Freedom from Elitism

Dr. Jon Morrissette - 1/24/2021

Okay Church! We are off to such a great start to our Soul Freedom series. Over the past week we’ve explored three incredible gospel realities:

• FIRST, we have Freedom from Sin. We have freedom from the power, the control, the shame and guilt, even our eternal liability for sin! On that cross, Jesus took our curse upon himself. We don’t just have forgiveness “of” sin, and freedom “from” sin!

• SECOND, we have Freedom from Ignorance. God has NOT left us in the dark about his purpose and plan. In Scripture we have received true truth, true revelation, a true unchanging completely trustworthy word from God. It was God’s good pleasure to make known the mystery of his will exclusively in Christ Jesus. Jesus is the way, the truth, the life, the light of men. We don’t add, nor subtract. We never advance beyond Jesus Christ.

• Third, we have Freedom from our Past. We saw how this man named Paul was a blasphemer, persecutor, and violent man. He afflicted great cruelty on the early church. He was so ignorant, so arrogant, so prideful, so self-righteous. 1 Timothy 1:16. Paul said he was “the worst of all sinners!” But he also said God chose to show him mercy “to demonstrate his extraordinary patience!”

Through faith in Christ, in a New York second, God obliterates our sin, our ignorance, our past! He liberates our souls and sets us free! But maybe you have noticed. . . Even though God does these great things and hits the reset button—other people aren’t so quick to accept them.

Take Saul as an example. It was one thing for Saul to trust Jesus Christ and become Paul. It was quite another for the Church to accept that Paul was truly Paul and no longer Saul. Though God may remove our sin (as far as east is from the west), and wash us (as white as snow), other people may still hold our sin over us. Even in the church it can take a while for gospel realities to translate into social realities. It can take us a while to treat each other in accordance to God’s mercy!

In 2 Corinthians 5:16 Paul says, “From now on, then, we do not know (consider) anyone from a worldly perspective.” I know were in Galatians. We’ll get there. But does Paul mean? Instead of seeing/embracing people from a gospel viewpoint, or gospel need, we keep on seeing people from a worldly viewpoint. We take a “worldly attitude” instead of a “gospel attitude” toward people. . . labeling, categorizing, judging, condemning people. Seeing people through a tainted human (cultural) lens. Seeing ourselves (seeing others) as superior or inferior. In Christ, were free of our sin, our ignorance, and our past. Let us then act accordingly!

Freedom from Elitism. This morning we come to Galatians 2. The Apostle Paul has told us how Christ appeared to Paul, forgave and washed his sins away in baptism, restored his sight and gave him the light of revelation, and gave him a new purpose. Paul went away to Arabia and Damascus. But how would the Apostles, and all the other believers treat Paul when he returned to Jerusalem?

Galatians 2:1-2, “Then after fourteen years [fourteen!] I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along also. I went up according to a revelation and presented to them the gospel I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to those recognized as leaders. I wanted to be sure I was not running, and had not been running, in vain.”

Whenever we “run” to God for grace, we inevitably have to “return” to face those who have always known us. Fourteen years later, Paul is standing before Peter, James, and the Jerusalem church leaders. Can you imagine? “Ah guys, God has forgiven me, here’s what he’s shown me, here’s what I’ve been preaching. . . The finished work of the gospel. . . Jesus has given freedom from my sin, my ignorance, and my past.

But now comes the really hard part. The Unfinished Work of the Gospel. Unfinished work, what’s that? The unfinished work is this—how do we work gospel realities out in our relationships. It’s where the church always falls short. It’s not when God says, “You are forgiven your sin/past.” It’s when God says, “forgive one another as you have been forgiven.” It’s when God says, “accept one another… love one another… be hospitable to one another without grumbling… sit at the table together in fellowship… break bread, share wine… be my family!”

Galatians 2:3-5, “But not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek. 4 This matter arose because some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus in order to enslave us. 5 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.”

Galatians 2:9-10, “9 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 [i.e. the Jews/Jewish God fearers]. 10 They asked only that we would remember the poor, which I had made every effort to do.

This is a momentous occasion! The church gets it right! The apostles acknowledged Gods grace AND gave right hand of fellowship of Paul/Barnabas!

BUT WAIT. REWIND. Galatians 2:4, “some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus in order to enslave us.” Even though the Apostles extended grace/fellowship to Paul, Barnabas, and Titus. . . certain men were making an issue that Titus (even though he was Greek) wasn’t “circumcised.” He wasn’t Jewish enough. Galatians 2:5, “we didn’t give up and submit to these people not for a second! We stuck to the gospel!”

There are always people who will come along, spy on our freedom, and judge us by worldly standards. They will judge us not by our new self, created in Christ Jesus to do good works. They will judge us by our old self, and by whatever standards we do/don’t measure up to. They will make distinctions that not even God is making.

In the churches of Galatia there were people making all sorts of distinctions. Instead of all being one in Christ… it was hyphenated-Christianity. Jewish Christian or Gentile Christian? Circumcised Christian or uncircumcised? Former slave or freeman? Male or female? And so much more!

The Apostles acknowledged God’s grace, extended the right hand of fellowship to Paul, yet back in Jerusalem Paul notices a twinge of attitude. Galatians 2:6, “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. Note the tone of sarcasm… those “recognized as important.” What they once were makes no difference to me. God doesn’t show favoritism, why should I? In the church of Jerusalem there were insiders/outsiders.

If we were to give a name to this we might call it Elitism. A key issue in the church is elitism, superiority, snobbery, cliques, exclusivity. Elitism is a belief in one's inherent superiority. Both male over female are coheirs of salvation. Both Jewish over Gentile are chosen in Christ by faith. Both freeman and slave, oppressor and oppressed, receive the same grace, and become one in Christ.

But no… some regard themselves superior, important, favored. Yet despite their snobbery they couldn’t argue against God’s grace. Galatians 2:7, “On the contrary, they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel for the uncircumcised, just as Peter was for the circumcised, 8 since the one at work in Peter for an apostleship to the circumcised was also at work in me for the Gentiles.” Checkmate. The snobs of Galatian had no business judging Paul any more than the self-important snobs back in Jerusalem as the self-important snobs that lurk around church corridors today.

But a crazy thing happens. Galatians 2:11-14, “11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face because he stood condemned. 12 For he regularly ate with the Gentiles before certain men came from James. However, when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, because he feared those from the circumcision party. 13 Then the rest of the Jews joined his hypocrisy, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that they were deviating from the truth of the gospel, I told Cephas in front of everyone, “If you, who are a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel Gentiles to live like Jews?”

Another word for elitism is favoritism. Elitism manifests itself as favoritism, especially in the realm of hospitality. Our true attitude toward people (whether gospel or worldly) manifests itself in the space we maintain from others, in the proximity we maintain, in the associations we allow or disallow, in the people we pursue or just plain avoid altogether.

Did you notice? Back in Galatians 2:10 they were concerned that Paul remember the poor, “10 They asked only that we would remember the poor, which I had made every effort to do.” “Mr. Apostle Paul, God’s anointed servant to the Gentiles, don’t get so big for your britches, so self-important, you stop associating with the least!”

But then in Galatians 2:12… here Peter was getting it right, eating/associating with Gentiles. But then in Galatians 2:12… certain self-important men come from James (the brother of Jesus) and what does Peter do? He disassociates himself with Gentiles. He allows himself to be intimidated. He starts regarding people from a worldly (gentile) view instead of a gospel view.

If an Apostle like Peter can get this wrong, how much more can we? If an Apostle like Paul has to be reminded to remember poor, how much do we? Paul’s rebuke is cutting. If you were a true Jew you’d welcome the stranger, foreigner, widow, orphan, least. But you are behaving less like one of God’s people (Jews) and more like someone of a worldly mindset (Gentiles).

No matter how great your call in the Kingdom, we’re never to be above approachability, and were never to be above association. In the church we acknowledge God’s grace that at work, and we extend that right hand of fellowship without favoritism. We no longer regard people from a worldly view but a gospel-centered view. No matter the shade of white/black. No matter a person’s legal, worldly, or material status. No matter a persons’ past, the pain they’ve caused the damage they’ve done. We treat them as God’s grace deserves.

Scripture Verses

Galatians 2:1-14; 1 Timothy 1:16; 2 Corinthians 5:16

Worship Playlist

How Great Is Our God by Chris Tomlin

Faithful to the End by Bethel

Bigger than I Thought by Passion

Broken Vessels by Hillsong

Study Questions

1. In your own words, what was going on among these leaders and churches?

2. Why was this such a big deal to Paul? What was at risk?

3. Read James 2:1-13. Why do we tend to favor some people and treat others without mercy?

4. When have you seen such soul crushing, gospel deviating behavior? What was the result?

5. Write a prayer of confession for when you’ve shown favoritism. Ask God to help you avoid hypocrisy, elitism, and favoritism for the sake of the gospel.

Apply It!