The Cross and the Plate

Daily Reform, Day 107

Galatians 2:14 & 2 Corinthians 2:1-5

From the Reformer

To live as a Jew is nothing bad. To eat or not to eat pork, what difference does it make? But to play the Jew, and for conscience’ sake to abstain from certain meats, is a denial of Christ. When Paul saw that Peter’s attitude tended to this, he withstood Peter and said to him: “You know that the observance of the law is not needed unto righteousness. You know that we are justified by faith in Christ. You know that we may eat all kinds of meats. Yet by your example you obligate the Gentiles to forsake Christ, and to return to the Law. You give them reason to think that faith is not sufficient unto salvation.”

—Martin Luther, Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians

Pulling It Together

The issue was not the eating of pork, nor was it the keeping of other specifics of the Jewish laws. Paul’s concern with Peter’s behavior was that it would be interpreted as necessary conduct for righteousness. His point was that nothing be added to the work of Christ on the cross and so, call that righteousness. His concern was that someone might construe from Peter’s actions: Oh! So I must believe in Christ and not eat pork! Or more specific to the Galatian context, Oh! So then, I must believe in Christ and also be circumcised!

The Apostle summed it up well in his second letter to the Corinthians: “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (2Co 2:2) He did not add a thing to what Christ did to gain his righteousness before God. To add any other requirement for righteousness than the cross would be to deny Christ. It would be tantamount to stating that one needs to believe in Christ but that what he did for you was insufficient.

Some people say that you cannot be a real Christian without reading your Bible. So much for the Christians of the first several centuries who had no Bibles! The point is that a Christian will want to read her Bible but the reading of it does not make one righteous. And so it is with going to church, setting aside something for the offering plate, supporting missions, feeding the poor, et cetera. All these are merely responses to the cross but they add nothing to the cross. The work of Christ on the cross alone produces righteousness in the believer. Nothing must be added to the cross.

If you want to abstain from BBQ, fine. Have a little slaw with it too. But do not make it a matter of righteousness for yourself or for others. Your life should point to the cross, not the plate.

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

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