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The Gospel As Ministered To Jew And Gentile
Then fourteen years after I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with me also. And I went up by revelation, and communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to them which were of reputation, lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain. But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised: and that because of false brethren unawares 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 an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you. But of these who seemed to be somewhat, (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man’s person:) for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me: but contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was 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, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision. Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do. (vv. 1-10)
In this second chapter Paul tells of another visit to Jerusalem, a very important one, referred to in Acts 15:0. “Fourteen years after I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with me also.” This was after certain persons came from James to Antioch, where the apostle was laboring, and insisted upon things that are mentioned in this letter-that the Gentile believers must be subjected to Jewish rites and ceremonies, that they must be circumcised, must keep the law of Moses, or they could not be saved. When Paul came in contact with them he waited until he had a definite revelation commanding him to go to Jerusalem. He says, “I went up by revelation.” He did not go alone; he took Barnabas with him.
Barnabas had come from Jerusalem to find him in Tarsus, to persuade him to go to Antioch and assist in the ministry there. In the beginning it was Barnabas who was the leader, and Paul was the follower. But as time went on Barnabas took the lower place and Paul came to the front. With Barnabas it was a case of, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” We read elsewhere of him, “He was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith” (Acts 11:24). Such a man can stand to see someone else honored and himself set to one side. So Barnabas stepped into the background and Paul came to the front. And then Paul says, “And took Titus with me also.” Why did he mention that? Because this was a test case. These false brethren who had come down to Galatia had insisted that in Jerusalem and Judea no one would condone the idea that a Gentile could be saved if he did not accept the sign of the Abrahamic covenant and were not circumcised. But Paul says, “I took Titus with me also,” and he was a Gentile. He had never submitted to this rite, and Paul had never suggested that he should, and so he took him to Jerusalem, as it were to the headquarters of the legalists. “And I went up by revelation, and communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to them which were of reputation, lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain.” He gave them an outline of the glad tidings that he preached among the Gentiles, but he did this privately “to them that were of reputation.” When we go back to Acts 15:0 we find that Paul called together the apostles who happened to be in Jerusalem, James, Cephas, and John, together with the elders of the church there, and to them he told the story of his ministry, his activities. He outlined for them the contents of the gospel message which he carried to the Gentiles. As they listened they accepted him as one with themselves in the proclamation of the same gospel that they preached, even though that gospel was fuller, was richer, than that to which they had attained, for there were certain things made known to Paul that had not been revealed to them.
A few years before, God had been obliged to give Peter a special revelation in order that he might enter into that wondrous mystery, namely, that Jew and Gentile when saved were now to be recognized as one body in Christ. Peter never uses the term “the body,” but he does convey the same thought. Blessing for Jew and Gentile was on the ground of grace, and the Lord revealed that to him on the housetop in Joppa when he had a vision of a sheet descending unto him, “wherein were all manner of fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air” (Acts 10:12). And a voice from heaven said, “Rise, Peter; kill, and eat” (Acts 10:13). But Peter, like a good Jew, said, “Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean” (Acts 10:14). And the Lord said to him, “What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common” (Acts 10:15), thus indicating the sanctification of the Gentiles. That prepared Peter for the mission to the house of Cornelius, where he preached Christ and opened the door of the kingdom to the Gentiles, as some time before he had been used to open it to the Jews in Jerusalem. Paul and Barnabas talked with the brethren freely, declaring what God had done, and after much discussion, Peter related God’s dealings in grace, and James appealed to Scripture to decide the matter as to the Gentiles. They were in happy agreement. Paul, as we have already noticed, had had a fuller, clearer unfolding than was given to Peter, but it was the same gospel basically, and in order to show that there was no such thought in their minds as to subjecting Gentiles to legal ceremonies, he says, “But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised.” What a tremendous answer that was to these Judaizers who were perverting these Galatians and turning them away from the simplicity of the grace of God. They said, “A man uncircumcised cannot be recognized as in the family of God.” Paul says, “I took Titus with me, and talked the matter over with the elders at Jerusalem, and they did not say one word about making Titus submit to circumcision. He was accepted as a fellow Christian just as he was.” What an answer to those who were criticizing him and misleading his converts!
“And that because of false brethren unawares 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 an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.” To whom does he refer? To these Judaizers who had wormed their way privately into the assembly of the Christians in Galatia. Paul says, “Not even for peace’s sake did we submit to them, because we would have been robbing you of your blood-bought heritage in Christ. And so because of our love for you and our realization of the value of the grace of God, we refused even on the ground of Christian love to submit to these men. We never subjected ourselves to them.”
And then in the next few verses he tells us an interesting little story about an arrangement made while in Jerusalem as to a division of spheres of labor, an arrangement made in perfect Christian fellowship and happy harmony (vv. 6-10). “But of these who seemed to be somewhat, (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man’s person:) for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me.” He could speak that way, you see, because he had received his revelation directly from heaven. It was the risen, glorified Christ who had appeared to him on the Damascus road, the same blessed Lord who had taught him during those months in Arabia, where he had retired that he might mull things over and get a clear understanding of the wonderful message he was to carry to the Gentile world. Therefore, even though he mingled with the apostles and elders who had been saved years before he knew Christ, he did not stand in awe of them. They might be recognized leaders, but God does not accept any man’s person, and they were simply brothers in Christ. They had to be taught of God, and so did he. He does not ask them to confer any authority on him nor give him any special opening up of the truth that he was to proclaim to the Gentiles, though he was glad to sit down on common ground and talk things over in a brotherly way. And they said, “Why, certainly, we recognize the fact that God has raised you up for a special mission, and we have fellowship with you in that.” “But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter”; notice the preposition rendered here “of.” The Greek word may be rendered “for,” and the point was this-they saw that God had given him a special revelation, a special understanding of the gospel for the Gentiles. God had fitted him by early training, and then by enlightenment after conversion, to do a work among the Gentiles which they did not feel they were fitted for. On the other hand, God had fitted Peter to do a special work among the Jews and had used him in a remarkable way on the day of Pentecost, and through the years since God had set His seal upon Peter’s ministry to Israel. And so they talked things over, and they said, “It is very evident, Paul, that God has marked you out to carry the message to the Gentiles as Peter is carrying it to the Jews.” He says, “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, who seemed to be pillars [apparently they were the leaders], perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision.” Is it not a remarkable thing that men have read into these words the amazing idea that what the apostle Paul is saying here is that as they talked together they found out that there were two gospels?- that Peter and the other apostles chosen by the Lord had one gospel, the gospel of the circumcision, and that Paul and Barnabas had another, the gospel of the Gentiles. And so they were to go on preaching one gospel to the Jews, and Paul and Barnabas were to preach a different gospel altogether to the Gentiles! What amazing ignorance of the divine plan that would lead any one to draw any such conclusion! The apostle has already told us, “Though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed” (1:8). Peter had been among the Galatians preaching to them the same gospel he preached everywhere else. Was he accursed? Angels will proclaim the everlasting gospel in the coming day. Will they be under the curse? Surely not. There is only the one gospel, though it takes on different forms at different times. Peter’s gospel was that of a full, free, and eternal salvation through the death, resurrection, and unchanging life of our Lord Jesus Christ, and Paul’s gospel was exactly the same. Let us go back and see something as to Peter’s gospel and then compare it with Paul’s.
On the day of Pentecost we listen to Peter preaching. He says, speaking of our Lord Jesus Christ, that David witnessed concerning Him, “He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption. This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear…Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:31-33, Acts 2:36). Does this sound as if there was any difference from the gospel the apostle Paul preached? Surely not. It is the same message of the crucified, risen, and exalted Savior.
What was the effect of this preaching? Remember, this was the gospel that Peter preached. The people cried out, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” They did not cry as the Philippian jailer, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30), but, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” It was as though they said, “Peter, we have been waiting for years for the coming of the Messiah; we have believed that He was the One who should put away our sins and bring us into everlasting blessing, and now we realize from what you say that He has come and has been crucified and has gone up to God’s right hand. Whatever are we to do? Are we hopeless? Are we helpless? We have rejected our Messiah; what shall we do?” And Peter said, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call” (Acts 2:38-39). Peter is saying, “If you believe the message that I have preached to you that there is remission of sins, there is salvation for you; you do not need to go into judgment when the nation goes into judgment. But you must repent.” And what is it to repent? It is a complete change of attitude. In other words, change your mind, change your attitude, and be baptized, acknowledging that you receive the Savior that the nation has rejected, and when you do, you stand on new ground altogether. What a fitting message for those Jewish believers! On that day three thousand of them took the step, and by their baptism cut themselves off from the nation that rejected Christ and went over to the side of Christ, and were known as among the children of God. Let us listen to Peter again.
Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; and he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began…Unto you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities. (Acts 3:19-21, Acts 3:26)
What is Peter preaching here? The same gospel that Paul preached afterward. He is telling them that the Jewish nation has rejected Christ and is therefore under judgment. And how dire the judgment that has fallen upon that nation! But, he says, if you would be delivered from that, repent, change your attitude, turn again, accept the Christ that the nation is rejecting, and you will be ready to welcome Him when He comes back again. Peter is not yet giving them the revelation of the Rapture, but he is telling them that when Christ appears they as individuals will be ready to welcome Him, even though the nation has to know the power of His judgment.
Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole [he had just healed a lame man]. This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. (Acts 4:10-12)
Is this different from Paul’s gospel? It is exactly the same, but Peter is presenting it in a way that the Jewish people, who had all the centuries of instruction behind them, would thoroughly understand.
Now you hear the same man preaching in the house of Cornelius (Acts 10:0). He tells the story of the life and death and resurrection of Jesus.
God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him. And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree: him God raised up the third day, and showed him openly; not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead. And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead. To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins. (Acts 10:38-43)
Is this a different gospel from that which we should preach today? Is this a different gospel from that proclaimed by the apostle Paul? Surely not. It is the same gospel, the gospel of the grace of God, salvation alone through the finished work of our Lord Jesus.
But now turn to the epistle of Peter, which is addressed to Jewish converts, the gospel for the circumcision.
Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you. (1 Peter 1:18-20)
This is the gospel that Peter preached to the circumcision. Compare it with that gospel preached by Paul to Jew and Gentile.
And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers, God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee. And as concerning that he raised him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, he said on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David. Wherefore he saith also in another psalm, thou shalt not suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption: but he, whom God raised again, saw no corruption. Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: and by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses. (Acts 13:32-39)
Is there anything different here from that which Peter preached? Nothing different, but a fuller unfolding. Peter is never said to have preached justification, but forgiveness and remission. Paul added justification. When God forgives through the risen, glorified Jesus He not only forgives but He justifies. It is impossible for an earthly judge to both forgive and to justify a man. If a man is justified, he does not need to be forgiven. Imagine a man charged with a crime going into court, and after the evidence is all in he is pronounced not guilty, and the judge sets him free. Someone says as he leaves the building, “I want to congratulate you; it was very nice of the judge to forgive you.”
“Forgive nothing! He did not forgive me; I am justified. There is nothing to forgive.”
You cannot justify a man if he does a wicked thing, but you can forgive. But God not only forgives but justifies the ungodly, because He links the believer with Christ, and we are made “accepted in the beloved” (Ephesians 1:6). We stand before God as clear of every charge as if we had never sinned. The two messages are one; but Paul’s is a little fuller than that of Peter. One had the message peculiarly adapted to the Jews and the other to the Gentiles, and so they decided on distinct spheres of labor. We have something similar on the mission fields today. The heads of the boards get together, and one says, “Suppose that such-and-such a group of you work in this district, and another in this one.” Do you say, “Oh dear, they have four or five different gospels?” Not at all; it is the same gospel. One goes to Nigeria, another to Uganda, another to Tanzania, and others to other sections, but it is the same glorious message. And it is very simple, unless one is trying to read into it things of which the apostles never dreamed. Paul and Peter never had the privilege of studying the modern systems of some of our ultradispensationalists, and so did not have the ideas that some people try to foist upon Christians today.
Verse 10 is interesting: “Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do.” I wonder whether Paul did not smile as he heard that. They said, “You go to the Gentiles, Paul, but don’t forget there are many poor saints here in Judea, and although you do not preach among us, send us a collection from time to time.” He did, and thus showed that it was one body and one Spirit, even as they are called in one hope of their calling.
Peter’s Defection At Antioch
But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation. But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews? We who are Jews by nature, and not 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. But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found 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. For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain. (vv. 11-21)
This passage suggests a number of interesting considerations. First of all, we are rather astonished perhaps to find Paul and Peter, both inspired men, both commissioned by the Lord Jesus Christ to go out into the world proclaiming His gospel, both apostles, now sharply differing one from the other. It would suggest certainly that the apostle Peter, who is the one at fault, is not the rock upon which the church is built. What a wobbly kind of a rock it would be if he were, for here is the very man to whom the Father gave that wonderful revelation that Christ was the Son of the living God, actually behaving in such a way at Antioch as to bring discredit upon the gospel of the grace of God. If Peter was the first Pope he was a very fallible one, not an infallible. But he himself knew nothing of any such position, for he tells us in the fifth chapter of his first epistle that he was a fellow elder with the rest of the elders in the church of God, not one set in a position of authority over the presbytery, the elders, in God’s church. Then too the reading of the Scripture suggests to us the tremendous importance of ever being on the alert lest in some way or another we compromise in regard to God’s precious truth.
We have already seen what an important thing that truth was in the eyes of the apostle Paul when he could call down condign judgment on the man, or even the angel, who preaches any other gospel than that divine revelation communicated to him. We know it was not simply because of ill-temper that he wrote in this way but because he realized how important it is to hold “the faith which was once [for all] delivered unto the saints” (Jude 1:3). That explains his attitude here in regard to Peter, a brother apostle. It had been agreed, as we have seen, at the great council in Jerusalem that Peter was to go to the Jews and Paul to the Gentiles, but as they compared their messages they found that one did not contradict the other, that both taught and believed salvation was through faith alone in the Lord Jesus Christ, and that both recognized the futility of works of law as providing a righteousness for sinful men.
To Antioch, a Gentile city in which there was a large church composed mainly of Gentile believers, where Paul and Barnabas had been laboring for a long time, Peter came for a visit. I suppose he was welcomed with open arms. It must have been a very joyous thing for the apostle Paul to welcome Peter, and to be his fellow laborer in ministering the Word of God to these people of Antioch. At first they had a wonderfully happy time. Together they went in and out of the homes of the believers and sat down at the same tables with Gentile Christians. Peter was once so rigid a Jew that he could not even think of going into the house of a Gentile to have any fellowship whatsoever. What a happy thing it was to see these different believers, some at one time Jews, and others once Gentiles, now members of one body, the body of Christ, enjoying fellowship together, not only at the Lord’s table, but also in their homes. For when Paul speaks of eating with Gentiles I take it that it was at their own tables where they could have the sweetest Christian fellowship talking together of the things of God while enjoying the good things that the Lord provides. But unhappily there came in something that hindered, that spoiled that hallowed communion.
Some brethren came from Jerusalem who were of the rigid Pharisaic type, and although they called themselves (and possibly were) Christians, they had never been delivered from legalism. Peter realized that his reputation was at stake. If they should find him eating with Gentile believers and go back to Jerusalem and report this, it might shut the door on him there, and so prudently, as he might have thought, he withdrew from them, he no longer ate with them. If he chose not to eat with the Gentiles, could any one find fault with him for that? If he regarded the prejudices of these brethren might he not be showing a certain amount of Christian courtesy? He felt free to do these things, but not if they distressed these others. But Paul saw deeper than that; he saw that our liberty in Christ actually hung upon the question of whether one would sit down at the dinner table or not with those who had come out from the Gentiles unto the name of our Lord Jesus, and so this controversy. “When Peter was come to Antioch,” Paul says, “I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed.” There is no subserviency on Paul’s part here, no recognition of Peter as the head of the church. Paul realized that a divine authority was vested in him, and that he was free to call in question the behavior of Peter himself though he was one of the original twelve. “For before that certain came from James”-James was the leader at Jerusalem-“he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision.” We read in the Old Testament, “The fear of man bringeth a snare,” and here we are rather surprised to find the apostle Peter, some years after Pentecost, afraid of the face of man. It has often been said that Peter before Pentecost was a coward, but when he received the Pentecostal baptism everything was changed. He stood before the people in Jerusalem and drove the truth home to them, “Ye … killed the Prince of Life,” and he who had denied his Lord because of the fear of man now strikes home the fact that they “denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you” (Acts 3:14). The inference has been drawn by some that if one receives the Pentecostal baptism he will never be a coward again, and also that all inbred sin has been then burned out by the refining fire of God. But we do not find anything like that in the Word of God. It is true that under the influence of that Pentecostal baptism Peter did not fear the face of man, but now he had begun to slip. The fact that one has received great spiritual blessing at any particular time gives no guarantee that he will never fear again.
We now find Peter troubled by that same old besetment that had brought him into difficulty before, afraid of what others will say of him, and when he saw these legalists he forgot all about Pentecost, all about the blessing that had come, all about the marvelous revelation that he had when the sheet was let down from heaven and the Lord said, “What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common” (Acts 10:15). He forgot how he himself had stood in Cornelius’ household and said, “It is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to … come unto one of another nation; but God hath shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean” (Acts 10:28). He forgot that at the council in Jerusalem it was he who stood before them all and after relating the incidents in connection with his visit to Cornelius, exclaimed, “We [we who are Jews by nature] believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they” (Acts 15:11, emphasis added). That was a wonderful declaration. We might have expected him to say, “We believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ they shall be saved, even as we,” that is, “these Gentiles may be saved by grace even as we Jews are saved by grace.” But no, he had had a wonderful revelation of the real meaning of Pentecost and this glorious dispensation of the grace of God. What made him forget all this? The scowling looks of these men from Jerusalem. They had heard that he had been exercising a liberty in which they did not believe, and they had come to watch him. He thought, “It will never do for me to go into the houses of the Gentiles to eat while these men are around.” So without thinking how he would offend these simple Gentile Christians who had known the Lord only a short time, and in order to please these Jerusalem legalists, he withdrew from the Gentiles as far as intimate fellowship was concerned. He was not alone in this for he was a man of influence and others followed him. “And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him.” It looked as though there might be two churches in Antioch very soon, one for the Jews and another for the Gentiles, as though the middle wall of partition had not been broken down.
“The other Jews dissembled likewise with him.” And what must have cut Paul to the quick, his own intimate companion, his fellow worker, the man who had understood so well from the beginning the work that he should do, “Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation.” How much he puts into those words! Barnabas who knew so much better, Barnabas who had seen how mightily God had wrought among the Gentiles, and who knew that all this old legalistic system had fallen never to be raised again, even Barnabas was carried away with their dissimulation.
“Dissimulation” is rather a fine-sounding word. I wonder why the translators did not translate the Greek word the same as they generally did in other places in the Bible. It may have been that they did not like to use the other word in connection with a man like Barnabas. It is just the ordinary word for hypocrisy. “The other Jews [became hypocrites] likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their [hypocrisy].” Peter might have said, “We are doing this to glorify God,” but it was nothing of the kind; it was downright hypocrisy in the sight of God. Paul recognized it as what it was, and said, “But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all …” This was not a clandestine meeting, there was no backbiting. What he had to say he said openly, and he did not seem to spare Peter’s feelings. We must ever remember the Word, “Thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him” (Leviticus 19:17). Some years afterward he wrote to Timothy, “Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear” (1 Timothy 5:20). There was too much at stake to pass over this lightly. It was too serious a matter to settle quietly with Peter in a corner, for it had been a public scandal, and it called in question the liberty of Gentiles in Christ and so must be settled in a public way. One can imagine the feelings of Peter, noble man of God that he was, and yet he had been carried away with this snare. At first he was startled as he looked at Paul, and then I fancy with bowed head, the blood mantling his face in shame, he realized how guilty he was of seeking to please these legalists who would rob the church of the marvelous gospel of grace. “If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?” He has let the cat out of the bag. I think I see those Jewish men look up and say, “What is this? He has been living after the manner of Gentiles?” Yes, they should have known it, for he had a right to do it. God had given all men this liberty and Peter had been exercising it, but now he was bringing himself into bondage. Peter had said, “We Jews know that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but we have to be saved by grace even as the Gentiles, so why insist upon bringing these Gentiles under bondage to Jewish forms and ceremonies?”
Paul went on: “‘We who are Jews by nature, and not 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.’ We gave up all confidence in law-keeping as a means of salvation when we turned to Christ, and now, Peter, would you by your behavior say to the Gentile brethren, ‘You should come under the bondage of law-keeping, from which we have been delivered in order to be truly justified?’” It was a solemn occasion, for there was an important question at stake, and Paul handled it like the courageous man that he was.
Are you, like so many others, trying to do the best you can in order to obtain God’s salvation? Listen then to what He says, “By the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.”
Could my tears forever flow,
Could my zeal no languor know,
These for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone.
Some years ago, after listening to me preach on the street corner a man said to me, “I detest this idea that through the death and righteousness of Another I should be saved. I do not want to be indebted to anybody for my salvation. I am not coming to God as a mendicant, but I believe that if a man lives up to the Sermon on the Mount and keeps the Ten Commandments, God does not require any more of him.”
I asked, “My friend, have you lived up to the Sermon on the Mount and have you kept the Ten Commandments?”
“Oh,” he said, “perhaps not perfectly; but I am doing the best I can.”
“But,” I replied, “the Word of God says, ‘Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all’ (James 2:10). And, ‘It is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them’ (Galatians 3:10), and because you have not continued you are under the curse.”
That is all the law can do for any poor sinner. It can only condemn, for it demands perfect righteousness from sinful men, a righteousness which no sinful man can ever give, and so when God has shown us in His Word that men are bereft of righteousness, He says, “I have a righteousness for guilty sinners, but they must receive it by faith,” and He tells us the wondrous story of the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ-”[He] was delivered for our offenses” (Romans 4:25). And having trusted Him shall we go back to works of the law?
“If,” says Paul, “while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners”-if we who have trusted in Jesus are still sinners seeking a way of salvation-“is therefore Christ the minister of sin?” Moses was the mediator of the law, and it was to be used by God to make sin become exceeding sinful. Is that all Christ is for? Is it simply that His glorious example is to show me how deep is my sin, how lost my condition, and then am I to save myself by my own efforts? Surely not. That would be but to make Christ a minister of sin, but Christ is a minister of righteousness to all who believe. I think verse 17, and possibly verse 18, concludes what Paul says to Peter. “If I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor.” We do not have quotation marks in the ancient Greek text, so have no way of knowing exactly where Paul’s words to Peter end, but probably he concluded his admonition to Peter with this word.
“For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God.” What does he mean by that? He means that the law condemned me to death, but Christ took my place and became my Substitute. I died in Him. “I through the law died to the law, that I might live unto God.” Now I belong to a new creation altogether. And oh, the wonder of that new creation! The old creation fell in its head, Adam, and the new one stands eternally in its Head, the Lord Jesus Christ. We are not trying to work for our salvation, we are saved through the work that He Himself accomplished. We can look back to that cross upon which He hung, the bleeding Victim, in our stead, and we can say in faith, “I am crucified with Christ.” It is as though my life had been taken, He took my place; “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live.” As I was identified with Him in His death on the cross now I am linked with Him in resurrection life, for He has given me to be a partaker of His own glorious eternal life. “Nevertheless I live; yet not I.” It is not the old “I” come back to life again, “but Christ liveth in me.” He, the glorious One, is my real life, and that “life which I now live in the flesh,” my experience down here as a Christian man in the body, “I live”-not by putting myself under rules and regulations and trying to keep the law of the Ten Commandments but-“by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” As I am occupied with Him, my life will be the kind of life which He approves. “The Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” I wish each of us might say those words over in his heart. Can you say it in your heart? It is not, “The Son of God, who loved the world, and gave himself for the world,” but, “The Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” Only those who trust Him can speak like that. Can you say it from your heart? If you have never said it before you can look up into His face today, and say it for the first time. And so Paul concludes this section, “I do not frustrate the grace of God”-or, I will not set it aside-“for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.” But because righteousness could not be found through legality, through self-effort, Christ gave Himself in grace for needy sinners, and He is Himself the righteousness of all who put their trust in Him.
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Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Galatians 2". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30