As for those who were held in high esteem – whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not show favouritism – they added nothing to my message.
Galatians 2:6 (NIVUK)
Rachel and I live in the historic market town of Strathaven (pronounced ‘stray-ven’), with a population of 7,500. We moved here in 2000. It’s bigger now and feels it, but a core village mentality remains, which is nice. After 20 years we consider ourselves ‘Stravonians’ (‘Strah-vonians’). But not everyone else does.
Strathaven is known for having a nucleus of very long-term, multigenerational residents. It’s one of the loveliest things about the place. They joke in the pubs that ‘you’ve only been here two minutes!’ when they ask you how long you’ve stayed here – and they DO ask! It’s good-natured banter, but clearly they have their private ‘club’.
However, I know I AM a Stravonian because Strathaven has accepted me and I love being a part of Strathaven.
This brings me to our church and to a searching question: Do we successfully avoid having a ‘club’ mentality when it comes to church?
In Paul’s epistle to the Galatians here, he encounters false believers and false brethren. Paul directly opposes Peter, the very same Peter we read so much about in the Bible. We should note that despite Peter actually agreeing with Paul on the core issue – justification by faith, not law – somewhere in his heart, Peter still considered Gentiles not really ‘part of the club’. His behaviour in pointedly not eating with them betrayed his inner shadows (Galatians 2:12-13).
It’s also interesting that Paul had to address and adjust the inside (Peter, as teacher in the fledgling church) to better represent, behave, and appeal to the outside (potential believers). There is application for our lives here.
We live in the tension of the ‘in-between times’ prior to Jesus’ imminent return. The church’s eschatological or ‘last days’ mission is to spread the gospel, not just read it. Church is not merely a sort of religious book club. We can see, in Galatians, how we may be properly given to our Triune God and to the eschatological mission of pointing believers to the gospel, if we understand this incident involving Peter and Paul.
Paul outlines, in verse 20, how we can best give ourselves to our Triune God: ‘I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.’
Heavenly Father, we thank you for your patience as we continue to seek you, and to grow in your grace. We ask always for the guidance of your Holy Spirit, and that he may lead us through our confusion. In Jesus’ name, Amen
Study by Andrew Montgomery
About the writer:
Andrew Montgomery is a Deacon in the Edinburgh congregation
of Grace Communion International.
Gilmerton New Church
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