We are continuing our study in Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians. Our Scripture reading is Galatians 2 and 3 with the focus of this devotional being limited to chapter 2. We considered in our prior study Paul’s defense of his apostleship (1:1-2, 10-24), and a fundamental doctrine of our faith, salvation by grace (1:6-9; Ephesians 2:8-9). Galatians 2 introduces us to two events in two geographical settings. The first event recalls Paul and Barnabas’ meeting in Jerusalem with the apostles and elders of that church (2:1-10; Acts 15). The second event was the drama that unfolded in Antioch when Paul confronted the hypocrisy of Peter (2:11-21).
Our study of Acts 15 considered the meeting of the Jerusalem council with Paul and Barnabas. Paul acknowledged that same meeting in Galatians 2, which had taken place 14 years after his first missionary journey through Asia Minor (modern day Turkey, 2:1). Many Gentiles turned from worshipping idols, were saved, and churches were established. As a reminder, the subject of Paul’s teaching was the Old Testament Scripture, which laid the foundation of the Gospel of Grace he preached.
Paul’s Private Conference with Church Leaders (2:1-2)
In Paul’s absence, false brethren had entered the churches in Asia Minor and attacked Paul’s credibility as an apostle. Those same enemies taught salvation ideas that conflicted with Christ as Messiah, which included circumcision of the flesh to be saved (1:1, 6-7, 15-17). When Paul confronted the false teachers, the contention was so great he and Barnabas were sent to Jerusalem to conference with the apostles and church leaders (2:1-4; Acts 15:4-6). I invite you to consider three primary points in the opening verses of Galatians 2.
Paul states he went up to Jerusalem “by revelation,” and followed the leading of the Lord (2:2). Notice Paul first addressed the leaders of the Jerusalem church privately, and acknowledged they were men “of reputation” (2:2) and “pillars” of the church (2:9). His motive was to not risk being publicly discredited, though he confessed he was passionate about his ministry among the Gentiles (2:2). Paul and his peers were “received of the church,” and with that reception was an acknowledgment of his apostleship to the Gentiles (Acts 15:4). Paul observed, Titus, a peer of Paul who was a Greek, was not “compelled to be circumcised” (2:3).
Paul did not make the mistake of failing to define his enemies (2:4). In fact, he described them as “false brethren” 2:4), and in Acts 15:5 as “of the sect of the Pharisees. Those “false brethren” came in secretly, and demanded Gentile believers observe circumcision to be saved (2:4). The debate was heated, for the “false brethren” caused “much disputing” (Acts 15:7). Refusing to yield to the enemies of the Gospel, Paul writes, he gave no “place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you” (2:5).
Public Confirmation [affirmation] of Paul’s ministry to the Gentiles. (2:6-10)
Paul was not awestruck nor intimidated by men (2:9). He had not come to Jerusalem to seek men’s favor. Yet, he did desire the Jerusalem leaders would acknowledge God’s grace and favor on His message and ministry to the Gentiles (2:7). The apostles and elders affirmed Paul’s ministry (2:7-8), and Peter, James and John publicly affirmed Paul and Barnabas as ministers of the Gospel to the Gentiles (2:9).
Contending for the Faith (2:11-16)
Galatians 2 also chronicled Peter’s visit to believers in Antioch (2:11). This event occurred before Paul’s second missionary journey (Acts 15:36-41). Following the first Jerusalem council, Peter came to Antioch where he fellowshipped and “did eat with the Gentiles” (2:12). Later, a second delegation from Jerusalem came to Antioch, and was comprised of believers who “came from James” (the leader of the Jerusalem church, 2:12). Sadly, in the company of the men from Jerusalem, Peter “withdrew and separated himself” from the uncircumcised Gentile believers (2:12).
Paul, a passionate defender of the faith, would not allow Peter’s hypocrisy to pass, and “withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed” (2:11). Paul observed, Peter feared “them which were of the circumcision” (2:12c). Unfortunately, others followed Peter, including Barnabas who “was carried away with their dissimulation [hypocrisy]” (2:13).
Paul’s Controversy with Peter (2:14-16)
We take away many lessons from Paul rebuking Peter. Notice his rebuke was specific, and pointed, “because [Peter] was to be blamed” (2:11). We also learn that Paul, an apostle, was Peter’s equal (2:11,14). He openly opposed and reproved Peter whose public failure demanded public correction.
Closing lesson (2:14-21) – The most important lesson was Paul’s zeal for keeping the “truth of the Gospel” (2:14). Peter had failed to walk “according to the truth of the gospel,” and Paul openly challenged his hypocrisy, saying, “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?” (2:14). Error demands reproof; public error demands public reproof. (1 Timothy 5:19-20)
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