Monday, June 20, 2011

Justification by Faith Alone: Galatians 2:11-16

“Coming back to the heart of Worship” It’s all about You, Jesus…

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?
 15 “We who are Jews by birth and not ‘Gentile sinners’ 16 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 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.

Personal confrontation is just not fun. Awkward moments for anyone. Silence in the room. People gingerly walking on eggshells. Don’t want to disturb the situation. That is what we have here in Galatians 2:11-16

Do you like to be confronted for wrongs done? Not many of us do. Being the one who has to do the confrontation is not a fun role to have!  Here we have Paul, face to face with one of “those reputed to be pillars”, Peter, in an epic scene of possible tension and possible trouble down the road. 

We will looking at how the drama developed in four stages: 
(1) Peter had a practice of eating with the Gentile Christians, 
(2) Peter separated from Gentile Christians after the arrival of the delegation from James because of his fear of the circumcision group, 
(3) the separation of the other Jewish Christians from Gentile Christians because of Peter's influence, and lastly, 
(4) Paul's rebuke.

Read verse 5 and verse 14.  The issue here was the Truth of the Gospel.
In verse 4, we read about spies who crept into the fellowship to spy on the freedoms of the Believers to bring them down.

In verse 11, we have this head to head conflict between these two men.

We read about the hypocrisy displayed by Peter and the integrity Paul demanded of the situation.

In verse 13, the word hypocrisy means- to speak from out from under; from under a mask as in a Greek play. Hidden behind something.  Peter was masking his true feelings. He was becoming a spiritual Chameleon. He was one who would change his color to suit his environment. We can see that he was clearly in the wrong (verse 11).

Peter was not in trouble with what he believed.  The first part of this chapter shows us that there was a deep agreement in the leadership concerning the need for unity in the church.  He was not wrong in his belief: he was wrong in his behavior.

People today, as then, would say, it does not matter what I do. It only matters what I believe. That is opposite of the teachings of the Bible! What you believe and what you do HAS to go hand in hand.  One of them supports the other or there is hypocrisy. Not a matter of false creed but wrong conduct. In verse 14, we see an active disturbance…not acting in line…according to what they said.  Peter said he believed in freedom, but he was acting that way?  This proved to be a problem. 

Read back to Acts 11:3.  Peter was directed strongly by the Lord. “You ate with Gentiles!” said the leaders of the young Church. They were upset with Peter for breaking Jewish rules. But,  in Joppa, Peter had seen a vision. There was a voice from Heaven. 3x he heard this voice! That changed his life forever—until now! He had forgotten what had been clearly shown to him.  The Gospel was a message to all.  But here in Antioch, he is speaking from under his mask.

The problem came when the believers came to eat together.  The Jewish Believer wanted to be sure that the food set before them was not contaminated food: so, some sat apart from them. All of this was called into question when men came from James. Verse 12. Peter separates himself from the Gentile Believers.  He did this because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group.

He lacked the courage of his convictions.  ILL: There is a person in a group. He/she is a believer. The group starts to tell off color jokes and stories. This person joins in with them—all the while feeling they should not do so. Soon, they themselves say something off color and someone speaks out and says: “I thought you were a Christian!” He or she lacked the courage to stand by their convictions.

Are you left out of the Faith because of that? No, Peter, himself was asked three different times, “Aren’t you part of the Jesus clan?”  “No, not I! I don’t even know Him!” He said that three times and then the rooster crowed and he felt ashamed because Jesus had told him “Your going to deny even knowing  Me.”   Later, Jesus calls to him (after Jesus was resurrected) and three times asks him the all-important question: “Do you love Me?”  And Peter was brought back into the Jesus clan once again.  Forgiven, he grows in his faith, shares on Pentecost Sunday and a mass conversion happens. He now knows the forgiveness given to him by the Lord Jesus.

 Paul rebuked (or reprimanded) Peter  

Peter's action was not accommodating for the sake of the gospel; it was compromising the essential truth of the gospel. And on that basis Paul was willing to confront Peter with his inconsistency and of the hypocrisy of his actions.

Must have been something to behold.  Two Men of God, two pillars of the Church, two church statesmen, going at it.  In fact, it sounded like it was a one-way encounter. We do not hear of how Peter responded. Peter must have been really blown away by these words by Paul!!  Wow! And after all he had been through? He was, after all, the first of the leaders to introduce this whole teaching—rather boldly back in Acts 11. The teaching that God was doing a new thing and that the Blessings of God was also on the Believing Gentile world. Now, the tables have been turned and Peter is the one who has lost integrity.  

Isn’t this just like the Peter we have all come to know and love? Not me, Jesus! I’d never deny You, Lord! Even if everyone denies You, I’ll never do that!  Call me to walk on the water with You, Lord! He starts out so strong. He always did! He gets out of the boat and starts to walk on the water and then he takes his eyes off of Christ and starts to sink.  I believe he started to sink very fast! And he calls out: “Save me!” and Jesus is there…He is always there—for the people like Peter. Starting out well, fail a little, feel really badly, and wanted to have a fresh start. A new beginning is offered…go along well, and fail, yet again!  What is God going to do with you!? He will not forsake you! His love is that committed to you. To bring Him Glory, He will work with the downtrodden.  He will pick up the fallen and restore them.  

That is what needed to happen to Peter here and it looked like it did happen. We never hear of this situation again…concerning Peter and his convictions.  One would only need to read his letters, 1st and 2nd Peter to see how he really grew up! Yes, there is a BIG hope for those who, like Peter, blow it. That is the Freedom that we have in Christ. He will stand by His Church. He will hold us up with the power of His mighty Right Arm. He will strengthen you and bring you to a resting place under His wings. He is our Rock! And Peter, and the people of Antioch saw that and it brought Glory to the Cause of Christ. 

If we are leaders at all, in any way, when we make decisions that are wrong, we will take others with us. (13) The other Jews joined Peter in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray. 

Neville Chamberlain believed that Germany had been badly treated by the Allies after it was defeated in the First World War. He therefore thought that the German government had genuine grievances and that these needed to be addressed. He also thought that by agreeing to some of the demands being made by Hitler of Germany and Mussolini of Italy, he could avoid another European war. The PM of England wanted peace at any price but Churchill said NO! Freedom is the issue! Compromise did not work in Europe with the Nazi leadership, and it did not work in Antioch with Peter and Paul. No compromise!

This was not a matter of choosing a side and go with whomever you want to follow.  That is not the Way of the Cross. The Word of God can’t be compromised. The Gospel was the same for the Jew as it was for the Gentile. Only through Jesus, by Faith alone could a person come to know Forgiveness of their sins. It was not through the following of, as in this case, Jewish costumes. We are justified in Christ Jesus.

Here was a Man of God, Peter, stopped coming to the Table of Gentile believers because of the pressure from the Jews.  (Some feel that they were not even Believing Jews but I believe they were. They were from the office of James, Jesus’ brother!) Peter's separation from table fellowship with Gentile Christians implied that salvation for Gentiles was supported by following some very strict practices to the Jewish Law and to be incorporated into the Jewish nation. No doubt Peter would have denied that he meant to communicate this requirement to the Gentile believers. But how else could his action be interpreted? His Believing did not match his Living.  

Peter was wrong so Paul was in his face!  The issue was the Gospel!  Be careful that it is not a small matter.  The confrontation was in front of them all, because it affected them all. Paul led his Brother Peter back to the heart of worship, Peter come back to the heart of worship. 
It's all about Him; it is all about Jesus. 
Aren’t you sorry, Peter, for the thing you’ve made it? When it's all about Jesus!

Michael W. Smith wrote a song that really speaks to this issue.  Come back to the heart of your Faith!

When the music fades-
All is stripped away- And I simply come
- Longing just to bring
Something that's of worth
- That will bless Your heart
- I'll bring You more than a song- 

For a song in itself
- Is not what You have required
- You search much deeper within

Through the way things appear
- You're looking into my heart.
I'm coming back to the heart of worship
-And it's all about You, 
- It's all about You, Jesus

I'm sorry, Lord, for the thing I've made it
- When it's all about You, 
- It's all about You, Jesus

Once again, Paul was very deeply concerned that the Christian Church had no divisions! Divisions could only negate the Spirit of Unity that the counsel in Jerusalem had just agreed upon. Gentiles did not need to follow the Jewish laws. All men and women could come to the Table under One Name and with the One Gospel in tack, supporting each other in the work of the Gospel.

If we as Believers talk about the importance of integrity in the Church. If we talk about building moral fiber in our lives, if we talk about making a Gospel stand in our society and homes, than we must be able to stand with the Gospel and live it out in our lives!

If we refused to live that way, those outside the Faith will say that we are unable to turn principle into practice. Just because Peter was a pillar in the church, and that he was an Apostle, that did not change Paul from doing what he did.  He worked at making things right again.  And it cost someone something. Peter needed to repent and change his eating style. A famous name can never justify an infamous action. Oh, Dr.So-in-so said this…it must be right!”  “But I read it on Wikipedia!“I understand that ‘Rev. I. M. Holy’ said this about marriage—even when it is against the Scriptures…” Check it out with Scripture. If the person is wrong in the area of the Gospel, he is wrong no matter how famous he may be. 

This whole incident is followed by some of the grandest materials on saving Faith. Justification; There is no way to be made justified by law: there is one way to be made justified by Faith. Justification: exact opposite of commendation: declare guilty. Justification means to be declared not guilt or innocent or righteous.

Commendation: declare guilty
Justification: declared not guilty

That act of unmerited favor of a just God in His goodness puts sinners in a right relationship with Himself.  On the basis of the Work of Christ on the Cross.  Not a judge just saying you are not guilty. But a judge saying that you are not guilty, yet wait for me as I take off my robes and take you home with me and give you all that I have in my home. I will declare you as my own child.
We try to change ourselves.  Luther said: Know the teachings of Justification by Faith alone so well so as to teach others and beat it into their heads continually! I need this as well.  Keep reminding myself.

See v 16: “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.”  Modern Man has the religion of doing what we can to be made right with God by our own actions.  World religion makes Man acceptable to god.  If he is successful, he might be able to get into Heaven. But with the Biblical God, HE is the One who can make all things well. He can make us right with Him becasue Jesus took our punishment for our sins. He made us clean!

Think of the little cheat of a man: the shrewd man Zacchaeus, the tax collector.  (Luke 19:1-10) Jesus did not say to him when he was up in the sycamore fig tree, "Don’t come down Zac, until you have cleaned up your life and maybe in three weeks, when you are all cleaned up, I might have a better sense of your sincerity and allow you to come walk with me—but you never know." No, just the opposite! There was real change, he was refreshed and he was resorted. Jesus came to save people like Zac, people like you and me who are in need of a savior because we know we can’t do it by ourselves!  

People with a swearing tongue that they can’t control. People who are angry and can’t put an end to the anger. People who sin and can’t stop it! He came and died for them and for us. He does not say to us, clean up and Come to Me but come to Me and I’ll clean you up! That is justification by faith plus nothing: that is the Gospel!

Try and ring the bell at the fair.  You drop the wooden hammer and make the bell ring.  We try and make the bell ring but we can’t! Can’t! In truth, you cannot ring the bell on your own to get justification by works.  The thinking of “I did it my way!” does not really cut it in real life. My way is not the way of the Cross and it does not lead to life. No way, you are living a dreadful lie.  You can’t get frequent flier miles by doing things right to get into heaven on a free pass. See verse 16b.  Faith into Jesus Christ. 

Paul put a Holy Pressure on Peter. The Work of Jesus on the Cross-was to bring the likes of a man like Peter face to face once again with the realities of the Christian faith. Not by following those ‘work centered’ teachings that lead nowhere fast, but to be set free to believe in the Gospel as Christ Jesus would have it: Being justified by faith in Jesus alone. 

Next week, we will finish this section. Please re-read Galatians 2:17-21.