Introduction: Last week we learned that Paul made some amazing
claims for the source of his message. He claimed that Jesus
personally taught him, and that no person was responsible for the
message that he was proclaiming. When we investigated this, we
learned that both Luke and Peter believed Paul’s claims and thought
that Paul was sharing a message that he learned directly from God.
This week we continue the discussion about whether Paul has a
message that differs from that of the rest of the leaders of the
early church. Is unity important? Is disagreement in the church
healthy? Should we have “Christians” and “Paulites?” Or, is the
gospel of righteousness by faith the unified message of God’s
church? Let’s dive into our study of Galatians and learn more!

  1. Return Trip

    1. Read Galatians 2:1-2. Recall that in chapter one of
      Galatians Paul says that he went to Jerusalem to visit
      Peter and James. Paul now returns. Why? (God told him to
      return. He says it was “in response to a vision.”)

      1. What do you think was God’s purpose in having Paul
        to return to the “home office?” (Notice that Paul
        says that he “set before them the gospel that I
        preach among the Gentiles.” God must have been
        concerned about a uniform gospel being taught to
        both the Jews and Gentiles.)

      2. Paul says that he has some fears, and for that he
        reason spoke privately to the leadership. What fear
        is Paul likely speaking about?

        1. Is it Paul’s fear that he is wrong in his

        2. Is it a fear that the leaders in Jerusalem will
          not agree with him? (The whole tone of
          Galatians so far has been that Paul received
          his message from Jesus. He is not indebted for
          his message to any of the leaders back at the
          home office. Thus, it hardly seems that he
          fears that he is wrong. He doesn’t seem too
          concerned about the leadership at the home
          office either. It must be that he is mostly
          concerned about the unity of the church.)

      3. How could Paul fear that he has been running a
        fourteen year race in vain? (Recall that Paul is
        fighting against a false gospel in the Galatian
        church. If he does not have the backing of the home
        office, how can he expect to convince the Galatians
        that he is right? Unless there is unity in the
        message, his detractors will claim he is wrong.)

      4. Why would Paul request a private meeting? (He
        obviously had opponents in Jerusalem and Galatia.
        Large meetings are often swayed by appeals to
        passion, rather than reason. By meeting with the
        top leaders, he could explain exactly what he was
        doing and teaching, and the reasons why.)

        1. What does this teach us about democracy in the

    2. Read Galatians 2:3. Was Paul successful? (Recall that one
      of the main issues was circumcision. The leadership did
      not suggest that one of Paul’s primary assistants should
      be circumcised.)

    3. Read Galatians 2:4-5. Explain how you think this “spy”
      thing worked? (Paul was not working in a day of phones,
      e-mails and television. How could the leaders of the
      church in Jerusalem know what Paul was teaching unless he
      (or some others) reported on what he was doing? The
      suggestion is that Paul’s theological enemies were
      bringing back false reports to the leaders in Jerusalem.
      God revealed to Paul that he should make a trip to the
      home office to get the truth before them.)

      1. Who is Paul speaking to when he says “We did not
        give in to them for a moment?” (Paul is speaking to
        the members of the Galatian church and he is
        referring to his theological opponents.)

        1. What is Paul’s motive for saying this? Put
          yourself in the place of a Galatian church
          member when you answer this. (Just as the
          leaders in the home office did not know what
          Paul was teaching the Gentiles, so the Galatian
          church members did not know what Paul was
          saying in his report to the home office. He
          could be saying to each group just what they
          want to hear. Paul assures the Galatians that
          he is doing no such thing. He has a consistent
          message whether his audience is the Jewish home
          office, or the Gentile churches.)

    4. Read Galatians 2:6-9. Who are the important leaders?
      (Paul names them: James, Peter and John.)

      1. Does Paul sound like a rebel here? (Yes. Have you
        ever noticed that someone will “overcompensate”
        because of a background of certain problems? I’ve
        seen this – a church focused on some problem goes
        overboard in that area. Paul does not need to cast
        doubt on the importance of James, Peter and John to
        enhance his own authority. Yet, that is how I read
        his statements which seem to reduce the importance
        of the leadership in the home office.)

      2. Does it seem odd that Paul would have some
        personality defects? (Time, culture, context and
        translation make my conclusions about Paul’s
        attitude uncertain. But, if I’m right it simply
        raises the importance of grace!)

    5. I asked you earlier about democracy in the church. Paul
      says that he received his message directly from Jesus
      ( Galatians 1:11), and that he shared it with the top
      leaders first. It seems clear that Paul is not looking
      for a majority vote among the people to confirm his
      views. He seems to be looking for confirmation of his
      views from the leaders at home office, rather than being
      willing to receive direction from the leaders. What kind
      of church organization would result from these kinds of
      attitudes? (The only way to reconcile Paul’s statements
      and conduct here with church organization is to believe
      that Paul was certain that his message was from God, and
      that God would make His will plain to the leadership.)

  2. The Poor

    1. Read Galatians 2:10 and Acts 2:44-47. Is the poverty
      mentioned in Galatians the result of the economic
      decisions of the early church? (Historically, when you
      remove the incentive to work for profit, poverty follows.
      (See Proverbs 16:26 & Proverbs 14:23.) However, Acts
      11:27-29 suggests a famine might be part of the problem.
      Note that this famine hit the entire Roman empire.)

      1. Of all the theological requirements the church
        leaders could have put on Paul, this is the only
        one. What does that suggest about the importance of
        helping the poor? Or, does this teach that helping
        the poor is just a suggestion?

      2. Notice that the Gentiles were not asked to model
        themselves after Acts 2:44-47. Why is that? (Wait.
        Acts 2:45 says that believers were given what they
        needed. The suggestion to the Gentiles in Galatians
        2:10 is to help the poor – those in need.)

  3. Peter Versus Paul

    1. Read Galatians 2:11-14. Let’s discuss this in some
      detail. Paul publically confronts Peter, a prominent
      church leader. Should we publically confront our church
      leaders when we think they are wrong?

      1. If the answer is, “yes,” then who should do this?
        Anyone, or just other leaders like Paul?

      2. What is the nature of the problem created by Peter?
        (The problem is public. Not only is Peter
        compromising on an important, current theological
        issue, but the Gentiles are being shamed into
        thinking they are second-class Christians. I do not
        think leaders should be publically confronted about
        private problems, only public problems.)

        1. What about the question of who is entitled to
          confront a leader? (Paul received his message
          from Jesus. His message was confirmed by the
          leaders of the church. Those two facts are
          very important on the issue of confronting
          church leaders.)

      3. Look closely at the text and notice the difference
        between what Paul is thinking and what he actually
        says. What kind of difference is there between the
        two? (His thoughts are harsh, but what he says is
        mostly a statement of uncontested fact followed by a

        1. What is the reason why Paul would use a
          question to confront Peter? (He wanted Peter to
          answer the question in a way that convicted
          Peter of his error. Compare 2 Samuel 12:1-10
          where Nathan seeks King David’s advice. The
          question is presented as a story, and David’s
          answer convicts him of sin.)

        2. Is this a lesson on how we (or church leaders)
          should confront church leadership? (This seems
          to be a great example. Only make public
          confrontations for public issues. The
          confrontation should not be harsh, but rather
          should seek to convict the leader of the sin
          problem. It is best for leaders to confront
          other leaders. Confrontation should not take
          place without the backing of the church
          leadership on the subject and the direction of
          the Holy Spirit.)

    2. Friend, God is concerned about the unity of His church.
      Will you pray and work for a unified church?

  4. Next week: Justification by Faith Alone.