September 24

Galatians 1:1-2:14-Paul Establishes His Authority to Teach Justification by Faith (continued)

Galatians 2:1-10-Paul’s Authority was approved by Peter, James, John and others in the church in Jerusalem

Galatians 2:1-10-14 years later Paul returned to Jerusalem with Barnabus and Titus (a Gentile).  He privately told them about a "revelation" (:2) he had had to take the gospel to the Gentiles.  He says that "those who were of reputation" (:2,6) did not tell him what to do.  James, Cephas (Peter), and John..."who were reputed to be pillars" gave then the "right hand of fellowship" (:9) for them to go to the Gentiles, and that they would go to the Jews.

Take note: Paul says that at that time he had Titus, a Gentile, with him…and nothing was said about his being circumcised.  Paul is building a case against the Judaizers.  It has now been many years since he made that trip to Jerusalem with Titus.  The Apostles didn’t require him to be circumcised then in order to be righteous…why should it be required, now?

Galatians 2:11-14-Paul’s Authority was authenticated through an encounter with Peter in Antioch

Peter came to Antioch where Paul’s home church was located.  Initially, he ate his meals along with the Gentile members of the church.  But when men came that James had sent, he refused to do so (:11-12).  Evidently, these men had begun to embrace some of the false teachings of the Judaizers and Peter allowed himself to be influenced by them.  This led the rest of the Jews to do the same...even Barnabas did so (:13).  Paul confronted Peter with this and told him that he was wrong in doing so.  Since Peter was undeniably one of the original disciples of Jesus and was one of the most preeminent of the Apostles…his agreement with Paul over this matter authenticated Paul’s authority.


  1. Peter had approved of Paul's gospel and ministry when Paul came to Jerusalem (Galatians 2:9); and God used Peter himself to welcome Gentiles into Christianity without the precondition of becoming Jews (Acts 11:1-18).
  2. He withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision: Though Peter had been in agreement with welcoming Gentiles into the church without bringing them under the Law of Moses, when Peter came to Antioch (Paul's home church), it was another story.  He refused to associate with Gentile Christians once certain Jewish believers from Jerusalem came.
  3. These men were Christians of Jewish background - Paul calls them certain men … from James and those who were of the circumcision - and Peter knew they would be "offended" at his fellowship with Gentiles who had not come under the Law of Moses.  In their eyes, these uncircumcised Gentiles were not really Christians at all, so to please them and avoid a conflict, Peter treated these Gentile Christians as if they were not Christians at all.
  4. Peter had known that God did not require Gentiles to come under the Law of Moses for salvation.  He learned this from the vision God gave him in Acts 10:23.  He learned this from the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Gentiles who believed (apart from being circumcised!) in Acts 10:44-48.  He learned this by the agreement of the other leaders of the church in Acts 11:1-18.  Now, Peter turns back on all that he had known about the place of Gentiles in the church, and he treats uncircumcised Gentiles as if they are not saved at all.

iii. "He seems to have taken this action shamefacedly.  As Bishop Lightfoot says, 'the words describe forcibly the cautious withdrawal of a timid person who shrinks from observation.'" (Stott)

  1. "It is perhaps curious that nobody seems to have recalled that Jesus ate 'with publicans and sinners', which can scarcely mean that he conformed to strict Jewish practice." (Morris)
  2. Sadly, others will follow Peter's lead. "The sins of teachers are the teachers of sins." (Trapp)

David Guzik :: Study Guide for Galatians 2,


Galatians 2:15-4:31-Paul Explains the Old Testament Basis of Justification by Faith

Galatians 2:15-21-The Principle of Justification by Faith Stated

In verses 15-21, Paul tells the Galatians about his conversation with Peter...that salvation is through faith alone, and not by works of the Law.


The heart of man’s spiritual dilemma is that he is incapable of overcoming the total sinfulness that separates him from the holy God. Job’s friend Bildad asked, “How then can a man be just with God?” (Job 25:4). How can a guilty and condemned sinner be made righteous and thereby acceptable to God? The provision of justification by faith is God’s answer to that dilemma and need.

Paul’s rebuke of Peter culminated in one of the most forceful statements in the New Testament on the doctrine of justification-the very doctrine that Peter and the others were in effect renouncing by their hypocritical separation from Gentile believers. In effect, Paul was saying, “Peter, I am rebuking you because you are violating the cardinal truth of Christianity. By your behavior you are condoning works-righteousness, a system of legalism that is contrary even to the covenant given by Moses, not to mention the New Covenant given by our Lord Jesus Christ.”

In setting forth the true doctrine of justification Paul first states what it is (vv. 15–16) and then gives a defense of it (vv. 17–21). As noted in a previous chapter, because of his intense and emotional concern for the integrity of the gospel and the spiritual welfare of the Galatian believers, Paul’s grammar in this epistle is sometimes difficult to reconstruct and his logic difficult to follow, though his meaning is always clear.

      We is used four times in verses 15–17 and refers to Paul, Peter, and all other Jewish Christians. The first part of his argument here is that, even we who are Jews by nature … have believed in Christ Jesus. “As Jews,” he was indicating, “we of all people know what it is to live by the system of law. We know the law as a way of life, what it is to function continually under the demands of religious rituals and regulations. Yet even we were saved by believing in Christ Jesus, not by the law. And if we, as Jews, cannot be saved by the law, how can we expect sinners from among the Gentiles to be?”

In referring to the Gentiles as sinners, Paul was not using the term in the behavioral sense of public immorality (as it is often used in the gospels), but in the legal sense in which it was frequently used by Jews. In the minds of most Jews, Gentiles were sinners by nature because they had no law to guide them in right living and in pleasing God. But with or without the law, Paul was saying, no person is saved who has not believed in Christ Jesus.

At the Jerusalem Council Peter declared that same truth in response to the Judaizers. “Why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they [the Gentiles] also are” (Acts 15:10–11).

Martin Luther said that if the article of justification by faith is lost, all Christian doctrine is lost. In this last section of chapter 2 Paul was inspired to introduce this most essential doctrine in the epistle, a doctrine he had preached and explained to the Galatians on many occasions. He uses the verb form of justification (dikaioō) four times in verses 16–17 and the noun form (dikaiosunē) once in verse 21, where it is rendered “righteousness.” In the New Testament these and other forms of the same Greek term are variously translated by such English words as justify, justification, righteousness, just, righteous, and justified.

The basic term was originally used forensically of a judge’s declaring an accused person not guilty and right before the law It was the opposite of being declared guilty and condemned. Throughout Scripture justification refers to God’s declaring a sinner to be guiltless on the basis of faith in Him. It is the free and gracious act by which God declares a sinner right with Himself-forgiving, pardoning, restoring, and accepting him on the basis of nothing but trust in the Person and work of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, Paul continues, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we may be justified by faith in Christ, and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law shall no flesh be justified.

No amount of law-keeping can make a person righteous, because the root of sinfulness is in the fallenness of man’s heart, not in actions. Man’s basic problem is in what he is, not in what he does. Sinful acts are but the outward expression of a depraved nature that contains sinful thoughts. A person who hates is inwardly a murderer, whether or not he ever takes another person’s life (Matt. 5:22). A man who has immoral thoughts about women is an adulterer, whether or not he ever commits the physical act of adultery (5:28).

Consequently, no amount of works of the Law can save a person, because even the best of human works cannot change the nature of the person doing them. “We know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, that every mouth may be closed, and all the world may become accountable to God; because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight” (Rom. 3:19–20). The law is important as a mirror to show us our sinfulness; but it can only reveal sin, not remove it. “But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus. … For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law” (3:21–24, 28).

Only faith in Christ Jesus can bring a person the gracious gift of righteousness that provides forgiveness and salvation. Faith in Christ is not mere intellectual assent to the fact that Jesus died and rose for man’s sin but is personal trust in His death to remove and forgive one’s own sins. It is total commitment to submit to Him as Lord (cf. James 4:7).

Three times in Galatians 2:16 Paul declares that salvation is only through faith in Christ and not by law. The first statement is general: a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus. The second is personal: even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we may be justified by faith in Christ, and not by the works of the Law. The third is universal: by the works of the Law shall no flesh be justified (cf. Ps. 143:2). All three affirm the same great reality.

All claims that salvation is through belief in Jesus Christ plus something else are blasphemous, satanic lies. There can be no effective or acceptable human addition to Christ’s work. This passage is as forceful and unequivocal a statement of the doctrine of salvation by faith alone as can be found in Scripture. First Paul establishes it on the basis of his apostolic authority. Second, he establishes it on the basis of his own experience. And third, he establishes it on the basis of God’s Word in the Old Testament…

verses 17–21 continues his contradiction of this Judaistic legalism to which Peter and the others had succumbed.

It is crucial to understand that, as in the previous two verses, we refers to Jewish Christians. But if, while seeking to be justified in Christ, we ourselves, as Jewish Christians, have also been found sinners, Paul asks rhetorically, is Christ then a minister of sin?

His first point was to show that, if the Judaizers were correct in their doctrine that believers are saved in part by keeping the ceremonial law of Moses and continue to be bound by that law to maintain their salvation, then, even before the Judaizers arrived in Antioch, Peter, Barnabas, and all the other Jewish believers, including Paul, had fallen back into the category of sinners by having freely eaten and fellowshipped with Gentile Christians.

Paul’s second point was even more devastating. “If you became sinners because of felowshiping with your Gentile brothers,” he implies, “then Christ Himself became a minister of sin, did he not?” How? Jesus had clearly taught that no food can spiritually contaminate a person, because food cannot affect the heart (Mark 7:19). Through the vision of the unclean animals and the dramatic conversion and anointing of Cornelius, the Lord had given Peter direct evidence that Gentile believers are in every way equal to Jewish believers (Acts 10). On many other occasions and in many other ways Jesus had taught that all those who belong to Him are one with Him and therefore one with each other. Shortly before His arrest, trial, and crucifixion, Jesus earnestly and repeatedly prayed to His Father that those who believed in Him “may all be one; even as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be in Us … that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and Thou in Me, that they may be perfected in unity” (John 17:21–23).

But if the Judaizers were right, Paul pointed out, Jesus was wrong; if they taught the truth, He had taught falsehood and was thereby a minister of sin! Such an accusation must have shaken Peter to his bones. To be called a hypocrite stung enough, but to be called a sinner was unthinkable, and to be accused of making Jesus a minister of sin was shocking and repulsive. Yet the logic of Paul’s argument was inescapable. By his actions, Peter had in effect condemned Jesus Christ. He therefore had to forsake his Judaistic sympathies or continue to make His Lord a liar.

MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1983). Galatians (pp. 55–57). Chicago: Moody Press, Logos Bible Software


Prayer: Lord, help me to remember the influence that I have on other people.  Here, I see that Peter influenced the Jews and even Barnabas by refusing to eat with the Gentiles.  Even Barnabas...who seems to be such a great encourager...was affected by Peter's actions.  Please help me to always be aware of how I am influencing other people and to keep my life holy before You.


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