Picking up right where we left off last week in Jesus +, our message today focuses on Galatians 2. As we saw in Galatians 1, Paul is very frustrated with the church in Galatia because they were preaching a distorted version of the Gospel message, requiring Gentiles to become Jews before they could be Christians. The responsibility for this change fell on the shoulders of their leader, Peter. In chapter 2, we read the account of Paul calling Peter out in front of the church and correcting their theology.
I will admit, I read this chapter and had this image in mind before leaving for The Ridge this morning. I wanted to create a somewhat abstract image of Paul confronting Peter in today’s drawing and recalled how Jesus referred to Peter as a rock for His church(Matthew 16:18). Confrontation plus rock naturally led to the old school yard game, rock, paper, scissors (what can I say, I was an 80’s kid). Quick summary of the rules to refresh your memory; paper beats rock, rock beats scissors, scissors beats paper.
Peter is the rock, Paul is the paper with today’s key verse (Galatians 2:21) highlighted, Jesus is the two rail spikes crossed like a pair of scissors. Ultimately, Peter was promoting an idea that our righteousness before God was directly dependent on how well we adhered to certain religious rules. Specifically, the Jewish law God set in place through Moses generations before. The problem is, such teaching negated the importance of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. If one had to follow the same laws now as they did before Jesus lived, Jesus was just another good guy, a good example but an expendable story in this gospel message. In that sense, rock could defeat scissors.
Enter Paul. Just as Peter’s ministry focused on introducing Jesus to the Gentile community, Paul’s mission was to connect Him to the Jews. As a strictly conservative Jew, Paul knew the law inside and out, so ‘paper’ is a natural fit to represent him. Paul converted from Judaism to Christianity after an eye-opening life-experience on the road to Damascus where he and Jesus were formally introduced. After that moment, Paul’s reputation changed from a brutal man who made Christians fear for their lives to the General Patton of the early church. When Paul spoke, people listened and when had something to say, he was not afraid to say it. Paul heard what Peter was saying and called him out in public; in front of his church, the Jewish community, and the Gentiles he’d insulted. Paul straightened out Peter and the church in a Galatia, un-scrambling their twisted theology and returning them to the clear gospel of Christ.
The verse I highlighted is the key to Paul’s correction and vitally important for us to understand about the gospel: I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing.
If anything we do could be good enough for God, Christ’s death was superfluous and his teaching blasphemous. The Old Testament documents the cycle of humanity’s failure to keep the law, which is why we required a messiah in the first place.
Paper covered rock, preventing rock from pounding scissors.