GALATIANS 2 STUDY
Paul ends chapter 1 telling us that after He met Jesus and Christ Himself revealed the Gospel to him, he spent three years in Arabia before even meeting Peter and James in Jerusalem . He then simply spends his time preaching the Gospel among both the Jews and Gentiles in Syria and Cilicia...relatively unknown other that as a guy who has been radically changed by Jesus. It remains this way for better than a decade and then God calls him to go to Jerusalem.
He goes there to share with the leaders of the church the message that he’d been preaching to the Gentiles. He assures the leaders there that he was being obedient to the Lord in his presentation of the Gospel to Gentiles.
The timing of this trip was not coincidental but the providence of God.
We can say that confidently because there was a rising contention in the church revolving around some of the same issues that Paul was writing the Galatian church about.
Were the Gentiles who received the message of the Gospel truly saved? Did they not need to become Jews first? Those were the questions being debated in the church.
Simon Peter, the Apostle to the Jews, was clearly conflicted about this so in Acts 10, the Lord gives him a strange dream about a giant sheet in unrolled and in it were all kinds of animals that were considered “unclean” by Jewish dietary laws.
God commanded Peter to rise, kill and eat
Peter, a devout Jew, initially resist - “No, Lord!” Peter said. “For I have never eaten anything impure and ritually unclean.”
The Lord responded, “What God has made clean, do not call impure”
The point of the dream was to let Simon Peter know that Jesus death had fulfilled the law. Religious ritual and activity weren’t necessary for nearness to God.
Peter starts going out to eat with Gentiles.
Galatians 2:11-13 “But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face because he stood condemned. For he regularly ate with the Gentiles before certain men came from James. However, when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, because he feared those from the circumcision party. Then the rest of the Jews joined his hypocrisy, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy”
Peter is out dining with Gentiles until some Jews from Jerusalem show up and Peter caves and stops eating with them. Peters influence is seen – the rest of the Jews follow suit and even Barnabas is led astray!
Galatians 2:14-16 “But when I saw that they were deviating from the truth of the gospel, I told Cephas in front of everyone, “If you, who are a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel Gentiles to live like Jews?” We are Jews by birth and not “Gentile sinners,” and yet because we know that a person is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we ourselves have believed in Christ Jesus. This was so that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no human being will be justified.”
Paul confronts Simon Peter and starts explaining the Gospel to him.
He’s saying – Peter, we’ve GOT to get this right!
To Be Justified is to be declared guiltless.
WHAT JUSTIFIES US?
It’s not by what we eat or don’t eat, wear or don’t wear, do or don’t do… only by receiving Christ’ righteousness by faith alone, are we declared guiltless in God’s sight – completely accepted and eternally loved as the sons and daughters of God!
Any message outside of that is, according to verse 14 “deviating from the truth of the gospel”
WE DEVIATE FROM THE TRUTH OF THE GOSPEL WHEN WE FAIL TO UNDERSTAND OR APPLY IT
That’s what Peter and the Judaizers were in danger of doing.
They were attempting to justify themselves through religious routine and ritual, to declare themselves righteous and good through something they did.
The Jews did this through the Law. The Old Testament contained 613 laws – in addition Jewish leaders added 100’s more.
The idea – do these things and be accepted by God. Don’t do them and you’ll be rejected by God.
Paul is saying to Simon Peter, "you’ve either misunderstood or misapplied the true Gospel and I’ve got to call you on it."
This is as relevant today as it was when Paul first wrote it. We still do this.
We look for something to be or to do in order to prove our righteousness – to set ourselves apart as good.
1.THE PRIDE OF RACE
This is wrapping our primary identity in anything outside of our faith.
Culture is a beautiful thing. Ethnicity is a beautiful thing. These things reflect the glory of God but when they become our primary, distinguishing identities – it becomes idolatry and a matter of sinful pride.
This is what Simon Peter is doing with his heritage.
Paul is saying, "Brother, you are missing it by a mile! You are deviating eviating from the Gospel"
If I am wrapping my identity in anything other than the gospel, I too am missing it. I'm deviating.
Romans 10:11-13 “Everyone who believes on him will not be put to shame, since there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, because the same Lord of all richly blesses all who call on him. For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved”
What gives us worth and value is not our ethnicity, socio-economic status, or our efforts to preserve our unique culture – none of these things justify us
Our worth and value is in Christ. That's our primary identity.
That's not to say that when we become Christians, our cultural distinctives must vanish. The Lord doesn’t tell Gentile people that that must become Jews or Jews they must become Gentiles.
Cultural and ethnic distinctives will be evident in Heaven!
Revelation 7:9 “After this I looked, and there was a vast multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and language, which no one could number, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes with palm branches in their hands.”
Cultural distinctives tare important and are beautiful gifts BUT when compared to finding our identity in Christ, they become far less important to us.
When our identity is wrapped up in anything other than the Gospel, we’re deviating.
2.THE PRIDE OF PLACE
This is when we think that personal achievement or talents set us apart and justifies us before God and others.
Again, this is part of the problem Paul was dealing with concerning the Judaizers. It was a performance-based faith. Those who performed well by keeping up appearances, dietary laws, observed the Jewish calendar considered themselves more righteous than those who didn’t.
Paul is saying – You’re missing it! You’re deviating from the Gospel!
If one could be justified by works, surely it would be Paul.
“I have reasons for confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he has grounds for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised the eighth day; of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; regarding the law, a Pharisee; regarding zeal, persecuting the church; regarding the righteousness that is in the law, blameless. But everything that was a gain to me, I have considered to be a loss because of Christ. More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them as dung, so that I may gain Christ”
Compared to the surpassing knowledge of knowing Christ, Him crucified, and resurrected, everything else is dung.
It’s not what we have done, are doing, or will do for Jesus that justifies us, it’s what He’s done for us.
Our hope is not in our achievements, eternal life is not found in our position, we’re not justified by our accolades, gifts, service, works, or talents.
What we have in Jesus is worth infinitely more that any of those things.
THE GROUND IS LEVEL AT THE FOOT OF THE CROSS.
Before God there is only one kind of sinner – a spiritually dead one whose only hope is the being touched by the nail scarred hand of Jesus and filled with His resurrection power.
3.THE PRIDE OF GRACE
This is the pride that comes from having lived without being involved in some shameful sin or have some sordid scandal in our background.
This pride can manifest itself in feeling a sense of distinction or superiority.
If that's the case, you’re missing it! You’re deviating from the Gospel!
Whether you grew up on the streets or in a church pew…you desperately needed the same Gospel.
Jesus addressed this in a parable He told in Luke 18. A tax collector and a Pharisee both go to the Temple to pray.
The Tax Collectors prayer: Thank you Lord that I’m not like that rotten tax collector.
The Tax Collectors prayer: Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Luke 18:14 “I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Romans 3:23 “We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”
Romans 3:10-12 “There is no one righteous, not even one. There is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away; all alike have become worthless. There is no one who does what is good, not even one”
Romans 6:23 “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”
Please don’t deviate from the true Gospel by placing your worth, value, dignity or identity in race, place or grace – but rather, in Christ!