Paul Corrects Peter
11When Peter came to Antioch, I told him face to face that he was wrong. 12He used to eat with Gentile followers of the Lord, until James sent some Jewish followers. Peter was afraid of the Jews and soon stopped eating with Gentiles. 13He and the others hid their true feelings so well that even Barnabas was fooled. 14But when I saw they were not really obeying the truth that is in the good news, I corrected Peter in front of everyone and said:
Peter, you are a Jew, but you live like a Gentile. So how can you force Gentiles to live like Jews?
15We are Jews by birth and are not sinners like Gentiles. 16 But we know that God accepts only those who have faith in Jesus Christ. No one can please God by simply obeying the Law. So we put our faith in Christ Jesus, and God accepted us because of our faith.
17When we Jews started looking for a way to please God, we discovered that we are sinners too. Does this mean that Christ is the one who makes us sinners? No, it doesn't! 18But if I tear down something and then build it again, I prove that I was wrong at first. 19It was the Law itself that killed me and freed me from its power, so I could live for God.
I have been nailed to the cross with Christ. 20I have died, but Christ lives in me. And I now live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave his life for me. 21I don't turn my back on God's gift of undeserved grace. If we can be acceptable to God by obeying the Law, it was useless for Christ to die.
There is no way to exaggerate the way the Spirit of God has used this text in the life of the church and world. For in it the gospel – the “no other gospel” – is stated so clearly.
Peter knew the gospel. He knew that in Jesus, God has done everything that needs to be done for us to live in relationship with him. Peter knew we are accepted solely on the basis of the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ (Galatians 1:10). But Peter was still wrestling with it all. He was still worried about what others would think, especially his fellow Jews, some of whom were insisting that we needed to add “good works” to the work of Jesus, and keep all the scruples of his former way of life. Paul, caring both for Peter’s soul and for the pure proclamation of the gospel, confronts Peter, and calls him back to truth. “No one can please God by simply obeying the Law. So we put our faith in Christ Jesus, and God accepted us because of our faith” (2:16).
In that context, Paul goes on to state as plainly as he can what the new life in Jesus is all about. Jesus not only dies for us, he takes us up into his death; we die with him. “I have died” … “But Christ lives in me.” IN. Not only for us; not only with us; but IN us! “And now I live by faith in the Son of God.” Of course! Because he “loved me and gave his life for me.” What else can I do but now live for him?
“Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were a present far too small. Love so amazing, so Divine, demands my life, my all” (Charles Wesley). Yes dear God, yes. In Jesus’ name. Amen.