Imagine what would happen if the apostle Peter came to visit your church. Peter was one of the original twelve disciples who walked beside Jesus during His earthly ministry. Surely, Peter’s arrival would get a lot of attention!
That’s exactly what happened when Peter visited the church at Antioch, an important center of the early Christian movement. It was in Antioch that followers of Jesus were first called “Christians” (Acts 11:26). The church also had a custom of Jews eating with Gentiles. In the ancient world, eating with someone was a powerful symbol of acceptance and association. Ordinarily, Jews had strict dietary laws that prevented them from having table fellowship with Gentiles. But at Antioch things were different. Jews and Gentiles ate together to symbolize their unity in Christ.
When Peter first arrived, he joined in this practice. However, when some other Jewish teachers argued that Gentiles had to be circumcised first to be Christians, Peter backed away. He did “because he was afraid” of their judgment (Gal. 2:12). Paul confronted Peter directly and publicly because he knew the gospel was at stake. We cannot be made right before God, or justified, through keeping religious laws, but only through faith in Christ (v. 16). The word “justification” simply means being in a right relationship with God. One of the reasons Christ came was to die for our sins so that we could be justified or made right with God. Paul explained, “The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (v. 20).
>> Because of our identity with Christ and His work on the cross, we are justified before God. We have been declared innocent, freeing us to have a relationship with Him! When we slip back into legalism, thinking we can keep enough rules to impress God, we need to remember today’s lesson. This relationship was given, not earned.
Lord, we thank You for the gift of salvation—completely undeserved and unearned. Remind us never to believe that we can be good enough to be justified in Your eyes. Let everything we achieve point back to You.