Pauline Studies | Galatians 2 Bible study

Living Word Magazine

Chapter 2

In Defence of the Gospel V1 - 10.  

2.1. Then after fourteen years I went up to Jerusalem1 again with Barnabas, taking Titus along too.


There was a space of fourteen years before Paul visit Jerusalem again, this time he took Barnabas who was a Jew (Acts 4: 36 -37, Acts 11:25, 29 -30) and Titus with him who was a Greek convert of Paul’s therefore a Gentile (Titus 1:4, 2 Corinthians 8:23).


2.2. I went there because of a revelation and presented to them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. But I did so only in a private meeting with the influential people, to make sure that I was not running — or had not run — in vain.


He did not go according to his own plan and purpose neither had the leaders of the church in Jerusalem sent for him but by divine revelation and direction. The reason that he went was that he might have a private meeting with the recognised leaders of the church and to state before them the Gospel message he was proclaiming to the Gentiles. This he did so that they could judge if the message of salvation he was proclaiming was in accordance with theirs (Acts 15:4, 12). Their verdict on his ministry would confirm that his labour was not in vain (Phil. 2: 16).


2.3. Yet not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, although he was a Greek.


Titus being a Gentile believer would not have been circumcised therefore in bringing him to Jerusalem and amongst the Jewish leaders Paul was testing them to see if they truly stood on salvation by faith. The leaders of the church passed the test for they did not insist that Titus should be circumcised (Acts 15: 5,23 - 24).  


2.4. Now this matter arose because of the false brothers with false pretenses who slipped in unnoticed to spy on our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, to make us slaves.


However, there were those present who managed to sneak in under false pretences who insisted that Gentile believers had to be circumcised according to the law given by Moses in order to be properly saved (Acts 15: 1 - 2).


2.5. But we did not surrender to them even for a moment, in order that the truth of the gospel would remain with you.


Paul did not give in an inch to these people although they debated the matter for many hours but stood firm to the Gospel of truth in order that Gentile believers should not be led astray by their false doctrine.


2.6. But from those who were influential (whatever they were makes no difference to me; God shows no favoritism between people ) — those influential leaders added nothing to my message.


Although these Jews seemed to hold positions of authority it did not deter Paul from making a stand for the truth. They may have been senior apostles to him but they did not add or distract from the message of salvation that he had received by revelation from Christ. Paul never compromised the Gospel message no matter whom he faced whether they were apostles, prophets, priests or kings! He brings out of this situation the truth that God has no favourites for He is impartial and just (Deut. 10:17).


2.7 - 9. On the contrary, when they saw that I was entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised just as Peter was to the circumcised (for he who empowered Peter for his apostleship to the circumcised also empowered me for my apostleship to the Gentiles) and when James, Cephas, and John, who had a reputation as pillars, recognized the grace that had been given to me, they gave to Barnabas and me the right hand of fellowship, agreeing that we would go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised.


The outcome of this debate was that when the leading apostles, James, Peter and John, could see the work of grace that had been given to Paul and heard of the testimony of many Gentiles coming to know Christ they gave Paul and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that is they accepted them as one with them. It was agreed that they should take the Gospel message to the Gentiles and Peter and the other apostles to the Jews.   The same Spirit who had anointed Peter to effectively preach the Gospel to the Jews was the same Spirit that was in Paul to effectively preach the Gospel to the Gentiles (1 Thess. 2: 4).    


2.10. They requested only that we remember the poor, the very thing I also was eager to do.


The only suggestion made to them was that they should continue to remember the poor, that would have been those Christians living in Judea. This was the very thing that Paul had in mind to do (Acts 11: 29 - 30, Acts 24: 17, Hebrews 13:16).  


An uncompromising Gospel V11 - 21.

2.11. But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he had clearly done wrong.


Peter was most probably visiting Antioch to see how the Gentile Christians were continuing in the faith when an incident happened that Paul found it necessary to correct him for. When it came to the Word of God Paul never shrunk from his responsibility to point out the error or heresies to them face on.  


2.12. Until certain people came from James, he had been eating with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he stopped doing this and separated himself because he was afraid of those who were pro-circumcision.


When only Gentile believers were present Peter joined them in their meals, he became like one of them (1 Cor. 9: 20 - 23). However, when other Jews arrived from Jerusalem sent by James he withdrew and would not sit or have anything to do with them. (Note a Jew was not allowed to sit and eat with Gentiles otherwise they were considered to be ritual unclean.) Paul would not compromise on any point that would detract from the Gospel message and therefore opposed Peter’s behaviour to his face.


2.13. And the rest of the Jews also joined with him in this hypocrisy, so that even Barnabas was led astray with them by their hypocrisy.


Because of his hypocritical behaviour he had caused others to do the same, even Paul's companion and fellow labourer Barnabas. Why did Peter behave in this manner?   Because he was afraid of the men who had come from James (Proverbs 29:25, Heb. 13: 6). It is not clear whether these men were sent by James or that they just came from the church in Jerusalem where James was.    


2.14. But when I saw that they were not behaving consistently with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of them all, "If you, although you are a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you try to force the Gentiles to live like Jews?"


When Paul saw that these brethren, including Peter were not being straightforward concerning the truth of the Gospel, that is, saved by grace not by law, he challenged their inconsistencies. If they as Jews could live like Gentiles how can they compel Gentiles to live like Jews? The New Living Testament has "Since you, a Jew by birth, have discarded the Jewish laws and are living like a Gentile, why are you now trying to make these Gentiles follow the Jewish traditions?


2.15 - 16. We are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners, yet we know  that no one is justified by the works of the law but by the faithfulness of Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by the faithfulness of Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.


He went on to say that although He and Peter were Jews by birth and not heathen Gentiles they knew that no man can be justified by the law or the keeping of the law but only by faith in Jesus Christ. They had therefore believed on the Lord Jesus Christ and were saved and justified by faith alone (Acts 16: 31).


2.17. "But if while seeking to be justified in Christ we ourselves have also been found to be sinners, is Christ then one who encourages sin? Absolutely not!


If they as Jews while seeking to be justified by faith in Jesus Christ were convicted of sin and were as much sinners as the Gentiles does this mean Christ a minister, a party, to their sin? His answer is God forbid banish the thought! "Christ does not promote sin in releasing us from bondage to a legalistic system" (SFB)


2.18 - 19. But if I build up again those things I once destroyed, I demonstrate that I am one who breaks God's law. For through the law I died to the law so that I may live to God.


Whoever goes back from Christ to legalism, the law, is a transgressor. By the law we are made to realise that we are sinners but the law gave no power to overcome sin but the law brought us to Christ (Rom. 3: 20, Gal. 3: 24).


2.20. I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So the life I now live in the body, I live because of the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.


The believer is united by Christ in His death for He died in their place taking their sins upon Himself and with Him to the grave. He has died to the old life, the old nature and risen with Him into a new life (2 Corinthians 5:17). Therefore, he no longer lives for himself or to himself according to the dictates of sin and the devil but he lives by faith completely trusting in the finished work of Jesus Christ (Colossians 2: 9 - 10) who loved and gave Himself for us (John 3: 16).  


2.21. I do not set aside God's grace, because if righteousness could come through the law, then Christ died for nothing!


No Compromising the Gospel! If we can earn salvation by keeping the law then the Cross becomes obsolete. The Grace of God is accounted as nothing and Christ died for no purpose, God forbid, banish the thought! "Saved by Grace alone this is all my plea. Jesus  died for all mankind, and Jesus died for me."


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