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Free to resist

Introduction: Last week, we noted that every Christian story is a story of freedom, and in particular, the freedom to change. Paul told us his own story of God’s wonderful change in his own life in Galatians 1. Today, we look at another freedom that we all have – the freedom to resist (Galatians 2:1-10). Some of the insights here are inspired by Travelling Light, a book by Eugene H. Peterson

Freedom defined: As Myles Munroe noted in his book, The Burden of Freedom, freedom is a two-part word, free-dominion (Genesis 1:26) – which means the liberty or ability to exercise dominion over the earth through one’s unique gifts and talents according to God’s purpose. In other words, freedom is the liberty to fulfill God’s will in serving others with the gifts and talents He gave you, without restricting or controlling others as they also seek to fulfill God’s purpose. It also means then that no one is allowed to control or restrict you as you pursue God’s will for your life. But all too often, we know that there is the tendency to control, or even allow ourselves to be controlled by, others as we run the race of life.

Paul, an example in resisting: It is for the above reason that Paul again tells us his story of resisting man’s controlling and restricting influence on his life and ministry. He tells his story first to the Galatians, and then to us, that we may all learn to resist. We are Free to Resist. Today, we are called to be vigilant about the faith and freedom we have received in Christ. But what exactly are we to resist as we seek to maintain our freedom?

Titus and Circumcision: We are called to resist everything that restricts or controls the freedom and grace we have received in Christ. Titus met Christ just as he was, a Greek. And Christ accepted him, loved him, and changed him. But now, he was among the Jews who, over several years of religious preconditioning, have their own rigid ideas about what you must do in order to be accepted by Christ. Or for that matter, what you must do in order to remain accepted by Christ – Circumcision. Fortunately, Paul was a free man who understood that we are saved by grace alone (Ephesians 2: 8-10). So, he resisted this attempt to enslave Titus again. We are free to resist (Galatians 5: 1-4). Sometimes it may not be circumcision – it may be a denomination’s stifling man-made rules that control and restrict the true grace of Christ, societal or peer pressure, a pastor’s domineering and controlling spirit, or it may be national or ethnic preconditions and superstitions that seek to return us to fear and bondage to elements, holidays or rituals – but whatever it is, we are called to resist if it seeks to rob us of the freedom we have in Christ.

Peter and Paul, a divergence in ministry: Paul’s ministry was so different from Peter’s that it encountered opposition. He never met Christ in person, never saw him heal but Paul was God’s choice to the Gentiles; not in addition to reaching Jews first (as Acts 1: 8, Romans 2: 10 suggest) but in devotion to the Gentiles. So, it was easy to see why the elders of faith questioned the validity of Paul’s ministry. But the same God who called Peter and other apostles to the Jews is the same God that called Paul to the Gentiles. God doesn’t have to take permission from the religious institution or explain Himself. Paul knew the God who has commissioned him, so he resisted the attempt to invalidate his calling. He refused to surrender God’s calling to their cynicism and mockery. Finally, Peter, James and John recognized God’s divine hand and so offered him their own hand of fellowship. We are free to resist all attempts to invalidate or discredit our own ministry. We are Free to Resist (Galatians 5:1).

Don’t Forget the Poor: We are free to resist, but there is one thing we must be sure not to overlook or resist, namely, the opportunity to help the poor (James 1; 23). Ministry to the poor is a common tread of all God-given ministry, whether to the Jews or to the Gentiles. Any person or group that neglects it is showing sign of losing their freedom.