Summary: There is a monumental issue at stake. The Gospel of Grace is being weighed in the balance. Donft turn Christianity into a list of rules. It takes extra work to be Spirit led.
How would you like to walk up to the man who preached the Pentecost sermon, get up close to his face, (this man who walked on water), look him straight in the eye in front of a crowd of people and say, Peter my buddy, Cephas old pal, you are not preaching the true gospel. You better straiten up and fly right.
Thatfs what Paul did. He rebuked Peter to his face. And there was nothing Peter could do except stand there red faced knowing that Paul was exactly right.
In Chapter 1 of Galatians Paul expresses his astonishment that the churches in the region of Galatia have so quickly deserted the true gospel for a false Gospel. Then in the first part of Chapter 2 Paul flashes back to what is known as the Jerusalem Council described in Acts 15.
There was a monumental issue at stake. The Gospel of Grace was being weighed in the balance. At the Jerusalem conference Paul scored a victory for Spiritual Liberty. Just to think that the first century church almost abandoned the true gospel for a system of legalism. It was about to become like the church of the dark ages before the reformation.
But it got even worse. After the Jerusalem Council it seemed like everyone but Paul was willing to compromise the gospel and the central issue of salvation. It was almost like a second rate science fiction plot.
You know the movie plot. Aliens invade the earth from outer space and come to take over the world. These aliens have a ray gun and all the good guys are under their spell and helping the aliens take over the world. Only the movie hero is not affected and he must stand alone (along with one heroine) to save the world. He finds a way to get the other good guys back to their right mind and he saves the day. Hurray!
The list of the good guys who were under the spell of the Judaizersf ray gun was unbelievable: Peter, Barnabas and James. This time it is not science fiction. Paul is the hero and he must get the good guys back to their right mind to save the day for the true gospel. The true gospel opposes legalism.
11When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. 12Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. 13The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.
14When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, gYou are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?
15We who are Jews by birth and not eGentile sinnersf 16know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. 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.
At the Jerusalem council Paul won a battle for Spiritual Liberty. But any struggle for Liberty is never final. Patrick Henry cried, gGive me liberty or give me death.h His cry was regarding American freedom from an oppressive English government. It was a battle for free speech and freedom of religion.
But Patrick Henry also had to fight for liberty again on another day. This time he helped the Baptists of Virginia who had endured cruel punishments, even beatings, because a state church formed supported by taxes. They were persecuted from the fellow Americans that had just gained their own liberty. Those who had gained their freedom now oppressed others.
Leon McBeth in the textbook The Baptist Heritage/Four Centuries of Baptist Witness says: gIronically the settlers, who had come from dissenter status, moved to worship according to their convictions, established themselves as the official church in America and persecuted those who dissented from them.h page 255
Human nature is drawn to sin. It seems every one of us are prone to legalism and bondage. The battle for liberty must be repeated. There was a first century struggle found in the New Testament for spiritual liberty.
Legalism is an ongoing issue and we must be aware. Moody Monthly Magazine listed gThe Trouble with Legalismh as their lead story in 1994. It is as relevant today as at any time. As Christians we should never walk by rules, we must walk by faith. The Holy Spirit is our guide.