Living Out the Gospel
Topic: The Gospel Passage: Galatians 2:11–2:19
This morning we are going to talk about two of the most important truths you will ever hear. They are found in this passage and they are wrapped into an intense and dramatic story!
This passage introduces the idea of JUSTIFICATION for the first time in this book. The opposite of justification is condemnation. Condemnation is to be declared guilty. Justification is to be declared innocent, or NOT guilty. It is to be declared righteous. The gospel teaches that God makes us right with him, forgiving us, accepting us, NOT on the basis of anything we did but on what Christ did for us.
The glory of the gospel is that someone like you and me, who have sinned and failed to live the ideal life God requires, can be just before God by faith in Christ. That’s NOT just something that happened when you first believed. You never get beyond that! Today you are right with God, today you are accepted by God, today God welcomes you with open arms, NOT based on your performance but on what Christ did for you. He loved you and gave himself for you, so you could enjoy this status with God!!
This passage also introduces us to the amazing truth that JESUS CHRIST LIVES IN US. “I have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me”. By faith alone, Jesus Christ comes to live within you by his Spirit. He comes to live his life through you, to express himself, to manifest himself through you. The cross of Christ cancels out your sins and the Spirit of Christ heals you and makes you whole.
There is NOTHING you can do to earn any of this! You cannot be morally good enough to cause God to do this for you. There are no laws or rules you can keep to make this happen! Laws cannot save anybody, and laws cannon heal any body.
What Christ accomplished FOR you at the cross, and what he accomplishes IN you now by his Spirit, needs nothing else added to it to make it happen or to make it work for you! Nothing but Faith!! You can only RECEIVE IT by trusting in Christ.
Through faith in Christ alone, you possess a justification so complete that no law or ceremony can be added to it to make you any more right with God, than you already are. You possess a forgiveness so total that nothing else can be done to make you any more forgiven. You possess a new life, in the Spirit that cannot be regulated by laws or rules and does not need to be regulated by laws.
The point of this passage is: If these things are true then we must live like these things are true. We must show people BY THE WAY WE LIVE, that we are confident in what Christ did for us, that we believe it was enough! We must place our security, completely, in this acceptance we have with God. And we must actually believe that others who believe in Christ, are accepted by God by faith in Christ alone!! And we must treat them like they are accepted by God.
We accept one another as justified people. We associate with one another as justified people. We welcome one another into our hearts as God has welcomed us. We don’t require other believers to follow certain outward rules or requirements before we embrace them in fellowship. We treat one another as fellow heirs of the grace of life! You don’t treat your spouse as a condemned person but as a justified person!
If Jesus Christ lives in us by his Spirit then we are free to live for God without laws, because we have the powerful working of the Spirit of Christ within us. We don’t try to manage our own lives by self effort or self helps, and we don’t try to manage other believers by a set of rules or laws, as though that is what will heal them.
In all things, with all people, we live out this doctrine, that we are justified by faith alone in Christ. We live out this doctrine that Christ lives in us by his Spirit. Yet...The story in this chapter illustrates how hard this can be to do, often, because of pressure from other people, and fear of other people
The apostle Peter came to Antioch, where Paul was living and preaching. There were many Jews who had received Christ there and there were many non-Jews there who had also received Christ. Based on Paul’s teaching and also on what Peter knew to be true, Peter and Paul and the other Jews understood that Jews and non-Jews were right with God through faith in Christ and so they ate freely together. They fellowshipped at meals. They talked and laughed and enjoyed each other! They shared the Lord’s Supper together. In Christ they were not under the food laws. So they freely ate and drank together.
God had already shown Peter that the laws and restrictions about foods were obsolete. God took them away. God gave Peter a vision and he saw all kinds of animals. And a voice said “Arise, kill and eat.. God has declared these things clean so don’t dare call unclean what God has called clean”. So Jews and Gentiles can eat together in Christ. They can eat the same foods. Peter can eat with Gentiles! Peter knew that and was doing that. Acts 10:28 “God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean”.
They were living out their new life in Christ in a very practical matter, who they ate with and what they ate. Whether Jew or Gentile, male or female, slave or free, we are all justified before God on the SAME basis, by faith in Jesus Christ. So we accept one another, we enjoy one another, we eat with one another…But something happened to change this free and beautiful fellowship.
Certain men came from James and they were dead set against these new ideas of liberty from the law. They said you have to keep the Jewish law in addition to faith in Christ. Jews have to keep separate from Gentiles and keep a separate diet. They did not accept the full truth of the gospel. They did not believe in being justified before God by faith in Christ alone. They would not let go of the things they had held onto for SO long to make them acceptable to God.
When these guys came to Antioch, Peter was afraid of them! He knew they would be angry if they saw him eating with Gentiles and eating Gentile foods. And he caved into the pressure of appeasing them. He acted out of fear!
Fear of people and wanting to please people out of fear, keeps us from living out the freedom of the gospel. The Bible says, “The fear of man brings a snare”. Fear probably leads to more sin than any other emotion. You cannot serve fear and God. If fears and insecurities are allowed to dominate your life it will lead to all kinds of disobedience to God. How much better if Peter had said, “We did not give in to them even for a moment”. But he didn’t…..
He withdrew and stopped eating with the non-Jews. When the other Jewish believers saw this, they also stopped eating with the Gentiles. And even Barnabas, got up and left the table where he had been sitting and eating.
This is one of the most tense and explosive situations in the entire Bible. Peter is considered chief of the apostles. Paul is the other leading apostle. This delegation from Jerusalem are evidently leaders and influential men. The pressure to conform to their expectations is intense. Peter is influenced by these men from Jerusalem. Paul’s best friend and fellow worker Barnabas, went along with them. All the Jewish Christians in Antioch follow along with Peter and the party of the circumcision. Paul is all alone. Not one person aligns with him. Yet he sees this is a crisis for the gospel! And he speaks up!!!
Verse 14 says, “When Paul saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, he confronted Peter in front of them all”. We might feel sorry for Peter here. It is painful to be corrected in front of others! But think of what fears Paul must have overcome to speak up like this! Why did he do it? Because Peter’s actions denied the gospel of acceptance though faith in Christ alone.
Peter DID believe in our liberty from the law. BUT he ACTED like we were NOT free from the law, because of pressure from this group of people. That was hypocrisy. HE COMMUNICATED by his actions, that faith is Christ was not enough. He gave the impression, that if you eat what Gentiles eat, you sin. If you do NOT eat with them you are righteous. That is not the basis of our righteousness! Whether you eat or drink doesn’t have anything to do with our righteousness before God. It is through faith in Christ alone.
Verse 14 continues, Peter, “You are a Jew, but you have been living in liberty, like a non-Jew, until these law-enforcers came from Jerusalem. How can it make sense, now, for you to make the non-Jews follow Jewish laws and customs? You haven’t even been following them yourself!
Verse 15 Paul said, “We who are Jews by birth HAVE SEEN that a man is not justified by observing the law but by faith in Jesus Christ”. The Jews had tried to please God by keeping the law and failed miserably. They knew in a profound way that they could not get right with God by keeping all the laws.
Verse 16 “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”. Paul is emphasizing that even we who are Jews, have come to Christ, without our law-keeping, without our best efforts, without our spiritual performance. We have come only to RECEIVE justification as a gift of God through faith in Jesus Christ.
For NO ONE will be justified by keeping the law! The most moral person in the world, the most religious person in the world, the most Jewish person who has tried to keep every single law….NO ONE will be right with God on their goodness or their works.
Here is what Paul was saying, Peter was acting NOW as IF he had been sinning when he did eat with them. If he was sinning by eating with Gentiles, then Christ promotes sin, because it is the gospel of Jesus Christ that has led us to live free from the law and therefore free to eat together and even eat the same things!
So if that was sinning, then you have made Christ a promoter of sin! Which is an abhorrent thing to think and obviously not true. The New Living Translation says, "But suppose we seek to be made right with God through faith in Christ and then we are found guilty because we have abandoned the law (to eat with Gentiles). Would that mean Christ has led us into sin? Absolutely not!"
Then Paul goes on….Verse 18 “Rather I AM a sinner if I rebuild the old system of law I already tore down. Paul has already destroyed the law as a basis of our acceptance with God, by preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. To go back and reestablish law and works as the basis of our salvation, would be a terrible transgression against God.
Verse 19 Because “Through the law I died to the law that I might live for God”. When I tried to meet all the requirements of the law it condemned me or it killed me. It brought me to utter despair.
The law comes along and you shall not covet anything anybody else has. And instead of helping you NOT covet, you see how you do covet other people’s things, or their circumstances, or their spouse, or THEIR job, or THEIR gifts. When you are put up against the law, it proves you to be a lawbreaker. It condemns you. It find you guilty. It shows you to be and makes you see that you are a guilty, broken, hopeless sinner. And as a guilty, broken, sinner. you then turn away from the law to Christ to justify you. So you died to the law.
To die means to no longer be responsive to it, or not alive to it, which means to be freed from it. Paul said, “I had to die to the law so I could really live for God”. The law is good but it does not give you the power to live for God. It takes your temperature and tells you, you are sick, but it cannot heal you.
The gospel is what heals you. It makes you just before God. AND it comes not with merely a command to please God, but with the LIFE of Jesus Christ to enable you to please God. “For I have been crucified with Christ. And it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me….”.
Christ lives in you by his Spirit. So it is no longer just you who live. Life is now trusting him, moment by moment to manifest himself in and through you. Everyday is a spiritual adventure, NOT of following a list of laws but of experiencing a person, Jesus Christ, living through you.
The only thing that can kill the joy and the glory and the freedom of this is to FORGET THE GOSPEL, and to go back and try to put yourself under law-keeping, like what Peter did when these people came from Jerusalem and wanted everybody to still keep the law.
This is an easy trap to fall into. And I think all of us stumble into it at time. Some Christians seem to never really escape the pressure of law-keeping and the fear of those who would compel them to a law-keeping kind of Christianity. They are not happy. They are not free. They do not enjoy fellowship with the saints. They are constantly judging and criticizing other believers. And they do not see the Christian life as a glorious thing or the gospel as a glorious answer to life.
What does this mean for you? What does this mean for people like us at RLC?
One: Get and keep a clear understanding in your own mind about the gospel of Jesus Christ. Absorb it into your life. Let the gospel affect how you think about yourself and about God and about others.
Two: Do not let law-keeping people pressure you into a rule based Christianity through fear of displeasing them.
We all know what it is like to act out of fear, instead of what is right and true. Social pressure is a powerful pressure. Even Peter fell. If someone comes along with a legalistic version of the Christian life, it is VERY EASY to cave into that.
I remember hearing someone tell me emphatically and legalistically, “You cannot grow spiritually if you don’t do spiritual journaling”. You hear stuff like that and it can make you feel like I must be a terrible Christian because I’ve never done that. Then you think, “that person will never accept me because I don’t do spiritual journaling!”. And you take on a task like that to gain acceptance with God, which you already have in Christ and you do it to gain acceptance with other people which you should already have in Christ. And you get your life all bound up.
Paul says, we are called to freedom and we are to act as free people, not free to indulge the sinful nature but free to live for God without rules and ceremonies or rituals.
Some people who have never grasped the glory of justification and the glory of Christ living in us by his Spirit, use the Bible as a list of verses which they turn into a list of laws and impose them on other people with the harshness and condemnation of the law. You can turn the instruction of the New Covenant into a harsh and strict laws, but it was not given in that spirit. It was written to justified people, for instruction for the life we have in the Spirit.
When someone has stumbled and needs to be restored we don’t call them back to rules or laws but to Christ (and to the Spirit).
Three: If we understand that we ALL are justified ONLY by faith in Christ and that NO one is justified by law-keeping, we will view one another as ALL being on the same plane. We will look down on no one, who is in Christ. We will show respect for one another, submit to one another, associate with one another, welcome one another as God has welcomed us!
People who think they are of a special spiritual status, or view their own law-keeping as making them more acceptable to God than others, are very critical of others. They hold themselves aloof from others. Because for them Christianity is still a matter of meeting performance standards, and if they think they keep those standards better than others they look down their nose at others Christians they deem less acceptable than they are.
Four: We've been dealt with on the basis of grace so we are gracious to other people. We received grace so we give grace. We are gracious to those in the family of God. We are gracious to unbelievers. We have grace for the plumber that comes to work at our home. We have grace for the sales person. We are not consumed with the idea that nobody is ever going to take advantage of me. We don’t become harsh, or tough and demanding and unsympathetic. We are not primarily out to demand our rights. But we are gracious. Freely we have received so we freely give.
Five: Face the fact that it is extremely hard to break loose from traditions and practices that we secretly believe have some merit with God, other than the blood of Jesus Christ. Is there some work or standard or practice that you have held onto for a long time to make you acceptable to God? Or do you glory in Christ Jesus only?