Summary: Chapter two of Galatians has been Paul’s biographical defense of his Apostolic authority and the Gospel. After he defended the truth of the Gospel against Peter’s hypocritical actions he explains the doctrine of justification by faith alone
W. M. Clow, in his book: The Cross in the Christian Experience, summarized the true distinction between human true faith and religion. He said: “The deepest heresy of all, which corrupts churches, leavens creeds with folly, and swells our human hearts with pride, is salvation by works. “I believe,” writes John Ruskin, “that the root of every schism and heresy from which the Christian Church has suffered, has been the effort to earn salvation rather than to receive it; and that one reason why preaching is so ineffective is that it calls on men oftener to work for God than to behold God working for them.” (W. M. Clow, The Cross in the Christian Experience, p. 114.)
The Apostle Paul called the actions of certain Christians to account in Galatia. Their deviation from the Gospel occurred when their actions proclaimed a message different from their words. The actions of Peter, Barnabas, and the other Jewish believers in Antioch were not simply a matter of personal hypocrisy. Their capitulation to the Judaizers, by example if not by doctrine, was fracturing the church. The fact that Peter and Barnabas were spiritual leaders made the matter immeasurably worse For years they had taught justification by faith alone, and they had exemplified that teaching in their lives. The Antioch church had become a model of Jewish-Gentile fellowship and harmony, and almost overnight it had become the opposite.
When you ask most people how they expect to become right with God their answers are usually based on works. They usually try to justify their actions before God. For those who trust their works and are not justified by faith in Christ alone, the result is eternal death. If Christians answer the question of why they are God’s children, by saying: “I am right with God because I accepted Jesus into my heart”, the message they give is that we become right with God based on something we do. Understanding the concept of Justification by faith alone is a matter of life and death.
Chapter two of Galatians has been Paul’s biographical defense of his Apostolic authority and the Gospel. After he defended the truth of the Gospel against Peter’s hypocritical actions he explains the doctrine of justification by faith alone as seen through: 1) HIS REACTION (Galatians 2:14–15) 2) HIS STATEMENT (Galatians 2:15–16) AND 3) HIS DEFENSE (Galatians 2:17–21) in his “Response to the Deviation from the Gospel”
1) HIS REACTION (Galatians 2:14)
Galatians 2:14 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?"
As we saw, the withdrawal of the Jewish believers from the Gentiles was likely gradual; but as soon as Paul realized what was happening he immediately reacted against it. When [he] saw that their conduct was not in step/not straightforward with the truth of the gospel, he sharply rebuked Peter (Cephas). As an apostle Peter was the most accountable, and it was his wrong example that had drawn the others into the destructive hypocrisy. The phrase of Peter not being in step/straightforward is from orthopodeo, a compound of orthos (straight) and pous (foot) that means to walk straight, or uprightly. One scholar translates verse 14a as, “They were not walking on the straight path towards the truth of the gospel.” In withdrawing from their Gentile brethren, Peter and the others were not living in accord with God’s Word, and not walking a straight spiritual course. In essence, verse 14 is an extended explanation of what Paul had already stated as the climax of the Antioch incident of verses 11-13: he opposed Peter to his face because Peter was clearly in the wrong (George, T. (1994). Galatians (Vol. 30, p. 177). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.).
Because Peter’s offense was public, Paul rebuked him before them all/in the presence of all, unmasking his hypocrisy before the whole congregation.
• Every believer in Antioch, and doubtlessly many unbelievers as well, knew that Peter was no longer associating with Gentiles as he had once done so freely and openly
• In order to avoid jumping to conclusions or base actions on second-hand reports, we saw the requirement of several witnesses that a charge against an eider is true, Paul told Timothy, the elder should be rebuked “in the presence of all, so that the rest also may be fearful of sinning” (1 Tim. 5:20).
Paul rebuked Peter when he said: "If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?" In contrast to Peter’s hypocrisy, Paul’s indictment was straightforward. He simply pointed out the obvious inconsistency of Peter’s behavior in Antioch. He reminded him that when he first arrived there, Peter had freely fellowshipped with Gentile believers and regularly ate with them (v.12). He had openly visited in their homes and joined them in love feasts and Communion, showing no evidence of legalism or prejudice. He had lived like a Gentile and not like a Jew, who were known throughout the world for their separatism. Peter had no longer lived like a Jew, having finally come to realize that even the God-given ceremonial separation taught in the Old Testament was no longer valid. But under the influence of the Judaizers in Antioch he faltered and slipped back into the old ways. Paul had no desire to lord it over Peter or to build up his own reputation at the expense of a fellow apostle. His motive was not to humiliate Peter but to correct him in a serious error that had caused many other believers to stumble with him. He could tolerate nothing that threatened the integrity of the gospel, especially if that threat came from a prominent and influential leader such as Peter.