* Another Gospel is threatening the

    Galatian Church
    What is this other Gospel?
    What are the issues dealt with?
    Why did Paul write this letter?
    What does it mean to us today?

Bible Studies --Galatians Chapter Two
2.1 Then fourteen years later I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with me as well.

He recounts a previous experience when he and Barnabas, along with Titus, a Gentile go to Jerusalem. Titus was a Gentile convert to Christianity and dear to Paul who called him "my own son after the common faith" (Titus 1:2)

Most will agree that this is referring to the same event recorded in Acts 15, as it deals with the same issue, which was then brought before the council at Jerusalem.

[While in Antioch] Certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, saying, Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses YOU CAN NOT BE SAVED. And when Paul and Barnabas had fierce debate and controversy with them, it was appointed that Paul and Barnabas and some others go to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders about this question…..when they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they declared all that God had done with them. But some believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees rose up, and said, ‘It is necessary to circumcise them, and to charge them to keep the law of Moses’.” Acts 15:1-5

Here we find ourselves in the heat of the Jewish mindset. A person was "a heathen" unless he was a Jew. The only way one could be a Jew was to undergo circumcision and purification rituals and take studies in the Torah. So again we see the "Jewish party" insisting that a person FIRST had to become a "Jew" before they could be offered any salvation privileges from God.

2.2 And I went up because God revealed I should do so, and communicated in a private interview, to men of repute, the same gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain.
Paul seems to have been reluctant about going to Jerusalem to argue the situation, but the Lord impressed him to go. First he had a private meeting with some of the apostles. God gave Paul the truth of the gospel through revelation, but God also revealed to Paul to go to Jerusalem to confirm the gospel revealed to him, and to do this privately with the apostles BEFORE the controversial element presented their side.

God wants His ministers to have unity. It is apparent that the Judizers were pointing to the church in Jerusalem and citing the apostles in Jerusalem as their support; they were accusing Paul of faulty teachings, and out of line with the "men of repute" (apostles) in Jerusalem. This was a serious charge for the apostles had walked and talked with Christ for 3 1/2 years and were obviously chosen by Christ as His ambassadors, while Paul came later on the scene. This was why Paul started this letter with such emphases on his calling and how he was taught by Christ Himself the message he was carrying to the Gentiles.

There in Jerusalem the church leaders sided with Paul, shattering the whole contention of the Judaizers who were insisting Gentiles had to become "Jews" first before they were acceptable to God and eligible of the benefits bestowed by God.

After much disputing in that council, Peter stands up and recounts his experience with the Gentile Cornelius, telling them that God "put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith." Acts 15:9

And so the Jerusalem Church Counsel votes against the Judiazers and supports Paul. The apostles are not divided.

2.3 Yet even Titus, who was with me, though being a Greek, was not compelled to be circumcised.
2.4 That demand was brought in by false brethren who slipped in to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage:
While in Jerusalem some "believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees rose up, and said, ‘It is necessary to circumcise them'" They used devious means to spy out whether Titus, who was a Gentile, was circumcised. The “church council” itself apparently voted that Titus should not be compelled to be circumcised and also gave their blessing to Paul and Barnabas to continue their mission to the Gentiles, without requiring their converts to submit to circumcision, nor to the ceremonial Jewish laws.


In this, as in everything else, the Jews had lost the knowledge of the spiritual meaning of their ceremonies. The “veil” hid the meaning of the rite, and they looked to the rite itself for salvation. The cutting off of the cause of physical impurity was to signify the putting off of the impurity of the heart, which was accomplished by faith in Christ. See Deuteronomy 10:16; 30:6; Jer. 4:4, and other texts, for proof that circumcision had this deeper meaning from the beginning.

It has been suggested that these "false brethren" were infiltrators, sent amongst the Christians to "spy" on what they were doing and to make sure Jewish customs and laws were observed.

Paul says, "No! to their insistence that Titus (and all Gentiles) who convert must be initiated into the Jewish economy by circumcision. He told them that all are made one at the cross -- all are unclean sinners without Christ. Grace is available for all peoples, there's no distinction between Jews and the rest.

In our day a popular teaching has come in suggesting Paul, in Galatians is freeing the Gentiles from their obligation to obey God's law (particularly the Ten Commandments). But remember that Titus was the "test case" to resist the circumcision party. Yet in the book of Titus chapter one we read what Paul wrote this young man. Paul admonishes Titus to live a moral life (See Titus 1:5-9; 2:1-19) He even tells Titus that Christ's redemption includes cleansing us from every lawless deed and purifying a people, zealous for good works (Titus 2:11)

Paul explains a bit more to Titus about those "false brethren" of the circumcision, who infiltrated the church.
Notice what type of characters they have –

  • insubordinate
  • idle talkers
  • doing this for monetary gain
  • they follow the commandments of men
  • They (these Judizing men) profess to know God but in works they deny Him living in abominable disobedience and disqualified for every good work. Titus 1:16
In spite of their insistence on Jewish initiation rituals, and other ceremonies, their lives and actions show they have never been circumcised of the heart. insubordinate idle talkers doing this for monetary gain they follow the commandments of men They (these Judizing men) profess to know God but in works they deny Him living in abominable disobedience and disqualified for every good work. Titus 1:16 In spite of their insistance on Jewish initiation rituals, their lives show they have never been circumcised of the heart.

2.5 We did not yield them submission, no, not for a minute; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.

Suppose the council had confirmed the teachings of these false brethren, and had decreed that circumcision was necessary for justification; what would have been the result? They would have turned people away from looking to Christ for their justification and forgiveness of sin; if people can be justified by simply cutting off a piece of skin, they have no need of Him.
2.6 But of these who seemed to be of repute, (whatsoever they were, it makes no difference to me: God shows no partiality:) but those considered of repute in conference added nothing to me:
Paul did not act independently from other apostles. What he is saying here, is that all true gospel believers have the same gospel. He had not been instructed by the apostles in Jerusalem, his gospel came straight from God, yet they had the same gospel as he, in contrast to the “false gospel”.

The gospel is not defined by the "importance of men", but all true gospel believers preach the same gospel! Notice, however, Paul’s constant focus here, that God does NOT evaluate people according to their heritage, nationality or position. “GOD IS NOT PARTIAL” to these things.

2.7 But on the contrary, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter;
2.8 (For he who worked effectually through Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:)
2.9 And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision.
The gospel was to go both to the “Jews” (circumcised) and the "Gentiles" (uncircumcised) Both needed to hear the gospel! Peter was being led by God to work effectively for the Jewish people, and Paul had his mission to the Gentiles.

At the Jerusalem Council Peter made a strong speech in support of Paul's gospel (see Acts 15:6-11) James, citing scripture, confirmed Peter's speech and the council sent representatives, Silas and Judas, to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas to establish the decision. (Acts 15:25-27) Paul and Baranabas were sent on their mission with the blessings of the other apostles.

“Grace that was given unto me” – Although we readily think of grace being the undeserved merit that saves from sin; in this context grace is also given for fruitful service.

2.10 Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do.
Their only request to Paul, as they sent him on his mission to the Gentiles, was that he remember the poor among his own nation; “which very thing I was eager to do”. Indeed, we see Paul collecting funds from the Gentiles for the poor in Jerusalem. (See 1 Cor. 16:1-3)
2.11 But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed.
2.12 For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision.

Peter’s lapse was especially serious, considering his role of leadership in the situation presented above.

His lapse from the gospel reinforced the idea that the Gentile Christians were an unclean people. Peter, just before he was invited to go to the home of the Gentile, Cornelius, had received a vision from God in Acts 10, telling him to call no one common or unclean. On returning to Jerusalem, he was accused of “going into the home of the uncircumcised and eating with them” “Then Peter opened his mouth and said: In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality but in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.” Acts 10:34 (The truth of gospel is that there is neither Jew nor Gentile, but all are one in Christ. Gal. 3:28) It was this experience upon which he based his powerful argument for Paul's mission in Acts 15. Now for Peter, after his divine revelation and “breakthrough” to revert to segregation in front of the Gentile Christians was a grave problem!! The Gentile converts would feel they were second-class Christians, inferior and not worthy to be associated with by the Jewish Christians.

2.13 And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation.
This group from Jerusalem seems to have paralyzed the Jewish believers in Antioch for they all pulled away from the Gentile believers in segregation! Their action was based on “fear” of being labeled by others rather than on faith. Peter, being a leading apostle, led them in this departure from the gospel. Discrimination sent a message, and it was the same message as the false teachers were sending, “Unless you are circumcised you are not saved, you are not clean, you are not justified, and we will not associate with the unclean.”

What shocked Paul, was that even Barnabas, his companion in the ministry to the Gentiles, followed Peter’s lead! Everything gained in the council of Jerusalem (Acts 15) was being denied.

What could have motivated such a departure from "the gospel"?

Some have speculated that it couldn't have been just "eating with the Gentiles" that was the problem, yet Peter does make it plain in Acts 10:28 "You know how it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean." Jewish nationalism was very rampant in Palestine in the years between Christ's death and 70 A.D. when Rome put a deadly end to Jewish rebellion against their authority. The hostility of the Jews who considered themselves the chosen of God, against the Gentiles was at an all time high. Unless a Gentile denounced his race and became a Jew, one just did not become friendly with them. It is quite possible that this delegation from James reported that the church was suffering retaliation from Jewish nationalists due to the unrestricted association of church leaders with Gentiles. The Jewish Christians at Antioch simply put their own Jewish interests above their sensitivity to the truths of the gospel.

2.14 But when I saw that they were not straightforward according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter infront of them all, If you, being a Jew, live after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why do you compel the Gentiles to live like the Jews?
Before the Pharisaical party came, Peter was happy to fellowship with the Gentiles and call himself one of them. He recognized them as fellow Christian. Now his example was contradicting Christ’s saving grace to the Gentiles. His example was saying, they were not yet justified until they engage in certain “cleansing” rituals, particularly the circumcision ritual. Paul's rebuke was in order. Peter was not teaching heresy, he was practicing hypocrisy, not living out what he believed and was shown as truth.
And Peter responded positively, probably remembering his weakness in denying the Lord to escape the contempt of men. "Peter saw the error into which he had fallen, and immediately set about repairing the evil that had been wrought, so far as was in his power." (AA 198)
2.15 We who are Jews by nature, and not Gentile,
2.16 know that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.
After giving the background of the sitituation he is facing, Paul now shifts into theological discussions. We must continue to keep the setting in mind to understand the context.

Point One: Jews born as Jews need to be justified by faith in Christ. Though they have the law, the law can no more justify them then it can justify the Gentile.

We can rephrase it:
"Even though we, the natural Jews, have followed the law, yet we KNOW we need to be justified by Christ's blood just like the Gentiles.

Going through the rituals to become a Jew doesn't justify anyone. Circumcision won’t justify anyone; the works of the law won’t justify anyone. A circumcised sinner is still a sinner in need of salvation.
ALL, Jew and Gentile, need Christ for justification from sin.

Point two: Is Paul saying the righteous moral “law” the commandments of God are no longer applicable? NO! The problem in Galatia was NOT that the Galatians were refusing to commit adultery, lie, kill, steal, and take God’s name in vain and so Paul had to write a letter denouncing their works of the law. NO! Paul’s concern was not that they were obedient to the moral law of God, in fact in his letter to the Corinthians he sorely chastised that church for allowing violator’s of the moral law to remain as members. (1 Cor. 6) In saying the Galatians have forsaken the gospel, Paul is addressing the rituals which the Jews looked to as necessary to be accounted as one of God’s people. They are not necessary. God cleanses the heart of the believing contrite one and no one should consider them "unclean". Being a Jew even if a natural born Jew does not Justify, only Christ can justify.

2.17 But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid.
2.18 For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor.
We will always "be found sinners" when we come to Christ for justification. It matters not whether we were born into "the church" or born to atheist parents. The whole need for "justification" comes because people have learnt from the law that they are sinners and deserving death. Humbled by the law, there is only one place to go in repentance and that is to Jesus Who alone can forgive and justify.

Justification means that the guilt is removed and Christ's righteousness is given to the believer.

Does this mean Christ promotes sin, or gives license to sin just because, after looking at the law and finding ourseves sinners, we come to Christ for justification.
Paul says "God forbid"

This is reflected in several places of Paul's writings:

Romans 3:30 Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith. 3:31 Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.

6:1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? 6:2 God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?

6:15 What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.

Paul refuses to build up the old Jewish idea again that because we have followed some of the rules and rituals we are not sinners in need of justification. We have all sinned and need to acknowledge that fact so we come with humble, contrite hearts to Jesus. God can not pardon, forgive, justify and write His laws on a heart that is not humbled before Him. Paul refuses to build up again the idea that anything we can do will count as our justification. Some will take this to mean that Paul will not build up again the imperative of obedience to God’s commandments as the way a follower of Christ will live. If this were true, then Paul is speaking in contradictions, for he most certainly did uplift God’s moral law as the way the believers in Christ will live.
2.19 For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God.
Many seem to think that “I died to the law,” means the law died and has nothing more to say to me. But this is not the meaning. The law must be in full force or no one could die to it. We die to the law, by accepting it’s death sentence upon us because of our sins. We accept that our sins have condemned us to death.

Now, should we come to life again, does that give us liberty to transgress the law? No, of course not.

2.20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
Paul now turns to to a discussion of the life of a transformed Christian.
Having accepted the death sentence the law decrees on the sinner, Paul says we are "crucified WITH Christ". Romans 6 says the same thing. The old sinful nature is crucified with Christ. Christ's death was THE DEATH to sin, the victory over sin. Yet we MUST UNITE with this death -- behold Him by faith upon the cross, our sins crushing His heart, our sins causing the suffering, -- what is sin, that so great a price is exacted that we might live? As we unite with Christ, something within us must also die.

Unless we ourselves are crucified WITH HIM, we are not partaking of His death and resurrection on the cross. Sin is a personal matter that affects the whole emotional, physical as well as spiritual well-being of the individual. We are born in it so that our life is full of sin, what we need is freedom from our sins, a cleansing of the heart and mind. In Romans 6, Paul says, we are to reckon ourselves DEAD to sin. What does it mean to "die to sin"? This dying to sin is the result of our union with Christ (Romans 6: 2-11) When we unite with Him in baptism, we unite ourselves in His death to sin. Because Christ died to sin, all who are united with Him died to sin. This does not mean we all are instantly innately sinless or removed from sin's ability to touch us. HOWEVER, we are to consider ourselves DEAD TO SIN. (verse 11)
When temptations come at us, we are to remember-- yes, through Christ I died to that sin-- no way am I going to engage in it..

We are to count ourselves dead to that sin and not let "sin reign in our mortal bodies" We are not only dead to sin , we are alive in Christ. We have not only been delivered from the dominion of darkness, we also have been brought into the kingdom of Christ. (Col 1:13)
What is the significance of being alive unto God?
We are united with the ONE who is at work in us to strengthen us with His mighty power. This too, we MUST BELIEVE by faith! Count it to be true.

To be crucified with Christ is to recognize His death to our sins, is our death to those sins, and now we have Christ in our lives, with Christ in our lives we have “righteousness” by faith, not by works of law. Now being righteous in Christ, reckoning ourselves dead to sin by participating in His death, and alive to righteousness through His indwelling spirit, we walk in newness of life.

2.21 I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.
If it were possible for humanity to “work off” our sins, then Christ would not have had to die.

Neither justification, nor the renewal of our lives can come by any other means but by the grace of Christ.

Galatians 3

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