Looking back at verses 1:11-24:
Paul brought up that the gospel he was preaching was given to him directly by Jesus Christ. The only time he had been to Jerusalem and spoke with the leadership about it was after three years in Arabia, and even then he was only with Peter and a few others for fifteen days. We see that the gospel is not man's idea and it is not man's work. It is a truth given to us by God Himself. The authority of it is not from ourselves, the power of it is not from ourselves. It is all the Lord, His doing, His sharing, His goodness and His love.
Looking at verse 6:
There is nothing to add to the gospel. There is no deficiency in it. It is perfect and complete and true just the way that it is. Remember that the gospel is this statement, "Jesus Christ has come to die on your behalf as payment for your sins, so that He might take you out of this evil age. The benefits of His life, death, and resurrection are offered personally and freely to you." There is no necessity to add a law to this. There is no standard of requirement that must be completed by any person in order to receive this. As far as Judaism goes, even when Paul brought Titus (a Greek) to Jerusalem, none of the leaders thought it was necessary that Titus become a Jew culturally in order to receive the gift of God in Christ. There are no requirements! No academic requirements, no economic requirements, no racial or cultural requirements. The only thing that is necessary is a response of faith in Christ.
Looking at verse 8:
An interesting note is that Peter and Paul were called to share the SAME gospel to DIFFERENT people. The gospel is the same everywhere and every time, but the audience changes. As we live our lives for the Lord, proclaiming His gospel in every setting of our lives, we must be aware of the audience we have before us. We must reach the people around us in the most effective way we can. Effectiveness here is not measured by the amount of skill you have in sharing (see how Paul shared in 1 Corinthians 2:1-4), the comfort you have in sharing (see Paul's lists of discomforts in 2 Corinthians 11:23-28) , or even the number of people you find yourself sharing with (see Phillip preaching to the eunuch in Acts 8:26-40). Effectiveness is measured by whether the Spirit moves in power in someone's life. The power of the Spirit is to show people the true Jesus and bring them to a place of responding to His call. Are people seeing the true Jesus and responding to Him where you are? Then there is effectiveness.
Looking at verse 12:
When Peter comes to Antioch, he displays a certain amount of hypocrisy because of his own fear of looking bad in front of other Jewish believers. This is easily one of the most common fears that we have. Even as those who follow Christ, we find fears creep into our mind and drive us away from the truth of the gospel. It can be even justified in this way: Peter probably thought to himself, "I am a leader in the church. I don't want to make any of my brethren stumble. These Greeks understand the freedom we have in Christ, but these Jews are a little sensitive about the Jewish customs, so I will just distance myself from the Greeks while they are here, so I can be kind to them." But even that line of thinking is flawed, for in justifying himself by saying it is an act of love towards the Jewish believers, he has not been loving or true to the Greek believers around him. The situation we find ourselves in truly is a difficult one! But we must, by the grace of God, push forward into SHOWING EVERYONE EVERYWHERE, AT EVERY TIME, THAT THE GOSPEL IS FREE.
Looking at verse 14:
Peter is caught living a double life. He acts one way in front of Jews, and another way in front of Greeks. This teaches us two things about the gospel:
1. IF THE GOSPEL IS NOT TRUE FOR ONE PERSON, THEN IT IS NOT TRUE FOR ANY PERSON: Truth cannot be subjective. Things that are absolute are only absolute if they remain absolute at all times and in all circumstances. Either the gospel is true, and God's gift of Jesus is freely given to all regardless of background, culture, race, personality, economic status, or social status, or the gospel is false, and we are left with something to earn, whether by culture, race, personality, economic status, or social status.
2. THE GOSPEL ALLOWS US TO FREELY BE OURSELVES EVERYWHERE WE GO: Apart from the gospel, we often find ourselves changing the way we act based on where we are. At school, we act one with our friends, and another way with our teachers. Both of these things are different than how we act with our siblings or our parents. Different things are hidden from different people, so as to give some impression that makes us look good to them. This can be an exhausting life, moving between circles of people, never truly being who you are in any setting. But in the gospel, what we find is that we can be ourselves everywhere, all the time. We do not have to convince others that we are good, we rest in the grace of God. We are free to live simply as beloved children of God everywhere we go.
Looking at verse 16:
The law has never at any time made anyone righteous with the Lord. The word righteousness is positional and relational. It means to be standing on the right side. It becomes quite clear how the law could never make someone stand on the right side with the Lord. The law does not do anything to change a person. It has no power to move a person to the right position. The best the law can do is show you that you are in the wrong position. It never could, and never will be able to move you into a right position with the Lord. The only thing that does that is trusting Jesus (faith in Christ).
What does this even mean? It means that the only thing that can makes you right with God is you trusting that Jesus makes you right with God. You have no other reason (particularly based on the law) to ever think that you are right with God. The only thing you have is that you trust that Jesus has made you right. This would seem like foolishness, except every part of this trust that you have is built on the life of Jesus Himself. He lived always right with the Lord, and took on a punishment that was not owed Him, and now has presented that payment to the Lord on your behalf, and it has been accepted by God! All of these things are known by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus! You don't see it now. You don't feel it now. You don't even really understand it now. But you believe it now and that is enough. Just have faith in the work of Jesus!
Looking at verse 17:
Paul addresses a common question. The logic goes like this: God is righteous and true and just. He could never tolerate or excuse sin. A Christian is said to be right with the Lord because of Jesus alone. But then if a Christian sins, is Jesus then an enabler of sin? Does Jesus become a reason for us to continue sinning? Shouldn't someone who is right with God, always do the right thing?
The question is valid, but the premise is misguided. The Christian life is not a life of practical sinlessness, but a life of blamelessness. It is not that Christians are incapable of sin, it is that we always have a continual advocate who makes us right with the Lord (1 John 2:1-2). Every time we find ourselves in sin again is another time where we must confess that our righteousness is not based on our works, but Christ Himself.
Looking at verse 20:
The law truly only accomplishes one thing. It condemns us all to death. By looking at the law, we become dead men walking. We are people existing only to die. But having been killed by the law, we find that there is life on the other side of that death. There is life in Christ. This truth awakens us to what the Christian life is about.
The Christian statement is not one of moral goodness, self-righteousness, or inherent sufficiency. A Christian is not someone who thinks they are good and respectable. A Christian is not someone who thinks they can find the fullness of life by accomplishing things or becoming better. A Christian is someone who thinks that the only life to be found, the only life worth living, is the one where they stop trying to prove themselves; the one stop trying to please themselves. They simply and completely trust that Christ gives them the life He has, the life that can conquer death. They live their lives trusting Jesus, following what He says, obeying what He wants, because they know that His life is the only life.
Questions to think on:
1. What should you do if you are trying to live by faith, but find yourself still sinning?
2. What do you think it means to have Christ living in you? How does that kind of living differ from living under the law?