Daily Bible Studies & Sermon Notes

Honoring Flawed People
Pastor Steve Schell
Acts 11:27-30; Gal 2:1-14
Honoring people who deserve honor is easy. Most of us know people we deeply respect, and showing honor to them flows effortlessly from our hearts. The real challenge comes when we’re asked to honor flawed people, people who don’t live up to our expectations, people who’ve failed to do what they should have done. We ask ourselves, “How can I respect someone who hasn’t earned my respect? How can I love someone who doesn’t love me? How can I admire someone who looks down on me? How can I joyfully give to someone who only takes from me?” Indignation rises up inside us. We rebel at the mere suggestion that we should honor such people. Yet God loves it when we give honor, especially when we honor those who, from our human perspective, no longer deserve it.

In this brief passage we observe a remarkable example of honor. A group of Gentile believers is taking up an offering for their poor brothers and sisters in Judea, yet some of those who were going to receive this gift hadn’t rejoiced at the news that Gentiles were being saved in Antioch. They were troubled by the thought that people who didn’t observe the Law of Moses were being welcomed into the church. The new believers in Antioch may not have been aware that these cultural barriers existed, but Barnabas and Saul certainly were. Yet they said nothing to discourage this generous act of love and happily carried their offering to the elders in Jerusalem. In spite of the presence of some very wrong attitudes, these men and women still deserved to be honored. And on behalf of this growing Gentile church, Barnabas and Saul gladly gave such honor to them. In doing so, they left a profound example for us to follow. Like the church in Antioch, we too are to give honor to whom honor is due (Ro 13:7)…even when it appears they don’t deserve it.

What happened? (Ac 11:27-30; Gal 2:1-14)
• DBS (Sun-Weds, Sat)
• (Gal 2:1-14) Indeed, these Antioch believers followed through on their commitment. A gift was sent to the “elders” in Jerusalem by means of Barnabas and Saul. Paul (Saul) describes this visit in his letter to the Galatians. He says the trip took place 14 years after he met Christ (Gal 2:14). He and Barnabas had been asked to carry this gift to Jerusalem, and while they were there, he seized the opportunity to present the gospel, as he preached it, to James (the Lord’s brother), Peter and John, inviting them to point out if he had erred in any way. He and Barnabas had brought with them a young Greek believer named Titus, and his very presence in the room served as a test case. Would these Jerusalem leaders require him to be circumcised before they welcomed him into their fellowship? They didn’t require it, and Titus was welcomed in just as he was. In this way, the righteousness that comes through faith alone was endorsed. Then these “pillars” of the church (James, Peter and John) gave them the “right hand of fellowship,” meaning they formally acknowledged that what was happening in Antioch was a valid ministry of God. And finally, they encouraged Barnabas and Saul to keep preaching to Gentiles, but saying they would continue preaching only to Jews.

In the midst of this account, Paul mentions that “false brethren” slipped into these meetings. He says they pretended to be friendly, but really came as spies. They were there to “examine” his gospel hoping to find a way to discredit him, so they could demand that the converts in Antioch observe the ceremonial laws of Moses. Paul said their real motive was to “enslave us” (Gal 2:4). Apparently they tried pulling rank on him, positioning themselves as his elders, but he says, “not for an hour did we yield in subjection to them.” We can only imagine the intensity of that debate. When the dialogue was finished Paul said the Jerusalem leaders had “added nothing to me,” meaning he gained no new truth from the conversation nor could they find fault with anything he preached, but even after this difficult confrontation they still asked them to remember their poor, and Paul’s amazing response was, “the very thing I also was eager to do” (Gal 2:10).

An environment of dishonor
If we choose to honor we’ll find ourselves at odds with our culture. We live in a society in which the idea of honoring people seems old-fashioned and strange. We might honor a fallen solider, firefighter or policeman, but the idea of honoring the elderly, our parents, our spouse, teachers, political leaders, or even our pastors is viewed with suspicion or ridiculed. The spirit of anarchy seems to be growing stronger which says, “Just because you got here first or hold a position of authority, what gives you the right to tell me how to live? Don’t try to lead me. Don’t try to change me. Don’t try to convert me. Leave me alone. Let’s just live and let live. You do what you want to do. I’ll do what I want to do.” The result of this kind of attitude is isolation, independence, and an angry type of equality.

God’s eternal principle
But honor is an eternal principle. We will still honor people in heaven. Honor does not imply inferiority, but is a recognition of seniority, and a submission to God’s will because He put you in that position in my life.

Behind all of this is the issue of our submission to God. If we won’t submit to the people we can see, we won’t submit to the God we can’t see. Honoring someone with words alone means next to nothing. It’s what we do that truly matters. Do I still honor God when He: disappoints me, makes me angry, seems out of step with the culture, makes me unpopular, tells me to do something that doesn’t make sense? In those difficult moments will I still respect His opinion, let Him lead, depend on His strength, put Him first, “hallow” His name, and seek His kingdom?

Why I need to honor others
Actually, I need to honor others much more than they need to be honored by me. It’s one of the main ways God refines the wrong attitudes in my heart. By commanding me to honor others, especially those I don’t want to honor, He:
1) Restrains my pride. I desperately need to submit to those in authority over me. It helps to keep my pride in check
• Never follow someone who isn’t following someone else
2) Teaches me to cooperate. He wants me to learn to be only a small part of something bigger than myself.
• There’s no “I” in team
• The fear of obscurity
3) Teaches me patience. He wants me to learn to wait until He speaks to someone else.

In my experience, and after watching God work with many people, I have come to believe these truths: “Submission precedes promotion, “ just as “contentment precedes abundance,” and “humility precedes power.” At least that’s the way it works in God’s kingdom. People who are promoted without submission become tyrants. People who gain abundance without contentment, are still not content. And those who gain power without humility are enslaved by it. Something has to bow its knee before God can open the door to greater influence. Listen to Peter:
“You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (1 Pt 5:5)

I think honor requires at least three elements:
1) Submission: in some way I must bow my knee
2) Love: I may not be able to trust you, but I can choose to love you
3) Faith: I believe God placed you in my life

Whom should I honor?
1) My parents “Honor your father and mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you.” (Ex 20:12)
2) My elders “Do not sharply rebuke an older man, but rather appeal to him as a father…” and to “the older women as mothers…” (1Ti 5:1, 2)
3) My teachers “The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching.” (1Ti 5:17)
4) My spiritual leaders “Obey your leaders and submit to them for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you. (Heb 13:17)
5) My political leaders “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God and those which exist are established by God.” (Ro 13:1)
“Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.” (Ro 13:7)
6) One another “…and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.” (Eph 5:21)
7) Israel “You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know for salvation is from the Jews.” (Jn 4:22)
• We don’t replace Israel, we are “grafted in” to Israel (Ro 11:17, 18).
• Faithful men and women have for millennia preserved the truth so you and I could know it. We have been saved by their Messiah…and this is why Barnabas and Saul and the whole Gentile church in Antioch were so glad to honor the church in Israel, even if some had wrong attitudes. They honored the good and ignored the flaws.

The trinity
We struggle with the concept of three Persons (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) because we can’t conceive of three persons cooperating in complete love, purpose, and honor. Humans struggle for dominance, use their power to please themselves, seek their own glory, and rebel at the thought of submitting to anyone, including God. So when we think of three Persons we can only think of three separate wills each pursuing their own agenda; getting their feelings hurt when another is honored, and struggling with the humiliation of letting the Father lead. But listen to what Jesus prays: (Jn 17:20-23). He wants us to be “one,” just like He and the Father are “one”: spiritually united in love, purpose, and honor. In other words, the Head of the Church is asking His disciples to honor like He honors (1Co 15:24-28).

Evaluating our hearts
As we prepare ourselves to take communion, how well are we honoring:
• Father and mother
• The elderly
• Teachers
• Spiritual leaders
• Governmental leaders
• One another
• Israel

Paul says, “If we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged” (1Co 11:31). In other words, if I judge it, God won’t. Have I dishonored, neglected, criticized, withdrawn my presence from…flawed, imperfect, human beings…who still deserve my honor?

1) Name someone who you respect so much it’s easy to honor them.
2) Has God spoken to you through this word, that there is someone who needs to be honored by you? How does He want you to honor them?


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