From Law to Gospel [Part 1]


Are you ready for some good news?

When you’ve been set free from legalism by the gospel, you’re free no matter what.

Today’s Text: “But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy.” (Galatians 2:11–13, ESV)

As we draw to the end of our walk through Peter’s life, it’s important to pause and consider Paul’s rebuke of Peter as recorded in the Epistle to the Galatians. Scholar Timothy George explains it well by putting theoretical words in Paul’s mouth:

His argument can be summarized this way: After God called me to be an apostle, I did not even go to Jerusalem for several years. When I finally did get there, it was only for a brief get-acquainted visit with Peter, although I also bumped into James, who was present as well. After this my preaching ministry took me far to the north, to Syria and Cilicia. During this time the Christians in Judea only received hearsay reports about my work although they praised the Lord for what he was doing through me. It was well over a dozen years later when I went to Jerusalem again, this time to talk with the leaders there about how we could collaborate most effectively in the work of world evangelization. James, Peter, and John stood shoulder to shoulder with me against some false brothers who intruded into our meeting and tried to force my young friend Titus, a Gentile convert, to be circumcised. Of course, I didn’t budge an inch on this crucial issue, and when the dust had cleared, the pillar apostles and I sealed our agreement with a cordial embrace. Given this outcome, you can imagine how disappointed I was when Peter came to Antioch and engaged in a kind of behavior that I knew belied his own convictions. Not even Peter, great as he is, could resist the pressure to back away from his earlier commitment to Christian liberty. So I had to oppose him publicly because in this case, no less than during my second visit to Jerusalem, the truth of the gospel was at stake.

(Timothy George in The New American Commentary ,volume 30 Galatians)

Why was it such a big deal to Paul? It’s understandable how Peter may have rationalized the whole matter: I’m supposed to reach the Jews with the Gospel – I will be able to reach more Jewish friends if I act a bit more Jewish myself ….

It was a matter of law and grace.

When the Gospel is infected with even a little bit of law, it contaminates the whole of it. If you inject one drop of red food coloring into a clear glass of water, the whole becomes pink. Or, more starkly put, if you inject a drop of deadly poison into the glass – the whole drink is deadly. A Gospel that is partly law isn’t a Gospel at all. When you accept Christ, you are free indeed. And that’s the Gospel!

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