When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel… (Gal. 2:14)
We’ve all heard the saying, “talk is cheap.” It’s effortless to say whatever we want, but putting those words into action is something else altogether. For example, I can easily say, “I’m going to be a professional musician.” or “I’m gonna write a book.” But if I never seek to learn an instrument or actually sit down to write, my words are meaningless.
The same is true with our faith. We can talk till we’re blue in the face about what we believe and why we think it’s true. We can even articulate convincing arguments that show we really know our stuff, but if we aren’t living out what we say we believe our words carry little weight.
In Galatians 2 Paul confronts Peter for not putting his faith into action. As we mentioned last week, Paul’s confrontation with Peter is around Peter removing himself from table fellowship with gentiles. The way Paul articulates his complaint with Peter is by saying he wasn’t “acting in line with the truth of the gospel.”
This raises two questions. What is the truth of the gospel? And how do we act in line with it?
Is the gospel merely the facts of what happened to Christ? That he was crucified, buried, and raised? Is it simply the exchange of righteousness for sin and vice versa? Is it about receiving entrance into heaven when we die? Is that what it is?
If the truth of the gospel is merely that Jesus paid for my sin and that the culmination of my faith is entrance into heaven, it means that our faith is based on something that happened in the past. And while it may have an implication for the future, viewing the gospel in this light has little to no bearing on the present. And that’s what Paul’s after with Peter. He challenging him to think about how the gospel effects things right NOW.
While the gospel can be articulated in many different ways, essentially, at its core it’s a story of reconciliation. A story about relationships being repaired. A story about God seeking to reconcile all of humanity to Himself. A story that includes the reconciliation of one individual and one people group to another.
In Ephesians 2 Paul speaks to this when he writes, “For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility… His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.” (V14-16)
These verses are the reason why Paul gets after Peter in Galatians 2. The gospel brings people together who would otherwise stay apart. In the first century Jews and Gentiles were forbidden by Jewish law to fellowship together. But Paul reminds Peter that the gospel changes all of that. It destroys the barrier and the dividing wall. The gospel bridges the gap. God brings them together in the person of Jesus Christ.
This brings us to our second question, what does it mean to act in line with the truth of the gospel? For Peter it’s simply that he should be reaching out rather than pulling back, even if he’s afraid of what others might think. He should stay at the table rather than going somewhere else.
For us this could look like many different things. It could look like reaching out when you’ve been wronged and not hurting back when you’ve been hurt. It could be seeking to find common ground with people who are different from you, and not being persuaded otherwise by people who might not like it.
Walking in line with the truth of the gospel could look like many different things, but when it comes to reconciliation, here’s one great example.
(If you’re considering skipping the video to finish the post more quickly, trust me, its worth the watch.)
The truth of the gospel is scandalous. Colossians 1 says that even though we were enemies of God, he reconciled us to him through laying his life down for us. He had every reason to create a barrier, to be hostile, to pull back. But instead he pursued us out of love. The more that we are shaped by His love, the more we will naturally extend it to others. We are called to be ambassadors who carry on the ministry of reconciliation
It all starts with taking that first step and reaching out. Today, be challenged to walk in line with the truth of the gospel.
1. What relationships in your life currently need to be repaired?
2. What is preventing you from reaching out?