1 Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along with me. 2 I went up in response to a revelation. Then I laid before them (though only in a private meeting with the acknowledged leaders) the gospel that I proclaim among the Gentiles, in order to make sure that I was not running, or had not run, in vain.
3 But even Titus, who was with me, was not compelled to be circumcised, though he was a Greek. 4 But because of false believers secretly brought in, who slipped in to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might enslave us—5 we did not submit to them even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might always remain with you. 6 And from those who were supposed to be acknowledged leaders (what they actually were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)—those leaders contributed nothing to me.
7 On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel for the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel for the circumcised 8 (for he who worked through Peter making him an apostle to the circumcised also worked through me in sending me to the Gentiles), 9 and when James and Cephas and John, who were acknowledged pillars, recognized the grace that had been given to me, they gave to Barnabas and me the right hand of fellowship, agreeing that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. 10 They asked only one thing, that we remember the poor, which was actually what I was eager to do.
11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood self-condemned; 12 for until certain people came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But after they came, he drew back and kept himself separate for fear of the circumcision faction. 13 And the other Jews joined him in this hypocrisy, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that they were not acting consistently 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 compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?" 15 We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is justified not by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ.
And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we might be justified by faith in Christ, and not by doing the works of the law, because no one will be justified by the works of the law. 17 But if, in our effort to be justified in Christ, we ourselves have been found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! 18 But if I build up again the very things that I once tore down, then I demonstrate that I am a transgressor.
19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; 20 and it is no longer I who live, but it is 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. 21 I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing.
- Paul continues his personal narrative. To make sure you feel the flow of his message, maybe it would be helpful to back up and begin reading from 1:12.
- During his private meeting with the apostles in Jerusalem, all agree on the gospel message. Though the Jerusalem apostles live in a culturally Jewish way, they are not binding the elements of Judaism on Gentile converts (v.2). Paul knew that if they and he disagreed on such a fundamental matter, all of his work for the Lord could be undone.
- Paul and the other apostles were in accord. There was no disagreement.
- As an example of their agreement, he mentions that not even Titus, who was a Gentile, was compelled to be circumcised (v.3).
- It was understood that just a Peter specialized in reaching the Jews, Paul specialized in reaching the Gentiles. (Of course Peter also converted Gentiles -- see Acts 10 -- just as Paul reached many Jews. Their ministries were not mutually exclusive.)
- The Jerusalem apostles only asked that Paul remember the poor (v.10). "Remember" does not refer to a mental act, or even to "remembering in prayer." It means remembering the poor in concrete ways.
- These are the poor Christians in Judea.
- Later, Paul would organize a special collection to meet their needs, as a symbol of Gentile love and appreciation for their Jewish Christian brothers. (See 1 Corinthians 16, Romans 15, 2 Corinthians 8-9.)
- However, despite his progress in building bridges between Jews and Gentiles (see Acts 10-11), Peter took a step backwards at Antioch, and was challenged publicly by Paul (v.11)
- Under the Torah, the kosher laws of Leviticus naturally led to Jews eating separately from Gentiles.
- Many, many early Christians came from a Jewish background and continued to observe kashrut.
- Things became tense when Pharisees and Zealots embarked on a campaign to enforce Torah. This Jewish reform movement seems to have spilled over into the church in the circumcision party (see Acts 15; 1 Timothy 1; Titus 1).
- When those of the circumcision faction (Judaizers) saw Peter eating with Gentile Christians -- not holding to kashrut -- they influenced him to distance himself from these Gentile believers. Even Barnabas, the bridge-builder par excellence, was led astray--perhaps out of a misguided sympathy for the Jerusalem church.
- Paul rightly saw that the freedom of the gospel was at stake, and accordingly publicly challenged the prince of the apostles! Fortunately, Peter backed down, nor did he hold it against Paul (see 2 Peter 3:15).
- After all, no one is justified by works of the law (vv.16ff).
- Then, for the first of three times in Galatians Paul says that he has been crucified:
- Crucified with Christ so that he lives by faith, not law (2:20). He has no desire to return to legalism; while appreciating the many contributions of the law, he is unaffected by the theology of the Judaizers. When he was crucified with Christ, he died to the law (v.19). For a similar thought, see the first paragraph of Romans 7.
- His flesh (sinful self) has been crucified (5:24). The flesh does not govern the apostle, but rather the Spirit, for he is attracted to Christ, not to the world.
- He has been crucified to the world and vice versa (6:14). The world, including worldly religious systems, has no pull on him.
- In sum, if righteousness could be attained by observing law, Jesus' death was superfluous (v.21)!
- Then, for the first of three times in Galatians Paul says that he has been crucified:
- The "fourteen years" seem to include the "three years" of 1:18. The initial visit, shortly after his conversion, was when Barnabas presented him to the apostles (Acts 9:27). He claims in Galatians to have "seen" only Peter and James (Galatians 1:18-19). Paul seems to be speaking of consultation, not literal sight or greeting. Thus we have the following chronology
- AD 30 -- start of church in Jerusalem
- AD 33 -- Paul baptized
- AD 36 -- Paul's initial visit to Jerusalem
- AD 46 -- Paul's second visit to see the apostles
- AD 48 -- First Missionary Journey (Acts 13)
- AD 48 -- Galatians is written
- AD 49 -- Jerusalem Council (Acts 15)
- The revelations mentioned in 2:2, as NT scholar Richard Longenecker points out, included dream visions (Acts 16:9; 18:9-10; 23:22; 27:23-24), trances (Acts 22:7-14; also 2 Cor 12:2-4), signs given by the Spirit (Acts 13:2; 16:6-7; 20:22-23; 21:6), and signs given by a prophet (Acts 11:28; 21:10-11).
- The Talmud speaks of the three "pillars" of Judaism, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who established the community of Israel and in fact the entire world (Exod. Rab. 15.7).
- Those theologians who, following Luther, pit Paul against James, fail to understand that grace and works are simply two sides of a coin. Moreover, there was no division between a Jerusalem movement, led by Peter, and a Gentile movement, led by Paul. If Peter and James were of one mind, and both felt comfortable with the gospel Paul preached, then many have exaggerated the differences in doctrine and emphasis between Paul and the other apostles.
- Click for a comment on verse 18.
- For more on grace and legalism, read this article from Christianity Today, another article by Gordon Ferguson, or yet another article by Tom Jones.
- For more on the connection of the Council of Acts 15 and Galatians, click here.
- V21 caps off Paul's comments rejecting legalism (2:15-16) as well as nomism (2:17-20). (Nomism is the requirement of living by Torah, even though Torah wasn't per se regarded as salvific.
- In light of Galatians 2:10, how eager am I to remember the poor?
- In light of Galatians 2:11, Do I have the courage to challenge other Christians when they are wrong and a serious biblical principle is at stake?
- Do I realize that I have been crucified with Christ? Or have I gotten down from the cross and figured out a way to negotiate? Am I surrendered (in practical areas like priorities, time management, finances, purity, patience...)?
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