When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face for he was clearly in the wrong. 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. 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 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?” We who are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus so that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law, no one will be justified. 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. If I rebuild what I destroyed, I prove that I am a lawbreaker. For through the law, I died to the law, so that I might live for Christ. 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. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!
Okay, so I skipped posting last week because I was catching up on my memorization. And I intended to write this post on Friday, and then I blinked…and here we are on Monday. But here we go!
What has struck me about this entire passage and the one before is this: it was Christians causing division in the church. In Week 5’s verses, Paul refers to some “false brothers.” I did some research to find out more about these false brothers, but really didn’t come up with much. But here’s what I surmise…they were Christians. They might have been confused, deluded, or divisive, but I imagine they had good intentions (kind of like those Pharisees). Most likely they were not pagan worshippers who were dressing up like Christians, sneaking into the church and trying to convert people back to the pagan religions. I imagine they were Jewish Christians who were having trouble letting go of their rich history and traditions. I mean, Jewish law governed ALL of life. The “truth of the Gospel” that Paul was preaching rocked their entire system of existing. Paul goes on in this passage to describe what happened with even Peter. Peter, a pillar in the church, also fell prey to the hypocrisy plaguing the early church.
So what I take away are these two main points:
1) Test everything against the truth of the Gospel. Obviously that includes what you’re reading, what you’re seeing on television and what you’re hearing on the radio. But it also includes what your parents say, what your pastor says, what your friends tell you and even what famous, well-respected Christians are saying (and publishing). While they may be well intentioned, they may possibly be wrong. I’m not saying you can’t trust anyone; I am saying to be discerning.
2) Be careful when you begin speaking with authority. I’m definitely guilty of this. We sometimes are quick to share “what the Bible says” when we really don’t know where it says it. Or we quote things we have heard or read, and relay it as if it is truth – only because we assume the person we heard it from must be correct. I don’t want to become a “false brother” who is inadvertently trying to enslave people.
Obviously I could comment on much more from these passages, but this is what I’ve been pondering the past couple weeks. As usual, would love to hear your thoughts.