I highly appreciated Sam Allberry and Ray Ortlund’s podcast in the second half of 2021. They explore how a church can believe something on paper yet not actively live in the beautiful light of that truth. When words spoken from the pulpit are not adorned in the lives of the hearers, the church’s culture is fundamentally disconnected from the truth it proclaims.
Imagine you’re a high-profile celebrity, unable to leave your home without the paparazzi in tow. You’ve decided, along with an increasing fan base, to embrace veganism. Your Instagram posts are practically evangelistic about it. But disaster strikes when, at your birthday celebration, you unthinkingly order medium-rare steak, fries, and a peanut butter milkshake. The plate is placed before you and the camera snaps. Before you know it, social media has blown up.
So it is for us as believers. There can be a disconnect between our actions and our words. We can say we’re people of grace and yet be ungracious. We can say we love God’s kindness, welcome, or forgiveness but then be remarkably unkind, unwelcoming, and unforgiving toward others. A cynical, watching world looks at the church and scratches its head or rolls its eyes. Our witness is undermined.
Walking in Line with the Gospel
This concept is starkly evident when Paul confronts Peter in Galatians 2. Remember the scenario? Peter (Cephas) has ceased to enjoy table fellowship with Gentile Christians. Paul publicly confronts him: “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?’” (Gal. 2:14).
Peter was not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, which says that both Jew and Gentile are accepted in the community of believers because of the sufficient gospel of grace. Instead of adorning the gospel of Jesus, Peter’s actions, disconnected from the truth, commended a false gospel. When words spoken from the pulpit are not adorned in the lives of the hearers, the church’s culture is fundamentally disconnected from the truth it proclaims. Click To Tweet
There are four implications for us to consider as we plant and pastor:
1. People are watching us.
We do not live in isolation; we live in Christ-transformed community. People are not simply watching but also interpreting our actions. Our lives tell a story. By his actions, Peter undermined the gospel truth he professed and proclaimed. He said one thing but acted differently. We can’t think our actions don’t matter as long as we hold to an orthodox gospel; people notice when our actions contradict the gospel we profess.
2. It’s right to challenge wrong behavior.
Planters and pastors are to be as flexible and adaptable as possible. But where gospel truth is at stake, we must be prepared to stand our ground. No doubt this exchange between Paul and Peter was a difficult moment in salvation history as the early church was forming and finding its way, but the concept remains: it’s right to challenge error and wrong-doing. We’re not to be on a witch hunt, always looking for the next person to criticize or critique. But we must be willing to help people see where they’re not “acting in line with the truth of the gospel” (Gal. 2:14), even if that means loving confrontation.
3. We need to keep reforming.
We’re too easily like the vegan celebrity who unthinkingly orders the medium-rare steak. Our fleshly, Adamic muscle-memory kicks in, and our actions undermine our in-Christ gospel convictions. So God lovingly urges us to submit our attitudes and actions to his gracious gaze repeatedly. Humble yourself and ask where there’s a disconnect. Perhaps it’s how we speak to our spouses or our kids. Maybe it’s how we spend our money, energy, or time—how we drink, eat, or respond when we’ve messed up again. Reformation in both our own lives and the lives of our church families is a lifelong privilege. It’s glorious to remember daily that the old Adam has gone and that Christ is here; we've been made alive by the Spirit to walk in line with the gospel of Jesus. Click To Tweet
4. Live today by faith in the Son of God.
As we seek to remedy a non-gospel culture, the ironic danger may be that our growing to-do list leaves us feeling guilty and demoralized. Yet Paul ends this section to the burdened Galatians not with more to do but with a jaw-dropping reminder about who we are in Christ. “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” (Gal. 2:20).
Rather than beating yourself up and ceaselessly trying to do more, it’s glorious to live out of who you now are in Christ. He has done the work! His perfect, mediating obedience and suffering count for us. So we look to Christ Jesus in faith. It’s glorious to remember daily that the old Adam has gone and that Christ is here; we’ve been made alive by the Spirit to walk in line with the gospel of Jesus. In Christ, you’re free to confess, turn, and live.