Galatians 03: The fellowship of the gospel

Galatians 2:1-10

Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along with me. I went up because of a revelation and set before them (though privately before those who seemed influential) the gospel that I proclaim among the Gentiles, in order to make sure I was not running or had not run in vain. But even Titus, who was with me, was not forced to be circumcised, though he was a Greek. Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in—who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery— to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you. And from those who seemed to be influential (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)—those, I say, who seemed influential added nothing to me. On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel to the circumcised (for he who worked through Peter for his apostolic ministry to the circumcised worked also through me for mine to the Gentiles), and when James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. 10 Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.

I don’t know about you, but whenever I have a doubt whether a product is worth the price, and I see a celebrity I like endorsing the product, it makes a big difference. I might not be so sure about that brown sports jacket, but when I see David Beckham wearing a similar brown sports jacket on Instagram, I am sold. How many of you know what I am talking about? That’s why many companies pay big money to have celebrities endorse their products. And this is the problem that Paul is facing with the churches in Galatia. Some teachers came from Jerusalem, and they questioned Paul’s lack of celebrity endorsement. They, on the other hand, claimed to come from the top guys in Jerusalem, the apostles of Jesus. They have celebrity endorsement but not Paul. So, these teachers discredited Paul’s authority as an apostle, and they distorted the gospel. That’s why Paul begins his letter defending his apostleship and his gospel. Not so much because he was hurt by the accusation made by those teachers, but because the gospel of Christ is at stake. For Paul, the fight to preserve the gospel is a fight worth fighting for. As Christians, there are things worth fighting for and there are things not worth fighting for. The problem is a lot of time Christians fight for things not worth fighting and refuse to fight for things worth fighting. For example, usher uniforms. People in the church had a huge fight about whether ushers should wear a uniform. And some moved church because of it. I am not kidding. And yet many Christians refused to fight for what really matters, that is the gospel. We have our priorities wrong. This passage shows us that when the gospel of Christ is at stake, we must stand firm in the gospel. Get this. When it comes to the truth of the gospel, we must stand firm no matter the cost.

Our passage for tonight is very important. We will never see it written on a coffee mug or bumper sticker, but it is one of the most important passages in the New Testament. When I go to people’s houses, I often see Biblical passages written on frames and put as decoration. But I have never seen anyone put a frame, “But even Titus was not forced to be circumcised.” It just doesn’t seem very inspiring. But that phrase has huge consequences for us today. The false teachers accused Paul of preaching a different gospel than the one the apostles preached. They said that Paul’s gospel was different from the apostles in Jerusalem. And this accusation disrupted the unity of the gospel. It led to questions arising among the Galatian believers. “Is there contradiction among the apostles? Are there two different gospels, the gospel of Paul and the gospel of the apostles? If so, which one should we trust?” And these are very important questions. If one apostle preached one gospel and another preached another gospel, the foundation of the church would collapse. And in Chapter 1, Paul argued that his gospel came directly from Jesus, not man. Paul received his gospel independent from the Jerusalem apostles. He was not a second-hand apostle. But now in this passage, Paul will show that his gospel is not different from the Jerusalem apostles. They preach the same gospel. Paul’s gospel is an independent and yet identical gospel.

So, let’s look at the passage together. I have three points for my sermon: the stake; the verdict; the outcome.

The stake

Galatians 2:1-2 – Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along with me. I went up because of a revelation and set before them (though privately before those who seemed influential) the gospel that I proclaim among the Gentiles, in order to make sure I was not running or had not run in vain.

Note carefully. Paul did not go up to Jerusalem because he was not sure if his gospel was right. He did not think, “You know what? I am not sure if I am preaching the right gospel. Why don’t I go to Jerusalem and check with the Jerusalem apostles.” Paul had no doubt at all about the gospel he preached. He did not need the Jerusalem apostles’ endorsement. That’s not the reason why Paul went up to Jerusalem. Paul himself said he would never change his mind about the gospel. And if he did change his mind, he told the Galatians to reject him. The reason Paul went to Jerusalem was in response to a revelation from God. What revelation? We are not told. But Paul went because God told him to go. And while Paul was in Jerusalem, he met privately with the pillars of the church in Jerusalem: John, James, and Peter. Why? Paul said, “in order to make sure I was not running or had not run in vain.” Paul knew his gospel was true. He had been preaching it for more than a decade. Nothing was threatening Paul’s certainty, but something was threatening his fruitfulness. As long as these teachers keep accusing Paul of preaching the false gospel, it would be hard for the churches to grow in the gospel and bear fruit. This would threaten gospel fruitfulness and the church’s mission to the world. And Paul was sure that the Jerusalem apostles held to the same gospel. But what Paul did fear was that they might not be true to that gospel. They might not stand up to the false teachers and let them continue to distort the gospel.

So, Paul brought Barnabas and Titus with him to Jerusalem. Bringing Titus to Jerusalem was a strategic move. Why? Because Titus was not a Jew; he was a Greek, an uncircumcised gentile. Titus was the fruit of Paul’s ministry to the Gentiles in which the false teachers were challenging. It was a perfect test case for Paul’s gospel. The false teachers were teaching, “You need to be circumcised if you want to be saved. All Christians must become Jews.” Paul was teaching, “The moment you add anything to the gospel, Christ died in vain. It is faith in Christ alone that saves. Gentile Christians don’t have to become Jews and they don’t need to be circumcised.” So, the question is, what would be the reaction of the apostles to Paul’s gentile mission and gentile companion? Would they receive Titus as a brother in Christ or demand him to be circumcised?

Let’s pause here for a bit and talk about why circumcision was such a big deal for the Jews. Paul was not against circumcision. In fact, Paul told Timothy to get circumcised to help his ministry to the Jews. So, if you are circumcised, you are fine. I was bribed by my dad into it. He said he would buy me a Super Nintendo if I got circumcised. I thought it was a good deal. No pain no gain. Only to find out later that the gain was not equal to the pain. Especially when the doctor tried a new anaesthetic and only used half the dose needed. True story. Anyway, why was circumcision very important to the Jews? For this, we must know the history of Israel. The history of Israel began with a single man by the name of Abraham. God called him out of his family and made a covenant with him to make a great nation out of his descendants. They would be people for God’s own name. And to differentiate between them and other nations, every male at the age of 8 days must be circumcised. So, circumcision was the sign of God’s covenant and the external mark of being God’s people. If non-Jews or Gentiles wanted to become part of God’s covenant people, they had to be circumcised and follow all Jewish laws. So, if a Gentile guy wanted to go out with a Jewish girl, he could not just, “Hey, she’s cute. Swipe right. Oh, it’s a match. Let me ask her out on a date.” And they lived happily ever after. No. It was, “Oh, it’s a match. But she’s a Jew. Some cutting needs to be done.” Then, happily ever after. There was an extremely high price to pay. You might say, “Geez, that is incredibly hard.” That’s the point. The purpose of these laws was to protect Jewish ethnic identities. The Jews were to be different from every other nation. They were chosen by God, and they alone had the Scriptures and the promises of God.

So, when the Jews heard the gospel, many of them believed. Jesus is the one whom God had promised throughout the Old Testament. He is the Saviour they were waiting for. And now that Jesus had come and offered salvation to the Gentiles, it is logical for the Jews to think that the Gentiles who believe in Jesus need to be circumcised to become part of them. After all, circumcision was the external sign of being God’s chosen people. But this is the problem Paul has with circumcision. Although circumcision itself is not wrong, if circumcision becomes a requirement for salvation, then Paul would have none of it. For Paul, salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Jesus is enough. Full stop. No addition. The gospel is Jesus plus nothing equals everything, Jesus plus something equals nothing. The moment you add anything to the gospel, you lose the gospel. The moment you add anything to the perfect work of Christ, it is no longer perfect. It destroys the perfect work of Christ. Get this. Salvation is either by Christ’s perfect work alone or human effort alone. There cannot be any mixture between the two. So, even though Paul is not against circumcision, he is against circumcision as a requirement for salvation. This is why Paul fights aggressively against those who teach circumcision. Are you with me?

Some of you might be saying right now, “Okay Yos, thank you for the history lesson on circumcision. But what does it have anything to do with me? I don’t need a lesson on circumcision and the gospel. Just tell me what I need to do to make my life better.” But I am. Sound doctrine is absolutely important for your life. I have heard many Christians who said, “Who cares about doctrine? Doctrine is not important. Theology does not matter. What matters is how you live.” Have you heard that before? I strongly disagree with it. Because we can’t live rightly without knowing rightly. The way we live is governed by the truth we believe. It is impossible to live the right Christian life without knowing the right Christian doctrine. Let’s say Deb and Sally auditioned for a musical play. They both were well-trained, and both got rejected. Deb went home very angry, and Sally went home depressed. What happened? They experienced the same rejection, but why were they responding very differently? The difference is in their belief. Deb was angry because she was saying to herself, “I can’t believe they rejected me. I am so good. I am beautiful and talented, and they cannot see it. One day, I will make them regret their decision. I’ll make them wish that I am part of them, and I will sneer at them.” But Sally was different. Sally was saying to herself, “I can’t believe they did not accept me. I am not good enough. I must be ugly and not talented. I am a failure. No one wants me.” What caused Deb and Sally to have different responses? It is not their circumstance but their belief. Our beliefs determine our actions and our responses. That’s why we must get the gospel right. Because if we lose the truth of the gospel, we lose what makes Christianity good news. If we believe there is something we must do to contribute to our salvation, we will never have the joy of salvation. We will never love God for God; we are simply using God to get what we want. This is what’s at stake.

The verdict

Galatians 2:3-6 – But even Titus, who was with me, was not forced to be circumcised, though he was a Greek. Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in—who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery— to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you. And from those who seemed to be influential (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)—those, I say, who seemed influential added nothing to me.

Praise God, Titus was not forced to be circumcised. It means that the Jerusalem apostles accepted that the gospel is not Jesus plus circumcision; the gospel is Jesus alone enough for salvation. The Jews and the Gentiles are accepted by God on the same terms: salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Despite what the false teachers said, the gospel truth is upheld. And I love verse 6. “And from those who seemed to be influential (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)—those, I say, who seemed influential added nothing to me.” At first, it kind of sounds like Paul was being snobby. “I met John, James, and Peter, but I don’t care who they were.” But Paul was not trying to disrespect the apostles. He was saying, “I know where I get my gospel from. I know who appointed me to be an apostle. The apostles in Jerusalem are great people. But I don’t need their endorsement to know that my gospel is true. The ultimate authority belongs to God, and he is the one who appointed me and gave me the gospel.” But then he continued to say that they added nothing to him. One commentator said that there is no more important statement in the book of Galatians. Because this means that Paul’s gospel is not defective. There is no need to add anything to Paul’s gospel. It is the same gospel the Jerusalem apostles have been teaching. Listen. The gospel is the same yesterday, today, and forever. We must subtract nothing, add nothing, change nothing. The gospel cannot be improved; it can only be destroyed.

Let me put it in a formula for you. True gospel = Jesus + nothing. False gospel = Jesus + something. If you believe it, say amen. I know it’s easy for us to say amen to this, but if we think this is easy to accept, we are not thinking clearly. I remember having a conversation many years ago and this person said to me, “Yos, I want to be a Christian. I believe in Jesus and his work at the cross. But I have a question. If I become a Christian, will I have to let go of my porn addiction?” Another person asked me a similar question. “I believe Jesus died for my sin. But I really hate my mother-in-law. She hurt me. Do I have to forgive her if I want to become a Christian?” Do you know what I said? “Of course, you do.” Can you see the problem? I was telling them, “To become a Christian, you need to put your faith in Jesus. But that alone is not enough. You must also get rid of your porn addiction. You must also forgive your mother-in-law. You can’t become a Christian until you do.” In other words, I was telling them, “The gospel is Jesus plus a forgiving heart. The gospel is Jesus plus no porn. Jesus has done all the works of salvation to save you, but now you must save yourself from porn and bitterness. You must work it out. You can’t become a Christian until you do.”

Can you see how difficult this is? Should you forgive those who hurt you? Absolutely. Should you get rid of porn addiction? Absolutely. But can you make them a condition for salvation? Absolutely not. A forgiving heart is the fruit of salvation, not a condition for salvation. A holy life is the effect of salvation, not a cause for salvation. The gospel is not God will save you if you are good enough. The gospel is when you believe in Jesus, God sees you as an absolute beauty. It means it does not matter what you are struggling with. You might struggle with unforgiveness. You might struggle with porn addiction, drug addiction, same-sex attraction, greed, lust, anger, etc. In Jesus, God sees you as a bridegroom sees his bride. His heart leaps when he sees you. He looks at you with a sparkle in his eyes. He rejoices over you and sings over you. He is in love with you. And not because you are beautiful in yourself, but because you are dressed in Jesus’ robe of righteousness. Jesus’ righteousness is your wedding dress, and it covers all your flaws and weaknesses. That’s the gospel. Jesus plus nothing. But for me to say that you must forgive your mother-in-law and get rid of your porn addiction before you can be saved is to say, “You are so ugly and now you must clean up yourself, put on make-up, and get the right wedding dress. Only then God will love you.” That’s the false gospel.

But can we be honest? Even though we confess with our mouths that the gospel is Jesus plus nothing, our hearts are always tempted to add something. When we hear the freeness of the gospel, it unsettles our hearts. There is a little voice that says, “Yes, but…” We want to add something to the gospel. And usually what we add to the gospel is something good. For example, coming to church. You heard me often say that coming to church is not optional. It is how God sustains our Christian life and shapes us into Christlikeness. And I believe that with all my heart. But if I am not careful, I can easily make coming to church a condition for salvation. The truth is that coming to church or not coming to church has nothing to do with our salvation. And all the people who are tuning in online are smiling right now. Our tendency is to add something to Jesus. Jesus plus coming to church. Jesus plus baptism. Jesus plus MC. Jesus plus no smoking. Jesus plus no swearing. Jesus plus speaking in tongue. But for the gospel to be the gospel, it must stand alone. The gospel is Jesus plus nothing. And this is no small matter.

Paul says in verse 4 that the false teachers actually tried to rob them of the freedom they have in Christ so that they might bring them into slavery. So, this is not simply a matter of circumcision. This is a matter of Christian freedom. If the gospel goes, our freedom is gone. This is why Paul stood firm fighting for the gospel. When the truth of the gospel is at stake, Paul would not compromise at all. He did not yield even a tiny bit. Why? So that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for us. If Paul had tolerated the demands of the false teachers, the gospel would have been destroyed. There would be no good news for us. The same also applies to us. It is not enough for us to know the gospel and share the gospel. When the truth of the gospel is at stake, we must stand firm. We must fight for the freedom we have in Christ. The true gospel gives freedom, while the false gospel leads to slavery.

So, what freedom does the gospel give? There are many and Paul will deal with this more in chapter 5. Let me highlight two for now. First, the gospel leads to emotional freedom. If we believe in Jesus plus something, if we believe God will love us as long as we are good enough, it’s going to put us on an endless yoyo of guilt and insecurity. If we perform well, we feel loved by God. If we do not perform well, we feel God is disappointed in us. And that’s very enslaving. We are never sure of our standing with God. We will become very insecure. But let’s say we manage to perform well for a long time. Do you know what will happen? We will become extremely self-righteous. We will think highly of ourselves and look down on others who fail to do the same. And let me tell you, self-righteous people are not free. They are angry, bitter people who tend to judge others’ shortcomings based on their own perceived greatness. They are completely oblivious to their own flaws. They are enslaved by their self-righteousness, and they don’t even know it. But if we get the gospel, we obey not in the fear and insecurity of trying to earn our salvation, but in the joy and freedom of knowing we are already loved in Christ. We obey God not because we have to but because we want to. That’s freedom.

Second, the gospel leads to cultural freedom. If the false teachers had their way and every Christian had to become a Jew, Matthew 28 would sound very different. “Go and make Jews of all nations, circumcising them in the name of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Teaching them to observe all the laws of Moses.” And do you know what would happen? The church would be filled with ladies, while all the men are tuning in online. If we don’t get the gospel right, we will be enslaved to our cultural values. We will force other people to be like us. That’s slavery. Here is the thing though. Sometimes we do not realize that our hearts are yet to grasp the gospel until we meet people from other cultures, Christians who don’t do things the same way we do. We may not say, “You must be circumcised to be saved,” but it is very easy for us to take our particular cultural values and say, “If you’re a real Christian, you’ll look like us. You’ll dress like us. You’ll think like us. You’ll smell like us.” Rather than admitting that we are different, we elevate our cultural values and say to them, “I am not like you. I am different from you. You need to be like me.” Isn’t that true? Do you know what that is? That is racism. And the gospel has no space for racism. We’ll talk more about this next week. But the gospel is God has accepted us freely so we must accept others freely. The gospel gives us cultural freedom that nothing else can. That means if we are Indonesian, we can be Indonesian Christians. If we are Australian, we can be Australian Christians. We don’t have to become a Jew. And we can love and accept each other without elevating our cultural values. That’s freedom.

The outcome

Galatians 2:7-10 – On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel to the circumcised (for he who worked through Peter for his apostolic ministry to the circumcised worked also through me for mine to the Gentiles), and when James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. 10 Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.

What a great victory for Paul and the gospel. Peter, John, and James acknowledged Paul’s gospel and gave him the right hand of fellowship. That is not a simple handshake, but it means partnership in the gospel. The Jerusalem apostles acknowledged that Paul’s gospel is the same gospel they were preaching. The apostles did not contradict one another. There is only one gospel, and they are preaching the same gospel. But even though they are preaching the same gospel, they recognise that there are different ways to go about it. The Jerusalem apostles preach the gospel to the Jews, while Paul preaches the gospel to the Gentiles. Same gospel, different style, different emphasis, different sphere. That means the gospel we are preaching today must be the same gospel from the beginning of the church. The packaging is different, but the substance is the same. John Stotts puts it like this. “If there is only one gospel in the New Testament, there is only one gospel for the church. The gospel has not changed with the changing centuries.” The gospel is forever the same. Salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Nothing can be added to the gospel. The only thing the Jerusalem apostles asked Paul to do was to care for the poor. And this is not a condition of salvation. This is evidence of salvation. Those who have experienced the grace of God for sinners will care for the well-being of the needy.

Let me draw out two implications from these verses. First, the importance of gospel unity. Listen. What unites every Christian around the world is the gospel. And we must be able to celebrate the gospel ministry that God is doing through other churches. The gospel is far bigger than one individual church. Like, I love ROCK Sydney church. But the gospel is far bigger than ROCK Sydney. When I get to heaven, no one is going to ask me about ROCK Sydney. Paul is not going to be on the mike saying, “Yosi, it’s your turn. I have heard so many good things about your church. Why don’t you tell us about ROCK Sydney?” No. No one cares about ROCK Sydney in heaven. What we will talk about for eternity is how beautiful Jesus is and how wonderful the gospel is. That means our role as a church is to make much of Jesus and partner with other churches for the sake of the gospel. Let me explain what this means. Many of you know that our church is part of CTC Indonesia, and I have good partners in ministry. One of them is Michael Chrisdion. He is the senior pastor of Gibeon church at Surabaya. He is a great preacher and I enjoy listening to his sermons. His sermons are in Indonesian though. But let me be straight. Surabaya is very different from Sydney. There are things he does with his church in Surabaya that I won’t do in Sydney. The needs are still the same. The gospel is the same. But there are things Mike does in Gibeon church that we are not going to do as a church in Sydney. Like, they are excellent in their online Sunday service production. They hire many people just to take care of it. But we won’t do the same. First, because the cost of labour in Sydney and Surabaya are radically different. Second, because Sydney is a very comfortable city. Comfort is the main idol of this city. We don’t want people to get too comfortable with online services and feed their idols.

I also have another partner in ministry, Tezar Putra. He is the lead pastor of Covenant City Church in Jakarta. Tezar is such an eloquent preacher. He is a wonderful expositor of the Bible. His sermons are in English. Listen to them if you haven’t. But let me be honest. There were times I listened to him, and I went, “That sounds really good, but I have no idea what it means.” I had to google the words he was using. His sermons are very poetic. He uses words I don’t even know how to pronounce. And if I try to preach like him, some of you would be like, “What the heck are you saying? You can’t even pronounce those words.” And some of you would fall asleep because he has almost zero jokes in his sermons. But the way he talks, and his ministry works for the people he is trying to reach in Jakarta. It’s the same gospel, but different packaging. And here is the thing about me, Mike, and Tez. We don’t agree on everything. If you lock us in a room and tell us to agree on the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit before we can leave the room, you probably won’t see us again until heaven. We have different views on the gifts of the Spirit, baptism, worship style, church governance, etc. But do you know what we have in common? We love the same Jesus, and we treasure the same gospel. That’s the only reason I need to partner with them and celebrate their ministry.

But the second implication is the limit of unity. Listen. We must pursue unity, but never at the expense of the gospel. Remember that Paul refused to yield to the teachers who promote a different gospel. And at the end of the meeting between Paul and the Jerusalem apostles, they established that these teachers were not teaching the same gospel. They are false teachers. They are enemies of freedom, and they need to be excluded. And this is the boundary of Christian unity. Listen to the way Timothy Keller puts it. “Fellowship with Christ is a sufficient basis for fellowship with one another. We must never exclude someone whom God has included in his people. But equally, fellowship with Christ is the only basis for fellowship with one another. Churches must not maintain unity at the expense of the gospel.” When the gospel is at stake, we must stand firm no matter the cost. We must be willing to compromise on many things for the sake of unity, but we must stand firm when it comes to the gospel. We must never tolerate false gospel for the sake of unity.

So, what is the false gospel? There are many variations of the false gospel in the church. But I think it essentially comes down to these three. One, we are saved by the gospel then we mature by our own strength. They teach that God has done his part and now it is up to us to do the rest. We must discipline ourselves with our own strengths. This is not the gospel. The gospel is not only God saved us, but God is working in us, enabling us to mature in him. It is God’s work from beginning to end. Two, we need to add to the gospel. They teach that we need the gospel, but we also need other things besides the gospel. So, they begin to make their own pluses. The gospel plus no smoking. Or no clubbing. No drinking. Obey the 10 commandments etc. Although there is good intention behind all these pluses, they are not the gospel. It is faith in Christ alone that saves. Period. Don’t mix the fruits of the gospel with the gospel itself. The gospel is not what we have to do but what God in Jesus has done for us. Jesus’ work is complete. It is finished. Don’t add anything to the gospel or we destroy the gospel. Three, we must earn God’s favour. They teach that for God to bless us, we need to read the Bible. We need to pray. We need to serve in the church. We need to share the gospel with others. They basically say that God’s love for us depends on our performances. If we do well God will bless us, but if we do bad God will not bless us. Therefore, Christianity becomes all about our performances. Friends, this is not the gospel. The gospel is Christ has already performed for us so that we no longer live based on our performances. We live based on Christ’s performance for us. However, listen. It does not mean Christianity is an effortless religion. The gospel is not against effort; the gospel is against earning. We cannot earn or merit God’s favour. It is given to us solely based on Christ’s perfect performance for us. But once we experience the life-transforming power of the gospel, we use all our efforts to please God, not to earn his favour but because we already have his favour. It is God’s favour in us that enables us to obey God. The gospel is the power of God for salvation. So, the question is, are we standing firm in the gospel? Or are we compromising the gospel?

Let me close with this. One of the puzzles of the text is that if the law of Moses demands every Jew to be circumcised as a sign of being God’s people, why not Christians? Did God change his mind? No, he doesn’t. Here is why we do not need to be circumcised. Colossians 2:11-12 – 11 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. The circumcision of flesh is only a shadow that points to the circumcision of Christ. Christians no longer need to be circumcised because Christians have received the circumcision of Christ. Remember that circumcision is the sign of a covenant. A covenant is a legally binding agreement between two parties. And when you break a covenant, you will experience the curse of the covenant. That is what circumcision points at. What is the curse of breaking the covenant with God? It is to be cut off from the relationship with God. In other words, all of us deserve to be cut off from God because of our sins. But the good news of the gospel is that we are not cut off from our relationship with God. Why? Because we are circumcised with Christ’s circumcision. What is Christ’s circumcision? It is when Jesus died on the cross. At the cross, Jesus was cut off from his relationship with God. At the cross, Jesus experienced the curse of breaking God’s covenant. Jesus, the only person who lived out God’s covenant perfectly was cut off from the land of the living. He was cut off from the perfect relationship he had with God. Why? So that we who put our faith in Jesus can be brought in. It doesn’t matter who we are, it does not matter what we have done, the moment we put our faith in Jesus, we receive the circumcision of Christ. Faith in Christ is the mark of God’s people. And when we put our faith in Christ, we are cleansed of all our sins. Jesus has paid the debt of sin at the cost of his life so that we may receive salvation at no cost. That’s the gospel. Let’s pray.

Discussion questions:

  1. What struck you the most from the sermon?
  2. Explain the importance of knowing sound doctrine in the Christian life. What happens if you don’t?
  3. The gospel is Jesus plus nothing. Why is this truth extremely liberating and unsettling at the same time?
  4. Look at the three variations of the false gospel in the church. Which one can you relate to the most and why?
  5. How does the gospel fulfil the circumcision law for Christians?
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