1 Corinthians 13: 1-3
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
We continue our study of Paul’s letter to the Galatians as we look at chapter 2:11-21 where we see Paul continues his defence of the doctrine of grace, but whereas last week he defended before the church, this week he shares how he defended grace to Peter personally.
Galatians 2:12-21 12
For before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. 13The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray. 14When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs? 15″We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles 16know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified. 17″But if, in seeking to be justified in Christ, we Jews find ourselves also among the sinners, doesn’t that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not! 18If I rebuild what I destroyed, then I really would be a lawbreaker. 19″For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. 20I 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. 21I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”
Paul had risked his life to carry the gospel of God’s grace to the regions beyond, and he was not willing for the enemy to rob him or his churches of their liberty in Christ. It was this ‘spiritual vigilance’ that Led Paul into another dramatic encounter, this time with the apostle Peter, Barnabus, and some of the friends of James. Again the drama is in three acts.
1) Peter’s Relapse (2:11-13)
Apparently, sometime after the important conference described in Acts 15, Peter came from Jerusalem to Antioch. The first thing to note is Peter’s freedom, then, he enjoyed fellowship with all the believers, Jews and Gentiles alike. To ‘eat with the Gentiles’ meant to accept them, to put Jews and gentiles on the same level as one family in Christ. Peter’s freedom was threatened by his fear, while he was in Antioch, the church was visited by some of the associates of James. We read that ‘When they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group’. We also note that Peter led others astray with him. Paul saw this inconsistency and realised how important an issue it was and so for the sake of the church he confronted him.
2) Paul’s rebuke (2:14-21)
Paul builds his entire rebuke on doctrine. There are five basic doctrines that were being denied.
a) The unity of the church (2:14)
b) Justification by faith (2:15-16)
c) Freedom from the law (2: 17-18)
d) The very Gospel itself (2:19-20)
e) The grace of God (2:21)
So ends the two acts of this exciting drama, but the curtain has not come down yet, for there is a third act that involves you and me.
3) The Believer’s Response.
We know how Peter responded but the big question is how we respond to the truth of the Gospel?
Here are six questions for us to consider.
1) Have I been saved by the grace of God? (or am I trusting in myself for salvation -my morality, my good works, even my religion?
2) Am I trying to mix law and grace together? (Grace means that God has finished the work for me and all I need to do is believe on Christ. Salvation is not by faith in Christ plus something: it is by faith in Christ alone.
3) Am I rejoicing in the fact that I am justified by faith in Christ? Have I that sense of peace knowing I have a right standing before God because of what Jesus has done for me?
4) Am I walking in the liberty of grace? Do I obey God because of love and not because of law?. It is not only a freedom to ‘do’ but also freedom not to do’.
5) Am I willing to defend the truth of the Gospel? Many people we come into contact with believe that people are saved by faith in Christ plus ‘doing good works’ – keeping the 10 Commandments, obeying the sermon on the mount for example. Do we feel obliged to share the truth?.
6) Am I walking uprightly according to the truth of the Gospel?. The best way to defend the truth is to live the truth. My verbal defence of the Gospel of grace will accomplish very little if my life contradicts what I say.
We have worked our way through the first two chapters of the letter where we have considered the Personal approach of Paul where he declares, demonstrates, and defends the Gospel of grace. Now we will move on to chapters three and four where Paul skilfully presents six different arguments to prove that God saves through faith in Christ and not by works of law. His logic is unassailable, as he will present the personal, scriptural, logical, historical, sentimental, and allegorical argument.
I am amazed and how often I have read Galatians in the past but never realised what depth there is in Paul’s teaching. I am not amazed to see how relevant it is to today. Bible study is hard work but very rewarding, encouraging and challenging, all at the same time.