From the Pastor's Desk
Guilt. Every person on the face of the earth feels guilty. That's no doubt because every person on the
face of the earth is guilty. We are
sinners by nature and by choice. Whether
we acknowledge it or understand it or not, the sin that we all deal with in our
lives causes us to stand guilty before God for violating His law.
that's the case, every person tries in some way to alleviate that guilt. There are many different ways of doing
that. Primitive peoples in remote areas
may turn to offering an animal sacrifice to try to appease an imaginary god who
is supposedly angry with them. More
sophisticated people may look down on that as barbaric. Instead, they try to appease their guilt by
going to a psychologist or a counselor of some kind. Others deal with their guilt through positive
thinking and self-confident, self-indulgent living. Then there are always people who deal with
their guilt though immorality: sex,
alcohol or drugs.
you get right down to it, there are only two ways to try to deal with guilt in
our lives. We can try to deal with our
guilt God's way; or we can try to do it man's way. Man's way is the way of self works in an
attempt to placate God's anger by doing good things and proving our worth so
that we won't have to suffer His wrath.
The way of God is to believe in Jesus and trust Him alone for
throughout history, there have been folks both outside and inside the family of
God, who have tried to follow both of these ways to deal with their guilt. There have always been people who have tried
to follow the ways of man; folks who look to human achievement and who trust in
what man can do for God. There have also
always been people who have tried to follow the ways of God. These people look to divine accomplishments
and trust in what God has done for man.
NT times, most Israelites tried to alleviate their guilt through man's
ways. They did that by perverting and
adding to OT revelation. They believed
that they were acceptable to God because of their own goodness and their own
accomplishments. Most Jewish leaders,
epitomized by the self-righteous scribes and Pharisees, proudly believed their
religious works placed them in God's special favor and gained them forgiveness
for their sins.
was from that vast group of legalistic Jews that the Judaizers arose. They claimed to follow Christ, but at the
same time taught that a Gentile had to be circumcised and follow the Mosaic Law
before he could be saved. In addition to
that, they also believed that all believers, Jew and Gentile alike, had to
continue observance of that law in order to maintain their relation to
of the problem with the Judaizers message was that they had a warped idea of
the Messiah. They recognized Jesus as
the Messiah, but they didn't look to Him as the Lamb of God who would take away
their sins. That's because they believed
they didn't have any sin that needed to be taken away. They felt as Jews, they already had the full
favor of God and that they were spiritually and morally acceptable to Him just
as they were.
morning, as we continue on with our look at the book of Galatians, we're going
to see where the scene shifts. In the
first part of chapter two, the scene was Jerusalem and the council there. At that time, the leaders of the church in
Jerusalem declared that salvation was grace alone, through faith alone in
Christ alone. No one needed to add any
works of the flesh (which included circumcision and keeping the law) in order
to be saved or in order to complete the salvation process.
the last half of the chapter, the scene shifts to Syrian Antioch, where the
first church in a Gentile area was established.
It was here that a conflict arose between two leaders of the faith. This conflict tested what the apostles in
Jerusalem had said about the gospel message being Jesus plus nothing. Let's now read Gal. 2:11-21.
one of the false accusations that the Judaizers made against Paul was that he
was not a true apostle. That makes this
incident with Peter very significant.
Paul was not only equal to the other apostles, but on this occasion even
reprimanded Peter. Keep in mind that this
is Paul calling out the one man everyone recognized as the leading apostle
among the twelve.
incident helps Paul make his point about his true apostolic calling. Both Peter and Paul had experienced salvation
by grace through faith; both were directly chosen by the resurrected Jesus
Christ to be apostles; both had been mightily used by the Holy Spirit in
establishing and teaching the church. That
means that both Peter and Paul were bona-fide genuine apostles of the Lord
aren't sure of the time frame as to when exactly this incident took place; if
it was before or after the council in Jerusalem meeting. Whenever it was, Peter had apparently been in
Antioch for some time. The way this
reads it appears that Peter had been continuously and habitually eating with
the Gentiles from the church. He
apparently had not been having any trouble eating what they were eating; he had
no trouble sitting next to them and with them.
He had no doubt participated in numerous love feasts with Gentile
believers and joined them in the Lord's Supper.
Peter's relationship with these Gentile believers was a model of
fellowship between Jewish and Gentile Christians.
at some point, it says that men came from James to visit the church in Antioch. These were Judaizers who were once again
stirring up trouble. These false
teachers claimed to be from James, but actually were not. These men not only taught a false gospel, but
also made false claims of support by the Jerusalem apostles and elders. James would not have sent a delegation of
heretics to Antioch to undermine the true gospel and cause the church there
nothing but trouble. But they claimed to
be from James in order to try to validate their message and to make their
the Judaizers came to Antioch, things changed between Peter and the Gentile
believers there. Peter began to withdraw
and shy away from them. That means that
he no longer ate with them or spent any time with them at all. By his doing that, Peter was basically saying
that he agreed with the Judaizers and that what they were teaching was true. If he's saying that, at the same time he's
also denying that salvation is by God's grace alone through man's faith
than any other apostle, Peter should have known that in Christ all foods are
clean and that all believers are equal. He
heard Jesus explain it. Mark
7:18-19. He had experienced it
himself. Acts 10:34-35. Even at the Jerusalem council, Peter
forcefully opposed the Judaizers and what they were teaching. Acts 15:8-11.
reaction as a whole was very interesting.
He didn't fear the Judaizers because they threatened his life; or
threatened his freedom in any way. They
had absolutely no authority to do anything of the sort. They claimed to be Christians, so they
certainly didn't have the backing of the Jewish authorities to arrest, harass,
or put to death anyone for any reason.
The most the Judaizers could have done to Peter was to ridicule him and
malign him in Jerusalem. Peter was apparently
afraid of just that. He was afraid of
losing popularity and prestige with a group of self-righteous hypocrites whose
doctrines were heretical and whose tactics were deceitful.
only did Peter himself withdraw from the Gentile believers, but by his example
he indirectly induces the rest of the Jews who were with him to join in the
hypocrisy. The Greek term used here
translated hypocrisy originally referred to "an actor wearing a mask to
indicate a particular mood or type of character." A hypocrite is someone who, like an actor, "masks
his true self."
hypocrisy became so bad that even Barnabas got caught up in it. Barnabas is another man who should have known
better. It was Barnabas who had first
befriended and defended Paul when he went to Jerusalem shortly after his
conversion. It was Barnabas who had just
recently been on a fruitful mission journey with Paul. It was Barnabas who had been with Paul at the
Jerusalem council. It was Barnabas who was
now a co-pastor with Paul of the Gentile church in Antioch. Paul and Barnabas had taught together; prayed
together; ministered together; and suffered together. They were the closest of friends and loved
each other deeply.
only that, but many times Barnabas had heard Paul preach the message of the gospel
of salvation by faith alone. He would
have actually preached the same message himself many times. But even he got carried away by the
legalistic hypocrisy of Peter and the others.
have to believe that Peter and the other Jewish believers who withdrew with him
knew what they were doing was wrong. But
they were intimidated by the Judaizers into going against the truth of their
convictions and the guidance of their consciences. In seeking to please those hypocrites, they
became hypocrites themselves. Doing that
brought heartache to their Gentile brothers and most importantly heartache to
Paul found out what was happening, he took immediate action. Paul took it upon himself to oppose
Peter. Opposed means "hidden or
forbidden." It says that Paul
opposed him because he stood condemned.
Peter wasn't condemned in the sense of losing his salvation, that can't
happen. He was condemned in the sense of
"being guilty of sin by taking a position that he knew was wrong." He no doubt also stood condemned as a sinner
in the eyes of the Gentile believers in Antioch. They were no doubt perplexed and deeply hurt
by his ostracism of them.
an apostle, Peter was the most accountable and it was his wrong example that
had drawn the others into the destructive hypocrisy. Paul writes there that he felt they were
deviating from the truth of the gospel.
What he means by that is that Peter and the others were "not living
parallel to God's Word;" they were not walking a straight spiritual
Peter's compromise could do serious damage in the Antioch church, God used Paul
to nip the error in the bud. Because
Peter's offense was public, Paul rebuked him in public. Unless the public sin of a believer is dealt
with publicly, people will think the church does not take sin seriously and
therefore gives tacit approval of it. A
church that does not discipline sinning members, loses its credibility because
it doesn't take seriously its own doctrines and standards. Paul's rebuke of Peter shows that no
Christian leader, regardless of status, is beyond discipline by the Body. Public sin demands public rebuke.
indictment was straight forward. He
simply pointed out the obvious inconsistency with Peter's behavior in
Antioch. He reminded him that when he
first arrived there, Peter had freely fellowshipped with Gentile believers and
regularly ate with them. He had openly
visited in their homes and joined them in love feasts and communion, showing no
evidence of legalism or prejudice. He
lived like a Gentile, not like the Jews who were known for their separation
from all other ethnic and religious groups.
But when the Judaizers came, he slipped back into his old ways. Paul simply wanted to correct him and get him
back on track.
certainly was wrong and he needed to be reprimanded by Paul. But before we ostracize him too much, we need
to look at ourselves. In fact, it's
always a good idea to examine our hearts and our lives to make sure that we are
living the way that God wants us to be living.
fact, is, Peter wasn't unlike most of us today.
Peter would show great courage and great conviction and then
stumble. He would staunchly defend the
faith and then succumb to compromise.
How many times do we do exactly the same thing? It can be difficult to be consistent with
spiritual commitments and spiritual disciplines. It can be difficult for us in our modern
culture and society to maintain our spiritual vigilance.
like it wasn't OK for Peter to compromise or for Peter to struggle with
maintaining spiritual vigilance in his life, it's not OK for us to live that
way, either. In order to help us
maintain our spiritual vigilance, there are a couple of truths that we can
learn from this lesson and seek to apply to our lives. For one, we need to walk straight according
to the gospel.
12:13 tells us to do that exact thing.
We are told here to make straight paths for our feet. This would refer to staying in your own lane
in a race. When a runner gets out of his
or her lane, they not only disqualify themselves, but they also often interfere
with other runners. A good runner never
intentionally gets out of his lane. That
only happens when they are distracted or careless; when they lose their
concentration on the goal; or when fatigue robs them of the will to win.
we set out in the race of faith, nothing should distract us or cause us to waver
or change course. Don't let the world
and the things of the world distract you from following God. Don't lose sight of why you're living and who
you're living for. When we start to do
things for self instead of for God, we start to drift out of our lane. Don't give up and don't give in. It seems at times as if living the Christian
life just isn't worth it and it seems like it would be easier to just quit and
give in. It wouldn't. Don't lose your will to be victorious in and
for the Lord. One way for us to drift out of our lane is by showing
bigotry or prejudice towards others, like Peter did. We can't wrongly judge someone for how or
when they were baptized. We can't look
down on others based on anything but especially when it comes to the color of
their skin or their ethnicity. It
doesn't matter what economic class someone comes from or which side of the
tracks they live on.
died for everyone. Not everyone is going
to be saved, but we don't know who is or who isn't, so we need to treat and
relate to everyone as if they are a potential child of God, because they
are. We need to treat everyone with love
and respect because whether saved or unsaved, all people were still created in
the image of God and deserve to be treated in a decent and loving manner.
never OK for us to look down on others or to elevate ourselves to a level above
others, thinking that we are so high and mighty. We're not.
The only difference between us and any other human being, including the
likes of Hitler and Stalin and history's worst people, is nothing more than the
grace of God. If you think you're above
that or above them or that you'd never do what horrible people like that would
do, you're wrong.
can keep from becoming like them by living on the straight and narrow. We need to be regularly engaging in spiritual
disciplines and working regularly on maintaining spiritual vigilance in our
lives. Read your Bible; pray daily;
serve others; love God; live a life that exemplifies the Lord and shows to a
watching world that you belong to Jesus.
Don't do anything that would quench or grieve the Spirit's working in
your life. Philippians 1:27 tells us to
"live your life worthy of the gospel of Christ." High standards indeed. That's how we stay on the straight and narrow
path in life.
other truth that we need to consider this morning and that we need to apply to
our lives is that we must oppose those who deny the gospel. In 1 Cor. 16:13 and again in 2 Thess. 2:15 we
are told to "stand firm." We
need to stand firm for the truth; we need to stand firm for the gospel message;
we need to stand firm in our defense of who God is, who Jesus is and what their
message is for a lost and dying world.
we don't stand firm, who will? Sometimes
standing firm requires us to get in someone's face and rebuke them for their
sin. 1 Tim. 5:20. Are you kind of surprised that verse is even
in the Bible? This isn't a church
discipline type of scenario. It simply
means that we need to deal with sin in a way that honors and glorifies God and
that leads others to repentance. But
even if the sinning party doesn't repent, there's still a place for rebuke.
word rebuke means "to expose," "to bring to open
conviction," "to correct," or "to reprove." This is not an easy thing to do and takes
great courage. It also means that we are
doing our best and living our lives above reproach so that we will be in a position
where we can be used of God to rebuke someone for their sin.
church needs to be diligent to preserve and defend the standards that God has
given to us. He wants His body pure and
holy; He wants to use us to make a difference in the world for Christ. We can't do that if there is blatant, public
sin being committed. If that is the
case, then we have a responsibility to stand firm and to take action to bring
people's lives in line with Scripture.
That is what Paul did with Peter.
Believers, we must be diligent in maintaining spiritual vigilance in our
lives. There is never a time when it is
OK to let your guard down; it is never OK for us to slack off in our
responsibilities before the Lord. We are
followers of God all of the time; it never stops; we never take a break.
keep your eye on the prize and keep running the race of faith that you have
started to run. Never stop; never quit;
never give up; run on the straight path and keep focused on Jesus. As our singers and musicians come now, we
invite you to respond publicly to God's working in your life as we stand and as
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