As racial and ethnic tensions rise, those who belong to God’s new community in Christ need to renounce prejudice. Instead, we are called to model love, forgiveness, and harmony. A biographical and doctrinal excerpt from the epistle to the Galatians shows us how.*
“Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I [Paul] withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision [Jewish leaders]” (Gal. 2:11,12).
Evidently Peter had gone back from the clear revelation of Acts 10:1-48 [when he introduced Cornelius’ family and friends to salvation], and from his former practice… The fear of the conservative party of the mother Church had brought him into a snare. His example had a very unfortunate effect upon the rest of the Hebrew Christians, who took their lead from him. But Paul’s remonstrance probably brought Peter back to his former and happier practice.
Paul goes on to show that the death of Christ has taken us altogether out of the realm of the ancient Law, with its restrictions and distinctions between clean and unclean, Jew and Gentile (Gal. 2:15-19).
“For [Jesus] Himself is our peace, who has made both [Jew and Gentile] one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross … And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father” (Eph. 2:14-18).*
If the conservative [legalistic] view was right, and it was wrong to eat with the Gentiles, then all that Christ had done and taught was in vain. Indeed, he had become a minister to sin (Gal. 2:17), because He had taught His people to associate with Gentiles [John 10:16; Acts. 10:15]. But such a suggestion was, of course, unthinkable, and therefore Peter was wrong in withdrawing from Gentile fellowship.
Then the Apostle breaks out into the memorable confession of the power of the Cross in his own life, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain” (Gal. 2:20-21).
It [the Cross] stood between him and the past. His self-life was nailed there, and this new life was no longer derived from vain efforts to keep the Law, but from the indwelling and uprising of the life of Jesus-the perennial spring of John 4:14: “…whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”
As believers in Christ, may we appreciate and demonstrate unity in the midst of ethnic diversity. Like Paul, may we claim as personally true our identification with Christ in His death and resurrection. As we live in the new way of the Spirit, others will be drawn to the Fountain of living water.*
F.B. Meyer’s Through the Bible’ Commentary
Title, bracketed content and paragraphs marked by asterisk have been added by the editor.
Biblical quotations are from The Holy Bible, New King James Version (copyrighted by Thomas Nelson)
President Abraham Lincoln’s Proclamation of Thanksgiving (Issued, October 3, 1863 – during the Civil War)
“I, therefore, invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a Day of Thanksgiving and Prayer to our beneficent Father, who dwelleth in the heavens. And I recommend to them that, while offering up the ascriptions justly due to him that, for such singular deliverances and blessings; they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility, and union…”
Read the full proclamation here: http://www.wallbuilders.com/LIBissuesArticles.asp?id=4082