11 Now when [d]Peter had come to Antioch, I [e]withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; 12 for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing [f]those who were of the circumcision. 13 And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy.
14 But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, “If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, [g]why do you compel Gentiles to live as [h]Jews? 15 We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, 16 knowing that a man is not [i]justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.
17 “But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is Christ therefore a minister of sin? Certainly not! 18 For if I build again those things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor. 19 For I through the law died to the law that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died [j]in vain.”
I.) The Case Behind Paul’s Rebuke of Peter
It has become the cause celebre recently to use this passage to prove that in the new covenant God designed that Christians should no longer have a concern to honor the ethnic identity which God assigned to them. The reasoning goes that in the new covenant since the dividing wall between Jew and Gentile has been broken down (Eph. 2:14) therefore all considerations of how we belong to a nation or a people as among Christians is no longer a matter of consideration. This passage in Galatians is brought forward in order to prove this cockeyed theory.
So, we ask what is Galatians 2:1-11 all about if it is not about the errant suggestion, so popular as among the modern Gnostics in the Church, that ethnicity was abolished in the cross so that it no longer is to be a consideration among Christians.
Now, before we tease this out let us say as effusively as we can that the Scripture’s clearly teach that in Christ all believers have a spiritual bond that is not to be disregarded. Indeed, that truth forms the heart of Paul’s rebuke here in Galatians 2. Clearly, the Scripture teaches that if we lift anything, including our belonging to our family or people group, above our allegiance to Christ we are guilty of some kind of idolatry. This is why Christ teaches that;
Anyone who loves his father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me;
Our highest love then is set on Christ. He is the treasure that is to be gained at the loss of everything else if necessary.
However, Christ does not teach that in order to love him we must disorder our natural loves. He only insists that our natural loves do not rise above our love and allegiance to Him as our summum bonum.
Indeed, Christ demonstrates the necessity for the fifth commandment to be honored when He teaches as against the very same opposition that St. Paul faces in Galatians 2;
“But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God”— Mt. 15:5
Here Jesus is clearly teaching the importance to honor family.
Paul reinforces this teaching of Jesus when he writes to Timothy;
“But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”
I Timothy 5:8
So, as we come to Paul here in Galatians 2 we understand that Scripture has taught that our family/our people group is important and is to honored but not as above Christ.
And here we find the nub of the matter in Galatians 2. The Judiazers had lifted their ethnic identity above the Gospel of Jesus Christ, so much that they were insisting that if one wanted to be a Christ follower one had to first become a Judaizer. In other words Paul resists Peter here because it was the Judaizers who were insisting that Gentiles had to cease being Gentiles and become amalgamated so as to be cultural Jews.
The Judaizing sin was to insist that all the world had to be a Talmudic Jew to be a disciple of Christ.
In Galatians, Paul was the one in favor of the Church being comprised of Jew and Gentile but with the truth that these two could come together for worship and fellowship. The Judaizers and Peter were arguing that in order to be justified one had to become a socio-cultural Jew and keep the same Talmudic dietary laws. Paul, on the other hand, was reasoning that one could remain an ethnocultural Gentile and still be Christian. The Judaizers and Peter were the ones trying to force an integrated uniformitarian Church and Paul resisted them to their face and insisted that one could have a Gentile diet and be justified … Gentiles could be segregated and have their own Church. (see also Acts 15).
Peter is practicing an unbiblical favoritism because he is communicating to the Gentiles that they have to reject the new covenant in favor of the Talmudic interpreted old covenant. Paul resists Peter to his face not because Peter withdrew from table fellowship with the Gentiles but rather because by refusing table fellowship with the Gentiles Peter was favoring a talmudic interpreted old covenant over the new and better covenant. Peter was denying the Gospel in favor or Talmudism.
Now why do we conclude that the issue for Paul in Galatians 2:11f was not his desire for an amalgamationist Gospel but rather the issue for Paul was standing against Judaizing impulses? In other words, we are saying that this whole mess in Antioch that required rebuking Peter was not about the desire to eliminate Jewish and Gentile real ethnic distinctions but rather it was about going after the Talmudic/Judaizing attempt to redefine the Gospel as a different Gospel.
Keep in mind that among the Judaizers there were man made restrictions and stipulations when it came to table habits. These had been handed down from generation to generation by the Judaizing Rabbis who were seeking add to God’s Word. For example the Rabbis had set up a rule where meat consumed by Jews had to be processed in a definite way when purchased by a Gentile vendor. Another example had to do with washing the hands before eating — a washing not for ordinary hygienic reasons but for fear lest the hands be contaminated by contact with a Gentile (Mt. 15:1ff, Mk. 7:1ff).
So, the threat to the Gospel here in Galatians 2 is not the threat of upholding the everywhere taught in Scripture idea that there are distinct nations that remains. No, the threat to the Gospel that finds Paul so vehement about is the threat that the free grace of the Gospel was going to be changed out for a Talmudic Judaizing Gospel.
No one less than the greatest Theologian in the post Bible canon era, St. Augustine, could offer here;
“Difference of race or condition or sex is indeed taken away by the unity of faith, but it remains embedded in our mortal interactions, and in the journey of this life the apostles themselves teach that it is to be respected, and they even proposed living in accord with the racial differences between Jews and Greeks as a wholesome rule.”
St. Augustine on Galatians 3:28
So, away with this cultural Colonialism that keeps rearing its head in the cultural Marxist Church today. Away with this notion that Bono sang of when he envisioned “one day all colors bleeding into one.” If Jesus, right at this very moment, can remain a descendant of Judah and David then the Gospel does not include the stripping off of our creational identities.
And just in case in needs to be said, away with the idea that Christianity forbids us from having table fellowship and friendships with fellow Christians of different tribes, tongues, and nations who share a like precious faith.
Summing up this point let us observe that if we were to posit that instead of Gentile table partners the case had been that the table partners in Antioch had been Jews who were not Judaizers, and so non-observant, the complaints of those Judaizers coming from James would have been the same.
The issue here is not eating with Gentiles
The issue here is non-Talmudic lifestyles
Now, we need a sermon on Ephesians 2 in order to cement this but that will have to wait for another time.
Before moving on to the next point let us make an observation here brought up by vs. 14;
II) The Character of Paul’s Rebuke of Peter
14 But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, “If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, [g]why do you compel Gentiles to live as [h]Jews?
Paul’s rebuke of Peter reminds us that nobody in the Church has a status that allows them to be counted as untouchable. If someone is in terrible error then they need to have, out of even love for them, their ears boxed. Nobody gets a pass when it comes to error of this magnitude. Not even Peter … not even the Pope of Moscow, not even the R2K Escondido lads and not even those — whoever they may be — accounted today to be pillars in the Church. I hope that if I ever am in error of this magnitude someone would love me enough to metaphorically box my ears.
Note the manner Paul rebukes Peter. It is right out in the open before God and man. There is no passive aggressive campaign to undercut Peter. There is no gossip behind Peter’s back. Paul grabs the Mic, and says what he has to say and then drops the mic. There is no more to be said.
Peter’s sin was public and thus so was Paul’s rebuke. It needs to be said here that this provides a template for us when people write or speak publicly. If they are putting themselves out there publicly then it is proper to respond in public — especially when the issue is of great magnitude.
III.) The Content of Paul’s Rebuke of Peter
15 We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, 16 knowing that a man is not [i]justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.
The context here points in the direction that what we have said so far is exactly the case. You see my friends the issue here is not the idea that the new covenant requires ethnic and cultural assimilation. The issue here is the character of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
This is the connection between verses15-16 and what went previously. What is being argued here is this;
If a Jew who, having turned to Christ, has learned that strict and exacting obedience to legal requirements — human and divine — will not bring him into the Kingdom, tries, nevertheless, to impose such legalism upon the sinner Gentiles, his effort to place this burden upon them has no excuse.
If we were to paraphrase the verses above into a language that might make more sense to us we would offer;
“Though we are by birth, race and descent Jews who are a highly privileged people, and not nekulturny sinners of Gentile descent, yet, when we learned that our works done in obedience to the law –both divine and human — could never be adequate to make us righteous in God’s sight, and that this standing could be attained only by trusting in Jesus Christ, even we, who in self esteem were always looking down on the Gentile goyim, began to se that before God we were not any better than they. Hence, even we embraced Christ by a living faith, in order that by means of the exercise of faith we might receive as a free gift, that standing of being ‘not guilty, but righteous’ in God’s sight. It was by faith in Christ and His merits, and definitely not by our obedience to the law, that we received this blessing of being righteous, for by works done in obedience to law — human or divine — no weak earthly, perishable human, whose works never reach the goal of perfection, will ever be able to attain to the standing of righteousness before God.”
If this is an accurate free hand rendering of vs. 15-16 we see the abject silliness in seeking to make Galatians 2 prove that the new covenant demands ethnic assimilationism. A thousand times “NO.” Galatians 2 is about the attempt of the Judaizers to deny Justification by faith alone.
The verb “to justify” used here in the passive voice of the Greek verb — hence to be justified — occurs here for the first time in St. Paul’s epistles and is used three times to boot in these two vs.
So, we should ask what is Galatians 2 teaching about “to be justified.” As we examine this keep in mind that the word “justified” has different senses. The context has to be examined.
In Galatians 2:15-16 the three passive verbs of dikaios are used in the typical forensic/judicial sense. In this context justification is best defined as that free and gracious act of the Father, whereby on the alone basis of Christ’s accomplished mediatorial cross work, the Father declares the sinner as meeting all the requirements of His just Law and so is legally just in God’s court — and the latter accepts this by faith. Whereas prior the sinner was — subjectively speaking — judicially under condemnation, now He is justified.
This reminds us that our standing with God is based upon God’s judicial declaration wherein He accepts the blood atoning work of Jesus Christ as our substitute. Justification screams that we are righteous by works but not our work. We are righteous by the works of Jesus Christ. Therefore our works as a consideration are (thank God) not part of the equation. Christ fully meets the demands of God’s law — both the demands for perfect obedience and the demand that past accrued guilt — both natural and actual — be paid with the price of blood.
Briefly, since we are over time now, we want to articulate here something so obvious that it might be missed the way that a fish misses the importance of the water all around him — and that because the water is just so much part of his environment that he can’t see it.
The obvious thing we need to say is that the kind of Judaizing-Talmudism which brought this whole conflict on, hates with a mad passion Biblical Christianity. It is the case here in Galatians 2. It is the case in Acts 15. Judaizing-Talmudism remains in opposition to Biblical Christianity. We would do well to keep that in mind.
Let us continue to pray that God in Christ might grant redemption to the Judaizers-Talmudists as well as the useful idiots in the Church who continue to do their bidding.