There’s an amazing verse in Galatians 2: “We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might remain with you.” It tells you something about Paul and it tells you something about the Gospel.
The thing about Paul was that his call to be”all things to all men” was a strategy for evangelism. It didn’t mean “Whatever you want to believe is ok.” Who was it who called compromise a “stalling between two fools”? The bottom line is that when it came to the crunch, Paul was tough and uncompromising.
If it had to come to the point, Paul wouldn’t give an inch. And that’s an interesting combination. Be as kind and yielding and understanding as you possibly can, but when it comes to it, don’t budge.
But what is “it”? What’s the tipping point? Where do you draw the line and say: “This is the point beyond which I cannot go”? How do you know when you reach it?
That’s what this passage tells you about the Gospel.That it was the point where Paul refused to budge.
Speaking of people who refused to budge, I always have had a sneaking regard for Thomas. I know that he has gone down in history as “Doubting Thomas” but it must have taken real backbone to stand up to the united testimony of your ten closest friends and hold out steadily, until you finally see it for yourself.
And once he saw it (and Jesus didn’t deny him the opportunity) he was not only unshakeable, but he saw further than the others, and came to provide the high point of New Testament revelation of about who Jesus was, that He was “My Lord, and my God.”
And Paul not only had the same kind of backbone (holding out against some of the same people), but the same rationale: This is too important to get wrong.
Where the gospel was concerned, Paul would not compromise. It wasn’t a personal issue with him, not a matter of personal honor. And not a matter of purely personal opinion. For Paul, the gospel was the most important thing in the world. He knew that if he gave in to the false teachers, it would hurt the new believers in Galatia.
And this is why unity must be based on truth.
Of course, if we as the Church are uniﬁed, we are more effective in accomplishing those things God has called us to do.This is underlined in John 17, when Jesus says, “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who would believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father. Just as you are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”
There’s something supernatural that comes as the result of us being uniﬁed in the person of Jesus, and the result is that the world will believe that Jesus was divinely sent from the Father.
Sometimes we think of it as an either/or situation. That we either have “truth” or we have “unity.” As if they are two sides of a coin, or points on a spectrum. We say that we’re either going to move towards unity and be people who pursue and desire it, but in doing so, we have to compromise what we believe to be the truth. Or we move towards truth and, as a result, we have to be divided.
Because we think that we can’t have both.
But truth and unity are not two sides of a coin—because Jesus, we know, is the way, the truth and the life, and no one can come to the Father but through Him. And we see Jesus praying in John 17 that the Church would be uniﬁed. If Jesus is the truth, He cannot pray something that is contrary to His very existence. If Jesus is truth and also able to pray that His Church would be uniﬁed, then truth and unity have to go hand in hand
The more we lift up Jesus and embody Jesus, the more we move into greater amounts of unity. Unity and truth are not two opposite ends of the spectrum; they are one thing in the person of Jesus.
For us to step into unity, we can’t rely on human decisions. Spiritual unity has to be deeply rooted in understanding the spiritual reality that’s going on around us. In Mark 8, Jesus says to His disciples, “Be careful. Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.” He was talking about two spiritual issues: the religious spirit (the Pharisees) and the political spirit (Herod.) Both of these spiritual entities convince us to replace Kingdom ideas with self-centered impostors. The religious spirit comes and says that you have to work yourself into being approved by God. The Pharisees created system after system on this idea, and it forced people to come to them to know what the system was.
That is the root of disunity in the Church: trying to create something apart from Jesus and put it at the center of our lives. When we do that, we have to ﬁght to protect that thing so that we have no fear.
But perfect love drives out fear. The person of Jesus is the solution to the spirits that would cause us to live in disunity. Once we are united in the person of Christ, making all else peripheral, we can live a life of unity, a mutual life of “commanded blessing.”
How good and pleasant it is
when brothers live together in harmony!
It is like fine oil on the head,
running down on the beard,
running down Aaron’s beard
onto his robes.
It is like the dew of Hermon[a]
falling on the mountains of Zion.
For there the Lord has appointed the blessing—