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
The point Paul is making with Peter in today's key passage is to let your love be authentic and your life be real. Don’t be a phony. Say what you mean, mean what you say. Say the same thing with one group that you will when you are with another group and stick by what you believe. Now Paul is about to add another stinger. When your life doesn’t match your lips, when your behavior does not match your belief, admit it.
Don’t miss what a big deal this was. If Paul had not confronted Peter and at least confessed for Peter his hypocrisy, the church would have either gone back to the ways of Judaism and legalism or there would have been a permanent division between Gentile Christians and Jewish Christians. Paul did not confront Peter out of jealously or one-upmanship. He didn’t want to prove who was the real boss of the church. He did it for one reason – the truth of the gospel was at stake. Nothing will be more important ever in the life of our church, than to make sure that we preach the truth of the gospel and we practice the truth of the gospel.
As Paul continues talking to Peter, he makes it clear that whether you are a Jew born into the covenant family of God by birth or you are a Gentile born outside of that covenant family, you will not be saved by or accepted by God based on your goodness and how many commandments you keep
To press the point, Paul uses that phrase, “not by works of the law” three times in this verse. There is one thing you will never find from the first book of the Bible to the last book of the Bible. No one ever got right with God, no one was ever justified by God, or accepted by God, because they kept the law or because of their goodness. In fact, the law was given not to show how good we can be, but how bad we are. God’s law is a mirror that condemns us, not a medicine that cures us. The law is like a CAT scan. It can show you what is wrong with you, but it can’t cure you. Let that be a reminder as you live in obedience but understand your need for grace.
Dear Father, thank you for the law and thank you for your grace. Help me to understand the role of both in my walk with you so that I might honor you and obey you. In Jesus’ name, amen.