“But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?””
This seems to be the over arching story of a lot of leadership within churches today. There is this incredible hypocrisy. We have all these leaders who live one way at home, make mistakes, poor decisions, or get angry. Then they come to church or leave their house and pretend they aren’t overwhelmed with sin. THEN they see new Christians who are struggling with alcoholism, homosexuality, lust, or a number of other visible sins that are difficult to cover and they point their fingers and tell them it’s incompatible with their new faith. They then begin to explain how their struggle with sin is going to remove their justification. They sit at home struggling with sin themselves but call out believers whose sin is not easily hid.
We need to be real about the struggle with sin. We need to be real about sin being sin no matter what it is packaged in. Legalism, liberty to indulge in worldly pleasures, it’s all the same. We need to be humble enough to realize that everyone’s sin is vile to God but He so graciously accepts us on the merit of Christ because He knows that we are a work in progress.
Paul is offended because people were telling new believers they must do certain Jewish things to maintain salvation after accepting Christ. We’ve not fallen far from that proverbial tree. Here we stand telling new believers they must prune all sin from their life, it’s not a process, it needs to happen now! We force entire sanctification on the new believer forgetting that God met the criminal on the cross. He didn’t say clean up your life and then come to me. He opened His arms, He met him in the middle of his sin, on the cross. He accepted him based on his faith and works on the rest as it comes.
Let’s not paint a false reality of Christianity: it is hard, it’s filled with choosing things we don’t want over the things we want, we all fail. Christianity is having the power of sin broken but learning the power of choosing God over those “desirable” sins.
God I know I am responsible for doing this. I know that as a human it is hard to distinguish that all sin is the same. I get clouded by my own values and rank sins, and ultimately sinners. Help me to remember that I am as wicked as any other person and it is only by Your grace that I ever do the right things. Remind me of my depravity and comfort me with Your grace. Amen.
Are you sharing the Gospel clearly? Please, please, please, pleaseeeeeee, don’t pervert the Gospel with legalism. Do not tell people coming to Christ that there’s fifty other things they need to do. Share the truth that Christ died for their sins and all they must do for justification is accept that payment. THEN lead them towards sanctification by the Spirit, not by YOU. The Spirit will guide them, it’s your job to teach them to yield to Him (not you).