Galatians 2:11-21 Paul Opposes Peter
Paul continues to defend his authority and his partnership with the apostles.
- He has established that His authority and message came directly from Jesus Himself.
- While the Apostle’s task is to bring the gospel to the Jews, Paul’s task is to bring the gospel to the gentiles. In defence of the Gentiles, Paul came to agreement with the Apostles, that circumcision is not required by the gentiles.
- They each recognize their role and are working in fellowship to proclaim salvation to everyone.
11 When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. 12 Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. 13 The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.
Sometime after the Jerusalem counsel in Acts 15, Peter came to visit Paul and the Gentile Christians in Antioch. Peter was eating and drinking with Gentiles freely. But, when visitors came from Jerusalem (James refers to the church in Jerusalem) Peter acted different.
This group who came from Jerusalem, Paul calls them “the circumcision group.” These were people who supported the belief that circumcision was a requirement for salvation. This was the whole point of the Jerusalem council. And yet, even Peter, who was supposed to be the example, the leader, drew back from associating with the uncircumcised Gentiles when these false teachers arrived!
Then, because Peter was the leader, the other Jews joined in his hypocrisy! In fact, even Barnabas was led astray by Peter’s actions.
Talk about peer pressure at its worst! But, what an example for these Galatian believers who have been tempted with the same thing! Paul is making it clear that Peter was wrong, and so are these “Judaizers” of the circumcision group.
Application: Like we stated in the last section, it’s so important to know the truth and confidently stand on the truth so that we aren’t led astray by even the strongest of personalities.
When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?
Paul didn’t pull any punches. He was quick to confront Peter to his face, right in front of everyone.
“You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew.” This was a huge insult to a Jew. Jews saw Gentiles as heathen, sinners, even barbarian. Paul is saying, “You are acting like a heathen… like a barbarian!” You are not acting in line with the truth of the gospel!
“Peter,” Paul says, “these guys are Gentiles, not Jews! You can’t impose Jewish customs and laws on the Gentiles.”
Peter, by his actions, was imposing the Jewish customs on the Gentiles.
“We who are Jews by birth and not ‘Gentile sinners’ 16 know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ.
Paul reminds Peter that it’s not just “Gentile sinners” who are saved by faith, even for Jews, they are not justified by observing the law, but by faith in what Jesus did.
Justified is a judicial term meaning declared righteous, or declared right with God. No one can become right with God by observing the law! It is only through the work of Jesus “who gave himself for our sins to rescue us…” (Gal 1:4) Justification, or being right with God only comes by faith in what Jesus did!
Galatians 2:16 So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.
As Jews, they too are justified by faith in Christ. Paul is very clear. Observing the law is NOT what makes you right before God! In fact, “no one will be justified” by observing the law! Justification only comes through what Jesus did! We don’t earn it. It’s not something we receive as a reward for our actions or good deeds. Only those who have put their faith in the work Jesus did to rescue them will be declared right with God!
If, while we seek to be justified in Christ, it becomes evident that we ourselves are sinners, does that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not!
You can almost hear the Jews rebuttal in these words. “How can you say that? You can’t get rid of the law. If you do, what’s to stop people from sinning?”
This was the same argument Paul addressed in Romans 6:1-2 “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?”
When we really understand how much we have been forgiven (Matt 18:21-35), and the power available to us in Christ’s resurrected life living in us (Rom 5:10) there is no longer a need for the law. We will be motivated out of love, not duty.
If I rebuild what I destroyed, I prove that I am a lawbreaker
After being justified by faith, if I return to the law (rebuild what I destroyed) to try to keep from sinning, it will only show me how much of a sinner I am. There is no power there. It will only reveal my sin and prove how bad I really am inside! It’s Romans 7 all over again.
For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God
To understand what Paul is saying here I think we need to go back to Romans chapter 7. In Romans 7:9-12 here is what he said, “Once I was alive apart from law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. 10 I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death. 11 For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death. 12 So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good.”
While the Jews (and the Judiazer false teachers) promoted a righteousness by the law, the only thing the law produces is death. It shows how sinful we really are. A proper understanding of the place of the law should lead to death of our own efforts and lead us to dependence on God.
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live
Romans 6:3-4a “Don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death.”
Our “old life” has been crucified with Christ. When Christ died, we died! When He was buried, our old life was buried with Him. We are no longer a slave to sin! We no longer have to live according to our flesh, we are free to choose to be controlled by another, Christ Himself!
The law killed every chance we had to live righteously. The law only brings the knowledge of sin, it never produces righteousness! It’s a mirror to show sin, not a ladder to righteousness. The law will only crush you to death! Dying to the law enables you to live for God.
Christ lives in me
Romans 6:4-8 “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.5 If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— 7 because anyone who has died has been freed from sin. 8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him
My old self life has been rendered powerless. It no longer has any authority over me. I (my old fleshly self life) have been crucified! When I choose to appropriate that truth, and live according to that truth, the life that I live, the strength I am depending on, is not my old self / fleshly life, it is now Christ in me. “I not longer live.” It’s not my strength. It’s not my life. It’s Christ’s life living in me and through me!
The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Jesus was actually our example of this kind of living! Here are a few things that Jesus said of Himself:
- John 5:30 “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.
- John 5:19 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.
- John 14:9-11 8 Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.
After living this out in front of His disciples, in John 15:1-5 Jesus gives them the challenge to live like He did.
- John 15:5 I am the vine, you are the branches, whoever abides in me and I in him he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
- John 15:10 If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love.
Paul was acknowledging that he lives the same way. Not by fleshly attempts to adhere to a list of rules, but by denying his flesh, depending on the life of Jesus in Him, and living in by Jesus’ strength and victory.
Why is this written?
Paul continues to defend the fact that gentiles are not under the law! The Apostles as a group were now in agreement with Paul. But, in practice, there was a time that Peter failed to model that by his actions. Therefore Paul confronted Peter, reminding Peter that everyone, Jew and Gentile, are justified by faith in Christ, not by works of the law.
Paul used that story as an illustration to help the Galatians remember that trying to live by the law only reveals the depth of our sin. The law should serve to “kill me,” convincing me that I can’t live the Christian life without Christ! The victory to live the Christian life is my being crucified with Christ. It’s only when self and the flesh die that the life of Christ can become our source for living.
Paul ends this section by testifying how he has learned to live. Choosing to die to himself. Seeing himself as crucified with Christ. As one dead and crucified, he is no longer living in the power of self, but by the power of the life of Jesus living through him.
What is God saying to me through this passage? What do I need to be aware of in myself?
How much does self still continue to rule and reign in my life? Although Peter knew that gentiles were free from the law, and that they too were God’s children, Peter fell into old habits and alienated the Gentiles. Instead living in a Godly way at that moment, he was living without God, or God-less. God Himself was not working through his life, self was!
Paul on the other hand had learned that in order for God to be glorified, in order for his actions to be Godly, God must be the source, and therefore the influence and control of self must be dead! I need to continue to learn how to live that way more consistently!
What do I need to do as a result of what I have read?
In chapter 29 of Abiding In Christ Andrew Murray said:
Learn to never trust on self and the power of the flesh for holiness. Don’t depend on the acts of your own will, your purposes, resolutions, and endeavours, instead of Christ. Don’t think Christ is going to help your flesh or your self-will to live the Christian life. True faith teaches that you are nothing, and your labour is in vain. Resolve to trust on Christ to work in you to will and to do His good pleasure by His own power. (Phil 2:13)
The one is the carnal way, in which we put forth our utmost efforts and resolutions, trusting Christ to help us in doing so. The other is the spiritual way, in which, as those who have died, believing we can do nothing, our one care is to abide, to depend on Christ day by day, and at every step to let Him live and work in us.
To do this He asks but one thing: Come away out of self and its life, abide in Christ and the Christ life, and Christ will be your life. As He becomes your life, His interests will become your interests and His influence will begin to extend to even the minutest of the thousand things that make up your daily life.
What’s your first step?