Freedom from the Law
Open Your Bible
Galatians 2:11-21, Acts 15:1-41, Ephesians 2:8-9
We call it the goodbye tour.
I can’t leave anywhere—a party, a church gathering, even a regular ole workday—until I’ve told everyone goodbye. I can’t help it. I just need you to know I love you. Okay, and yes: I need to know you love me too.
I do the same thing with conflict— I can’t leave well enough alone. If you and I have a disagreement or, heaven forbid, an argument, I’m the people-pleasing type who must do that one, last, annoying, and likely unnecessary check-in to make certain you and I are okay. I know you said we’re fine but ARE YOU SURE?? You guys, I need to know you’re sure.
I could list more of these “just in case” habits in my life. They are those things I do when I think I know something, but the unbelief flickers bright enough to push me to do a little bit more, to be double-sure I’m in the clear. It’s harmless enough when we’re talking about the goodbye tour (which is truly one of my favorite things to do, ever). But “just in case” has sobering implications when it comes to my faith in Christ and His gospel.
We’re at the point in Galatians where Paul is really fired up about protecting “the truth of the gospel” (a phrase he uses repeatedly – see Galatians 2:5,14) and really fed up with those who are preaching a different gospel (which, as you may recall from Chapter 1, he says is “no gospel at all”). In this passage, Paul calls Peter out for promoting one of these bogus gospels— yes, that Peter. Disciple of Christ, one of the Twelve, also known as Cephas.
Paul’s confrontation of Peter was public because Peter’s actions were public. He had distanced himself from the Gentiles in the presence of his ethnically Jewish buddies, insisting that the Gentiles act like Jews in order to be brought into the family of God. Peter and the whole gang began reverting to the belief that circumcision was still required for salvation (a belief the Jewish Council would continue to debate and refute – see Acts 15). This, Paul pointed out, was ridiculous, since not even the most righteous Jew was saved by works (Galatians 2:16).
Only grace through faith: this is the true gospel.
I’m 99% sure Peter and I would have bonded over our tendency toward the “just in case” mindset. Peter knew firsthand you can’t walk on water when you’re sinking in doubt. He knew you can’t believe Jesus with all your heart when you’re denying Him with your lips. Peter wanted to have an unwavering faith—you can almost hear it in his voice when Jesus so gently restores him in John 21:15-17— but he struggled.
Isn’t that exactly what we do— what we all do? We want to believe the gospel is truly unearned grace, but unbelief creeps in and we do just a little something in attempt to earn our salvation… just in case.
My sinful self is so utterly incapable of the righteousness God requires that it must be completely snuffed out and given life anew. This is why Paul wrote, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:19-20 HCSB).
The law does not free us. Faith in Christ frees us.
Peter and crew had gone back to the law, their ultimate “just in case.” But Paul called them out and pulled their faces back up to the truth of the gospel. When God has declared us righteous in Christ, we need not ask, But are you SURE we’re okay? His promise is sure! Rather than turning to our “doing” to relieve our doubt, we turn back to Him — in confession, repentance, and worship.
Dear friends, if Christ’s righteousness covers all our sin—and it truly does!— then it also covers our sin of unbelief. But if righteousness can be earned through the law, then Christ died in vain (Galatians 2:21).
Thanks be to God, our Savior did not die in vain! May we never set aside His grace.