Pauls admonishment of Peter: The Preservation of the Gospel: Acting in Line with the Truth of the Gospel

In Galatians 2:14, Paul lays down a powerful principle. He deals with Peter’s racial pride and cowardice by declaring that he was not living “in line with the truth of the gospel”. From this we see that the Christian life is a process of renewing every dimension of our life– spiritual, psychological, corporate, social–by thinking, hoping, and living out the “lines” or ramifications of the gospel. The gospel is to be applied to every area of thinking, feeling, relating, working, and behaving. The implications and applications of Galatians 2:14 are vast.

I sincerely believe, All problems, personal or social come from a failure to use the gospel in a radical way, to get “in line with the truth of the gospel” (Gal.2:14). All pathologies in the church and all its ineffectiveness comes from a failure to use the gospel in a radical way. I believe that if the gospel is expounded and applied in its fullness in any church and in your life, that church and your life will look very unique. People will find both moral conviction yet compassion and flexibility. For example, the cultural elites of either liberal or conservative sides are alike in their unwillingness to befriend or live with or respect or worship with the poor. They are alike in separating themselves increasingly from the rest of society by either  religious moralism or social status.

In terms of Church ministry:   Legalism tends to place all the emphasis on the
individual human soul. Legalistic religion will insist on converting others to their faith and church, but will ignore social needs of the broader community. On the other hand, “liberalism” will tend to emphasize only amelioration of social conditions and minimize the need for repentance and conversion. The gospel leads to love which in turn moves us to give our neighbor whatever is needed–conversion or a cup of cold water, evangelism and social concern

I have personally seen that the gospel is the way that anything is renewed and transformed by Christ–whether a heart, a relationship, a church, or a community. It is the key to all doctrine and our view of our lives in this world. Therefore, all our problems come from a lack of orientation to the gospel. Put positively, the gospel transforms our hearts and thinking and approaches to absolutely everything.

In Galatians 2, Paul (an almost apostle) opposed Peter (an apostle) with not acting in line with the truth of the Gospel.  Pauls reason for doing this was twofold:

(1) To oppose any rejection or exclusion from the Gospel community based on racial or socioeconomic status (ie Jews vs Gentiles). In this case the Jews were “snubbing” the gentile community.

(2) To correct the idea that law-based righteoussness  plays any part in a movement toward a righteoussness in Christ.    “Justified” means “counted righteous” or “declared righteous” by God (see esv footnote). If people were sinless and perfectly obeyed all of God’s perfect moral standards, they could be justified or “declared righteous” on the basis of their own merits. But Paul says that this is impossible for any Gentile or even for any Jew to do (cf. Romans 1–2). we know that a person is not justified by works of the law. Paul saw that Christ had taught justification by faith, and so he called God the one “who justifies the ungodly” (Rom. 4:5). Paul will soon show that this view was taught even in the OT (see Gal. 3:6–18), though it was not the view of most of first-century Judaism.

Here is the biblegateway text on Galatians 2:11-21.

Paul Opposes Peter

14When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?

15“We who are Jews by birth and not ‘Gentile sinners’ 16know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.

17“If, while we seek to be justified in Christ, it becomes evident that we ourselves are sinners, does that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not! 18If I rebuild what I destroyed, I prove that I am a lawbreaker. 19For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. 20I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”[a]

11When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. 12Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. 13The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.

Here is some commentary on the text:

Gal. 2:11–21 Paul’s Opposition to Peter, to Preserve the Truth of the Gospel. Paul had said that he was not a people-pleaser (1:10), and his confrontation with Peter as reported here bears that out. It is unclear when Paul’s speech to Peter stops and his direct address to the Galatians begins again, but 2:15–16 (“We ourselves are Jews by birth”) was surely addressed to Peter.

Gal. 2:11–12 The setting of Paul’s confrontation with Peter was Antioch, Paul’s missionary base for a number of years. Peter had been participating in meals where Jewish and Gentile Christians ate together, but then he drew back and separated himself, eating only with Jewish Christians. Interpreters differ in their explanations of this situation in this passage. One view is that the men who came from James(probably sent from the Jerusalem church by the apostle James) encouraged Jewish Christians to eat separately and follow kosher dietary laws. Peter decided to go along with this, perhaps not realizing that his example would make the Gentile Christians feel like second-class citizens in the church unless they followed Jewish ceremonial laws (such as dietary laws [vv. 12–14], circumcision [v. 3; 5:2–12; 6:12–15], and holidays and festivals [4:10]). Paul saw that Peter’s behavior threatened the gospel of justification by faith alone because it implied that all Christians had to “live like Jews” (2:14) in order to be justified before God. « Less

Gal. 2:12 Eating with the Gentiles would mean not eating according to Jewish dietary restrictions. The circumcision party advocated following the ceremonies of the Mosaic covenant law at least regarding circumcision, food, and special days (see note on vv. 11–12).

Gal. 2:13 Not only was Peter guilty of hypocrisy; as an influential leader, he also led astray the rest of the Jewish Christians, even Barnabas.

Gal. 2:14 force the Gentiles to live like Jews. Peter was guilty of hypocrisy (v. 13) because, though he had been happily living like a Gentile (i.e., not observing food laws), he was now requiring Gentile Christians to observe Jewish table regulations if they wanted to eat with him. Such a requirement, however, would undermine the gospel itself by making justification depend on “works of the law” rather than “faith in Jesus Christ” (see v. 16). before them all. Because Peter’s sin was a public sin that was setting a bad example for the church, Paul confronted him publicly (compare the different procedure that Jesus commands regarding a private sin against an individual person, which hopefully can be corrected privately; cf. Matt. 18:15–20;James 5:19–20). « Less

Gal. 2:15 Gentile sinners, that is, Gentiles who do not even attempt to follow the OT laws and therefore clearly do not live up to them.

Gal. 2:16 “Justified” means “counted righteous” or “declared righteous” by God (see esv footnote). If people were sinless and perfectly obeyed all of God’s perfect moral standards, they could be justified or “declared righteous” on the basis of their own merits. But Paul says that this is impossible for any Gentile or even for any Jew to do (cf. Romans 1–2). we know that a person is not justified by works of the law. Paul saw that Christ had taught justification by faith, and so he called God the one “who justifies the ungodly” (Rom. 4:5). Paul will soon show that this view was taught even in the OT (see Gal. 3:6–18), though it was not the view of most of first-century Judaism. (For example, a 1st-century-b.c. Jewish writing states, “The one who does righteousness stores up life for himself with the Lord, and the one who does wickedness is the cause of the destruction of his own soul” [Psalms of Solomon 9.5]). In Gal. 2:16, “works of the law” means not only circumcision, food laws, and Sabbath, but any human effort to be justified by God by obeying a moral law. faith in Jesus Christ. Some contend that the Greek means the “faithfulness of Jesus Christ.” But “faith in Jesus Christ” seems much more likely since “faith in Jesus Christ” is synonymous with the next phrase, “we also have believed in Christ Jesus.” “But through faith in Jesus Christ” is the opposite of depending on one’s own good deeds for justification, since justification comes through faith in Christ alone. We also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ implies that justification is the result of saving faith. The contrast and not by works of the law shows clearly that no human effort or merit can be added to faith as a basis for justification. (This verse was frequently appealed to in the Reformation by Protestants who insisted on “justification by faith alone” as opposed to the Roman Catholic doctrine of justification by faith plus merit gained through the “means of grace” administered by means of the Roman Catholic sacraments such as penance and the Mass.) Paul concludes decisively: by works of the law no one will be justified (cf. 3:10–14Acts 13:39Heb. 10:1–14). On justification, see also notes on Rom. 4:25Phil. 3:9James 2:21« Less

Gal. 2:17 found to be sinners. Paul has just discussed how Gentiles are known among Jews as “sinners” (v. 15). When Jewish Christians associate with them, they are liable to the charge from traditionalist Jews of becoming “sinners” themselves. Paul firmly dismisses any such charge.

Gal. 2:18 I would prove myself to be a transgressor. Ironically, the one who is most clearly seen to be a sinner is not the one outside of the law (i.e., the Gentile), but the one who is under it. So, if Paul were to reintroduce the edifice of the law, he would merely prove that he stands condemned.

Gal. 2:19 through the law. Paul is not talking about a conscious experience of being dissatisfied with the law, but about how he was unknowingly caught up in God’s plan in which the law actually pronounced the sentence of death on Paul’s old way of life. Paul has died to the law, probably meaning that he no longer lives in the realm of trying to gain justification by obeying the law and that therefore the law can place no demands on him. Paul died to the law, he says,so that I might live to God. That is, since he no longer is under the impossible burden of trying to earn acceptance with God through his own efforts, he has gained God’s approval through the justification that is in Christ, and in this new relationship with God he has found an amazing new freedom to live a life devoted to God. Thus Paul is always seeking to live in a way that pleases God, yet not at all depending on his own actions for justification. « Less

Gal. 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ. Paul’s former “self,” the person Paul was before he trusted Christ, with all of his sinful goals and proud, self-exalting desires, came to a decisive end—he “died.” It is no longer I who live does not mean that Paul has no personality of his own (all his writings show that he does) but that his own personal interests and goals no longer direct his life; rather, Christ who lives in me now directs and empowers all that he does. How then does he, as a “crucified man,” gain any strength to go on living? the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God. Paul seems to be saying that, as he trusts Christ moment by moment, Christ then works in and through Paul to give spiritual effectiveness to all that he does. who loved me and gave himself for me. The fact that on the cross Jesus bore believers’ sins as their personal, individual substitute (“he . . . for me”) shows that the crucifixion was not an impersonal, mechanical transaction, but a personal expression of Christ’s love for people as individuals. « Less

Gal. 2:21 Paul returns to the hypothetical situation raised inv. 18 of imagining that the law was back in force again as a means by which he was trying to earn justification. In that case, if righteousness were through the law, then Christ’s death would have been pointless, for people could earn their own justification by their obedience. But in fact, this is something they can never do. This highlights the depth of the human problem: it cannot be remedied by the God-given law. Sin is so serious that only the substitutionary, atoning death of God’s Son can deal with the problem. God’s grace in the gospel must therefore be humbly and thankfully accepted as the only way of salvation.

As I read this I am thinking of Hebrews where it tells us the OLD COVENANT is weak and useless in the lives of the believer because the real power of the Gospel comes by faith “in Christ”.  One of the reasons Paul repeated the Gospel to already saved sinners over and over and over again is that even though we may intellectually understand we can NOT earn our way to heaven we just dont believe it at a deep level!!!!!   In our core, in our essence, in our heart of hearts we need to embrace the Gospel and then re-embrace the Gospel.  In interacting with our friends and spouses we need to demonstrate and re-demonstrate and state and restate the Gospel until we all know everything I have is because of what Jesus did for me and not because of something I can attain and work toward…. even in my sancrification.

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1 thought on “Pauls admonishment of Peter: The Preservation of the Gospel: Acting in Line with the Truth of the Gospel

  1. theoldadam


    You have hit upon a core truth in the life of the Christian.

    And that is that at a core level we just don’t believe the gospel. That Old Adam constantly rebels and chooses to disbelieve. But Christ wants us. So He commands us to go to church. So that we can hear the Word again (Law and Gospel) and receive what the world could never give…His body and blood.

    And this we need over and over and over again. This keeps us in the faith that we really do not want.

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