Since today’s message is a bit more theological, before we pray and get into Galatians, I’d like to share some thoughts from my devotional reading last night:
Psalm 51: 15 O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. 16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. 17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
God wants our humility and brokenness. Not so much our acts, religious effort, or sacrifices, but to present us in who we are – in all our flaws, to lay ourselves before Him – as small as it might be, God is pleased and will not despise our offering.
Heavenly Father, thank You that You do not despise us – sometimes we can feel despised by others – maybe our parents, in an upbringing that wasn’t good – but when we bring our hearts to You – broken and contrite – it is Yours – You are pleased with us. It is good to know that our heavenly Father is pleased, and You are satisfied through Your Son – our offering. May we live fully for You and that we might know how deep and high and wide are Your thoughts toward us. You love us more than we could love ourselves. We want to know that love inside of us. We want confidence that God loves us. All our faults, flaws, and quirks – we come to You, recognizing our need for You – in Your name. Amen.
What I wanted to do – because the book – it is important to understand the relationship between the Church and Judaism. When we look at it today, we see it as two completely different things. It was not that way. Christianity wasn’t even Christianity yet – they didn’t even call themselves Christians yet – outsiders may have – but the Church was part of Judaism – and they were fulfilling – the promise made to Abraham and Isaac and right on down the line. The church wanted to stay under the umbrella of Judaism – as a fulfillment.
However, the Jews thought differently – and wanted the church to convert to Judaism – to become circumcised and follow the Law. They wanted them, as a small band of people, to be legitimized by being Jewish. Judaism had a critical mass. And in the government’s eyes, it was looked on as legal, where Christianity would not have been considered legal. When the church separated from Judaism, a LOT of persecution came because it was no longer a legal religion.
That is important to understand – as we read through this:
Gal. 2: 11 When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. 12 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. 13 The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray. 14 When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter 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?
Peter and Paul are both in Antioch – not the Antioch in Assyria, but the one in Galatia – would now be part of Turkey. The Jews and Gentiles are eating together, and Peter is enjoying the pork chops and lobster for the first time in his life. But then some folks from James – the brother of the Lord – and they see him eating with the Gentiles and they are of the attitude that they need to be circumcised if you are going to fellowship with them! Peter, the great apostle, gives in! It is almost impossible to put this into our context. There is a sense of racism going on here. And even more – a spiritual racism.
Think of Urban Vision – we have served them and they have served us. A lot of what they do is helping at-risk children and teaching English as a second language. They are helping the KaRen children – and then also helping African American children. And they eat and fellowship together. Let’s say that Rodney and Jody go on vacation and leave Cecil (like Cephas) in charge. And Cecil takes one of the races and tells them that they have to be in the section where there is no heat and they will eat after the others. As offensive as this is to us, that doesn’t even come close to what is going on here.
The apostle Peter is basically doing that. It is not just that he won’t eat lobster any more – it is a lot more than that. There was a sense of superiority among one of the groups – that they, before God, were better than the other group.
The Dred Scott Decision – said that African slaves were not fully human. That is what the Supreme Court said. We look back on that and say, how could anyone ever think that? In a spiritual sense, that is where the Jews had gotten – they were God’s chosen people. There was a spiritual exclusivism. Only the Jewish men could go into a certain section of the temple. Women were kept out of there and Gentiles were kept even further back.
The church has broken down all these barriers. The veil of the temple was split when Jesus died on the cross. There is no distinction between Jew/Gentile; slave/free; male/female. There is unity.
And these Jewish Christians are trying to put these divides back up.
v. 11 is about eating meals – you do that because you enjoy someone’s company or it is family time – but that is not the way it was in the first century – meals were used to reinforce social norms, boundaries, and status. There were strict rules as to how the meal would take place. If those rules were broken – the person breaking them would be acting dishonorably and shamefully. We don’t think that in breaking the table fellowship meal rules – we don’t think much of it. For Jews, you would never eat with Gentiles – because they are unclean people eating unclean food. When Jesus was eating with Gentiles and tax collectors and sinners, Jesus was throwing away some of the most important social rules of the day. We, as Americans, can’t even begin to imagine how ‘against’ their social norms this was.
In the South, there was segregation – and all those court cases – separate everything. You have to think of this like a Southerner back then and someone coming in and flaunting it. Like Rosa Parks on the bus. And think about these meals, and the church coming in and – meals are where worship was performed. These were a religious people – and they had a god for everything. What did the Christians have, if not temples? Their great act of worship was to take the cup and bread – as part of a love meal – and to break bread together. And to sit with the others and to share together was unheard of. It was in that that we see Peter acting and Paul coming against him.
. 13 The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.
Barnabas and Paul had been together for years. Think of this – traveling through the Roman world and baptizing and eating with Gentiles – and after all that time, he goes back. Think how powerful this must have been! We probably have similar things – things that go so deep inside of us that cut against the gospel.
That is what Paul says.
14 When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter 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?
Paul ties these actions to the gospel. Paul believed that this coming together of Jews and Gentiles was a living demonstration of the gospel. When he saw these others turning from this – he couldn’t believe it. The gospel cannot tolerate superiority and exclusivity. It must welcome anyone at any level – by faith in Jesus and nothing else.
That is the backdrop – now we have theological explanation:
15 "We who are Jews by birth and not `Gentile sinners'
Listen to that! That is Paul even – he knows better! But he is doing this to ‘relate’ to Peter and the others -
16 know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ.
Yes, we are God’s chosen people given His law and word – He came to us. We are His chosen people – He chose Abraham – not George, or someone else – then Isaac…then David…Even though all that has happened, none of that made us right with God. We have the Law and Moses and the code – but having that – we find that we are not right with God. Justified – to be made right – brought into a proper relationship with God. All of your good works – those things you do – do not bring you closer to God.
16b So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.
The Law is the sum total of God’s commandments. Works of the Law: acts done in obedience to the Law. That ought to be enough, right? No. No one will get right with God that way. That is the foundation of all religion – obedience to laws and codes to establish our goodness – that is what most religions do, but Paul is obliterating all of that. There is a whole new way of doing this – through Christ – that is how unique, how different Christ is – He takes all that man has believed forever – and puts it in the trash.
17 "If, while we seek to be justified in Christ, it becomes evident that we ourselves are sinners, does that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not!
Life without the Law is not a Lawless life! As Paul is saying this, he knows that people will get really afraid – what you are saying will weaken morality – and they don’t want that – people will just become horrible people.
18 If I rebuild what I destroyed, I prove that I am a lawbreaker. 19 For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God.
So you don’t need the Law – it is no longer valid – but you are not to be Lawless. So then he answers the question:
20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!"
When a person comes to faith in Jesus – and believes that Jesus’ death is enough to bring us to God – that is all it takes. How freeing! Wow! That is all I need to do? Yes. Well, you should probably do this, this and this? NO! That is all you need to do! Nothing else! What about going to church?! No! What about Ten Commandments? No. Faith in Me.
I have been crucified with Christ.
What that means – the person who has come to Jesus has died to life under the Law. You are dead to living under the sum total of God’s commandments. You are dead to that. And you are also dead to your personal sinful nature. Wanting your own way? Dead. You have a new life that is based on faith through grace – and the Christian life must be lived that way. We are made right through faith and grace – and we live life through faith and grace. And it never changes – we don’t become more pleasing to God by doing something else. It is always by believing.
When we look at freedom – having Christ in us – we are now free to engage in right living. We are now free to be faithful – we have the power to be faithful to God. Another caution – knowing that Christ is in us – when we go – places where we are not living right and being pleasing to God – we are taking Christ there! Peter was bringing Jesus into his actions…and he was there when the Pharisees were asking – Why does your master eat with tax collectors and sinners.
I will close with Matthew 9 – it is about this whole thing – it takes us back to the eating together – the Call of Matthew.
Matthew 9: 9 As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector's booth. "Follow me," he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him. 10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew's house, many tax collectors and "sinners" came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and `sinners'?" 12 On hearing this, Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: `I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."
Broken and contrite heart – he comes to those who are not working properly. He is the physician – Go and learn what this means – For Jesus – this idea of coming together as Jews and Gentiles – what he is saying - learn what this means: `I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' – this is the key. The key to understanding why Moses wrote the Law – love mercy and compassion. He does this about 12 times – he brings up compassion where they bring up Law. That is what it is all about.
Love your neighbor