2:11-21 Paul Confronts Peter’s Hypocrisy
Memory Verse: Galatians 2:16, 20
2:11-13 Peter’s Hypocrisy
- 2:11 Paul, Peter and the other apostles realized they were teaching the same true gospel, were unified because of it and agreed on their different missions from God to reach the Gentiles and Jews. But when Peter came to Antioch, Paul withstood Peter to the face—meaning that he called him out for doing something wrong. Paul was claiming that Peter was to be blamed for doing something wrong. What was this apostle’s wrong-doing?
- 2:12a Peter ate with the Gentiles. To us this doesn’t seem like a big deal. But at that time it was a big deal because Peter was a Jew. The Old Testament had several “ceremonial” and “clean” laws that a Jew was supposed to follow, including their eating habits. This also resulted in many traditions that Jews made up over the years. There was a separation between the Jews and the Gentiles, because the Gentiles didn’t follow their laws or traditions and were “unclean”. Then something happened. Jesus came and broke down this wall of separation and everything changed. No longer would the Jews have to follow these “ceremonial” and “clean” laws and no longer was their a difference between the Jews and the Gentiles. Thus, a practical application of this new reality for Peter was that he started eating with the Gentiles. This was good. But the problem, as Pauls notes, is not that he started to eat with the Gentiles, it is that he stopped. When certain Jewish men came from James he withdrew and separated himself from the Gentiles.
Mark 7:14-23; Acts 117-9; 10:34-35
- 2:12b Peter separated himself from the Gentiles because he feared the criticism of the false teachers (them which were of the circumcision). As we have studied, not everyone believed in Jesus and many Jews thought that you had to add keeping the ceremonial and clean laws to faith in Jesus for salvation. Peter obviously didn’t believe this false gospel, but instead of standing in the truth, he cowardly withdrew. Peter believed the true gospel, but was acting like he didn’t. Peter was a hypocrite—he claimed to believe the real gospel but his own behavior did not conform to it.
- 2:13 The second problem was that Peter’s influence caused the other Jews to follow his hypocrisy. Even Barnabas, who worked with Paul and Titus—(a Gentile), also followed his hypocrisy. Remember: Our actions effect other people’s actions.
2:14-16a Paul’s Confrontation
- 2:14a Paul understood one important truth: the gospel changes our worldview—meaning that according to the truth of the gospel we are to walk uprightly or in accordance to it. At salvation, every believer already has a previous world-view (based on culture, upraising, school, etc.) in which they interpret the world and the things around them. But also at salvation, the truth of the gospel should become our new world-view and we start to interpret everything according to it. This will have drastic changes in our lives. Paul realized Peter was using his Jewish-world-view instead of his gospel-world-view.
- 2:14b-16a Paul ask Peter a question that points out his hypocrisy: If you are a Jew and live like a Gentile, then why are you asking the Gentiles to live like the Jews? Then Paul points Peter back to the truth of the gospel that he seems to have forgotten. Both of them are Jews by nature, but even their nationality and obedience to the law couldn’t save them. Their own salvation had nothing to do with their race, culture, laws or customs, but it was only through believing in Jesus that they were saved. Thus, why is Peter basing who he can eat with, associate with or have a relationship with based on race, culture, laws and customs when his own salvation is not based on those things. He is reminding Peter that their own relationship with God had nothing to do with what they did, but in whom they believed. It wasn’t about works, it was about grace. It wasn’t about keeping the laws anymore, it was about living out the freedom that Jesus gave. Peter doesn’t have to fear because of other people’s criticism or approval because he is already justified—he is already righteous before God and accepted by Him. He has God’s approval.
2:16b-21 Truth Explained
- 2:16b Justification By Faith: As Paul is reminding Peter of the gospel, he boldly and clearly declares what the true gospel is: justification by faith in Jesus Christ. We cannot be justified by the works of the law. No person will ever be justified by the works of the law.
- 2:17-18 Implications: Paul explains that if being “justified by Christ” wasn’t true then they are all sinners because they aren’t living by the law and Christ would be the minister of sin since they are following His teachings. On the other-hand, if they rebuild this false system of salvation by the law that they destroyed by preaching the gospel of grace, they would be found as transgressor—sinners, lawbreakers.
- 2:19a The Law Kills: Paul says that through the law he is dead to the law. Several were trusting in the law for their salvation. They believed their works could justify them. But what Paul is saying is that the more he tried to obey the law, one truth became clear: the law could not justify—it died to him as a way of redemption. All of the “cleanings” and the “ceremonies” were not enough to take away his sins and make him righteous.
- 2:19b God Saves: Since Paul was no longer trusting in his own works of keeping the law for his salvation, he could believe in Jesus for redemption and really start to live for God.
- 2:20 New Identity: Believers are dead to the law (or any works we do to try to earn God’s acceptance and salvation) because we were crucified with Christ. The penalty was paid in full by Christ and applied to our account by faith. Nevertheless, we live, not us but Christ lives inside of us—meaning we have a new identity in Christ. We live out this new identity in our current bodies by the faith of the Son of God, not by the works of the law (new worldview). We are justified by faith and we live by faith. It was Jesus’ love and personal sacrifice that changed everything, and it is what motivates us to serve Him.
- 2:21 Only Grace: This whole system of salvation is based on the wonderful grace of God. Paul says he doesn’t want to frustrate the grace of God and clearly says if righteousness came by the law, then Christ died in vain. He is reminding Peter that he can’t mix law and grace, therefore, he needs to walk uprightly according to the truth of the gospel.
- What was Peter’s wrong-doing?
- Peter’s influence caused what?
- The truth of the gospel should become our new what?
- What are we justified by?
- Can we mix law and grace? Why?