Stopping the Slide Into Self Atonement

A Bible Exposition Of Galatians 2:11-21

Paul Shares 2 Reflections on His Confrontation with Peter

  1. Paul shares the circumstance of his confrontation with Peter (11-14a)
    • Establishes the setting (11a)
    • Encapsulates the situation (11b)
    • Explains the scenario (12-14a)
  1. Paul shares the content of his confrontation with Peter (14b-21)
    • Highlights the inconsistency (14b)
    • Reviews the facts (15-16)
    • Defends his position (17-21)

Galatians 2:11–21—11 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; 16 nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified. 17 “But if, while seeking to be justified in Christ, we ourselves have also been found sinners, is Christ then a minister of sin? May it never be! 18 “For if I rebuild what I have once destroyed, I prove myself to be a transgressor. 19 “For through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live to God. 20 “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. 21 “I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.”

Establishing the Context

Paul has just been on the topic of defending his apostolic authority. False teachers had come into Galatia and spread lies about him. They claimed that he wasn’t really an apostle, his Gospel of grace was false, and the Galatians needed to add human achievement to their profession of faith in Christ.

And so Paul is makes it abundantly clear that he isn’t the origin of the Gospel that he preached to the Galatians. Rather, he received it directly from the Lord.

In Chapter 2 Paul begins comparing himself to Peter. Peter was called to Jews (i.e. staying home in Jerusalem with James) meanwhile I was called to Gentiles (i.e. the foreign mission field), look at v. 7.

7 But on the contrary, seeing that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been to the circumcised

Why does he bring this up now? To show that him and Peter are on an equal playing field.

8 (for He who effectually worked for Peter in his apostleship to the circumcised effectually worked for me also to the Gentiles),

Peter is an apostle and I am an apostle. We are both commissioned by the Holy Spirit. And then he goes on to explain that this perspective was actually affirmed by others church leaders. Paul isn’t only a self-proclaimed apostle:

9 and recognizing the grace that had been given to me, James and Cephas and John, who were reputed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, so that we might go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised.

Paul wasn’t called to ministry by men. He was commissioned by Christ, but he is affirmed here by James (the leading elder in Jerusalem), Cephas (Peter) and John.

He says I was affirmed by all these guys. And so Paul sets out for Jerusalem, urged to remember the poor believers there (which he does and will take up multiple offerings from the other churches in their behalf).

10 They only asked us to remember the poor—the very thing I also was eager to do.

And now Paul transitions in v. 11 to an interesting topic. He recalls an uncomfortable situation. This is something he probably didn’t enjoy reliving. Peter certainly would have winced to hear it again.

But under the influence of the Holy Spirit, Paul brings up this rough patch for two reasons:

  • It demonstrates his apostolic authority (he was willing to rebuke the leading apostle.
  • It parallels the doctrinal concerns he has for the Galatians right now.