On Sunday evenings at church, we have been going through a series on Paul and his missionary Journeys. One thing that has really interested me is he absolutely knows his theology or we might say, he absolutely knows his own mind, based on what he believes about God. He gets this from understanding what we now refer to as the Old Testament, from talking to apostles and from taking time out to hear from God (travelling to desert lands of Arabia).
One thing he is certain of is that no one needs to be circumcised to be a believer, he believes that converts are saved by God’s Grace and because of what God has done, rather than anything we can do… Paul believes it so much, that he calls a council in Jerusalem to discuss it!
However, in the next chapter of Acts (16) Paul has his Timothy, his travelling companion, circumcised. Why is this? Well, put simply, Paul is more concerned that people hear the message he has, than the believers around him get it completely right.
It doesn’t mean he is weak or easily led, it means is that there are some things that he believes but can lay down, and there are some things that he can’t lay down.
In this case it is that people must be able to hear about who Jesus is, there must not be a barrier, it is better to circumcise Timothy than to not, because a circumcised Timothy, would be accepted, if they accept him, then they might accept the gospel.
The Hymn Writer John Newton said in 1799 that Paul was a ‘Reed in non- essentials and an Iron Pillar in the essentials’
The Application for us, is to say, what is it about my faith that is a reed and can bend and be laid down, and what is at I need to make into an iron pillar. That’s why House of Bread is so important to me, because it represents all those things that I believe are true about God, it represents Justice, Gods heart for the poor and the marginalised, Gods love for community, Gods desire for people to hear about him, the way people are restored through it both humanly and spiritually. For me these are the ‘Iron Pillars’ and I am prepared to lay down pretty much everything else I know or believe about God, for this to happen.
For Paul it was more important that the gospel was spoken out rather than he got his way on circumcision. Circumcision was like a Reed to him, whereas preaching was an Iron Pillar.
What can you bend on, or perhaps more importantly, what do you need / want to stick to?
You might be right, God might prefer Organs over Guitars, priests residing over communion rather than plasterers, three point sermons over kids talks or whatever, but I think Paul is saying here, that actually, all those things that we get excited over in church, don’t really matter in the context of people hearing about Jesus.