Mind Your Table Manners

Passage: Galatians 2:11-16

Guide for Group Discussion or Personal Reflection

Sermon Overview

In Galatians 2:11-16, Paul describes an incident in Antioch where the truth of the gospel was undermined—this time by the actions of an apostle himself (Peter)!  What happened there, and why was Paul so angry about it, even to the point of “opposing (Peter) to his face” (2:11)?

This incident so provoked Paul because Peter’s actions undermined the very message of the gospel.  The gospel is meant to create a counter-cultural community because the gospel is the message that in Jesus, God chose to forsake the honor that was rightfully his, and be disgraced on a cross, all so that he could forgive us and secure a place of honor for all who trust in Jesus.  This message was utterly revolutionary in an honor-shame culture, where cultivating and guarding one’s status meant everything.  The community of people who received this gospel message was countercultural, unlike anything the world had ever seen, because it tore down natural divisions and united people from different statuses in a common fellowship around Jesus.   Thus, Peter, a Jew, could even be found sharing table fellowship with Gentiles in Antioch, the diverse city where people first were called “Christians”.

When “certain men came from James”, however—Jewish Christians who wanted to convince Gentiles to be circumcised and keep Torah—Peter “drew back and separated himself” from this fellowship, fearing the influence of these Jewish men, and how dishonorable it would have appeared for him to be eating with Gentiles (2:12-13).  This is precisely why Paul was so angry—not only because Peter he had brought disunity into the church, or because he had dishonored his Gentile brothers and sisters—but because his “conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel” (2:14).  Peter had denied with his actions the very gospel he preached with his words—that gospel that through faith in Jesus alone we are justified.

There are important implications in all of this for us today.  We should recognize that our culture as a church can affirm or deny the gospel we preach with our words.  The gospel gives us a “line” to walk in step with—certain ways of relating to one another and living together that make sense, in light of the gospel of God’s grace for the undeserving.  When we get “out of step” with the truth of the gospel, we undermine the message.

What would a community look like then, who walks “in step with” the truth of the gospel?  It would be, for one, a community where we have boundary-crossing relationships—friendships with people who we would have no natural reason to get along with, particularly people who don’t increase our honor or social standing at all.  It would also be a community where members are easily able to admit their failures.

True Christian change involves bringing all of our life—socially, financially, psychologically, vocationally—“in line with” the truth of the gospel.  The gospel doesn’t merely “get us into” the Christian life—it’s how we grow each step of the way.


Sermon Outline:

The Gospel Creates a Counter-Cultural Community (2:11-13)

Implications for the Community (2:14-16)

Group Discussion & Personal Reflection Guide:

Re-read the passage(s): Galatians 2:11-16

The Gospel Creates a Counter-Cultural Community (2:11-13)

1) Re-read Galatians 2:11-13 and meditate on these verses together.  Consider:

  • How would you describe Paul’s “tone” in this passage? Why?
  • What did Cephas (Peter) do that provoked Paul? What drove Peter to do this?
  • What effect did Peter’s actions have on the Jewish Christians there?
  • Why are Peter’s actions described as “hypocrisy”? (see vs. 14 as well for this)

2) In verse 14, Paul says that “their conduct was out of step with the truth of the gospel”.  What was it about Peter’s withdrawing from table fellowship with the Gentiles that was “out of step with the truth of the gospel”?  How does this intensify the severity of his actions?

3) The passage describes Peter’s motivation it says that he was “fearing the circumcision party” (2:13).  Can you describe a time in your life when fearing the opinions of others led you to personally act in a way that was “out of step” with the truth of the gospel?  Is there an area of your life right now where this is happening, or where you’re being tempted towards this?

4) In the passage, Peter’s actions clearly influenced “the rest of the Jews”, leading them astray into “hypocrisy”.  Can you identify areas in churches today where people are at risk of being “led into hypocrisy” because of the influence of their leaders?  What would faithfulness look like in these areas?

Implications for the Community (2:14-16)

5) Re-read Galatians 2:14-16 and mediate on these verses together.  Consider:

  • How does Paul explain Peter’s “hypocrisy”? What was hypocritical about his behavior?  And how did the mere act of separating himself from table fellowship amount to “forcing the Gentiles to live like Jews” (vs. 14)?
  • Why do you think Paul launches into a reminder of justification by faith in Christ alone in verses 15-16? Surely, this was the message that Peter already preached.  Why did Peter, an apostle, need to be reminded that “a person is not justified by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ” (vs. 16)?

6) In verse 14, the word for “in step with” is orthopodousin—literally “straight/right walking”—

and Pastor Bobby said, therefore, that “true Christian change is about bringing all of life into alignment with the implications of the gospel”.  What would it look like for you personally to “walk in alignment” with the truth of the gospel:

  • Relationally
  • Emotionally
  • Financially
  • Vocationally

Don’t hurry this question but help others in your SG think through it for themselves.  Is there an area of your life where you are walking “out of step” with the gospel?  What would it look like to repent and trust in Christ freshly in this area, then walk in line?

7) In the sermon, Pastor Bobby said that a church who “walks in step” with the truth of the gospel would be a community full of countercultural relationships.  That is, many people would be friends with others whom they wouldn’t naturally be friends with, if it weren’t for the gospel, and friends with people who don’t bring us any status or recognition.  Where do you see this happening in our church?  How can we grow in this?

8) In the sermon, Pastor Bobby said that a church who “walks in step” with the truth of the gospel would also be a church where people are easily able to admit their failures to one another.  How easy is it for you to admit failure?  What would your friends say?  And how is this an implication of the gospel?


You’re having coffee with a friend of yours who is not a Christian.  This is someone whom you happen to agree with in most areas politically, though they don’t share your faith.  During your conversation, they start to make disparaging comments about people with a certain political view that differs from yours: “Classic _________”, they say, “So out of touch with reality.  Aren’t there people like that who go to your church?  I don’t know how you can go to the same church as them.  I’m not religious, but I could never do it.”  Based on this week’s passage and sermon, how might you respond to your friend?  What would you want to say?  What would you want to ask?

Additional Application Questions

Q) How else would you like to engage with God this week?

Q) How can you tangibly care for those in your community this week, both inside and outside of the church?


Spend time praying for yourselves, our church community, the North Shore community, and our nation and world—particularly those most vulnerable.