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Lesson 4
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Lesson 4



The Gospel Threatened by Hypocrisy (2:11-13)

Paul’s Reproach of Peter (2:14-16)

Dying to the Law and Living through Christ (2:17-21)

Key Words/Phrases

Hypocrisy, truth of the gospel, Gentiles/Jews, sinners, justified, works of the law, faith, Christ, died, live, grace of God, righteousness.

General Analysis

1.     Paul cites this incident for its instructional value, not for the purpose of launching a personal attack on Peter. Just as Paul reproached Peter at Antioch for compelling the Gentiles to live as Jews (2:14), he now denounces the doctrine of the legalists, who attempted to put the Galatians under the yoke of the law. The story of Paul’s confrontation with Peter also reinforces Paul’s argument in the previous passages that his preaching did not come from men of reputation, for even a church leader like Peter could also err sometimes.

Segment Analysis

1.     By separating himself from his Gentile brothers, he had drawn a distinction between Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians, with the implication that Gentile Christians were still unclean. His action was a violation of God’s earlier revelation to him (cf. Acts 11:1-18).

2.     He acted not out of ignorance but for fear of the circumcision group (12). The fact that he had initially been eating with the Gentiles indicates that he had become personally convinced that there should be no separation between Jews and Gentiles. In fact, he had arrived at this conviction when God sent him to preach to Cornelius, for he stayed with Cornelius and ate with them (cf. Acts 10:48; 11:3). Thus, his withdrawal from the company of the Gentiles in Antioch was clearly out of pretense to conform to Jewish customs rather than because of his personal beliefs.

3.     We use double standards because of expediency or self-centeredness. For example, we may impose a strict standard on others but are much more forgiving toward ourselves. To correct such an attitude, we should look to the interests of others rather than only to our own interests. Another cause of double standards is favoritism. Because of fear of those who have wealth, talents, or power, we may apply a different standard or behave differently before them. But since God shows no favoritism, our conduct toward everyone must be consistent with God’s word regardless of who they are.

4.     When the rest of the Jews saw Peter, an apostle and leader of the church, separated himself from the Gentile believers, they also withdrew themselves. Even Barnabas, also a missionary to the Gentiles, joined in their hypocrisy. Because of Peter’s prominence, his mistake had a strong influence on the other brothers and his fellow workers, and it caused a serious negative impact on the church.

5.     Actions often speak louder than words. If we do not practice what we preach, we may weaken others’ faith in God’s word. Therefore, we should be witnesses of God’s word not only through our preaching but also through our deeds.

6.     Because Peter’s action became a negative influence on the other believers, misrepresented the truth of the gospel, and might have even hurt the Gentile believers who were present, Paul needed to correct Peter’s mistake in everyone’s presence in order to rectify the wrongdoing immediately and stop it from doing further damage.

7a.   He lived in the manner of Gentiles in the sense that, by eating with the Gentiles, he had set aside Jewish traditions and identified himself with the Gentile believers.

7b.   By withdrawing from the fellowship with the Gentile believers, Peter was implying that a Gentile believer must live as a Jew in order to have fellowship with the Jewish believers. Here we can see the double standards in Peter’s actions. While he had freed himself from Jewish customs, he now imposed them on his Gentile brethren.

8a.   The words “Jews by nature” refer to those who were born as Jews. God had chosen the Jewish race and given them His law. Therefore, the Jews took pride in their heritage and considered Gentiles as unholy and sinful. Thus, the expression, “Gentile sinners” is taken from the perspective of a Jew.

8b.   They have come to understand that no one could be justified by observing the law. Even the Jews, who believed that they were superior, needed to receive justification through faith in Jesus Christ.

9.     The Greek word for “justified” shares the same root as that of “righteousness.” Therefore, to be justified means to be reckoned righteous.

10.   We cannot be justified by the works of law because our sinful flesh cannot possibly reach God’s perfect standard (cf. Rom 8:3).

11.   Paul poses a rhetorical question, which in essence asks, “If we become sinners in light of the justification through Christ, does this mean that Christ encourages sin?” Those who were against the doctrine of justification by faith argued that preaching justification through faith in Christ apart from good deeds would encourage people to live in sin. Paul emphatically objects to such an argument. Through Christ we have come to realize that we are sinners, but that does not make Him the author of sin!

12a. He has destroyed his former conviction that man can be justified by his works. To revert back to the work of the law or to compel Gentile believers to live as Jews would be to rebuild what he has destroyed.

12b. Reverting to justification by works would prove that Paul’s stance on justification by faith was a serious mistake and a violation of God’s law, because he had, supposedly, promoted sin by preaching this doctrine. Thus, if we read verses 17 and 18 as one continuous thought, Paul’s words may be paraphrased as, “In view of justification through Christ, even the Jews have become sinners. Does it mean, then, that Christ encourages sin? God forbid. In fact, I would be encouraging sin if I go back to the doctrine of justification by works, which I have renounced. Doing so would make me a lawbreaker and prove that I have been wrong in preaching that man must be justified through faith in Christ.”

13a. The purpose of the law is to condemn. Through the law we become aware of our utter inability to keep the law. Consequently, we die to the law in the sense that we acknowledge our sin and are freed once and for all from our futile attempts to achieve righteousness through our own efforts.

13b. Having died to our own efforts, we can now receive a new spiritual life from God. This new life is God-centered and God-dependent because it is not based on our own merits.

14a. We have been baptized into the death of Christ and were united with Him in the likeness of His death. Our old, sinful self was done away with in baptism, and we have thus been freed from the bondage of sin. The life we now live is no longer our own, but Christ’s (Rom 6:1-14; 1Cor 6:19).

14b. It is “by faith in the Son of God” that we are able to live out the life of Christ (20). Paul also adds that Christ loved him and died for him. The love of Christ motivates us to be crucified with Him and to let Him live through us.

15.   Only when a person believes that Christ loves him and died for him will he receive Christ as his personal Savior and commit his whole life to Christ. Unless he has such kind of personal recognition, he would not be willing to be crucified with Christ and let Christ live in him.

16.   Setting aside the grace of God means attempting to achieve righteousness through human endeavors.

17.   The false gospel was not just an addition to the gospel of grace. It completely denies the saving effect of Christ’s death. Therefore, Paul would not make the slightest compromise with this subversive teaching.


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