Galatians 2:11–21 Conflict With Peter.
Key Notes: Paul confronts Peter and Barnabas on Jewish sensitivities. Dying through the Law and dying to the Law. Paul epitomizes the Gospel. Jesus loves me? Are we plain sinners or practicing saints? Caught in the trappings of relgion and missing the message.
This lesson can be divided into three parts:
*A confrontation between Paul and Peter at Antioch: a crisis in Christian culture.
*A theological brief summarizing the case.
*Paul’s personal testimony.
2:11–14 After the Jerusalem conference, a crisis emerged. Peter came to Antioch to visit the church. Paul was evidently away at the time. Peter and Barnabas were eating with the Gentile believers until visitors from the Jerusalem church upset the fellowship. Under the influence of these Jewish Christian brothers from Jerusalem, they began eating apart from the Gentiles. At a glance it seems trivial: who cares who eats with whom?
Before he met Cornelius, Peter had already been taught by God: “what God has cleansed (the Gentiles), you must not call common.” (Acts.10:15). The implication now is that Gentile Christian are still ceremonially unclean and contaminate Jews by their presence in the room. It may be that in Galatia, the Jews had food from a different kitchen (kosher) and perhaps ate in a different house. If they could not eat the ordinary meal together, neither could they share the Lord’s Supper.
When Paul arrived and saw the scene—Gentiles seated separately-- he denounced Peter and Barnabas for hypocrisy and did so in front of the whole group. They were not being straight-forward (Gr. " orthopodousin", straight-footed). If Peter, born a Jew, could live like a Gentile when nobody was looking, and then had to act like a Jew again when someone was looking, what were the Gentiles supposed to do? If they follow Peter, they will have to become like Jews too—kosher cooking, circumcision, Moses’ law, the festivals—the whole thing. Although the Jerusalem Council decree addressing the Gentiles said “…to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things….”—no food offered to idols, no meat not bled out and no unchastity (Acts 15:28)-- greater burdens would be laid on.
Peter was first to confess Christ, and the first to deny Him.
Peter was the first to win Gentiles, and the first to abandon them.
He was not the authoritative head of the Church. He bent before James as well as before Paul.
2:15–18 Paul then launches into a theological brief with a touch of irony. He plays on the superior attitude of Jews toward Gentiles.
“We ourselves, who are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners….”
“...yet who know that a man is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Christ….”
“…even we have believed in Christ Jesus…”
.The word “justification” occurs five times, emphasizing its important in the argument.
2:16 The key phrase is “…because by works of the law shall no one be justified.” This phrase is forcefully used again in Rom.3:20.
2:17 He challenges a Jewish criticism of the Christians, that they were plain sinners. Moslems consider Christianity to be a “dirty religion”. We are not interested in external purity. We do not wash before going into the sanctuary. We allow our sacred book, the Bible, to lie on the floor, for example. We eat pork. After being justified, do Christians have license to do anything they want? Is Christ an “agent of sin”? (Gr. "diakonos"-- deacon, table-waiter). Does Christ dish out sin? Does He license evil? Unthinkable. Christ gives out purity and holiness. Justification is not a legal fiction, declaring people good who are not. It is the first in a series of transactions that transform a practicing sinner into a practicing saint. We are to be pure and holy before Him.
2:18 Then he mentions a specific sin—“If I build up again those things which I tore down….” Since the issue is the barrier between Jews and Gentiles which has been torn down , the rebuilding of the barrier between them would be a particular sin. He says “If I build”, but it is Peter and Barnabas who appear to be rebuilding the wall of separation.
2:20 Paul condenses the Christian life into a single sentence. It is a digest of Romans 6.
"I have been crucified with Christ..."
"We know that our old self was crucified with Him so that the sinful body might be destroyed and we might no longer be enslaved to sin." (Rom.6:6)
"...so you must consider yourselves dead to sin" (Rom.6:11)
"..nevertheless I live, yet not I but Christ lives in me"
"yield yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life ." (Rom.6:13)
"...and the life I now live I live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me."
"...having been set free from sin, [you] have become slaves of righteousness." (Rom. 6:18)
"...Christ Jesus has made me His own." (Phil.3:12)
2:19–21 He concludes the chapter with a sublime person testimony. The word “died” is in the beginning (I died) and the end. (Christ died)
“For I through the Law died to the Law” .
He explains this in Rom. 7:7–9.“I should not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said ‘You shall not covet.’ But sin, finding opportunity in the commandment, wrought in me all kinds of covetousness. Apart from the law sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died.”
So he died, but to the law as well as through it. He died through the Law when he recognized its claims on his life, and realized that it left him spiritually dead. He died to the law by forfeiting his future as a practicing Jew and in becoming alive to God in Christ. He is mystically united with Christ in His death (Rom.6:1–6), yet very much alive because of Christ’s indwelling presence. He lives by faith in Him.
“He loved me”. “Me” is an important word. It is one thing to believe that Christ died for the whole world and quite another to believe that He died for Paul, and you and me individually.
He gave Himself for me. The word “gave” (Gr. "paradidomai," handed over) means that Christ voluntarily handed Himself over, donated Himself in sacrifice for our individual salvations. (Paradidomai is reviewed in Matthew 26 notes.)
Paul is fighting the forces that insist that anyone—any Gentile—who will become a Christian, must be acculturated, and assimilated into Jewish ways. A missionary in the African bush who believes that English language, long pants and skirts, the Methodist hymn-book, and an English church room arrangement are all part of becoming a Christian is not doing anything more strange than the Judaizers. Then it is easy to confuse the trappings with the message. The minor things become the main thing. It is disconcerting to realize how many people observe the trappings of religion and never get the message. Two interviews below show how people growing up in the church commonly miss the truth of the Atonement. They would consider themselves Christians based on their church-going habits without any idea of the truth of the Gospel.
An interview with two medical students who wanted financial support to go on a missions trip:
Q. You are planning to work on a missions trip in your senior year. What do you think a missionary does?
A. They help suffering people. We can’t do much; we’re still students, but we will learn a lot. We’ll be helpers in the hospital.
Q. Is there a message attached to your work?
A We want to help them (Africans) to a better life.
Q. What is your spiritual background?
A. We are Lutherans.
Q. What message would a Lutheran missionary give to suffering people?
A. People should be good.
Q. Good enough to please God?
A. I suppose so.
Q. Where does Christ fit into the picture? Isn’t He important somehow?
A. We’re not sure.
Q. Then for you, Christ died for nothing.
A. I think we are confused.
Sitting in an airplane next to a man sipping a double martini:
Q. I’ll bet you are an ex-Catholic.
A. What makes you think that?
Q. I saw the St. Norbert’s ring. Can you tell me what St. Norbert’s teaches? Did you get Greek and that sort of stuff?
A. No, no. They just taught the usual stuff, and some church history and religion.
Q. What did they teach about religion?
A. Well, you should be a good person, go to church sometimes, give to the poor.
Q. A good Buddhist would say something like that. Is there anything else?
A. You’re supposed to say the prayers, go to mass….
Q. Isn’t there something in there about how to go to Heaven? Can you tell me how to get to Heaven?
A. Well, you have to please God and do the best you can.
Q. How can I please God?
A. You do the best you can.
Q. A Buddhist might say that. Does Jesus come in there someplace?
A. Yeah, He’s in there. Yeah, but I’m not sure where.
Q. Have you read the Bible?
A. I think I have one someplace.
Q. I’ll bet the answer is in there.