When Paul, Barnabas and Titus met with the apostles in Jerusalem, Peter was there. Titus, being a Greek believer, was not compelled to be circumcised according to the Jewish law and Peter agreed with the others that circumcision was of the heart and not the flesh. When the apostles gave their right hands of fellowship and blessings to Paul and Barnabas to go to the Gentiles with the gospel of free grace in Christ apart from works, laws and ceremonies, Peter also gave his blessings. And when Peter came to Antioch to visit, he ate and fellowshipped with the Gentile believers without reservation, But when some of the Jewish brethren who were prominent Jews and zealous of the law came to Antioch, Peter, fearing their disfavour and criticism, withdrew from the Gentiles, causing a division among the brethren to the point of influencing even Barnabas to avoid the uncircumcised Gentiles. Paul rebuked Peter, Barnabas and these zealous Jews. His remarks were directed especially to Peter.
v. 14. Their walk was not in integrity, sincerity and truth, because previously they had agreed that there was no joining of ceremony and grace nor of Moses and Christ. Their walk certainly was contrary to the gospel of Christ; so Paul said, 'Peter, if you, who were born, brought up and obliged to observe all of the Levitical law, no longer feel in bondage to these ceremonies and laws (you know in your heart you are free from this yoke; all righteousness is fulfilled in Christ), why do you compel these Gentiles to live under these laws?'
v. 15. Since the apostles (who were born Jews and therefore under the law of Moses and under obligation to keep it until Christ came) had now relinquished the law of Moses and wholly believed in Christ for all righteousness and acceptance with God, then it was totally unreasonable to lead Gentiles, who were never under the Levitical law, to observe it!
v.16. We know that a man is not justified by the law.
We are justified by God of his own will through the merits and blood of Christ. Faith believes Christ, receives Christ and lays hold upon Christ and his righteousness. It is called the faith of Christ because he is the author of it as well as the object of it.
v. 17,18. 'If we seek to be justified by Christ and do not rest in him alone (in his righteousness, his obedience, his blood and his intercession) but seek to add to Christ our own works, righteousness and obedience to the ceremonies of the law, then Christ, instead of being a minister of a perfect righteousness and acceptance, becomes a minister of the law (which is the strength of sin, 1 Cor. 15:56) and the minister of condemnation and death. Is this the work and ministry of Christ? God forbid!
If I restore the ceremonies of the law (such as circumcision, holy days, foods and drinks - the things which I preach as fulfilled by Christ, through Christ and in Christ), then I make myself an unjustified sinner. I could not be otherwise, for the law demands perfection, and if, in Christ, I am not perfected, then I am a transgressor.'
v.19. 'For I, through the law of Christ (the doctrine of grace or the gospel of free grace) which says, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved" (all of our pardon, righteousness, acceptance and life comes through Christ), am dead to the law which says, "Do this or that and thou shalt live." "That I might live unto God," not in sin, nor in violation of his moral law, nor in neglect of holiness and integrity, but that I should live in the will of God for his honour and glory.' Believers who are not under law but under grace do not desire to live in sin but consider themselves under a greater law - the law of his love.
v.20. 'I am crucified with Christ. He bore my sins in his body on the tree and destroyed and made an end to them. They have no damning nor condemning power (Rom. 8:1, 33,34). The world is crucified unto me and I unto the world. My desire is to walk with him in newness of life; the law of God is written on my heart, not on tables of stone.' 'Nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me. I live spiritually; and it is not the same "I" as before, but a new man, a new creature' (2 Cor. 5: 17). This new man lives by faith, looking to Christ for all things - pardon, righteousness, peace, joy, comfort and the supply of every grace.
v.21. 'I do not despise, reject, nor make void the grace of God in Christ Jesus. If a justifying righteousness comes through obedience to the ceremonial law, then Christ died in vain.' If obedience to the law is necessary for a man to be justified before God, then all that Christ did was in vain; for no man will be justified!
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