When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of them all, "You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs? 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."
Thoughts for Today:In our passage today, Paul confronted Peter in the presence of all the brothers: "Why would you want to start religiosity all over again? It didn't work for us, so why force them? Besides we know the truth -- we are justified by faith in Christ -- not by works, but simply by believing." The clarity and directness of Paul's statement is one of the reasons I personally hold him in such high esteem. Paul was not going to allow the Gentiles to be forced into the bondage of Jewish traditions as a condition of their salvation. Why? Because the blessings of God are based only on His grace.
Sometimes I too am tempted to earn God's favor by the time I spend writing morning devotions; by the work I do in the mission field sharing and teaching the Gospel; or by the hours I invest counseling and coaching young men. But it would be a huge mistake. Why? Because I am not justified by what I do, but by my faith in what was done.
When we first were born again, we were justified by faith. And it continues from yesterday, through today, and into tomorrow as well. The blessings of God are not conditioned upon what we do or don't do. We receive His blessing only because the sin that separated us from Him was washed away by the blood of His Son. Not by our work, but by His love. Therefore, everything we do should solely be our loving response to His great sacrifice for us.
Questions to Ponder:I certainly want God to be pleased with my life and say: "Well done, good and faithful servant!" However, there is a big difference between doing things to please God and trying to earn His favor. What motivates your efforts? Are you responding in love? What does your obedience say about your faith?