In-Your-Face GRACE! – Paul’s Letter to the GALATIANS
September 20, 2015
1. Read Galatians 2:11-21, then re-read verses 11-14 (we’ll be camping out in those 4 verses this Sunday). Verse 11 begins with the word “But,” which introduces a major shift in Paul’s narrative of events. What had been the very encouraging outcome of Paul’s meeting with the leaders of the mostly-Jewish church in Jerusalem recorded in the first half of this same chapter (Galatians 2:1-10)?
Starting in 2:11, it’s painfully clear that things didn’t proceed without a hitch after that meeting. The second half of chapter 2 is talking about another gathering of Christians, not in Jerusalem but in Antioch of Syria. (Antioch was the mostly-Gentile church community from which Paul’s FIRST missionary journey with Barnabas had been launched – the same journey during which God STARTED the churches in Galatia to which Paul was now writing this letter. Look in your Bible or on Bible.org for a map of Paul’s First Missionary Journey and notice where it started and where it went.)
If you have time, read Acts 10-11. If you don’t have time for that much, at least read Acts 11:1-18. These events involving Peter happened long BEFORE the events found in Galatians 2:11-21. What critical lesson about God’s intention toward the GENTILES had God already made clear to Peter through the events recorded in Acts 10-11? [See especially Acts 10:28 and 43; and 11:17-18.]
Now, read Galatians 2:11-14 again. WHAT CHANGED about Peter’s (Cephas’s) behavior toward the Gentiles in Antioch AFTER “certain men from James” showed up among the Christians there? How had Peter been behaving differently BEFORE these men arrived? In verse 13, what label does Paul use to describe the way Peter, Barnabas and “the rest of the Jews” had started acting AFTER these men arrived on the scene? Explain why this label fits. To what does Paul attribute this change of behavior? In other words, WHY did Peter, Barnabas and the other Jewish believers start acting so differently? (Hint: see the end of verse 12.) Now go back and read Galatians 1:6-10, especially verse 10. How does that passage tie in with this passage (Galatians 2:11-21)?
2. In Galatians 2:11-14, did Peter or Barnabas actually come out and SAY that they believed Gentiles had to act like Jews in order to be saved? If they didn’t SAY such a thing, then why does Paul ask Peter (Cephas) the biting question he asks in verse 14? How could Peter be guilty of compelling the Gentiles to live like Jews if he had never actually SAID that they must?
Is it possible for our ACTIONS to effectively CHANGE OUR MESSAGE from the perspective of the hearer?
Would you say that the biggest threat to the purity of our gospel proclamation is bad THEOLOGY or bad PRACTICE?
Consider how Peter and Barnabas worked against their own gospel proclamation by the way they ACTED in Galatians 2:11-14, then ASK GOD TO SHOW YOU if there are ways in which you or other believers you know are CONTRADICTING THE GOSPEL by the way you ACT – especially actions that tend to divide or insulate you from other Christians (be sure you apply the question to YOURSELF before you apply it to others). After you pray that prayer, spend some time thinking about it. God’s answer may be clearer than you expect.
Copyright © 2015 by Tom Wright. This is the edited Study Guide of the series, “In-Your-Face GRACE! – Paul’s Letter to the GALATIANS,” prepared by Tom Wright for September 20, 2015. Anyone is at liberty to use this lesson for educational purposes only, with attribution to the source.