Lesson 2 - The Apostle of Christian Liberty - Galatians 2

Lesson Two: The Apostle of Christian Liberty

(Galatians 1:10-2:21)

The Jewish preachers of another gospel, who misled the churches of Galatia, denied and discredited the apostleship of Paul.  They accused him of being a false prophet, who preached a cheap gospel of grace in order to be accepted by the Gentiles.  The conclusion: if Paul was a fake, then his message was not to be believed.  We couldn't trust a false apostle.

The first two chapters of Galatians are personal.  Paul defends his apostolic call to the gospel ministry as God's missionary to the Gentiles.

 

Paul's Revelation of Christ.  (1:10-17)

After pronouncing anathema upon those who preached another gospel, Paul asks the question, "Do I now persuade men?"  So much for him being a man-pleaser, one of the charges brought against him.

Paul's gospel had nothing to do with man.  His gospel was "not according to man."  On the contrary, "it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ."

Paul himself had been a staunch zealot for the law of Moses, a strict Pharisee.  He had been so committed to Judaism and the traditions of the Hebrew fathers that he actually persecuted Christians.  See Acts 7:58; 8:1-3; 9:1.  He was most certainly an unlikely candidate for conversion to Jesus Christ.

But Paul was converted while on the road to Damascus, where Jesus revealed Himself to this terrible persecutor of believers.  His conversion testimony is recorded in Acts 9:1-19; 22:1-21; 26:1-23.

An apostle was not just a "sent one," but someone who had been an eyewitness of Jesus' resurrection.  Acts 1:22.  Paul testified that he had seen the resurrected Jesus, that the Lord had appeared to him.  1 Corinthians 15:8.  This made him eligible for apostleship.

Paul's conversion and call to service were "through His grace."  How else?  The Christian life from beginning to end is all of grace, God's unmerited favor.  You can believe it!

Jesus Christ was not only revealed to Paul but was also revealed in him.  See verse 16.  Later, this apostle to the Gentiles received another revelation, "that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel."  Read Ephesians 3:1-7.  This truth was not revealed in the Old Testament.  It was no secret that God would save Gentiles, but it was inconceivable to think that they would become one with Jews.

So three revelations are associated with the apostle Paul: (1) his revelation of the resurrected Christ, (2) the revelation of Christ in him, and (3) the revelation of the Church, the body of Christ, composed of both Jew and Gentile.

 

Paul's Reception by the Churches.  (1:18-24)

Three years after Paul's conversion he went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, with whom he stayed fifteen days.  He did not see any other apostles, but he did meet James, the half-brother of Jesus Christ.  Matthew 13:55.  The word "see" in verse 18 is the Greek word "historeo" from which we get the English word "history."  The purpose of Paul's visit was not to gain official recognition as an apostle, but rather to exchange facts as an historian would.

The false teachers had called Paul a liar.  Here the apostle insists, "Before God, I lie not."

The apostle Paul was actively involved in preaching the gospel in regions of Syria, and Cilicia.  Paul was not known by face by the churches of Judea, but the assemblies there heard, "He who formerly persecuted us now preaches the faith which he once tried to destroy."

Paul's apostleship was recognized by the churches.  They glorified God in him.  What a contrast to the legalists who tried to destroy his reputation and ministry.

 

Paul's Approval by the Apostles.  (2:1-10)

Fourteen years after Paul's visit to Jerusalem he returned with Barnabas and Titus.  He went "by revelation," that is, the Holy Spirit revealed to Paul that this was God's will.  He shared the message that he preached to the Gentiles with the apostles, who were all Jews.  Paul sought their confirmation or endorsement of his gospel of grace.

The Jerusalem apostles recognized "that the gospel for the uncircumcised (Gentiles) had been committed to me (Paul), as the gospel for the circumcision (Jews) was to Peter."  The leaders of the church at Jerusalem extended the right hand of fellowship to Paul and Barnabas.

It's interesting that false brethren had also secretly entered the Jerusalem church.  Like the false teachers at Galatia they tried "by stealth to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage."  The legalists insisted that circumcision was a requirement for salvation.

The test case regarding circumcision was Titus, a Greek, who had accompanied Paul to Jerusalem.  The gospel of grace would have been discredited if Paul had circumcised Titus on the demand of the legalists.  Paul and the other apostles did not give in to them that the truth of the gospel might continue.

 

Paul's Rebuke of Peter.  (2:11-21)

In Acts 10 we have the account of Peter's visit to the house of Cornelius, a Gentile.  Until that time the church was believed to be a Jewish church.  But when Cornelius believed the gospel and received the Holy Spirit, Peter realized that Jesus Christ was Savior of believing Gentiles as well as believing Jews.

On a later date Peter visited the church at Antioch, which was composed largely of Gentiles.  Peter ate with them, something he would never have done prior to Cornelius' conversion.  See Acts 10:28.

When certain men came from James in Jerusalem, Peter "withdrew and separated himself (from the Gentile believers), fearing those who were of the circumcision."  What an ongoing battle this must have been with some Jews in the fellowship of the early church!  Peter's action misled other Jewish brethren, including even Barnabas.  How hypocritical!

The apostle Paul was straightforward with Peter, rebuking him before everyone.  In essence he said, "Peter, you are a Jew, who lives like a Gentile, free from the law of Moses.  Now you compel Gentiles to live like Jews, who are in bondage to the law."

Paul makes two things clear in Galatians 2:16: (1) we are not justified (declared righteous) by the works of the law, and (2) we are justified by faith in Jesus Christ.  These truths are repeated in this one verse.  See also Acts 13:38, 39; Romans 3:21, 22, 28.

But aren't Christians supposed to live according to the law?  Paul declares, "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me."  Christ lives in believers; believers live by faith in Him.

If we could be right with God by our own good works, there would have been no need for Jesus to die on the cross.  "I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain (or for nothing)."

The apostle of Christian liberty defended his apostleship convincingly.  We can believe the gospel of grace.

 

Lesson Three: The Doctrine
of Christian Liberty / Arguments - Galatians 3

 
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