Getting Started with Galatians 2
Begin with prayer: Ask God to make your heart pure, soft, and undivided. Confess your sins so you can receive his mercy and grace. Humble yourself so you can hear his voice. Release your worries so you can rest in his presence.
First read: read without pausing, to get an overall sense of the chapter.
Second read: make a note of any words, phrases, or verses that are personally encouraging, convicting, and/or confusing. It is a good thing to approach Scripture with questions!
[ ] At the close of chapter one, Paul went to Syria and Cilica– two areas that were hundreds of miles North of Jerusalem. Chapter 2 picks up fourteen years later in Jerusalem. Create a summary of the events in this chapter by making a list of the people, places, and events.
Historical Background: Understanding Circumcision
Circumcision was a Jewish practice that began in Genesis 17 as a reminder of God’s covenant with his people. “Uncircumcised” was a term that referred to Gentiles, all non-Jews. In Acts 15, certain teachers made circumcision a requirement for salvation. Paul and Barnabas strongly disagreed with this teaching because it contradicted the biblical teaching of salvation by faith, a central theme in this letter. Jesus did all the work for our salvation on the cross, and we are called to believe in him. Salvation can’t be achieved by good works, it can only be received by faith in Jesus.
[ ] How do you reconcile 2:2 (“I wanted to be sure I was not running and had not been running my race in vain”) with 1:10 (“Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God”)? If Paul wasn’t looking for approval from the leaders in Jerusalem, why did he go to them to see if he was preaching the right message?
[ ] Verse four speaks of false believers, what was their incorrect beliefs?
[ ] Isn’t belief a personal thing, meaning that it’s okay for anyone to believe what ever they want? Explain why you feel the way you do.
[ ] Paul will speak directly to the topic of freedom later in in this letter. Based on everything you’ve read so far, what does Paul mean by freedom?
[ ] In your opinion, how is integrity connected to influence? Is it important for a person’s words to be backed up by their actions? Does a “do as I say, not as I do” attitude work? Why or why not?
[ ] In verse 5, Paul writes, “We did not give in to them for a moment,” (meaning allow Titus to be circumcised), “so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you.” The integrity of Paul (and Titus) was directly connected to their teaching. If they preached “salvation by faith,” but if their actions didn’t reflect this teaching, they would have no credibility with the Galatian believers. In your opinion, why are people tempted to take shortcuts with their integrity? In your own life, how would you rate your personal integrity?
[ ] Respond to this statement: “It’s only hypocrisy if you get caught.” Is that true or false? Why?
[ ] Paul was called to preach to the Gentiles (uncircumcised) and Peter was called to preach to the Jews (circumcised). In your opinion, why do you think this distinction existed? Shouldn’t Paul and Peter (and therefore, us) simply preach to everyone?
[ ] Paul said that Peter (Cephas) “stood condemned.” Why do you think Paul opposed him?
[ ] Do you think it Paul treated Peter (Cephas) fairly? Why did Paul confront him publicly? In what way was Peter a hypocrite?
[ ] Peter changed his behavior, becoming a hypocrite because he was afraid of what the Jews might think. Under what kinds of situations are you tempted to compromise your integrity?
[ ] In your opinion, what’s the big deal about salvation by works or by faith? Why does it matter that salvation is only found by faith in Jesus?
[ ] In your opinion, why is Paul making a big scene over this issue? Sine we are saved by faith, wouldn’t God just forgive Paul of his hypocrisy?
[ ] Justified means “made right with God.” Based on this chapter, how is a person justified? What words or phrases from the text support your answer?
[ ] In verse 17 Paul asks, “Does Christ promote sin?” (a) In your own words, how does Paul answer this question? (b) In your opinion, why does Paul raise this issue? Does this question even need to be asked?
[ ] This chapter highlights the power of influence:
> Paul retained his integrity to have a positive influence with the Galatians (2:5).
> Barnabas was negatively influenced by others and became a hypocrite
(a) Who has (or had) a big influence in your life? (b) Who are some people with whom you have influence?
[ ] What are some practical changes you might make to be a better influence on others?
What’s missing from this Bible study? Comment below.