Devotional # 88. 5/26/14. Galatians 2.
Galatians: Last week we started the book of Galatians, which is a letter from Paul to the people in Galatia (pronounced “Guh-lay-sh-uh”) which wasn’t a town but more of an area. Remember that Galatia was one of the first places that Paul preached the gospel but false teachers came in and preached incorrect ideas about Jesus? It was mostly about freedom. The false teachers were saying that salvation was through believing in Jesus PLUS the Law of Moses. Today, as we read chapter 2, we’ll see that the principle of a Christian’s freedom is again the topic.
vv. 1-5. Paul goes to Jerusalem with Barnabas and Titus. Paul goes by the will of God (“by revelation”) and he shares the gospel” (Jesus’ good news) with the Jews there in the same way that he had shared it with the Gentiles he had ministered to. He went first to the Jewish leaders (“those…of reputation”) and told them “privately” what he had been sharing. He didn’t do this because he thought they were more important than the common people (as he’ll explain in verses 6-8). He didn’t do this because he wanted them to verify if what he had been saying was correct. He told them “privately” because it was “common courtesy to speak to the leaders first” and also so that if the leaders had any issues with what he said then Paul could explain to them right away. Then when he told the rest of the church he would already have “the full support of the other apostles” (Source 1).
The way Paul had shared the gospel with Gentiles was to explain that they didn’t have to be circumcised and wouldn’t be held to the eating laws of Israel if they decided to become Christians. So Paul argued with the leaders of the church in Jerusalem since their minds had been poisoned by “false brothers” that Old Testament rites were still necessary for salvation. The reason that Paul is telling the Galatians this is because it is directly applicable to what the Galatians have been doing.
vv. 6-10. Paul explains that he doesn’t view one person above another (as I mentioned above), that regardless of where you’re from or what religion you come from everyone is equal in being a sinner. Every person must accept Jesus’ gift of death on the cross in the same way and so no one is better than another. This is something we have to keep in mind. Each of us may treat our boss differently than our co-workers, or our friends differently than our siblings. That’s because we like being treated well (ultimately a selfish desire) and often don’t think of people as eternal souls. I’m not saying treat people badly or disrespectfully, I’m saying treat everyone equally in love. So it’s not a worldly mind-set of respect but a desire to lead every lost soul to Jesus. When you treat people with love (as Jesus commanded) then they hear about Christ and they might become a Christian. If they become a Christian then they have freedom which brings us back to how we are supposed to understand a believer’s freedom. A great place to read about our freedom is Romans 14. The quick version is that we’re no longer caught up in religious rituals so we should not trade that for other restrictions. If we aren’t convicted about something it doesn’t mean another brother or sister has that same liberty and since their walk with the Lord is more important than our freedom we willingly give up our freedom, in the love that Jesus commanded us to have.
vv. 11-13. Paul describes Peter’s hypocrisy, which Paul called him out on, in front of the Jews. Peter had been cool with the Gentiles in the church doing everything with them just like he did with the Jews. Since he had been given the vision from God of all the animals in the sheet (see Acts 10:9-16, Devotional 51) he knew it was OK to eat un-kosher meat. So he ate pork with the Gentiles because he had the freedom to do so. But when the religious Jews would visit Peter he would act like he didn’t eat pork with the Gentiles. Have you ever had a “friend” who was cool with you until another person came into the room and then they acted like they didn’t even know you or they would make fun of you? This was how Peter was acting towards his Christian friends who were Gentiles. He still wanted to be accepted by his ethnic group. Even Peter who Jesus called the “rock” that He would build the church on (Matthew 16:18) had difficulty taking a stand. But Jesus had said that this would happen. In order to follow Jesus every Christian will have to give things up.
Worse than just being hypocritical, Peter was leading others into hypocrisy (“the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him”). Not just others but Barnabas “was carried away with their hypocrisy”, remember when Paul and Barnabas had argued on whether to take Mark on their journey in Acts 15:36-41 (Devotional 55)? Now what Peter was doing was wrong but that isn’t Paul’s final point.
vv. 14-21. Paul’s point in telling the story of Peter is that Christians should know how salvation happens and how and why a Christian has freedom. Paul’s point is very clear and straightforward: going to heaven only comes from “faith in Jesus Christ” not from anything else. More than not being justified by the law, we have to die to the law and live for God. Then Paul says one of the most complete thoughts for Christians to try and apply to their lives: “I have been crucified with Christ.” We understand that Jesus was crucified on the cross. The terrific pain and torture that He went through while bearing our sins. In the same way we must go through a small fraction of pain while on earth if we accept Jesus. Paul continues “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life which I know live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Can you honestly say that Jesus is “first in everything” (Colossians 1:18)? Can you say that your needs are second? It is a difficult thing to do but the sooner you acknowledge that you are supposed to do it, the better. Paul says that as long as we live in our earthly, physical bodies we are to give our lives for Jesus since He gave His life for us.
Conclusion: As we’ve seen Paul uses a real life example to explains to the Galatians what hypocrisy over claiming to believe in Jesus’ complete sacrifice then still requiring old religious “works” looks like. Paul’s point of the Christians freedom is important to complete understand his concluding point. Jesus has given us freedom and our only appropriate response is to choose slavery! We come back to the idea that we are to be bondservants of Jesus (if you don’t remember see last week’s Devotional 87 for more.)
Source 1: William MacDonald, The Letter to the Galatians, 2007, p. 14.