5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
6 in all your ways submit to him, and he will direct your paths.
Dear Lord, I praise You and I love being in Your presence. Thank You for the sacrifice you made for me on the cross. Thank You for helping my heart to rest in Your presence. In a busy world, it is here that I find truth, grace, and mercy. My heart is overwhelmingly grateful. As it overflows with gratitude, may You present opportunities for me to serve. In Jesus’ Name I pray, Amen.
We continue in our study of Galatians as we reach Chapter 2. We have seen how passionately Paul is contending for the doctrine of grace and the freedom that it embraces in a Christians life. We have appreciated:
Grace declared in Paul’s message (1:1-10)
Grace demonstrated in Paul’s life (1:11-24), and today we will see
Grace defended in Paul’s ministry (2:1-10).
Galatians 2:1-10 1Then after fourteen years, I went up again to Jerusalem, this time with Barnabas. I took Titus along also. 2I went in response to a revelation and, meeting privately with those esteemed as leaders, I presented to them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. I wanted to be sure I was not running and had not been running my race in vain. 3Yet not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek. 4This matter arose because some false believers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves. 5We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you. 6As for those who were held in high esteem-whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not show favouritism-they added nothing to my message. 7On the contrary, they recognized that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been to the circumcised. 8For God, who was at work in Peter as an apostle to the circumcised, was also at work in me as an apostle to the Gentiles. 9James, Cephas and John, those esteemed as pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the circumcised. 10All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along.
Paul’s first fight for the Christian liberty was at the Jerusalem Council (referred to in Galatians 2:1-10 and Acts 15: 1-35). It is a sobering thought that if Paul had been unwilling to wage this spiritual warfare the church in the first century might have become only a Jewish sect, preaching a mixture of law and grace. Because of Paul’s courage, the Gospel was kept free from legalism and it was carried to the Gentiles with great blessing.
Acts 15 should be read along with Galatians 2:1-10 to get the full story of the event. We shall be looking at the drama in 3 acts.
Act 1 – The private consultation (2: 1-2).
Paul and Barnabas had returned to Antioch from their first missionary journey, excited about the way God had ‘opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles’. But the Jewish legalists in Jerusalem were upset with their report; so they came to Antioch and taught in effect that a Gentile had to become a Jew before he could become a Christian. They demanded circumcision an important Jewish rite. Paul maintained that a true Christian experience an inner circumcision of the heart and does not to submit to any external ritual (see Colossians 2: 10-11). This heated argument led to a decision to take it to the church leaders in Jerusalem.
Act 2 – The public convocation (2: 3-5)
The historical account of the Council of Jerusalem is recorded by Luke (Acts 15: 6-21). Several witnesses presented the case for the Gospel of the grace of God, beginning with Peter. Then Paul and Barnabas told the assembly what God had done among the Gentiles. Titus was used as an example, he was a Gentile Christian who had never submitted to circumcision, yet it was clear to all that he was genuinely saved. James the leader of the church gave the summary of the arguments and the conclusion of the matter. It was made clear that a Gentile does not have to become a Jew in order to be a Christian.
Ever since Paul’s time, the enemies of grace have been trying to add something to the simple Gospel of the grace of God. They tell us that a person is saved by faith in Christ plus something – good works, the Ten Commandments, baptism, church membership, religious ritual – and Paul makes it clear that these teachers are wrong.
Act 3 – The personal confirmation (2:6-10)
Paul respected the church leaders, but he did not fear them or seek to buy their influence. All he wanted was ‘the grace of God to be recognised’. The Jerusalem conference began with the possibility of division and dissension, yet it ended with cooperation and agreement. Paul must have felt vindicated, even though the conference ended with Paul and the leaders in agreement, it did not solve the problem. The Judaizers did not give up, but persisted in interfering with Paul’s work. But he had the encouragement to carry on being prepared to fight for freedom.
Next week will see the fight continue as Paul defends the truth of the Gospel before Peter.