Poetry: Literary work in which special intensity is given to the expression of feelings and ideas by the use of distinctive style, structure and rhythm.a
When Cephas came to Antioch,
he used to eat with the Gentiles.
Certain men came from James.
When they arrived,
he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles.
He was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group.
I opposed him to his face,
he stood condemned.
The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy,
even Barnabas was led astray.
They were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel.
I said to Cephas in front of them all,
“you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs
yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew.”
We Jews find ourselves also among the sinners,
doesn’t that mean that Christ promotes sin?
A person is not justified by the works of the law.
Through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God.
If I rebuild what I destroyed, then I really would be a lawbreaker
because by the works of the law no one will be justified.
We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles,
we too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus
that we may be justified by faith in Christ.
Do not set aside the grace of God!
Christ died for nothing
if righteousness could be gained through the law.
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.
a Structure taken from the NIV Bible
John 18 NIV
28 Then the Jewish leaders took Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness they did not enter the palace, because they wanted to be able to eat the Passover. 29 So Pilate came out to them and asked, “What charges are you bringing against this man?” 30 “If he were not a criminal,” they replied, “we would not have handed him over to you.” 31 Pilate said, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.” “But we have no right to execute anyone,” they objected.
This is the story of a power struggle between legalism and truth. The thing that shocked me most in this passage was the phrase “to avoid ceremonial uncleanness.” The goal of the Jewish leaders was the execution of Jesus through manipulating the power systems in place, not justice or truth. The grim reality of their legalism is their shockingly clear response to Pilate’s question – “What charges are you bringing against this man?” – “If he were not a criminal,” they replied, “we would not have handed him over to you.” Pilate said, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.” “But we have no right to execute anyone,” they objected.” The proof of their legalism was Pilate could achieve their goal to get rid of Jesus so they could avoid ceremonial uncleanness. It was their choice to justify hearts that had found a way to work around God’s truth; “Thou shall not kill.”
I admit it, I have rules! The whole purpose of rules is to regulate behavior and exert influence. Neither of those is necessarily bad…until…they replace the truth that life with Jesus is how we are justified, not rules. Have you even thought about “ceremonial uncleanness” in terms of your own behavior? I certainly hadn’t, but I know I’m guilty of having used rules to justify my motivations and behaviors. Legalism is believing rules or personal motivations can help you avoid ceremonial uncleanness. The truth of the Grace of God in Jesus is that the “the life I now lived in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.”a
a Part of Galatians 2:20
NIV [New International Version] 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.
TLB [The Living Bible] 5:1 So now, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith in his promises, we can have real peace with him because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. 2 For because of our faith, he has brought us into this place of highest privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to actually becoming all that God has had in mind for us to be.
As much as I love the book of Romans and the NIV version it’s easy to read familiar words and phrases like “justified, peace with God through Jesus, grace in which we now stand, and boast in the hope of the glory of God” and let them slip by because I know I believe them. The challenge is not to let that happen. I want the truth of Scripture to be more important to my everyday life than that. That’s when I’m thankful for being able to read another version like The Living Bible, and be reminded how much those familiar phrases matter.
I am “justified” because God sees my faith in his promises through Jesus’ eyes. The reality of peace with God is Jesus Christ has done that for me. My faith is the gift of access to the grace that gives me confidence I can look forward to actually becoming all that God has in mind for me to be.
The Living Bible is a paraphrase created by Kenneth N. Taylor, the founder of Tyndale House and first published in 1971. Dr. Taylor used a previously translated version, the American Standard Version of 1901, to create The Living Bible. Taylor intended his paraphrase to put the basic message of the Bible into easier-to-read language, not to replace accepted translations.
The New International Version is a completely original translation of the Bible developed by more than one hundred scholars. The Committee of Bible Translation was charged to meet every year to review, maintain, and strengthen the NIV’s ability to accurately and faithfully render God’s unchanging Word as new discoveries are made about the biblical world and its languages.
Don’t neglect the privilege you have to read other versions of Scripture, especially when they seem familiar to you. God will make his truth worth your effort.