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Galatians 2:11-15 by Robert Dean
Series:Galatians (1998)
Duration:48 mins 21 secs

Paul Confronts Peter with Grace; Gal. 2:11-15

After Paul had spent fourteen years in relative obscurity the next thing we see about him is when Barnabas comes and recruits him to help him with the ministry in the church at Antioch which was primarily a Gentile church. But during this time what was going on in Jerusalem? Remember the Lord's command in Acts 1:8 that the disciples were to take the gospel to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the uttermost parts of the earth. They are to go out and do missionary activity. But they don't understand and they still have problems with legalism. Their background is heavy ritual and religion, and one thing we always discover when people come out of a background where they have been saturated with legalism is that it is very hard for them to come to grips with principles of grace. They may talk a lot about grace, use grace terminology a lot, but they don't always understand it because they have been influenced so much by their legalistic background. That was the problem with the Jerusalem church and the only thing that got them out of Jerusalem was persecution that arose after the martyrdom of Stephen. That forced them out; that is how God used persecution in the early church. It forced the believers to carry out the task that God had assigned them. This is generally the outline for the book of Acts. It is to see how God forced them to fulfil the mandate of Acts 1:8.

About this time, probably two or three years after the crucifixion, Peter as the leader of the church in Jerusalem finally has to have a direct revelation from God so that he gets the point about grace and the Mosaic Law. This is given in Acts chapter ten. We get the same story two or three times in three chapters where the Holy Spirit is knocking on their forehead and saying: Get the point here; you have to understand the principle of grace and that the Mosaic Law no longer has any validity in the church age.

First of all there is a Gentile centurion by the name of Cornelius who lived in Caesarea. He was a man who exercised positive volition at the point of God-consciousness. He is not a proselyte, he hasn't converted to Judaism, but he is very interested. He wants to learn some truth. At the same time the scene shifts to Peter. He is on the sea coast at what is now called Haifa and he is very hungry. He falls into a trance—this is revelation with very specific content. The Holy Spirit gives him specific directions in this. Peter applies that and everything is validated by the circumstances that unfold. Peter was told to no longer consider anything unclean because the cross had occurred in human history now which is what all of the ritual of the Mosaic Law looked forward to. Now that the cross has occurred the Mosaic Law no longer had any validity in the new church age. This had to happen three times because Peter is a little slow. While he is there a messengers from Cornelius arrived, and they take Peter to Caesarea where Peter makes it clear to Cornelius that there is no longer to be a distinction between Jew and Gentile. Under the Mosaic Law there was this strict division between Jew and Gentile. The Jews could not have anything to do with the Gentiles because that would make them ceremonially unclean. But now Peter has gotten the point and he has dinner with Cornelius and his household and he gives them the gospel which they believe. 

Acts 10:44 NASB "While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message." Obviously they had all responded positively at the point of gospel hearing and had trusted Christ as their saviour. [45] All the circumcised believers who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also." Circumcision was a sign of the Abrahamic covenant; it was a theological issue, it had to do with their covenant relationship to God. What we have here is what is called the Gentile Pentecost, because the event here mirrors what took place on the day of Pentecost. What we have here is the baptism by means of the Holy Spirit. This is not indicative of a normal series of events because what has happened here is that under the leadership of Peter the Gentiles are going to be experiencing something that is identical to what took place at Pentecost.

What is the background? It is that when we read the book of Acts what is critical is that this book is a book that was transitional in nature. The second thing that must be understood is that it is a historical book. You never develop doctrine from historical literature. Historical literature may illustrate doctrine but it is never to be the source of doctrine. Historical literature simply relates what happened, it does not tell us what is to be normative. What happened in Acts is that there were three situations. On the day of Pentecost the church age began when God the Holy Spirit baptized all believers there instantly. Then when we get over to Acts chapter seven we have Peter and John going up to Samaria where occurred the Samaritan Pentecost. The same kind of thing happened. The Holy Spirit comes down on the believers there. Why does that happen? The Samaritans were part Jew and part Gentile and they were completely rejected by the Jews. So what this had to show was that the same event under the same leadership occurred with the Samaritans. We don't have two different groups, e.g. a Jewish group and a Samaritan group. They are all one and the same. The point is that there was a separate event that happens at the beginning with the Samaritans in order to show that they are completely united with the original group at Pentecost. It is one and the same thing. The next thing that happens is with the Gentiles in Acts 10. Here the person involved is Peter again, so this shows that the Gentiles partake of the exact same thing. At the beginning of each of these groups, not with anyone after, we have this happen. The fourth time this happens is with the followers of John the Baptist is Acts 19, and they represent all Old Testament saints. So what this shows is that the church is unified; there is only one body of Christ, it is not made up of different groups and ethnic distinctions. The Old Testament distinctions in relationship to ritual or the distinction between Jew and Gentile is no longer significant. That is the thrust of the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

This is what takes place in Acts, and they speak in tongues. Tongues is a sign of judgment coming to Israel because of their rejection of God and their negative volition. This is announced in the prophecy in Isaiah 28. Paul refers to that prophecy in 1 Corinthians 14 to show that this was the purpose of the gift of tongues; it was a sign of judgment. Even though it didn't occur everywhere everybody heard about it. Acts 11:1 NASB "Now the apostles and the brethren who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God." So even though speaking in tongues only occurred in a few places and a few times, people heard about it; word spread. That was testimony to all the Jews that God was doing something and this was a sign of divine judgment coming on the nation Israel. Once Israel was judged by the Roman legions in 70 AD when Jerusalem was destroyed and the nation was taken out under the fifth cycle of discipline, from that point on there has been no legitimate use of the gift of tongues. Today there is no speaking in tongues, there is just the baptism by means of the Holy Spirit, and so it is not consistent. This is not setting up a normal pattern; it is just telling what happened in order to demonstrate the unity of the body of Christ.

The issue here is the relationship of the Mosaic Law to the church age. After Peter does this he has to go back to Jerusalem and report. They are up in arms about this but here we see that Peter has tremendous courage against their legalism. Acts 11:1 NASB "Now the apostles and the brethren who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. [2] And when Peter came up to Jerusalem, those who were circumcised [still holding to the Mosaic Law and rituals] took issue with him, [3] saying, 'You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them'."  So he is being challenged by these legalists. What does he do? He stands his ground and explains exactly what happened and rehearses the whole situation to them. Acts 11:18 NASB "When they heard this, they quieted down and glorified God, saying, 'Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance {that leads} to life'." This is background to Galatians chapter two.

Then we have the growth of the church in Antioch. This is the new Gentile church and it is going to overshadow the Jerusalem church which has become ingrown and still has problems with legalism. As the church in Antioch grows they hear about it in Jerusalem and send Barnabas up there to find out what is going on. He sees that God is doing a tremendous work among the Gentiles and goes and gets Paul from Tarsus and they begin their ministry in Antioch. At the end of about a year the prophesy of Agabus comes true and there is a famine in Jerusalem. Barnabas and Paul are sent down to Jerusalem to carry a gift of money to help the Jerusalem believers during this crisis. After they return to Antioch Peter decides to come up and check out the situation. This sets up a very important pivotal event that is the background for this chapter, and this is what Paul has been driving to. He is giving this to show that his authority is not only recognised by Peter but he has to really chew Peter out in front of everybody because the issue is the importance of grace alone—faith is based on faith alone in Christ alone, not faith plus works.

Galatians 2:11 NASB "But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. [12] For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he {began} to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision. [13] The rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy. [14] But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of all, 'If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how {is it that} you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews? [15] We {are} Jews by nature and not sinners from among the Gentiles.'"

One of the interesting things here is that Paul calls Peter Cephas. In the Greek that is spelled kephas [Khfaj]. The correct pronunciation is really Kephas. Verses 11 describes a public confrontation. There are some times when this is what has to be done when a person is making a public statement and gets into false doctrine in front of everybody, and this is time to make an issue out of it and stop it right there before it goes any further. That is what Paul had to do here. There had to be a public admonition because of the seriousness of the problem. One thing we ought to notice is how Peter responds. He responds in grace. Peter knows that he is wrong and he has the maturity and the grace orientation to be relaxed in the situation and to evaluate himself honestly. The sign of true maturity is the person who can relax in the midst of criticism, listen to it and weigh it. If it has value to accept it, if it doesn't have value reject it. Peter shows some real humility here. Humility doesn't mean you are a doormat, humility recognises your role and position in the plan of God. You recognise the authority of God and the authority of doctrine in your life and so you are always going to be evaluating yourself by that absolute standard of Bible doctrine. Peter doesn't let his ego get in the way and he responds correctly to the apostle Paul.

Cephas is the Aramaic word for a rock and the equivalent to the Greek word petros [petroj] for "Peter". This recalls what happened in Matthew chapter 16:15-18 NASB "He  [Jesus] said to them, 'But who do you say that I am?' Simon Peter answered, 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.' And Jesus said to him, 'Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal {this} to you, but My Father who is in heaven. I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.'" His name was Simon Barjona but the Lord gave him a new name, Peter. There is an interesting word play here in the Greek. He goes from petros, which is like a small rock or a stone, a chip off the block, to petra which is like a large immovable block. So Jesus says, "I say to you that you are Peter, a small stone, and upon this large stone, the petra…"—which is the principle that Jesus Christ is the Messiah, the Son of the living God. It is the foundation stone that Jesus is the Christ. He is not talking about Peter being the foundation of the church, He is talking about the principle that Peter recognised as being the foundation of the church—"I will build my church…"  They keys mentioned refer to the message that salvation is by faith alone in Christ alone, and the apostles were given these keys, the message of the gospel, so that whatever they would bind on earth would be bound in heaven. Something that was bound on earth would be those who rejected the gospel. Binding and loosing has to do with acceptance or rejection of the gospel message. Peter is called Simon Peter after that. The Greek word emphasises the point that the Lord made.

In Galatians 2:11 Paul uses the name Cephas because he is just getting Peter's attention. Peter is not acting like Peter the rock because he is violating a doctrinal principle here. Paul is emphasising the fact that Peter has gotten away from doctrinal purity. "I opposed him to his face." Here we have the Greek word anthistemi [a)nqisthmi], a culmination of two Greek words histemi, which means to stand, and anti, which means against. It means to oppose, to resist, to withstand; it means sometimes to confront someone face to face and oppose someone. Paul has to set his heels in and he is going too oppose Peter face to face because he stood condemned on the basis of his very own behaviour. Galatians 2:12 NASB "For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he {began} to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision." The men from James were still tied into the Mosaic Law.

This issue is so great that it is splitting the congregation into two camps. Galatians 2:13 NASB "The rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy." So now there were the Gentiles on one hand who are for grace and recognise that God has included them in the body of Christ, and on the other hand were the Jews who thought that this inclusion in the body of Christ must be based on the Mosaic Law. The influence was so great that it even swayed Barnabas. The word "hypocrisy" is from the Greek word sunupokrinomai [sunupokrinomai], referring to those who to act insincerely with someone, someone you couldn't trust, someone who acted one way in one situation and another way in another situation. Paul is saying here that those who get caught up in this kind of legalism are hypocrites. They are two-faced; they used a gospel of grace and the issue of grace at one time but now they have lost it. They have fallen into the trap of public opinion and are trying to please these legalists who have come up from Jerusalem. Proverbs 29:25 NASB "The fear of man brings a snare, But he who trusts in the LORD will be exalted."  

Galatians 2:14 NASB "But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of all, "If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how {is it that} you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?" The words "not straightforward" comes from the Greek word orthopodousin [o)rqopodousin], from which we get out English word orthopaedic, a doctor who deals with bones and straightens the bones. It has to do with walki8ng in a straight line.

The Mosaic Law

1.  The Mosaic Law can be divided into three sections. Section one has to do with the ten commandments. These were for believer and unbeliever alike. They were never designed to be a way of living the spiritual life or a way of salvation. They were guidelines for the Law of the Old Testament.  [Tape runs out]