Galatians 2:11-21

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These small group studies of Galatians contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, and applications.  Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.

Galatians 2:11-21 Inductive Bible Study

Outline:

  1. Paul confronts Peter (11-14)
  2. Justification by faith (15-19)
  3. New life in Christ (20-21)
  1. I. Paul confronts Peter (11-14)

Discussion Questions

  • Who is Cephas?
  • What happened when Cephas (Peter) came to Antioch?
  • What does Paul mean that he stood condemned?
  • What was Peter doing that Paul disagreed with? What led Peter to change as he had been eating with the Gentiles before?
  • How did Peter’s actions influence the other Jews around him?
  • What lessons can we learn from this about the importance of leaders and setting a good example?
  • What can we learn from this about tempation? Peer pressure?
  • How did Paul react when he noticed this? Do you think he was right to mention this in the presence of all? Why might he have done this?
  • What lessons can we learn from Paul here? Why is it important for us to confront sinners?

Cross-References

  • Acts 21:18-26 – The debate about keeping the law continued throughout the early church.
  • 1 Timothy 5:20 – As for those who persist in sin, rebuke in the presence of all.
  • Galatians 6:1 – If anyone is caught up in trangression, you are spiritual should restore him…
  • James 5:19-20 – Whoever brings back a sinner from wandering will save him from death…
  • Matthew 18:15 – If your brother sins against you…
  • Luke 17:3 – If you brother sins, rebuke him.

Teaching Points

1. Peter was influenced by peer pressure – Peter knew the truth. He knew that Gentiles and Jews were both saved by the grace of God. In Acts 10 Peter had a vision in which God showed him that “I should not call anyone impure or unclean.” (10:28) He also said that the vision taught him that God “does not show favoritism.” (10:34). Finally Peter baptized them after they too received the Spirit. In addition, Peter was at the Council of Jerusalem when James and he agreed with Peter that the Gentiles need not follow the law in order to be saved. He knew the truth of all of these things. And yet, for a period of time he was still unwilling to associate with the Gentiles by eating with them. Why?

It’s simple. He was influenced by peer pressure. A group of people had gone to Antioch from Jerusalem. Maybe James had sent them or maybe they were just pretending that James had sent them. But they did not follow the principles that James had agreed to in Acts 15. Instead they adhered to the traditional Jewish belief that Jews should not eat with Gentiles. They pressured Peter. Peter gave in to them. In this case he chose to please people rather than pleasing God. From this we learn several lessons:

  • No one is immune to peer pressure – Peter was not the type of person who typically cared a lot what others thought of him. He was the boldest of his “class.” When Jesus asked a question, he was normally the first to answer. He didn’t mind the spotlight. He spoke his mind even when others disagreed. His failure reminds us that we are not immune either. All people have a natural desire to be liked by others. We want to fit in. We want to be popular. We want to be accepted by others. We tend to want to please people. But we must remember that it is more important to please God than to please man.

  • Past success is not a guarantee of future success – In Acts 10 Peter was victorious. Through God’s grace he was able to rise up over his culture and traditions. He obeyed God by going to the Galatians even though it was against everything he had been taught and against all of his natural inclinations. It would seem that in Acts 10 Peter won a final victory against his temptation to show prejudice. But it wasn’t a final victory. None of our victories are final until we finally go to meet the Lord. Before that, we may at any time face a repeat temptation. We must remain humble and depend on God’s grace each and every time no matter how many times we face the same temptations.

  • Satan uses other people to tempt us – Sometimes they merely whisper to us, “It’s ok. No one will see you. No one will know. It will be fun.” Other times they may gang up on us so that a whole crowd is trying to convince us to do something. Have you faced peer pressure? What types of things may people around you pressure you to do.? How should you respond when you face peer pressure from others? Will you ever face peer pressure from believers?

  • Even professing believers may pressure us – It is possible that church goers (professing believers) may also pressure us in certain areas. Many times it is because those believers are shallow in their faith and influenced by worldly ideas themselves. For example, I have heard in some churches groups of “sisters” telling other sisters that they should marry an unbeliever and then witness to their husband who will then become a believer. Other times “believers” may suggest getting a divorce, going bankrupt, having an abortion, etc. etc. We should try to surround ourselves with wise counselors who will give biblical and not worldly advice. We should also compare what we hear to the Bible. And we should make sure that our motivations are pure, that we are not doing things just to fit in or be accepted by others. We must do all things to please God, not man.

On a side note, I want to encourage each of you not to be in a “click” like Peter. Do not just hang out with the same friends every time and ignore others who are not “worthy” to be in your circle or whom you think you have less in common with. Do not just eat with the same set of friends. Yes, you feel comfortable with those people. But look who Jesus ate with! He ate with the sinners, people who you may be very uncomfortable to eat with. Think how you can reach out to others. Take initiative to invite others to your group, to eat with newcomers. I heard a sad story of a lady who took her daughter with her to church. There was about 100 people. No one said ‘hello’ to her. She and her daughter were there the first time and they were ignored. Is this right? Is it right to ignore the needy and the weak to hang out with just those we like better or feel more comfortable around? Jesus took initiative to greet Zaccheus and visit with him. Who will your Zaccheus be?

2. Paul confronts Peter – In order for the church to be victorious over false teaching, someone must stand up and confront it, even if it is uncomfortable. Did Paul enjoy confronting Peter? I did it. I hope not. It was an uncomfortable and unenviable task, but someone had to do it. See cross-references. The Bible is clear that it is our duty to rebuke those who are publicly sinning. Generally the process is to go this person privately first and then with two or three and finally tell it to the whole church. However, in some cases it appears that it is necessary to skip the first step or two and go directly to the last step. Why would this be? In the case of Peter, the sin was about a doctrinal issue that influenced the entire church. It influenced not just that church, but the entire worldwide church. The issue was about grace and justification by faith. Paul made a public issue out of it because it affected everyone.But this was a special case and not the norm. Normally speaking, we should go to the person first and give them a chance to repent before escalating the issue. The problem was that this issue was already escalated because it was being done in front of the whole church. Think carefully about what Jesus said in Matthew 18. He says that the last step is to “tell it to the church.” If the whole church already knows then this sin is already in stage 3 so the first two steps could be skipped.

So what do we learn from this?

God has given us fellowship in the church to protect each one of us. We are sinners and we need all the help we can get to be holy. The brothers and sisters around us are a safety net. We should firstly be willing to listen to them when they confront us about something they see as sin in our lives and secondly we should be willing to point out the sin in their lives. This should be an uncomfortable job. If you enjoy doing that, there is something the matter with you. But even though it is uncomfortable, it is necessary. God designed the church this way. If the body is not fulfilling its function to point out sin, then the body is broken and it will affect everyone. The church needs people like Paul who will make a stand for right and wrong. It needs people who will speak out and call black, black and white, white. When we do so we must be humble and as gentle as possible. We must also do it in a spirit of love and base our conclusions on the Word. If we fulfill that role, the church will be stronger and purer. One pastor once said that his goal is to let his congregation feel comfortable. To that I say, “NO!” That is not our job. Our job is to make sinners feel uncomfortable.

3. Unchecked sin breeds more sin – When no one stood up to the Jews preaching prejudice, the sin of prejudice spread. First to Peter, then to other Jews, and finally to Barnabas. Paul mentions Barnabas because Barnabas was a champion for the “justification by faith” and “Gentiles are equal” principles. He went with Paul on his first missionary journey. He travelled to places far away from Judea to build up churches among the Gentiles. He was teaching to others the very things we are learning in Galatians. And he too fell. This is the result when no one takes a stand. And this is why we must actively speak out when we see believers in sin around us.

II. Justification by faith (15-19)

Discussion Questions

  • What does he mean that they since they are Jews by nature they are not sinners from “among the Gentiles?”
  • What do we learn about the Law from this passage? Faith? Works? Justification?
  • What does verse 18 mean?
  • What does it mean that Paul died to the Law (19?)

Cross-References

  • Matthew 5:17-19 – Jesus did not come to abolish the law.
  • Romans 8:3 – God has done what the law could not do.
  • Titus 3:7 – Justified by his grace.
  • Romans 3:28, 5:1 – Justified by faith.
  • Romans 5:9 – Justified by His blood.
  • Philippians 3:9 – Not having a righteousness that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ.

Teaching Points

1. Paul re-emphasizes justification by faith – Here Paul returns to his theme for Galatians, justification by faith. In general Jews were not as sinful as the Galatians were, at least not on the outside. Their culture and traditions seemed better. They had more “good deeds.” But even so Paul states that they knew salvation was by faith, not by works or by the law. This is the doctrine. They agreed on the doctrinal level, but we saw that the application of that doctrine was faulty. To correctly apply that doctrine to their lives demanded that they treat Gentiles the same (since both were lost and both needed grace and neither could save themselves.)

All of us would agree with this doctrine, right? So that brings us to a question: Do you look down on sinners? Are you prejudiced toward certain people?

2. Verse 17 – Paul makes it clear that he is not promoting sin. Eating with the Gentiles is not promoting their pre-salvation lifestyle. When Jesus let the adulteress go, he was not promoting her lifestyle. His compassion was not an endorsement. He told her to go her way and sin no more. That is the same salvation message that Paul preached. Anybody can come to Christ no matter what their background. When they do, they must go their way and sin no more. That means they must repent.

3. Verse 18 – I believe Paul is referencing the traditions of the law including circumicision. The apostles had already agreed that it wasn’t necessary to follow all the rules of the Old Testament law. Those things had been proven to be ineffective for salvation, which is why Christ had to come. But Peter’s actions were in essence rebuilding/re-establishing those very things which Jesus’ coming had rendered mute. In other words Paul is saying, “Those who refuse to eat with Gentiles and preach the law and circumcision are, in fact, the lawbreakers themselves. The most important “law” is salvation by grace through faith.”

III. New life in Christ (20-21)

Discussion Questions

  • What does it mean to be crucified with Christ?What kind of life do we need to live if we no longer live, but Christ lives in us?
  • What should be guiding our new lives?
  • How can you live this transformed life for Christ during the upcoming Spring Festival?
  • What is Paul’s conclusion in verse 21?

Cross-References

Romans 6:2-6 – Our old self was crucified with Him.

Teachings Points

1. Application: What should the Galatians do with everything they learned? What should we do? The answer is not the old “sin more so that grace may abound” idea. We are now free. We are free of the Old Testament law. We are free of the idea that we must earn our salvation. We are free of the guilt and despair that comes from constant failure. We are free to serve God with the right motivation. That motivation is our love for Him and our response to His love for us, not a desire to earn our salvation, which is impossible. This freedom must not be used as an excuse for sin. Neither can we be successful by our own strength.

We must cling to God’s grace. We must through His strength crucify our earthly passions and live for Him. How will you do that? How will you live for Him based on what you have learned today?

Study Galatians 3:1-9

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