My Way or the Highway
Pastor Steve Ellison
You may think “My Way or the Highway” is good leadership strategy but it is not. You may think that it is a sign of strength but it is not. Does the Bible direct us to stand strong, immovable, and uncompromising on every belief that we have? Does the Bible direct us to try to please others, always giving in to others regarding their beliefs? Are those two ideas incompatible and conflicting? These are important questions. Our ideas about these questions can easily lead to either of two extremes. On the one hand, we can wind up with no doctrinal foundation at all. On the other hand, we can find ourselves in a never ending series of destructive conflicts. Both of these extremes do great danger to the Church, which Christ died for and dearly loves.
The Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 15:1-6 that “each of us is to please his neighbor for his edification” and that “we are to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus”. He went on to say that we are to “with one accord and one voice glorify God”. Thus, the Bible directs us to both please our neighbor and to be in line with Christ’s teaching. A couple of events in the life of the Apostle Paul are very instructive. Paul had two young protégés, Timothy and Titus. In addition to all of Paul’s evangelism and church wide discipleship activities, he was busily trying to invest in the lives of these two men. He wanted to equip them to carry on his work. Circumcision was a big deal to many of the Jews who had become followers of Jesus. There were a lot of strong feelings in several points to the circumcision issue. Neither, Timothy or Titus had been circumcised as children. Acts 16 tells us that Paul had Timothy circumcised. Galatians 2 states that Paul refused to have Titus circumcised. Did Paul at some point between these two events change his opinion about circumcision?
No, Paul clearly understood that circumcision meant nothing. One of his earliest epistles, 1 Corinthians is very explicit about that in chapter seven. Paul knew very well that circumcision was a matter of personal preference only. What then is at the root of his two very different responses to this matter concerning Timothy and Titus? In Acts 16, Paul was in the process of hand delivering the decree from the Council of Jerusalem which stated that circumcision was not a requirement for salvation. Knowing that this decree would be troublesome (if not downright offensive) to many of the churches to whom he was delivering it, Paul had Timothy (who was traveling with him) circumcised to promote unity and peace. In Galatians 2, Paul was specifically dealing with the heresy that circumcision was a requirement for salvation. When these Judaizers demanded that Titus be circumcised, Paul immediately and emphatically refused because it would have promoted a destructive heresy which said that Christ’s work on the cross was not a finished work. Circumcising Titus would have indicated that man would be saved by works.
As believers in Christ, we need to be careful about what we affirm and what we deny. The stakes are high. The damage to Christ’s church can be great regardless of which way that we err. We ought to carefully examine our own hearts and our own agendas to be sure that we are not seeking to simply please ourselves. We ought to carefully examine our hearts to make sure that we are not seeking to please men without the accompanying requirement that it be for their edification and for pleasing Christ. If we fail in this regard, the church we hurt will be our own. ….…….…..firstname.lastname@example.org