Peter's Rebuke (2.11-21) 2/3
"For if I build again those things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor." (). This commonsense illustration needs no explanation. The force of the argument is this: To the extent that I, by my actions, restore the things which I have previously destroyed, there is no external law needed to see that I am wrong; I make myself a transgressor. Paul cited this principle when he condemned Peter for playing the part of the hypocrite regarding Jew and Gentile relationships.
What were the things that Paul had once destroyed? He answers the question right in this context. "[A] man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified." (). He had not destroyed the law, but he had destroyed the concept that justification could come through the law.
The Hebrew nation took great pride in the fact that they had been the recipients of the law. In that connection, many of the Jews tended to look down on the Gentiles because they were not specifically identified as recipients of the law. However, when the truth of the gospel was finally preached, it became obvious that the Jews were at no spiritual advantage because the law was given to them and likewise, the Gentiles were at no disadvantage because it wasn't given to them. The gospel message which Paul preached was a "double whammy" to the egos of the Jews who clung tenaciously to the law thinking that a spiritual advantage could be gained thorough it. Not only did he show that the Gentiles could be saved by the gospel, he also showed that the Jews could not be saved by the law!
So that being the case, Paul certainly would not revert to the old practices that had come from the Hebrew's misunderstanding under the law. Once the wall of partition was broken down and the two peoples were united in Christ, Paul would not try to rebuild the wall and bring about their separation again. In fact, Paul now had many brothers and sisters who, by blood, were Gentiles. He enjoyed their fellowship on an equal basis with those who were Hebrews by birth. Not only would Paul not attempt to re-establish the partition that separated them, he would oppose any actions that would tend to lead them back to the former days and ways. Peter's hypocrisy in this matter was an affront to what he and Paul had agreed to do and to the will of God. Paul's rebuke was an unmistakable signal that he did not intend to revert back to their former days.
The lack of consistency between doctrine and practice has always been a problem. When we fail to live like we teach (we talk the talk but fail to walk the walk) we condemn ourselves; our own conscience will convict us if we will but listen. Truth and honesty demands that we make every effort to see that we "practice what we preach." To do otherwise is to transgress!
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