In our men’s Bible study this morning, we discussed Galatians 2:11-14, where the Apostle Paul rebukes Peter for his inconsistency in living, and ultimately his unbelief of, the Gospel. As I’ve been chewing on our discussion today, it hit me that the example of Peter’s failure to live out the Gospel is exactly the reason that you and I need the church.
While you can read the encounter for yourself, the executive summary is that Peter was in Antioch, living in full fellowship with the Gentiles. In other words, he was living in a way that affirmed that there was “neither Jew nor Greek” — that all who believe are one in Christ. However, when a group of legalistic and influential men came to visit from the Jerusalem church, Peter completely changed his behavior and refused to share a meal with the Gentile Christians. He knew that there was a powerful group in Jerusalem (named the Judaizers) who questioned the salvation of the Gentile believers because they hadn’t yet brought their lifestyle into alignment with Jewish law and custom. Peter was well aware of the firestorm that this would create when word Got back to Jerusalem that the Apostle to the Jews was sharing a table with these lesser believers. Rather than prove his belief in Christ’s fulfillment of the law and the freedom of the Christian, Peter buckled under pressure and pulled away from the Gentile Christians.
While there are dozens of ways that the Holy Spirit could apply this to my life, this afternoon He reminded me of two things:
1 I am Peter.
2) I need a “Paul” in my life.
What was Peter’s sin? You could argue that Peter lacked courage, that he wasn’t resolute enough in his commitment to Jesus, or that he was longing for the approval of man rather than God. All of those accusations would probably be fair and accurate. However, on a fundamental level, I think it’s safe to say that Peter simply didn’t believe the Gospel.
But, then again, neither do I most of the time. I mean, I believe it in principle. I believe the idea that Christ died for my sin. But in the midst of my belief, there is unbelief.
Paul goes on to say in verse 16, “…yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ…”. But, do I really know? When I want to believe, I find my unbelief shadowing me with every step.
This makes one thing remarkably clear: I need a consistent, rhythmic voice in my life calling out my sin and hypocrisy, and pointing me to repentance, faith, and the hope and freedom of the Gospel. Every. Single. Week. By God’s grace, he has given us such a voice in the form of the local church. God has designed the church, as it rightly teaches and proclaims God’s law which rebukes and kills, and His Gospel which comforts and saves, to be that voice of Paul in your life.
If you think that you are self-aware enough that you don’t need the church for this, you are entirely lacking in self-awareness.
For those of you who need a 4-step plan, here you go:
Step 1 - Accept the reality of your perpetual unbelief.
Step 2 - If you are doubting your resemblance of Peter, start reading back at the beginning of the article.
Step 3 - Get yourself to church so that your “Paul" can show you your unbelief and point you to the Savior.
Step 4 - Every. Single. Week.
- Pastor Scott