You cannot make a good society by law, and without good men you cannot have a good society.C.S. Lewis
Archive for January, 2009
If you have ever worked with children – whether raising your own or working with them in a school, sports team, or some other group – you have probably noticed that you have to keep adding more and more rules as time goes by to keep them from finding loopholes in the earlier rules. This quickly spirals out of control and your handful of rules now numbers in the hundreds and many times you forget what rules you made. I was listening to a seminar from rts.edu, Preaching Christ in a Postmodern World, and the speaker, Tim Keller, made an interesting point in one of the lectures. He referenced the passage in Galatians where Paul rebuked Peter.
But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation. But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews? We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid. For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor. For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain. Galatians 2:11-21
Peter withdrew from Gentile believers out of fear of some of the Jews. Paul confronted him about this. The interesting point that Bro. Keller made was this: Paul did not point Peter to the “No racism” rule. He didn’t tell Peter that he shouldn’t treat different ethnic groups the same. Paul pointed Peter to the gospel and told him he was not walking uprightly according to the truth of the gospel. He went on to say that when we point people to the “No racism” rule or any other rule, we are actually putting a stumblingblock before them. If the person is able to keep the rule, then he begins to think he is better than the person who doesn’t keep the rule (like the Pharisees). If the person is unable to keep the rule, then he begins to think “what’s the point” and might even become bitter and angry. But if we point them to the truth of the gospel – that Christ fulfilled the law and that our righteousness is found in him, not ourselves – the person understands that if he is able to keep the rule, it is not because he is better than others, but that Christ enabled him and if he is unable, that he can find strength in Christ to help.
If we want to produce Pharisees or bitter, discouraged people, keep adding rules. Those who can keep them will become Pharisees and think to themselves “I am glad I am not as others, extortioners, unjust, adulterers.” Those who can’t will grow discouraged and bitter. Point people to the gospel – the saved and the unsaved. It is what encourages. It is what overcomes our pride. It is what allows us to walk uprightly.