THE LIFE THAT REALLY MATTERS Part 1 of 2
by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)
Title: THE LIFE THAT REALLY MATTERS
Text: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. (Galatians 2:20).
Bible Reading: Galatians 2:11-20
11 Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed;
12 for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision.
13 And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy.
14 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?
15 We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles,
16 knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.
17 “But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is Christ, therefore, a minister of sin? Certainly not!
18 For if I build again those things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor.
19 For I through the law died to the law that I might live to God.
20 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.
Antioch was one of the cities that had a New Testament church. They were mostly Gentiles, with a few Jews mixed in. In order to really understand what happened there, you must know how this church operated. They had a feast that was held in connection with the Lord’s Supper. And that’s what caused their problem. When the Gentiles were saved a problem was caused. In the congregation, were Jews who had never eaten anything that had been sacrificed to idols. The Gentiles, however, had been idolaters, and they were accustomed to eating meat, which had first been offered to idols, and in addition, they ate pork and other animals that God had designated unclean in the Law of Moses. It didn’t make any difference to them, because they had been raised that way. So, the problem they had was this: What was going to be done to keep from offending the Jewish Christians. Well, what they did was to have two tables set up. One was the kosher table, and the other was the Gentile table. Paul ate at the Gentile table. Although he was a Jew, he ate with the Gentiles because he taught whether you eat meat or you didn’t eat meat it didn’t make any difference--meat will not commend you to God.
When Simon Peter came up to visit Paul in Antioch, it was a new experience for him because, although converted, he had never eaten anything unclean. Remember, what Peter told the Lord on the roof in Joppa before he went to the home of Cornelius? He had a vision of heaven opening and a sheet being lowered in which were all kinds of unclean animals. In Acts 10 it says, “And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill and eat. But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing common or unclean. And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God has cleansed, that call not thou common.” Peter had been a believer for some time when he came to visit Paul in Antioch, but he was still following the eating pattern of the Jews. When Peter came to the church, he found both a Gentile table and a kosher table.
Now, I’m going to speculate about what happened. When the time came to eat, Simon Peter went over to the kosher table, while Paul went over to the Gentile table. After diner Peter joined Paul and they went outside for a little walk. Peter said, “I noticed that you ate at the Gentile table.” “Yes,” Paul said. “I noticed that you ate Pork tonight. Is it good? I’ve never tasted it.” “Yes,” Paul said, “It’s delicious.” Then Peter asked, “Do you think it would be all right if I ate over there?” And Paul said, “Well, it’s my understanding that we’re going to have some nice pork chops in the morning for breakfast. Why don’t you try it?” So, in the morning when he came to breakfast, he went over to the Gentile table, sat down cautiously and rather reluctantly took a Porkchop. After he had tasted it, he said to Paul, “It’s delicious isn’t it!”
Paul said, “Yes. After all, under grace, you can either eat it or not eat it. It doesn’t make any difference. Meat won’t commend you to God.” So Simon Peter said, “I’ll be here tonight and I understand you are having ham tonight. I want to try that.” So at diner time, he starts rushing for the Gentile table when he looks over and sees some of the elders from the Jerusalem church that had come to visit also. So Simon Peter went all the way around that Gentile table, went over to the kosher table and sat down like a little whipped puppy. Paul saw him do it, and he didn’t approve, and he gave Peter a gentle scolding for his actions.
Oh, it was ok for Peter to eat at either table, kosher or Gentile. But after he had been eating at the Gentile table, and then to suddenly go back to the kosher table after the delegation from Jerusalem arrived, gave the wrong impression. It looked as if he was saying by his actions that the Gentile table is wrong and the kosher table is right. Now these brethren from Jerusalem were strict legalists, which means they believed that the most important thing was to obey all the laws of God and to observe all the ceremonies and traditions of the Jewish church. And under grace, that’s their privilege. I have no problem with folks who believe they should not eat certain meats. But they should also give me the right to eat what I want to eat. Simon Peter turned from the liberty he had in Christ back to Judaism again.
The nature of Paul’s scolding shows, first of all, the inconsistency that comes from trying and failing to keep the law. If it was ok for Simon Peter to live like the Gentile believers lived, why should he desire for the Gentiles to live like the Jews? If Peter could live outside the law, couldn’t the Gentiles do the same? What’s at stake here is the purity of the Gospel; to say that you have to add anything to faith in Christ absolutely mutilates the gospel. The truth is the Gentiles were not under the law for salvation and neither were the Jews. We are called to live on a much higher plane than that. Thank God, nothing commends us to God except our faith in His Son. This is true for the whole human race.
The Gospel breaks the barrier of color. It breaks the barrier of race. It breaks the social barrier. All men are on one level before the cross, and that level happens to be “sinner.” You are a sinner. I am a sinner. I don’t care who you are, you are a sinner in God’s sight. However, we can rejoice, because we are now saved sinners on our way to glory. Everyone has a life to live. It can be a life that is meaningful and fruitful; or it can be a life of constantly recycling meaningless experiences.
That brings us to our lesson for today: THE LIFE THAT REALLY MATTERS.
I Believe The Life That Matters Is Realized Through Making Three Dramatic Decisions.
Decision #1 is acknowledging that salvation comes through Jesus alone.
No one can save himself or herself. That’s why Jesus had to die. No one is good enough to get into heaven, and no one can do enough good works to get into heaven. And church membership or baptism will not get you there. Salvation could not be placed in our hands, since the best of us are sinners.
That’s why God took it upon Himself to provide a way for salvation. He sent Jesus into the world with the full knowledge that He was going to be crucified and die for our sins. Jesus said that there is no greater way for a person to demonstrate their love than to die in another’s place. That is what He did for us. As Peter said in Acts 4:12, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Healings, tongues, the church, the Spirit of God, even God the Father Himself is not the point of contact with sinful man. Jesus Christ alone is the One by whom salvation comes to mankind. Didn’t Jesus say, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through Me.” It gets personal; Jesus is the only hope of salvation.
Decision #2 is acknowledging that rituals and ceremonies will not save us.
In the Old Testament, we find that God did give the Israelites many rituals and ceremonies. They served a purpose. It kept their minds on God. But it didn’t save them. It’s interesting to note that they all pointed to the coming of the Messiah. The blood of lambs and goats only served to cover over their sins. They were not saved until Jesus died upon the cross. And when Jesus came the sacrificial system was done away with. Some churches still cling to the old rituals and they assign great value to certain ceremonies. But the only thing that matters to God is will you believe in His Son, and is He your Savior.