Galatians 2:11-14) [GNB] But when Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him in public, because he was clearly wrong.
12) [GNB] Before some men who had been sent by James arrived there, Peter had been eating with the Gentile believers. But after these men arrived, he drew back and would not eat with the Gentiles, because he was afraid of those who were in favor of circumcising them.
13) [GNB] The other Jewish believers also started acting like cowards along with Peter; and even Barnabas was swept along by their cowardly action.
14) [GNB] When I saw that they were not walking a straight path in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you have been living like a Gentile, not like a Jew. How, then, can you try to force Gentiles to live like Jews?”
QUESTION: What hypocrisy does Peter show in this passage?
ANSWER: When he joins Paul in Antioch, like Paul, he eats with the believing Gentiles, excepting them as fellow children of God. But when men sent by James, the head of the Jerusalem church, come down to join them Peter separates himself from the Gentile believers.
QUESTION: What was the result of his hypocrisy?
ANSWER: Other Jewish believers, including Paul’s ministry companion, Barnabas, began to follow suit with Peter.
QUESTION: Was Paul O.K. with Peter’s actions?
ANSWER: Absolutely not! Paul quickly “opposed him in public, because he was clearly wrong.”
Galatians 2:15-16) [GNB] Indeed, we are Jews by birth and not “Gentile sinners,” as they are called.
16) [GNB] Yet we know that a person is put right with God only through faith in Jesus Christ, never by doing what the Law requires. We, too, have believed in Christ Jesus in order to be put right with God through our faith in Christ, and not by doing what the Law requires. For no one is put right with God by doing what the Law requires.
QUESTION: Why did Paul mention to Peter, and to his readers, that Peter, Paul, Barnabas, and the other Jews who followed Peter’s example, were born Jews, not Gentiles?
ANSWER: Jews felt that they were special because they had the Law. Paul taught in the first 3 chapters of Romans:
1. That the Jews were right about the Gentiles; they were sinners.
2. That having the Law didn’t make anyone righteous; obeying it did.
3. That the Jews didn’t obey the Law, and were, therefore convicted by the Law to be sinners.
4. That, consequently, all were sinners, Jew and Gentile alike.
QUESTION: What was Paul’s point in verse 16 to Christian Jews?
ANSWER: The Law didn’t make them right with God, or they would have never turned to Christ for their justification. And, if the Law couldn’t justify them, then why would they want the Jews to seek justification from the Law?
NOTE: Peter had forgotten the very things he said in Jerusalem when Paul’s doctrine was being examined:
Acts 15:7-11) [GNB] After a long debate Peter stood up and said, “My friends, you know that a long time ago God chose me from among you to preach the Good News to the Gentiles, so that they could hear and believe.
8) [GNB] And God, who knows the thoughts of everyone, showed his approval of the Gentiles by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he had to us.
9) [GNB] He made no difference between us and them; he forgave their sins because they believed.
10) [GNB] So then, why do you now want to put God to the test by laying a load on the backs of the believers which neither our ancestors nor we ourselves were able to carry?
11) [GNB] No! We believe and are saved by the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they are.”
Galatians 2:17-18) [GNB] If, then, as we try to be put right with God by our union with Christ, we are found to be sinners, as much as the Gentiles are—does this mean that Christ is serving the cause of sin? By no means!
18) [GNB] If I start to rebuild the system of Law that I tore down, then I show myself to be someone who breaks the Law.
QUESTION: What is Paul talking about in verse 17?
ANSWER: Peter, and the others who followed his example, sought justification with God through coming to Christ. The very fact that they understood their need for salvation was a confession that they were sinners, just like the Gentile sinners.
QUESTION: As Jews they felt they were right with God, but when they came to God they discovered they were sinners in need of salvation. Does that somehow imply that Christ is in cahoots with sin?
ANSWER: Of course not!
QUESTION: What is Paul talking about in verse 18?
ANSWER: If we, as Jews, [or, we as Gentiles] leave grace and turn again to Law, then the very Law we turn to will show us that we are Lawbreakers. There is no justification in any system that teaches if we keep the rules then we are right with God.
Galatians 2:19) [GNB] So far as the Law is concerned, however, I am dead—killed by the Law itself—in order that I might live for God. I have been put to death with Christ on his cross,
Regarding “So far as the Law is concerned, however, I am dead, killed by the Law itself,”
“So, how do we explain this concept, that it’s the Law itself that has pronounced us believers dead to it? Paul teaches that the jurisdiction of the Law lasts as long as one lives (Rom 7:1), but you and I are dead in Christ (Rom 6:3-4), and when we died in Him we were freed from the Law’s jurisdiction. Just as the married woman whose husband died is free from the Law of marriage (Rom 7:2-3), so too, are you and I free from the Law through our death in Christ. The Law, itself, acknowledges that its commands are for those who live (Lev 18:5). Therefore, through that Law of Moses, since we are dead in Christ, we have thus died to the Law of Moses.
In saying that he was dead to the Law Paul disowned that Law entirely. He was no longer living under its economy, but rather, under the economy of grace. You can’t say that you have died to the Law, if you continue to keep it as your standard of living” [Hannah] (page 46 of my Commentary on Galatians).
QUESTION: What does verse 19 imply?
ANSWER: We, as Christians, can’t truly live for God as long as we are alive to the Law. We must, through our union with Christ, die to the Law in order to live for God.
Galatians 2:19b) [GNB] I have been put to death with Christ on his cross,
Galatians 2:20-21) [GNB] so that it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. This life that I live now, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave his life for me.
QUESTION: What’s the result of our dying with/in Christ?
ANSWER: If we’re dead than who is living in our stead, because we’re not buried yet? In a sense, it is Christ living in you and me. However, we’re still the ones getting out of bed in the morning. But, when it comes to our Christian walk, we now live, not by the dictates of the Law, but by believing in what was accomplished on the cross on our behalves.
21) [GNB] I refuse to reject the grace of God. But if a person is put right with God through the Law, it means that Christ died for nothing!
QUESTION: What does this mean, “I refuse to reject the grace of God”?
ANSWER: If I truly believe that I can be in an acceptable relationship with a Holy God by virtue of my keeping the commandments of the Law, then that belief is saying that Christ didn’t have to die; I just needed to try harder.
CLOSING NOTE: This isn’t only true for the Jews Paul was speaking to, or to the “legalists” that practice modern day law-keeping in hopes of pleasing God; this is also true for you and me. We often fall off the wagon of grace, and land back in the performance mode, which is the gutter of failed attempts to please God. We then try harder to please God. It’s so difficult to fully believe that the total conquest of Christ at Calvary was enough to satisfy God’s justice, so we keep returning to Law, which is rejecting grace. And, in doing so, we make it impossible to do the very thing we yearn to do, which is to truly live for God.
Walk of Grace Chapel, Council Bluffs Church