The Gospel is Death to Self, Life in Christ (Galatians 2:11-21)

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The Gospel is Death to Self, Life in Christ

Galatian 2:11-21 (Paul Opposes Peter)

Rev Chris Chua

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The Gospel is Death to Self, Life in Christ

Galatians 2:11-21

  1. The background
  • False brothers, believed and insisted some Jewish practices prescribed by the Old Testament were still binding for Gentiles who became Christians, practices such as ceremonial laws, especially circumcision.
  • Galatians chapter 1
    Paul regarded them as distorting the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ that he preached, the gospel which he received not from men, but from a revelation given to him by Christ. If anyone preached a gospel to the Galatians contrary to the one he preached, “let him be accursed” (Gal 1:9)
  • To defend his gospel Paul had to defend his apostleship and authority given by Christ and not by men.
  • Galatians 2:1-10
    Paul also had his gospel checked out by influential men like James, Peter, and John, in the church of Jerusalem. They added nothing to it. (Gal 2:6). When they saw Paul had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had entrusted with the gospel to the circumcised, they extended their right hand of fellowship to Paul.
  1. Conflict between Paul and Peter: Galatians 2:11-14
  • Certain Christian Jews who belonged to the circumcised party came to Antioch. Peter was fearful of them. He stopped eating with the Gentile Christians, withdrew his fellowship with them, and separated from them. The rest of the Jewish Christians followed him, including Barnabas.
  • To Paul, it was not a small matter over certain doctrinal issues, like the eating of certain food considered unclean by the Jews. It was a very important issue. It carried serious consequences. Paul opposed Peter to his face because he stood condemned, clearly in the wrong (2:11). Other Jews followed Peter in his hypocrisy. Peter had led them astray from the truth of the gospel, even Barnabas who was Paul’s companion in their first missionary trip to Gentile cities, including Galatia. Paul told Peter, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?” (2:14)
  • The conflict between Paul and Peter was not over a fundamental gospel issue – how a person can be justified. Peter agreed with the gospel Paul preached.
  • He did not add any word to it.
  • He extended his hand of fellowship to Paul.
  • He endorsed Paul’s ministry to the uncircumcised. Paul publicly rebuked Peter because he did not stand up for what he believed against the circumcision party. He was fearful of them. It had led to serious consequences.

Lessons for us

    • Need to defend what we believe from false brothers/sisters in the church concerning the truth of the gospel.
    • Need to discern what is fundamental to our salvation.
    • Need to be courageous, fear God more than people, especially “influential persons”.
  1. The fundamental Issue: How a person be saved.
    • The fundamental issue was between Paul and the circumcised party. It was over how a person be saved by God. It was justification by faith versus justification by works of the law. As Paul says,
    • 15 We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. – Gal 2:15-16
    • Justified – sins pardoned, declared righteous by God, accepted by God.
    • By faith in Jesus Christ – by believing in Jesus Christ.
    • By works of law – believing a person can be justified by keeping the law. We ourselves (Christian Jews like Paul) are Jews by birth.
    • Born within the covenant of the Lord.
    • live by the law in the Scripture, the Old Testament.
    • Actions and behaviour governed by the law.
    • considered ourselves righteous before God by keeping the law.
    • Unlike the Gentiles, outside the covenant, sinners.
    • There is a barrier between Jews and Gentile.

Yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law, only by faith in Jesus Christ. That is why we believed in Jesus Christ. In doing so, we acknowledged that we are just as sinful as the Gentiles. We needed to be justified by faith in Jesus Christ just like the Gentiles. Through Christ the barrier between the believing Jews and Gentiles was broken down. They can have fellowship with one another. For an example, Peter was able to freely eat with the Christian Gentiles. The circumcision party did not like it. As Paul says,

  • “They secretly slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus.” – Gal 2:4
  1. Through the law you died to the law If justification is by faith in Jesus Christ, do the believing Jews and Gentiles still must abide by the law? Paul says,
    • For through the law, I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ – Gal 2:19-20 Paul uses “I” to speak for the Christian Jews. What does he mean by “died to the law”? It means the law has no more claim on you who had died. How did it happen? It was through the law. Paul says,
    • For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law and do them.” – Gal.3:10 When we try to keep the law to be justified, if we sin against it, we will be under a curse. We will be judged, found guilty, and punished by the law. We will die through the law and to the law. The law will have no more claim on us. This is what Paul meant by “through the law you die to the law”. When did we die physically? We die with Christ spiritually on the cross when we believe in him. As Paul says
    • “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree” – Gal 3:13 Christ bore our sins by becoming a curse for us. He was crucified on the cross, “hanged on a tree” for our sins. When we believe in Jesus Christ, you have been “crucified with Christ.” – Gal 2:20
  1. Christ lives in me Paul says,
    • 19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. – Gal 2:19-20

 When we died to the law, there will be a change of lordship. We are no more under the law, but we will not sin as we please. It is no longer I who lives in me, but “Christ who lives in me”. We have a new purpose in life, “live for God”. We will live by faith, trusting the Son of God. He loved me and gave himself for me.


21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness[c] were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.



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Prayer and Praise

Good Friday 30 April 2023

The Gospel Is Righteousness By Faith (Faith or Works?)

Galatians 3:1-14

Pastor Jose Lam


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