Sunday, 6 March 2016
But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, “If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews? Galatians 2:14
This verse is perfectly clear on its surface, and yet there are those who can read it – and indeed the rest of the book of Galatians – close their eyes to what is being said, and continue to insist that we are somehow bound to observe the Law of Moses or other Jewish traditions. It is a most curious thing to behold. Paul has noted that Peter had fellowshipped with the Gentiles, but when Jews from James came to Antioch, he started separating himself from those same Gentiles and causing the other Jews to separate from them. Even Barnabas was found to be “carried away with their hypocrisy.”
And so Paul, the only one left with any intestinal fortitude to stand up for the truth of the gospel, upon seeing “that they were not straight forward about it,” took a stand. The word for “they were [not] straightforward” is orthopodeó. It’s found only here in the New Testament and just looking at it gives one a sense of the Greek meaning. It comes from ortho, meaning “upright,” and puos, meaning “foot.” Thus it means “to be straight-footed” and “not shuffling.” The idea is that Peter and the other Jews walked in a manner contrary to the true gospel. They wavered one way and then another.
Because of this, he spoke “to Peter before them all.” In other words, he openly stated his words in front of everyone. The matter was so severe and the consequences so harmful that he directly challenged this great “pillar” of the church concerning his aberrant conduct. His words to him were, “If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews?” This is exactly the hypocrisy that he mentioned in the previous verse. The word “being” is set in the emphatic position. It means that Peter was and continued to be a Jew. Because of this, his actions as a Jew and yet a follower of Jesus are what are being challenged.
He was and continued to be a Jew and yet he found it acceptable to live as a Gentile. Why? Because he was freed from the bondage of the law by Christ. In living as a Gentile, he was not living as “Jews.” In other words, he had departed from the walk of being a Jew under the law. He was still a Jew, but now freed from what the unconverted Jews were bound by. And yet, by his actions of removing himself from the Gentiles, he thus compelled the “Gentiles to live as Jews.” What this means is that he is the apostle; he carried the authority, and he set the example. Through his faulty example, he was sure to cause the Gentiles who had come to Christ to start living as Jews. This would bring them under the law that they never before had and it would set aside the grace of Christ.
Life application: Just because someone is a Jew; just because someone speaks Hebrew; just because someone was born and raised in Israel; or for any other “just because,” we are not to follow them and take up their practices. Instead, we are to follow the word of God which is given for us to follow Christ. The word of God clearly shows that we are free from the law. Peter lived that way until he faltered. In his faltering he had to be corrected; not for failing to observe the law, but for the exact opposite! Stand fast on the grace of Christ.
Precious Lord! How I wish to follow You with all my heart and soul. Grant me this as my life’s goal. Instill in me the desire and the ability to search out Your word for what will make that walk a pleasing one in Your sight. Keep me from folks who would share a false message about what You would intend for me. And further, direct me to those who would speak only what is correct and honoring of You. Hear my prayer, O God, and respond according to the riches of Your wisdom. Amen.