GALATIONS 2, continued.
2:11-14 Bowing To Peer Pressure
11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. 13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?”
Despite the fact that Peter, or Cephas as he is referred to here, acknowledged the gospel of grace in the assembly of apostles, when he faced the Jews in Antioch, he caved. And, in caving, he led the other Jews in Antioch, including Barnabas, to cave in to this false gospel, and they separated themselves from the Gentile believers in Antioch. All of a sudden, there is a split in this growing, dynamic church. There is a split between Jewish and Gentile believers.
Paul jumped into the breach by confronting the problem. He went directly to Peter and accused him of being a hypocrite. Peter did not live like a Jew, observing the law and rituals. He lived like a Gentile, in the sense that he lived as one freed by grace. Paul said, if you live like a Gentile, how in the world can you require the Gentiles to live like Jews? That must have been embarrassing for Peter on several fronts.
First, it had to embarrass him in front of the Judaizers, who now knew he had not been observing the law as they believed one should. Second, it had to embarrass him in front of the Gentiles, to have his rejection of them pointed out. Third, it had to embarrass him in front of his Savior, who had given him a vision of the unity of Jews and Gentiles in a vision. That is recorded in Acts 10, and Peter realized that God sought Gentile believers and well as Jewish ones. Yet, he deserved it and confrontation was needed because he was not acting in accordance with the Gospel. It does not matter who is preaching, as much as it matters what is preached, and practiced.
2:15-16 Justified by Faith
15 We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.
Paul and Peter were both Jews by birth. They were not Gentiles. They called the Gentiles sinners because they did not possess the law and, therefore, could not keep it. They had no way to be righteous. Yet, being Jews, they realized they could never meet the requirements of the law, so they could not be justified by observing the law, but only through faith in Christ. Paul may be referring here to Psalm 143:2. That verse says “Enter not into judgment with your servant,
for no one living is righteous before you.” The Psalmist recognized that no one could obtain righteousness on their own.
Let’s remind ourselves what justification is. It is being declared not guilty. We know we are guilty. Romans 3:10 says “none is righteous, no not one”. Romans 3:23 says that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. However, even though we are guilty, God declares us not guilty when we receive Christ. Romans 3:24 tells us and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus”. He also imputes divine righteousness to us. See Romans 4:22-25. He can do this because he lived a perfect life, yet died for us.
There are groups today that want to add works to faith for salvation. There are some that require membership in a certain group. There are some who say if you do not support Israel you are going to hell. Paul said, you are justified if you believe.
2:17-21 Not a License To Sin
17 But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! 18 For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. 19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life 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 nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.
One practical argument people like the Judaizers make against justification by grace, is to say it is a license to sin. I had an argument with an Assembly of God preacher once about security of the believer. He did not believe in it. This is, in a sense, adding works to grace, because you say that God’s grace is only effective if your works are pleasing to God. He was very practical, because he said if salvation was permanent and eternal, people could sin all they want.
This idea ignores the concept of change, that a person who comes to Christ is changed. He is no longer a slave to sin, and wants to please the Lord with his life. He is also changing, as process of sanctification makes him more and more Christlike. The Christian life is also a life of gratitude, being thankful to God for salvation you do not deserve. It is also a life of love for God. All these work to keep us from sinking back into a life dominated by sin. Paul said we died to the law, so that we might live to God.
When Paul said “if I rebuild what I tore down”, he might actually be referring to Peter, who, in siding with the Judaizers, tried to rebuild the law after the coming of grace. However, in doing so , he becomes a transgressor, because he is denying the gospel.
Instead, we die to the law through the law. The law drives us to Christ. When we unite with him, we die with him. So, Paul says I have been crucified with Christ. Paul’s sin was placed on Christ, who died for it on the cross. He was then indwelt with Christ, who lived in him. He lived his life through faith in Christ, not in the flesh, sinning greatly because he was not bound by the law.
Paul’s final point, in verse 21, is dramatic. If you could obtain righteousness from the law, then it was pointless to send Christ as our savior and he died for no purpose. The Judaizers were saying, in effect, that the death of Christ on the cross was not sufficient to save people from their sins.