Summary: Justification by faith, according to Galatians.
THE SECOND SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST
June 13, 2004
St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church
The Rev. M. Anthony Seel , Jr.
“Justified by Faith“
Let us pray.
O God, by the preaching of your apostle Paul you have caused the light of the Gospel to shine throughout the world: Grant, we pray, that we, having his wonderful conversion in remembrance, may show ourselves thankful to you by following his holy teaching, through Christ our Lord. Amen.
His father wanted him to become a lawyer, and he studied philosophy and law to that end. At age 20 he was prepared to begin his career in civil law, but during that year something happened that would change human history. Church historian Roland Bainton describes what happened in this way:
On a sultry day in July of the year 1505 a lonely traveler was
trudging over a parched road on the outskirts of the Saxon village
of Stotterheim. He was a young man, short but sturdy, and wore
the dress of a university student. As he approached the village,
the sky became overcast. Suddenly there was a shower, then a
crashing storm. A bolt of lightning rived the gloom and knocked
the man to the ground. Struggling to rise, he cried in terror, “St.
Anne help me! I will become a monk.” [Here I Stand, p. 15]
And he did become a monk, but even that did not quell the religious turmoil that was engulfing his soul. It is said that one time while in his monastery cell he threw an inkbottle at the devil who was disturbing his studies. He practiced the mortifications of the flesh that he believed would bring his peace, but they never did bring his peace. Bainton explains
He laid upon himself vigils and prayers in excess of those
stipulated by the rule. He cast off blankets permitted him and
well-nigh froze himself to death. At times he was proud of his
sanctity and would say, “I have done nothing wrong today.”
Then misgivings would arise. “Have you fasted enough? Are
you poor enough?” Then he would strip himself of all save that
which decency required. [Ibid., p. 34]
Martin Luther says about himself,
I was a good monk, and I kept the rule of my order so strictly that
I may say that if ever a monk got to heaven by his monkery it was
I. All my brothers in the monastery who knew me will bear me out.
If I had kept on any longer, I should have killed myself with vigils,
prayers, reading, and other work. [Ibid.]
Martin Luther was literally killing himself with piety, but it brought him no inner peace. He tried to compensate for his sins through holy striving, but to no avail. He never felt that he could balance the ledger between his sins and his righteous acts. One day he discovered another way, a better way, but we will get to that later.
First, consider Peter and Paul in Antioch. Peter is called Cephas in the first verse of our second lesson, where we read
vv. 11-12 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 Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party.
Paul speaks to Peter, another Jewish Christian, about the hypocrisy of his behavior. Before a group of Jewish Christians who had come from Jerusalem, Peter stopped eating with Gentiles. He feared the condemnation of his Jerusalem brethren, and so he changed his behavior to please them. Paul next reports the result of Peter’s actions:
v. 13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabus was led astray by their hypocrisy.
Because of Peter’s example, other Jewish Christians also refused to eat with Gentiles, including Barnabus. Barnabus was a powerful church leader among the Gentiles. He was Paul’s sponsor when Paul first presented himself after his conversion to the church in Jerusalem. Peter was recognized as one of the most prominent of the apostles, and even Barnabus has been affected by Peter’s practice. Paul comments
v. 14 But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all; "If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?"
Paul confronted Peter about his behavior because it was hurting other Christians. This separation of Jews and Gentiles in the church that Peter was promoting by his behavior was not right. Jews and Gentiles are one in Christ, as Paul says more explicitly at the end of chapter 3. Peter’s behavior was offensive to God, the church, and to Paul personally. Paul acted out of deep concern and great love for the church. Paul sees that the truth of the gospel is at stake, and so he confronts Peter.