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Culture and Custom of the Jews

John Collins02/16/2012In Galations 2, Paul describes the time he spent with others preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ to very diverse groups of people. At the time, many still taught that the laws of the Old Testament were still required for salvation, and Paul was faced with strong opposition to his ministry of grace and love.

The Jews still held on to the law that circumcision was required for salvation. While God called Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, Paul was called to preach to the Gentiles. Other apostles recognized the grace that was given to Paul, and sent Barnabas to his right hand of fellowship to preach to the heathen.

This was discovered on a certain occasion, when Peter was eating with the uncircumcised Gentiles -- which was forbidden by the law of the Jews. Peter quickly withdrew and separated himself for fear of those circumcised who would accuse him of eating with the uncircumcised. This caused a great disturbance in the churches, insomuch that other Jews started separating themselves and Barnabas was carried away with them.

Paul was against the accusers, saying they "walked not uprightly according to the truth of the Gospel". The Gospel of Jesus Christ was the Good News that Jesus came, died for all, and all who believed on Him would be saved. Paul called Peter before all of these divided members, and confronted the issue head-on. If Peter was a Jew living like the Gentiles, why would he try to make the Gentiles live as the Jews? Jews will be Jews by nature, and not considered sinners by the Gentiles for their beliefs. Gentiles will be Gentiles by nature, and should not be considered sinners by the Jews for their beliefs. Paul knew that the culture and customs of the Gentiles did not require circumcision.

Paul said that man was "not justified by works of the law, but by faith of Jesus Christ." The only justification needed was that they might be "justified by the faith of Christ", and not by the law. According to Paul, in "the works of the law shall no flesh be justified." This would in effect make Christ the minister of sin. God forbid!

Paul said that through the law, he was dead to the law. Christ lived in him, and his new life in the flesh he lived by the faith of the Son of God, who died for all. Paul said that holding onto these old laws would frustrate the grace of God. If righteousness came through the law, then Christ died in vain.

As Christians, we should ask ourselves: do we preach a doctrine of legalism, or of grace? Do we still hold onto those old laws, when Paul himself cast them aside to a new "life in the flesh?" Are we dividing members of the church because we pick-and-choose laws that some disagree with? Are we imposing laws on our churches that were for a different culture or custom? Have we brought forth a doctrine that would have made Christ die in vain?