Today we’re scheduled to read Galatians 2.
In our earlier readings from Acts we noted the tensions that began when God saved Gentiles and gave them the same spiritual status as the Jewish believers in Jesus had. Here in the book of Galatians, Paul is urging the churches he started in this region not to succumb to the teaching of the “Judaizers.” This is a name given to a group of people who claimed faith in Jesus but insisted that all Christians conform to Jewish law.
In this chapter Paul recounts his own first hand struggles as a Christian against the idea that Christians must obey the law. Peter recognized Paul as a genuine believer (v. 9b) and Peter and the other apostles also recognized the commission of Christ to Paul to take the gospel to the Gentiles (vv. 7, 9c). Yet Peter himself struggled at times to act “in line with the truth of the gospel.” (v. 14b). Sometimes Peter acted as if his Jewish background didn’t matter and blended right in with the Gentile believers (v. 12a). But when there were Jewish believers around, Peter feared their judgment and segregated himself from the Gentile believers (v. 12b). This was hypocrisy (v. 13a) and Paul spoke to Peter directly about it.
The point of this chapter is to emphasize the implications of the gospel. If Jesus really has fulfilled the law of God and if we are justified simply by believing in him, then it is wrong to add any religious or moral works as requirements for salvation. But a secondary lesson in this passage has to do with Peter’s hypocrisy. Despite how much Jesus loved Peter, taught him, and entrusted to him as an apostle, Peter was still human. He was still subject to fear about the opinions of others and, therefore, still susceptible to hypocrisy. Yet, despite his status as an apostle, Peter had the humility to receive Paul’s correction. Let none of us, then, think that we are above or beyond the correcting power of truth. We remain sinners until Jesus glorifies us finally, so let’s be ready to accept correction and grow from it when we are corrected with the truth.