The Gospel of the Circumcision and the Uncircumcision
Text: Galatians 2:1-10
I. I suppose a casual reader could read verse 7 from our text and come away with the idea that two different messages were being taught.
A. One being taught to the Gentiles and a different message being taught to the Jews.
B. Yet the goal of the gospel was to unite Jews and Gentiles - Ephesians 2:11-18
C. Yet, we also know that the Bible teaches there is one faith - Ephesians 4:5
D. The teaching of a different gospel was condemned - Galatians 1:6
II. In order to effectively teach the gospel of Christ, different audiences will require different emphasis
A. Put yourself in the early days of the church. Where would you begin teaching about Jesus?
1. If you were teaching a Jew, it would be best to start with a common ground, say the prophesies concerning the Messiah
a. The Jews had the advantage of knowing the Laws of God - Romans 3:1-2
b. There is already a disposition to please God
c. We see Philip teaching the eunuch by starting with the prophet Isaiah - Acts 8:30-36
(1) He started with what was accepted, taught him about Jesus, and eventually discussed salvation.
d. In Peter’s sermon to Jews - Acts 2:17-36
(1) Peter started with a miracle and pointed out how this fulfilled prophecy
(2) He then discussed what most Jews knew about Jesus - the miracles that he did, proving that God was behind him.
(3) He offers testimony and prophecy to show that Jesus was resurrected
(4) He sums up by pointing out they were responsible for the death of their savior.
2. If you were teaching a Gentile, it would require a different starting point, because there is no common acceptance of the Scriptures.
a. We see this in Paul’s sermon to the Athenians - Acts 17:22-25
(1) Paul starts with the acceptance of higher beings – gods, and then moves quickly to the idea of a supreme God
(2) He then discusses how idols cannot capture the idea of such a being nor could anything made by human hands.
(3) He moved on to the need to serve this God and God’s right to judge the world’s service to him.
(4) He finally spoke of the proof God has given – the raising of the dead
(5) This was the sticking point for his audience
3. The same message is taught, but different avenues were used to present the message.
a. It required different starting points
b. It required different evidence and lines of reasoning
B. There is more to teaching than the words. We are also representatives of Christ to the world.
1. How would you live to best gain the confidence of your audience, showing that you are a reliable authority for learning about God?
2. The Jews thought they knew how to serve God.
a. A Gentile would be unable to teach a Jew.
b. Many areas of Jewish society was unreachable by a Gentile
3. When Paul took Timothy to work with him, he had him circumcised - Acts 16:1-3
a. Why? Because of the Jews in Timothy’s region.
b. Even though circumcision was of no direct profit - I Corinthians 7:18-20
c. It was necessary to reach the Jews with the Gospel - I Corinthians 9:19-20
d. Paul was not under the Law. He was not bound by its teachings, but he lived by the rules of the Law so he might reach those who lived by that Law.
4. It went the other way as well, when Paul taught the Gentiles, he followed their customs to the extent that he could - I Corinthians 9:21
a. He did not act as if there was no law at all, but where he could take on the customs of the Gentiles without violating the laws of Christ, he so did.
5. Even to new Christians, he tailored his message to benefit his audience - I Corinthians 9:22-23
a. We can see it in I Corinthians 3:1-3. The Corinthians were not ready (mature enough) to receive all that Paul wanted to teach.
b. Solid food belongs to the mature - Hebrews 5:11-14
C. Paul specialized in teaching Gentiles about Christ. Peter specialized in teaching Jews about Christ
1. Paul was appointed a preacher, apostle, and teacher of the Gentiles - I Timothy 2:7
2. His purpose was to bring obedience of faith to all Gentiles - Romans 1:5
3. It does not mean that Paul worked exclusively with the Gentiles. When he entered a new city, he generally first approach the Jews - Acts 17:1-4
4. Peter was the first to preach to the Gentiles - Acts 10
III. What it means to you and I
A. We must search for the best ways to present the Gospel to our chosen audience.
1. We do not alter the Gospel, but we do learn what is needed in our community.
2. What are the prevalent beliefs, both true and false?
a. What is the dominant denomination?
b. What is the society’s view about religion
(1) In Minnesota, a strong Catholic and Lutheran population thought that it was impolite to discuss controversial things such as politics or religion among friends.
(2) In North Carolina, it was common for neighborhood women of varying beliefs to have weekly Bible studies in someone’s home.
(3) In New York, religion was treated as a social club you belonged to. Even hints of conviction in beliefs, especially Christian beliefs, were openly opposed with great hatred in public forums, such as radio or newspapers.
3. What is needed by the people in Harlem will differ greatly from the Amish in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
4. My grandfather was a preacher. I have looked at some of his lesson notes. The topics he had to address are often quite different than what I handle.
a. Homosexuality was not discussed in his day. I have to address it in the pulpit.
b. I have to discuss tangled family and persuade young men and women not to imitate the mistakes of their parents.
c. My grandfather’s day was more like the gospel of the circumcision. My day is more like the gospel of the uncircumcision.
B. To teach the gospel, you need some acceptance by society.
1. A flashy polyester suit among the Amish will not gain you an audience to hear the truth.
2. In many parts of New England, you are considered an outsider even after living there for five years or more.
C. One of the saddest things I saw was in the Philippines. For years preachers have traveled to this country, spending two to four weeks. Most of that time is spent hitting as many areas as possible.
1. As a result, the people know the plan of salvation inside and out.
2. But few have taught why fornication is wrong. Why bribery is wrong, Why lying is wrong.
3. They don’t understand that they should support their preachers. Money has always come from the U.S. to support their preachers. They see preachers as owning certain congregations. Few preachers preach in the town where they live.
4. Why? Because the more knowledgeable among us only visit. Few stay and learn what their society needs. Almost none learn the native language.
a. A popular topic by visiting preachers is marriage, divorce, and remarriage, such a hot topic in the U.S. that it is now known by its initials MDR.
b. What is sadly humorous is that the Filipinos are most Catholic and Muslim. Their constitution makes divorce near impossible and extremely rare.
c. What is rampant is men and women walking away from their spouses. Adultery is common, but rarely discussed.
5. I suspect the same thing happens in Africa
D. We have a rising Hispanic population throughout the U.S. How many of us are learning Spanish so we can teach?
1. When I moved to Omaha, I brushed up on ASL to be able to talk to the deaf daughter of one of our members.
2. From there I was able to study with her deaf boyfriend, who obeyed the Gospel.
IV. What is needed are preachers willing to go and learn a region’s culture, to spend time developing a stable congregation.
A. Half of a preacher’s duties is to reach the lost
B. The other half is to see that the saved remain faithful - Ephesians 4:11-13
1. First journey - Acts 14:21-22
2. Second journey - Acts 15:40-41
3. Third journey - Acts 18:22-23
C. If we are going to work among those who speak another language - learn it!
D. Live among those you are teaching to gain respectability and a knowledge of what they need to learn.