"But when Peter came to Antioch, I had to oppose him to his face, for what he did was very wrong." (Galatians 2:11)
Wait. What? When we left off in the last post, we could almost hear the 1960s peace music playing and see the rainbows. Now they're fighting? What happened between verses 10 and 11 that led us to this point? What did Peter, a "pillar of the church" do?
To understand that, you need to know a few things about Peter first. Peter was one of Jesus's original twelve disciples. He was also Jewish. It wasn't until a scene in Acts 10:9-16 that Peter let go of the old Jewish customs. He had a dream (or a vision), sent from God, that showed him he no longer had to worry about what he was eating. Read Leviticus 11, and you'll see there was a long list of things they weren't to eat! This also indicated that he no longer had to worry about who ate at his table. Before Jesus, Jewish people weren't permitted to eat with non-Jewish people. It wasn't done. It was one of their laws. After Jesus, that all changed.
"When he first arrived, he ate with the Gentile believers, who were not circumcised. But afterward, when some friends of James came, Peter wouldn’t eat with the Gentiles anymore. He was afraid of criticism from these people who insisted on the necessity of circumcision. As a result, other Jewish believers followed Peter’s hypocrisy, and even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy." (Galatians 2:12-13)
Before "some friends of James came," Peter had been seen with many Gentile believers. He had accepted them as fellow believers without question. After those "friends" showed up- and keep in mind that James was also Jewish so it's likely that those friends were people trying to force Jewish customs on Christians- Peter was snubbing them. His actions created this chain reaction among the believers that Paul knew wasn't okay. You see, the mistakes that we make don't just affect us. They affect all those around us too. It's an added negative effect of sin.
"When I saw that they were not following the truth of the gospel message, I said to Peter in front of all the others, 'Since you, a Jew by birth, have discarded the Jewish laws and are living like a Gentile, why are you now trying to make these Gentiles follow the Jewish traditions?
'You and I are Jews by birth, not "sinners" like the Gentiles. Yet we know that a person is made right with God by faith in Jesus Christ, not by obeying the law. And we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we might be made right with God because of our faith in Christ, not because we have obeyed the law. For no one will ever be made right with God by obeying the law.'" (Galatians 2:14-16)
Wow. That took guts. Paul spoke the truth in love here. There's a big difference between speaking the truth in love and throwing it in someone's face. Paul called Peter out in love here. He reminded Peter of their united purpose, of who he truly was. He urged him not to be bullied into following the old customs that Jesus died to free him from. Because, as Paul said, "no one will ever be made right with God by obeying the law." This is a great reminder for us too. We can't do anything to be accepted by God. Our "good works" will never be enough. All that God asks us to do is believe and accept Jesus's gift to us. He died on the cross in our place. He took on our sins upon himself so that we could be made right with God. Nothing we do will ever compare to that gift!
" But suppose we seek to be made right with God through faith in Christ and then we are found guilty because we have abandoned the law. Would that mean Christ has led us into sin? Absolutely not! Rather, I am a sinner if I rebuild the old system of law I already tore down. For when I tried to keep the law, it condemned me. So I died to the law—I stopped trying to meet all its requirements—so that I might live for God." (Galatians 2:17-19)
Paul is really speaking to other Jewish people who are still afraid to go all in for Christ. This is a great reminder. We are only made right through Jesus. Furthermore, following the old laws, going back to the "old way" isn't going to fix anything. Paul doesn't want to see anyone tempted to fall back into old habits here. He wants them to stop feeling guilty and trying to do enough. They can't do enough.
I found this passage from the Bible Gateway Commentary particularly interesting and want to share it here: "If we feel that Paul was unnecessarily harsh or rude for rebuking Peter in public, we need to recall that the freedom of all Gentile Christians and the whole future of the Gentile mission was at stake. What if Peter's separation had set a precedent for the future so that all Gentile Christians really were required to become Jews? From a human perspective, such a precedent would have spelled the end of the Gentile church."
Can you imagine if Paul had said nothing? Christianity as we know it might not exist. It might be totally and completely, irreversibly different.
Paul ends this section of his letter to the Galatians like this: "My old self has been crucified with Christ.[e] It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die." (Galatians 2: 20-21)
Oh that we could all remember this each and every day. We are to be living our lives with God at the wheel (anyone remember that Carrie Underwood song? No? Just me? Okay, then...moving on). We need to be so in tune and close to Jesus that we know what he is wanting us to do. How do we do that? Through lots of prayer, studying the Bible, reading the Bible, listening to trusted leaders, and listening for God's voice!
Praying for you all today!