In our study of Galatians chapter two, we will look at grace which is the only way that we are saved. Paul shares two of his meetings with spiritual leaders and both of them remind us that it is about the grace of God and not our works.
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Fourteen years later I went up again to Jerusalem, this time with Barnabas. I took Titus along also.
So, Paul traveled around sharing the gospel and fourteen years later he went back to Jerusalem. The "church" in Jerusalem was made up of Jews and Paul took with him Titus who was a Gentile convert. We notice that Paul did not get his instructions, financing, or approval from the leaders in Jerusalem during those years.
I went in response to a revelation and set before them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. But I did this privately to those who seemed to be leaders, for fear that I was running or had run my race in vain.
Paul tells us that God told him to go there and to tell them of the gospel that he was sharing with the Gentiles. Paul wanted to be sure that the gospel that he was preaching was the same as they were sharing with the Jews in Jerusalem. Paul understood that there was only one way to be saved and he wanted to make sure that he was not misleading people.
Yet not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek. This matter arose because some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves.
There was a controversy going on in Jerusalem over following the Mosaic Law. Paul says that Titus, a Gentile, was not forced to be circumcised even though some men were trying to make believers slaves to the law again. He even says that the controversy was started by people that had not even truly accepted Jesus Christ. Without Christ, they were slaves to the law and wanted others to be as well. What Paul is saying about being a slave is the fact that, if you trust in the law instead of grace for salvation, then the standard is absolute perfection. That means that you would have to keep all of the law all of the time with no slip-ups and that made you a slave to the law where grace makes us free in Christ.
We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might remain with you.
Paul and his companions did not compromise on the issue of grace. When you add keeping any part of the law, as a requirement for salvation, it is no longer by grace. Then, you get more and more people trying to add another rule (law) and, before you know it, the gospel is distorted into being about what we do instead of what God has done.
As for those who seemed to be important - whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not judge by external appearance - those men added nothing to my message.
God does not care about the title that the world gives you. Paul tells us that the leaders of the church in Jerusalem did not have anything to add to his message.
On the contrary, they saw that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles, just as Peter had been to the Jews. For God, who was at work in the ministry of Peter as an apostle to the Jews, was also at work in my ministry as an apostle to the Gentiles.
The leaders in Jerusalem were able to see that God had given Paul his ministry to the Gentiles. It did not replace any ministry (such as Peter's) but it was also something that God had planned for Paul to do. Some people get upset or jealous over another person doing the ministry that God has laid out for them or even try to do it themselves. When the ministry is from God, it will be obvious for others to see just as it was here with Paul.
James, Peter and John, those reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the Jews.
The elders in Jerusalem simply told Paul to do what God had told him and that they would do what God had told them. When God is in control and people see it, then we should all be willing and able to yield to His will. That is what happened here and, if we would all simply trust and listen to God, it could happen with all of the ministries and groups of believers around the world today. What a beautiful sight it would be to see the Body of Christ functioning as He planned it!
All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.
The leaders and Paul stayed focused on serving and telling people about Jesus Christ. Service to the poor is a natural thing that flows out of you because of the love of God that is in you. This is what the apostle John was talking about in his first letter to the believers (1 John 4:7).
When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong.
The second example takes place in Antioch which was a mixed church as it had both Jewish and Gentile believers that met together. This is a clear lesson for us about unity versus purity of the gospel. Paul did not just let Peter go on doing what he knew was wrong but instead he confronted him about his actions.
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.
Now, Paul describes the problem that he had with Peter and is was simply that he was acting one way around the brothers in Antioch but another way when others showed up. In this church at Antioch, the Gentiles would eat all kinds of food that the Jews were forbidden to eat by the Mosaic Law. Peter, a Jew, knew that he was no longer under the law and that he could eat anything (because of his vision in Acts 10) and so he joined the Gentiles at the table and ate as they did. But, when the Jews from the church in Jerusalem showed up, he would not eat with the Gentiles. We, as Christians, need to be consistent in our walk and in our freedom. When someone tries to put us back under the law, we need to stand up and proclaim our freedom in Jesus Christ.
The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.
It was bad enough that Peter was saying one thing and doing another but, by being a bad example, he had an impact on those around him. He was known to be an apostle and so was given respect and authority which caused others to do the same thing including Barnabas. That is one of the reasons why we, as Christians, should strive to be like Jesus and not any man. Jesus (the Good Shepherd) will never lead His sheep astray.
When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter 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?'
Paul publicly corrected Peter with a question. Basically, Paul asked how Peter could enjoy the freedom that he has in Jesus Christ and yet deny that freedom and in fact try to put the Gentiles back to bondage of the law. This may seem harsh but the same question could and should be asked to many "religious leaders" today.
'We who are Jews by birth and not "Gentile sinners" know that a man is not justified by observing 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 observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.'
Three times, in this passage, Paul reminds Peter and us as well that it is only by faith in Jesus that we are made right with God. There is only one way for anyone to be saved and that always was and always will be through the blood of Jesus. There are no exceptions as all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. This is the same message that Paul shared in his letter to the Romans.
'If, while we seek to be justified in Christ, it becomes evident that we ourselves are sinners, does that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not!'
We are made right with God through the blood of Christ but we still live in sinful world. Jesus loves us but He does not promote sin and wants us to live free from the effects of sin. This process is called sanctification and is a work of the Holy Spirit.
'If I rebuild what I destroyed, I prove that I am a lawbreaker. For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.'
Jesus kept the law perfectly and was therefore the perfect sacrifice for our sins. Through Him, we die to the law and are no longer under law but are under grace. When we accept that gift of grace, the old self is crucified and we are a new creation with Christ living in us.
'The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.'
After we are crucified with Christ, He lives in us, through the Holy Spirit, and that life is by faith. That new life is trusting Him in every situation and following His guidance.
'I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!'
When you try to add anything to grace then it stops being grace which is a gift. If there would have been any other way for us to be fully restored in our relationship with God, then there would have been no reason for Jesus to go to the cross.