Isaiah 19:1-25; Galatians 2:1-10; Psalms 59:14-17; Proverbs 16:10-11
NT: “But we did not give up and submit to these people for even a moment, so that the truth of the gospel would be preserved for you. Now from those recognized as important (what they once were makes no difference to me; God does not show favoritism) — they added nothing to me. On the contrary, they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel for the uncircumcised, just as Peter was for the circumcised, since the one at work in Peter for an apostleship to the circumcised was also at work in me for the Gentiles. When James, Cephas, and John — those recognized as pillars — acknowledged the grace that had been given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to me and Barnabas, agreeing that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. They asked only that we would remember the poor, which I had made every effort to do.” (Galatians 2:5-10 CSB)
Fourteen years after Paul came to faith in Christ and began preaching the gospel, he was led by the Spirit to travel to Jerusalem, stand before the counsel of church leaders, present the gospel message that he had been sharing to them and get a definitive answer on what was required for gentiles who come to the faith. The meeting that Paul had with the church leaders in Jerusalem was known as the Jerusalem Council. The story of that meeting can be found in Acts 15.
Legalist Jews believed that in order to experience the salvation provided by Jesus the Messiah, a person must first become a Jew. For men in that day, that meant becoming circumcised (the sign of the covenant God made with Abraham). At stake was the freedom for Gentile believers to remain in their culture and find salvation through grace (not works) by faith. When Paul was in Jerusalem, there were many who tried to convince Paul that he was wrong. So compelling were their arguments that Titus (a Greek) felt compelled to become circumcised. But Paul stood firm on the convictions that he had received from the Lord by the Spirit and didn’t give in to the unnecessary requirements of the law – not even for a moment. And when he stood before the Jerusalem Council and defended the gospel and the freedoms that he had been preaching, Peter, James and John all agreed and legitimized Paul’s call and ministry.
Freedom is not free. It comes at a great cost, is always under attack, and must constantly be defended in order to be maintained. Tomorrow, in the United States, we will celebrate Memorial Day. Memorial Day is a day set aside each year to remember and honor the men and women who gave their lives fighting for and defending the freedoms that we hold so dear in our country. The freedom that we as redeemed believers experience from sin, the devil and the heavy burden of requirements from the law, was not free. It came at a great cost and was purchased by the life of our Lord and Christ. Christ didn’t die for us to become enslaved once again. He died to set us eternally free. Because of the cost of our freedom, we should never capitulate to those who try to enslave us once again, but should always be willing to defend the gospel and the freedom it brings.
Psalms: “But I will sing of your strength and will joyfully proclaim your faithful love in the morning. For you have been a stronghold for me, a refuge in my day of trouble. To you, my strength, I sing praises, because God is my stronghold — my faithful God.” (Psalms 59:16-17 CSB)
The introductory notes to this psalm say that David wrote this psalm when King Saul sent men to watch his house and kill him while he slept. That story can be found in 1 Samuel 19:11-18. Not only was David’s freedom at stake – his very life was at stake. But David strengthened himself in the Lord. By faith, David said, “I will sing of Your strength and proclaim Your faithful love in the morning!” He knew that he would survive. How was he so confident? He knew that the Lord God was his stronghold and that the Lord God would be faithful to defend his freedom and his life. In turn, Michal (Saul’s daughter and David’s wife) was moved to help David escape and David survived the ambush. As we defend the freedoms that we have been given in the Lord, the Lord will be faithful to defend us and uphold us against His and our enemies.
Prayer: Lord, I know that the freedom that I enjoy in You came at a great cost. I don’t ever want to take the freedom that I have in You and the grace that I receive by faith in you for granted. Fill me with conviction and boldness from the Holy Spirit that I may always be willing to defend the gospel of Christ and the freedom it brings. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.