St Andrew, Glencairn

Glencairn Methodist Church

Home Page

Hot News

Staff and contact details

Sunday Services

Weekday activities

Prayer notes

The Church building

Some past events

Other links


June (and probably July as well) 2016


In May's Message we were thinking about unity in the church and we saw that dis-unity was the reality of today and had been for a very long time. There have always been disputes about what is “right teaching” and what is “right living”, and in Galatians 2: 14-21 we encounter one of the very first. The first Christians were Jews and the first converts were also Jews, so it seemed natural that Gentile converts should first become Jews and then followers of Jesus. Becoming a Jew and total observance of the Law of Moses, the Torah, was required, including circumcision for men, and all the dietary laws for everyone.

 But God had other ideas, which he revealed first to Peter and then to Paul, and through them to the whole church comprising the Jerusalem Church and all the Gentile Churches founded by Paul and others, such as the Church in Galatia.

 On the surface this would just seem to be about “right behaviour”, but digging a little deeper we see that it is really about the essence of the Gospel – how we can become “right with God”. The Torah says, Keep the law in every minute detail, and make the necessary animal sacrifices for atonement for our sins, for the not-keeping of the Law. But the Gospel says, if we believe in Jesus and repent of our sins, then God is gracious and will forgive our sins. It is by GRACE that we are forgiven. We are sinners, miserable sinners as the BCP puts it, sinning but not wanting to sin, guilty and estranged. We cannot help ourselves – we just can’t, it is beyond us – but God is gracious. He is waiting for us to turn to him.

 It is in the very nature of men and women to continually make a mess of things – in our relationships with one another and with creation, in our selfishness and greed, in our lust for power and control over others, in our desire always to have our own way irrespective of what others might consider to be a better way.

 In the passage from Galatians we read how Paul chastened Peter for vacillating. Peter had had that great vision of a sheet being let down from heaven will all manner of animals in it (Acts 10). Peter hears God speak, telling him "to rise and kill and eat." Peter replies, "I can’t do that; some of these animals are unclean", but God says, "nothing I create should be deemed unclean." This happens three times. And then, just as he awakes, Peter is invited to visit Cornelius. There he preaches the Gospel to Cornelius and those with him, and lo and behold, they start speaking in tongues, a clear indication that they had received the Holy Spirit; and Peter baptized these Gentiles into the church.

The other piece of background information that Paul refers to is the Council at Jerusalem (Acts 15). Here it was decided, by all the elders in the Jerusalem church, including Peter and along with Paul, Barnabas and some Gentile converts, that Gentile converts to Christianity need not first become Jews. So circumcision is not required for males. But they still insist on some of the dietary laws of Judaism, concerning the slaughter of animals for food.

So, Paul says to Peter, Since you, a Jew by birth, have discarded the Jewish laws and are living like a Gentile, why are you now trying to make these Gentiles follow the Jewish traditions?. Paul expands on his argument, finishing with these words, "For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die."

GRACE, not keeping the Torah, is the only road to being right with God


Ken (18 June 2016)

  NOTE - Previous "Monthly Messages" are archived at