Galatians 2:11-21

No Return to the Law

11 But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed.

12 For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision.

13 And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation.

14 But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?

15 We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles,

16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.

17 But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid.

18 For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor.

19 For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God.

20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

21 I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.

Paul’s independence from the other twelve apostles was seen beyond the church council in Jerusalem.

This passage in Galatians describes conflict between two leading apostles, Paul and Peter. The location of conflict has moved from Jerusalem (chief city of Jews) to Antioch Syria (chief city of Christianity).

When studying the Scripture we must remember that both these men were:

  • Saved
  • Holy Spirit sealed
  • Specially called apostles of Jesus
  • Commissioned by Jesus
  • Invested with authority by Jesus
  • Inspired by the Holy Spirit to write part of the New Testament

Like every other Christian these men were:

  • Not perfect
  • Not Holy Spirit inspired all the time

This example of truth in Scripture further teaches that as followers of Christ we cannot pattern our lives after the personal experiences of the people in the New Testament. We must pattern our lives by what is taught by the Holy Spirit inspired writers.

Here in Galatians Paul described a rebuke he gave Peter at the church in Antioch.

Under the Mosaic system certain foods were declared clean (approved for the Jew to eat) or unclean (prohibited for Jew to eat). This law would serve not only to keep the Jewish race healthy but separate from all other peoples. This ensured a clean channel to bring salvation to the Earth. Since these foods were on the Gentile tables the Jew couldn’t accept a dinner invitation from a Gentile. This legislation was set aside at the Cross.

Peter had been given a vision by God concerning the abolishment of the Jewish prohibition of certain foods (Acts 10:9-16) prior to God sending him to preach to the family of Cornelius (see Peter’s account in Acts 11). This vision occurred before Peter’s stay in Antioch.

It had become a practice for the church in Antioch to share a meals together as part of their worship. These included The Lord’s Supper, a feast with the church as a whole, and individual table fellowship. Jews and Gentiles eating together underscored the unity each shared in Christ. Peter participated in the meals, sitting down with the church signifying the equality all share under grace. He continued this practice until a delegation from the church at Jerusalem came to Antioch. The visitors pressured Peter about eating with the Gentile believers. He gave in to their bias and withdrew from the practice. His example was so decisive that the other Jew believers in the church withdrew as well, even a believer as strong as Barnabas was caused to withdraw.

  • Withdrew from hypostello
    military strategy – a gradual withdrawal under pressure
  • Separated from aphorizo
    gradual but complete separation
  • Dissembled from hupokrinomai
    to conceal one’s true character with conduct implying something different – we get our word hypocrite from this word

Peter played the role of the hypocrite because he knew and believed that Jews and Gentiles alike are on equal footing with God. Even worse, Peter’s hypocrisy pulled all the Jews in the Antioch church into the error. Peter’s action not only re-validated the rituals of the Jewish national religion it also implied that the Gentile needed to live “as a Jew” to receive God’s grace. This action, if left unchallenged, would either force the Law on the Gentile to keep unity or create an open division within the church.

The creation of Jewish and Gentile communities inside the church was out of the question and Paul confronted Peter publicly about his hypocrisy. Because the church experienced Peter’s error publicly, Paul rebukes Peter publicly. Paul uses Peter’s own life to rebuke him. After Peter’s vision and preaching to Cornelius (Acts 10) Peter knew and professed the Jewish and Gentile unity in Christ. Now, due to pressure from men he abandoned acting in agreement with that truth. Peter did what Paul refused to do in Jerusalem –– yield to opposition.

The truth had already been revealed that Gentiles did not need to live as the Jews because salvation was by grace alone. Justification before a Holy God can only come through faith in Jesus Christ. The righteousness needed for salvation is the righteousness of God. Perfection. A righteousness impossible for anyone to attain through the keeping of Law, or doing any amount of good deeds. Paul continued, stating that the Jew if anything had been privileged with the Law to learn that they couldn’t be justified by it.

  • Justified from dikaioo
    to declare righteous (not make righteous)
    the act of God to take away the guilt and penalty of sin from a believing sinner and the imputing of righteousness – even the righteousness of Jesus

The believer stands not only guiltless and uncondemned for time and eternity, but also positively righteous before God. Justification is strictly a legal term similarly used in court by a judge today. It stands alone and separate from how a believer feels or how he acts (although this union along with discipling should yield fruit in a believer’s life).

  • Faith from pistis
    to trust, firm persuasion, to relinquish trust in oneself and placing it in another
    Faith in Christ — believing in Christ is to believe in His person and to trust Him completely for salvation. It is an act of the whole person, not just intellectually, not just emotionally, it is a definite act in which the individual wills to believe Christ by faith for salvation.

Faith is the lone requirement for justification. It is the grounds which the sinner can enter into right relationship with God.

The Law reveals sin. Through the Law Jews were shown the need for justification in Christ — same as the Gentiles. Later in this study we will see more fully the Law’s purpose.

The Judaizers argued that just as violating the Law was sin so abandoning the Law in an effort to be justified through Christ was also sin — asserting in this way Christ promoted sin.

The Mosaic Law was set aside at the Cross. Peter’s practice of eating with the Gentiles declared the system null and void. However, when he withdrew from the Gentiles he validated the Law again. This, Paul states, makes one a transgressor — by returning to the Law. It is not sin to abandon the Law for grace, on the contrary, a return to the Law again was sin.

Destroying the Law or as Paul states, “dying to the Law,” does not mean a Christian is to ignore the Law. The Law as a means of favor with God is dead. The Christian is now free from the condemnation and penalty of the Law — he is now free to live empowered by the motives of Christ. The great principles of love and justice, the ethics of God, can now be freely enjoyed.

The Law revealed sin, condemned sin, yet gave no remedy for sin.

Christ fulfilled the Law perfectly and then gave His life as the ransom payment for sin. Through His death and resurrection He passed beyond the reach of the Law — beyond the reach of death — into life. By our faith in Jesus Christ we have passed beyond the Law (the legalistic system of favor with God) and death — into life within Christ.

Being crucified with Christ means our sinful self is dead so that I may now live. Not I ruled by me or I ruled by statute. My life is in Christ. Centered on Christ. Being led by the Holy Spirit so that Christ would be seen in me.

This new life is a person within a person. Christ living His life out through me. Not through obedience to rules but by my cooperating with the Holy Spirit inside me as He shows Christ Jesus through me. Oh if writing it made it so! Dying is daily. Yielding is moment by moment.

  • Adding law-works to faith for justification nullifies grace. Grace is free, given without money, without work, without price.
  • Legalism is a grievous vice. It comes between the soul and God.
  • There is no salvation for the sinner who depends any in the least upon good works as a means of acceptance with God.
  • If righteousness can be given based upon obedience to the Law, or good works, or merits Paul said “christ died in vain.”
  • The righteousness required to enter heaven is God’s righteousness. No matter how perfectly a man may live he can never attain that level of righteousness. It can only be given by God.