A Slap to the Head

Daily Reform, Day 105

Galatians 2:14 & 2 Corinthians 12:8-9

From the Reformer

By his compromising attitude Peter confused the separation of Law and Gospel. Paul had to do something about it. He reproved Peter, not to embarrass him, but to conserve the difference between the Gospel which justifies in heaven, and the Law which justifies on earth.

—Martin Luther, Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians

Pulling It Together

The task at hand was the salvation of the entire world. The work involved was the keeping of the unkeepable law (Acts 15:10). We cannot keep it, so God’s answer was that he would satisfy the demands of righteousness himself. He would do it for us. And he did. He came to earth and satisfied the demands of the Law. Therefore, Paul states that Christ’s grace is now sufficient for us. Nothing else is required. Period. Nevertheless, we want to add more to God’s own righteousness as though it is insufficient to the task.

This is tantamount to a slap to the head, a kick in God’s pants. Fool! Get out of here with your crazy notions that we can be saved without our own hard work and merit. We must show ourselves worth something before we can be of worth.

Yet Paul, with all of his law-keeping upbringing insists that God’s grace alone is sufficient. Yes, yes. Endeavor to keep the law but rely upon God’s grace. Do good but rely on God’s goodness-not yours. You can depend upon the goodness of no one but God for no one is good but God. (Mark 10:8)

Peter understood this; his dining with Gentile Christians was proof. But when legalists showed up at church, he thought of his own merits again. I have to be better than these Gentiles or I am not good enough for my religion. Peter then drew apart from those less holy-looking than himself. Paul would not stand for this behavior, for it could destroy the advance of grace in the church at Antioch. He effectively slapped Peter upside his religious head. And it woke him up.

© Mark E. Ryman, Daily Reform: Devotions with the Reformers

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