Little noted in our preaching is this
(Gal 2:11 ESV) But when Cephas [the apostle Peter] came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned.
The translation “stood condemned” is controversial, but it carries the weight of scholarly consensus.
The renderings of the NIV (“in the wrong”) and the NRSV (“self-condemned”) both soften the severity of Paul’s judgment; because Peter’s action was a betrayal of the gospel, Paul saw him as standing under God’s condemnation. …
At the same time, it also suggests that Paul could not assume the experience of sharing the eucharist as a basis for his broader argument about table fellowship. It would have been a powerful argument for Paul to say, “If you share the bread and wine with Gentiles at the table of the Lord, how can you refuse to eat ordinary meals together?” Paul’s silence on this point suggests that Peter, Barnabas, and other Jewish Christians were not celebrating the Lord’s supper with the Gentile Christians in Antioch.
Richard B. Hays, “The Letter to the Galatians,” in 2 Corinthians-Philemon (vol. 11 of New Interpreters Bible, Accordance electronic ed. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2000), 233-234.
The major theme of the unit is that the gospel mandates the formation of a new community in which there is no division between Jew and Gentile, a community in which Jews and Gentiles eat at one table together, not two separate tables. The speech of vv. 14b–21 supports this claim by arguing that right relation to God depends fundamentally on “the grace of God” (2:21), and not on observance of the ethnically particular signs of covenant membership (circumcision and food laws). This grace has been made effective through the death of Jesus Christ, which avails for Jew and Gentile without distinction (cf. Rom 3:21–31). Consequently, Peter’s withdrawal from table fellowship with Gentile believers at Antioch was, as Paul sees it, a symbolic rejection of God’s reconciling grace.
Richard B. Hays, “The Letter to the Galatians,” in 2 Corinthians-Philemon (vol. 11 of New Interpreters Bible, Accordance electronic ed. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2000), 231.
Peter actually considered the Gentile Christians to be saved. He just wouldn’t participate with them in the Lord’s Support or Love Feast — in order to keep the circumcision party happy — those Jews from Jerusalem who considered circumcision essential to salvation. He was being a politician. After all, what harm is there in yielding to the scruples of the circumcision party? Why not keep everyone happy? Why antagonize the Jews who’d been long-time members of the church just to eat a meal with a segment of the congregation?
Well, Paul saw things very differently. It wasn’t about politics and keeping the peace but the gospel. And the gospel declares the Gentiles saved by faith — without circumcision — and to act otherwise is to condone division of the body of Christ, encouraging the separation of Jews and Gentiles. It’s to refuse to trust God’s promise to save everyone with faith!
As a result, Paul declared Peter condemned! Damned. Not for doctrinal error but for refusing to be in real, meaningful, active fellowship with a segment of the church all to make some of the more conservative members happy — to allow them to continue to treat their brothers and sisters damned.
Now, in the modern church, we avoid this problem by having so many congregations that we only have to take communion or eat a meal with people who are exactly like us. And this is anti-gospel. Indeed, it risks condemnation — especially if our motivation is to keep our more legalistic brothers and sisters happy. And I find this a terrifying thought.
So anyway, the point today is that Peter — an apostle — fell from grace because, by his actions, he denied salvation by faith. He refused to trust in God’s promises to save all with faith.
On the translation of kataginōskō
Every time I bring up poor Peter in Galatians, my conclusions are challenged from a grammatical standpoint, and I admit that many English translations prefer to soften the language. It just seems so unthinkable that Peter could have been in a damned state as an apostle. But the grammatical arguments for “condemned” or “damned” are very strong.
The same Greek word appears in these other verses –
(1Jo 3:19-24 ESV) By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; 20 for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. 21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; 22 and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. 23 And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. 24 Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.
The entire epistle is about whether the reader is lost or saved –
(1Jo 5:11-13 ESV) 11 And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. 13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.
Numerous others passages in 1 John deal with very plainly with the question of individual salvation. The point of 3:20-21 is that the subjective state of our heart is not always a reliable indicator of our salvation (contrary to much evangelical preaching). Rather, we should feel confident in our salvation because we can see our obedience (not perfect obedience but a life lived based on a commitment to obey) and the fruit of the Spirit in us. And so the subject very much is damnation and salvation.
In the Septuagint, which always colors the NT’s use of Greek, we find –
(Deu 25:1-2 ESV) “If there is a dispute between men and they come into court and the judges decide between them, acquitting the innocent and condemning the guilty, 2 then if the guilty man deserves to be beaten, the judge shall cause him to lie down and be beaten in his presence with a number of stripes in proportion to his offense.”
More recently, in the apocryphal Ben Sirach or Ecclesiasticus (ca. 200-175 BC), we have –
(Sir 14:2 KJA) Blessed is he whose conscience hath not condemned him, and who is not fallen from his hope in the Lord.
(Sir 19:5 KJA) Whoso taketh pleasure in wickedness shall be condemned: but he that resisteth pleasures crowneth his life.
The evidence tends to pile up. I mean, the linguistic case from usage is overwhelming.
The Greek lexicons come to the same conclusion. BDAG, the most respected of them all, translates “condemn, convict.” Thayer’s refuses to go so far, however, but admits the meaning “condemn” in other places both scriptural and secular.
to find fault with, blame: … he had incurred the censure of the Gentile Christians; Luther rightly, es war Klage über ihn kommen (i. e. a charge had been laid against him; but others he stood condemned, see Meyer or Ellicott, in the place cited; cf. Alexander Buttmann (1873) sec. 134, 4, 8), Gal. 2:11; to accuse, condemn: … , 1 John 3:20f, with which cf. Sir. 14:2 … . (In these and other significance in Greek writings from (Aeschylus and) Herodotus down;
Thayer’s is an 1889 work. The more recent lexicons largely insist on “condemn.” Friberg translates “condemn, declare to be wrong, judge to be guilty.” Louw-Nida translates “to judge something to be bad – ‘to condemn.’”
The commentators understandably struggle a bit. As pointed out in the earlier post, Richard Hays, a world-class scholar of Paul, finds the case for “condemned” very strong.
Peter stood condemned (kategnōsmenos; less strongly in NIV, ‘was in the wrong’). He was acting not only against his conscience and against the clear revelation that he had received in Acts 10, but also against his past tradition and custom in Antioch.
R. Alan Cole, Galatians: An Introduction and Commentary (Tyndale NTC 9; IVP/Accordance electronic ed. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 115.
The clear sense of hypokrisis shows that Peter was taken to task for failing to have the courage of his real convictions; and it is for this reason that Paul says that Peter “stood condemned” (v. 11, RV, RSV, NASB).
Κατεγνωσμένος [kategnosmenos] does not mean “to be blamed” (AV), “clearly in the wrong” (NEB, NIV), or “condemned’ before God” (U. Wilckens, TDNT VIII: 568, n. 51). Rather it indicates that Peter was condemned by his conduct which was at variance with his own inner convictions (e.g., R. Bultmann, TDNT I: 715: O. Cullmann, TDNT VI: 110; W. Schneider, NIDNTT II: 365). For a different view see Barrett, Signs, 71.
Ronald Y. K. Fung, The Epistle to the Galatians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1988), 109.
This PERIPHRASTIC PLUPERFECT PASSIVE VERB speaks of something that had already happened, that had become a settled position and had been performed by the outside agent. This construction does not imply that Peter continued in this attitude. Also notice that the leader of the Apostolic group made a mistake. The Apostles were inspired to write trustworthy and eternal Scripture but this never implied that they did not have sin or did not make poor choices in other areas!
Robert James Utley, Paul’s First Letters: Galatians and I & II Thessalonians, Study Guide Commentary Series, (Marshall, TX: Bible Lessons International, 1997), Volume 11:21.
In short, teaching a works salvation, by word or by deed, is deadly, eternally dangerous. And very plainly, doing it to please the legalists among us is not an acceptable choice.
I mean, if Peter can lose his salvation over this issue, who among us should feel more secure than the apostle?
I know I’m going long, but please consider this further passage —
(Rom 3:8 ESV) 8 And why not do evil that good may come?– as some people slanderously charge us with saying. Their condemnation is just.
Paul teaches grace. God forgives the sins of the saved. And not surprisingly, just as is true today, to some, this sounds like teaching that sin is okay and obedience unnecessary. Therefore, Paul’s enemies accused him of exactly that.
Paul says that those who slandered Paul for teaching grace are justly condemned. Condemned! Not just mistaken. Not just out of fellowship. Damned.
Why? Because they deny salvation by faith, insisting on adding works to faith.