Our reading today is Galatians Chapter 2 verses 11 to 21.
Remember the phrase I often use when I am speaking, ‘The Bible is an honest book’, it doesn’t cover up the failings of its heroes and the arguments that sometimes occur in the midst of God’s people. Here we have an outline of an argument/dispute between 2 of the key individuals in the early church, Peter and Paul, which is in the context of what we have seen already, of Paul’s strong belief that people are saved by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ, and that Gentiles do not need to adopt Jewish practices and rituals, like circumcision or food laws to be “proper” Christians, a view which was adopted by the Jerusalem Council in Acts Ch.15.
Paul’s dispute with Peter is that when Peter first came to Antioch, a predominantly Gentile city and Paul’s home base for many years, he acted in line with the above view by eating with Gentiles, ie having fellowship with other Christians whatever their background was more important than Peter’s own religious or ethnic background. However, when some visitors from the Jerusalem church with a Jewish background arrived, Peter acted as if he was embarrassed by what he had done, and so stopped associating with the Gentile believers in Antioch, which led to others doing the same. So Paul is accusing Peter of hypocrisy, of being a people-pleaser and leading others astray, and behind it all implying that the Gentiles are 2nd-class Christians (vs.12-14).
The next verses (vs.15-16) are really important. Three times they tell us that no-one is justified (put right with God) by observing the law, and 3 times they emphasise the absolute necessity of putting one’s faith in Christ. Paul is not saying that the law is bad (in fact much of it is God-given), but it can’t put us right with God, because we can’t obey it fully.
And so the solution is to put our faith in Christ and His death, and therefore we also put to death our old life (I have been crucified with Christ (v.20)) and in return we receive a new life as Christ comes to live in us. That is the way to be put right with God, it is by His grace alone, and if the Galatian Christians, or us, try and add to the work of Christ, it is as if we are setting aside God’s grace, and therefore Christ died for nothing (v.21).
This is important but quite deep stuff. Do take time to let it all sink in, and as always if you have any questions don’t hesitate to get in contact.
From our church address list please remember in your prayers today,- Terry & Dawn- Mary, Sharon’s Mum. Also, please pray for the Church Leadership Council as we meet together this evening, for wisdom and insight as we talk about our current church life.