Paul Accepted by the Apostles
2 Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along with me. I went up because of a revelation and set before them (though privately before those who seemed influential) the gospel that I proclaim among the Gentiles, in order to make sure I was not running or had not run in vain. But even Titus, who was with me, was not forced to be circumcised, though he was a Greek. Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in—who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery—to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you. And from those who seemed to be influential (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)—those, I say, who seemed influential added nothing to me. On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel to the circumcised (for he who worked through Peter for his apostolic ministry to the circumcised worked also through me for mine to the Gentiles), and when James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.
Paul Opposes Peter
But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?”
Justified by Faith
We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.
But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.
Galatians 2 Commentary
by Hank Workman
The tension was high. I was a missionary attending an English speaking congregation and was actively involved in some ministries. An all-church meeting was called to deal with some issues when it turned ugly. The pastor of the church was leading the congregation down a path the Body and leadership did not fully agree with. He also had begun operating in extreme arrogance and was isolating himself from his flock. Voices rose. Anger boiled. At one point the pastor’s wife literally walked the aisles pointing to people and saying terrible things about members. It was one of the most dramatic and awkward scenes I had ever encountered that far in my Christian life.
After that evening, I left and never returned. Then one by one over the months more and more of the expat missionaries did the same. In time, God took the ugliness and brought about a beautiful thing. A new congregation sprung up in the city.
As Paul recalls his own personal return to Jerusalem and meeting with the church leadership I sense the same tension was present. In fact, I believe it turned downright ugly. Paul and Barnabas had been out evangelizing through their first missionary journey. As already noted from chapter 1, Paul had been speaking freedom in Christ to all people, including the Gentiles.
Hardline Jewish converts and the church leadership were struggling with this as they believed Gentiles could come to Jesus but still were caught up in their laws and regulations. The boiling point came as Paul confronted the leaders boldly. In particular, he called out Peter who had flip-flopped on his stance. Calling him a hypocrite, Peter had waffled even though Jesus had spoken directly to him about Cornelius and that miraculous story. Peter had given into the pressure from church leadership to tow the line. Ultimately, he cared more of what people thought of him rather than what God had instructed.
It was brutal.
But beauty came out of the ugly. Paul going to the leadership, even though it was tough, prevented a church split. In the end, as he mentions, the pillars of the church specifically John, Peter, and James extended their hands and offered their backing for the ministry of which Paul was called. The beauty was by their approval now their ministry could continue in Jerusalem while Paul’s would go out to the lost Gentiles. More would be reached and saved by Jesus.
The work of the cross affects all of us. The grace of Jesus is extended to all people. Paul lived by this theme and reached so many because of it. His heart was pliable and He was attuned to the Holy Spirit and His leading. Yes, Paul had to have some tough conversations but God used those to further His kingdom.
We are saved by grace. We are on mission for Jesus. Is it easy for us to be swayed by others who don’t agree to the calling He has given? Or will we set our faces like flint and follow no matter how difficult, even at the cost of relationships and tough awkward conversations?
Galatians 2 Commentary
by Brad Boyles
As we read in Chapter 1 of Galatians, Paul’s message that he was delivering to the Gentiles came straight from God. In so many words, he was establishing that he was not the apostles’ “messenger boy.” His work was independent of the work they were doing. After 3 years, he came back to get acquainted with Peter and also met James, but then he went away again to preach the Gospel. Here in Chapter 2, we pick up on the second visit to Jerusalem in which he will interact with the apostles once again. It would be about 11 years after the first visit (or 14 years from his conversion).
Paul’s main point is that his Gospel is the real thing. It was not some abbreviated, second-hand instruction that required further “laws” from the “real Jewish believers.” The Galatian believers could trust it because it was directly from God. In fact, in many ways, it was the Jewish version that had been corrupted. The Jews had tacked on circumcision to the Salvation message and required it in order to be saved.
In this letter, he establishes that his message is the real deal. He also establishes, however, that the apostles agree his message is the real deal. Paul knew that unity was important. That is why he gets so emotional over his Jewish brothers who have compromised on the truth.
Paul was a smart guy. He decided to bring Titus along with him to the conference in Jerusalem. In doing this, he forced the council to make a decision about the Salvation of uncircumcised Gentiles. If they were to say that Titus (a Greek) was not a true believer, it was a clear message that Gentiles must convert to Jews before they can be saved. However, if they decided Titus was indeed part of the church, then all believers would need to recognize that Gentiles were equal members of the body.
The entire issue arose when false converts infiltrated the church. They were neither adhering to Judaism nor Christianity. They professed Christ which disqualified them from Judaism. But, they required old laws and traditions to be saved which disqualified them from Christianity. This was the enemy’s plan to derail the early church and we should take special note of it. These “false brothers,” as Paul calls them, were putting people back in chains instead of proclaiming their freedom through grace.
Paul didn’t put up with it for a second. In order to preserve the message of grace, Paul stood up for truth. In order to preserve what he knew was truth, he continued to preach grace through faith alone. Within the world we live, it’s so easy to fall prey to Jesus + ______ = Salvation. This letter to the Galatians reminds us that it’s always just been about Jesus. His grace is truly unearned, undeserved and completely transformative.