• Tony Birkhead

Breaking the Rules... Week - 4

Grace worked in you should flow through you!


Spend a few minutes defining grace in your group.

Share sometimes you’ve been given grace and some times you’ve received grace.


Galatians 2:11-21

When Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. 13 The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray. 14 When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs? 15 “We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles 16 know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified. 17 “But if, in seeking to be justified in Christ, we Jews find ourselves also among the sinners, doesn’t that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not! 18 If I rebuild what I destroyed, then I really would be a lawbreaker. 19 “For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”



How had Peter compromised his freedom in Christ? To who or what was he enslaving himself?

How is living under the law related to living in fear of people? How are both opposed to living in freedom?

Peter lived with freedom when he was with Gentiles, but when Jews came to town, he gave up his freedom to be seen in their eyes as a good Jew who followed the law. Legalism and the fear of people seek to control our behavior and force us to fit what into what is deemed “right.” The gospel says that we are free to live a life fully devoted to Christ.


What is the common need of both groups named in these verses? Who is the only person who can meet that need?

Why is it important to see ourselves on equal ground as those in need of salvation?

How are the words “justified” and “faith” used in the passage?

The word “justify” refers to God’s creative act of grace by which He gives people who place faith in Christ a new, right standing with Him and a new way of life. In their new standing with God, they seek to reflect His character and to do His will.

According to these verses, what is the message of the gospel?

What kind of behavior would be considered consistent with this understanding of the gospel?

What does Paul say about the role of faith and works (or the law)? How are they different?

The gospel is the good news that we are justified by faith in Jesus Christ and not by the works of the law. Our behavior is consistent with this gospel when it does not express prejudice toward others or insist that works lead to salvation. Paul contrasted faith and works. The apostle pointed out that observing any ritual or law is incapable of producing justification or right standing before God.

What kind of change did Paul experience according to verses 17-21?

What was the law’s purpose? How did it set the stage for the Messiah? How then should we view the law?

When Paul stated that he died to the law, he was acknowledging God’s grace and asserting that humans can do nothing to merit salvation. It was through the law that Paul had come to this position. The law revealed the inadequacy of humanity’s religious efforts and exposed the depth of human sinfulness.

What does it look like to “live to God?”

What was Paul’s point in verse 21? How might our lives imply that Christ died for nothing?


· How does the realization that Christ loved you and gave Himself for you change you? Is there an area in your life today that doesn’t reflect that truth?

· Is it easier for you to believe that someone is a Christian when he or she is culturally, ethnically, socially, or racially “like you”? Why or why not?

· How can we act on Paul’s reminder to the Jews about equality among all sinners?

· How can you help someone in your family better “live to God” this week?


Pray specifically for group members to apply the reality of God’s love for them to the struggles in their lives. Pray that each person would continue to change in order to look more and more like Jesus. Pray that they would reflect on and understand what it means to daily die to self.



2:11-13. Paul had set a good example of being true to the gospel in the situation involving Titus. In contrast verses 11-13 describe an occasion when Peter was untrue to the gospel and led others into hypocritical behavior. The situation occurred in Antioch, the third largest city in the Roman Empire during New Testament times and the capital of the Roman province of Syria. It was at Antioch that believers in Christ were first called Christians.

The issue revolved around Jews and Gentiles eating at the same table. Numerous rituals and guidelines related to mealtimes had arisen within Judaism. One of these guidelines restricted Jews from having table fellowship with Gentiles who lacked the seal of God’s covenant—circumcision.

When Peter arrived in Antioch, he found Jewish and Gentile Christians eating together at mealtimes. Peter freely joined them in this practice, a behavior not surprising since in the situation with Cornelius, the Lord had revealed to Peter His equal acceptance of Gentiles who responded to Him in faith (Acts 11:1-18).

“When certain men came from James,” however, Peter changed his behavior and withdrew from fellowship with the Gentiles. Who were these men who came from James, the leader of the Jerusalem church? We should not assume that they were the same false brothers who earlier were demanding that Titus be circumcised (Gal. 2:3-4). Apparently, the delegation had some loyalty to James and may even have carried letters of recommendation from him. When they saw Peter fellowshipping and eating with uncircumcised Gentile Christians, they were shocked. It is not clear whether their mere presence prompted Peter’s change in behavior or if they spoke directly to him. In any case, Peter “began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles.” The form of the verbs translated draw back and separate suggest that Peter gradually withdrew from fellowship meals with the Gentiles.

Peter’s hypocritical behavior negatively influenced those around him. Other Jewish believers also began separating themselves from the Gentiles at mealtimes. Even Barnabas, a model of Christian encouragement, was led astray!

2:14. What motivated Peter’s fear that resulted in his withdrawal from fellowship at meals with the Gentiles after certain men arrived from the church in Jerusalem? Perhaps he was concerned that eating with Gentiles would put his position as pillar of the Christian community in Jerusalem in jeopardy. Maybe he was concerned that he could not effectively witness to Jews if he did not strictly observe the law? Perhaps the delegation brought news from Jerusalem that influenced Peter in some way. Regardless of Peter’s reason, he stood condemned because he was “not acting in line with the truth of the gospel.” Peter was not walking a straight course. The apostle had begun wavering in his beliefs and he should have known better. The verb translated acting in line (““““““orthopodeo””””””) literally means “to be straightfooted.” Peter was acting with “hypocrisy” (2:13), not merely making an honest mistake. We have no evidence that Peter had changed his mind about salvation being available to the Gentiles, so his actions were inconsistent with his beliefs.

2:15. It is inconsistent and illogical for privileged Jews by birth, who rejected the keeping of their very own law as the way to salvation, to now burden the Gentiles with the keeping of that very same law. The phrase “Gentile sinners” was probably spoken in irony. Quite often, the Jews could not mention Gentiles without calling them “Gentile sinners.” Yet, in Paul’s eyes, the sinners were the Judaizers, not the Gentile Christian believers in his church.

2:16. Verse 16 is one of the most important verses in Galatians because in it Paul states the content of the gospel of grace. This is the first time Paul uses the word “justified” which means “to declare righteous.” Justification is the act of God, whereby He declares the believing sinner righteous in Jesus Christ. Negatively, Paul says “a man is not justified by observing the law.” Stated positively, justification is by faith in Christ Jesus. Negatively, Paul has rebuffed the false teachings of the Judaizers which Peter had supported by his behavior in Antioch. Positively, he has presented the true, grace path to righteousness.

2:17. The opponents to this message of grace argued that if people aren’t under law then they will freely sin. They reasoned that people could believe in Christ but then live as they wanted and by their sinful actions make Christ a promoter of sin. Paul answers this accusation with an emphatic, “No!” Grace leads to freedom from sin’s slavery to obey God, not license to disobey Him.

2:18. A person who rebuilds (that is, returns to) the law after believing in Christ will find himself a lawbreaker. No one except Jesus can keep the law perfectly. So to put one’s relationship with God on a legalistic basis is to make oneself a lawbreaker.

2:19. In verses 19–20 Paul teaches about the transformation that occurs in believers. He is continuing to correct Peter for cowering to a legalistic system that is powerless to change lives. Paul uses the death and resurrection motif in each verse. First, Paul states “through the law” I died to the law. Paul may have meant by this that, when he tried to live up to the law, he saw that it was impossible. He saw that the penalty for failing to live up to the law was death. Seeing his clear condemnation according to the law drove him into the arms of grace, to rely on Jesus to save him.

Or he might have meant that, when he saw that the law was insufficient to save him, he turned his back on the law and made it no longer of any influence in his life.

Or he might have meant that the law demanded death for sin. Christ died because he took our death penalty upon Himself. By believing in Christ, His death pays for the death that the law required of us. Because I am united with Christ by faith, the law killed not only Him but all who are joined to Him by faith. Therefore, the believer has died to the law. Since we have died, the law must acquit us of further punishment. So through fulfilling the law by dying in Christ, we are now free from the law. Whatever Paul meant, the result is that he no longer is under the jurisdiction of the law. It is powerless over him.

2:20. Now Paul expands upon verse 19. He died to the law (v. 19) by being crucified with Christ. He lives for God (v. 19) because Christ lives in him. Believers are in union with Christ. We are united with Him in His death, burial, and resurrection. Thus, we died with Him to the law (see Rom. 6).

Again, we are uncertain as to what Paul meant by “I have been crucified with Christ.” It certainly did not mean that he was physically crucified. Dead people don’t write letters. In what sense was he crucified? He may have used the sentence as a figure of speech, referring to the effects of Christ’s death which every believer experiences. It might be reworded, “I have been as good as crucified, since the results of Christ’s crucifixion count for me.” Or he may have referred to a sense in which every believer is required to endure a similar experience of spiritual crucifixion to the desires of self. We put to death our own plans to follow Jesus. It might be reworded, “I have crucified my right to self-control in life, in the same way that Christ was crucified physically. He gave up his right to physical life; I gave up my right to self-life.”

Or he may have referred to some sense in which the believer, because he is “in Christ” is seen by God as having actually died. He may have been referring to the union between the believer and Jesus, when the believer in Jesus experiences, spiritually, everything Jesus experienced.

Whatever Paul meant about having died in Christ, the point is that his death severed him from the requirements of the law. Therefore, for Peter and the Judaizers to go back to the law is to visit the graveyard. Paul goes on to say that he can live for God because Christ lives in him. Finally, Paul says that faith is the principle that unlocks the life of Christ in the believer. The more we exercise faith in Christ the more He is free to live through us.

2:21. Now Paul presents his conclusion. The false-teaching Judaizers were voiding the grace of God by adding the works-oriented law to the work of Christ. Therefore, Paul says “I do not set aside the grace of God” (as the legalists did), “for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” If humans could be right with God by obeying the law, why would He send His Son to suffer and die on a cross? Paul concludes his correction of Peter by showing the utter absurdity of turning back to the law. The very reason Christ died on the cross to pay for sin was because the law could not remove sin or impart righteousness. Grace provides what the law was powerless to provide—righteousness.



The QT Guide is designed to help you MOVE with God through Bible Reading, reflection and prayer. It can be completed in about 9 minutes.

UPWARD: 1⁄2 Minute Preparing Your Heart: Invest the first 30 seconds preparing your heart. You might pray, “Lord, cleanse my heart so You can speak to me through the Scriptures. Make my mind alert, my soul active, and my heart responsive. Surround me with Your presence during this time.

FORWARD: 4 Minutes Listening To God: Take the next four minutes to read the Bible. Your greatest need is to hear a word from God. Allow the Word to strike fire in your heart. Meet the Author!

INWARD: 2 1/2 Minutes Talking To God (Prayer): After God has spoken through His Book, then speak to Him in prayer.

OUTWARD: 2 Minutes Preparing your Action: Ask yourself this question: How can I take today’s Quiet Time and put it into action throughout my day?


For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Ephesians 2:8-10

Grace, an unmerited favor, an undeserved love, and an apt description of God’s interaction with mankind. This is astounding when we properly understand even a little bit about who is dealing graciously with us.

In our day, many of us operate spiritually out of a sense of entitlement or selfishness. We automatically see situations in the mentality of “what’s in it for me?”. In thinking this way, we presume upon God’s grace, and easily forget our true sinfulness and guilt (Romans 2:4). This presumption assumes that God in fact owes us something. We begin thinking God owes us salvation because of our excellent church attendance and giving record. Or we believe God owes us an economically stable life because we aren’t “bad” like everyone else, we don’t swear, watch R-rated movies, etc. This is a grievously sinful mentality, and it is all too easy for us to presume upon God’s grace.

The reality of our situation is this: we, “His workmanship”, created in Christ Jesus for good works”, owe God everything, while He owes us nothing! We are saved by grace “through faith” in Jesus; don’t forget, even our confession of faith is due to the Holy Spirit’s work in our hearts (1 Corinthians 12:3)! Meditate on this passage today, and pray that the Holy Spirit would reveal any pride concerning your salvation and inherent goodness that ought not be.

Adapted From: http://shortdailydevotions.com


And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 1:14

Sometimes we view grace and truth as opposite sides of the spectrum rather than as two sides to the same coin.

In truth we are confronted with our sinfulness and our need for someone to free us from ourselves and the current sin of the world around us. This truth then points us to grace and not a feeling of hopelessness. As we proclaim truth as Jesus did, we need to make sure that there is an equal measure of grace ready to be given. In grace, rather than God giving us what we really deserve, He gives us what we desperately need. As Jesus entered the world, he came “full of grace and truth.”

In today’s culture we’ve substituted tolerance for grace. Tolerance says I’m ok, you’re ok, we’re all ok so let’s just stay that way. But grace is a much more radical acceptance because grace says come as you are. Let’s see the real you—the good, the bad and the ugly of who you are—and by the way you get to see the good, bad, and ugly of my life too. But we don’t stay there—we recognize that because of the death and resurrection of Jesus, God has something better for all of us to pursue. Grace says we’re all messed up and God has something better…and we are going to pursue this with God together.

Adapted From: http://shortdailydevotions.com


For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Matthew 6:14-15

The question of genuine forgiveness is one of eternal importance. And why is it, you may ask, so crucial that Christians forgive? For starters, Jesus’ statement in today’s text is quite a compelling reason, for “if you do not forgive others…neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Suffice it to say then, we had better make sure we are forgiving “our debtors” (Matthew 6:12).

Here’s the bottom line: forgiveness is such a central element to Christianity that it is an indicator of salvation! Not that we are saved by any works of our own, such as forgiving others, but that when we are reconciled to God through Christ, our new life will be marked by grace giving and forgiveness.

Remember, our sin was exchanged for Jesus’ righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21), our wrong for His right, our injustice for His justice. God meets our rebellion and pride with grace in and through the person and work of Jesus. Those to whom grace is extended should also extend grace, and those to whom forgiveness is extended should also extend forgiveness.

Adapted From: http://shortdailydevotions.com


Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 12:1-2

The Christian life can be likened to a race with a finish line in eternity. Our goal is to stay on track and run with endurance, but we won’t know the way forward unless we focus on Jesus. Because He ran the race perfectly, He can show us the way.

As with any long-term race, the course is full of obstacles that threaten to trip or sidetrack us. Temptations lure us to what we imagine are lush green pastures, while busyness can lead us down rabbit trails that end in exhaustion. Worry and fear grab hold of our mind, and emotions take us places the Lord never intended for us to go.

Although sins are the most obvious threat, anything that takes precedence over our relationship with the Lord can send us down the wrong path. It’s easy to let our families, jobs, and pleasures distract us from a wholehearted pursuit of Christ. Surprisingly, even God’s blessings can hinder us if we start to prioritize them over the Lord.

For us as believers, the goal isn’t to focus on the path or find our own way. We’re to fix our eyes on Jesus—He’s our guide and destination, and He will welcome us home when we cross the finish line into eternity.

Adapted From: http://intouch.org


For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Hebrews 4:15-16

Awhile back I met a man named Michael Franzese, who was once involved with the Colombo crime family. In fact, in the mid-1980s he was dubbed one of the fifty most wealthy and powerful mafia bosses. At his peak he was making $6 to $8 million a week. Then he ended up in prison.

While there, Michael came to Christ. A guard had given him a Bible, and he started reading it. He told me that he listened to our radio broadcast, A New Beginning, every day in his prison cell. Much of that time he was in a place called The Hole, which he said was even worse than solitary confinement. But it was there he would listen to the Word of God, and when he had light, he would read the Word of God. The Lord changed him, and he did something unthinkable for someone in his situation: he walked away from the mob.

Now he devotes his time to speaking and bringing encouragement to others. Here was someone who was in the mob, and the Lord got hold of him. There in that prison cell, the Lord came to Michael Franzese.

There are different kinds of prisons that people live in today. Some endure the prison of isolation in a hospital bed or convalescent home. Others may find themselves in the prison cell of mourning because of an unexpected death of a loved one.

Yet Hebrews 4:15–16 says, "For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin."

Whatever pain or prison you are experiencing, the Lord is there, and He understands what you are going through. You can come to him "and find grace to help in time of need."

Adapted From: http://harvest.org


One of the best ways to fight temptation and grow in your daily walk with Jesus is to memorize His Word. Begin to commit His words to your memory this week.

Memorizing may be as simple as repeating the passage aloud 10 times each day or writing it 5 times each day. It may be that you place a 3x5 card on your mirror to remind you each day. Whatever it takes you won’t be let down with His Word in your mind and heart. Consider this…

I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”

Galatians 2:21

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