DEFENSE IN ANTIOCH
Lord, thank You for keeping me from hypocrisy.
Read GALATIANS 2:11–21
Paul Opposes Cephas
11 When Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. 13 The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.
14 When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?
15 “We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles 16 know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in[a] Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.
17 “But if, in seeking to be justified in Christ, we Jews find ourselves also among the sinners, doesn’t that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not! 18 If I rebuild what I destroyed, then I really would be a lawbreaker.
19 “For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”[b]
a Galatians 2:16 Or but through the faithfulness of … justified on the basis of the faithfulness of
b Galatians 2:21 Some interpreters end the quotation after verse 14.
New International Version (NIV)
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Someone had to die to deal with sin and make it possible for people to be right with God. Praise be to Jesus, our atoning sacrifice.
In verses 11–14, which match Acts 15:1–4, Paul recounts a difficult event because he recognizes the Galatian situation as a rerun of what had happened in Antioch. The Antioch incident is of such significance that it forces the Jerusalem Council to discuss how Gentile believers should be part of God’s people (Acts 15). Peter comes to Antioch probably during Paul’s trip to south Galatia (Acts 13,14). Peter, seemingly, has no problems eating with Gentile believers since his vision at Cornelius’s house (Acts 10), but when conservative Jewish believers from Jerusalem visit (and probably criticize Peter), he changes his behavior. Paul views this behavior change as hypocrisy and a violation of the Gospel.
The larger consequence of Peter’s hypocrisy is that other Jewish believers withdraw from fellowship with Gentile believers. This effectively divides the church, which Paul considers contrary to the Gospel. Any attempt to force Gentile believers to behave like Jewish believers in order to maintain unity is, for Paul, contrary to the Gospel; for him, Gentiles should join God’s people as Gentiles with no pressure to become Jewish—and the Jerusalem Council agrees. We should remember that individual actions can have implications at large because we live in community.
The truth of the Gospel, Paul explains in verses 5–21, is that a person is justified (declared right with God, i.e., saved) through faith in Christ and not through keeping the Law. The Law has been abolished at the cross and, inasmuch as Paul was crucified with Christ, he too died to the Law (Ben Witherington III, The Acts of the Apostles: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, 189). Christ (rather than the old “I”) now becomes the center of Paul’s life. The liberating truth of the Gospel is that believers can (and should) now live for God, directed by Christ.
True freedom is achieved by dying to self and creating space for the one who loved and died for us. How would this look in your life?
Lord, Your people thank You for directing the Jerusalem Council by Your Spirit to relieve Gentiles of the obligation to keep the Law.