Thursday, August 23, 2007

Galatians, Chapter 2

We fast forward 14 years with the beginning of Chapter 2. What we see here is Paul defending his message to Peter and the rest of the Apostles, and how simple his message really was. We saw in Chapter 1 that Paul reiterated the simplicity of his message, that being that we are saved not by works, but by grace through faith alone. In Chapter 2, we see how that message was different from what the apostles were teaching at the time, and he goes to gain their acceptance by explaining his position.

Critical from this meeting is the agreement that comes about between Paul and the rest of the apostles, as Paul goes to teach the Gentiles, while the Apostles go to teach the Jews. Was Paul's approval really necessary, however? There was indeed some consternation at the time as there was a strong movement to adhere to Jewish traditions as we discussed in chapter 1, but Paul once again demonstrated that the most important thing was the message, not the details.

        "We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might remain with you." -- Galatians 2:5

I have always been a results-oriented guy, and people that obsess over the details and the processes of things drive me crazy. As long as the job gets done I don't care how it is done. Much like Paul here, to me it is not how you get the message, but the fact that you did get the message. Whether you come to Christ through a revival meeting, in church, through opening a random Bible in a hotel room, or from a verse of Scripture written on a cocktail napkin, the important thing is the end result - you came to Christ. Christ made all things obsolete before Him, including all the rituals of the Old Testament. This conflict between results and details is further played out beginning in Verse 11 as we see Paul confront Peter, who was then the head of the church.

Peter had already participated in taking the gospel to the Gentiles, but he had gone too far in forcing the Jewish traditions of the day on the Gentiles. Again, Peter was hung up with the details of the message. Paul corrects him here.

"15We who are Jews by birth and not 'Gentile sinners' 16know that man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified." – Galatians 2:15-16

Simply put: the law means nothing, and Christ means everything. I think it is important here to distinguish a little bit about what 'the law' means here in context. As far as the Ten Commandments and other restrictions laid down by God we should still observe them and follow them as best we can. What Paul is referring to here is the law in terms of finding salvation through it. When Christ came and died on the cross this is what He made obsolete. As the verse above says we are justified only by faith in Christ. It doesn't get any simpler than that.

"20I have been crucified in Christ and I no longer live but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. 21I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!" – Galatians 2:20-21

Once again, we see Paul taking Christ's message and putting it very simply for anyone to understand. If the law still worked, then there would be no need for Christ. Peter is an interesting character because of how strong he was in his faith, yet he still struggled at times because he would get carried away with that faith. We see that during Christ's time on Earth, he often had to calmly rebuke and redirect Peter's efforts, and that continues here as Paul corrects him once again and sets him on the right path. What could have been a major divergence in church history was averted because Paul's transformation was so dramatic. He once would have insisted on following Jewish tradition, but instead he now saw that the results were much more important than the journey.


  1. How important was it that Paul corrected Peter here and made sure he concentrated more on delivering the message?
  2. Where do you see the details in your own life getting in the way of your mission?
  3. How is the law still important in some instances, but still rendered obsolete by Christ dying and rising again?

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