Galatians 2

The Gospel

The church has always had to contend with false teaching, so when the churches at Galatia were faced with those who wanted to add to the gospel, Paul addressed the issues directly. The churches of Galatia had been infiltrated by false teachers who sought to undermine Paul's authority and insinuated that his gospel was different from the one proclaimed by Peter. Paul details a visit made to Jerusalem with Barnabas, a Jew, and Titus, a Gentile. Paul went to see the apostles in Jerusalem because of a revelation from God, and there he sought to clarify the gospel he preached to the Gentiles. This meeting would serve as an opportunity to remove any doubt or confusion about his teaching when the Judaizers tried to subvert him. Paul went to destroy any influence they might have with the apostles in Jerusalem. Paul was so confident in the gospel that he brought his Gentile friend to Jerusalem for the meeting to establish the truth that there is only one gospel. The leaders in Jerusalem did not require Titus to be circumcised for salvation because he was a Gentile. Judaizer spies gained entrance to the meeting to try and force Titus into the slavery of the law, but Paul says they would not yield to their demands to preserve the truth of the gospel. Titus was saved by grace through faith alone in Jesus Christ. The apostles in Jerusalem did not impose any such requirements either. Paul asserts that even the most influential of the apostles did not add anything to the gospel. Paul states clearly that the apostles in Jerusalem affirmed that the gospel he preached to the Gentiles was the same gospel Peter preached to the Jews. Jesus' closest disciples Peter, James, and John could see the grace of God that was given to Paul, and they recognized his authority as an apostle. These men were considered pillars in Jerusalem, and they recognized Paul as a ministry partner who taught the same gospel which did not require circumcision for salvation. Paul and his friends were given the right hand of fellowship and commended for their service to the Gentiles. They asked Paul to remember the poor in the Jerusalem church which Paul was eager to do because he frequently sought to raise funds for the poor Jewish believers in Jerusalem. 

Leaders Clash

Paul uses this place in the letter to expose the conflict that arose between him and Peter when Peter came to Antioch for a visit. Paul is not using this as an opportunity to say that he is superior to Peter. Instead, he uses their conflict to show that the issues between Jews and Gentiles was nothing new and he and Peter had worked through them while in conflict. Antioch is the place where the followers of Jesus were first called Christians, and it is the genesis of the Gentile mission. In a public setting, Paul opposes Peter directly over his behavior. Peter and Paul had always agreed on the gospel, but Peter's conduct at this moment could not be reconciled with the gospel they both taught, so Paul opposed him to his face. When Peter first arrived in Antioch, he shared meals regularly with the Gentile Christians. However, after some men came from Jerusalem, Peter separated himself from these Gentile believers out of fear. Peter's actions influenced others including Barnabas who was led astray in their hypocrisy. Imagine how these Gentile believers felt after Peter withdrew from fellowship with them. Paul would not sit idly by and allow their conduct to continue. It was a public scandal, and so Paul addressed it publicly. Paul is determined to uphold the gospel at all costs including airing conflict with another influential leader publicly. 

Justified By Faith In Christ

Paul shows the attitudes of some Jewish people toward the Gentiles when he calls them Gentile sinners, but he reminds the Galatians that people are not justified by works but through faith in Jesus Christ. No one can be justified by the law because no one can keep the law. Paul answers the objections that he anticipates when he asserts that although the law justifies no one, Christ is not promoting sin when people abandon the law as a means of justification. Paul teaches that the law cannot save anyone, so why would someone turn back to the law after turning to Jesus. Christ's death and resurrection frees us from the curse of the law. The believer looks to Christ as the object of faith is united to him so that his life is their life and the life they live is the life of faith in Christ and not one's ability to keep the law. If righteousness could be obtained through the law, then Christ dies in vain. One can only be saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ Jesus.

Things To Consider:

  • Why do you think Paul took Titus to meet with some of the apostles in Jerusalem?
  • Why is it important to clearly define doctrine?
  • What are works we sometimes look to for salvation?
  • How should church leaders be confirmed today?
  • How should believers handle conflict?
  • Do you think it wise to handle conflict publicly? Why or why not?
  • Does influence scare you? Why?
  • Are there any circumstances that you can think of where conflict should be handled publicly?
  • What is the law for if it cannot save you?
  • How does faith, life, and righteousness all come from Jesus?