When Paul came to a new town, it was usually his practice to preach first to the Jews, if any were living there, and then to the Gentiles. This was the case in Galatia. Of course, the newly converted Jews would be under pressure from the religious leaders to turn back to the law and the old covenant. The newly converted Gentiles would be pressured by the local leaders to turn back to their practice of worshiping idols. The leaders were zealous in trying to turn the people back to these old ways but for the wrong reason. Both the religious leaders and the local leaders were dependent on the people for their livelihood. Paul says it is good to be zealous for the right reasons, but they must be strong enough to stand even when he is not with them. Since they were not able to stand alone, he must now treat them again as babies in Christ. Today, we have the same situation because we “go and make converts” and then we leave them to fend for themselves.Jesus said to “go and make disciples”. Receiving Jesus as your Savior without any further instructions is not likely to make many disciples. Mentoring others takes a lot of love, patience, kindness, and time.
Paul did not back down from his stand on circumcision. When Peter, James and John, the pillars of the church in Jerusalem, recognized that Paul was right they gave him the right hand of fellowship. (To those who don’t speak Churchese, that means that Paul now had their support and was welcomed into the congregation of Christians,) They all agreed that the new converts, both Jewish and Gentile should not eat food that had been sacrificed to idols and that they should support the poor. It is still a good idea to help the poor and refrain from acts that might cause our brothers to be offended.. Paul and Barnabas leave to go back to Antioch to give the news to the new converts. We, like the first century church, must be careful not to add requirements to God’s plan of salvation. We do not want to become like the legalistic leaders who weighed men down with their traditions. When the Spirit sets us free, we are indeed free from the bondage of sin that was of no benefit to us. The law could not free us, but God could and did by sending His Son, Jesus, as an offering for our sin.
11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision. 13 The rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of all, “If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews.—Gal. 2:11-14 (NASB)
Paul continues his crusade to help people to understand the freedom they now have since Jesus fulfilled the law. New converts then and now are not compelled to travel to Jerusalem and make sacrifices each year nor are we expected to meet any requirements of the law. We are required to love the Lord, our God, with all our heart, strength, mind and body. If we do this, we will see changes in our lifestyle. Not because of some written laws but because the love of God constrains us. We respond to the love of God. It is His love for us that keeps us. 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.–Hebrews 12:2 (NASB)
6 For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.—Philippians 1:6 (NASB)
Our focus is not to be on requiring others to take communion as often as we do or if they worship more reverently or loudly than we do (I could go on but you get the picture). We should be focused on making disciples that obey Jesus because they love Him, not in making clones that worship and/or serve like we do.
6 And now, dear brothers and sisters, we give you this command in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ: Stay away from all believers who live idle lives and don’t follow the tradition they received from us. 7 For you know that you ought to imitate us. We were not idle when we were with you. 8 We never accepted food from anyone without paying for it. We worked hard day and night so we would not be a burden to any of you. 9 We certainly had the right to ask you to feed us, but we wanted to give you an example to follow.10 Even while we were with you, we gave you this command: “Those unwilling to work will not get to eat.” 11 Yet we hear that some of you are living idle lives, refusing to work and meddling in other people’s business. 12 We command such people and urge them in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and work to earn their own living. 13 As for the rest of you, dear brothers and sisters, never get tired of doing good.–2 Thess. 3:6-13 (NLT)
Paul warns the new converts about idle minds and idle hands. We should show others the love of Jesus Christ by being a good example to them. Paul worked as a tentmaker to buy his own food. He admonishes us to always be a help and not a burden to those around us. We should encourage each other in doing good deeds and helping unbelievers. If there are those among us who are unable to work either permanently or temporarily, we need to help provide their needs. Jesus tell us that when we do this for others here on earth, it is the same as doing it for Him. We should always be working for our Lord and Savior. James tells us:: 17 Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.-James 4:17 (NKJV)
When we see a need, we need to meet that need to the best of our ability. Doing good works here on earth is how we lay up rewards in heaven.
8 Because of our love for you we were ready to share with you not only the Good News from God but even our own lives. You were so dear to us! 9 Surely you remember, our friends, how we worked and toiled! We worked day and night so that we would not be any trouble to you as we preached to you the Good News from God. 10 You are our witnesses, and so is God, that our conduct toward you who believe was pure, right, and without fault. 11 You know that we treated each one of you just as parents treat their own children. 12 We encouraged you, we comforted you, and we kept urging you to live the kind of life that pleases God, who calls you to share in his own Kingdom and glory.–1 Thess. 2:8-12 (GNT)
Once we have shared the Good News of how Jesus died and rose again for our sins, there will be those who accept it and there will be those who don’t. To those who refuse to accept the Good News, we are to go on showing them the love and mercy of Jesus. But the ones that do accept Jesus are to be treated like babes, in the sense that they have had a “new birth”. We cannot expect them to understand all the ins and outs of living a Holy lifestyle right away. They have just started on the road that we have been traveling for some time. We should not be a burden to them, but we should instruct them, comfort them, and encourage them just as a parent would do for their own children. We are not only to preach the Good News, but we are to make disciples. Making disciples takes a lot of time, patience, and love. We are not to grow weary of doing good. Always remember that we were once in the same situation they are in now and someone cared enough to shepherd and mentor us in spiritual growth. We, ourselves, are still learning to walk uprightly and we will always be learning as long as we are in these tents of flesh.
9 For this reason we have not stopped praying for you since the day we heard about you. We ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through every kind of spiritual wisdom and insight. 10 We ask this so that you will live the kind of lives that prove you belong to the Lord. Then you will want to please him in every way as you grow in producing every kind of good work by this knowledge about God. 11 We ask him to strengthen you by his glorious might with all the power you need to patiently endure everything with joy. 12 You will also thank the Father, who has made you able to share the light, which is what God’s people inherit.–Col. 1:9-12 (GW)
Just as Paul prayed for those to whom he had carried the Gospel, we must pray for those that we witness to as well. Jesus said to “go and make disciples” (Matt 28:18). Making disciples requires more than just teaching others the plan of salvation. Just as Paul would stay in a community and teach for several Sabbaths, we must be diligent to do the same with new converts. Then we must remember to always pray for them asking God to fill them with His Spirit, wisdom, knowledge and insight. So that they will grow and produce more fruit for the Kingdom. We, as well as the new converts, need God’s strength and might to endure with patience. It is God’s plan that each of us share with others so that His Kingdom will grow. We must share His love with others and we must do it with a song of joy in our hearts and on our lips attracting others to Jesus.