One of the heartaches and tragedies of churches and Christians is the fighting among ourselves. Somehow, division has become part of the DNA of Baptists, especially independent Baptists. Yet, division tends to stunt growth. We discover in Galatians 2:1-16 that division stalled the growth of the early church. A confrontation occurred between Paul & Peter because of the treatment a new people, Gentiles. But Paul did not want differences to slow down the Gospel.
Tom Messer spoke on this topic, Rediscovering the Power of the Gospel, Monday night at Baptist Bible College for the 2016 Fellowship Week of the Baptist Bible Fellowship International. Theme of the conference is ‘ALL IN.’ (You can read Tom’s bio below.)
Sometimes people get stuck in the past. But our past is a point of reference not a place of residence. We need to discover something that moves us forward. The only thing that will move us in that direction is a deep commitment to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Tom shared three things about the Gospel from Galatians 2:1-16.
The Nature of Gospel Power. Paul criticized the Galatians because they embraced a ‘different Gospel’ (Galatians 1:6-9). But you can’t expect a different Gospel to have the same results as the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. The simple Gospel of Jesus Christ is powerful.
The Gospel is the only thing that truly changes the lives and eternity of people. When a person accepts the true Gospel of Jesus Christ into their life, it plants a divine nature that changes people from the inside out. It does not just change behavior. It changes the very core of a person. It is the “power of God unto salvation.”
To add to or subtract from the Gospel diminishes the power of the Gospel. If we add or subtract from the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we can’t expect the same results. The power rests in its exclusivity and sufficiency. We live in a time when many preach that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is not the only way to Heaven. Others think it needs some help – add a few rules or restrictions. But the Gospel is enough to change lives.
The Hindrances of Gospel Power. In Galatians 2 Peter and Paul wrestle with the outworking of the Gospel with people who are culturally different. One hindrance to the gospel was theological clarity. It is important to really know what the Gospel is. We get into trouble with our methodology when we have a lack of theological clarity. We tend to be better at methods than theology. Church leaders and churches need to get back to really understanding the Gospel.
Another hindrance was insecurity of leadership. Peter was the true leader.He was good on the gospel but he allowed his cultural shadows to keep him from connecting to the people who were different, Greek Christians. It is easy to allow our past to prevent us from growing. Church leaders that don’t have gospel clarity tend to manipulate others to agree with them. Worship style, Bible versions, Music taste are things that can divide Christians. We tend to demonize what is different or idolize what we like. But not one of these has the power that the Gospel has. We need to repent, fall in love with God and go deeper in our understanding of the Gospel.
Secret to Gospel Power. Our tendency is to shrink our bandwidth. We think if we’re not totally alike, you can’t be part of us. But the more firm grasp you have of the gospel, the more flexible you become about everything else. You stop arguing about the lesser issues. If you get the Gospel right, you broaden your bandwidth. If you don’t get the Gospel, you narrow your bandwidth.
How do you get that? Paul accused Peter that he did not “walk uprightly according to the gospel.” They were not living the Gospel. In other words, the Gospel puts out a line and you measure everything by the line of the Gospel. It’s like a bunch of people trying to measure 36 inches with our hands. We would all have a different measurement. And we would probably try to compare our measurements. But to truly see if we are right, we need to get a yardstick and measure. Instead of measuring other ministries by my own measurement, I should measure others by the Gospel.
According to Paul, when you do that you discover true freedom (“liberty”) and fellowship (“right hand of fellowship”). Don’t demonize or idolize, but fall deeply in love with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Tom Messer has been at Trinity Baptist Ministries in Jacksonville, Florida since 1982. In 1992, he became senior pastor of Trinity Baptist Church and president of Trinity Baptist College. Dr. Messer enjoys spending time with his family, studying the Bible, reading books on the Christian life or church growth, eating barbecue or seafood, and playing golf. He’s also a fan of basketball, football and baseball.
Baptist Bible College celebrates 66 years of ministry in 2016. As a 1982 alumnus, I am pleased to celebrate this event at my alma mater. These have been some of my thoughts of the Monday, May 2 evening session.
Please share your thoughts.