December 10, 2006 Series: Galatians
Topic: Gospel Passage: Galatians 2:11–2:14
Galatians 2.11-14 (ESV)
11 But eï»¿when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him fï»¿to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, gï»¿he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing hï»¿the circumcision party. 13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that their iï»¿conduct was not in step with jï»¿the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas kï»¿before them all, "If you, though a Jew, lï»¿live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?" [i]
The book of Galatians is about the Gospel-meaning, the good news about what Jesus Christ did on the cross. Early in the letter, Paul defines what the gospel is and warn us about what it is not. The letter centers on two groups of people, both believers in the simplest meaning of the word, one group of Jews and the other Non-Jewish Gentiles. The Jewish Christians are working hard to convince the new Gentile (non Jewish converts) to adopt their culture as part of the whole salvation package. Jesus is not enough.
The apostle Paul leads the defense of the GRACE ALONE gospel, claiming that anything added to the blood of Jesus Christ alone will in fact make it all worthless. So he fights, and he fights, and he fights the "false brethren" who try attack his character and his message. Last week, we saw how his trip to Jerusalem ended in an affirmation by the disciples of his efforts and it seemed like it was all squared away.
The 2nd part of Galatians chapter two deals not with the definition of the gospel but its application. I have come to realize that not many people KNOW the gospel, which means even less probably LIVE it out in their lives. Sometimes I imagine what our lives would look like if we behaved as if we truly believed half of the things we say we believe in. Believing something with your head and living like you believe it are often two different things.
- If we lived like we really believed prayer worked, then we would pray all the time.
- If we lived like we really believed that this world was a speed bump to eternity, we would probably worry less about collecting "things"
- If we lived like we really believed that our commitments to our spouses were covenants before God predicated on our behavior...
- If we lived like we really believed in loving our neighbor...loving our enemy...
Today, we'll see how the fight evolves and he confronts a brother who isn't living what he believes--Peter. This is not a fight about what the gospel is, rather, it is a challenge for all of us to actually live out the truth we say we hold.
I love Peter. He is probably one of the more "real" apostles in the Bible in that I do a lot of the things he does. He is not some perfect patriarch, but at times, seems to think like his namesake...a ROCK. Peter had been raised as a Jew and as intimately familiar with all these practices. Peter was born as a Jew, circumcised as a Jew, raised as Jew, lived as a Jew.
The idea of the "Gentiles" begin unclean had been drilled into his head. Circumcision, refraining from eating with Gentiles, and refraining from eating certain foods were parts of the Jewish ceremonial law by which Jews prepared themselves to be clean and fit for the presence of God in worship. After a successful career as a fisherman, he is called by a Jewish Rabbi to follow him on ministry to reach other Jews. Jesus himself said, kï»¿ "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." [ii]After the death and resurrection of Jesus, Peter becomes the leader of the church and continues the work of spreading the Gospel to the Jewish people. Then things change. Typically chapters 1-12 in the books of Acts deal with Peter's ministry to the gentiles. Chapters 13-28 deal with Paul's ministry to the Gentiles.
In Acts 10, a God-fearing Gentile named Cornelius has a vision that instructed him to find Peter. Meanwhile, Peter has a vision where a voice invites him to eat of the "unclean animals" (Leviticus 11). Peter refuses, but God says, "What God has made clean, do not call common." Peter is a bit confused as what all of this means until Cornelius' men show up and invite him to dinner. Peter quickly realizes that the "unclean" referred to in the vision are in fact the Gentiles and he proceeds to preach to Cornelius and his family who receive salvation in the same way as the Jews had. Peter reports to the church what happened and the church glorifies God saying, "Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life."
Then in Acts 15, Paul comes before the Jerusalem council to again revisit the Jew/Gentile conflict. After much debate, Peter again comes to the same conclusion, "...we believe that we will be saved through grace of the Lord Jesus just as [the gentiles] will." Clearly, Peter knows the truth of the Gospel.
At the end of Acts 15, Peter, James and John boldly affirm Paul and denounce the "false brethren" and the "false gospel" in Galatia-often attaching their names to it! These "false teachers" preached what Paul calls a "different Gospel" which is in fact no gospel at all. They were not opposed to Jesus Christ, rather, they ascribed to the Jesus Plus program. They did believe that believing in Jesus atoning sacrifice on the cross was an essential belief. In addition to Christ's sacrifice, which seemingly wasn't quite sufficient enough, they believed that a true convert needed to follow various ceremonial and moral laws-in other Words, Jesus needs your help to make us clean.
Beliefs are important, but it is not enough. The beliefs you truly hold ultimately dictate how you behave. If ignore what you "say" you believe, then your behavior will evidence the truth that you do not in fact believe it. I have learned to believe behavior. If you truly value something, you will act accordingly whether you say you believe or not. A belief, or disbelief, in the gospel is no different. Belief is not enough.
Our study in Galatians have revealed two ways to live out the gospel in your life. In one camp you have the Judaizers. These are the works-based legalists. They BELIEVE in the Lord Jesus, perform good works, rituals, or ceremonies-OBEY, then as a result they have favor with God and are ACCEPTED. Believe, obey, accepted. In essence, you adopt a new man-made law that you in fact are unable to meet so your life becomes governed by PRIDE or INSECURITY (Fear). You either feel "good" about who you are because of how pious you have been that week, OR, you beat the snot out of yourself for fear that God is disappointed with how "good" you've been and therefore rejects you. You sit in a position of self-righteousness which leads only to some sort of spiritual arrogance assuming you can save yourself OR you sit in self-deprecation, despairing your life because you can't save yourself. Believe, obey, accepted
The other position, of course, is the gospel position put forward by Paul, given to Him by Jesus Christ himself on the Road to Damascus. The true gospel says, Believe in the Lord Jesus, Realize in doing so by faith, we have favor with God and are already accepted, then keep the law out of joy and because we are growing closer to Jesus we desire to conform to His image more each day. Believe, Accepted, Obey. We keep the law because we are accepted, not to be accepted. There is a chasm of difference between these two positions that cannot be bridged.
The Council at Jerusalem was supposed to have settled the issue once and for all. The question of "how we are saved" is what is at stake and the answer had been confirmed. Then Peter came to Antioch...
11 But eï»¿when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him fï»¿to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, gï»¿he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing hï»¿the circumcision party.
Peter, the most powerful Apostle, fails. It is significant that Paul uses Peter's failure here as an example, seeing as the Judaizers had appealed to Peter's superiority when questioning Paul's apostleship. I'm sobered and I'm comforted by the fact that even the most "spiritual" of men can commit serious sin. This is also a stern warning. Living out the gospel is not something that will happen naturally. Our lives are constantly lives of repentance and reformation.
Peter fell because of pride, he was afraid to lose face. Some Jewish Christians came, claiming they were from James. Peter, the man who had seen the vision, the man who had confirmed Paul's gospel at the Jerusalem council, now shrinks in fear. His fear of criticism, persecution, or whatever led him to take a position that HE DID NOT BELIEVE IN. Since Peter had been in Antioch, he had made it a practice to eat with the gentiles. Most likely he had participated in numerous feasts and meals. Now, we see him withdrawing (a term used to describe strategic military disengagement where they withdraw to find shelter and safety). In other words, it was gradual and somewhat elusive. This only shows that Peter knows that he is doing, fearfully removing himself to avoid any loss of popularity, prestige, or ridicule. Peter had forgotten who he is in Jesus Christ and began to care more about the approval of men.
He was not just afraid...he was racist. Peter reverted back to the cultural mentality that he was raised in when the pressure was applied. HE WASN'T CONSIDERING THE "FEELINGS" of the JEWS; HE WAS TRYING TO AVOID IDENTIFYING with the "UNCLEAN"
- At a bar, at a movie, smoking a cigar, having a beer w/ some new Christian brothers
- Some friends who have "separated from culture" come in...
He was living out what he had been raised with, but not what he believed-the superiority of the Jewish race. In essence, Peter went against everything he had experience, stated, and believed by allowing cultural differences to become more important than GOSPEL unity. It comes down to a very simple thing...do we really believe in truth. That is one of our core values, as is mission, worship, and community. Do we just have those as paper to flash at people, or do we live them out.
It's noteworthy how Paul demonstrates tremendous courage here. I appreciate that Paul had the courage to stand face to face with Peter and confront him. If there is anything I can't stand it is passive aggressive people. They do nothing but create more conflict with their cowardice.
13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy.
Then there is Barnabas. Barnabas was the great peacemaker. He was the guy who first convinced the apostles that Paul was legitimate. He was the Jewish Apostle who went and stood side by side with Paul as he defended his gospel at the Jerusalem council. Unfortunately, we see what happens when a "peacemaker" chooses to avoid conflict over and above choosing to stand on the gospel. There are many people who avoid conflict like the plague. Then there are those who revel in it. Conflict for the sake of conflict is a sin. We must be wiling to compromise on the inconsequential, nonessential things, with all charity. But we must be able to discern when peace is not an option. Truth is more important than harmony and peace. I firmly believe that fellowship is based on trust and trust must be based in truth.
Faithfulness to the gospel involves more than just believing the RIGHT DOCTRINE. Right doctrine that does not produce RIGHT behavior produces nothing but hypocrisy. The Greek term for "hypocrisy" originally referred to the masks that actors wore.
- We wear masks to hide who we truly are.
- We wear mask to avoid conflict.
- We wear masks to impress others.
- We wear masks to hide our depravity.
- The scariest thing for me to imagine is the person who wears a mask so long that they forget who they truly are.
14 But when I saw that their iï»¿conduct was not in step with jï»¿the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas kï»¿before them all, "If you, though a Jew, lï»¿live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?" [iii]
Paul confronts Peter in a way that probably seems strange to us. HE SAYS YOUR BEHAVIOR IS NOT LINED UP WITH TRUTH-the gospel. The gospel is A TRUTH, it is A MESSAGE, it is a set of claims. It includes facts with implications-it is not simply a story with a happy ending. The gospel is not just good advice, or common sense thinking, it is set of facts that have meaning for our life and is NEWS to be believed! It's as much just a "good idea" as Jesus is just a "good person". NO. The gospel is THE TRUTH and Jesus is THE LORD.
The claims of the gospel include:
- We are weak and sinful and in need of a hero
- We seek to control our own lives and be our own saviors and Lords
- God's law as fulfilled by Christ for us
- In Christ, we are now accepted completely though we are still sinful and flawed
The claims cannot stop at just being claims. The truth must have application, it must have meaning for our lives-and it does.
- It is our job to bring everything in our lives in line with the thrust or direction of the gospel
- We are to think of its implications in every area of our lives
- Our thinking, feeling, and behaving must be governed by the truth of the gospel
- This process never ends...
Racism, or any type of distinction in race, class, or ritual is NOT IN LINE WITH THE GOSPEL. Peter might very well believe this, in fact, we know that he does; the problem is he is not living as if he dodes. It doesn't matter what you say you value, if your actions say the opposite, then that is what you truly believe. If you really believe the gospel is grace, if you really your acceptance by God is not based on your "good behavior", then live like it. Stop adding to the gospel! If you don't all the truth claims of the gospel govern your life, then your own NEW LAW will...it will govern it!
Paul says, ALIGN YOUR CONDUCT with the Gospel...he goes to the ROOT of the problem
Paul did not say... Peter, you are breaking the rules. Stop sinning! Repent. This isn't a gospel approach because it focuses solely on behavior without really solving the root of the problem. You if you only address the behavior, you become a moralist who really isn't becoming any less racist in their heart even if they are not acting out. You have simply "scared" or "guilted" them into doing the right thing. This is nothing more than a threat. (It is right to tell him to stop doing this...it just doesn't go far enough).
Paul did not say...Peter, your just doing this because you've forgotten how much God loves you. I know you feel like you "need to do this" but Jesus loves you. Rejoice!
This isn't a gospel approach because it focuses solely on feelings and self esteem. It is more concerned with people feeling good about who they are, regardless of what they believe or how they behave. It goes deeper than behavior, but it fails to go deep enough to the real core of the "WHY" of the feelings. Why is it that you're fearful? Why is it that you have these desires? Isn't God enough?
Paul did not say...Peter, well, I understand the difficulty of this particular situation.
Situation ethics do not work. We throw around the word "integrity" a lot in our society today. I am not convinced that many people know what it means nor that they know how to live it out. Integrity means that the truth of God's word, not a given circumstance, difficulty, or other situation, determines what is right and what is wrong.
Paul did not remain silent.
Sin cannot be ignored, especially when it involves something as essential as the gospel. How often do we do this? How often do we allow a brother or sister provide a poor witness for the gospel? What about our sons and daughters?
Paul says, ALIGN YOUR CONDUCT with the Gospel...he goes to the ROOT of the problem
Paul did say, "Your problem is that you are looking to something besides Christ for your happiness. Repent and rejoice and align in all situations always!"
This confronts a person with the real sin under the sins and behind the bad feelings. Our problem is that we have given ourselves over to some idols, whether it is a job, money, sex, relationships, family, church, culture, or any number of things!
- a) Every idol-system is a way of our-works-salvation, and thus it keeps us "under the law."
- b) Paul tells us that the bondage of sin is broken when we come out from under the law - when we begin to believe the gospel of Christ's-work-salvation.
- c) Only when we realize in a new way that we are righteous in Christ is the idol's power over us broken.
- 1. Like Peter, we need to see that our value and dignity do not come from external culture. Culture is not sinful, church is not sinful, until they become more important than the equalizing power of the Gospel.
- 2. Like Paul, we must defend and proclaim the gospel of grace alone...mostly to ourselves. We must preach the gospel to ourselves everyday and stop trying to be our own savior-the job is taken.
- 3. Like Peter, we need to repent of any feelings of superiority; an attempt to feel cleaner than others, but rather embrace the fact that we are complete wicked and yet loved.
- 4. Like Paul, we must not remain silent. Not with our friends, not with our family, not anywhere.
- 5. Like Peter, we need to bring all aspects of our lives in line with the gospel. Ours is a life of repentance, not perfection.
- 6. Like Paul, we need to learn how to confront brothers and sisters in sin.
- 7. We need to learn the gospel, believe the gospel, live the gospel, and proclaim the gospel.