- Verses 1-10 The apostles-specifically James, Cephas (Peter) and John- approved and accepted that Paul's knowledge and intent for sharing the gospel was infact profound, and confirmed his ministry to the Gentiles. This meant that Paul and Barnabas were a team, preaching to the Gentiles and James, Peter and John were a team, preaching to the Jews. In verse 10, Paul says that the apostles asked him and Barnabas to remember the poor.
- Verses 11-16 Peter was an influential leader who preached the gospel to the Jews. Many Jews still followed their traditions and dietary laws- they were not to eat certain things, and they were only to eat with eachother, and not with Gentiles or people from other nations. Peter, because he preached that Jesus came to save the world, and not just Jews, had abandoned the law and specifically at this time, in Antioch, ate with the Gentiles. However, certain men came to Antioch- to the place they were- and Peter changed his actions. He ate with Jews only, and separated themselves from the Gentiles. These "certain men" were sent from James, and were most likely still following the dietary laws of the Mosaic Law. Verse 12 says, ...but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. And the rest of the Jews acted...along with him..."The circumcision party" is indication that these certain men still followed the Jewish law and still practiced circumcision- most likely along with the dietary law. Peter was probably not aware that his example of separation from the Gentiles, because of what these certain men would think of him, was threatening to the gospel being preached to both Jews and Gentiles that both were equal in God's sight, and that the law should was no longer necessary now that Jesus had come. Peter's actions may have severe consequences. There may have been some Jews then, who went back on what truth had already been planted in them- that the Gentiles also could attain eternal life through Jesus, and the law was not a means for salvation. Remember, before Peter's vision and acceptance of the Gentiles (Acts 10-11), the Jews believed only Jews could be saved. So, they did not associate with other nations (including Gentiles) and they believed everyone had to become Jew- be circumcised and follow the Mosiac Law to be justified and approved by God. So, the fact that Peter was displaying an act of separation and possibly superiority over the Gentiles made their teaching seem unimportant and useless. At this time, Paul publicly addressed his hypocrisy and held him accountable to his actions. In verse 15 and 16, it says, We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. Although the paragraph is new, and your Bible most likely has a new heading, these verses are still addressing Peter's sin. Both Peter and Paul were born Jewish and Paul even trained in Judiasm zealously. (See Galatians 1:13-14) Paul is excusing the Mosaic Law in verse 15 and 16 and says that it is no longer needed to be saved- but that having faith in Jesus is the only way, and we will not be justified by our obedience to the law. (Also see Ephesians 2:8-9)
- Verses 18-21 I love verse 18- For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. As 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold the new has come. Paul is explaining that if the gospel teaches that faith in Jesus is the only way, and that the law has nothing to do with salvation- going back to obeying the law is sin. Paul admonishes Peter in saying that if you go back on what you are teaching (if you are being a hypocrite) you are proving to be a sinner. In Christ, we a are new creation. We must no longer live according to our ways before salvation. And living according the importance of the Mosaic Law is an example of Peters actions and influence on the other Jews. In verse 19, Paul says he "died to the law", meaning that he doesn't abide by it to gain salvation. No longer does Paul have to obey a law through his own efforts, but can fully rely on his faith in Jesus and the grace that flows from Him. Romans 6 correlates with verses 19 and 20 in Galatians and talks about being dead to sin, and being alive in Christ. In verse 2 it says, How can we who died to sin still live in it? Verse 6- We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Verse 14- For sin will have no dominion over you , since you are not under law but under grace. Paul declares that if our approval comes from obeying a bunch of rules and laws, rather than through faith in Jesus and reception of His grace, then Jesus Christ died for no reason. If that were the case, we wouldn't need Jesus- we could attain salvation by our obedience to the law. This is a major foundational truth in Christianity- it is not by works, but by faith in Jesus we are saved.