Read Acts 13-14 for Paul and Barnabas’ first mission journey through Galatia, and Acts 15:1-35 regarding Paul’s visit to Jerusalem and the Jerusalem Council that is the subject of the first section of this chapter. Now turning to chapter 2 we see that there are two sections in this chapter:
Section 1, Vs. 1-10, Paul’s continued defense of his authority by means of his visit to the Jerusalem Church and elders, and defends the salvation by faith gospel, refuting salvation by works in keeping the Law.
Section 2, Vs. 11-21, Paul’s Defense of the Faith Based Life. Here Paul defends the “spirituality by faith” message, refuting spirituality by works in keeping the Law as professed by the Judaizers.
In this chapter we have two different events: the Jerusalem incident, vs. 1-10, which was a battle in regard to salvation by works versus salvation by grace and faith as Paul was preaching; and the Galatian Antioch incident, vs. 11-21, which included the battle over spirituality by works. Remember that everything that God does for us, everything that God provides for us is, provided on the basis of grace. We do not earn it or deserve it; we do not work for it. Therefore, regardless of which phase of God’s plan you are in, everything in the Divine plan is provided for us apart from human merit. Everything depends upon the grace of the Lord.
Section 1, Vs. 1-10, Paul’s continued defense of his authority by means of his visit to the Jerusalem church and elders, and defends the salvation by faith gospel, refuting salvation by works in keeping the Law.
In vs. 1 we see Paul’s second visit to Jerusalem that after 14 years of Paul’s training in a rather limited ministry up to this point. After coming out of Arabia and ministering around his home town of Tarsus and local area, he goes to Jerusalem. In all, 17+ years after his conversion he is used in a larger way by the Lord.
For you young men, who desire to teach in the ministry, or for anyone who is new to God’s Word, remember to be patient and wait on the timing of the Lord. Many men are too eager to get a ministry, and as a result, force the issue being unprepared for the office. Likewise, many new believers are eager to serve yet are unprepared to the trials and tribulations that come while serving inside the Angelic Conflict. So for all the message, “wait patiently,” as Paul did, and you will have great fruit in the long run. Instead of hurrying to a ministry, use the time you have to learn and train in small ways, so that you are prepared for the larger ministry God may have for you.
Paul went to Jerusalem with Barnabus and Titus. Barnabus, who was a Jew, was a companion of Paul’s and Titus was a young and upcoming man in the ministry. Titus was a Gentile who later went on to become one of the great leaders in the Christian church. He was the original “troubleshooter” for Paul, being sent to various churches to straighten them out and get them reestablished, like Corinth, the Island of Crete and Dalmatia.
In vs. 2, because of a “revelation”, APOKALUPSIS, means Paul decided to finally go to Jerusalem and visit the Church leaders, as led by God the Holy Spirit. This does not mean he had a vision, as he does in Acts 15:9 to go to Macedonia, but it means he was led by the Spirit to make the right decision to go to Jerusalem. It means he was in the will and plan of God.
So Paul goes to Jerusalem which became, the first of the great church councils held at Jerusalem, and the great issue as this council was the influence of legalism in the church and what to do with the Law. While this passage describes the behind the scenes activity of this council, Acts 15:1-29 describes what went on as far as the delegates were concerned. In our passage, we have a glimpse behind the scenes of that Jerusalem council.
Paul goes to Jerusalem because of the Judaizers, of which some came out of Jerusalem, who were confused about the grace gospel and muddying up the water with regard to salvation. They were emphasizing that you must do something beside believe for salvation. In Paul’s presentation of the Gospel to them, he emphasized that Christ was the issue, not sin, and that salvation was by faith plus nothing. He also was not emphasizing circumcision, and above all, he was not telling anyone to keep the Law for salvation. He was not bringing the Law in at all.
As it states in the latter half of Gal 2:2, Paul spoke to the Jerusalem leaders “privately,” KATA IDIOS, (according to one’s own – privately), so that there would not be a huge public argument. He did so because nothing good typically comes out of an open public debate. As in every debate, people take sides on the basis of leadership or personalities rather than on the basis of principle, and Paul wanted to avoid that, choosing rather to try to come to an agreement and then come forward with a united front. This follows the principles we have noted in the book of Proverbs.
When is says “running,” it is the Present Active Subjunctive of the Verb TRECHO. In addition, this passage has the Aorist Active Indicative of TRECHO for “had run.” These words are in reference to Paul’s prior ministry up to this point in time, and his concern that if he did not reach agreement with the Church in Jerusalem, others would come up from Jerusalem to further discredit his gospel and ministry and lead the people astray. In the Subjunctive Mood, it indicates the potential that these leaders may go back into Antioch, and everywhere that Paul has been up to this point, to discredit him. If these leaders take the other side, the legalism side, they could possibly go behind his back and destroy his ministry. He does not say they will, but the subjunctive mood indicates the possibility of having his ministry ruined by people going behind his back and saying that he is not teaching the truth. And just as the Galatians did as a result of the Judaizers, they could very easily fall away, just as any new believer who does not yet understand doctrine can do.
In vs. 3, Titus became the object lesson and the basis of the debate during this council. Titus is a Gentile believer in the Lord Jesus Christ who went up to Jerusalem with Barnabas and Paul. He is a Gentile, he is saved, but he has never been circumcised, as the Law required. This caused some of the members of the Jerusalem church to say he was not saved because even though he may have believed in Christ, he had never been circumcised. This was the doctrine of the Judaizers post Christ.
Yet, we see here that Titus was not “compelled” to be circumcised. “Compelled” is the Aorist Passive Indicative of the Verb ANAGKAZO, (an-ang-kad-zo), that means, “to necessitate, compel or force.” In the Passive voice he did not receive the action of being compelled by the Judaizers, nor the Holy Spirit, to take such action. In other words, Titus was not compelled by the Word of God or even by the Judaizers to be circumcised as a demonstration of his faith or salvation, as was required under the Law. Likewise, he did not cave under the pressure of the Judaizers to compromise. So taking Titus with him to Jerusalem was a deliberate action on Paul’s part as a proof that God saves people whether they have been circumcised or not.
In vs. 4, Paul states the reason for his journey to Jerusalem; because “the false brethren,” PSEUDADELPHOS, were sent as spies, KATASKOPEO, to witness his ministry. These spies where being sent in by the Judaizers to discredit Paul’s Gospel and ministry. The purpose was to destroy his ministry called “our liberty” or “our freedom,” ELEUTHERIA, (el-yoo-ther-ee’-ah). This freedom is the gospel that states we are freed from the slave market of sin. Our freedom was purchased by the Lord Jesus Christ on the Cross and now we are under operation grace, which is the basis of freedom. Grace always equals freedom. On the other hand, “bondage” is any form of a human merit system, or any system of trying to gain the approbation of God by works, by good deeds, etc.
The phrase “to bring into bondage” means to enslave and that is what the legalists are always trying to do. They try to enslave the grace crowd into some kind of merit based system. And the funny thing is, bondage means misery and misery loves company. Therefore, these Judaizers who are miserable try to bring the entire human race into the bondage of good deeds and good works to gain the approbation of God. This is similar to what Islam wants to do today. So these people came in to spy out Paul’s gospel and spirituality of freedom inside the Plan of God, with the intention of destroying the liberty that was won by Jesus Christ on the Cross.
In vs. 5, Paul resisted their infiltration, as did Titus. And keep in mind that these legalists are tough nuts and bullies; they are vicious and aggressive. Yet, Paul and Titus stood right up to them. Therefore, where legalism is involved and when it tries to infiltrate, there is only one answer and that is to get just as tough as they are, if not tougher, and stand up to them and it. Paul did not yield to them on any point or at any time.
In vs. 6-10, Paul changes from speaking about the Judaizers who were trying to ruin him, to the discussions he had with the Jerusalem council. “Those of reputation” included James, Peter and John, as noted in vs. 9. Paul does not care about titles or degrees. He cares only about the truth of God’s Word. “Contributed nothing to me” means they did not add to or change his message or mission. They in fact agreed with Him.
“Shaking hands” was a sign of recognition, and recognition of authority. They recognized that Paul and Barnabas had equal footing with them. Remember that Peter, James and John are the leaders of the leaders, the apostles of the apostles. In recognizing Barnabas and Paul, they are saying that they have equal status with themselves. And as Paul states, “just as Peter with the circumcised, meaning Jews, Paul had with the uncircumcised, meaning the Gentiles. This broke the back of legalism before it ever got a foothold inside the church.
This is also why the stubborn Judaizers had to dog Paul’s footsteps for the rest of his life. They could not do it openly, given that the Jerusalem council had agreed with Paul and Barnabas, so they did it by stealth; going into a city after Paul had left the city and then discrediting his ministry, spreading false doctrines.
In vs. 10 Paul notes that the only, and I repeat only, thing that they asked of him, was to remember the poor, which is what Paul desired to do anyway. The “poor” here is in regard to the persecuted church in Jerusalem suffering socially and economically because of their faith. This was not a blanket call to give to everyone that is poor, but those that are poor as a result of their faith and persecution.
Section 2, Vs. 11-21, Paul’s Defense of the Faith Based Life. Refuting spirituality by works in keeping the Law.
The important theological verses are vs. 16-21.
In verse 11-15, we see Paul pointing out to the Apostle Peter his hypocritical behaviors regarding the grace of God when it came to associating with the Gentile believers of these new Churches and specifically the church in Galatian Antioch. Apparently, Peter had come to this Antioch when Paul was teaching there, and freely associated with the Gentile believers, even sharing meals with them. But when some of the men from the Jerusalem Church came there, Peter began to withdraw from associating and eating with the Gentile believers, being negatively influenced by the Jewish believers and their misapplication of the Law, which was no longer valid.
Here we see how false doctrines can easily influence and lead astray even those who are somewhat mature in their spiritual life, as even Barnabas was lead astray by them in vs. 13, who had founded theses churches with Paul and co-established the Doctrines of Grace. So I guess we should never be shocked to see our fellow believers leave the grace doctrines of the Bible, like 1 John 1:9, when they listen to the wrong people.
Another principle here is how much people are influenced by people, rather than by the Word of God. The righteous believer places God’s Word and its application first in their life and does not care what other people think. Remember back in vs. 2 when Paul spoke in private with the leaders in Jerusalem. He did so because of that very fact. People are more impressed with people and their personalities than they are with the Word of God. And like lemmings, they follow and believe the charismatic types or the bullies, as we noted in vs. 5, rather than the truth of God’s Word.
Then in vs. 14-15, Paul sarcastically reprimands Peter in a great object lesson. In this object lesson when Paul uses the word “Gentile” he is using it derogatorily with the meaning of “unbelievers” and “sinners,” even though the Gentiles at Galatian Antioch where in fact believers. In addition, the term “Jew” here is used analogously for “believers”, even though not all Jews are believers. So for the object lesson, Paul states that Peter was willing to be like an unbeliever and sinner prior to the men from Jerusalem coming up, and that was ok with Peter. Then when these men came up, Peter withdrew from them, subliminally saying that Jews, (i.e., believers), are better than the Gentiles, (i.e., unbelievers and sinners), and therefore he could not associate with them until they cleaned up their lives and became like the Jews.
In other words, when Peter was first associating with the Gentile believers in Antioch, the application of the Law was not the issue, yet grace was. But when the men from Jerusalem came up with their legalistic application of the Law, Peter, as well as Barnabas, was influenced by these men to abandon the grace doctrines and went back to the legalistic applications of the Law.
That then sets up the great theological principles to follow in vs. 16-21.
- Man is not justified in the eyes of God for Salvation or the spiritual life by the works of the Law, but by the grace principles of faith and the faith rest life.
- By the Works of the Law no one receives salvation or spirituality.
- Since Christ gave us the Law, then for those who try to apply it for salvation or spiritually and then fail to do so and sin, is Christ then to be blamed for their sins? Absolutely not! Remember, one of the reasons God gave Israel the Law was to know what sin was, Rom 7:7; 1 Cor 15:56.
Rom 7:7, “What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, “You shall not covet”.”
1 Cor 15:56, “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.”
Yet, Jesus Christ died to fulfill the entire law and overcome sin, 1 Cor 15:57.
1 Cor 15:57, “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Peter knew this well before going to Galatian Antioch, Acts 10:9ff; 11:1-18, but was negatively influenced by people and their reactions, rather than by the Word of God.
So even though courageous, and understanding the grace doctrines, Peter fell away because of other men and their opinions. So Paul reminds him of the truth.
- In 18 we are exhorted to not go back to our former manner of life; be it cosmic living or legalistic living. The phrase “once destroyed,” is our prior life of living to our sin nature, either lasciviousness or asceticism. In this passage legalism and asceticism are the object lessons in view.
- In 19, “through the Law” means its tutoring; pointing to Christ crucified, Gal 3:24-25. “Died to the Law” means its identification of sin and our sin nature. This is the subject of Romans 7 as well. Therefore, upon our faith in Christ, God has divorced us from slavery to sin and our sin natures, so that we can be joined anew to Jesus Christ. This is our new life in Christ as a “new creature” or “new creation,” or as we call it, a “new spiritual species,” Gal 6:15; 2 Cor 5:7.
- In 20, through our faith in the work of Jesus Christ on the Cross, we have been entered positionally into union with Him. We now have a new life as a new creation to live unto God. We are no longer under the bondage of sin. We are now freed from sin and live anew in the righteousness of God.
a) This new life is one based on grace and faith. It is not based on works and the Law.
b) This new life is possible because of the Love of God the Father for you personally, that sent His Son to the Cross for you, and because of the Love of Jesus Christ for you personally, to go to the Cross and take on all of your sins and paying its penalty on your behalf.
John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.”
- In 21, Paul states that even the Law was a grace based provision by God, and should have been applied as such. The grace of the Law pointed to Christ Himself and not the ritualistic application of the Law. Therefore, a faith based gospel and spirituality does not nullify the Grace of God, but is in fact the correct application of all of God’s Word. Otherwise, Jesus was just wasting His time!
“Nullify” is the Greek Verb ATHETEO, PèåôÝù in the Aorist, Active Indicative that means, “to do away with, to set aside, disregard, to thwart the efficacy of anything, nullify, make void, frustrate, reject, refuse, or slight.”
Therefore, the faith based gospel of Christ crucified does not discredit the Grace Plan of God for our salvation or spiritual life, nor disqualify for salvation the one who applies it, otherwise Christ died needlessly or in vain.
“Needlessly” is the Greek Adverb DOREA or DOREAN that is an interesting play on words as it means both, “a free gift” and “of no purpose.” So Paul says Christ’s sacrifice would have been a worthless and powerless gift, which in fact it was not. Christ’s sacrifice was the greatest gift ever given to mankind by the GRACE of God!!!
Rom 3:27, “Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. 28For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law. 29Or is God the God of Jews only? Is He not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30since indeed God who will justify the circumcised (Jews) by faith and the uncircumcised (Gentiles) through faith is one. 31Do we then nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law.”