Galatians Study 5: Conflict



What are you doing to make SURE that you will be saved and enter heaven when you die?

Are you SURE that you will be saved?


Big Issue in Galatians 1-2

  • Is Paul legit? (apostleship)
  • Is His message legit?  (Faith ALONE, Grace ALONE, Christ ALONE vs. Jesus plus thinking, Jesus plus being Jewish/circumcised/obey law)

The argument put forward probably went something along the lines that he was not one of the original apostles and that he taught an unorthodox version of Christianity as a result.  Everything that he teaches that is correct he received from the apostles but everything that he teaches that is wrong – he made up himself.

In Study 3 (1:11-24), Paul says that the only thing that makes sense of his changed life, claim to apostleship and new message is that he had a divine revelation (1:12, 15).  He had no reason to convert from Judaism – he was both zealous and successful (1:13-14).

He could not have been won over by the Jerusalem apostle’s message, nor distorting it to his own ends.  He did not go to Jerusalem until 3 years after his conversion and then he only met 2 other apostles and for only 2 weeks.

In Study 4 we saw that when Paul eventually did go to Jerusalem, there was unity, recognition of Paul’s apostleship and ministry to the gentiles, and the right hand of fellowship

Read: Galatians 2:11-16


Why does Paul oppose Peter?

When certain men came from Jerusalem supposedly representing the other apostles, Peter who had been enjoying table fellowship with Gentiles up until that point,withdrew and separted himself from the Gentiles.

The men who came from Jerusalem were Jewish in origin, professing Christians and probably strict Pharisees.  I think it is right to equate this incident with that in Act 15:1-2. If this incident happened after the council of Jerusalem then it is altogether likely that Paul would simply refer to that verdict.

They claimed to be from James, in other words acting under his authority.  James later denies this Acts 15:24

What is Paul’s verdict on Peter’s behaviour?

v13 Hypocrite – it is not that they disagree about the truth – it is more that Peter’s behaviour is a contradiction of that truth.  Peter himself was the first one to take the gospel to the Gentiles and to eat with them (Acts 10-11).  Peter’s actions (and those of Barnabas it would seem) are born not out of conviction but out of fear of what the other apostles will think of him.  Peter acts in Antioch in exactly the opposite manner in which Paul acts in Jerusalem when faced with the pressure from a powerful minority party.

v11, 14 – He is wrong – he is not acting in line with the truth of the gospel.

What is the truth of the gospel?

v15-16 – we are justified not by observing the law (what we can do to make us right with God) – which is what hte false teachers here in Galatians were saying.  We are justified by faith in Christ alone!

Justified is a legal term meaning declared “not guilty”.  The issue here is how are sinners declared “not guilty” before a righteous God, by observing the law or through faith in Christ alone?

Think About It:

How does Peter’s withdrawal from eating with the Gentiles contradict the truth of the gospel?

Paul takes Peter back to the truth of the gospel on which they are both agreed.  The truth on which there is not difference of opinion between them.  They were agree that God accepts sinners through faith alone on the basis of Christ and his work alone.  This is the way of salvation for all sinners Jews and Gentiles – there is no distinction.

1) Now if God justifies Jews and Gentiles on the same basis  and puts no differences between them – who are we, Paul says to withhold our fellowship from uncircumcised Gentiles. If God does not require circumcision, works of the law or food laws before accepting Gentiles who are we to impose conditions which God does not impose.

“If God has accepted them, how can we reject them?  If he receives them to His fellowship, shall we deny them ours?  He has reconciled them to himself; how can we withdraw from those whom God has reconciled.” John Stott p55

2) It is through this same gospel that Peter himself has been justified by faith alone.  “So, we too have put our faith in Christ Jesus” v16

Why such a public showdown?

The withdrawal had created a public scandal, it had to be opposed publicly.  This is just the kind of open head-on collision which the church today is so eager avoid at all costs.

Getting Personal:

(Depending on the group and where the discussion seems to lead us I would choose a selection of these issues)

What are you relying on to make you right with God?

What conditions do we have today in our denomination/church etc which act as a barrier to gospel fellowship.  And which contradict the Christ alone gospel that we preach?

Communion, full immersion, ordination, attendance at certain Bible colleges, skin colour, social standing,  2nd experience baptism in the Holy Spirit, speaking in tongues, differing views on dating, etc

Justification is by faith alone we have no right to add particular denomination or mode of baptism or cultural or social conditions.  “God does not insist on these things before accepting us into fellowship – and so we must not insist on them either” (Stott, p57)

Given that Peter and Barnabas acted like hypocrites because of fear (of men).  How much are your actions driven by fear rather than faith?

We fear not having enough money so we do not give.

We fear persecution or rejection so we do not take a stand when other Christians are clearly in the wrong.

We fear what unbelievers will say – so we never clearly tell them the gospel or we water it down.

We fear people/crime/public opinion so we live only in safe, middle-class areas or move there as soon as we can.

We fear insignificance or not being perceived as important so we expend all our energy in work.

We fear the future so we put all our spare money in investments, pensions etc

If you had to live by faith (in Christ) rather than in fear – what might change?

Consider the above scenarios and turn them around – how might that look?

How does such a radical teaching about grace affect our lives and mission on campus?

The message of GRACE ALONE, FAITH ALONE, CHRIST ALONE – must be clearly proclaimed and we must allow nothing to be added to this as requirements for fellowship with us or acceptance with God.

Most people on this campus think they understand what it means to be a Christian but they either believe that Christianity is about good works/religion that will make you acceptable to God.  We must talk and live GRACE and resist any teaching that adds anything to it.  If we are complacent on this – the gospel will be undermined and the true message compromised.

We must allow nothing to be added as requirements for fellowship among fellow believers on this campus.  If we do -we will confirm the widespread view among so many that Christianity is all about what YOU DO!

We must find ways to not only talk about grace but show it, live it, and allow people to get just a taste of it.  Grace means we must serve and be a blessing to the campus.  Let them experience the grace that we proclaim.


~ by John on March 11, 2009.

One Response to “Galatians Study 5: Conflict”

  1. […] We will focus in this study on v15-21.  This is also the 2nd part of Paul’s reaction against Peter’s withdrawal from table fellowship with the Gentiles (read part 1 here) […]

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