Nearly 2,000 years ago, a very real danger presented itself to the early Church. As the Apostle Paul writes to the church in Galatia, the claims of the Judaizers represented a different gospel than the one he had preached to them, by which they had come to a saving faith in Christ.
Central to the controversy was the Old Testament Law, especially regarding circumcision.
Gentile believers in Christ had been told by Paul that repentance and faith in Christ’s atoning sacrifice on the cross was not only primary, but essential and sufficient. The death, burial, and resurrection of the Messiah was a promise for all who believed, both Jew and Gentile.
But then the Judaizers came insisting that circumcision was also necessary. Gentile converts must keep the Law. Faith in the plain gospel of Jesus Christ was inadequate.
Paul Rebukes Peter at Antioch
Not only new converts were deceived and led astray. Even the Apostle Peter was intimidated and thrown off-course for a time.
Without apology or apparent regret, Paul tells the church in Galatia that when he was in Antioch, he rebuked Peter to his face publicly for having tried to appease the Judaizers, no longer associating with Gentile Christians while they were in town lest they be offended. But in Peter’s effort to placate them, he had undermined the gospel message.
At heart was not circumcision in and of itself. Paul demonstrated that clearly when he had Timothy circumcised before undertaking missionary work with Jews.
Rather, the chief concern was that circumcision had been made into a primary issue. The Judaizers were dividing the early Church in a way that represented a real threat not only to unity among true believers, but to the purity of the gospel message itself.
Our Modern Day Judaizers
In America today, the modern equivalent of the Judaizers is this new brand of Woke Christianity which insists that embracing Leftist ideology is the “works” when James the brother of Jesus says that “faith without works is dead.”
If we are not clear about that, and if we do not confront this threat of false teaching from within, we will undermine the gospel just as Peter did for a time before he was reproved by Paul at Antioch.
As Paul writes in Ephesians 2:8-10,
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
If social and political activism according to the new Woke orthodoxy are the “good works” which God prepared for us to walk in, how did the Church – even the Apostles and all the Church Fathers – miss this for 2,000 years?
But then that is just it. They did not miss this because it was not there. And it is still not. Nor will it ever be, however persistently the manipulative claims confidently issued from the most persuasive sources might tug on our heartstrings.
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