This chapter continues with the details of Paul confronting Peter (here called Cephas), who had been acting as though there was partiality with God. Peter’s gradual retreat from fellowshipping with Gentiles led many astray, even Barnabas. Barnabas had been Paul’s faithful companion and fellow apostle for many years now, this was not only disastrous to the faith of the Galatian churches, but disheartening to Paul. Friendship is precious; and deep, true, Gospel centered friendship even more so. To have a true friend go astray breaks one’s heart.
Public action impacting the faith of many led to this public rebuke. In Christ, we do not simply let others’ choose the wrong path, distort the Gospel, and wreck the faith of others. In Christ’s love, we speak and act, even if that action seems awkward. Everyone saw Cephas’ misconduct, judged the Gospel based on his actions, and were caught up in this ‘playacting’ or hypocrisy. The actions of these men cancelled out the truth of their words. The truth is that any person, not just those of Jewish birth, can be justified. But only by faith in Christ, believing what He accomplished for us on our behalf.
The Law created/showed/revealed a barrier between covenant people and non-covenant people, verse 15. God had entered into a covenant with a family, and anyone outside that family was not in the covenant relationship. As the family grew, 430 years later God gave the law. This family was privileged to have the Law, the prophets, the oracles, the promises… This particular family is is considered ‘chosen’ ‘sanctified/set apart’ ‘righteous.’ In contrast, those outside the family were not chosen, not righteous, not set apart for this purpose.
Christ broke down the barrier, the dividing wall! In the fulness of times, God wanted to use this family to bless all the earth, and through Christ He has accomplished this! Please take some time to ponder these passages: Romans 3:27-31 Ephesians 2:11-19.
Because of His work on the cross, we have faith in Christ, have believed in Christ, and have been justified by faith, and are now securely in His family.
In verse 17 and following, Paul is addressing a question that arose–he is speaking to the Galatians who are concerned that we ought to be perfect, and how. To go back to the Law and attempt being justified by Law and Christ, we would be sinning; we would be rebuilding what Christ tore down (the veil, the barrier). Many among the Jews were seeking to be justified by their own merit, cf Romans 10:3; Paul does not want this to taint the faith of these believers. The just shall live by faith. This is the very concept (see Romans 1) that rocked Luther’s world and began the Reformation, and should drive us to cling to Christ as well–and to run from any idea that seeks to come between us and Christ. We need no other Mediator, we need not seek justification in any other manner or order (i.e. first a good Jew, then a Believing Jew…).
Through the Law I died to the Law, there it has no hold on me. He has hidden all my transgressions from view, I am hidden in Christ, I have exchanged my sin for His righteousness, He obeyed perfectly. The Law demands death of all transgressors, and in death comes our separation from this world and all that operates within it. In union with Christ, His death satisfies the Law on our behalf. (Cf Heb 7:18-19, 25; 9:1-3, 8-15, 19-28) He died that we might live.
And so, I have been crucified with Christ! I have rejected the sin I once loved and the patterns of this world, and the desire to make my own “life.” I live instead by faith; and in the hope of eternal life. He has broken sin’s hold on me, and the Law’s loud thunder over me, and taken away the fear of death, for hope now blossoms and goads us on to purify ourselves just as He is pure (1 John 3:2-3). Consequently–the law the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus now operates in us (Romans 8) and silences condemnation and self effort. The Spirit will draw us on into walking in the Spirit, growing us in obedience and fruitfulness.
Paul emphasizes this very thing in Romans 6 as well: No sinning that grace may abound, and do not let sin reign over you. You must choose whether to present yourself to sin or to God; which will you serve and obey? As one justified by faith we are free to battle sin, we are no longer enslaved to anything contrary to God’s designs for us.
The chapter closes by reminding us that Christ did not die needlessly. There was no other way. We need a Mediator, and Christ took on flesh to accomplish everything on our behalf. He was willing, and this was the most glorious way for our redemption to be accomplished.
He was not only willing, but acted in perfect love. He “loved me and gave Himself up for me.” There is no greater love, and meditating on this truth will melt away fears and doubts.