September 28, 2013

The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Galatians

Tom Lowe


II. Personal: Defense of Paul’s Apostleship (1:11–2:21)

II.B: Independent of Jerusalem Apostles (1:13-2.21)

II.B.4: Illustrated by Paul’s Rebuke of Peter (2.11-2.21)


Chapter II.B.4.b: Paul’s Rebuke (2.14)



Galatians 2.14 (KJV)


14 But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, “If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles, and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews?”



Commentary


14 But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, “If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles, and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews?”


But when I saw that they were not straightforward

Literally, the meaning of “straightforward” is to walk straight or uprightly. By withdrawing from the Gentile Christians, Peter and the other Jewish Christians were not walking in line with God’s Word. Simon Peter turned from the freedom he had in Christ back to Judaism again.



about the truth of the gospel,

Paul is saying that they were not demonstrating the true Gospel, but rather the different—“I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different Gospel, Which is not another; But there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other Gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed” (Gal. 1.6-8)—and false one propagated by the Judaizers. The Greek word translated Gospel means “good news.” Rome incorporated it into its emperor worship. The town herald used this word to begin important favorable announcements about the emperor—such as the birth of a son. Paul’s good news is not from the emperor but “of God”; it originated with him. Its message that God will forgive sins, deliver from sin’s power, and give eternal hope (Rom. 1.16) comes not only as a gracious offer, but also as a command to be obeyed (Rom 10.16). Paul was consumed with this message (1 Co. 9.23).



Peter was a Jew and therefore was not obligated to live after the manner of the Gentiles, as he had been doing by eating his meals at their table. But now, after having gone that far, he stops eating with the Gentiles and returns to eating only kosher food with his Jewish brethren. He was such a respected apostle that the outcome of this act logically compelled Gentile believers to live as Jews, that is, to adopt circumcision and the dietary laws of the Jews, and thus remove all barriers between themselves and men like Peter. But if the Gentile believers did this, they would sacrifice the “truth of the gospel,” which had been affirmed at Jerusalem. The church had decided that no such burden of legal compliance was to be laid on Gentile believers. The whole principle of grace was at stake. The logical outcome of Peter’s conduct was to make Jews out of Gentile Christians or else force the creation of a Gentile church alongside the Jewish church which would break the unity of the body of Christ. So the “truth of the gospel” was involved.



“The truth of the gospel,” so far as this particular incident is concerned is that part which teaches that justification by legal works and observances is inconsistent with redemption by Christ. Paul seemed to be standing alone as he maintained the truth against Judaism, as he did afterwards against heathenism—“At my first defense, no one stood by me, but everyone deserted me. May it not be counted against them. But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the proclamation might be fully made through me and all the Gentiles might hear. So I was rescued from the lion's mouth” (2 Tim. 4.16, 17).


 

I said to Peter before them all, “If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles, and not as the Jews,

The response of Paul was electric. What Peter had initiated created a public rebuke. Furthermore the defectors were not acting according to the “truth of the Gospel,” that is, they were denying by their actions the truth that on the basis of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection Jews and Gentiles are accepted on equal footing by God.  Peter’s response is not recorded. He stood condemned.



Peter’s words must have stung Peter: “You are a Jew, yet you have been living like a Gentile. Now you want the Gentiles to live like the Jews. What kind of inconsistence is that?” 



Peter himself had stated at the Jerusalem Conference that God had “put no difference between us and them” (Acts 15.9). But now Peter was putting a difference. God’s people are one people, even though they may be divided into various groups. Any practice on our part that violates the Scripture and separated brother from brother is a denial of the unity of the body of Christ. 



The nature of Paul’s rebuke shows, first of all, the inconsistency of law keeping. If it was right for Simon Peter to live as the Gentile believers lived, why should he desire the Gentiles to live as the Jews? That is what he was saying when he left the Gentile table for the kosher table (See note on Gal. 2.12, 13.). If Gentile living under grace apart from the Law was good enough for Peter, was it bad for Gentiles themselves? If Simon Peter was free to live outside the Law, was it not lawful for the Gentiles to do the same?

 

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