Actions Demonstrate What We Place Our Faith In—Law or Christ: Galatians 2:1-21

Image by Blake Burton

Image by Blake Burton

Too often faith is backward. Understandably, with everything else in life, what we do determines who of what we are. As the adage goes, “You are what you eat.” Indeed, if you want to be a fit person, you must eat right and exercise.

The kingdom of heaven is not like this. Despite what some ministers, pastors, and churchies in general tell you, you are not defined by what you do, but by who you are.

Indeed, you are holy, clean, and made perfect by Christ. But can one reject what Christ has done? Can they live in the lie of what we once were? Of course.  But your insistence of not being included in Christ’s work will not prevent him from including you. Still, we can believe the lies of what we once were. Such is the case of Peter in Galatians 2:1-21.

Paul, in writing to the Galatians, reminds them of who they are and what Christ accomplished on the cross. The law was fulfilled by Christ. Strict obedience to the law neither makes us holy nor any closer to Christ.

Concerning the former, the leaders of the Jerusalem church considered themselves exceedingly important and holy. The perception of being extra-holy is merely that, a perception. None are more important. These leaders only “seemed to be pillars” and “seemed to be influential” (2:9 and 2:6 respectively). Christ has made all equal in him—equally, we all rest in Christ’s perfection.

To this point, Paul chides Peter in an episode of arrogance and self-importance. When visiting Antioch, Peter imbibed with the Gentiles, embracing the unity and freedom of Christ’s grace and communion brought to us through his resurrection. But when the religious leaders arrived from Jerusalem, Peter pulled back and isolated himself with this elite group.

The Jerusalem church, and religion in general, makes hierarchies of those “more holy” than others. These hierarchies are based on how much effort one exerts to build up their own proximity to the divine. These churchies were doing it all “right.” They abstained from all evil food and drink. They didn’t associate with the “wrong kind of people.” Or so they believed, as do so may in our own time.

Religion is easy to get sucked into. Peter was no different. He, like us, fell effortless back into the religious routine.

Without recognizing it, he put his trust in the law for his salvation. And putting your trust in the law is really putting your trust in yourself for your own holiness. This is necessarily another gospel—or in reality, an anti-gospel.

Paul tells this story to the Galatians in order to remind them of the true gospel, that justification is by faith alone, not by efforts, works, or any external action or adherence. Being made holy, perfect, and in union with the Father of heaven is not through works of the law but through the faith of Jesus Christ (2:16).

Adding anything to the cross nullifies his blood. Adding anything to grace causes grace to cease to be grace. Put simply, GRACE + LAW = LAW

Paul has the harshest words possible for such efforts

“For is justification, righteousness, and acquittal from guilt comes through observing the ritual of the Law, then Christ, the Messiah, died groundlessly, to no purpose, and in vain—His death was then wholly superfluous.” (Galatians 2:21)

Grace must be had straight—no additives.


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