In "The Power of Conformity" Scott Smith describes the apostle Paul's response to Peter's inconsistency about obedience to aspects of the law [Gal. 2:11-15]. In the sermon Pastor Smith makes this very important point:
What does it mean to be “justified?” It means “to be made right,” to be made “straight,” or correct. The New Testament Greek meaning is that a person is “declared right or righteous.” The justified person may not be without fault, but they have been declared righteous because they are in Christ who is perfect in every way! Paul wanted no confusion. To be declared righteous by God (to be justified) you must be in Christ. His problem with Peter was that by conforming to the Jewish law, Peter was leading others to believe that they could be justified by obeying the law.
Dedicate your entire life to the obedience of the law and at the end of your days you will have done much that is good, but you will, in the long run, fail! Even the smallest imperfection is sin in the sight of a perfect God. Without being “justified by faith” even a life of nearly full obedience will end in damnation. Salvation comes by faith alone! That is the fundamental truth in this scripture. Salvation comes by faith alone! Nothing else will suffice.
There are two other things here that I want you to notice. First, two of the three marks of Judaism are in contention here. Paul makes it clear that neither obedience to food laws, nor the physical act of circumcision will justify you before God. The third mark is the Sabbath and it was not in contention. I believe that the reason is that everyone involved recognized God’s Sabbath. There was simply no argument there!
But before we Sabbath keepers begin to pat our own backs, make sure that you understand this. Just like circumcision and food laws, obedience to the Sabbath law will not save you. Justification is in Christ alone, not in Sabbath observance! .... [more]
Scott Smith is pastor of the Middle Island Seventh Day Baptist Church in West Virginia.