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Bible Commentaries

Smith's Bible Commentary

Galatians 2

Verses 1-21

Chapter 2

Then fourteen years later I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and I took Titus with me also ( Galatians 2:1 ).

So Paul no doubt had been ministering in Syria and Cilicia, the area around Tarsus, his home city, his hometown, and there had been Gentiles that he had brought to the faith of Jesus Christ, Titus being one of them. Now Barnabas, one of the brethren in the church there in Jerusalem decided to go to Tarsus because there was a work of God being accomplished in Antioch and he, there were a lot of Gentiles being saved and having heard of Paul, he decided to go get Paul to help in the church in Antioch. And so he went to Tarsus, searched out Paul and invited Paul to come back and to become a minister there at Antioch.

And he brought Paul to Jerusalem in order to sort of mend things with the apostles, to show them the truth of Paul's faith. And he said,

I went up by revelation, and communicated unto them that gospel which I was preaching among the Gentiles, but I communicated it to them privately those that were reputation, lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain ( Galatians 2:2 ).

In other words, he didn't really proclaim it openly to the church in Jerusalem because the church in Jerusalem was made up of a lot of former Pharisees and a lot of Jews who were still following the traditions of the law and who were still very observant in many aspects to the law. Jews who believed still that you could not be a Christian if you were a Gentile. Jews that still held to the fact that the only way you could be saved was by believing in Jesus Christ and then keeping the law of Moses and being circumcised. That was the basic mindset of the church in Jerusalem. And so Paul communicated in private to the apostles the gospel that he had been preaching, this gospel of grace.

But Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was not compelled to be circumcised ( Galatians 2:3 ):

They tried to encourage it and all but Paul withstood it. For their teaching was, Hey, you've got to be circumcised in order to be saved. And so Titus was not compelled as Paul withstood them.

That because of false brethren unawares who were brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage: To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for a minute; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you ( Galatians 2:4-5 ).

So Paul was standing for you Gentiles. Paul was standing up for the gospel that has been proclaimed to you. That you don't have to become a Jew. That you don't have to keep the law of Moses. All you have to do is "believe in Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved" ( Acts 16:31 ). Put your trust in Him and God will do His work in your life and transform you by the power of the Spirit and what you can't do for yourself, God will do for you. Salvation is God's gift through your faith in Jesus.

And so Paul had this conflict but he would not give in. He would not surrender to the pressures of the apostles there in Jerusalem, not for a moment.

But of these who seemed to be somewhat ( Galatians 2:6 ),

I like this. Paul's a tough cookie. It's interesting to me how that so quickly we can lose sight of the teaching of Jesus. Jesus said, "If any man would be chief among you, let him become the servant of all" ( Mark 10:44 ). And Jesus taught His disciples that the true ministry was one of servanthood. He took the towel. He washed their feet, taking the place of a servant among them. And He said, Now do you see what I've done? Go and do likewise. "Happy are you if you do these things." That is, if you'll take the place of a servant. "If I, being your Lord, have served you, then you ought to serve one another" ( John 13:14-17 ).

But always in the church it seems that we develop some kind of a hierarchy. We develop this little circle of, of leadership where we begin to stand in awe of men. Oh, you know, look. And it is so easy to become a prey to this and think, Ho-ho-ho, I am something, you know. I am somebody. And you begin then to insulate yourself from people. And you soon lose contact with people and you soon lose contact with reality.

There is one servant of God that I highly admire. I think he's been used of God perhaps in a greater measure than almost any man living today. And when I met him, I was totally taken back by the simple, beautiful attitude of this man. And that's Billy Graham. He is the most unassuming person. All God has used him, you know, and people, oh, Billy Graham, you know, and I was that way. I would say, Oh, Billy Graham, you know and Billy Graham, you know and, and I was just, you know, just so in awe of him. And then he started talking with me and I became just totally wiped out with the beautiful openness and touchability of this man.

One of our fellows who is a flight attendant for Western Airlines had Billy on his plane the other day. And so he said to him, When you're through with your duties why don't you come back and sit and talk? And so he sat down and was talking with Billy for about an hour on the plane and Billy says, Well, give me your phone number. Next time I'm out in California I'll give you a call. Maybe we can get together. With a flight attendant on Western Airlines! But that's the kind of a man he is. It's beautiful. No wonder God has used that man so mightily. No wonder God has been able to continue to use him through the years, because he has caught what it is to be a servant of God and not really placed himself in in this position of you know grandiose superiority over others.

Now as, here was this little, you know, little group in Jerusalem. They had set themselves up and you know, they're establishing themselves and Paul says of them, "But of those who seem to be somewhat,"

(whatever they were, it makes no matter to me: for God doesn't accept any man's persons:) ( Galatians 2:6 )

Years ago when I was disenchanted with the particular denomination in which I was serving, I started looking around to other denominations. I was hoping to find the perfect denomination. I was going to corrupt it by joining it. And so I went before the bishops and before the presbyteries and before the leaders of other denominations because the thing that I didn't like in the denominationalism was the establishment of the spiritual hierarchy which created a political back-scratching kind of a mode, you know, getting up the line and getting in the positions of power and then, you know, there you sit in your chair, your pompous attitude, and the whole thing. And I didn't see that in true Christianity and I was, and I was looking for more of a fellowship where, Hey, you know, we all put our pants on one leg at a time, you know, no different from each other really. And so I went before many of these august bodies of leaders. You know, just their glasses and they sit there in their chairs and they, you know, scowl at you and, and, and gave you the whole, you know, they try to intimidate you. And that's the whole game, intimidation.

They tried to intimidate Paul. Intimidate him into having Titus circumcised and you know, and having Paul backed down. "But of these who seemed to be somewhat, (whatsoever they are, it doesn't matter to me: for God accepts no man's person:)" God doesn't stand in awe of these men. God is not intimidated by them. But "the nations are as dust in the balances" in his eyes, how much less man ( Isaiah 40:15 ).

Now that's an interesting little scripture, "The nations are as dust in the balances." Many times a merchant, of course, the balances were, you know, you buy your goods, you buy them by the weights and so they had the shekel weights that they would place on the balances. They had the balanced scales. But a merchant would try to show you how honest he really was. So he would blow the dust off of the scales before he would put your merchandise on it in order that you're not buying his dust. And it was a symbolic action to just show you, Hey, I'm the most honest guy around, you know. And so this dust in the balances is a picturesque thing, people could see the merchant blowing the dust off the balance before he put your merchandise on it so you'd know that you were getting a fair deal. "The nations are like dust in the balances." God can blow them away. How much less is man?

And so God doesn't accept a man's person. God isn't intimidated by man.

for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference ( Galatians 2:6 )

you know, those who were taking the authority and speaking the words of power and all.

they added nothing to me ( Galatians 2:6 ):

I wasn't moved by them.

But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, and the gospel of the circumcision was committed unto Peter; (For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:) And when James, Cephas, and John [or Peter and John], who seemed to be the pillars ( Galatians 2:7-9 ),

Ahh, oh Paul, I love you, man. "Who seemed to be the pillars,"

perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the circumcision ( Galatians 2:9 ).

And this is great, this is a real problem that existed in the early church and this is how it was resolved. Recognizing that we each have our ministries but they are different. God has called you to the circumcision, great, go for it, Peter. God has called me to the Gentiles, great, I'll go for it. We're dealing with different kinds of people who need a different emphasis and message.

I do see the validity of denominations or at least the variety of churches. I do see the validity of the liturgical churches who are ministering to people who can relate to God best in a liturgical setting. I can see the purpose of emotional churches, the Pentecostal churches, for people who have to relate to God in a emotional, hyped sense. And I really rejoice that God is so gracious in reaching man at his different levels. And so God has reached me at my level. God has reached you at your level. And He seeks to reach every man at whatever level that man is.

If a man's made up on an emotional base and a high pitch thing, God meets him on that level because God loves him. If a man is made up of very sedate, you know, solemn kind of a way, God meets that man at his level. So that we shouldn't put down the liturgical churches nor should we put down the Pentecostal churches. But we should recognize that God is using each to meet men at both ends of the spectrum and also those who are in between in the spectrum because God loves all men and God is no respecter of man's persons. He'll meet each of us at our level.

The only problem comes when we say we have the only level or we have the best level. You know, ours is superior to theirs. God loves us more because we relate to God in a better way. No, it's the best way for me to relate to God. But there is, for some people, they could not relate to God as I relate to God. And it's interesting there are some that say, Hey, you're too emotional; and there are others that say, You're not emotional enough. Somewhere I figure I'm relating to God in the middle of the road 'cause if they hit you from both sides, you know you got to be in the middle. They hit you from just one side, you're on the end then, you know. But when they get you from both sides, you're in the middle.

So Paul agreed to disagree. God's called you, Peter, John, James, God's called you guys to the Jews, great. But God has called me to the Gentiles. You can develop your legal relationships with God, we will develop our loving relationships with God through grace. Now Paul puts in his little barb here.

Only they would that we would remember the poor ( Galatians 2:10 );

In other words, they asked us for help. Now we're going to minister to the Jews but we're needing help so don't forget the poor which, Paul said,

we've always been forward in doing ( Galatians 2:10 ).

That is, in helping the poor. Paul, you remember, many times took up offerings from the churches to give to the church in Jerusalem to help them in their poverty. So he's sort of interesting.

But when Peter was come to Antioch ( Galatians 2:11 ),

That is, the place where Paul, that was Paul's really home church in a sense. That's where Paul the base from which Paul went. The base to which Paul returned. That was his home church. "When Peter was come to Antioch,"

I withstood him to the face, because he was at fault. For before certain of the brothers came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles: but when they came down, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those which were of the circumcision. And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that even Barnabas was carried away with their dissimulation. But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, If you, being a Jew, were living after the manner of the Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why are you compelling the Gentiles to live as the Jews ( Galatians 2:11-14 )?

So Peter showed a vacillation here and of course, Peter was sort of famous for vacillation. He had come down to Antioch and he was eating with the Gentiles. Now the churches in those days had what they called the Agape feasts. It was sort of what we would call today a potluck. And usually once a week they would all get together for this Agape feast, everyone bringing a dish and then just sharing it all together and eating together. And then they would finish it with communion service. And it was called the love feast, the Agape feast in the early church. And it served a great purpose because many times the poor people, this was the only decent meal they got all week. Many of the Christians were slaves, undernourished. And this was the only decent meal they had.

So everybody sharing all of their food, all sitting together and eating together. And so Peter came down and he just sat with them and ate with them. But that's a no-no to a good Jew. For in eating together, you were becoming one with them and thus they were becoming one with the Gentile. And from a Judaistic standpoint, from an Orthodox standpoint, that was bad. But Peter, seeing the love of Christ, realizing, Hey, they're just brothers in the Lord, he just sat down with Gentiles and ate.

Now you remember earlier when Peter had his revelation on the housetop of Simon there in Joppa, and the sheep was let down and all kinds of unclean animals on it, the Lord said, Peter, rise, kill and eat. He said, Oh, not me, Lord, I've never eaten anything unclean. Jesus said, Don't call that unclean which I have cleansed. It happened three times. And then the Lord said, Behold at the gate there are some men who have come, go with them. Don't ask any questions.

And so Peter went down at the gate and here were three men from Caesarea and they said, Our master Cornelius, a Roman centurion, had a vision and in the vision the angel told him to send us down here and to find you and to bring you back up that you might explain to us the way of God in truth. And so Peter went with them and he came to the house of Cornelius in Caesarea.

Cornelius opened the door and said, O praise the Lord, Peter, come on in. And Peter said, Oh-oh, you know it's not lawful for me to enter your house, the house of a Gentile. But he said, God told me don't call that unclean which is cleansed. So I'll come on in, you know. Isn't that what you want to know? And so Cornelius said, Well, I was praying the other day in the afternoon about three o'clock and this angel stood here and told me to just call you and that you would tell us what we needed to know. So the ball's in your court. What do we need to know?

And so Peter started sharing with these Gentiles and a group had gathered there at Cornelius' house, group of his friends had come to hear what Peter had to say and as Peter was talking to them, the Holy Spirit fell upon them and Peter was shocked. Now these people are Gentiles. They're receiving gift of the Holy Spirit, what's going on here? And he says, Now notice fellows, I didn't do anything, you know. When we get back to Jerusalem you witness for me. I didn't do it. And he didn't want to take the responsibility and so he had the Jewish witnesses go back to Jerusalem and explain how that he wasn't really responsible. It was something that God did because he didn't want to get in trouble. Went into the house of the Gentiles to begin with.

Well, Peter, the Lord was beginning to break down some of these barriers. He came to Antioch, saw the beautiful fellowship, the love feast and joined in. But then certain brothers came down from Jerusalem, friends of James, and Peter knew that if they saw him eating with the Gentiles, he'd get reported on. Peter was eating with Gentiles, oh, no! you know, what's happening now? And so Peter pulled away and the next love feast, he sat along with a little group of Jews. Division in the body.

And the other Jews who had been eating that the church had been sort of unified, just one in Christ and experience that glorious oneness, but now this division. Peter is a part of it and because it was Peter, other Jews seeing Peter dissemble, they also dissembled and even Barnabas who had been with Paul preaching to the Gentiles, he even got swayed by this and he also changed tables. And that is when Paul stepped in and he rebuked Peter to the face in front of all of them. Said, That's not right, you came down and you began to live as a Gentile, being a Jew. And now, you're trying to compel the Gentiles to live like Jews. And he rebuked him to the face. Now he goes on to say,

We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles ( Galatians 2:15 ),

Now that is, we don't eat pork, we don't eat rabbit, we don't you know eat those foods that the law said were wrong, were sinful to eat, and we are not the sinners of the Gentiles.

Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified ( Galatians 2:16 ).

So Paul said, Even we who have kept the law can only be justified through faith. By the works of the law, no one can be justified. Your obedience to the law of God would not save you. Let us say that you could keep the law of God. Written and traditional, oral. It would not save you. This is one of the problems of the Jewish people today. This is exactly what they are trusting in for their salvation, their own imperfect works of the law.

Yom Kippur is no longer a day of sacrifice for sins. It is a day of reflection for the Jew as he reflects upon his good works seeking to be justified by his works before God. But Paul said, "By the works of the law shall no flesh be justified." Justification comes through faith in Jesus Christ.

But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves are also found to be sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid. For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor ( Galatians 2:17-18 ).

So Paul is talking here about his newfound faith and revelation that is justification, being accepted by God, was based upon his faith in Jesus Christ. And so he despaired of the works of the law seeking now that righteousness which is of faith through Christ. No longer following the traditions of the law. Eating if he so desired a ham sandwich. And he goes on to say, If I try to build again a relationship through the law, that which I destroyed when I came to the knowledge of Jesus Christ, then I would become a transgressor. For through the law,

For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God ( Galatians 2:19 ).

In other words, the law condemned me to death. And that's all the law has done for anybody. It condemns them to death because no one has kept the law. And the Bible says, "If you keep the whole law, and yet you violate in one point, you're guilty of all" ( James 2:10 ). Again the Bible says, "Cursed is the man who continueth not in the whole law to do all of the things that are written therein" ( Galatians 3:10 ). So if you're trying to be justified by the law and you've missed in one point at one time, anytime in your life, you're under the curse of the law which is death. So Paul said the law killed me and I'm dead to the law. But I am alive unto God.

For I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; but yet it is not I ( Galatians 2:20 ),

I'm living now a new life. My old life was predicated upon the works of the law. My old life was self-centered. My old life was filled with strife, envy, jealousy, factious spirit. No longer I. What a glorious day when our life is no longer I. No longer centered around self. But now a new center and that is Jesus Christ for my life. No longer I upon the throne. But now Jesus Christ enthroned in my heart. No longer seeking to please me, now seeking to please Jesus Christ.

The life that I now live I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me ( Galatians 2:20 ).

And so I am not the old man that I was. That man died. He was crucified with Christ. I have a new life. A new center for life. The old self-centered Chuck died, crucified with Christ. Now the God-centered Chuck lives. "Lives by the faith of Jesus Christ who loved me, and gave himself for me" that I might have this new Christ-centered life. That I might have this new relationship with God. That I might have spiritual life. Paul said,

I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness could come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain ( Galatians 2:21 ).

You remember when Jesus was in the garden of Gethsemane the night before the crucifixion, Jesus knelt and prayed, "Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me" ( Matthew 26:39 ). What's He talking about? If what is possible? If the redemption of man, if salvation for man is possible by any other means, by any other agency, by any other action, let this cup pass from me. If it's possible that man could be redeemed by the law, then Jesus would not have died. God would have established the requirements and maybe one or two might have gotten in somewhere along the line if they had died soon enough.

The cross of Jesus Christ declares to all men for all times that there is only one way by which man can be redeemed and hope to see the kingdom of God. For had God been able to accomplish man's salvation through any other series of works, through the establishing of certain rules and requirements and regulations and all, had God been able to redeem man by any other way, I am certain He would have answered the prayer of Jesus. "Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me. Nevertheless, not what I will, Thy will be done" ( Matthew 26:39 ).

And the fact that Jesus went ahead and suffered at the hands of man and was crucified by man is the declaration of God to all of us that there is not a possibility for salvation through works, through the works of the law, through the efforts of man. And as Paul said, "I am not frustrating the grace of God: because if righteousness could come by the law, then Christ died in vain. His death was not necessary. But righteousness cannot come to you by the law.

Righteousness cannot come to you by keeping rules and regulations. I cannot give to you a standard for righteousness and saying, Now if you do this and do this and do this and do this, you will be righteous. Unfortunately, many churches have endeavored to do this. They have their standards of holiness and they tell the women what kind of apparel is righteous and what kind is unrighteous. They tell what kind of jewelry you can wear and what kind you can't wear. They tell you how you can fix your hair the righteous way and the unrighteous way. Interesting they don't say too much about men who'd dress extremely flashy as a general rule within their groupings. But they really have a lot to say to the women. Of course, the men cannot wear gold. And they are trying and they really believe that they are being more righteous.

They look upon me and they say, Oh, look at that, you see that he has a gold watch on, and a gold ring. Oh-ho-ho, my, shameful, that man's, you know, how can he be a minister, how can he claim to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ? Wears a gold ring. Terrible. And they stand in judgment of me because I wear a gold ring.

Now if I take this ring off and I suddenly become righteous because I've taken my ring off and my watch off, now I'm standing here, I'm very righteous, you see. You ladies can become righteous by just washing your face. I mean, you know, according to their standards. If you wear make-up, that's unrighteous. No make-up, that's righteous.

And so they set out these standards and thus I say, He-hey, I don't wear my gold ring anymore, I don't wear my gold watch and I had the dentist pull out my gold teeth and I'm very righteous now. No, that doesn't make me any more righteous nor does the wearing of it make me any less righteous.

Righteousness is not a thing of wearing gold or not wearing gold, of eating meat or not eating meat, of eating ham or not eating ham. Righteousness is something that God had imputed to my account through grace because of my faith in Jesus Christ. And God looks at me and He sees me in Christ. And He sees me in the righteousness of Christ and because He sees me only in Christ, and that is my standing before God, it is, I stand before God in Christ Jesus. So He really looks not at me but He looks at Christ Jesus and He says, Hmm, that Chuck is a righteous man. I'd say, Thanks, Jesus. I appreciate that. I love your grace, O Lord. For it is through the grace of God that I have been accounted righteous before God.

Now had I not been able to be accounted righteous and I was trying, believe me, and I was very self-righteous. I was very self-righteous because I had never been to a show in all of my life. I had never been to a, Well, I did go to one dance and that was terrible. I lived in guilt for years after that thing. Oh what a terrible. Problem was I enjoyed it and that was, oh, that was terrible. I was really guilty. But I never smoked. I had never taken a drink. And so I felt very, very righteous except for that one dance.

Now I still never smoke. I still never drank but that doesn't make me righteous and I don't look upon that. I'm not really smog and self-righteous over that. So what? That's not what makes me righteous. God accounts me righteous because I believe in Jesus Christ. And that is the basis of my standing before God. That's what Paul came to. He had tried the righteous act. He had tried the righteousness by the law. He had followed it as far as anybody could follow it. But when he came to the glorious knowledge of Jesus Christ, he gladly turned to the new righteousness which is of Christ through faith.

And so he now defends the Gentile believers in the face of all of the pressure from that leadership in Jerusalem and tells them, Stand fast in the liberty wherein Christ has set you free. Don't let men entangle you again in the bondage of a legal relationship with God. Just enjoy your loving relationship with Him.

God loves me, that's what counts. God has forgiven my sins because of my faith in Jesus Christ. That's what counts. God accounts me righteous tonight because of my faith in Jesus Christ, not because of what I do or don't do but because of my faith in Jesus Christ, God has accounted me righteous. The righteousness whereby I stand before God is complete. I can't add anything to it. And my endeavor to add anything to it only takes away from it because it then has me looking back at myself instead of looking at Jesus. And each time I look at myself I get in trouble. When I keep my eyes on Jesus I do alright. Keep your eyes on Him. Enjoy the grace of God. And that righteous standing that God has given to you through faith.

Father, we thank You tonight for this glorious gospel that we have received, the gospel of the grace of Jesus Christ. Thank You, Father, for revealing this to Paul and for Paul's steadfast faithfulness in passing it on to us. That we, Lord, of the Gentiles might have this loving relationship with You, having been forgiven all of our sins, having been accounted righteous through our faith in Jesus. Bless us now, help us now. In Jesus' name we pray, Amen. "

Copyright Statement
Copyright © 2014, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, Ca.
Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Galatians 2". "Smith's Bible Commentary". 2014.