Lesson 5 - Paul confronts Peter

Lesson 5 - Paul confronts Peter

(Galatians 2:11-21)

Paul had just demonstrated that he was independent of the other apostles with regard to his spiritual gift of apostleship. He pointed out that he had seen the resurrected Christ, had not gone directly to Jerusalem to be instructed by the apostles, had gone into the Arabian desert where he had been taught by the Holy Spirit and after returning he stayed away from Jerusalem for fourteen years. Paul wrote all of this to show that his apostleship was legitimately from God, not man. After the fourteen years, Paul, along with Barnabas and Titus, went to Jerusalem to discuss the matter of law-keeping for salvation (specifically, circumcision). Paul presented his message of salvation to the church leaders and all were in agreement that keeping the Law was not a requirement for salvation for the new Gentile believers.

In Galatians 2:14-21 Paul showed that keeping the Law was no longer a requirement for the Jew. Paul demonstrated this point by first relating a story about Peter. This story had to do with the Mosaic Law and the prohibition of eating certain foods. While the Mosaic laws were designed to promote physical health among the Jews, they were also designed to keep the Jewish race pure by not allowing them to eat (fellowship) with the Gentiles.

Peter, who had already been shown by God that the Mosaic Law had been set aside by Christ’s death on the Cross, had agreed with Paul that salvation was by faith alone in Christ alone. However, there was still a lot of pressure from the Jewish leaders, even in the early church, to keep the Law. Therefore, Peter, who was in Antioch at the time, withdrew from the Gentile believers and stopped his practice of eating with them when certain Jews came to Antioch to meet with him. Peter feared they would think he was not a good Jew for associating with the Gentiles. The natural result was that others followed Peter’s lead and withdrew their fellowship from the Gentile believers causing a division within the local church.

Paul confronted Peter on this issue because it was Peter that was at fault, insomuch that many were led astray. Up until the time James sent a group of church leaders to Antioch, Peter had eaten with and fellowshipped with the Gentile believers. However, when the delegation from Jerusalem arrived, Peter separated himself from the Gentiles and would not eat with them. To further explain, it was a common practice in the early church to meet in homes and study God’s Word and eat together (often called love-feasts).

So blatant was Peter’s withdrawal that Barnabas and many other Jews temporarily abandoned their true beliefs. The Greek word for dissembled is “hupokrinomai,” which means the act of concealing one’s real character or convictions. In this case, Peter and the other Jews, including Barnabas, did not believe that the Jewish believer was under any further obligation to keep the Mosaic Law. However, for fear of the Jewish leaders from Jerusalem, they compromised their true beliefs and showed themselves to be hypocrites.

Remember that Paul’s purpose in these verses was to show the Jewish believers that they, like the Gentiles, were no longer obligated to keep the Law. Also remember that we are in the early stages of the Church Age and still transitioning from law to grace. We read in Acts 21 that James was confused even after the conference in Jerusalem with regard to Jews keeping the Law after salvation. Paul even succumbed to taking a Jewish vow, after he was saved, in order to please the church leaders in Jerusalem. The point is that there was still much confusion about the role of the Law for the Jewish believer.

Apparently by the time he wrote Galatians, Paul had gotten himself straightened out regarding this issue and was proving to the Jewish leadership that even a Jew was not required to keep the Law after salvation. A new higher law was in place, which was the law of Christ.

In Galatians 2:15-18 Paul showed that by trusting Jesus Christ as Savior the Jewish believers were first showing themselves to be sinners in need of salvation just like the Gentiles. They were also admitting that there is no justification by keeping the Law. Paul rejects the false teaching of the Judaizers, who said that Christ was the promoter and encourager of sinful practices by causing Jews to abandon the Law. In Galatians 2:18 Paul reinforces the idea that Christ is not the promoter and encourager of sin. He used the Greek word “oikodomeo” for build, which in connection to the Law of Moses means to render or to declare valid. And then he used the Greek word “kataluo” for destroy, which means to deprive of force. Referring to Peter’s action of withdrawing from the Gentile believers, Peter was validating the Law, which he had earlier declared null and void by eating with them.

Paul had realized that the purpose of the Law was to show him that he was a sinner and needed a Savior. Therefore, Paul died to the Law (in the sense of abandoning the Law) when he finally understood its purpose, which opened the potential for Paul to be alive in Christ. Paul’s former subjection to the Law, which he supposed would gain God’s favor, had in reality prevented him from doing so. Paul sincerely believed that he was doing God’s work by persecuting and killing Christians prior to his believing in Christ as Savior.

Now Paul stated what he came to realize after salvation was that as a believer he was a new creation in Christ and had in essence died to self. A verse that is often quoted with regard to the doctrine of being a “new creation” in Christ (but one that is not very well understood) is II Corinthians 5:17. This verse says, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation; old things are passed away; behold all things are become new.” Let’s examine this verse so we can get the true meaning. First, we must consider the context of the passage in order to reach an accurate interpretation.

The content of II Corinthians 5 is the results of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is the placing of the believer into union with Christ. This union with Christ is neither seen nor felt. It is our union with Christ that gives us the potential for a personal sense of destiny, knowing that we have a place prepared for us in Heaven. It is in light of this doctrinal truth, Paul tells us in verse 17, that we are “new creations in Christ and that old things have passed away and behold all things have become new.”

Contrary to popular belief “all things becoming new” is not a reference to a person’s lifestyle or “bad” habits. We know this from the original language and from many other passages of Scripture. Once a person accepts Christ as Savior, his lifestyle does not automatically change. If there needs to be change, then the only legitimate change must come from the spiritual growth based on the Word of God, not on some religious taboo. As a matter of fact, this passage refers to what God does for us, not what we do for God. Becoming a new creation is a matter of God’s grace. Therefore, all human effort is eliminated. The reason a person becomes a new creation is that he is in union with Christ. This union means that the believer shares Christ’s destiny and His inheritance.

The Christian Way of Life is lived in the “flesh” as Paul stated. It is made up of two parts, our spiritual life, which is our relationship with God and our Christian life, which is our relationship with people. Though these are difficult to separate and they really work in tandem, the Word of God does separate the two.

The spiritual life of the believer functions under the Royal Priesthood and the Christian life functions under the Royal Ambassadorship of the believer. Our spiritual life is our inward life and our Christian life is our outward life.

The spiritual life and the Christian life come together as the Christian Way of Life under the filling of the Holy Spirit, which is an absolute. At any given time, you are either 100% spiritual (filled with the Holy Spirit) or 100% carnal (not filled with the Holy Spirit). When you are not filled with the Holy Spirit, you grieve and quench His work in you of producing the character of Jesus Christ. This feeds the sin nature, making it stronger. This is like being in darkness according to the Word of God. Only confessing your sin (I John 1:9) can turn the light back on.

As a priest, we represent ourselves before God. No other person can represent you or live your spiritual life for you. You must make the decision that knowing God is the most important thing that you can do. And knowing God is the only way that you will ever learn to love God. Just like a marriage, it takes growth; getting to know your spouse should increase your love for them. In God’s case it does. As you study the Word of God, it becomes a mirror into your soul. This is strictly a matter between you and God, however. As you examine yourself in the light of God’s Word, if you see things that need to be changed, and under the filling of the Holy Spirit, you have the power to make those changes. As you grow towards maturity, you will find your norms and standards lining up with God’s. This new nature that you received at salvation is now being fed on a daily basis and is becoming much stronger that your sin nature. As you make good decisions from a position of strength, you find things will begin to fall into place for you.

As a believer-priest, you begin to have fellowship (things in common) with God. Your prayer life becomes more effective and you find yourself thinking Bible doctrine in every situation. You begin claiming the promises of God by mixing them with your faith. You now have a personal sense of destiny and you are beginning to share the happiness of God. You also realize that God’s grace is sufficient for all your needs and you don’t need to look elsewhere. This causes you to be truly grateful for what you have right now. Eventually, as you grow in your spiritual life, you become occupied with the Person of Christ. You attempt to emulate His thoughts. As you fall short from time to time, you are able to utilize 1 John 1:9, keeping short accounts and continuing to move towards your goal of spiritual maturity. You now have begun living your spiritual life.

The Christian life cannot be lived without the spiritual life in place and functioning. The Christian life can be lived only under the filling of the Holy Spirit. When you are not filled with the Holy Spirit, your Christian life is put on hold until you acknowledge your sins to God and begin advancing again.

As a royal ambassador, you represent Jesus Christ here on earth. How you treat others is a reflection of how your spiritual life is progressing. If you have a healthy spiritual life, then God is able to produce the character of Jesus Christ in you under the filling of the Holy Spirit. Before the world, you will begin to exhibit the fruit of the Spirit.

God has provided everything that we need to fulfill the Christian way of life. We have more power in this dispensation than in any other in history. So it is not about getting more of the Holy Spirit, it is about Him getting more of us, as we allow Him to guide and empower us as Paul did.