Summary: Every person who puts his or her faith in Christ is fully accepted by God.
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THE TRUTH OF THE GOSPEL
In this passage, Paul rebukes Peter. Other than Jesus Christ, Peter and Paul are perhaps the two most influential leaders in church history. (A passage such as this demonstrates that the Bible is not an invention of man.)
Two terms make a connection between Paul’s meeting with the apostles in Jerusalem (2:1-10) and his rebuke of Peter in Antioch.
• “Compel”: “Yet not even Titus…was compelled to be circumcised” (v. 3). “How is it, then, that you force [compel] Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?” (v. 14). In Jerusalem, the issue was circumcision. In Antioch, the issue is Jewish food laws. One of the big issues in Paul’s day: Should Gentile Christians be compelled to live like Jews?
• “The truth of the gospel”: “We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might remain with you” (v. 5). “When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel…” (v. 14). Again, “the truth of the gospel” is at stake.
The conflict in Antioch develops in seven stages.
(1) Peter (Cephas) comes to Antioch and begins to eat with Christian Gentiles (vv. 11a, 12b).
(2) Certain men from James came to Antioch (v. 12a).
(3) Peter becomes afraid of this group (v. 12d).
(4) His fear causes him to draw back and separate himself from the Gentile Christians (v. 12c).
(5) The rest of the Jews and even Barnabas, Paul’s partner, withdrew and joined the hypocrisy (v. 13).
(6) Therefore, Peter stood condemned, that is, guilty of wrong (v. 11).
(7) Therefore, Paul rebukes him to his face (v. 11).
When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel… (v. 14a).
QUESTION: “Gospel” means “good news.” What is so good about the gospel of Jesus Christ?
ANSWER: The gospel provides a way for sinners to be FULLY ACCEPTED by God?
“We who are Jews by birth and not ‘Gentile sinners’ know 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” (vv. 15-16).
Verse 16 is one of the most important verses of Galatians. The word “justified” is found three times in the verse. This is the first mention of “justification” in the letter.
• To be justified means to be declared INNOCENT before God.
• We cannot be justified by our own WORKS.
• We can only be justified by FAITH in Christ (see 3:10-14).
WHAT DOES FOOD HAVE TO DO WITH 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?” (v. 14b).
After the Exodus, God gave to Israel laws about what they could and could not eat.
Basically, the Bible (Lev. 11; Deut. 14) prohibits the consumption of (1) all four-footed animals except sheep, goats, cattle, and a few kinds of deer, the most notable prohibition being pork; (2) shellfish and molluscs; (3) birds of prey; (4) most insects (except locusts, crickets, and grasshoppers); swarming land creatures (like lizards, crocodiles, chameleons, and weasels); and (6) dead animals (which should be obvious). Furthermore, for food that was permissible there was a further restriction: no food could be consumed that had either fat or blood (Lev. 3:17).
Why did God give these food laws to Israel, and why is it no longer necessary for us to follow them?
• The food laws were given to keep Israel DISTINCT from the other nations.
• The food laws were done away with when Jews and Gentiles became UNITED in the church (Acts 10:9-28).
QUESTION: How was Peter “not acting in line with the truth of the gospel”?
ANSWER: He was not FULLY ACCEPTING those whom God had already FULLY ACCEPTED.
Peter’s error was more than a breach of etiquette. It was “hypocrisy” because Peter was not living what he believed. (He believed Gentiles who put their faith in Christ were fully accepted by God.) Because of his influence, he lead others astray.
WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM THIS?
When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong (v. 11).
Peter’s sin and Paul’s rebuke teach us three lessons:
1. Even great Christians make great MISTAKES.
No one in the NT had more highs and lows than Peter.
When the apostles are listed, Peter is usually first (Matthew 10:2; Acts 1:13). He was a constant companion of Jesus (along with James and John). Jesus gave to Peter “the keys of the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 16:19). He opened the door of the kingdom to the Jews (Day of Pentecost; Acts 2) and to the Gentiles (Cornelius; Acts 10).