11But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned.
12For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision.
13The rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy.
14But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of all, “If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?
15″We are Jews by nature and not sinners from among the Gentiles;
16nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified.
17″But if, while seeking to be justified in Christ, we ourselves have also been found sinners, is Christ then a minister of sin? May it never be!
18″For if I rebuild what I have once destroyed, I prove myself to be a transgressor.
19″For through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live to God.
20″I have been crucified with Christ; and 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 up for me.
21″I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.”
One thing that should be made clear is that Cephas is the Apostle Peter. I also don’t believe Paul here is condemning Peter in a way to say he is a “bad” apostle, but rather using the story as an example. Remember that just before this, Paul stated that himself and the rest of the apostles are united in their mission for Christ, so this isn’t a slant against Peter, rather and example to further the cause.
Peter’s “slip up” is a good example of how we can easily backslide into the ways of the world. Paul, loving him as a brother, called him on it and helped him correct himself. Notice there was no recourse from Peter. Putting his pride aside he realized Paul was right and corrected his actions. Paul reminds us that by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified.
He explains to us Christians that if we do believe Christ died for our sins, why then do we concern ourselves with the Law? Whether it is out of peer pressure, fear, forgetfulness, or habit, it is pointless. It does nothing other than trick us into thinking we have a say in our own righteousness. I see time and again (and I’ve been there myself) when people believe in Christ, believe in God, yet feel that they are going to heaven because they are a “good person”. That totally negates it all! You spit in God’s face and throw His grace back at him! then Christ died needlessly.
We use examples in today’s world of people “not dying in vain.” What about Christ? Are you going to treat Him as if He died in vain? Then we get the lies in our head from the enemy that God abandoned us, our prayers aren’t being answered, etc. etc. yet we don’t realize that we try to take back God’s righteousness and grace and mercy as our own and beef up our pride so that God can’t operate in our lives!!! WE EVEN SIT THERE AND DEFEND OUR ACTIONS! Don’t let these falsehoods interfere with your relationship with God through Christ. I wouldn’t want any of my friends to continue living under the belief of a lie.
Live saved. Live forgiven. Live free from the Law. Live as Christ didn’t die in vain.