Verse 14 really strikes me.
…I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel… (14, ESV)
Obviously, in this context, Peter’s conduct was out of step with the gospel in that by his actions, he was once again calling what God had made clean, “unclean.” He did this, not only in terms of the food they were eating, but more importantly, in terms of separating himself from the Gentiles at the dinner table. By doing this, he restored the dividing wall of the law that stood between Jew and Gentile, and threatened to destroy the unity of the church, for whom Christ died. (Ephesians 2:11-22)
And by walking out of step with the gospel, there was a serious breach between what he preached and what he did. Namely, that it is through grace, apart from works, that we are justified before God, and that it is our love for Christ that now drives our every action. (15-20)
Peter’s actions, however, threatened to undo all that he believed and preached to the church at Antioch.
We may not be out of step with the gospel in that sense, but are we out of step with the gospel in other ways?
Do we look down on other Christians for their “immaturity” and “failings” while forgetting that we ourselves stand only by the grace of God?
Granted, we are to help our fellow believers reach maturity, but there is no room for pride in our own “maturity” as we do so. We have only reached the point we have by the grace of God. And even now, if we are truly closer to Christ’s light, we should see our own flaws even more clearly. Before, we probably didn’t even notice them because of the size of our “bigger” sins. But in the brightness of God’s light, our multiple “lesser” flaws should become even more visible to us. And if you can’t see those flaws, you’re either perfect, or you’re not as mature as you think you are.
We all stand by the grace of God alone. If you don’t see that and weep, you’re probably out of step with the gospel.
On the other hand, some people are out of step with the gospel in that they are constantly beating themselves up because of their sin. But they too, in a sense, are living in pride. Pride that they should be able to clean themselves up. And the fact that they cannot devastates them. But the gospel says we are to throw away that pride. We are all completely dependent on God’s grace, and it is because we cannot clean ourselves up that Jesus had to die on the cross. To insist that we should be able to clean ourselves up, and to weep because we can’t, is to nullify the grace of God in our lives. For if we could do so, and thus save ourselves, Christ died for no purpose. (21)
And finally some people are out of step with the gospel in saying, “Well, now I’ve been forgiven, so I can live anyway that I wish.”
But the gospel says our old life has been crucified with Christ. And it is no longer we who live, but Christ lives in us. And Christ does not live a willfully sinful life. Neither should we. Instead, the knowledge that the Son of God loved us enough to give his life for us should cause us to live each day in gratefulness to him, and put a desire in our hearts to live each day for him.
How about you? Are you walking in step with the gospel.