The greeting.

Grace, peace, and mercy to you from God the Father to those who love God the Son. Beloved, God has brought us safely through another week. I pray that we would have grown in our faith in our Christ. More love to Thee O Christ, more love to Thee. (hymn #649)

Today we are looking at a very important portion of Scripture. The Holy Spirit has inspired Paul to write on the subject of justification. Paul will state that a correct view of justification is the essence of a correct view of the gospel of salvation. So, we are not looking at secondary matters of our Faith, but rather things that are vital or necessary to believe in order to be a true Believer.

The word.

Please open up your Bible to Galatians chapter two. I will read Galatians 2:11-21. May I read believingly and may we all hear believingly. The perfect word of our perfect God. Read.

Galatians 2:11. But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision. 13 The rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of all, “If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews? 15 “We are Jews by nature and not sinners from among the Gentiles; (see that legalists can never keep the strictures they impose on others) 16 nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified. (see Paul states this vital truth – 3 times for emphasis)  17 “But if, while seeking to be justified in Christ, we ourselves have also been found sinners, is Christ then a minister of sin? May it never be! 18 “For if I rebuild what I have once destroyed, I prove myself to be a transgressor. 19 “For through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live to God. 20 “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. 21 “I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.”

The prayer.

Please pray with me as we ask God to help us in our worship of Him this morning. Pray.

The time of opposition.

V.11-13. The apostle Paul records an instance where he opposed the apostle Peter.

Beloved there is a time and a place for everything under heaven. (Eccl.3:1-8) There is a time to remain silent. There is a time to speak. There is a time to be conciliatory. There is a time to be confrontational.

Of course, the when, the where, the why, and the how have to be governed by the word of God and by graced wisdom.

But I will point out that great care needs to be exercised with this. Our flesh is prone to misapply this principle of righteous or approved confrontation and opposition. I mean this, our flesh likes to pretend that we are all Martin Luther at the Diet of Worms. Everyone we differ with on any religious things, we say,

I cannot and will not recant anything; since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. Here I stand, I can do no other. May God help me.

Beloved, every religious difference is not a just reason to do what Paul did, oppose and critique another Believer. Especially in public.

The corruption of the gospel.

Paul confronts Peter because he sees that Peter is not being truthful to the Gospel. So the reason for the confrontation is to maintain the truth of the gospel. This is significant. Beloved, to err on the gospel is to lose all, to lose heaven, to remain in our sin.

But, if we believe the true Gospel of the true Christ we are saved, we have passed from death into life. And even if we err on secondary matters we are still saved. (Col.1:13)

Peace among brothers is a wonderful thing. (Ps.133:1-3) But peace at the expense of the gospel is sin. Likewise, opposing those that oppose the true gospel is required – especially by a minister. The truth of Christ is what matters most.

Would this have hurt the apostle Peter’s feelings? I am certain of it. Especially since it was done in public. I am sure it would have been humiliating. Though Paul did not intend it as such. Rebukes are painful even when offered for Biblical reasons. And even when offered in a right spirit.

Time and reflecting on the rebuke by faith and by God’s word is what makes the rebuke profitable. (2 Tim.3:14-17) Without these things, a public rebuke will be the source of permanent dislike and discord. You would have “lost” your brother. Beloved, we should be slower and more certain that our religious disagreements are required for gospel fidelity. (Jas.1:19-20, 2 Tim.2:24)

I will say this as well. I have no doubt that many people at the church in Antioch that witnessed this public rebuke of the apostle Peter, a beloved apostle (and the rest of the men from the Jerusalem church), would have thought Paul to have been unloving and unkind. (Acts 11:19-30) Beloved, many people agree conceptually with standing firm for the truth, even to the point of rebuking for the truth. But when it comes down to witnessing it done, especially against us or those we like; well we tend to criticize the criticizer. We need more faith to see the necessity of contending for the faith. (Jude 1:3-4)

Paul was willing to be considered unloving by the church, out of his love for Christ. And out of his true love for souls. As men will perish eternally without the true gospel. A false gospel presented in a loving manner is the greatest hatred men can conceive and commit.

See also who stands with Paul in defense of the true gospel here. No one. He is alone. Out of all the brothers, even the commended servant of the Lord Barnabas, no one but Paul speaks out against Peter’s gross sin.

Oh Beloved, everyone thinks that they have the courage to stand up for the gospel against those who hold errors on the gospel, until it comes time to do so. Standing up for Christ in a crowd of supporters is good. But it is not that hard. It takes no courage. To stand alone, out in the open, for the cause of Christ, in the face of rivals and opposers – that takes strong faith. We thank God that He has His strong servants. They help the rest of us.

The addition of the law.

Peter’s failure on the gospel is interesting. As well as sad. We have just finished a previous section of this book where Paul told us that he went to Jerusalem, in part, to seek the ruling of the apostle Peter and the other apostles and elders on the Jerusalem council concerning the gospel that he preached. Peter and the other counselors approved of the gospel that Paul preached over and against the false gospel of the Judaizers. (Gal.2:1-10, Acts 15:1-41, Acts 13:15-52, Acts 10:10-16, Acts 11:1-18) {Perhaps the rebuke occurred prior to the council} 

Let’s notice some of the particulars of this confrontation.

Paul opposed Peter to his face. Paul spoke to Peter directly. V.14. I said to him. Well we can say that this is honest and open disagreement. The Holy Spirit inspired Paul to respond quickly, decisively, and directly so as to stop the denial of the gospel from spreading any further by Peter and these men. And Peter’s bad example “did” spread. Oh, the power of sin. The power of fear.

You see the sins of a minister are worse than the congregant; they have greater opportunity to lead others astray. (Jas.3:1) (see the sins of a superior – WLC 129-130)

Now in what way was Peter not being straightforward about the gospel? Look at the text. Nothing is said about Peter denying the person or the work of Jesus Christ – expressly. That is the point. Something he is doing is implicitly denying the gospel. Why did he “stand condemned”?

Galatians 2:11. But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned.

Prior to Jewish professing Believers coming from the Jerusalem church, where the apostle Peter and James were pillars – Peter used to eat meals with Gentile Believers. After “certain men” came from James, he stopped eating with Gentiles. He withdrew from them. Out of fear of the “party of the circumcision”.

Well, Paul is saying that somehow Peter’s return to the strictures of the ceremonial law or his adherence to the man-made religious laws of the Jews was a denial of the gospel of Christ. (Mark.7:1-10) By his actions he made the Gentiles think that the gospel of pure grace was not sufficient.

Remember that God had given the Jews very distinct dietary laws. (Lev.11:1-47) God determined which foods were clean and unclean for His people. These laws were designed for a time to teach His people to discern between right and wrong as determined by God.

However, it is not clear to me that those food laws would have necessarily prohibited a Jew from sitting at a table with a Gentile eating ceremonially clean foods.

But evidently the Jews had come to take this as such. (Mk.7:1-10)

Listen to Acts ten.

Acts 10:24. On the following day he entered Caesarea. Now Cornelius was waiting for them and had called together his relatives and close friends. 25 When Peter entered, Cornelius met him, and fell at his feet and worshiped him. 26 But Peter raised him up, saying, “Stand up; I too am just a man.” 27 As he talked with him, he entered and found many people assembled. 28 And he said to them, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a man who is a Jew to associate with a foreigner or to visit him; and yet God has shown me that I should not call any man unholy or unclean.

But God showed Peter in a vision with various unclean foods – arise, kill and eat. And Peter said, never Lord. I have never eating unclean food. And God said do not declare unclean what I declare clean. And Peter knew that God was speaking of the Gentiles that would come to Christ.

And remember as well, that the apostle Peter heard from the Risen Lord Jesus Christ to go into all the nations and preach the gospel to them. (Mt.28:18-20, Acts 1:1-8)

And yet, he shrinks back! An excellent servant of Christ. But falling into a great sin. Bold and correct on one day. (Acts 15:5-11) Yet cowardly and wrong on the next. Beloved, this is the problem when we fear man and take our eyes off Christ. This is the problem when we walk by sight and not by faith. We fall miserably. (I Cor.10:12)

Beloved, keep your eyes on Christ. Be on guard against trusting in your own wisdom, strength. And beware of trusting in your past service to the Lord, even in yesterday’s faith. If the Lord does not sustain us each moment, we still have so much corruption and the devil has so much skill, we all could sin awfully in the blink of an eye. (Lk.17:5, WCF 5.5) Even the best Christians can fall. And they do – daily, in thought, word, and deed.

The fear of man.

What has happened to Peter is that he had fallen under the power of the very Judaizers that had corrupted the Galatians churches that Paul was refuting, that he rejected at the Jerusalem council. This is not to say he believed the Judaizers. I am sure he did not. This is the sin of dissimulation. Concealing one’s true thoughts or feelings, here of fear.

Now, out of fear of the “party of the circumcision” Peter denied with his actions what he preached about Christ. Oh Beloved, the fear of man is a very real thing in even true Christians.

The quote by the English Puritan William Gurnall is so true. We fear man so much because we fear God so little.

The apostle Peter succumbed to it. Beloved, never put all your trust in your self, in a minister or in a church. Fear God. Fear Christ. The fear of churchmen brings a snare. The fear of church parties brings a snare. (Prov.29:25-27) Only fear God. Only tremble at God’s word. And not the word of man. (Isa.66:2-5, Isa.8:8-14)

Beloved listen to how our religious forefathers summarized the liberties that Christ and His true gospel have purchased for us.

WCF 20.2  God alone is Lord of the conscience,(1) and hath left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men, which are, in anything, contrary to His Word, or beside it, in matters of faith or worship.(2) So that to believe such doctrines, or to obey such commands out of conscience, is to betray true liberty of conscience:(3) and the requiring of an implicit faith, and an absolute and blind obedience, is to destroy liberty of conscience, and reason also.(4)

(1) James 4:12; Rom. 14:4. (2) Acts 4:19; Acts 5:29; 1 Cor. 7:23; Matt. 23:8,9,10; 2 Cor. 1:24; Matt. 15:9. (3) Col. 2:20,22,23; Gal. 1:10; Gal. 2:4,5; Gal. 5:1. (4) Rom. 10:17; Rom. 14:23; Isa. 8:20; Acts 17:11; John 4:22; Hos. 5:11; Rev. 13:12,16,17; Jer. 8:9.

The craving for merit.

You see the Judaizers said, yes you must believe in Jesus to be saved. But that is not all. You also must be circumcised. But that is not all. You must keep the Law of Moses. Including the dietary laws. Including “their understanding” of the Law of Moses. (Acts 15:1-5, Phil.3:1-14)

Do you see how this denies the gospel? The Good News is that Christ has paid all the penalties for the broken moral law. He has kept all the precepts of the moral law. And that Christ in His person and His work has fulfilled all the ceremonial law -for us. (Luther, p.65)

The Bible says, add one of our works to God’s grace in Christ and we destroy the grace of God in the Gospel. (Rom.11:6) One supposed meritorious good work of ours added to Jesus’ completed work denies the sufficiency of Christ’s work. (Jn.19:28-30, Heb.10:1-22)

And I want to say this beloved. That often these “additions” to the merits of Christ alone appear so small, so harmless. So, what is so wrong with adding just a little rite or ceremony for my holiness? Plus, these “little” additions often appear so religious. (Col.2:13-23)

Well at the risk of appearing crass. If I gave you a cup of pure spring water and just added one tablespoon of manure into it. Would you object? After all, it was just a small tablespoon. Well, if we would consider the water corrupted, why would we not consider the waters of life corrupted? It is because we have wrong views of God, God’s law, Man’s sin, and the Savior. Our good works are for our salvation are less than manure in God’s sight next to God’s Christ. (Isa.64:6)

Or let us say, you were so poor that you sold yourself into slavery. And the price of your redemption or freedom was, let’s say, $100,000. And let’s say, that I offered to pay $90,000 towards your freedom. Would you as a slave unable to earn money be happy with that? No.

Beloved, mixing the Law with the Gospel destroys the Gospel. The Law plus the Gospel is the Law. And if you seek justification by the Law you are bound to keep all of the Law perfectly. (Gal.3:10-12, Jas. 2:10) And you will be eternally lost for it. (Legalism: justification by the gospel and the law together.)

Romans 9:30. What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith; 31 but Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law. 32 Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone, 33 just as it is written, “BEHOLD, I LAY IN ZION A STONE OF STUMBLING AND A ROCK OF OFFENSE, AND HE WHO BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.”

Romans 10:1. Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation. 2 For I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge. 3 For not knowing about God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God. 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. 5 For Moses writes that the man who practices the righteousness which is based on law shall live by that righteousness.

The justification of faith.

Now we come to the idea of justification. Justification is a legal term. It means to be declared by God to be in right standing with the law of God – as if we had never sinned, as if we had always obeyed. (Rom.5:1-17, Rom.4:1-16, Gen.15:6)

Galatians 2:16. nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified. (Gal.3:11)

One theologian says this, no one has understood Christianity who does not understand justification. (Stott, p.59) Martin Luther said concerning justification, this is the truth of the gospel. (Stott, p.59) (Stott: the truth of the gospel is the doctrine of justification, p.54, the gospel of justification by grace alone, through faith alone (in Christ alone), p.12)

Romans 3:20. because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.

The Holy Spirit tells us clearly that a person is not justified by works of the Law. Neither by works of the ceremonial law. Or works of the moral law. The law of God does not justify us. Our adherence to God’s law cannot pay for our sins. Cannot. {Roman Catholic doctrine of the treasury of merit based on “supererogation”, the excess merit of the saints, doing more than the moral law demands.}

Think of this as regards to law-keeping for law-breaking. Going the speed limit cannot pay for our breaking the speed limit. The Law is God’s moral standard. The Law does not provide for freedom from the penalties of the Law. The penalty for breaking God’s law is not to (try) and keep God’s law. The penalty for breaking God’s law is death, even to receive the wrath of God.

You see what people who think that they can keep the law to merit at least part of their right standing with God fail to understand is the moral condition of fallen man. All men have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. (Rom.3:23) No mere man since the fall of Adam is able to keep the Law of God as God requires. No one. Not one. Not an unbeliever. And not a Believer either. (Rom.3:9-18, Rom.2:21-23, Lk.18:9-14) Only Christ does.

Beloved, God says that we are justified or declared right with His moral law by faith in Christ Jesus. Let me say that again. We are justified by faith alone in Christ alone . And not by works of the Law.

This is the foundation of the true gospel of salvation. This is the primary message of the true gospel minister.

Galatians 2:19. For through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live to God. 20 “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. 21 “I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.”

Ephesians 2:13. But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, 15 by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, 16 and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity.

The call to believe in Christ alone.

V.19  You see, when a person sees him or herself rightly in relationship to the Law of God, they realize that they deserve to die for their breach of the Law. The Law shows us our law breaking. The Law can only condemn me.

Listen to this quote by John Bunyan.

To run and work the law commands but gives us neither feet nor hands. But better news the gospel brings, It bids us fly and gives us wings.

V.21 If we could be saved or justified by our own merit with our own law-keeping then it was not necessary for Christ to die for our sins.

Beloved, let us take these words of Augustus Toplady to heart. (Trinity hymnal #400)

Rock of Ages, cleft for me
Let me hide myself in thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From thy riven side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure,
Cleanse me from its guilt and pow’r.
Not the labors of my hands
Can fulfil thy law’s demands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears for ever flow,
All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and thou alone.

Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to thy cross I cling;
Naked, come to thee for dress,
Helpless, look to thee for grace;
Foul, I to the Fountain fly;
Wash me, Saviour, or I die.

While I draw this fleeting breath,
When mine eyelids close in death,
When I soar to worlds unknown,
See thee on thy judgment throne,
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in thee.

Amen

 

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