PAUL'S CONFRONTATION WITH PETER
From the days of the exodus from Egypt, the Jews had lived under the Mosaic Law. Their children were born into the Law, circumcised on the eighth day according to the Law, and publicly pronounced "sons of the Law" when they reached manhood. They lived and worked and died under the Law. The Law even regulated the form of their burial.
The Law affected every part of life for the Jew. It was much more than just the Ten Commandments. Laws were included as to what kind of clothing the Jew was to wear, what types of food he was allowed to eat and how it was to be prepared, how he was to plow his field and how his animals were to be fastened to the plow, how to plant and harvest his field, how to treat his family and servants, and how to worship. His entire life was patterned and ruled by the Law.
The disciples of Jesus were brought up under the Law. From an early age they had been rooted in its influences. When they came to Jesus, they saw in Him the fulfillment of that Law.
"Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill.
"For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away from the Law, until all is accomplished." (Matthew 5:17-18).
The personal character of Jesus Christ was a fulfillment of the Moral Law. He was the only man who ever lived a perfect life. His life also reflected a fulfillment of the Civil Law. He remained in submission to the civil authorities and governments. And He is the perfect and total fulfillment of all of the Ceremonial Law. All of the legal rituals and all of the Temple sacrifices looked forward to His person and work. He was the perfect lamb of God who took away the sins of the world.
The earthly ministry of Jesus was initially directed toward the nation of Israel. When He first commissioned His twelve apostles, He charged them to go "to the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Matthew 10:6). It was only after Israel had rejected Him as a nation that He had instructed His disciples to "make disciples of all the nations" (Matthew 28:19).
However, the early years of the church saw little or no evangelism directed toward the Gentiles. Although the church in Jerusalem continued to grow, it was some time before the preaching of the gospel was heard in lands outside Palestine, and even in those cases, the preaching was always directed toward Jews.
It was not until the events of Acts 10 that it was revealed to Peter in a vision that the gospel was to be freely given to the Gentiles. God had to tell Peter three times that it was permitted for him to enter a Gentile home and freely give the gospel to Gentiles.
This would have been a very difficult thing for him to accept. As a Jew, he had been brought up to believe that it was forbidden him to have close fellowship with a Gentile or for him to eat a meal in a Gentile home. Peter had always eaten kosher food. But, in spite of his cultural upbringing, Peter obeyed the instructions of the Lord and he entered the home of Cornelius, leading him and his family to the Lord.
Peter later related his experiences with Cornelius at the council in Jerusalem when the question arose as to whether Gentiles could be saved apart from circumcision and keeping the Law.
And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, "Brethren, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe.
"And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He also did to us;
By the time of the Jerusalem Council, Peter had come to understand that the Gentiles were to be admitted into the church in the same way that the Jews were admitted — through faith alone.
This is important. None of the Jewish Christians thought that they were saved by keeping the Law. All of the Jewish believers realized that they had fallen far short of God's righteous standard. They knew that they could only be justified through faith in Jesus Christ. But they continued to live their lives under the Law. They did not abandon their heritage. They continued to keep the Sabbath day and to offer sacrifices in the Temple (although these sacrifices now had a new meaning to them) and they continued to observe the legal dietary laws of the Mosaic Law.
The Jerusalem Council agreed that the Gentile believers did not need to submit to these Jewish customs. Gentiles would not be required to offer sacrifices or keep the Sabbath day or observe dietary laws.
But soon, a new problem arose. It was a problem with Jews who were still keeping the Law. It specifically dealt with the dietary regulations. It had been agreed that Gentiles were now free to come into the church and fellowship with Jewish believers. However, the Jews who were still keeping the elements of the Law were inhibited from going into Gentile homes and eating meals that had been prepared by Gentiles and were therefore not kosher. The problem came to a head when Peter came to Antioch for a visit. It was here that Paul confronted Peter over this issue of breaking fellowship with the Gentile believers.
It is important to see the difference between the issues presented in Galatians 2:1-10 at the Jerusalem Conference and the issue which Paul now confronts at Antioch.
Takes place in Jerusalem
Takes place in Antioch
The Issue: Can a Gentile be saved and come into the church and fellowship with believers without proselyting to Judaism?
The Issue: Can Jewish believers be allowed to forsake the Law and enter into a Gentile home and eat Gentile foods?
Underlying Question: Is the Christian, whether he be Jew or Gentile, required to keep the Mosaic Law?
In Jerusalem the question had been whether a Gentile could be saved and come into the church and fellowship with believers without proselyting to Judaism. Now as Peter comes to Antioch, a different question will be at issue. Can Jewish believers be allowed to forsake the Law and enter into a Gentile home and eat Gentile foods? However, even though the particular issue is different in this section, the main question is still the same: Is the Christian, whether he be Jew or Gentile, required to keep the Mosaic Law?
But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. (Galatians 2:11).
Paul has gone to great lengths in the first part of this chapter to show that the Jerusalem apostles, including Peter and James, were in agreement with his ministry and with his gospel. But now he moves to a time when a disagreement between himself and Peter did arise. The incident took place when Peter came to Antioch.
1. The Identity of Cephas: But when Cephas came to Antioch (2:11).
The name "Cephas" is Aramaic. It means "the Rock." It is the counterpart of the Greek name Petros (Peter). Jesus had given this nickname to the apostle when they first met (John 1:42).
2. Peter Comes to Antioch: But when Cephas came to Antioch (2:11).
Peter came on a trip to Antioch. This trip took place some time after the Jerusalem Council. It took place after the issue of Gentiles entering into the church had been settled. Perhaps this was one of the reasons that Peter cane to Antioch — to encourage the believers at Antioch and to take part in their acceptance.
3. Peter Opposed: I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned (2:11).
During Peter's visit to Antioch, Paul found it necessary to rebuke him. This was not an easy task. It would have been very easy for Paul to ignore Peter's misconduct. But Paul did not do this. Instead, he confronted Peter face to face.
Many preachers are quick to speak against sin, but are reluctant to do anything about it. They speak very clearly that certain things are wrong and that Christians are to live accordingly, yet when it comes to a specific application they fall short. The result is devastating. The result is that both false doctrines and false practices are permitted to come into the church. But Paul was not going to allow this to happen in Antioch. And so, he confronted Peter face to face.
For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision.
And the rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy. (Galatians 2:12-13).
Now Paul explains the circumstances which led up to his rebuke of Peter. It concerned the practice of eating with Gentiles.
1. A Past Practice: He used to eat with the Gentiles (2:12).
Peter realized that God had done away with the ceremonial laws regarding ritual washings and ritual uncleanliness. God had revealed to Peter that it was acceptable for him to enter a Gentile home and eat at a Gentile table.
Now that Peter has come to Antioch, he has begun to practice this new freedom by fellowshipping with Gentiles. He has been accepting Gentile invitations to dinner and he has been eating Gentile foods.
This was consistent with the plan of God for this age. It is not God's plan to have two separate groups who are His people. He does not have a Jewish church and then a Gentile church. He has taken both of these groups and made them into one.
For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one, and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, 15 by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, 16 and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. (Ephesians 2:14-16).
From the days of Abraham, the Jews had been God's chosen people. They were the recipients of the promises of God. It was to them that the Scriptures were given. It was with them that God established His covenant. He had chosen them to be His people and had set them apart from the other nations of the world. But the cross changed all of that.
The cross effected a reconciliation between these two groups by making them into one body — the Body of Christ. God's people are no longer just the Jews. Now God's people are made up of both the Jew and the Greek, both the bond and the free, both the male and the female.
It is not that the Jews ceased to be God's chosen people. Rather it is that more people were chosen in addition to the chosen people. God's election has extended to people of every race and tongue and nation.
Peter was not unaware of this change in God's program. Jesus had told him that he was to go forth and make disciples of all the nations (Matthew 28:19). Later God had revealed to Peter through a vision that he was to enter into a Gentile home and share the gospel. He was a witness to the truth that Gentiles were saved and received the Holy Spirit in the same way that Jews did.
Thus, when Peter comes to Antioch, he expresses his understanding of the unity of the church by freely eating and fellowshipping with Gentiles. This goes on until one day when some visitors arrive from Jerusalem.
2. A Presence from Jerusalem: Prior to the coming of certain men from James (2:12).
Who were these men? We are told that they were from James. James was the half-brother of Jesus, one of the sons of Mary and Joseph. James had grown up with Jesus. He had been a witness to many of the miracles of Jesus. And yet, he had remained an unbeliever throughout the Lord s entire earthly ministry. It was not until after the resurrection that James believed. You see, James saw Jesus after He had died and then rose from the dead. He was a witness of the resurrection. I believe that it was the miracle of the resurrection that convinced James.
Perhaps this tells us something about James. It seems as though James had a rather obstinate character. He seems to have been stubborn when it came to changing his views. This had a positive effect in that James was not likely to be carried about by every wind of doctrine. He was solid and unmovable in what he believed. But this may have had a negative effect in that he seems slow to accept the revelation that believers are free from the Law.
These men who now came to Antioch were from James. They were self-styled disciples of James. In the end of this verse, they are referred to as "the party of the circumcision." They gravitated to James. But they took their views on circumcision and the keeping of the Law to far greater lengths than James did. They identified themselves with James, but I am not certain that James would have wanted to identify himself with them. They were men who agreed with James that it was not necessary for Gentiles to keep the Law to be saved. But they insisted that the keeping of the Law made you more spiritual. They demanded that all Jewish believers observe the Law. And they now come to Antioch where Peter and the other Jews have been eating with Gentiles. You can see right away that there is about to be a conflict.
3. A Pointed Departure: But when they came, he began to withdraw (2:12).
Instead of standing up for what he knew was right, Peter backed down from the party of the circumcision. He began to withdraw from the Gentile believers within the church at Antioch.
This action is described in an imperfect tense. This indicates that it was a gradual and continued action. Peter didn't stand up in the middle of dinner and walk out. He was much more tactful. He just stopped accepting dinner invitations from Gentiles. When Sunday morning rolled around, Peter was not in church. He was meeting with a group of Jewish believers. A Jewish church was in the making.
Why did Peter do this? Was he abandoning what he had formerly believed? Had he changed his mind about the Law? Not at all. He did this because he was intimidated.
Peter had stood before the high priest in Jerusalem and had refused to stop preaching the gospel, though he was beaten and imprisoned and threatened with death. Herod Agrippa had actually sentenced Peter to death and it had only been because of an angelic jailbreak that he was still alive. In spite of all of these experiences, Peter was still afraid when it came to facing these legalistic Christian Jews.
You see, legalism can be very intimidating. It goes on in today's churches just as it did in the early church. People think that they are more spiritual if they dress a certain way, talk a certain way, and even carry a certain type of Bible. Then they measure the status of others according to this false standard.
Peter was afraid of what these Jewish Christians were going to think of him. He was afraid that they might carry negative reports about his behavior back to the Jerusalem church. And so he began to make a practice of separating himself from the Gentile believers.
4. A Pervasive Hypocrisy: And the rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy (2:13).
Peter's defection had a disastrous effect on the Antioch church. The reason for this is that all of the Jews in the church began to follow example. Peter was a natural leader. No matter what he did, people would follow him.
Once again we see people following Peter. The entire Jewish-Christian community began to follow his example of separation from the Gentile believers. Even Barnabas was swept up in this separation. The result was a giant split in the church.
To make matters worse, this involved a split over the eating of the Lord's Supper. The one place where unity should have been the most evident had now become the scene of division. Paul calls this action "hypocrisy." They were saying and believing one thing while they were doing another. They were preaching the gospel but they were not living the gospel. They were preaching that faith in Jesus Christ is sufficient for salvation, but they were living as though Gentiles were second-class Christians.
Peter and Barnabas knew better than to act like this. But they had been intimidated. Peter was intimidated by the disciples of James. Barnabas and the other Jewish Christians were intimidated by Peter's defection. By running away from the problem, Peter had created a far greater problem.
But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of all, "If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?" (Galatians 2:14).
Imagine the scene. Paul comes into church one Sunday and notices that there are no Jews present. Peter has gone and Paul is the only Jew left in the church. He asks about the situation and someone tells him that all of the Jewish Christians are meeting down the street in a Jewish home. As the Gentile Christians hear this news, they begin to wonder whether faith is really enough for salvation. After all, isn't Peter demonstrating that followers of Christ are required to observe the Mosaic Law? And so, Paul is forced to act quickly if he is to save the unity of the church and the clarity of the gospel.
1. A Public Rebuke: I said to Cephas in the presence of all (2:14).
Now I want to ask you a question. Why did Paul confront Peter in the presence of all? Why did he rebuke Peter in public? Why didn't he go to Peter in private as he had in Jerusalem when he had presented his message to Peter and James and John?
I think that the answer is seen in the nature of Peter's sin. Peter had sinned in public. His defection had affected the entire church. His actions had resulted in splitting the church in two. Therefore, only by an equally public rebuke could the harmful effects of Peter's sin be remedied. The only way that the divided church could be brought back together was for the reproof of Peter to be made manifest to the entire church.
This is an important principle of church discipline. A leader in the church who continues in a sin before the eyes of the entire church is to be rebuked before the entire church.
Do not receive an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses.
Those who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all, so that the rest may be fearful of sinning. (I Timothy 5:19-20).
If we are preaching that believers are to live a holy life and yet do nothing to discipline those who continue is disobedience, then soon people will begin to think that we do not believe what we say.
Peter has been preaching that all men are saved through faith in Jesus Christ and not by the keeping of the Law. But now he is cutting himself off from the Gentile believers who do not keep the Law. People are going to think that Peter's actions indicate that believers must keep the Law to be saved.
2. A Penetrating Question: "How is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?" (2:14).
Peter was a Jew. He had been raised to live like a Jew. He had once kept all of the Jewish rituals of Judaism. But he has been given a revelation from God and all of that has changed. Since that time, he has been living like the Gentiles. Since that time, he has been going into Gentile homes and having fellowship with Gentiles and eating with Gentiles. This is not the way an Orthodox Jew lives. This is the way a Gentile lives. Peter has been living like a Gentile.
But now Peter had begun to separate from Gentile believers because they did not follow the ceremonial ritual washings and eating habits of the Jews. He does not want to be caught eating Gentile food contrary to the Laws of the Jews. This means that if Gentile believers was to remain in contact with Peter, they are going to have to take up a Jewish lifestyle. They are going to get the idea that living like a Gentile and not keeping the Mosaic Law will make them a "second-class Christian."
In effect, Peter is insisting that Gentiles must live as Jews live, even though he himself has not been living as Jews live. And so, Paul points out Peter's inconsistency.
There is an important lesson of which we need to take note. It is that even great people of God still make mistakes. God's Word is infallible, but God's people are not. They make mistakes.
Sometimes their mistakes are made in private. But sometimes, as is the case with Peter, their mistakes are out in the open for everyone to see. This means that you are going to be hurt and misdirected and led astray if you keep your eyes on people rather than on the Lord.
THE DOCTRINE OF JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH
We are Jews by nature, and not sinners from among the Gentiles;16 nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we may be justified by faith in Christ, and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law shall no flesh be justified." (Galatians 2:15-16).
Paul now moves to the root of the problem. It is summed up in the single question: How is a man justified before God?
Perhaps before we go any further we should define what we mean when we use the term "justification." It is really very simple. To justify something means to declare that it is righteous. It is translated from the Greek word dikaioo. It is a term that was used by a judge to pronounce a verdict of "not guilty."
I think that we can best understand it when we contrast it with its opposite. The opposite of justification is condemnation. To condemn is to declare that someone is guilty. To justify is to declare that someone is righteous.
The only problem with this is that we are not righteous. How can we be declared righteous when we are so obviously not righteous? It is through faith. When we believe in Jesus Christ, His righteousness is put to our account and credited to us. In the same way that our sins were credited to Him on the cross, so His righteousness is credited to us when we believe.
He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:21).
This is the issue that Paul is dealing with as he confronts Peter. Peter is acting as though keeping the Law is necessary for a man to be justified. Peter's hypocrisy is leading people astray. They have been taught that justification comes through faith. Is it also necessary to proselyte to Judaism and to be circumcised and to keep the Mosaic Law to be saved? Is there some special merit in the eyes of God to being Jewish?
1. Jews Versus Sinners: We are Jews… and not sinners from among the Gentiles (2:15).
"We" refers to Jewish Christians. Peter and Paul are both Jewish. They are Jews by nature. They did not proselyte into Judaism. They were born Jewish.
The word "sinners" is synonymous with being a Gentile. A Gentile was considered to be a sinner. This is not so much a moral term as it is a legal term. You see, the Gentile had no Law. He had never been given the Mosaic Law. The Law had only been given to Jews. The Gentile did not have the Law. Therefore he could not help but to be one who did not keep the Law.
Because he did not have the Law, he lived in violation of it. Since he had none of the ceremonial laws, he could not obey them. By virtue of being a Gentile, he was automatically classified as a sinner.
The Jews, on the other hand, lived by the Law. They were brought up to observe the ordinances of the Law. But here is the point that Paul is going to make. Don't miss this!
Even the Jews who had the Law and were brought up to keep the Law soon discovered that there was only one way to be justified. They discovered that they could only be justified through faith. This means that Jews are the same as Gentiles when it comes to being justified. Jews are not justified by keeping the Law. Jews, even though they are not sinners from among the Gentiles, still have to be justified by faith and not by keeping the Law.
2. The General Truth of Justification: A man is not justified by the works of the law (2:16).
This verse contains three statements. Each statement deals with this same truth of justification. The first statement is general. The second. statement is personal. The third statement is universal.
A man is not justified by the works of the law but through faith in Christ Jesus
We have believed in Christ Jesus, that we may be justified by faith in Christ, and not by the works of the Law
By the works of the Law shall no flesh be justified
This first statement is general in nature. Paul is stating a general principle. He is stating a principle with which Peter is already familiar. Both Peter and Paul know this as apostles. They have both made apostolic proclamations to this effect. The truth is that no man can be justified by piling up good works, by going to church, by giving money, or by trying to keep the Ten Commandments.
The only way that a man can be saved is through faith. This brings us to an important question.
What is faith? Faith involves the acceptance of certain facts. It involves believing that Jesus is the Son of God and that He died for sins and that He rose again. But this is not all that faith is. Satan believes that Jesus is the Son of God and that He died for sins and that He rose again.
You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. (James 2:19).
Satan and his demons believe that God exists. They are acquainted with certain historical facts about the life and ministry of Jesus. But they are not saved. What is the difference between their faith and the faith of a child of God? Faith involves an appropriation of the facts. This is the kind of faith that leads to salvation. Faith is a dependence upon God. It is not simply realizing that the gift of salvation has been offered, but it is also the taking of that gift.
It is like having a glass of water. You can hold that glass in your hand, be fully aware of its chemical makeup, know that it has been freely offered to you and that it is yours to drink, but if you do not actually drink of it, there has been no benefit.
2. The Personal Truth of Justification: We have believed in Christ Jesus (2:16).
Now Paul moves from the general to the personal. The same principle is repeated in a way that relates it personally to Peter. It is a plea to his personal experience.
Both Peter and Paul were Jewish. They had been brought up under the Law. And they had both learned from personal experience that they would never be able to be justified by keeping the Law. They had been born Into the Law, but the legalistic experiment ended in failure in both their lives. They eventually had discovered that they were bankrupt before the Law. They had each come to the point where they realized that the Law could only condemn them and that they could only be justified by faith in Jesus Christ. Even though they were Jews and not sinners and Gentiles In the legal sense, they still had to be justified by faith, just like any Gentile.
3. The Universal Truth of Justification: By…the Law shall no flesh be justified (2:16).
The first statement was general. The second statement was personal. Now the third statement moves to the universal. It has its authority rooted in the Scriptures.
One of the Old Testament Psalms had recorded a prayer of David. It was a prayer of mercy.
Hear my prayer, O Lord,
Give ear to my supplications!
Answer me in Thy faithfulness, in Thy righteousness,
And do not enter into judgment with Thy servant,
For IN THY SIGHT NO MAN LIVING IS RIGHTEOUS. (Psalm l43:l-2).
What Paul is telling Peter is not some new teaching. It goes back to the Old Testament. David had known that it was impossible for any man to be justified before God on the basis of his own works. This is why David had asked for mercy instead of justice. David knew that if he received justice, it would result in eternal death. David knew that only by the mercy of God would he receive eternal life.
THE DANGER OF INCONSISTENCY
But if, while seeking to he justified in Christ, we ourselves have also been found sinners, is Christ then a minister of sin? May it never be!
For if I rebuild what I have once destroyed, I prove myself to be a transgressor. (Galatians 2:17-18).
Peter's problem hadn't been that he didn't know that justification was only by faith. Rather his problem was that he was acting inconsistently with what he knew to be the truth. Paul now confronts Peter (and anyone else who engages In such inconsistent acts of legalism) with the logical results of this inconsistency.
Even though Peter and Paul had been brought up under the Law, they had both come to realize that the Law could never save them. Therefore, they are now seeking to be justified in Christ. However if they and all of the Jewish believers that followed them were wrong in leaving the Law and seeking only to be justified in Christ, then that means that Christ is the way of sin and not the way of salvation.
This is the question that has come up. Are Jewish Christians supposed to seek to be justified only by faith in Jesus Christ, or are they to seek justification through obedience to Jewish rituals, including separation from Gentiles?
If the latter is true, then Jesus has been promoting sin. Jesus taught that it is not what goes into a man that defiles him but what comes out of him. He taught that all things are clean. He taught that you could be saved just by believing. Peter, by his actions, has been implying that Jesus was wrong. By his actions, Peter has been condemning Jesus. Jesus taught that the separation of Jew and Gentile was now invalid. He broke down the middle wall of partition between Jew and Gentile.
But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one, and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall. (Ephesians 2:13-14).
The work of Jesus was to bring the Jew and the Gentile into one body — the body of Christ. This means that there is to be no more separation between Jew or Gentile. Now Paul says, "Peter, you are going to have to make up your mind. Either Jesus was right and it is okay to eat with Gentiles or else He was wrong and He is guilty of leading us into sin."
If Paul or Peter or any other Jewish Christian seeks to rebuild the legalistic system which he did away with when he was saved, then he is showing by his actions that he is a transgressor. He is either a transgressor for having torn the system down in the first place, or he is now a transgressor for trying to rebuild what he once tore down. In either case, he is showing that he has sinned. The point is obvious.
Paul is saying in effect, "You are guilty of transgression, Peter. The only question is when did you do it? Did you do it when you first followed Jesus and set aside the ritualistic system of Judaism, or did you sin just now when you stopped eating with Gentiles?"
DEAD TO THE LAW
For through the Law I died to the Law, that I might live to God.
I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me, and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me.
I do not nullify the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly. (Galatians 2:19-21).
If there was ever a man who might have been justified through the keeping of the Law, it would have been Paul. He had been circumcised on the eighth day according to the Law. He had become a Pharisee of the Pharisees — he was a Jew who held to the literal interpretation of the Scriptures. He had been trained in the school of Gamaliel. He had been zealous in his legalism.
And yet, the only thing that Paul ever got from the Law was condemnation and death. The very Law that he struggled to keep condemned him because he was unable to keep it perfectly. The penalty for not keeping the Law perfectly is death. Thus, the Law condemned Paul to death.
1. A Legal Death: For through the Law I died to the Law (2:19).
This is the reason that Paul cannot rebuild the Law that he has in effect destroyed. This is the reason he cannot go back to the Law. It is because he is dead to the Law. The Law judged him as a guilty sinner. The Law condemned him to death. And then the sentence was carried out.
When did this take place? In what way did Paul die to the Law? The answer is found in the next verse.
2. A Lasting Union: I have been crucified with Christ (2:20).
When the Law demanded that the penalty of death be carried out, those demands were carried out against Christ. This means that Jesus was crucified as Paul's representative. Paul was legally crucified with Christ. He is legally considered to have been put to death.
You see, Paul has been identified with Christ through faith. Anyone who has placed their faith in Jesus as their Savior has been identified with Christ. When the Law demanded our death, the sentence of death was carried out in the death of Christ on the cross. He took our place. He died instead of us. The sentence has been carried out. We are considered by the Law to have died on the cross. This means that the Law has no more dominion over us. The Law does not condemn a dead man. The Law only judges the living. The Law can no more judge us than a court could dig up a corpse and require it to stand trial.
3. A Living Destiny: Christ lives in me (2:20).
Not only have we been placed into the body of Christ, but Christ has also come to live within us. This means that my life is eternally wrapped up in Jesus Christ. His destiny is my destiny. His inheritance is my inheritance. His life is my life.
Christianity is not merely a theological system of beliefs or a code of moral conduct that I am to follow. Christianity is a new relationship. It is a person living inside me.
4. A Loving Call: And the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith (2:20).
Even though I now have a position with Christ in heaven, I still have to live out this life confined within this earthly body. But this does not mean that my present life is not affected by that heavenly position. Because I have been crucified with Christ, I now have a new responsibility to live accordingly.
How am I to live? Paul gives the principle here in this verse. I am to live by faith and in the light of God's love. I am to live in accordance with the new life that I believe I now have.
Peter's problem was that he had not been living by faith. He had been living by public opinion. He had been living as though righteousness could come through the keeping of the Law instead of through faith in Christ.
5. A Lamentable Conclusion: I do not nullify the grace of Gody (2:21).
Either righteousness comes through the keeping of the Law or else it comes through faith in Jesus Christ. Peter has been living as though it could come through the Law. But if this is true, then Christ did not have to die on the cross for our sins.
If righteousness comes through the Law
Christ died needlessly
And the grace of God is nullified
God's grace has been offered to all men through the cross. But if you believe that Christ died needlessly, then you are declaring that grace to be null and void. But the death of Christ was not in vain. To the contrary, it is the source of salvation for all who will believe.