After fourteen years, Paul, along with his traveling companion Barnabas, went to Jerusalem to share the contents of the gospel message that he had been preaching with the original disciples or apostles of Jesus Christ (Gal. 2:1-2). Paul wanted to make sure that his message was consistent with the message that the apostles were preaching. Paul submitted his ministry to the apostles, and they saw that he was entrusted to take the gospel to the uncircumcised, and Peter was assigned the divine task to take the gospel to the Jews (Gal. 2:7-8).
Paul and Peter served the same Christ but had different ministry assignments from the Spirit. Peter, James, and John gave Paul and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship and did not offer constructive feedback to Paul regarding his gospel preaching (Gal. 2:6). Paul’s message was completely aligned with the other apostles’. Some false brothers slipped in to spy out the freedom that Paul, along with Titus, had in Christ (Gal. 2:3).
An important word to remember in the Epistle to the Galatians is circumcision. A close study of the book of Galatians reveals that Paul uses terms like “the law” and “circumcision” interchangeably to demonstrate that outer or mere physical activities do not equate to Christlike spirituality. Circumcision is the ritual act of incising or removing a male child’s foreskin eight days after birth (Gen. 17:12; Lev. 12:3; Luke 2:21). It was a physical sign instituted by God of His covenant with Abraham (Gen. 17:9-14).
Paul mentioned the incident in which he rebuked Peter for acting hypocritically against the Gentile believers. Peter was eating with Jewish and Gentile believers at Antioch until some of the circumcision party came in. Peter became intimidated and began acting in a way that was not consistent with the gospel (hypocritical) (Gal. 2:11-14). This is a powerful reminder to us today to be careful how we live because others are watching us. Hypocrisy is a major barrier to people coming to Christ (or the church). The argument goes like this: “People who profess to be Christians are no different from those who are not.” And this argument is often true. We must validate and affirm this statement. We cannot shrug our shoulders and act as if there’s no reasonableness to the statement. However, living in the gospel is the very thing needed to change this scenario. I would also like to say that people may be hypocritical but God is not. Think about that…
Paul concludes chapter 2 by saying, “We know that works of the law do not justify a person but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified” (Gal. 2:16). The word “justification” is another critical word to jot down. Justification means that God has declared the repentant sinner as right before Him based on the work of Jesus Christ on the cross. Justification provides the basis of a right relationship with God. When God justifies you, it is as if you never sinned. Can you imagine the freedom this biblical truth can give you?
- All Christians are called to serve Christ and His purpose, but all believers do not have the same ministry calling or assignment (Gal. 2:7-10)
- Every true believer willingly and prayerfully submits their ministry to the authorities set in place by God (Gal. 2:2, 6, 9).
- Hypocrisy is inconsistent with Gospel living and can lead others astray (Gal. 2:11-14).
- Whether Jew or Gentile, all believers have been declared right before God based on Christ’s sacrificial death and resurrection (Gal. 2:15-21)