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Doctrine Worth Fighting For


But when Cephas [Peter] came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision. The rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of all, “If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?

“We are Jews by nature and not sinners from among the Gentiles; nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified.”

—Galatians 2:11–16

Ryle’s “three great lessons” found in this text are: Great ministers may make great mistakes; Preserving the truth of Christ in his church is even more important than keeping peace; and

There is no doctrine about which we ought to be so jealous as justification by faith without the deeds of the law.


What one article of the faith had the Apostle Peter denied at Antioch? None.—What doctrine had he publicly preached which was false? None.—What, then, had he done? He had done this. After once keeping company with the believing Gentiles as ‘fellow-heirs and partakers of the promise of Christ in the Gospel’ (Eph. 3:6), he suddenly became shy of them and withdrew himself. He seemed to think they were less holy and accept able to God than the circumcised Jews. He seemed to imply that the believing Gentiles were in a lower state than they who had kept the ceremonies of the law of Moses. He seemed, in a word, to add something to simple faith as needful to give man an interest in Jesus Christ. He seemed to reply to the question, ‘What shall I do to be saved?’ not merely ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ’, but ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and be circumcised, and keep the ceremonies of the law.’

Such conduct as this the Apostle Paul would not endure for a moment. Nothing so moved him as the idea of adding anything to the gospel of Christ. ‘I withstood him’, he says, ‘to the face.’ He not only rebuked him, but he recorded the whole transaction fully, when by inspiration of the Spirit he wrote the Epistle to the Galatians.

I invite special attention to this point. I ask men to observe the remarkable jealousy which the Apostle Paul shows about this doctrine, and to consider the point about which such a stir was made. Let us mark in this passage of Scripture the immense importance of justification by faith without the deeds of the law.

—J. C. Ryle, Knots Untied (Banner of Truth, 2016), 421–422.

Posted 2017·07·14 by David Kjos
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