Then fourteen years after I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with me also. 2And I went up by revelation, and communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to them which were of reputation, lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain. 3But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised: 4And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage: 5To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you. 6But of these who seemed to be somewhat, (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man’s person:) for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me:
As Paul continues his autobiography, he states that he “went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas” after fourteen years (Galatians 2:1). The book of Acts talks about two different trips Paul made to Jerusalem. One is found in Acts 11:27-30 when he made a trip to Jerusalem to provide relief funds for the famine stricken of Judea. The other is found in Acts 15:1-35 when Paul went down to Jerusalem to defend his teachings concerning the Gentiles not needing to keep the Old Testament laws such as circumcision. It is not totally clear which of these two visits Paul refers to. The latter seems most likely. In either case, Paul says that he explained to them his gospel (Galatians 2:2). When he did this he obviously discussed circumcision since he points out the fact that Titus, who had not been circumcised, was not required to be by those with whom he spoke (Galatians 2:3). Paul’s point in telling this is so that the Galatians would understand that (1) Paul “did not yield in submission even for a moment” (Galatians 2:5) and (2) that those who seemed to be influential “added nothing to me” (Galatians 2:6).
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 8(for he who worked through Peter for his apostolic ministry to the circumcised worked also through me for mine to the Gentiles), 9and 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. 10Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.
Although his teaching did not come from them, evidence of approval of Paul’s teaching by those in Jerusalem took place in several ways:
The only requirement that was placed upon Paul was “they asked us to remember the poor” (Galatians 2:10). With this Paul ends his explanation of how he received the gospel which he preached: it was given to him by revelation directly from God and was in no way a message from men. This is why Paul had warned them that “even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8). The gospel he had preached was directly from God.
But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12For 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. 13And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14But 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?”
15We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16yet 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.
Because Paul’s gospel was directly from God, he had confidence to face false teachings and practices wherever they came from. Paul gives the example of Peter. “But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned” (Galatians 2:11). We do not know when this confrontation took place. However, the situation is that Peter had been in Antioch (a mostly Gentile populated city about 300 miles north of Jerusalem and located on the northeastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea) long enough that everyone knew that he had no problem eating with the Gentiles until others of another persuasion came along (Galatians 2:12). Then his behavior changed which also effected the behavior of others such as Barnabas. When Paul saw that they “acted hypocritically” (Galatians 2:13) he confronted their behavior even though it meant confronting one of the “pillars” of the church (Galatians 2:14-16). His argument was:
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! 18For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. 19For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ. 20It 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. 21I do not nullify the grace of God, for if justification were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.
Paul, as he often does, anticipates a question that might be asked. The question is, “If salvation is by faith, then I don’t have to worry about sin so I might as well sin a lot. If I do that then isn’t Christ a servant of sin?” (see Galatians 2:17). Paul uses the strongest negative that is in his vocabulary. Various translators say, “Certainly not!” or “May it never be!” or “What a ghastly thought!” In other words, there is no way that this can be true! The reason is the change that takes place in those who give themselves to Christ. Paul describes that change by saying, “I died to the law, so that I might live to God” (Galatians 2:19). How does that death take place? It is by crucifixion! “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” (Galatians 2:19-20). This is the change that each follower of Christ is expected to make. In his letter to the Romans, Paul describes this change, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:1-2).
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