In Part 1 of the Galatians Study, Paul wrote a letter to the believers in the province of Galatia because their faith was under assault. Jews from Jerusalem had followed hot on Paul's heels and swooped in on the area, attempting to sabotage the faith of the Galatians by trying to put them under the laws of Judaism. Paul, in precise fashion and acting upon the prompting and inspiration of the Lord, set out to set the record straight and show the legalists for who and what they really were. As we continue in Part 2, Paul relays even more of his past, and sets down for the Galatians that they were being lied to:
"Then after an interval of fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along also. It was because of a revelation that I went up; and I submitted to them the gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but I did so in private to those who were of reputation, for fear that I might be running, or had run, in vain." (Galatians 2:1-2, NASB, emphasis mine)
Paul tells us here that after 14 years, he came again to Jerusalem and submitted what he had been preaching to those who had been leading the church at that time. His reason for doing so was that he was concerned that he might not have been "running the race" as he should have been, or to say it another way, he wanted to make sure that the message he was preaching was the correct one and that he had not gone off in a direction he shouldn't have. This speaks to us as well; we should check what we are preaching with the Word as well as with those we trust are truthfully teaching the word. There are those who have walked where we are walking now, and the Lord sets them to minister to those who are now where they once were.
Sometimes, a good brother or sister in Christ can see where we might go off the road and tell us before it happens. And this is what Paul is doing for the Galatians:
"But not even Titus, who was with me, though he was a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised. But it was because of the false brethren secretly brought in, who had sneaked in to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, in order to bring us into bondage. But we did not yield in subjection to them for even an hour, so that the truth of the gospel would remain with you. But from those who were of high reputation (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)—well, those who were of reputation contributed nothing to me. But on the contrary, seeing that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been to the circumcised (for He who effectually worked for Peter in his apostleship to the circumcised effectually worked for me also to the Gentiles), and recognizing the grace that had been given to me, James and Cephas and John, who were reputed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, so that we might go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. They only asked us to remember the poor—the very thing I also was eager to do." (Galatians 2:3-10, NASB, emphasis mine)
Paul reveals here that there were those who were trying to get his partner Barnabas (who was a Gentile) to become circumcised, but they didn't back down for an instant! The apostles in Jerusalem recognized that the Lord had indeed called Paul and had given him the gospel to preach to the Gentiles, and the gave their blessing to him to continue on. This reinforced Paul, confirming that he was indeed "on track" and serves as a powerful proof to the Galatians; since the disciples who walked with the Lord and had been at Pentecost had recognized what Paul was doing as genuine and authenticated in the Lord, that Paul's word to the Galatians was authentic and was the final word. The legalists who had come from Jerusalem had NO SUCH authority!
But Paul then had to confront Peter (Cephas) when he came to Antioch, because Peter was sending a "mixed message":
"But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision. The rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of all, “If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?" (Galatians 2:11-14, NASB, emphasis mine)
Even though Peter had been with the Lord in His time on Earth and walked with Him, Peter had done something that was essentially saying that the rules of Judaism still held sway and authority; so much so that Barnabas was even buying into it! Paul had to call Peter on it and say: "Look, if you're a Jew and not living like them, why are you trying to get believers who aren't to live like them??!!"
In other words: if Peter wasn't practicing Judaism as a Christian, why should Gentile believers have to?
Paul then explains in more detail:
“We are Jews by nature and not sinners from among the Gentiles; nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified." (Galatians 2:15-16, NASB, emphasis mine)
Paul tells us here that we are not justified by works but faith in Jesus Christ; works alone will not save, period. This doesn't mean we can just sit around and do nothing, but acts and trying to follow the Law on our own strength will not save us. This sets the stage for the point Paul is making:
"But if, while seeking to be justified in Christ, we ourselves have also been found sinners, is Christ then a minister of sin? May it never be! For if I rebuild what I have once destroyed, I prove myself to be a transgressor. For through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.” (Galatians 2:17-21, NASB, emphasis mine)
What Paul is saying here is that in Christ, he (and us) are set free from the Law; we are no longer under the Old Testament or the covenant that pertained within. Since that is true, neither Jewish believers nor Gentile believers in Christ are required to submit to the massive amounts of oral traditions that pertained to the Levitical standards.
Christ's sacrifice supersedes all those requirements, as He has fulfilled them all.
On that note: as Paul wrote in the book of Romans, we are also not bound in a whole tirade of traditions or requirements imposed on us by legalists nowadays either. People can be well-meaning in their attempts to make rules to "keep order", but legalism can become so stifling and binding that it can choke the life out of everything! No, this doesn't mean that we can run around and do as we please, but in walking with the Lord, we are free to serve Him according to our gifts that He gives us, without fear of condemnation for who we are, what job we do, our background, or any other "criteria".
If we are walking in the spirit, then we are following the law of God; that law is" to love God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind, and the second is like unto it: to love your neighbor as yourself".
In Part 3, we'll take a close look at the Law, and see what God really intended it for.
I bid you all peace.