The Principle Involved: Part 5 of 5 (series: Lessons on Galatians)
by John Lowe
I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.
The Judaizers wanted to mix Law and grace, but Paul tells us this is impossible. To go back to the Law involves “setting aside” the grace of God.
Peter had experienced God’s grace in his own salvation and he had proclaimed God’s grace in his own ministry. But when he withdrew from the GENTILE Christian fellowship, he openly denied the grace of God.
Grace says, “There is no difference! All are sinners, and all can be saved through faith in Jesus Christ!” But Peter’s actions had said, “There is a difference! The grace of God in not sufficient; we also need the Law.” Returning to the Law nullifies the Cross: “if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain” (Gal. 2.21). Law says DO! Grace says DONE! “It is finished,” (John 19.30) was Christ’s victory cry—“For by grace are ye saved through faith” (Eph. 2.8).
The clear implication of Paul’s words is that Peter and the others who followed him were setting aside God’s grace. The essence of grace is for God to give people that which they have not worked for—“Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt” (Romans 4.4). To insist on justification or sanctification by works is to nullify the grace of God. Furthermore, such insistence on obedience to the law also means that Christ died for nothing. If righteousness comes by keeping the law,
the Cross was a futile gesture, the biggest mistake in the universe.
We have no record of Peter’s reply to Paul’s rebuke, but scripture would indicate that he admitted his sin and was restored to the fellowship once again. Certainly, when you read his two letters (1 and 2 Peter) you detect no deviation from the gospel of the grace of God. In fact the theme of 1 Peter is “the true grace of God” (1 Peter 5.12); and the word grace is used in every chapter of the letter. Peter is careful to point out that he and Paul were in complete agreement, just in case anyone should try to “rob Peter to pay Paul”—“Also, regard the patience of our Lord as an opportunity for
salvation, just as our dear brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you. He speaks about these things in all his letters, in which there are some matters that are hard to understand. The untaught and unstable twist them to their own destruction, as they also do with the rest of the Scriptures” (2 Peter 3.15, 16).
The main thought of this verse is simply that if there had been any other way to save sinners, then God would have used that method. If a law or religion could have been given that could save sinners, God would have given it. The only way that an infinite God could save you and me was to send His Son to die. He was willing to make the supreme sacrifice.