Live by God’s standard
When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from Jesus, 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. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.
When 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?
“We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles know 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.” – Galatians 2:11-12, 14-16.
A Christian author and speaker, Kent Crockett, tells a story about legalism in his book, “I Once Was Blind But Now I Squint.” He writes, “I knew a lady who attended a legalistic church. The church made her feel guilty because she didn’t wear dresses which had sleeves that came down to her wrists. They told her someone might lust after her because her arms were exposed.
“She tried to explain to them that it was unlikely this would happen since she was almost 80-years-old. They continued to make her feel condemned for wearing short sleeves.
“Finally, she bowed to their pressure and bought a pretty dress covered with strawberries with sleeves down to her wrists. When the pastor’s wife saw her new dress, she complained, ‘Those strawberries are much too red. The dress is worldly. You are just trying to attract attention to yourself!’” (Kent Crockett, I Once Was Blind But Now I Squint, Chattanooga, TN : AMG Publishers, 2004, 1-2.)
The devil has a way or method of trying to destroy the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There are many who play into the hands of the devil. They beat their people over their head with the law.
In our text Paul makes a point about legalism. Even though “legalism” is not a word found in scripture, its root is law. Earlier in the text Paul speaks about his visit to Jerusalem to meet with the brothers, and to put before them the gospel which he preached.
Paul mentions that some false brothers were spreading false rumors about his ministry. They were talking specifically about his helper, Titus, who was not circumcised. Here he shows that Christ came to earth to bring grace to the world, not the law.
Christianity is not about rules and regulations. It is about the grace of God which came through Jesus Christ. Therefore, the Church should not try to negate the work which Christ did, in his obedience to the law, his trial, conviction, death and resurrection.
The apostle had opposed Peter, who while in Antioch, had lived like a Gentile, however when certain brothers came from Jerusalem, he separated himself from the Gentiles. Peter was wrong for his actions. He went back to his legalist base.
Paul could not accept this type of behavior from Peter, a senior disciple or apostle. Peter had spent much time with Jesus who had instructed him well. Yet, he was not living like Jesus’ apostle, but a dogmatic Jew. He found it easy to hide in the comfort of the law.
Therefore, Paul would not let Peter get away with his legalistic attitude. The law does not govern the Christian, because Jesus already fulfilled the law on our behalf. Jesus fulfilled all the requirements, which God demanded in the law.
Don’t let others make you feel guilty because you are not living according to their standards.
You do not live by the world’s standard. You live by the standard set by God in Christ Jesus. Amen Happy birthday to my daughter Samantha and son Duane whose birthdays are Feb 13 and 14, respectively.
• Rev. Samuel M. Boodle, pastor at The Lutheran Church of Nassau, can be reached at P.O. Box N 4794, Nassau, Bahamas, or telephone: 323-4107; E-mail: [email protected], Website: www.Nassaulutheranchurch.org.