Freedom from the Law
Open Your Bible
Galatians 2:11-21, Deuteronomy 10:12-17, Acts 10:9-48, 1 Corinthians 7:17-19
I once took a conflict assessment (like a personality test, but for workplace conflict styles) that revealed to me that I have a “collaborative” conflict style. This means when conflict arises, I try to identify solutions that work for everyone. This is often a recipe for disaster.
I like to present a lot of options and then back slowly out of the room (metaphorically) and not make any decision that will make other people upset. I am a problem solver, but in the “here are a bunch of ways to solve it, you decide!” kind of way.
Paul is not like that, and especially not in his conflict with Peter.
The latter half of Galatians 2 is one of the strongest rebukes of an apostle in the Bible. Paul calls Peter a hypocrite who deviated from the true gospel. Peter had been eating non-Jewish-law-approved meals with Gentile Christians. But when a group of radical Jewish leaders called the circumcision party disapproved, Peter stopped eating with Gentiles. The Judaizers believed that to be a true Christian, a Gentile had to become Jewish first and follow Jewish law.
In his book, Galatians for You, Tim Keller writes, “Paul did not simply say: You’re breaking the rules (even though Peter was), but: You’ve forgotten the gospel: your own gracious welcome in Christ. Paul did not focus so much on the sinful behavior as on the sinful attitude of self-righteousness that lay beneath it.”
Living out the gospel often rubs against cultural best practices, be they ancient or modern. More often than I wish, I capitulate like Peter. I wonder, how can I live out my faith but in a way that doesn’t make other people angry or uncomfortable? I live in the irreconcilable tension of seeking the approval of both God and man (directly antithetical to what we read a few days ago in Galatians 1:10).
After rebuking Peter, Paul goes on to make one of the most impassioned, beautiful expositions of the true gospel. He says, “a person is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ… I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing” (vv.16,21).
Paul spends the rest of Galatians building on this truth: the traditional Jewish law does not save or purify people, only faith in Christ who died and rose again. The approval of other people doesn’t save you either, and you only need acceptance by God the Father, gained by the righteousness of Christ given to us when we believe. All we need is in Christ. All we have is Christ. Christ did not die for nothing; He died for you and me.