Threatened by Hypocrisy (2:11-13)
of Peter (2:14-16)
Dying to the Law
and Living through Christ (2:17-21)
of the gospel, Gentiles/Jews, sinners, justified, works of the law, faith,
Christ, died, live, grace of God, righteousness.
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.
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
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
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
10. We cannot be justified by the works of law
because our sinful flesh cannot possibly reach God’s perfect standard (cf. Rom
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
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