Read Galatians 2:11-21
11When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. 12Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. 13The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.
14When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, "You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?
15"We who are Jews by birth and not 'Gentile sinners' 16know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.
17"If, while we seek to be justified in Christ, it becomes evident that we ourselves are sinners, does that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not! 18If I rebuild what I destroyed, I prove that I am a lawbreaker. 19For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. 20I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!" (NIV)
Paul continues his defense of his actions and begins his presentation of the Gospel. I did not mention this last week, but verse 10 talked about how the leadership in Jerusalem wanted Paul to remember the poor. Paul stated he was eager to do this. For Paul, this connected the church in Jerusalem with the churches he was starting. There was a common mission. And this is important for Paul as we will see in his argument in these verses.
Paul begins by saying he challenged Peter to his face about being a hypocrite. What he is most likely talking about was that one of the early traditions that developed in the church was a common feast that was called the Agape Feast or Love Feast. In this all people shared their food they brought. (Sound familiar.) To many of the poor, this was probably their best meal of the week.
Paul’s argument was that Peter freely attended these feasts, eating with the Gentiles. When the Jewish leadership came up, he stopped going to look good to them. The presumption is that these people harassed the Jews who were attending even to the point of getting Barnabas to leave. Paul said this is not right.
Paul then lays out his argument. He says that it is not inobservance of the law that brings righteousness, but that we are justified by faith alone. There is nothing else we can do but have faith in Christ. That is our only “work” if you want to look at it that way. It is something that anyone can do. He also talks about the fact that just because still do sin, Christ is not promoting sin because he continues to forgive us. It is out of faith that we move forward.
Paul’s theology is that we share in the crucifixion of Christ. When we die to self and live only for Christ, that is when we share in the crucifixion and thus, Christ’s resurrection. Paul says a powerful statement for us to live by, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
This is the point we must sometimes sit and dwell on. What does this statement mean for my life? What does it look like in my life? We each will die to different earthly things so that we might life for Christ? Is my faith truly in Christ alone, or am I trusting in other things also.
For Paul, rules help us to see our need for Christ, but that is all they can do. This is a fine line because it is hard to look at a person and determine if their actions are based on adherence to a set of rules or a faith that causes them to act that way out of response to that faith.
I hope this gives you something to think about this week.
Blessings and Peace