“We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified. Galatians 2:15-16 (NIV).
“Sinful Gentiles.” Unless you can trace your unbroken ancestral lineage back to one of the twelve tribes of Israel, that’s you. And me. Jews of antiquity didn’t look at themselves as the equals of the Gentiles: they thought of themselves as better. After all, the Jews carried the promise of God’s redemption. Going all the way back to Abraham, it was people other than the Jews who most opposed God’s message. The Sodomites, the Egyptians, the Canaanites, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, Greeks, and Romans: others were hostile to God. Consequently, Jews were conscious of the hostility of others to their faith. In turn, the Jews of old soon began to look down on those different from themselves.
So isn’t it ironic that Paul uses this phrase and a few word twists to state that it was the Jews themselves who understood that the law would be less than the Messiah, and that faith in the Messiah would supersede even the law of Moses…until it actually happened.
Thus, in rebuking Peter for some petty hypocrisy over Christians being required to observe Jewish law, Paul makes the point that Peter, the Jews themselves, and all of us should know better. The Messiah who was long-awaited since Eden had come, and had been rejected by the people who should have recognized Him first. It was the ‘sinless’ chosen people of God who jury-rigged a kangaroo court to get Jesus nailed to a cross. In doing so, they were unconsciously fulfilling God’s perfect plan for salvation of everyone, sinner and ‘sinless’ alike. Yet those same people did and would continue to look down on others for not being ‘as good’ as themselves.
They ignored that it wasn’t Moses’ law which justified men: it was God’s own hand, bringing men’s hearts to faith, and delivering salvation that only those conscious of their sin would accept. Only through faith in the Messiah, Jesus the Christ, can anyone be saved. The old laws are but boundaries for us, pointing us endlessly to our constant need for forgiveness. If sinless Jews wouldn’t accept this, then perhaps sinful Gentiles would. Once again, that’s us. As much as anyone descended from the family of Abraham, we believers are the truly chosen people of God. Be careful – yet bold – with that truth.
For further reading: 1 Samuel 15:18, Luke 24:7, Romans 3:28, Romans 9:30, Philippians 3:4-5, Galatians 2:17
Lord, let me boldly share You today, reaching other Gentiles like myself with Your forgiveness.
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