From Your Pastor, July 15

From Your Pastor, July 15

How Does the Gospel of Jesus Christ Apply to this Situation?

But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?” — Galatians 2.11-14

The next time you witness a disagreement or a fight (it may happen sooner than you think), stop to ask yourself one question. “How does the gospel of Jesus Christ apply to this situation?” That is precisely the question Paul asked himself when Peter acted like a fool. Paul forced himself to think and not simply react or get caught up in the mass hysteria. Paul asked himself, “Is Peter in step with the truth of the gospel?”

Peter was chillin’ with his Gentile Bros—they were telling jokes, laughing and eating delicious pork. Peter, however, changed his behavior when the uptight, religious Jews showed up. Peter “…drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party.”The Jews thought they were superior to Gentiles as though the Gentiles were second class citizens. Thus Peter slipped back into his old way of thinking; he had a rotten case of ethnic pride like Jonah exhibited toward the people of Nineveh.

Paul, nonetheless, did not rebuke Peter by merely correcting his external behavior. If you only try to correct the symptoms and not the source, the ugly behavior will reappear in another form. Paul uses the truth of the gospel, which pierces the heart. Jesus corrected the pitiful Pharisees with the truth of the gospel when he quoted Isaiah: “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me” (Mark 7.6; cf. Isaiah 29.13).

What is the only way to truly change nefarious behavior? No! More laws will not help. That’s the broken political solution. Politicians think that if we just had more laws then people will behave a certain way. How’s that working?

Accordingly, Jesus was not a politician but a preacher. Jesus preached “the gospel of God” (Mark 1.14). Jesus told his disciples: “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out” (Mark 1.38). Jesus knew that preaching the gospel is the only way to “remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36.26).

What is the truth of the gospel? “Salvation belongs to the Lord” (Jonah 2.9)! We are not saved because we do or do not associate with a certain group of people. We are not saved because we wear a particular type of clothing or “hold to the tradition of men” (Mark 7.8). We are saved by grace alone in Christ alone, which allows you decimate the fear of man and to adore God.

The next time you witness a disagreement or a fight (it may happen sooner than you think), stop to ask yourself one question. “How does the gospel of Jesus Christ apply to this situation?” Is this in step with the truth of the gospel?

—Pastor Knox