difficult position.  The churches of Galatia have been infiltrated by a group of false teachers who are distorting the gospel.  They are preaching a Jesus plus gospel.  In doing so they are endangering the whole church because if not stopped the gospel itself will be lost.  It is both Paul’s passion for the truth and his love of the brethren that inspire him to respond.  His language is strong and direct but inflamed by his love for Christ, the gospel and those for whom Christ died.  Paul cannot and will not stand idly by while the church is enslaved to a false gospel.  Christ has set us free and we must stand firm in that freedom.  The whole of his letter to the Galatians is about gospel freedom.  And in our text this morning found in the second chapter we discover a powerful principle that must guide us in dealing with disputes within the body of Christ.

Text: Galatians 2:1-10

Paul is still speaking of those who he referred to back in 1:9.—Those who have questioned his apostleship and his gospel.—He gives some autobiographical information for a little historical perspective.—His approach in responding teaches us a valuable lesson about gospel freedom.

Thesis: Gospel freedom seeks a sound biblical balance between a passion for the truth and a genuine love for the brethren.

Both truth and love are essential to our life together.—To be unbalanced in either direction is to hinder the work of God.

Such a balance is not easy to maintain.  It demands that we often walk a fine line.  And one slip in either direction could prove disastrous.  Let me point out three essential principles that must guide us in our application of gospel freedom.

Gospel freedom is concerned about unity as well as truth.  (2:1-2) The gospel has been entrusted to us and we in turn are to hand it to the next generation in its completeness.  We are not to add to it or take away from it.  We are to give to the next generation the faith once and for all delivered to the saints.  Thus truth is not a luxury it is an essential.  I think Paul has demonstrated that rather forcefully in the first chapter!  (1:6-9)

But what is clear in the opening verses of chapter two is that his commitment to truth is not to the exclusion of unity.

2:1-2: Why did he go? Answer: 2:2 – the result of a revelation, to set before them the gospel he was preaching, in order to make sure he was not running in vain. What does that last phrase mean?

If he was not concerned about the truthfulness of his message what was his concern? He went out of his way in order to demonstrate his unity with the 12. This is the message of the church. There is not one message for the Jews and another for the Gentiles. And the gospel does not demand that Gentiles become Jews in order to be saved.

We discover in 2:6 and 2:9 that they were in agreement.

Does doctrine matter?  Absolutely!  Should we address false doctrine and confront those who distort the truth?  Certainly.  But we must be equally concerned for the unity of the body.  We must be willing to swallow our pride and deal openly and honestly when questions are raised about us and what we teach and believe.  We must not arrogantly assume that we are always right and are infallible.

Gospel freedom refuses to compromise truth for the sake of unity.  (2:3-5) While we are concerned for unity it is not a unity at all cost.

This principle guards against the attitude that it is always wrong to disturb/trouble the waters.  There comes a time when the waters must be stirred.  There is a point at which it would be a sin to remain silent.

There was a genuine search for unity in 1-2. But there is a line that must not be crossed. Note 2:3.

Note how Paul describes his detractors – 2:4 Paul’s response and that of the leaders in Jerusalem?  2:5.

At issue was the preservation of the gospel.

A unity at the expense of truth is not a unity worth having. It will not stand up under fire. It is a house built on sand.

Integrity demands unity and truth.

Gospel freedom readily rejoices in the diversity of God’s work.  (2:6-10) There is an important underlying principle here – unity is not uniformity. The gospel does not demand lock-step agreement. The great work is done when we free one another to pursue our passion and rejoice in what God is doing.

I cannot and must not insist that you share my passion and you must not demand that I share yours.  We must allow the freedom for each of us to pursue our God-given passion in serving and glorifying Him.

Now, careful that is not to be taken as an unqualified statement. Is the passion biblical? Is it in keeping with what God has revealed? Does it glorify God? Then rejoice in it.  Pray for it.  Encourage it.

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