Galatians 2 - Outline of Galatians (Book Notes menu page)
In this chapter, Paul continues the defense (begun at Gal 1:10) of his apostolic authority and of the trustworthiness of the Gospel which he proclaimed. He cites two incidents, one in Jerusalem, the other in Antioch. Scholars disagree regarding where these incidents fit in the history recorded in Acts. [These notes reflect the editor's conclusions relative to the timing.] The exact time of these events is not as important as the lessons conveyed by them.
1. Then fourteen years after I went up again to Jerusalem
with Barnabas, and took Titus with [me] also.
2 And 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.
3 But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised:
4 And 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:
5 To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour;
that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.
Then fourteen years after...
During those fourteen years, following his brief visit with Peter in Jerusalem (1:18-24; Acts 9:28-31), Paul and Barnabas had ministered together at Antioch of Syria, until they were called by the Holy Spirit and sent by that local church, on their first missionary journey (Acts 12:24 - 14:28). During that journey, many gentiles had believed (Titus was probably one of them), and churches had been established in several cities of southern Galatia. Then, Paul and Barnabas had returned to Antioch and gave a report of how the Lord had blessed their ministry (Acts 14:26-28). While they were there, "certain men... from Judaea" had come to Antioch teaching that Gentile believers could not be saved, unless they were circumcised and in submission to the Mosaic Law (Acts 15:1). Paul and Barnabas had disagreed strongly. It was determined that they and others should take this question to the apostles in Jerusalem (Acts 15:2).
     It seems most likely that v.1-10 are a partial recounting of Paul's visit to Jerusalem on that occasion, which culminated in a decision and letters to the Gentile churches, by the Council in Jerusalem (Acts ch. 15). However, Paul does not actually mention the Council's ruling or letters (even though those actions addressed the same false gospel which later reached the Galatian churches, and occasioned this epistle to them). [Because the council's ruling is not mentioned, some scholars place the incidents of v.1-14 in Acts 11:19-30 or even Acts 9:22-31. However, these views accommodate neither the passage of 14 years, nor the inclusion of Titus as a partner in ministry.]
     Paul probably does not cite the Council's ruling because his purpose is to demonstrate that his authority and his message were received directly from God, not derived from any human source.
...I went up by revelation...
Paul says that the Lord told him to go to Jerusalem. He was not forced to go by the circumstances. It was according to the Lord's instructions, that the question should be put before the apostles. Acts 15:2
...and communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to them which were of reputation...
Upon arrival in Jerusalem, Paul went aside with the other apostles and declared to them what he had been preaching (Acts 15:4).
...lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain....
Was Paul asking the Jerusalem apostles for their evaluation and correction of his message? No. He was very sure of the message which he had been preaching for more than fourteen years, and which he had received by direct revelation from Christ.
     However, Paul recognized the critical nature of the matter which the Jerusalem Council was about to consider. To make an effective stand against the Judaizers, it was essential that there be unity of mind between Paul and the other apostles.
     He and they soon discovered that they were preaching the same Gospel of God's Grace.
...but neither Titus... a Gentile... was compelled to be circumcised... and that because of false brethren...-
Apparently, the 'false brethren' (the Judaizers), had questioned the status of Titus, as they pressed their contention that the Gentiles must submit to the Law of Moses in order to be saved (Acts 15:1). Their position was rejected by the Jerusalem apostles, who saw no need for Titus to be circumcised. The acceptance of Titus was an effective statement that salvation is by Grace through faith apart from the works of the Law. (This corresponds to the Council's ruling and letter, in Acts 15:11,24-29.)
...false brethren, unawares brought in {ie., smuggled in}... privily {ie., stealthily} to spy out {ie., to inspect insiduously} our liberty... bondage...
'False brethren' is a very strong term (cp. Jude 1:4). These were deceptively promoting a deadly false gospel (Gal 1:8,9).
This false gospel restored the bondage from which Christ has set us free (Rom 8:2-4; Gal 3:13; 5:1). whom we gave subjection, no, not for an hour... that the truth of the gospel might continue with you...
Paul was adamant. There could be no compromise on this issue, which is a matter of spiritual life or death.
     While doctrinal truth is essential, "the truth of the Gospel" is much deeper than intellectual agreement with a doctrinal position. It is complete dependence upon the Person and Work of Christ. He Himself is the Truth, who is the essence of the Good News of deliverance from sin. Paul wanted to ensure that believers would continue in right relationship with Him. To turn to 'another gospel' is to turn away from Him. Joh 14:6; Gal 1:6-9; Eph 4:21
6 But 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:
7 But contrariwise, when they saw that
the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me,
as [the gospel] of the circumcision [was] unto Peter;
8 (For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision,
the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:)
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.
10 Only [they would] that we should remember the poor;
the same which I also was forward to do.
...these who seemed to be somewhat... whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me... God respecteth no man's person...
The GK wording of the phrase 'seemed to be somewhat' (twice in v.6) is similar to 'them of reputation,' in v.2. Paul is speaking of the apostles and other leaders of the church in Jerusalem. He is not expressing disrespect for these men. However, he wants his readers to know that he did not look to these reputable men as the source of his authority.
...they {the men of reputation}... in conference added nothing to me...
When Paul and the other apostles compared notes, they found they were preaching the same Gospel. Paul had received his understanding by revelation, directly from Jesus Christ (Gal 1:11,12). Yet, he and the apostles were in agreement concerning doctrinal truth. The apostles had nothing to correct or to add to what Paul was preaching.
...but contrariwise, when they saw... they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship.
When the apostles were made aware of the fruitfulness of Paul's ministry among the Gentiles, they recognized that the Lord had worked powerfully through him, in the same way that He had worked through Peter's ministry among the Jews. They acknowledged that both men had received the grace of apostleship (cp. Rom 1:5; 1Cor 15:10).
     The Gospel of the circumcision (ie., relating to the Jews) and the Gospel of the uncircumcision (ie., relating to the Gentiles) are not two distinct messages. Peter and Paul proclaimed the same message: that God has provided salvation by His Grace, through faith in Jesus Christ. There is only one true Gospel. But Peter and Paul were called of God to take it to different people groups. Thousands of Jews had turned to Christ at the preaching of Peter (eg., the response to his first sermon, Acts 2:14,41). God had specifically called Paul to the Gentiles (Gal 1:15,16; Acts 9:15).
     The apostles extended "...the right hands of fellowship," because they recognized that they were serving the same Lord, and preaching the same message. 'Fellowship' {GK=koinonia, that which is held in common} means that they were 'together' in the work, even as they labored among people of different cultural backgrounds.
...only they would that we should remember the poor...
Early in their ministry, the Jerusalem church leadership had appointed deacons to assist in caring for those in need (Acts 6:1-4). They recognized that the ministry of the church touches the spiritual and physical needs of believers (Jam 2:15,16). Paul was also aware of this responsibility. Several years later, Paul organized a financial collection from the Gentile churches to assist the church in Jerusalem which had become impoverished due to persecution. eg., Rom 15:25-27
11. But when Peter was come to Antioch,
I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed.
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.
13 And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him;
insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation.
14 But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel,
I said unto Peter before [them] all,
If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews,
why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?
but {ie., and, moreover} when Peter was come to Antioch...
The timing of this incident is also debated by scholars. Some place it well before the Council in Jerusalem, at Acts 11:19, while others suggest that it occurred shortly after that council (Acts 15:30-35). However, Peter's presence in Antioch is not recorded in either passage.
     Another possibility [favored by the editor] is that this incident took place shortly before the Council in Jerusalem, not long after Paul's return from his first missionary journey (Acts 14:26-28). Since Peter and Paul had met previously (Gal 1:18), Peter, may have come to Antioch to hear Paul's report concerning his missionary work. (However, the text does not say so.) If this was the case, Peter's open fellowship with the Gentile believers (v.12) was interrupted by the influence of "certain men which came down from Judaea" (which seems to align with Acts 15:1,2).
for before certain men came... he [Peter] did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he... separated himself, fearing them...
Peter had always been an observant Jew, who was careful to keep himself separated from unclean foods and unclean environments. He had protested when he was called to take the Gospel to the Gentiles, in the home of Cornelius, the Roman centurion. But God taught him not to regard anything that He had cleansed as unclean (Acts 10:11-16,28). At that time, other Jewish believers had also struggled with the removal of the separation between Jewish and Gentile believers (eg., Acts 11:1-18).
     Peter had learned this lesson, and had no problem with fellowship with Gentile believers... until he felt pressured to conform with legalistic Jewish Christians, who refused to share a table with Gentile brothers, and demanded separate kosher accommodations.
...Peter... separated himself... other Jews dissembled... with him... Barnabas... was carried away with their dissimulation.
Peter was "to be blamed" {GK=kataginosko, knew against, ie., was self-condemned}. This word is translated 'condemn' in 1Joh 3:20,21. Peter knew better. His own heart condemned him for his action.
     The phrase "dissembled... with..." means 'joined in hypocritical action.' The word 'dissimulation' means 'hypocrisy.'
     Peter was a shepherd of the flock. When he yielded to peer pressure, others followed. Even Barnabas, who had ministered with Paul among the Gentiles, was led away in an attempt to gain approval, in the eyes of a few legalistic men. What Peter and the others did was motivated by concern for fleshly appearances (cp. Gal 6:12).
...I said unto Peter before them all... If thou... livest not after the manner of the Jews, why compellest thou... Gentiles to live as... Jews?
Paul's public rebuke of Peter was not intended as a put-down, but as a course correction. Paul confronted Peter with his hypocrisy. For many years, Peter had been living according to the Gospel of Grace, which he preached. But in this instance, his legalistic actions were in conflict with his own words and lifestyle.
     Apparently, Peter recognized his error and corrected his behavior. Peter's submission to correction from Paul was another indication of Paul's God given authority as an apostle.
     In the remainder of this chapter, Paul quotes what he said to Peter. These words also begin the main section of Paul's letter to the Galatians (see the outline), in which he explains the errors of the legalistic false gospel, and expounds on the necessity that the true Gospel must rest upon God's Grace alone.
     If, as suggested, this incident took place just prior to the Council in Jerusalem, Paul's words would have had a profound effect upon Peter's thinking. It is not hard to hear echoes of Paul's words (below) in Peter's address to the Council (Acts 15:7-11).
III. Doctrinal explanation - 2:15- 4:31
Justification is by Grace through Faith.
A. The experience of Jewish Apostles, Gal 2:15-21
15 We [who are] Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles,
16 Knowing 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.
we... Jews... not sinners of the Gentiles...
God chose the Jewish nation, for His purposes. But many Jews misunderstood their privileged position, as automatic acceptance before God. In contrast, they saw the Gentiles as 'sinners' (the word refers to those who 'miss the mark' or 'do not measure up' to God's standards). cp. Joh 8:39-42; Eph 2:11,12
However, Jewish Christians realized that they, also, were unrighteous by nature (eg., Rom 3:9).
...knowing that a man {GK=anthropos, human, without regard to sex or nationality} is not justified {ie., made righteous} by the works of the law...
No man, neither Jew nor Gentile, can obtain righteousness by 'the Law' of God, because all fall short of its standard. cp. Rom 3:19-20,23; Gal 3:10-12
...but by the faith of Jesus Christ... justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law...
The only way, for any man to be made righteous, is through faith in Christ.
In v.16, each of the three occurrences of "the works of the law" is lit., 'works of law' (the definite articles are not in the original).
     'Works of law' are not limited to the keeping of God's commandments, but include any requirement for human effort (eg., the traditions of men).
     Are you saved by faith in Christ, alone? Or, in addition to faith in Christ, is something else required of you, such as: church membership, baptism, participation in the eucharist or other rituals, adherence to a dress code, etc.? People may be impressed by such external displays of religiosity. But no one becomes righteous before God, through self-effort.
...knowing that a man is not justified by works of law...
...even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified {ie., declared righteous} by the faith of Christ...
'We' {ie., Peter and Paul} who are Jews by nature, recognizing that we cannot make ourselves righteous, have placed our trust in Christ. Both Peter and Paul were trusting in Christ alone, for righteousness (Peter- 1Pet 2:24; 3:18; 2Pet 1:1; Paul- Php 3:7-9).
17 But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners,
[is] therefore Christ the minister of sin
{GK=hamartia, falling short}? God forbid.
18 For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor.
Do I claim to be trusting Christ for righteousness, believing that He has delivered me from condemnation under the Law, which I could not keep?
  • Then, how can I 'fall short' of God's righteousness?
    It cannot be due to the fault of Christ (in whom is no sin, 1Joh 3:5).
  • Then, should I reconstruct what He destroyed (my sin and guilt)?
    By rebuilding a system of legalistic requirements, I turn myself into a law breaker (thus, destroying the righteousness which He has freely given).
19 For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God.
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.
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me...
Many believers misunderstand these verses, turning them into a requirement for self-deprivation or self-sacrifice (which is just another fleshly attempt to earn merit before God). Jesus warned us to be ready for self-denial and death, if we would follow Him, because the world will treat Christ's followers as they treated Him (Mark 8:34-38). However, there is no merit earned in 'taking up my cross.' Jesus was saying that there is nothing of greater value (not even life itself), than to be identified with Him. The question is: Am I willing to lose everything, to belong to Him?
     But Paul is talking about identification with Christ, on an even deeper level.
     Because believers are 'in Christ,' we were crucified 'with Christ' when He was crucified. Christ's death, in our behalf, satisfied the demands of the Law (Gal 3:10,13). But He died, not only to pay the penalty for my sin, but also to put my sinfulness to death. When He arose, I arose with Him, out of my deadness, alive in Him, to serve God (Rom 6:1-11). Paul speaks of a present reality: 'I am (already) crucified with Christ...'
...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.
It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives within me. In Him there can be no sin and guilt.
It was not I who delivered myself from sin, but Christ who gave Himself for me. Gal 1:3,4
I can add nothing to the price He paid.
I can do nothing to improve the righteousness of His Life within me.
(Now, I yield myself, in the power of Christ living within, to serve God. Rom 6:11-13)
...I live by the faith {GK=pistis, trust, trustworthiness} of the Son of God...
My Life depends, not on the power of my faith, but upon the absolute faithfulness of Him, in whom I trust. Gal 1:4; Titus 2:14; 1The 5:24
21 I do not frustrate {GK=atheteo, disannul, make void} the grace of God:
for if righteousness [come] by the law,
then Christ is dead in vain
{ie., for nothing, for no reason}.
Righteousness is either earned by the works of Law, or received as a gift of God's Grace, by faith in Christ.
It cannot be both. To say that 'I must do,' is to say that Christ has not done enough.
He has done it all, or He has done nothing at all. Joh 19:30; Rom 10:3,4; Heb 10:12-14

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