Monday, 26 September 2011
Galatians 2:11-16: Guess who’s not coming to dinner
Have you ever had friends start to act weird on you? You used to hang out regularly and suddenly realize that you haven’t heard from them in a while. You try having them over for dinner, but it never seems to work out. You can’t even remember the last time they invited you over or suggested a movie. Something has changed, but you can’t put your finger on it.
When you ask pointblank, “What’s wrong? Are you upset with us?”, they act surprised. “No, nothing’s wrong. Why do you ask?” If you try to answer that question by pointing out specifics, there is always an explanation of sorts. But it doesn’t ring true. Their actions speak louder than their words. They have withdrawn. Why? You don’t know, but they have.
It’s hard to know what to do next.
Peter drew back…This is just the kind of situation Paul describes in Galatians 2:11-16. Peter didn’t shout, “I’m outta here!” and slam the door behind him. He just withdrew. Gradually, quietly, he “drew back and separated himself.” I’m sure it took the local believers a little while to catch on. Peter was an honored guest in the area, so his absence would have been noticed. Perhaps he was a little under the weather? Or maybe he had an appointment with a local elder? Could he have overslept?
But when it became clear that he had pulled back, Paul didn’t shrug his shoulders and move on. He found out the reason. And then he confronted Peter with the seriousness of withdrawing friendship in the context of gospel fellowship. That’s because going to dinner with the Gentile Christians wasn’t just a social option, it was an expression of unity in Jesus Christ.
I don’t tend to think of my choice of friends or my social calendar as a chance to live out the gospel, but this week’s study may change my mind on that. Let’s dive in together.
This week’s questions. Go back and read Galatians 2 from the beginning. This is the story of 2 visits and you are going to want to keep that in mind as we study the second of the two.
1. Who are the characters in this scene (Galatians 2:11-16)? Are the “men from James”, “the circumcision party”, and “them all” referring to the same group?
2. Compare this visit with the earlier visit in Galatians 2:1-10. What do we learn about the truth of the gospel through the similarities and differences between the two events?
3. Romans 8:1 proclaims that “There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Why, then, did Peter “stand condemned”? Condemned for what and by whom? What did he do?
4. How would you restate Paul’s public question directed to Peter in verse 14? What would you say is the key word? (See Galatians 2:3) (See Acts 16:3 and compare the difference between Titus and Timothy to see why that word is critical.)
5. Paul’s question in verse 14 is further explained in verses 15-16. What is the emphatic contrast? How would you state it in your own words?
6. The gospel is a person, not just an idea. When I trust in works of the law, who am I trusting? When I believe in Jesus Christ, who am I trusting? Meditate on his trustworthiness by writing out several reasons he is able to save you.
7. The gospel is always educating my conscience. When my conscience condemns me, how can I turn to Christ rather than justifying myself by my works?
8. The truth of the gospel is preserved by our walk as well as our talk, for example, when I offer others the acceptance I have received through Christ. Is there someone I am holding at arm’s length today? Today is a great day to live out the truth of the gospel!
If you get a chance to share your thoughts with us, please do. Or throw out a question that has come up during your study.