Sermon – November 12, 2017
Many times, we enter into the middle of conversations and don’t know all the background we’d like. Galatians 2:11-14 is one of those times. To best understand what is going on, there are some questions that need answers. While these questions are important, and do greatly affect our understanding of the passage, they cannot be answered with compete certainty. Therefore, the following points, while reasonable, should be understood as likely, not certain.
1. When did this event happen? The event most probably happened sometime after the meeting recalled in 2:1-10.
2. What did Peter actually do? While nominally about food, the issue is really about identity and whether the Gentiles are on equal footing with the Jews. Peter, pulling away from associating with them, implies that the Gentiles are not indeed equals in Christ.
3. What was James’ role in this? While Paul does mention that certain men came from James, we have no more information than this, and it is likely that Paul does not feel James is involved in any wrongdoing here.
4. Who is the “circumcision party”? The term can signify Jewish-Christians or just Jews, making a clear decision more difficult. Because Paul does not identify this “party” with Peter or James, specifically, it is likely that they are a faction of Jews in Jerusalem.
5. What was Peter’s “hypocrisy”? It is unlikely in the highest that Peter had simply changed his mind; rather, Peter was simply “play-acting” a role. Whether for good reasons or bad, Peter likely kept his theological convictions as given in 2:1-10.
6. What does Paul mean in v. 14? Peter has taken a decisive step, by being justified in Christ, that has separated him from the Jews. If this step, highlighted in 2:15-21, separates him from his Jewish roots, why does he think that the Gentiles can live in a manner that he couldn’t manage?
1. Peter’s vice: the dread of man
Peter, whether for noble reasons or not, dreads the threat of having the circumcision group know what he is doing. It is this dread that leads him into a position of condemnation. This is what the fear of man always does: leads one away from God, into sin and condemnation.
2. Paul’s virtue: the discipline of man
Paul, however, knows the counter for such sin: discipline and truth. Paul’s confrontation likely wins back Peter, and upholds the truth of the gospel for Gentiles everywhere. Discipline, when done for the truth of the gospel, always means to save sinners.
Most of us hate confrontation, but such confrontation is inevitable amongst sinners. Out of love, let us hold one another accountable to the gospel, for the sake of our brothers and sisters, the gospel, and the name of our Lord.