In Galatians 2, an interesting story is retold where Apostle Paul confronts, in front of an audience, one of the esteemed pillars of this new movement called The Way. Apostle Peter came to Antioch, perhaps not even remembering much about the incident, but Paul was waiting and ready to correct a grievous mistake. To his face, Paul said to Peter, “You stand condemned!” Paul writes that Peter, out of fear of the circumcision element of the church, acted as if he believed and practiced something he knew no longer applied, nor even practiced himself. Not only that, instead of identifying with the new Gentile believers, he abandoned and separated himself from them as unwanted and unclean.
Read the story this week, and allow Paul’s emotion about what happened to sink in. He was appalled that even Barnabas was sucked into the hypocrisy, along with every Jewish believer present.
Why was Paul so passionate? He very pointedly says in verse 14, “Your conduct is not in step with the truth of the gospel.” He goes on to say in verse 16, “We know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ!” Paul calls out Peter, Barnabas, and all the Jewish believers on their pride, their hypocrisy, and their racism as working directly against the Gospel – salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.
Paul then uses this story to tell the Galatian church they were guilty of the same thing. They embraced the gospel at conversion and experienced deliverance, but they did not view the Gospel as the power to go on living a sanctified life. They turned to familiar religious works of the flesh instead of continuing to believe in the power of the Gospel.
The church today still grapples with pride, pretending, and prejudice. It is not natural for us to allow the Gospel to touch all the different aspects of our life. We, too, may embrace the Gospel at conversion, but fall into the familiar trap of trying to grow by attempting to earn what was given to us. We may replace a believing faith in the Gospel that transforms our motives and actions into a life that is measured by meeting requirements. We can look down on others as we pretend to experience growth, forgetting that doing the right things with the wrong motives is not in step with the truth of the Gospel. Do we, too, stand condemned like Peter?
The truth Paul was intent on communicating is that the Gospel does not simply bring us the power of transformation; it IS the power of God! It is the power to regenerate us, and it is a living power that brings fruit and grows. It is the power that continues to work on new areas of our life. The power of the Gospel brings us into a different Kingdom, a Kingdom that is upside down, where the weak are made strong, where we value completely different things than before, and where we stop seeking salvation in power, status, money, race, and class.
Paul’s message to us is, don’t compartmentalize the Gospel. We claim the power of the Gospel to save us, and we claim the power of the Gospel to grow. We repent of our sins, and we repent of our righteousness, recognizing that the power of the Gospel needs to continue touching every area of our thinking, believing, working, behaving, relating, and reasoning.
-Tony Hollinger, HOH Board Member