Sin. Confrontation. Repentance. Repeat.

Sin. Confrontation. Repentance. Repeat.

Sin. Confrontation. Repentance. Repeat.

When Martin Luther wrote his 95 Theses, the very first one was: “When our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, said, “Repent”, He called for the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.”

When is the last time you were confronted on a sin? Whether it was by another human being or by the Holy Spirit Himself, if you are a believer in Jesus Christ, you WILL be able to name a specific instance, because as Luther stated, the entire life of a believer is one of repentance.

As we make our way through the letter to the churches of Galatia, we arrive at this very issue. Paul now gives us a very specific, useful, and first-hand instance of sin and confrontation between Peter (Cephas) and himself.

11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 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. 13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14 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?” 15 We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.

Here is the situation: Peter, a Jewish Christian, is no longer restricted by the Jewish law regarding kosher dietary laws. He and other Jewish Christians in the Church were having pork BBQ sandwiches for lunch with the Gentile believers. 🙂 Then, some men from the Jerusalem church came and were instructing Jewish Christians to keep the Jewish ceremonial laws. Apparently out of fear, Peter complied, separating himself. This resulted in the Gentile believers feeling like second-class Christians because they didn’t observe the laws. It in fact was “not in step with the TRUTH of the Gospel” (v. 14) which is “grace alone, by faith alone, in Christ alone”. This brings us back to the “Jesus Plus” discussion we had in week 2. There is no way that Paul will stand for this and as the text says, “opposed Cephas to his face” (v. 11).

I want to share some brief observations on confrontation, because again, as a believer, our lives will be those full of sin, confrontation, and repentance. (These are not set-in-stone laws, but rather wise, helpful, best-case-scenario instruction.)

  1. Face-to-face. The text is clear. Please don’t text or Facebook chat someone with a correction. You are not setting yourself or the recipient up for success. Now, in-person might not be possible, but do what you can to ensure, at the very least, voice-to-voice, i.e. phone, Skype, etc.
  2. As soon as possible. Paul saw that many others, including Barnabas, his own mentor, was being led astray because of Peter’s sin. He needed to deal with it ASAP! Likewise for us, James 1:15 says, “Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” Sin produces death. We need to protect the sinner from further destruction as well as those whom he/she may be hurting/affecting.
  3. In love. When I say “love”, I don’t mean, “be nice and flowery and use kind words” although those are not bad things. Rather, I mean: do whatever you need to agape well. Agape love has been defined as, “the deliberate and sacrificial pursuit of the highest good for the other person.” That may mean hard words. That may mean difficult conversation. Pastor Mark Driscoll often says, “Hard words produce soft people. Soft words produce hard people.” I believe that. Godly and humble confrontation pursues the highest good of the person–it loves.
  4. Between family members. Paul confronts Peter because he is a brother in Christ. He wrote to the Corinthian church, “For what have I to do with outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?” (1 Corinthians 5:12). We have a responsibility to confront fellow believers, but we are not called to hold non-believers to the same standard. They do not have the Holy Spirit, therefore they do not have a regenerated heart.
  5. Based on truth not feelings. Paul confronted Peter based on the truth of the gospel–not his feelings. It is easy to get wrapped up in our own emotions, hurts, sense of justice, etc. We need to remain clear-headed and humble.
  6. Conclude with the Gospel. This, I believe, is the most important thing. One of my favorite pastors, Dr. Timothy Keller, says, “Sanctification occurs when you focus on your justification.” In verse 16, Paul preaches the gospel to Peter. Essentially, Paul tells him, “You know what, Peter–yeah, you messed up. You showed partiality. You were a hypocrite. You led others to do the same. BUT, YOU HAVE TO REMEMBER that YOU KNOW that a person is not justified by being perfect, or by keeping the whole law, but through faith in Jesus Christ. You and I have believed in Christ Jesus in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by our obedience to the law. You are forgiven because of the grace of God. No one is justified by works of the law. The same grace that you needed on the first day you believed, is the same grace you need today and every day. The same grace that Christ offered on the first day you believed, is the same grace that He offers today and every day. His grace is sufficient for your sin. Repent, Peter.” We HAVE to finish all confrontations with HOPE and GRACE. Paul said in Romans 2:4, “God’s kindness is meant to lead to repentance.” GRACE is the only thing that leads to lasting life-transformation.

Peter allowed his fear to cause him to sin (2:12). Peter was confronted (2:14). Peter was transformed. Grace overcame his fear. Church History tells us that he was crucified for his faith in Jesus. In fact, he was crucified upside down claiming he wasn’t worthy to die in the same manner as his Beloved Lord. No. More. Fear.

Believer, your whole life is to be one of repentance. You will sin. By the grace of God, you will be confronted. By the grace of God, you will repent. By the grace of God, you will be transformed. Hallelujah.