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Galatians 2:1-2:21
Key Verse: 2:20

In chapter 1 we thought of the contents of the gospel that the Lord Jesus Christ gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age and God raised him from the dead, and thought of the uniqueness of the gospel for the salvation of mankind, with its origin from God, not human, different from a gospel. In today’s passage we can think about preserving the truth of the gospel and acting in line with the truth of the gospel. While dealing with these issues, Paul could not help speaking the essence of the gospel that man is justified by faith in Christ Jesus, not through the works of the law, and his confession of faith, “I have been crucified with faith…” May God enlighten our hearts with his words.

First, to preserve the truth of the gospel (1-10). Look at verse 1. “Fourteen years later I went up again to Jerusalem, this time with Barnabas. I took Titus along also.” This was his second visit to Jerusalem as he said, “I went up again.” Fourteen years later” was dating probably from his conversion, not from his first visit. Most scholars agree that the background of this visit was the event in Acts 11:27-30. There was a powerful work of God through the Bible teaching of Barnabas and Paul in the church in Antioch, Syria. It was at this Antioch church that the disciples were called Christians first. At that time a prophet named Agabus came from Jerusalem and predicted through the Spirit that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world. Hearing this, the disciples decided to provide help for the brothers and sisters living in Judea. They did so by sending their gift to Jerusalem church through Barnabas and Paul.

In verse 1 Paul specifically mentioned his companions in this journey, Barnabas and Titus. Barnabas who worked together with Paul to serve God’s work at Antioch was a Jew, well-known as Son of Encouragement in Jerusalem church, but Titus was a Greek. That is, Titus was an uncircumcised Gentile, himself a product of the very Gentile mission (which was then in dispute and which the Judaizers were challenging.)

Look at verse 2a. “I went in response to a revelation and set before them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles.” Here going in response to a revelation indicates “because God told him to go, not because the Jerusalem apostles had sent for him to put him on the mat.” What this revelation was we do not know, but the reference may be to Agabus’ prophecy of a famine, as a result of which Paul and Barnabas were sent to Jerusalem on a relief mission, as we thought of. And Paul said, “I set before them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles.” And he said continually in verse 2, “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.” It was not in any sense an official conference for his gospel presentation. Yet, this was a serious matter to Paul as to whether running his race of mission life in vain. He had a clear philosophy of life that one’s life should not be in vain, but bear fruit before God.

What happened in Jerusalem? Look at verse 3. “Yet not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek.” Surprisingly this was the general atmosphere in Jerusalem church at first. Then in verse 4, “This matter arose because some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ and to make us slaves.” Here the expression “false brothers” shows that they were Christians but false, so pseudo-Christians. They were almost certainly Judaizers. Their attitude toward Paul and his companions was different from that of Jerusalem apostles. We can sense that the Judaizers put pressure in a sneaky way like spies on Titus to be circumcised. Their slogan, as we had already thought of in chapter 1, was in Acts 15:1, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” Paul knew their motive to make the believers the slaves of Jewish legalism, robbing their God-given freedom in Christ.

What was Paul’s response when the matter of circumcision arose? He said in verse 5, “We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might remind with you.” To Paul it was not just a question of circumcision and uncircumcision, of Gentile and Jewish customs. It was a matter of fundamental importance regarding the truth of the gospel, namely, of Christion freedom versus bondage. What a precious freedom obtained through the death of Christ and received by faith! Being circumcised was bringing a free man into bondage again. Of this principle Titus was a test case. It is true that he was an uncircumcised Gentile, but he was a converted Christian. Having believed in Jesus, he had been accepted by God in Christ, and that, Paul said, was enough. Nothing further was necessary for his salvation, as the Council of Jerusalem was later to confirm (see Acts 15). So Paul stood firm. He resisted the pressure of the Judaizers, not giving in even for a moment.

Paul confessed in 1 Corinthians 9 that he became like the Jews to win the Jews, and like those not having the law to win them. Paul became all things to all people so that by all possible means he might save some (1 Cor 9:20-23). But in regards to preserving gospel faith, Paul was inflexible--a courageous fighter. Here we can learn from Paul. Generally we should concede in cultural matters. But in order to preserve the gospel and defend the faith of Christians, we must not give in to enemies of the gospel even for a moment. We must fight for the gospel truth as a matter of one’s eternal destiny.

On one occasion Franklin Graham said in regards to Muslims, "God loves them. I want them to know that they dont have to die in a car bomb, dont have to die in some kind of holy war to be accepted by God. But its through faith in Jesus Christ and Christ alone." He also said that the Muslim religion enslaves people, especially women, with legalism. As a result, the U.S. Army rescinded his invitation to speak at the national day of prayer. It was a painful rejection. But Mr. Graham did not waver in his stand for the gospel truth. Likewise, we must clearly and courageously stand on the gospel in any adverse circumstances.

Now the issue of the circumcision of one of his companions was resolved. After Paul’s another issue is dealt with. It was concerning his gospel message. Look at verse 6. “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.” Here those men are James, Peter and John according to the passage. In 1:17 he had already acknowledge them as the apostles before him. And in verse 2:9 he is to tell us that they gave him the right hand of fellowship. Why then does he refer to them in this roundabout way, sounding like a kind of derogatory to them? Probably it was due to the fact that the Judaizers were exaggerating the status of the Jerusalem apostles at the expense of his own. Anyhow, Paul made it clear that the apostles added nothing to his gospel message. They did not say, "Your message was okay, but you are missing this main point." Instead, they said, "Amen! What a beautiful, truthful gospel message."

Look at verses 7-9. “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. 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.” They also added that they wanted Paul and Barnabas to remember the poor, the poverty-stricken churches of Judea, which, Paul says, “was the very thing I was eager to do.” The truth of the gospel is one and unchanging. The apostles of Jesus Christ do not contradict one another in the New Testament. Certainly, there are differences of style between them, because their inspiration did not obliterate their individual personality. There are also differences of emphasis, because they were called to different spheres and preached or wrote to different audiences. Consequently, they stressed different aspects of the gospel. For example, Paul was writing against legalists and James against antinomians. But they complement one another. The apostles were taught by Christ Jesus and there is only one gospel preserved for us in the New Testament. Paul is at pains in this passage to show that he was in full agreement with the Jerusalem apostles and they with him. There is only one New Testament gospel, only one Christianity.

It is still to today. If there is only one gospel in the New Testament, there is only one gospel for the church. The gospel has not changed with the changing centuries. Whether it is preached to young or old, to east or west, to Jews or Gentiles, to cultured or uncultured, to scientists or non-scientists, although its presentation may vary, its substance is the same. Paul and Peter had a different commission, but they had a common message. We learn that God can work in any ministry that has the gospel message of the gospel truth.

Second, to act in line with the truth of the gospel (11-21). Look at verses 11-13. “When Peter

came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. 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. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.” This is really a rare event in the Bible. So far in this Epistle the name Peter is mentioned three times with positive expressions. On the first visit to Jerusalem he went there to get acquainted with Peter. On his second visit in the previous part, Paul recognized Peter as an apostle to the Jews and God blessed his ministry. And to Paul Peter was one of these reputed to be pillars of the Jerusalem church. Here Paul opposed Peter to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. Peter withdrew from eating with Gentiles because of his fear of the circumcised group. Paul said that this was hypocrisy. False brothers, the Judaizers, were completely wrong in their belief. Here hypocrisy means that one’s belief was different from one’s conduct. We see that even such a great man of God as Peter made a fatal error out of his fear, and the circumcision group was so badly affecting. Anyway, the situation was very serious to the point that even Barnabas, Paul’s trusted friend and missionary colleague, who had stood firm with him in Jerusalem (2:5), now gave way in Antioch.

At this what did Paul do? Look at verse 14. “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 custom?’” Speaking to Peter in this way must have been a really hard thing for Paul to do. But he did so, not on a personal level, but surely for the sake of God’s work and God’s flock of sheep. The point is whether to act in line with the gospel. To truly preserve the truth of the gospel, one must act in line with the gospel. Gospel message should go together with gospel life. This can be challenging to each Christian. Peter was a Jew, yet lived like a Gentile since he followed Christ, especially after seeing the vision of a large sheet with all kinds of animals including uncleaning animals on it being let down from heaven and hearing God’s command, “Kill and eat,” with the message that God has made all things clean” meaning that he should accept all kinds of people. But now to Paul Peter was forcing Gentiles to follow Jewish custom. So he spoke to Peter with such words, a sort of rebuke.

Then how can we act in line with the truth of the gospel? Paul said to Peter continually, “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.’” In this verse Paul logically wrote, mentioning “justified” three times, each time in contrast to the works of the law. In this repetition there is an ascending scale of emphasis—first general (16a), then personal (16b) and finally universal (16c). It would be hard to find a more forceful statement of the doctrine of justification than this. It is insisted upon by the two leading apostles (“we know”), confirmed from their own experience (‘we have believed’), and endorsed by the sacred Scriptures of the Old Testament (‘by works of the law shall not one be justified’; Ps 143:2; Ro 3:20).

To be justified is an important matter in life. People try hard to be justified and accepted by others. So sometimes we say, “Don’t try to justify your laziness.” Jesus once said to the Pharisees, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight” (Lk 16:14) The most important thing is whether one is justified and accepted by God. How can a sinner to be justified before the holy God? Job’s Bildad raised a question centuries ago, “How then can a man be righteous before God?” (Job 25:4) The answer is found in the death of Christ. What a grace it is for sinners to be justified by faith in Jesus Christ, who died for man’s sin! It is by faith alone and in Christ alone. At the situation Paul had to say this to Peter emphatically. Both had to remember the amazing grace of justification by faith in Christ Jesus, not by the works of the law. Then how much more should we be reminded to the gospel truth of being justified by faith in Jesus Christ until we can act in line with the truth of the gospel?

Those who try to be justified by observing the law including circumcision, are to turn out to be legalists, bound by legalism, which is one of the strong enemies of the gospel. Now Paul mentions another kind of the strong gospel enemies. Look at verse 17. “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!” There are those who claim that Christ died for our sins and we are justified by faith, and then become free to sin, showing themselves evidently as sinners and being proud of sinners. To them it seems that Christ promotes sin, since he died for our sins. They were called antinomians. Antinomianism is the same as licentiousness. There is something fundamentally wrong in their faith. Paul said, “Absolutely not!”

Now Paul refutes with this argument. Look at verse 18. “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.” If one rebuilds what he destroyed, the person is stupid and really a lawbreaker. If any Christians tries to be justified by observing the law again or try to be free by living according to the sinful nature, the person is rebuilding what he destroyed and he is obviously a transgressor breaking God’s heart. Paul could not do so, for through the law he died to the law. Law condemns sinners to death. Through the law he died to the law and in Christ Jesus he was made alive to live for God.

Then he said in verse 20, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” In this one verse gospel message and gospel life are so well combined. Paul said, “I have been crucified with Christ,” definitely implying that Christ was crucified for him, and “the Son of God loved me and gave himself for me.” This is the gospel message. And “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God,” this is gospel life. To live by faith in the Son of God contrasts to live by my own human effort or to live according to our sinful nature, which cannot please God. To live by faith is to rely on the Son of God, Jesus’ merit, his unchanging and sacrificial love and united with him crucified. Paul’s confession may be our confession and we may go deeper and deeper in this confession.

Finally Paul said, “I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing.” It is unthinkable that Christ, the Son of God, died for nothing. How could God’s sacrificing his Son on the Cross be nothing? That would be the greatest fraud in the whole universe. Those Christians who try again to gain righteousness through the law are attempting to make Christ’s death noting, setting aside the grace of God. That’s a terrible thing to do.

Thank God for the truth of the gospel that we are justified by faith in Jesus Christ, who loved us and gave himself for us. In this grace may we preserve the truth of the gospel at all costs and act in line with the gospel truth, as we grow in the confession, “I have been crucified with Christ” and live by faith in him.

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