Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Slap Heard Around the Church!

I have to say that I've always focused a lot more on the last half of Galatians than I have on the first half. If it wasn't for Gal.2:20 ("I've been crucified with Christ...") I'd say nearly all my memory work in Galatians comes from chapters 3-6. I mention that to simply point out that Paul's confrontation with Peter in chapter 2, has mostly been "interesting" and in the category of "a novelty" for me, because I just didn't quite see the relevance and the application for me. My bad. If someone like Peter can get so distracted and out of focus that it takes Paul opposing "him to his face" because "he was clearly wrong," I need to sit up and take notice! After a couple decades of being an apostle, an elder, a missionary, a preacher of the gospel, and a "pillar in the church," he allowed peer pressure to pull him into ignoring his non-Jewish brethren and hobnobbing with the Jewish Christians from Jerusalem, forgetting everything he personally heard from God about not showing preferences (see Acts 10). Paul said he was being a hypocrite! This was more than just switching dinner partners one night. It hurt those brethren who had been slighted, it seriously damaged his influence as a leader in the church, and - maybe worst of all - he dragged others into the same hypocrisy. Paul said that even Barnabas was pulled into following Peter. Paul was shocked, and I think, hurt by that. Here's the Son of Encouragement being discouraging to all the Gentile Christians!
Clearly the biggest thing that disturbed Paul - and you must remember that he's the new guy with lots of folks questioning whether or not he was legitimate - was that Peter's decision to associate with the "circumcision" group, meant that he was promoting (probably not intentionally) the law over grace and faith in Jesus Christ. Paul screams - you can't have both! Only one brings justification (i.e. salvation) and it isn't the law! The only thing that counts is being "in Christ" - this is where you can quote or sing Galatians 2:20.
It's frightening to think that any of us could so cavalierly do something that could do that much damage! Just because we want to be accepted by some group of people who intimidate us or might not include us? As much as I love vs.20, I must say that it's vs.21 that probably hit Peter between the eyes like a sledge hammer, and took him back to a morning breakfast on the beach with Jesus.
"I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!"

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