Paul confronts Peter (Gal. 2:11-19)

Paul and Peter (Galatians 2:11-19)

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church on Sunday, January 6, 2019

The difference between righteousness by works and righteousness by grace is illustrated by a ride on a commuter train.

A train rumbles into the station with warning bell clanging. The doors open, the uniformed conductor steps out, and you climb on board and find your way to a seat. When you look around the car, you see tickets clipped on the top of occupied seats, paid for with hard-earned money. Those tickets displayed at each seat are the special concern of the conductor, who walks through the car to punch tickets and confirm that you paid for the right to take this ride. If the conductor finds you without a ticket, you will either pay on the spot or be escorted off the train at the next stop. To ride this train, what matters is the paid ticket. This is righteousness by works.

Righteousness by grace, on the other hand, works in a very different way. God’s train pulls into the station, warning bell clanging. The doors open and the conductor steps out. Masses of people crowd on board and find their seats, for most everyone wants to ride this train to the city where people never die. Eventually the conductor walks through the train to see if everyone belongs on board. But on this train the conductor is not looking for tickets clipped to the top of seats. In fact, anyone who tries to pay for the right to be on the train will be escorted promptly from the train at the very next stop. That’s right; no one can earn the right to be on this train. What the conductor looks for as he walks seat by seat through the car is the penniless people he knows by name, the people who are his friends and who completely lack the means to pay. These poverty stricken people climb on board with only one hope: they believe in the generosity of their conductor friend.

This is righteousness by grace. A ride on God’s train is a gift. By our standards, it’s unfair. It’s scandalous. But like it or not, it’s heaven’s way.[1]

That is a key point in Galatians. Paul is correcting them to a remembrance of righteousness from Jesus.

My theme today is:

Paul confronts Peter about hypocrisy to re-affirm salvation by grace

Let’s read Galatians 2:11-19:

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.

  1. Paul confronts Peter, what happened?
    1. Consider this passage. In the previous section Paul had been affirmed by the pillars of the Jerusalem church. In the previous section the pillars of the Jerusalem church affirmed salvation by grace.
    2. Now, Peter, who had been one of the pillars is being a hypocrite.
    3. Peter is called Cephas in Galatians.
    4. Right here in this passage he is acting different with different people.
    5. To be a hypocrite means to act and he is acting contrary to his beliefs.
    6. We may see part of this event in Acts 11:1-3. In that passage the Jewish believers took issue with Peter for eating with gentiles.
    7. The situation, or conflict, in Antioch with the circumcision party is parallel to the situation, or conflict, in Galatians with the teachers.
    8. Antioch was a major sending church during that time. Actually, in Acts 11 we find out that when the church in Jerusalem was persecuted the people went to Antioch and someone started that church.
    9. It seems that Antioch was Paul’s home base.
    10. This account is a very important account in the history of Christianity
    11. The Ebionites were a Jewish Christian heretical sect which Islam very likely impart grew out of. They were Jewish Christians that wanted to maintain adherence to the law. They used this very passage as an attack upon Paul.
    12. In verse 11 Paul says that Peter was already condemned by his actions.
    13. In the early church they regularly ate together (common meals). They were celebrations of joyous fellowship. This was not only in the church but in the world. It involved joy, fellowship, and intimacy. It involved experiencing and expressing joy, intimacy, and fellowship through table fellowship. These meals included the Lord’s Supper. They culminated with the Eucharist. This means that when Peter separated from Gentiles, he was saying that he wouldn’t eat the Lord’s supper with them.
    14. In the Jerusalem church, Jewish food laws were observed. In Antioch, food laws weren’t maintained. They didn’t force Jews to become Gentile. That practice implied that food laws weren’t significant.
    15. The problem that Jews had with eating with gentiles is the assumption that Gentiles ate unclean food. Where in the law does it say “not to eat with gentiles.” It is not in the law; however, it was assumed. The Gentiles ate unclean food: for example, ham sandwiches, food sacrificed to idols, etc.
    16. Verse 12: men sent from James: this implies a special delegation, they were sent for a reason. They were concerned with a Theological concern. The relationship between the covenants.
    17. There may have been a practical concern: what would it mean if this got out? What would it mean that Christians and Jews are eating together?
    18. The circumcision party didn’t only maintain circumcision but were called this party because they intensely wanted to maintain the law. They started with the issue of circumcision. Here it is not a circumcision issue but eating with gentiles. But, in this case Paul says that they are trying to ask for circumcision through the back door. Paul goes on to say that circumcision, dietary regulation, etc went hand in hand.
    19. Three things that make you a Jew
      1. Food laws
      2. Dietary laws
      3. Circumcision
    20. Peter drew back because he feared the circumcision party
    21. Special emphasis, why did Paul confront him publicly?
      1. If we look into the way to confront sin we can see in Matthew 18:15-17 that it starts publicly.
      2. Paul may have confronted Peter publicly, though it is not recorded.
      3. However, in 1 Tim. 5:20 we see that public sins must be confronted publicly and that is why at this point it is a public confrontation.
    22. As we look through this passage we see verse 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. 

  1. Verse 16 is they key verse in Galatians.
  2. A man is not justified by works of the law.
  3. This is a verse of repetition: I also see a chaism in this verse. A Chaism is a literary device in which there is repetition. Notice this:
    1. A) A man is not justified by works of the law
    2. B) But through faith in Christ Jesus
  • B’) We believed in Christ Jesus and are justified by faith in Him.
  1. A’) Not by works of the law because no one is justified by the works of the law
  1. The chaism is drawing emphasis on the middle section which is” “we believed in Christ Jesus and are justified by faith in Him.”
  2. I talked about the train and the Gospel, watch this from Polar Express.
  3. Show the video clip of them taking tickets on polar express.
  • Fortunately, we do not earn our way to Heaven:

Theologian Alister McGrath outlines the following three stages of receiving what Christ did for us on the cross:

[First], I may believe that God is promising me forgiveness of sins; [second], I may trust that promise; but [third] unless I respond to that promise, I shall not obtain forgiveness. The first two stages of faith prepare the way for the third, without it they are incomplete.

Then he illustrates these three stages with the following true story:

Consider a bottle of penicillin, the famous antibiotic identified by Alexander Fleming, and first produced for clinical use in [Great Britain]. The drug was responsible for saving the lives of countless individuals who would otherwise have died from various forms of blood poisoning. Think of the three stages of faith like this. I may accept that the bottle exists. I may trust in its ability to cure blood poisoning. But nothing will change unless I receive the drug which it contains. I must allow it to destroy the bacteria which are slowly killing me. Otherwise, I have not benefited from my faith in it.

It is the third element of faith which is of vital importance in making sense of the cross. Just as faith links a bottle of penicillin to the cure of blood poisoning, so faith forges a link between the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ and ourselves. Faith unites us with the risen Christ, and makes available to us everything he gained through his obedience and resurrection.[2]

  1. Verses 17-19 continue this theme of justification.
  • Justification means counted righteous or declared righteous.
  1. One writes: “Justification should not be confused with forgiveness, which is the fruit of justification, nor with atonement, which is the basis of justification. Rather it is the favorable verdict of God, the righteous Judge, that one who formerly stood condemned has now been granted a new status at the bar of divine justice.”[3]
  2. Further: “To be justified means to be declared righteous before God, that is, to enjoy a status or standing of being in a right relationship with God, of being accepted by him.”[4]
  • Now let’s apply:
  1. Application: no compromise
    1. We must not be hypocrites.
    2. We must never compromise on absolute truth and the Gospel.
    3. We must not compromise because of fear (verse 12).
      1. This means that even if people threaten us with our job, we must not compromise the gospel.
      2. This means that even if we face removal from a club we must not compromise the Gospel.
      3. This means that even if we lose friends, we must not compromise the Gospel.
      4. We must be prepared to be unpopular for the Gospel.
      5. Remember, doctrine matters and compromise comes in small ways.
        1. There are many liberal churches that were once strong.
        2. Remember that most of the ivy league colleges started out as strong Christian schools. Harvard, Yale, Princeton were strong Christian schools.
      6. This passage deals with compromise with what the Gospel is. However, we compromise on sin as well and that must never be.
        1. We treat gossip like it is not a sin.
        2. We treat disrespect like it is not a sin.
        3. We treat cliques like they are not sinful, though they are unloving.
        4. We don’t deal with our lustful ways.
        5. We neglect our envy and our affluence as sin, even though we are not prioritizing God above all things.
        6. Compromise is dangerous.
      7. We must not act different around different groups.
      8. We must apply this passage based on Gal 3:28 and Rev 7:9-11
      9. Based on verse 16, we must recognize, preach and teach the proper doctrine of soteriology that we are justified by faith in Christ Jesus.
      10. We must recognize the law just gives us knowledge of our sin (Romans 3:20; 7:7-9).


I get many different articles sent to me. Last week, I read one about de-conversion stories. These are stories of people who left Christianity. There are common denominators, but one is that they compromise the Gospel first. Before leaving Christianity altogether, they compromise. They compromise their beliefs. They take out the belief that Jesus is the only way to Heaven. They compromise the miracles in the Bible. They compromise the idea of sin.[5]

Don’t compromise, it is slippery slope.

Do you know Christ?

Luke 9:23

God created us to be with Him. (Genesis 1-2)

Our sin separated us from God. (Genesis 3)

Sins cannot be removed by good deeds (Gen 4-Mal 4)

Paying the price for sin, Jesus died and rose again. (Matthew – Luke)

Everyone who trusts in Him alone has eternal life. (John – Jude)

Life that’s eternal means being with Jesus Forever (Rev 22:5)

[1] Craig Brian Larson, editor of

[2] Alister E. McGrath, What Was God Doing on the Cross (Zondervan, 1992), pp. 99-100

[3] Tom Constable, Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible (Galaxie Software, 2003), Ga 2:15.

[4] Tom Constable, Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible (Galaxie Software, 2003), Ga 2:15.


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