Galatians 2:1-14

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.

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?”

Observation

  • Paul went to Jerusalem the second time 14 years after the first time he went to Jerusalem.
  • Paul went to Jerusalem with Barnabas and Titius.
  • Paul went to Jerusalem because of a revelation he had received.
  • Paul set before the leaders of the church in Jerusalem the Gospel he preached to the gentiles.
  • Paul privately laid out to the leaders in Jerusalem the gospel he preached.
  • Paul laid out the gospel he preached to the leaders in Jerusalem in order to be sure he was correct.
  • Titus was not circumcised.
  • Titus was not forced to be circumcised.
  • Titus was not a Jew.
  • Titus was Greek.
  • Those who slipped into the session Paul was having with the leaders in Jerusalem, Paul refers to as false brothers.
  • The false brothers slipped in to spy on the freedom Christians have in Christ Jesus.
  • The false brothers were trying to bring them into slavery.
  • Paul and his party did not yield to the false brothers even a little.
  • The reason Paul and his party did not yield was so the gospel would be preserved.
  • The leaders in Jerusalem added nothing to what Paul was preaching.
  • God shows no partiality between those who lead and those who are led.
  • The fact that some were influential did not affect Paul and his interaction with them.
  • The leaders in Jerusalem, rather than changing Paul’s preaching, welcomed Paul’s preaching.
  • Paul had been entrusted with preaching the gospel to the gentiles or the uncircumcised
  • Peter’s ministry was to the circumcised.
  • God worked through both Peter and Paul.
  • James, Cephas and John were the pillars of the church in Jerusalem.
  • James, Cephas and John recognized the grace that was given to Paul.
  • James, Cephas and John encouraged Paul to continue to go to the gentiles while James, Cephas, and John went to the Jews.
  • The only input the church in Jerusalem gave was to ask Paul to remember the poor.
  • Paul was eager to remember the poor.
  • Cephas came to Antioch
  • Paul opposed Cephais in Antioch face to face.
  • Cephais stood condemned.
  • While Paul and Cephais were in Antioch men came from James.
  • Before the men from James arrived Cephais ate with Gentiles
  • After the men from James came Cephais separated himself from the gentiles.
  • Cepahis feared those who were circumcised.
  • The rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with Cephais.
  • Barnabas was led astray by Cephais and the other Jews hypocrisy.
  • The conduct of Cephas and the Jews was not consistent with the gospel.
  • When Paul realized what was happening, he confronted Cephias publicly.
  • Paul asked Cephias, if you are a Jew but don’t keep all the law of Judaism. How can you force the gentiles to keep the Laws of Judaism?

Interpretation

Paul’s preached justification was by faith in Christ alone. The works of the Law were not a requirement for salvation. This is the gospel he reported to the leaders of the church in Jerusalem. The “false brothers” could not accept such freedom. They fiercely opposed Paul and asserted that the Law must be kept. They claimed, the Gentiles must be circumcised in order to receive salvation. The false brothers asserted circumcision was essential for salvation. This was in direct opposition to what Paul preached, justification is by faith alone.

Paul was not summoned to Jerusalem by the apostles. He went to Jerusalem in response to a revelation he received from God. While he was in Jerusalem, the question which the apostles deliberated was: “Is the observance of the Law a requisite for justification?” The opinion that obedience to the Law was a requirement for salvation was gaining in popularity.

Paul points out that to the Galatians, the apostles in Jerusalem agreed with his preaching. They did not correct him by adding to or subtracting anything from what he preached. And he even mentions some of the apostles who were there in Jerusalem by name. Chephas (Peter), James, John. What this means is the theology of Paul is the theology of Peter, which is the theology of James, which is the theology of John. In other words, any attempt to divide the apostles teaching, that is, claiming they preached different gospels, would be falling into the same error the false teachers in Galatia did. For example, anyone who claims Paul’s teaching on a subject contradictions or is in opposition to Peter’s teaching is simply misinterpreting scripture.

To emphasize the point that circumcision was not a requirement for salvation, Paul points out that Titus, an uncircumcised Greek, accompanied him to the council in Jerusalem. Titus stood there in front of the church leaders, an uncircumcised gentile. They could have required Titus to be circumcised but they did not. The outcome of the council was obedience to the Law was not a requirement for salvation. Paul, however, never condemns circumcision. But he insists it should not be forced upon the Gentiles.

The false teachers could not accept the liberty we have in Christ. The Law, they rightly claimed, was from God. The Law was divine and holy. But the Law cannot justify. It can only inform us that we are not righteous. The Law cannot deliver from sin. It simply reveals that we are sinners destined to death and hell. The Gospel though says, not what I must do, but what Christ, the Son of God, has done for me. Therefore the Law cannot be a requisite for salvation.

Paul refers to Moses (Lev 19:15) in verse 6 when he says, “what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality” Here Paul directly confronts the claim of the false teachers that he was the least of the apostles and they represented the greater apostles. Here Paul correctly points out, God alone is to be feared and honored. As Peter said in Acts 5:29, “We must obey God rather than men.”

Paul also turns the false teachers attack on him on themselves. All the apostles agreed, Peter was to be an apostle to the circumcised, and Paul was to be an apostle to the uncircumcised. In other words, the apostles agreed with Paul’s teaching and not with the false teachers.

Some have claimed Paul is boasting here. But Paul is not boasting. He is concerned with the Gospel and it being rightly proclaimed. That is the reason why Paul is taking such pains to show that he is teaching the same gospel as the other apostles. That is the reason he is demonstrating the he is equal with the other apostles, the gospel he preaches is to be received as truth from God. The reason Paul’s gospel is to be received as truth from God is that, it is truth from God. Paul received it directly from God not having been taught it by anyone else.

Paul sums this up by reminding the Galatians that he confronted Peter regarding the very thing the false teachers were teaching. Peter did not keep the law until the Jews, sent from James, arrived. Again this demonstrates Paul was not less than Peter, he corrected Peter when Peter was in the wrong. Paul was Peter’s peer as an apostle.

Paul goes on and says even Barnabas was led astray by Peter. It is comforting to know that even the great saints can and do sin. Paul’s reproof of Peter was for no small thing. It was for the central and chief article of Christian doctrine, justification by faith alone. Peter’s hypocrisy had endangered himself and others who followed his example. But to Peter’s credit, he took correction and acknowledged his sin.

Application

God was patient with the Jews. It was impossible for new converts from Judaism to suddenly break away from the Law. God is also patient with us. As we stumble through life we get many things wrongs. Often our theology is wrong but God is full of mercy and grace. But we dare not abuse the God’s mercy. We need to accept his correction. We need to carefully study of the scripture. We dare not continue in error now that the He has revealed the truth in His scripture.

But men continue to add to the gospel. Man cannot accept the fact that the good news is really that good. We believe we have to do something in order to be worthy of salvation. We have to add something to what Christ has done. We cannot accept the fact that Christ life, death, resurrection and ascension is enough. Like the false teacher in Galatia, we believe we must add to the work of Christ. For them it was circumcision. For many in the church today it is the belief that you have to “accept Christ.” In other words, we believe we must add to what Christ has done. Christ’s work, by itself, is insufficient.

The Gospel declares that salvation is a gift from God. But here again we try to pervert that gift by claiming we must make the decision to receive that gift by faith. We forget that even that faith is a gift from God. (Ephesians 2: 8-9)

Human reasoning can only think in terms of the Law. We search for a cause for God’s mercy. We reason “I have done this, I have not done that.” We search for a reason why some are the recipients of grace and others are not. We reason that it must be because of something they have or have not done. But faith looks to Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and what he has done. His gave his life for our sins. To turn away from Jesus means to turn back to the Law. True faith lays hold of Christ and leans on Him alone. But we deny Christ and hold stubbornly to our works.

But praise God for his rich mercy! As he was patient with the Jews so He is patient with us. Though we rebel against Him, God’s love for us is without measure. He gently corrects and nurtures us. Throughout human history God has shown His mercy. Job and Jeremiah cursed the day they were born. When life over whelmed them, Elijah and Jonah both prayed for death. The great saints of history have fallen into despair. Peter, the rock, fell but Christ raised him up. No one is so secure in themselves that they cannot fall. But we can take comfort in the fact that the one who raised them up will raise us up. We have the same gift they had. We have the same Christ, the same baptism, the same Gospel and the same forgiveness of sins.

When we fall we should not seek counsel from either reason or from the Law, but rest on the grace of God and in His Word. The Law has its place, to convict us of our sin. But rest in the grace and mercy of the Gospel. Search the Scriptures with humility, praying that we may never lose the sight of the Gospel.

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