Entrusted Not Entitled – Galatians 2:7-9

“On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel to the circumcised (for he who worked through Peter for his apostolic ministry to the circumcised worked also through me for mine to the Gentiles), and when James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised.” –Galatians 2:7-9

I love coffee, and I like plaid, and I love to play acoustic guitar. I think that makes me a hipster. Or at least that is what people say. At first I would respond back the same way most hipsters respond: “I’m not a hipster.” Then when I realized that is what hipsters did, I just accepted the title. Now I think it is funny. And though now the fad is fading away, I’ll just about fitting this stereotype as long as I can.

It is strange to me that Paul would go from talking about a unified gospel to talking about a split gospel. Paul’s whole focus is to show that there is one gospel and no others. So now why is he saying there is a gospel to the circumcised and one to the uncircumcised? Why does it seem like he is contradicting himself?

Paul might be in a 50’s style gang fight – a greaser fight. Maybe what Paul is saying is that since the men who came to Galatia came from Jerusalem, they don’t have a right to preach the gospel to the uncircumcised. The Jewish disciples from Jerusalem would only have a right to preach the gospel to the circumcised. Paul might accusing these men are on his turf. Paul might be saying only he has the authority to preach to the Gentiles in Galatia.

Also, this is one of the only times Paul refers to Cephas as “Peter.” Everywhere else in Paul’s letters he refers to the head apostle as “Cephas.” This is telling for Paul. Maybe these aren’t necessarily his words. This could be what the pillars said; this could be what others in Jerusalem said. The change of name could hint to that. This would make sense if Paul used sarcasm or the words of others to drive his point.

Regardless, Paul is showing that his calling from God holds the same authority as does Peter’s. This would make Paul’s gospel message the true gospel. His authority isn’t below Peter. His authority is equal to Peter. They both have a calling and a purpose. And no one should question Paul’s authority – not the Galatians or the false teachers in Galatia trying to sway them.

Paul was pulling a hipster moment. He knew there wasn’t more than one gospel, but he used what people were saying to drive his point. His authority is on par with that of the apostle Peter, and that the church in Jerusalem gave him their right hand of fellowship. They saw Paul as a friend and a companion. They saw him as someone capable of sharing the gospel.

Another astonishing point is to note that the apostles physically saw that Paul was entrusted with the gospel (v 7). They didn’t hear that Paul was entrusted. They didn’t get insight. They saw that Paul was given authority from God.

I wonder what exactly they saw.

What do people see in you? Do they see the love and power of God? Do they see the gospel message? People might see me as the coffee drinking, earth tone wearing, crazy person, but I hope they also see a reflection of Christ.

Live in such a way that people see God in you.

Flare Jeans and Jeremiah – Galatians 1:15-17

“But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone; nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.” –Galatians 1:15-17

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” –Jeremiah 1:5

Have you ever noticed how fashion seems to be cyclical? One fashion that was popular in the past will become stale, but within a couple decades it becomes retro again. Almost everything except the fanny-pack has managed to somehow make a turnaround over the years. Fedoras, flare jeans, Birkenstocks, and Converse shoes have all made their way around the hipster circle of life. Even togas have made a popular fashion surge thanks to the popular 70’s movie, Animal House!

Paul was pretty retro as well. I’m not necessarily talking about his fashion sense, though I’m sure if he were alive today he would totally wear designer jeans with a hip and over-the-top button down shirt! I’m pretty sure that is the uniform for a church planter in America today. Paul was retro in how he was called by God.

Paul uses “Septuigantalism” when talking about his calling from God. This is borrowing wording from the Old Testament to describe current situations in the New Testament. So Paul is talking about not only how his authority is from God, but also how God revealed himself to Paul like He used to reveal himself to the Old Testament prophets. The wording in this passage is similar to the prophet Jeremiah’s calling (Jer 1:5), and also with the proclamation of the servant of the Lord in Isaiah 49 (verses 1-6).

The main thrust of Paul’s argument is that he did not immediately consult with anyone (verse 17). His call and the gospel he preached was his own that he received from God. He, like the prophets of the Old Testament, has a calling specifically from God! He has a mission much like the prophets to proclaim the message of God – the Good News, which is the Gospel. Notice how Paul’s calling is seen as a past event, but his mission is seen as present. “To preach [Jesus] among the Gentiles” is Paul’s past, current, and future mission from God. He might have a calling resembling those of the past, but he has a message that is completely new – a message that Christ has come and has saved the world!

Sometimes we get so caught up on looking for the new coolest thing that we forget what we already have. Coming from a Pentecostal background, I have experienced people who seek the newest revelation, experience, or prophecy from God, but they disregard what God has done in the past. The Bible is our measuring stick. If we don’t see it as the authority with which to filter our experiences through, then we might fall into error. We can have a new experience on old principles! We must make sure our experiences and expectations fall within the framework of God’s Word. Progress is not just movement. It is movement in the right direction.

Remember your calling. Even though you were saved in the past, God is calling on you to act in the present. Bring back the calling that you received in the past to the present. Dust it off like an old pair of flare jeans and wear your purpose with pride.

Hipsters, Hedonism, and the Truth Behind it All.

I have been called a hipster more times than I can count. Some people say it as a joke. Some people say it and mean it. Some people say it in a negative way. Some people say it in a positive way. And I am just drinking my Chemex-brewed coffee, wearing my canvas shoes, flannel, and weed hat, and listening to “Bon Iver” wondering what the heck they are talking about…

At least I don’t have a mustache…

What is relevance? Relevance is the idea of being “up with the times”… scratch that… AHEAD of the times! If you are only caught up and not moving forward with what is “cool” or “hip,” than that means that you are “un-hip,” “boring,” or even “lame.” I never realized this constant pursuit of cool until I read Brett McCracken’s book, “Hipster Christianity.” In it McCracken describes what hipster culture is and how the movement was originally birthed in the beatnik era of the 50’s. Throughout the book, Brett wrestles with what happens when culture/counter-culture starts interfering with values and the truth. Where does one draw the line?

Hasty generalizations are amazing.

There are two types of people we find today in the church (or two types or churches if you want to look at it that way). There are the people who preach the truth at people, and there are the people that tip-toe around fluff in the name of relevance. I know that there are people trying to find a balance: have a message that is interesting and worth being heard while still having a heaping amount of truth, but most people still fall more into one camp or another. There are obvious problems with each of these camps.

To be fully focused on the truth alone is abrasive. While some might think that they are preaching a message “to” people, what they are really doing usually is preaching “at” people. They are speaking truth, but it is not “seasoned with salt.” For this reason, many people don’t see Christianity as a worldview worth respecting, and many people behind the Church’s walls are like confused travelers. Many Christians are looking at the map of life and know the destinations, but they don’t know where they are at, what direction is what, or even which way to hold the stinking map!

The repercussion of being relevant is that one is chasing a never-ending goal. As soon as something is cool, the pursuit continues. There is no end to relevancy. If someone stays in one place, then they instantly become stale. Not to mention that cool is not something that everyone is trying to seek. Not everyone wants to be cool! It is kind of exhausting. And to be “counter-cultural” (if that really exists) might force someone to go against a tradition or practice that has been accepted or trusted for years. Sometimes being “counter-cultural” is counter-truth. Those within its ranks are also condescending, as if to be cool is a social badge of honor. So for churches or people to think of this as a healthy medium to convey a message must not realize that relevancy restricts the core audience one is trying to reach.

So what does one do?

One needs to learn how to convey truth without making it abrasive. This starts by not telling people the truth, but showing people how to find the truth. One thing that I have noticed over the past few years is how many people who were Christians in high school lose their faith while they’re in college. Though some might claim that these students were never Christian to begin with, or that they got caught up in the hedonistic pleasures of the liberal arts lifestyle, many of these students leave the faith, because they find the faith irrational.

Many people start developing “abstract thought” when they get around the age when one goes to college. Students get confused when their worldview is mixed with the different questions and options of worldviews that professors throw at them as soon as they get through the doors. For a freshman to only know the truth without knowing how they got to that truth would make them sitting prey for anyone who has taken an entry level philosophy class. Truth, if only presented “as is,” leaves the scales within one’s mind wanting. How does one know that truth should be accepted if there is not evidence presented? What happens when two different people disagree on what “truth” is in a given instance?

Truth also needs to be interesting. This is where relevance ties in. Recently I heard Bob Goff, author of “Love Does” and founder of “Restore International,” speak at my church. Bob not only brought an impactful message on forward-thinking and forgiveness, but he also made it interesting! He told stories from life with gregarious and expressive body language. He was even able to tie in a Taylor Swift reference! This is someone who not only knows how to present the truth, but he knows how to do it with vigor while keeping it relevant. That sounds like a triple threat.

One needs to learn how to make their speech “seasoned with salt.” Just like salt can easily overpower one’s food, relevance can be one’s best tool or ones’ greatest weakness. If one does not use enough relevancy or add in enough illustrations that the audience can relate too, they will lose most of the audience as the audience loses interest and zones out (what oftentimes happens to me at church). If one uses too much relevancy then the audience might be interested, but they will only hear a motivation speech at best. They won’t learn as much as they could have. In either case there is a great deal that people won’t learn.

We must learn how to season our speech with salt. We must learn how to not just preach the truth at people, but we need to teach people how to find the truth for themselves. That is what true discipleship is. And we need to not get so caught up in making ourselves sound interesting that the whole core of our message is lost.

Teach. Don’t tell.

Season. Don’t saturate.

And maybe we can show the truth to the world… and the world will listen.