Monday, March 24, 2008

Galatians: double standards

Confrontation is never fun, especially if the confrontee is a well-respected elder. But we know nothing about Paul if we don’t know that he was passionate about the word of God.

So the thought of confronting Peter the apostle didn’t set Paul back. We’ve been looking at the book of Galatians, Paul’s first letter – written to his first church plants.

The idea of diluting the gospel with Jewish traditions got Paul’s pulse pumping. He was clear on the basic truths of his new faith, and wasn’t afraid to confront even Peter, reminding him “we are justified by faith, not by observing the law.”[1]

In other words, Peter wanted to live freely, not under the law, but expected non-Jews to live like Jews, observing the law. Why? Either we are saved by the grace of Jesus or by the law. Not both.

Paul understood that if righteousness could be gotten through the law, then Christ died for no reason.

Read Galatians 2, keeping in mind the differences between Peter’s and Paul’s teachings.

By the way, this difference was soon to be resolved at the Jerusalem Council as described in Acts 15. The idea of whether new Christians had to first become Jewish before coming to Jesus was an important debate for the early church.

I hope you’re keeping a journal as you read through Galatians. Write down your answers to these questions and feel free to leave comments on them as well:

Do you live by faith or by the law?

What does that look like in our culture today? (It probably doesn’t deal with circumcision and festival observances like in the first century)

Do you know someone who is confused about the place of law in his or her life? What could you tell him or her?

List some of Paul’s arguments with Peter.

[1] Gal 2:16

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