- Locate the Passage
2:11-21 is the second key preaching unit in Galatians 2. It follows Paul’s account of his interaction with the Jerusalem apostles in 2:1-11.
- Identify the Genre
The macro level is epistolary. The micro level is expository.
There are no commands in this text.
- Determine the Structure of the Passage
The passage begins with Paul’s narrative of his confrontation of Peter (11-14) and continues with a treatment of the concept of justification by faith (15-16). Note the shift to the third person (“We ourselves”-verse 15). Finally, the passage concludes (note the adversative conjunction “but” in verse 17) with Paul’s declaration of having
been crucified with Christ (17-21). Therefore, the text conveys the following structure:
-a rebuke of behavior inconsistent with the gospel (11-14)
-an affirmation of the doctrine of justification by faith (15-16)
-an identification with the crucified Christ (17-21)
- Exegete the Passage
Verse 11 reports Paul’s face-to face (prosopon) confrontation of Peter at Antioch. Paul opposed (antesten-“resisted”) him “because he was standing condemned.” His behavior was inconsistent with the truth of the gospel. Verse 12 gives the reader insight into the nature of Peter’s offense. Prior to the arrival in Antioch of certain Jewish leaders, he was having table-fellowship with Gentiles. However, upon the arrival of men from James, Peter began to draw back (hupestellen) and separated (aphorizen-imperfect) himself from them because he was fearing (phoboumenos) those “of the circumcision” (Judaizers). The issue was table-fellowship between Jews and Gentiles. Apparently, as Dr. Jack MacGorman notes, “Peter lost his appetite for ham sandwiches!” Verse 13 reveals that the rest of the Jews acted with Peter in the same insincere and hypocritical fashion (the key verb here is sunupekrithesan-“to play the hypocrite”). Even Barnabas was led astray (sunapexthe-aorist passive) by their hypocrisy. Verse 14 records Paul’s response. When he saw that their behavior was not in step (orthopodousin-present active-“walking straightly”) with the truth of the gospel, he addressed Peter in front of them (emprosthen). Here, we observe Paul’s public correction of Peter. For Paul, the integrity of the gospel was at stake and thus he desired for the correction to be as “public” as the error. Clearly, Paul’s question to Peter exposes the fundamental inconsistency of the act of withdrawing from Gentile fellowship.
With verse 15, Paul shifts to the third person pronoun. Including himself among those who are Jews by birth, he stresses that he, and other Jewish believers, know (eidotes-aorist perfect participle-“ knowing”) that no man is justified (dikaiountai-present passive- “acquitted” or “counted righteous”-occurs three times in verse 16) by works of the law (nomou) but through faith in Jesus Christ. Therefore, as verse 16 bears out, they have believed (epistensamen-aorist active) in Christ Jesus in order (hina clause) to be justified. This justification comes by faith in Christ and not by works of the law.
The adversative “but” in verse 17 signals a shift in thought and focus. This verse is considered to be one of the most difficult verses in Galatians. Only 4:3 is considered more difficult. In verse 17, Paul asks a question which expects a negative answer: If in our endeavor (zetountes-participle-“seeking”) to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Paul answers the question for his readers with a strong exclamation (me genoito-“certainly not!” or “may it never be!”). In verses 18-21, we find some of the most familiar statements in the book of Galatians. In verse 18, Paul is likely thinking of Peter’s “relapse.” It was a building back up of things set aside earlier. Paul had died to the law that he might live to God (verse 19). In verse 20, Paul declares that he has been crucified with (sunestauromai-perfect tense) Christ. He now lives by faith in the Christ “who loved me and gave (paradontes-aorist) Himself for me.”
Therefore, with verse 21, Paul stresses that he does not nullify or “frustrate” the grace of God and that, if justification were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose (dorean-“gratuitously”).
- Let the Structure of the Text Drive the Sermon
The structure of the sermon should follow the grammatical/syntactical divisions in the text as addressed earlier in the treatment of the structure of the passage. The resulting outline could be as follows:
- Paul openly rebukes behavior inconsistent with the gospel. (11-14)
- Paul affirms the doctrine of justification by faith. (15-16)
- Paul identifies Himself with the crucified Christ (17-21)