The Danger of Fear
A favorite joke among San Francisco lawyers concerns the phony who fakes an injury in an auto accident, comes to court in a wheel chair, and is awarded two hundred thousand dollars. When the verdict is announced, the insurance company lawyer snaps, You're going to be tailed by a private eye wherever you go from now on, and as soon as you take one step out of that wheelchair, we'll throw you in jail. The phony smiles and advises the lawyer pleasantly, Don't go to all that trouble. I'm going from here to the Waldorf in New York, then to the Savoy in London, then to the Ritz in Paris, then on to the French Riviera--and after that to Lourdes for the miracle.
Some people will go a long way to intentionally deceive people; often as a means of getting something. Some people deceive out of fear. They put on masks and hide their true self. Today, we will look where fear can lead you.
Gen. 12:11 – Because of fear Abraham lied about Sarah his wife and Pharaoh took her as wife. Plagues struck Egypt because of Abraham’s fear.
John 7:13 – People were afraid to even talk openly about Jesus for fear of the Jews.
Today, some people are still afraid to talk openly about Jesus for fear of someone. Afraid of what others will think, say, or do. Fear is natural when you KNOW something can happen. However, it can lead to something worse, it can lead to compromising your beliefs and faith. You can end up NOT standing up for your faith. Allowing false teachings to go unanswered, and in the case of our society, because of the fear of many, many pastors 50 – 70 years ago, Biblical doctrinal preaching from the pulpit disappeared to the point that Jesus has become irrelevant in today’s society.
Christians who allowed this to happen, and Christians who participated in that compromise, for whatever reason, will have to answer for that. What we must do is make sure WE do not compromise or become hypocritical in our faith. We will look at 2 reasons why being afraid to live for the gospel can lead to condemnation.
Paul will show us that it doesn’t matter WHO you are, you cannot compromise the gospel. Remember what he said in 1:9? If ANYONE brings a different gospel let him be accursed. Strong words. TWO reasons why being afraid to live the gospel can lead to condemnation. READ 11 -1 4.
I.Being afraid to stand up for the gospel can lead to condemnation because it leads to stumbling. (vv. 11, 12).
How can being afraid to stand for the gospel lead to stumbling? Is stumbling wrong?
First, stumbling, especially leading others to stumble is serious. We see very specific teachings on this in the new testament:
- Sermon on the Mount – Jesus said if you right eye, hand, etc., causes you to stumble, pluck it out, cut it off.
- Matt. 18:6 – Jesus said, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it is better for him that a heavy millstone be hung around his neck, and that he be drowned in the depth of the sea.
- 1 Cor. 8:13 – Paul said that if his eating meat causes a brother to stumble, then he would not eat meat again.
It is clear that stumbling is very serious – whether you are the stumbler or the stumblee. SO, how does being afraid to live the gospel lead stumbling? Look at verses 11 & 12.
In verse 11 - Paul has stated that Peter/Cephas stood condemned, condemned by what or who? [Some manuscripts say Peter and others Cephas – both mean the same thing; rock. Peter is from the Greek while Cephas if Hebrew. It is the name Jesus gave him who used to be called Simon.] The word condemned is an interesting word. The form of it indicates that Peter’s condemnation was either by his contradictory actions OR by his own conscience. Let’s look at both.
In what way was Peter contradictory? Verse 13 will use the term, ‘Hypocrisy.” Look at verse 12 – Apparently Peter used to eat with Gentiles. We may not think of this as much, but in the 1st century, anyone who remotely considered themselves a good Jew would never think of eating with Gentiles because Gentiles were “UNLCLEAN.”
Searching through the OT will not find one particular reference which says that all Gentiles are unclean. This was a tradition which had taken the force of the law in ancient Judaism. We can see this in Peter’s life in Acts 10 when he had the vision of clean and unclean animals – “What God has declared clean, don’t YOU call it unclean.” IN OTHER WORDS, take my Gospel to the gentiles.
After this Peter confessed in Acts 10:28, God has shown me that I should not call any man unholy or unclean.
Peter began associating with gentiles after this as verse 11 in our passage says – LOOK at verse 11 again, 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.
These same people that Paul is fighting in Galatia, the Judaizers, caused even Peter to contradict himself – to say one thing and then do another. The Bible says Peter separated himself, held himself “aloof.” He told Cornelius that Jews should not consider Gentiles unclean, but here Peter is saying one thing and doing another.
This could cause the Gentile believers to stumble, to hesitate in their faith, to think that maybe they do need to become Jews to be saved; to hold to a works-oriented faith. Causing others to stumble leads to condemnation because of contradictory actions, or through your own conscience.
I said that Peter’s condemnation was either through his contradictory actions OR his own conscience. It may very well be a combination of both. Let’s see how his own conscience could condemn him through two events.
1st – We saw in Mark’s gospel that Peter swore that even if all others denied Jesus he would not, that he would even die for him. What happened?
- When Jesus was arrested what did Peter do? Ultimately he ran for his life.
- Regaining a bit of courage, he went to the temple area and then denied Jesus 3 times.
Perhaps this event was refreshed in Peter’s mind – when he separated himself from
the gentiles, perhaps his conscience was pricked. There you go Peter, once again, all talk and no show. A conscience empowered by the Holy Spirit has a way of convicting us, doesn’t it? Let’s look at the other I’ve already mentioned.
2nd – Cornelius in Acts 10, in obedience to the vision God gave him invited Peter to his house.
Peter received his own vision from God specifically telling him to NOT declare unclean what God has declared clean. People do not generally forget visions they have had.
I don’t remember dreams for very long after I wake unless I write them down or repeat them, even then, my memory is of my repeating it, not the dream itself. In the summer of 1981, I had a dream-vision while living in Columbia. To this day, 25 ½ years later, I remember that dream-vision – I remember what it was about, I remember ALL the events in it, I remember the emotions in it, I still remember waking and sitting bolt upright in bed with tears running down my face. YOU DO NOT FORGET DREAMS/VISIONS FROM GOD! You do not forget!
I am sure that Peter remembered this vision about Cornelius, especially when Paul confronted him to his face about his hypocrisy. When faced with the prospect of the Judaizers going back to Jerusalem and accusing Peter of being a bad Jew for eating with Gentiles, he separated himself from the gentile believers. Peter’s fear of the Judaizers allowed himself to stumble and very well may have caused others to stumble.
IMAGINE how the Gentile believers must have felt! Some may have concluded that, maybe we are not really Christians after all, maybe Cephas is not if this is how he is going to act when those folks from Jerusalem show up. WHO NEEDS THIS!
Being afraid to stand up for the gospel can lead to condemnation because it leads to stumbling. You can be condemned because of your actions, your conscience, and because it leads you or others to stumble. In their faith.
II.Leading Christians astray leads to condemnation (vv. 13, 14).
This is easy to understand. We are accountable for our actions, especially when they lead others astray. LOOK at verse 13. Peter was so influential that his actions caused a split in the local church.
The rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy. Our lives and actions matter. Leading Christians astray leads to condemnation because:
A.It leads others to join in hypocrisy.
There are two words for hypocrisy in this verse but they are slightly different.
- The 1st hypocrisy has the basic meaning, “to answer from under.” It has been said that is was used to refer to actors in those days who HELD A MASK before their face while speaking. They played a part/role and hid their true selves behind the role they were playing. Used in this case it means the concealing of wrong feelings, character, under the pretense of better ones. VERSE 13 says the rest of the Jews, except Barnabas, joined him in it. They actively participated in the fraud.
- Peter and the rest of the Jews put on a mask for the Judaizers who visited them and acted as if they still believed the gentiles were unclean. In fact, verse 14 indicates that Peter was still agreeing with the Judaizers that circumcision and adherence to the law was necessary for salvation.
- They demonstrated this by not having anything to do with the Gentile believers. IMAGINE how this must have hurt the Gentile Christians.
B.It leads others away by our hypocrisy.
This is what happened with Barnabas. The 2nd hypocrisy is a little different in meaning. This is with reference to Barnabas. This word means “to lead away together.” This implies that Barnabas did not take an active role as the others, but was himself led away; caught off guard.
Our actions can catch people off guard. Some people are influential enough, either through personality or through position, that they lead people. If the leader leads rightly, those following will be in good shape. If the leader leads wrongly, then those following are led astray. It becomes the blind leading the blind with both eventually stumbling and falling.
Paul shows us the depth of Peters hypocrisy in verse 14 when he publicly confronts him about his own inconsistency the inconsistency of regarding the Gentiles.
- Publicly points out that he, a Jew, lives like a Gentile. Probably:
- Not ceremonially washing before meals;
- Not abstaining from food Jews normally wouldn’t eat;
- Eating with Gentiles and going into their homes;
- Worshipping with Gentiles;
- Gentiles they DO need circumcision;
- Gentiles they must keep the law;
- Gentiles they must observe the Sabbath laws;
- Gentiles, etc., etc., etc.
Leading these Gentile Christians astray does lead to condemnation. Chapter 1, verse 9 says, very strongly, As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed.
There is no doubt where Paul stood on this and he was not about to let anyone corrupt the Gospel of Grace, including PETER, who many would have considered to be the chief Apostle because of his relationship with Jesus.
Perhaps this is why Peter is called the Apostle to the circumcised back in Galatians 2:8. Peter had given Paul the right hand of fellowship as Paul went to the uncircumcised, the Gentiles but then turned in fear because of Judaizers.
Do we, today, turn from the Gospel because we fear what others might think or say? NOT ME, some might say. Are we willing to compromise the gospel lest people think we are too narrow-minded? When we face:
- Universalists – everyone will be saved.
- Cults – (such as Mormons of all flavors) who try to act as if they are Christian when they DENY the deity of Christ and blaspheme the holiness of God by saying that WE can become gods.
- Liberals – who deny many Biblical Doctrines because of their tolerance but condemn the Christian who stands firm on God’s word.
When they say that homosexuality isn’t wrong, the Bible is wrong.
- When they say that abortion is a blessing from God.
- Atheists/Evolutionists – who state that religion and the Bible is a crutch for weak-minded people, that SCIENCE proves there is no God.
- Benders of the truth – who preach healthwealthprosperity gospels and bilk people of their money.
Do we compromise, or remain silent, lest we fall under the condemnation of those who do not even believe in God?
If we do this, we are just as guilty as Peter and stand condemned. We must not compromise the gospel of Jesus Christ lest we lead others to stumble and go astray from the truth.
- Being afraid to stand up for the gospel can lead to condemnation because it leads to stumbling.
- You can be condemned because of your actions, your conscience,
- and because it leads you or others to stumble. In their faith.
- Because it leads others join in hypocrisy, and,
- Because it leads others away by hypocrisy.
Because of this, we need to understand, not only the gospel of grace, but as much Biblical doctrine as we can so we know the truth and will not be led away from the truth. Saved by grace, through faith, not of works, is a good start. BUT it is not enough to stay there. We need to understand as much about Biblical doctrine as we can because the enemy is clever and always seeking a way to deceive you. HOW do we understand?
You are smart. Read and study your scripture. Join us in Sunday School on Sunday mornings. Join the few of us on Wednesday evenings as we study the Bible and pray. If you do this you will be better equipped to NOT stumble and NOT lead others to stumble and go astray. OF COURSE, many of you may be so advanced in your Christian life and knowledge of Biblical doctrine that you do not feel the need to study or join us on Sunday mornings or Wednesday evenings. May I offer two comments:
- No one is that advanced.
- You are already being led astray.
Make a commitment NOW to begin learning and knowing more about the God who saved you. IT MAY be that you are not saved. INVITATION.
How many here have a Betty Crocker cookbook. Good, so do 55 million others. But did you know Betty Crocker never existed? The people at Gold Medal flour invented Betty during a contest promotion, and she's been "alive and well" ever since--for 70 years.
On the other hand, Jesus Christ did exist, and what He has to say is more important than any recipe – we must make sure we get every ingredient correct!