“Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along with me. I went up because of a revelation and set before them (though privately before those who seemed influential) the gospel that I proclaim among the Gentiles, in order to make sure I was not running or had not run in vain.” Galatians 2:1-2
Paul is recounting a trip he took to Jerusalem with Barnabas and Titus. He states here that he went because of “revelation” not because anyone had called for him to go but because he felt called by God to go. During this trip he met with “those who seemed influential” privately so that he could present to them the gospel that he preached to the Gentiles. Paul also goes on to say that while he did go to talk to them and to present to them what he was preaching, it was not something that changed the way or what he was preaching at all. Again Paul reiterates that he was confident in his message. And he was confident that God was not showing partiality to the influential nor to him. But that each had their own ministry. Among these “influential” were James, Peter and John. Paul is pointing out that they have their ministry to the Jews and Paul had his ministry to the Gentiles.
“And from those who seemed to be influential (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)-those, I say, who seemed influential added nothing to me. On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel to the circumcised (for he who worked through Peter for his apostolic ministry to the circumcised worked also through me for mine to the Gentiles), and when James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised.” Galatians 2:6-9
In verses 11 – 14 Paul calls out Peter publicly. Don’t you just love Peter? I do because he is so real, and it looks like some of his character traits that were pointed out by Jesus are still deeply embedded and can tend to rear their ugly heads again. It seems that Peter tried to play both sides of the fence. When he was with Paul ministering to the Gentiles, he would eat with them and he was very accepting of them but when he was with his Jewish friends he would draw back from them and would shun the Gentiles. I wonder how many times I can be guilty of the same thing. You see when Peters world collided and his Gentile friends and his Jewish friends were in the same place he had trouble being the same person to both. Paul calls him out on this publicly.
“But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, ‘If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?’” Galatians 2:14
I love that Peter is a real guy and that scripture points it out to us. Because it makes me realize that the people who we read about and learn from in the Bible were just that, real people. Real people who were fallible and made mistakes. It gives me hope that they made mistakes and still had ministry, I don’t have to think better of myself or try to be perfect. Oh yes, I strive to do what is right, but I am real and fallible just like good old Peter was.
In the last verses of this chapter, Paul is explaining to them that our faith is justified because of what Christ did for us on the cross, not because of the list of rules we can keep up with. We are not saved by our works of the law, but we are saved by Christ.
“But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor.” Galatians 2:17-18
To fall into step with trying to keep the law is only setting yourself up for failure. “If I rebuild what I tore down”, in other words, I set aside that list of rules and regulations to walk by faith in Christ and if I set myself up a new set of rules then I will only fall at those as well.
“For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.” Galatians 2:19-21
What Paul is saying here is when we put more emphasis on the list of rules to walk by, what to eat, who to eat with, circumcised or uncircumcised, we are negating what Christ did for us on the cross. When Paul says this life I now live in the flesh, he is saying, this everyday stuff that I do, the struggles I have, the things I do right and the things I do wrong, I do with the faith that the Son of God has already done what needed to be done for me on the cross. Christ has already done the work, now all I must do is live in relationship with Him.
Lord please help us to walk with You, please help us to remember the grace of what You did for us on the cross.
Please pray for your churches and pastors today.