North Anderson Baptist Church
Conflict: Faith vs. Law
Locations & Times
  • North Anderson Baptist Church
    2308 N Main St, Anderson, SC 29621, United States
    Sunday 10:30 AM
The major players in the conflict seen in this passage are: Peter, Paul and Barnabas. This will be the only time in the Word of God that we see anything written in a negative way about Barnabas. But Peter has had his share of negative comments in the Gospels but this is the only one here in this passage that speaks of anything outside of the Gospels.

The conflict has to do with “faith vs. law.” We need to set the stage for this conflict primarily between Paul and Peter. The setting is in the city and the church by the same name, Antioch. After Pentecost there were believers who went back to their different cities, some went to Cyprus and Cyrene and later went on to the Syrian area of Israel called Antioch, not far from the historical city that we have heard of recently called Aleppo. In Antioch there were Jews and Gentiles being saved, mostly Gentiles. When the leaders in Jerusalem heard of this, that Gentiles were being saved, they sent Barnabas there to find out what was going on. These events are reported on in Acts 11:19-30. Barnabas saw the growth of the church in Antioch and that they needed help to continue that growth and therefore went to get Paul, at that time called Saul, so he could help him in doing the work of the Lord. For one year the church grew even more and things went well. How Peter ended up there in Antioch we are not completely sure but he must have gone there to check out what was going on in Antioch. It was at this time “some men” came from Jerusalem, maybe when the prophet Agabus came to Antioch (Acts 11:27-28). These are the men that Paul is speaking about in our Galatians passage, v.12. He said that they claimed to have come from James, the church leader in Jerusalem; whether that is true or not it is not known but Paul doubted it. These men were Judaizers. A Judaizer is one who believed that one could become a Christian only after he professed his faith in Christ AND then adhered to the Law. Here was the problem. They thought Paul was watering down the Gospel to make it easier for Gentiles to become Christians. Paul accused these Judaizers of adding something other than Faith to salvation.
So here is the conflict: Paul preached “faith in Christ alone for salvation” and the Judaizers preached and demanded that Gentiles “accept Christ but then they had to follow the Law, particularly the Law of circumcision.”

When these Judaizers came to Antioch, Peter had already been there awhile and because he had a great experience with Cornelius, a Gentile Roman officer who believed in Christ for his salvation, he willingly ate with and had fellowship with the Gentiles there at Antioch. When these men from Jerusalem came, Peter acted like a hypocrite and started eating with the men from Jerusalem and not fellowshiping with the Gentile Christians. Paul accused Peter of hypocrisy, living like a Gentile while with Gentiles and living like a Jew when with Jews. With his actions and attitude Peter, Paul said, supported the beliefs of the Judaizers. The conflict boils down to Faith vs. Law. You can be saved by faith alone in Jesus Christ or you can be saved only if you believe in Jesus and add to that faith - following the Law set down for the Jews. In essence becoming a Jew first and then you can become a Christian. It really was salvation by works - becoming a Jew first. One could not be saved unless they first became a Jew.
In your belief about Christianity, is there anything else one must do other than believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, his death, burial and resurrection? Before someone can be saved do they have to believe and then be baptized, give money, come to church, serve, love, etc…? Or, do you say that only believing is enough but your actions, like Peter’s, say something else?

Let me give an example. You see someone come into the church who is not like you, their clothes are not clean, they are ragged. They have multiple tattoos, with a hairdo that is as far out as you have ever seen. Their language is rough and difficult to understand. Do you actually think that before they can become a believer and join the church, that they must clean up and get a haircut and become a little more presentable? What are your thoughts and what will be your thoughts and actions toward them? Have you compromised the Gospel by the way you think and act?
Why do you think it was important for Paul to confront Peter with his sin? Why publicly?

If Paul did not call out Peter on the way he handled this issue, the Gospel was going to be compromised and for the Gentiles who wanted to be saved later, it would become a problem. God used Paul, by the Holy Spirit’s help, to once again save the church and the foundation of the true way to be saved, by confronting this corruption of the true Gospel, which is only by faith in Christ alone.

We can see how the devil desired to take another opportunity to water down the true Gospel and bind the freedom Christians had in Christ. Satan is about adding and subtracting from the truth to lead people astray. He has been so successful throughout the centuries as he has led people to develop false doctrines and substitute gospels for the truth.
In verse 16, “...know that a person is not justified by the works of the law (“by observing the law” - NIV 1984), but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.” You can see how important Paul’s argument was then and even now. What does justified mean? Paul is saying a person is not justified by works but by faith in Christ Jesus. Justify means from the secular dictionary the following: to prove or show to be just or right, to vindicate (of circumstances), to furnish adequate grounds for; to corroborate, to absolve.

From the Word of God we see in Job 9:2 a question, “How should a man be just with God?” Another translation has it this way, “But how can a mortal be righteous before God?” (NIV) So, the Word of God answers that question, however you put it in Habakkuk 2:4, “...but the righteous will live by his faith.” We are justified with God through our faith in Him. Later in the writings of Paul to Galatians in 3:11 we read, “Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, “the righteous will live by faith.” Here Paul quotes from Habakkuk 2:4. Warren Wiersbe gives us his definition of justification: “It is the act of God whereby he declares the believing sinner righteous in Jesus Christ.” He continues to say, that justification is an act not a process and that no Christian is “more justified” than another Christian. He goes on and says, quoting Romans 5:1, “Having therefore been once-and-for-all justified by faith, we have peace with God.” (literal translation) Since we are justified by faith, it is an instant and immediate transaction between the believing sinner and God. If we were justified by works, then it would have to be a gradual process.”
Wiersbe says, “justification is an act of God: it is not the result of man’s character or works.” “It is God that justifies” Romans 8:3. He says it is not by our works of the law that we the sinners are made in “right” standing before God but by putting our faith in Jesus Christ. God, in His grace, placed our sins upon Jesus and instead of our sin God has placed Christ’s righteousness to our account.”

We need to hear more from Warren Wiersbe. He says justification declares the believing sinner righteous ; God does not make the sinner righteous. When one is justified from one’s sins then that leads to a truly changed life.

Listen to this, “Before the sinner trusts Christ, he stands GUILTY before God; but the moment he trust Christ, he is declared NOT GUILTY and he can never be called GUILTY again!”
Justification is not merely forgiveness because a person can be forgiven and then go out and sin and become guilty again. Once you have been “justified by faith” you can never be held guilty before God.

You see, justification is not just a pardon either. Because a person who is pardoned still has a record. When the sinner is justified by faith his past sins are remembered against him no more and God can no longer put his sins on record. (Psalm 32:1-2; Romans 4:1-8)

Wiersbe says lastly about justification is that God only justifies the sinners not the “good people.” Paul says that God justifies the ungodly. (Romans 4:5, However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness. ) The reason Wiersbe says this is the reason that most sinners are not justified is that they will not admit that they are sinners and only those people who are willing to admit they are a sinner are the only ones Christ can forgive of their sins.

Hear this truth today, if you want to be saved you have to admit you are a sinner and in need of being saved by the only one who can save you, Jesus Christ.
Here is the significance of the actions Peter took when he moved from the Gentile table and sat with the Jews and began to eat with them: he denied the truth of justification by faith alone. He was saying that, “we Jews are better than you Gentiles.” And yet he knew that both Jews and Gentiles were sinners and all off them needed to be saved by Christ. But remember it is only the sick that Jesus said needed a doctor. He meant that only those who admitted that they were in need of Christ to forgive them of their sin would be the ones who were saved. Peter was saying Jews don’t need to be justified because they are Jews.

Paul was so right to call Peter on his hypocrisy and it was right to do it openly. We actually can learn a great deal about how to deal with our own conflict by paying attention to how Paul handled this situation with Peter. Paul had to “nip it in the bud” as Barney Fife would say. This thinking would be the death of the church as Jesus taught. Everyone else, although Paul was addressing Peter, needed to hear the truth, so there would be no doubt as to how a person was to be saved. We don’t hear it here but Peter was guilty of sin and overcame this incident in his life and went on. It was after this that sometime later Peter wrote his two books and his gospel described there is the same as Paul’s.
The last phrase in verse 16 is so telling. It says, “...because by observing the law no one will be justified.” There is nothing you can do that will add to the death of Jesus that can make God love you more. Nothing can be added to faith to grant you salvation!

Be open and honest with others when there is a non-truth being taught in your presence. Don’t let the false doctrine be said without the truth being heard. But! As Peter told those he wrote to when you answer someone’s questions or speak out regarding your faith, do it with gentleness and respect. 1 Peter 3:15, “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…” People respect and respond to people who are kind and gracious when they discuss their faith. But like Paul don’t mix words, say the truth forthright.

My dear friend, our prayer is that you will admit that you are in need of Christ because you see your sin and the lostness of your life and He is the only one who because you place your faith in Him can save you and give you new life.


Dear friend if you are reading this by way of the internet please know that you are loved and cared for. If you have no relationship with God the Father through Jesus Christ His Son, then I invite you to trust Him by faith and receive Him as your personal Savior. Jesus Christ died on the cross for the sin of everyone in the world that they may have eternal life. All of us have sinned and all are guilty before Almighty God who made us to have fellowship with Him. But sin broke that ability to have a relationship and Jesus has restored the possibility to know God personally through His sacrifice. Please know that if you will seek God and turn from your sin and pray He will respond with His love and give to you a personal relationship through your belief in His Son and the sacrifice He made just for you. He will call for a change in your life too. He wants you to follow Him, not the world, not your own desires, but to follow Jesus. That brings a life change when you turn from sin and self and by faith believe in Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord. There is no Savior without Him being Lord of your life. Your willingness to change by following Him daily in your life will be the proof of your faith. When life throws its curves your way and you have found yourself broken by others or by the world let us introduce you to the only One who can help you…Jesus! You can write or call the office and we will follow up by contacting you. Office phone number is 864-225-2575 and the website address is and the physical address is 2308 N. Main St., Anderson, SC 29621. Dear friend if you are a believer and you have been touched by the Lord and you would like to talk to someone at the church just contact us in one of the ways you see above. If you are a believer and would like to talk about the church and your interest in being a part, please call and we can set up an appointment for you and get to know you. It would be a great pleasure to share our Lord’s love with you. This is a loving church and you are important to us, so please let us know what we can do for you in the Lord.
Pastor Bill Rigsby