As you prepare yourself for the week ahead, this week we move into the first few verses of Philippians ch.3. In these verses Paul introduces us to dogs, evildoers and mutilators. These seem to be Jewish false teachers who were requiring circumcision and works of the law for right standing before God. These Jewish influencers are possibly similar to the “Circumcision Party” who even intimidated the Apostle Peter. There seems to be good reason for Paul to warn the Philippians about them.
In Acts 10:9-16, Peter had a specific vision from God teaching that the things he once deemed unclean as a Jew were now made clean. The vision showed many different animals that would cause offense for a Jew to eat. The vision that Peter saw does not simply mean that it was now ok for him to eat a non-kosher hot dog. It meant that salvation in Christ for the Jew was also the same salvation in Christ for the gentiles. "Peter, I am making the Gentiles clean in Christ.” The very next event was the salvation of Cornelius. We might assume that Peter’s world got a little bit bigger that day. Everyone is the same at the foot of the cross. There is no Jew, there is no Gentile, there is simply saved and unsaved. Christ is everything (Gal 3:27-29).
What would you then say if you found Peter fearful of eating with Gentile believers on account that he might be persecuted by Jews known as the “Circumcision Party?" Would you call him a hypocrite? In Galatians 2:11-19 this is exactly what Paul found his dear friend and brother doing. Peter had backed away from his Gentile brothers in fear of oppression from those who deemed Gentiles unclean. Paul then delivered some tough love because he saw Peter’s conduct was “not in step with the truth of the gospel.” Paul then made it very clear to Peter exactly what his actions were teaching. Paul said “We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.” (Gal 2:15-16) In his letter to the Galatians Paul also explained that works of the law are essentially works of the flesh. Anyone putting their confidence in their own righteous acts are turning to the “weak and worthless elementary principles of the world.” (Gal 4:8-11). Peter did not believe that we are saved by works of the law, but he was acting hypocritically in fearing those who do (Gal 2:13). Peter learned a valuable lesson that day. He already knew that salvation is a narrow road by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. His hypocrisy was evident in that he seemed to be more concerned that the Circumcision Party might associate him with those unclean Gentiles who have nothing but Jesus. Wrong?….Yes! Peter was more worried about his appearance than having confidence in Christ. But let’s not be too quick to judge lest some of those fingers are pointing right back at us. I am sure that Peter himself was also horrified and repentant of his unfaithful actions.
As we approach this Sunday I wonder if we could meditate on a lesson we must never tire of speaking or hearing. Don’t put your trust in anything other than Christ. Don’t let any pressure take you away from living out your confidence in Christ alone for salvation. No “good work" will ever pay the cost of our sin. Let’s not even give the appearance that we would think that. There is nothing we can add to Christ. Let’s live in the confidence portrayed in the words of this song…."Jesus paid it all. All to him I owe. Sin had left a crimson stain. He washed it white as snow.” In Christ there is no Jew. In Christ there is no gentile. In Christ there is only Christians; forgiven, hope filled, confident Christians who know only one Person in whom to place all our trust. And he is enough!