“acting in line with the truth of the gospel” – CHRISTIANS NEED THE GOSPEL TOO
The very unity of the church through faith in Christ alone for salvation which Paul went to Jerusalem to confirm (2:1-10) and Peter, James and John agreed to, is seen here in these verses to be threatened by Peter’s actions of separating himself from eating with the Gentiles “because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision” (v.12). His actions also threatened the message of the gospel –faith in Christ alone apart from the law.
Before this event God had personally revealed to Peter that no food or people are unclean who trust in Jesus. “Then a voice told him, "Get up, Peter. Kill and eat." 14"Surely not, Lord!" Peter replied. "I have never eaten anything impure or unclean." 15The voice spoke to him a second time, "Do not call anything impure that God has made clean." 16This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven.” (Acts 10:13-16). And we see in Acts 11 that Peter even defended his eating with the Gentiles to the circumcised believers. “So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him 3and said, "You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them." 4Peter began and explained everything to them precisely as it had happened: So if God gave them the same gift as he gave us, who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could oppose God?" (Acts 11: 1-4; 17; also see Peter’s speech in Acts 15: 7-11)
So what caused Peter to go back on all he had experienced, believed and spoken out strongly for? … “He was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision” (v.12) simply put: peer pressure. He wanted acceptance from man because he wasn’t “acting in line with the truth of the gospel” (v.14a) which tells him and us that we are unconditionally loved and accepted by God Almighty Himself through faith in Christ. Peter was reverting back to racial pride (being a Jew) and legalism (keeping the law- or self-righteousness) to gain a sense of self-esteem/self-acceptance.
Paul confronted Peter by pointing him back to the gospel rather than condemning him as a prideful racists or legalists. Peter, you forgot who you are – a beloved son of God. You don’t have to prove yourself to anyone.
We must know that as God’s sons we are never condemned by Him (Rom 8:1) and are always loved and accepted by Him or else we like Peter can revert back to performance based acceptance (works righteousness) with God and man. As His sons, God now disciplines us in His love when we sin so that we will share in His holiness which is our highest good (Heb. 12: 5-11) but He never rejects us. He loves the sinner (our person) but hates and deals with our sin (our wrong actions/attitudes).
Christians need the gospel too. It is not just the ABC’s of the faith, it is the A-Z. One minute Peter was eating with the Gentiles showing that he knew they were his brothers in the faith and the next minute he was breaking fellowship with them to keep the law. Paul points out his hypocrisy and inconsistency. (v. 14b) Pastor Tim Keller says that unless we believe the gospel we will try to manufacture self-esteem/self-acceptance through our performance. If we try to earn God’s love through our performance we will either feel spiritually proud when we are feeling successful or very discouraged and self-condemning when we feel we are failing.
“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.” (v. 15-16). Justified is a legal term that means we are declared righteous by God versus under His condemnation or punishment for sin. This is true even though we still sin. But it is also true that we will lose eternal rewards for all that is not done for God’s glory as a response to His great love. Salvation is by faith alone but rewards are by works done in God’s power.
Gal 2: 19-20 – As believers we are “dead” yet “alive”. The old “I” which was animated by self – self–righteousness, self-confidence, self-esteem, self-promotion, self-sufficiency, self-love, self-pity, self-condemnation – has been “crucified with Christ” (v. 20). We died with Christ who paid the penalty for sin (law breaking) and thus the law can no longer condemn us – the penalty has been paid. We also died to pride; the pride of earning God’s favor for our goodness (v. 19) and thus we died to pride with man. Pride of race, or status, or position, or net worth, are “another gospel” our self-righteousness which to God is “filthy rags.” (Isaiah 64:6) Yet we are alive. The new “I” is animated by Christ (v.20) and the indwelling Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:2-4) and wants to obey and please God (Rom. 7:22), to live for God’s glory not self-glory (v. 19) because “He loved us and (thus) gave Himself for us.” (v. 20) As Christians, selfishness will no longer satisfy us except for the moment. (Heb 11:25) This is “spiritually true” and by faith (believing what God says) we can grasp it. “The life I now live in the body I live by faith in (by adherence to and reliance on and complete trust in) the Son of God, Who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” (v.20 Amp.)
Discussion Questions FOR APPLICATION OF GOD’S WORD
Share how peer pressure caused you to do things you knew were wrong in order to fit in as a child or teenager. Where do you still wrongly respond to peer pressure to fit in, to be accepted by your peers? Heed Jesus’ warning in Luke 16:15. What are the things “highly esteemed by man”?
For a moment Peter wrongly took pride in his race (Jewish) and his law-keeping (circumcised, ate only “clean” foods). What may you wrongly take pride in? See 1 Cor. 4:7.
Do you struggle with self-condemnation? How is it a form of pride? How can you know the difference between Satan’s accusations and self-condemnation versus God’s conviction? See Romans 8:1
As Christians, selfishness will no longer satisfy us except for the moment. (Heb 11:25) Do you believe this? The old “I” lived for self and the new “I” wants to live for God. How do we grasp the truth in Gal. 2:20 and practically live it out? The story goes that a boy was telling his Father that he felt like he had two dogs fighting inside him all the time. The Father asked, “Which one wins?” The boy replied, “The one I feed.” See Romans 8:5-8.
“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.” (James 1:22-25) It is in doing God’s Word, not in just hearing it, that we are blessed. What action will you take to apply these truths to your life?
Scripture memory verse: “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.” (Gal. 2:20)