11 When Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. 13 The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.
14 When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas 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?
15 “We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles 16 know that a person is not justified by the works of 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 the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.
17 “But if, in seeking to be justified in Christ, we Jews find ourselves also among the sinners, doesn’t that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not! 18 If I rebuild what I destroyed, then I really would be a lawbreaker.
19 “For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, 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 could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”
As the early church was learning to integrate Jews and Gentiles into one new multi-ethnic family of God, one of the problem areas was sharing meals. One of the distinctives of what it meant to be Jewish, much like the mark of circumcision, was a strict dietary code. To Jews, sharing a meal with a non-Jew was viewed as potentially problematic because in doing so they could compromise their own dietary laws. This is why, out of Peter’s fear of judgment from other Jews, he compromised the truth of the gospel when he went back to living under the law by refusing to share a meal with Gentiles. Peter’s compromise then led others astray, so Paul confronts Peter in front of the the group. Paul wants Peter and all of those refusing to share life around the table with their new Gentile brothers and sisters in Christ to repent. In this instance, Peter’s influence led people in the wrong direction as he folded under peer pressure.
Paul continues to emphasize what it takes to be justified before God.
Galatians 2:16 >>> [We] know that a person is not justified by the works of 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 the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.
Bible study tip >>> Look for repeated words and phrases. Circle all the times when “justified” and “faith” appear in the passage
To be justified is to be declared righteous before God. It means we are put into right standing and right relationship with God. Paul clearly emphasizes that no amount of following the law will fix us or bring us into right standing before God. Only faith in Jesus Christ can do that.
However, if our works can’t save us, does that mean we can do whatever we want? Paul answers that question next.
Galatians 2:17-19 >>> 17 But if, in seeking to be justified in Christ, we Jews find ourselves also among the sinners, doesn’t that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not! 18 If I rebuild what I destroyed, then I really would be a lawbreaker. 19 For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God.
Justification by faith does not mean we just don’t worry about the law and keep sinning. Christ’s death fulfilled the law. If anything, Christ’s life on earth gives us a perfect model of how to live and love the way God intended. Christ simply freed us from having to rely on the law in order to earn God’s approval. If we still want to hold up the law as essential to earn our righteousness, all we will end up proving in the end is that we can’t live up to those standards. Christ presents us a new option: we can say goodbye to our old way of life and learn a new way of life in him!
Galatians 2:20 >>> I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
We have died to our old way of life and have been invited to live under a new law — the law of a Savior who loves us so much he would give his life for ours.
>>>Here’s a few questions to think about:
In this passage, Peter’s influence led others astray and needed to be called out.
Where do I have influence? Where is my influence leading people?
Faith is trust in what we have reason to believe is true. It’s taking what we believe and then living as if it’s really true. Faith in something should show up in our actions. Our faith is not in the law. We don’t need to act as if we are dependent on the law. The law isn’t bad — it’s just not what determines our worth or our salvation. We live out the truth that Christ has already completed our work of salvation.
Is there an area of your life where you feel anxiety over not being good enough? What would it look like to claim and live out the truth that Christ has already declared you loved and redeemed in that area of your life?
We have been crucified with Christ and our old habits and harmful patters have been put to death — but sometimes we live as if they still run our lives. Sin no longer has any hold on us except what we choose to give it.
Is there an area of your life God might be asking you to continue putting to death?