-Paul begins chapter 2 by continuing with us personal history indicating that he spent 14 years in Syria and Cilicia (this may have been primarily a stay in Tarsus, his hometown, Acts 9:11; 21:39; 22:3 and also Antioch). He then took with him Barnabas, the encourager, and Titus, who was an uncircumcised Greek believer back up to Jerusalem by revelation set before them by God (Galatians 2:2-3). Paul relates how false brothers came in at some point of their time in this region to spy out their freedoms in Christ in an effort to enforce legalistic measures on them, which Paul calls “slavery (Galatians 2:4).” Paul claims they did not yield in submission to these Judaizers even for a moment, but kept the accurate revelation of the truth for the purpose of preserving the Gentiles in complete and total faith (Galatians 2:5). Even those who seemed influential (Peter, James, John) added nothing to his requirements, which was simply the obedience of faith in Jesus Christ crucified, buried, and risen for justification from sin. God is impartial (Galatians 2:6). The only requirement these who had as their primary ministry to the circumcised laid on Paul and his party was to remember the poor, which Paul heartily agreed to do (Galatians 2:10). *Application* The freedom in Christ was important for these Gentile converts and it is important for us. Paul will go on to explain this further, but at this point it should be clear that we need to defend our freedoms from works based religious systems. Oppose those who want to eradicate the liberty you have in Christ Jesus by faith. Legalism is a false religious system, which God does not approve of.
-Paul goes into an incident to prove his point on legalism. When Cephas (Peter) came to Antioch, Paul had to oppose him to his face because of Peter’s condemned hypocrisy in this area of Judaizing. Peter had been eating and partaking of the freedoms of Christ with the Gentile brothers, but when certain men came from James, who were legalistic Jews, Peter became afraid of their stance and withdrew in separation from the Gentile party. The rest of the Jews followed suit with him in their hypocrisy even to the point that Barnabas was led astray (Galatians 2:11-13). Paul, seeing that this was wrong and not in step with the gospel truth, told Cephas before them all basically that it was wrong to live like a Gentile with them and then switch around to try to force the Gentiles to live like Jews according to the Law because of man pleasing (Galatians 2:14). Paul’s statement in verse sixteen, “yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the Law 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,” says it all. *Application* Paul was right to expose the hypocrisy in this situation. His focus was on sharing the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ, not following man-made traditions and requirements of the Law, which are a pointing to Christ, not a means of justification for salvation. The real issue here is works based forgiveness. We can never be justified apart from the righteous grace of Christ Jesus through His work on the cross. Make sure people understand this as you share your faith with them. There are many in our world that still believe they must try and work their way to Heaven. This is simply not true and the truth needs to be revealed. Be bold in the freedom which has set you free!
-In the remaining verses of this passage, the author denounces the notion that this liberty in Christ makes one free to go on sinning with no repercussions. Christ died so that we might die to ourselves and live in Him by His strength given to us by His Holy Spirit. Paul’s point is that he, and we, have been crucified with Christ. “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life that I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me (Galatians 2:20).” This is resurrection life by the Spirit of God. We should never nullify the grace of God by trying to work for our salvation. “If righteousness were through the Law, then Christ died for no purpose (Galatians 2:21).” *Application* Though we still live in the flesh and are burdened with the capacity to sin while we walk in these earth suits, the Lord is ever present with us by His Spirit and will give us the needed power and authority to overcome temptation and live according to the righteousness of Christ. Christ is our life (Romans 5:10; 6:23, Philippians 1:21, Colossians 3:4)!
Verses to Memorize- Galatians 2:16, 20