GALATIANS 2: 1-10
Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along with me. I went up because of a revelation and set before them (though privately before those who seemed influential) the gospel that I proclaim among the Gentiles, in order to make sure I was not running or had not run in vain. But even Titus, who was with me, was not forced to be circumcised, though he was a Greek.
Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in—who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery— to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you. And from those who seemed to be influential (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)—those, I say, who seemed influential added nothing to me.
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 (for he who worked through Peter for his apostolic ministry to the circumcised worked also through me for mine to the Gentiles), and 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. Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.
Paul’s purpose in Galatians is to make a clear distinction between the gospel of Jesus Christ and false gospels. He attacks two false ideas in particular, legalism and lawlessness. This New Testament book dismantles the lies of these ideas and paints a true picture of salvation by grace through faith alone.
Paul contends that there is only one gospel and if you tweak it or add to it, it actually ceases to become the gospel - it is no longer Good News. Chapter 1 made it very clear, that we are born broken and sinful. You do not learn to sin because of your environment. You are born sinful - children show us that this is true. We try to discipline them out of behavior that isn’t acceptable, but they will need to be saved from the sin that they are born into.
The gospel contains two things that God does. First, Christ took the wrath of God, that we deserved, upon himself. Secondly, He imputes the righteousness of Jesus to us. This is the great exchange. This is the marvelous work of salvation that happens to us. The focus is on this work done for us - applied to us. This is the gospel message! You are worse than you dared believe and you are more loved than you could ever fathom.
There are two great perversions of this beautiful Good News message. The first is to add more to the condition of salvation - to justify ourselves before God. The second is to see forgiveness and grace as cheap and to see it as a license to live however we want. Both of these are departures from the gospel. The offer to have a “former life” (Galatians 1:13) is an invitation that is much richer and more freeing than this!
Today’s text takes us to a meeting that Paul had with the church leaders in Jerusalem. The stakes were high and this meeting has huge consequences for us today.
Why Paul Went
Paul went to meet with the apostles and church leaders “because of a revelation” (verse 2). God directed him to go. He took two trusted members of his mission team, Barnabas and Titus (verse 1). Barnabas is a devout Jew that converted to Christianity and Titus is a gentile Greek that converted to Christianity. These two guys were from drastically different backgrounds.
Paul is not making this journey because he fears that he has been in the wrong - or his ministry is off-base. Nothing is threatening Paul’s certainty about the gospel, but something is threatening his fruitfulness. If the Apostles and church leaders do not confirm his message and denounce the false teachers (the Judaizers - a very loud minority), there will be a split in the church leaving people confused and the church less effective.
Paul knew that the Jerusalem apostles had the true gospel - he desired them to be true to it. He wanted then to stand up to the false teachers and not allow their own cultural prejudices to entice them to let these false teachers continue to make such damaging claims.
Church Unity Was At Stake
On the one side of this dispute we have Paul, who is saying: The gospel of faith in Christ is for people of all cultures. On the other side we have his opponents, claiming: Not all Jewish people are Christians, but all Christians must become Jewish. If the Jerusalem apostles had sided with, or even tolerated those who were teaching against Paul, this would have split the church in two. Paul saw that the “freedom that we have in Christ” was under threat and the “truth of the gospel” was at stake. The stakes could not have been higher.
They Were Welcomed
By bringing along Titus, Paul confronted the other apostles with a concrete test case. Would they require Titus to be circumcised, or not? They did not insist on Titus’ circumcision. In verse 6, Paul said, they “added nothing to me”, meaning his message was complete. Their acceptance of Titus was proof that they had accepted Paul’s ministry and the radical implications of the gospel. “They gave the right hand of fellowship” (verse 9) and recognized that Paul was sent to the gentiles and others to the Jews.
We Have Freedom
In verse 4, Paul makes it clear that the biblical gospel gives freedom, while his opponents’ “earn your salvation” message would lead people into slavery. How does the gospel give us freedom?
The gospel gives cultural freedom. Moralistic religion tends to press its members to adopt very specific rules and regulations for dress, diet, and behavior. These specific rules are meant to be very do-able and clear because salvation depends upon obeying. Loving your neighbor will seem like an impossibly high standard, but rules about entertainment, alchohol, dress, and behavior are obtainable. There is an overemphasis on external cultural separation rather than on internal distinctiveness of spirit, motive, outlook and perspective.
The gospel leads to emotional freedom. If our relationship with God is based on keeping moral behavior - then we will be on an endless treadmill of guilt and insecurity. Paul never freed Gentile believers from the moral imperatives of the Ten Commandments - we are to follow them as a way to live - but we are free from them as a system of salvation. We obey knowing that we are saved in Christ. We obey in the freedom of gratitude.
God is pleased to save those who are stuck in religious legalism. He is also pleased to save those who live irreligious lives of self pleasure. It brings pleasure to the heart of God to reveal to us our need for Jesus Christ and then to save us.
The gospel provides freedom!
This week, as you reflect on the message, utilize this section to help you apply what has been taught to your life. Think of friends, co-workers, neighbors,
The Gospel is powerful. The good news of Jesus changes us. This section is to record the ways you are noticing the good news of Jesus transforming your life. Jot notes to help you remember.
As we examined God’s Word, in what ways was His Word examining you?
Describe how Jesus is becoming more central in your life.
What does trusting in Jesus look like for you this week?
This simple acronym (BLESS, B - Bless, L - Listen, E - Eat, S - Speak, S - Sabbath) should help you to frame your life according to the great commandment “love God” (Matthew 22:37) and the expression of that commandment in loving your neighbor (John 13:34). Each time you meet, start by discussing the rhythms of your life according to B.L.E.S.S.
Intentionally bless: Christ-followers, non-believers and those different than you.
Listen to what God is saying to you, through His Word and others.
Share a meal with a Christ-follower and also a non-believer.
Talk to God through prayer and to others about Jesus through witness.
Be intentional about taking time to both rest and recreate.