Paul goes into a short history of his calling and ministry to establish that he learned the Word directly from Christ, and that he did not learn the New Covenant doctrine from other men, nor was he ordained by men, but was called and ordained of God.
Then Paul immediately goes into the Doctrine of Salvation by Jesus Christ; which doctrine is being rejected by those who are perverting the sacrifice of Christ into a license and excuse to compromise with the Word of God.
Galatians 2:1 Then fourteen years after I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with me also.
2:2 And I went up by revelation [to Jerusalem], and communicated unto the people there the 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.
Paul reveals that he spent some time in Damascus, then more time in the wilderness of Arabia, followed by three years in Damascus and only then spends just 15 days in Jerusalem; and then after that it was another 14 years before he went back to Jerusalem.
When he returned to Jerusalem, Paul sought out and communicated in private with the leaders of the brethren. The second trip to Jerusalem being to see whether they were still on the same page and whether they were teaching the same things, so that he could determine whether he had run or taught anything in vain.
Paul certainly does not mean to imply that he went to them for any permissions or corrections from them; rather this was an exchange of information about what he was doing in his area and what these men were doing in Jerusalem, as well as a discussion of spiritual matters in an “iron sharpens iron” discussion, as any group of believers should have occasionally.
These men would have benefited from communicating with each other. That does NOT mean or imply any kind of subordinate role by anyone. In fact everyone would mutually benefit from such an exchange of information.
2:3 But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised,
Then, some sought to compel Titus to be circumcised and Paul rejected their demands.
2:4 And that, because of false brethren unawares brought in, who secretly came in to privily or secretly spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage: 2:5 To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour.
Paul did not submit to these people. Paul was very strong to bow only to God and not to any man just as we all should do; following men ONLY as they follow Christ!
2:6 But of these who seemed to be somewhat, whatsoever they were, it makes no matter to me, it means nothing to me for God does not accept any man’s person. . .
The brethren should remember that God accepts no man’s person and that each of us must prove all things by every Word of God.
What really matters is not what people say on their own, what matters is whether what they say is consistent with the Word of God.
Paul said, it makes no matter to him who a person is or what title he claims, for God accepts no man’s person above another.
If a man is wrong, then God will correct him no matter WHO he thinks he is. We are ALL held to the same standard; the Word and Law of God.
If you stand before Christ at your judgment and he asks you why you called His Sabbath holy and still polluted it? and if you answer that you followed the teachings of some man; Jesus Christ will say that the sin of idolatry has been added to your list of wickedness! and Jesus Christ will cast you away!
Galatians 2:6 . . . For they that seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me: 2:7 But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision [meaning the Gentiles of Europe and Asia Minor] was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision [meaning the Jews in Judea] was committed to Peter; 2:8 For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision or of the Jews, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles.
This is not quite so simple as Jews in Palestine and Gentiles elsewhere; for Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit was doing a great work in Peter and others, in both the Jews and Gentiles in Palestine. And the same Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ was doing a mighty work in Paul toward the Jews [most of whom rejected the way] and to the Gentiles in Europe and Asia Minor.
Christ also did a work in India by Thomas and in other places through other men. Each man had his assignment and although they tried to communicate to make sure that they were on the same page spiritually and had not drifted; each was answerable to Jesus Christ who was the Chief Apostle.
The Chief Apostle of our salvation is Jesus Christ and NOT any man!
Hebrews 3:1 Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus; 3:2 Who was faithful to him that appointed him [faithful to God the Father]
Galatians 2:9 And when James, and Cephas, [Peter], and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace [commission] that was given to me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision.
Notice here that Peter and James and John were not jealous of Paul. And they didn’t say, oh no God only works through us. They said, it looks like God is doing something in you and we are giving you the hands of friendship and we are saying that we support you and will help you and cooperate with you and let’s work together.
They were not jealous, and egocentric like many in today’s spiritual Ekklesia. God does not work through just us. God is obviously working through you also; and they rejoiced to see the wonderful things that Christ was doing in also sending salvation to the Gentiles.
2:10 Only that they wanted that we should remember the poor; the same thing which I also was forward to do. 2:11 But when Peter was come to Antioch, there I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed and to be resisted. 2:12 For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come from James, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision or of the Jews.
Did you get that? Did you hear that? You people who are into the Primacy of Peter, you people who think God works through one man only, and that some man has the right to do whatever he wants; Paul resisted God’s apostle Peter; because he was wrong! See also our series on the Authority of God beginning with Lesson 101 here.
Paul withstood him to his face! Paul said, you are wrong sir, and what you are doing is wrong.
No, Peter was not the chief apostle. They were all working together and they were all inspired by God. God is building a tremendous spiritual building, a temple which is his Ekklesia, his people. Jesus Christ is the Master Builder, not any man.
And he has many tools, and the various true apostles, and true prophets, and true evangelists, and so on; are only tools in the hands of God. True men of God would acknowledge that, and would acknowledge God’s authority over them, and would acknowledge that Almighty God can use whatever tool he wants to; in whatever way God wants.
Yes, Paul withstood Peter because certain disciples came to Antioch; and immediately Peter said, well, I better be more careful here about what I do with these Gentiles, because I might offend these Jews. And Paul withstood him for that kind of duplicity.
Let’s understand what was actually going on here. Under the Mosaic Covenant, the Jews would not have anything to do with the Gentiles, because the Gentiles might render them unclean in some way, being uncircumcised.
In Judea at this time, Gentiles were not invited into a Jewish home. A Jew did not go into a Gentile’s home. They did not generally associate with one another.
The only way that there could be an association, is if a Gentile was circumcised and committed himself to the Mosaic Covenant. In that case, this Gentile was grafted into Israel. He became a Mosaic Jew, and no longer was considered a Gentile. He was grafted into Israel.
We can find this commandment in the book of
Exodus 12:48 And when a stranger shall sojourn with thee, and will keep the Passover to the LORD, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as one that is born in the land: for no uncircumcised person shall eat thereof.
The fact is, the Jews did not associate with physically uncircumcised Gentiles. And yet Peter was associating with fleshly uncircumcised Gentiles called out into the New Covenant UNTIL some Jewish visitors came and Peter thought that he had better not associate with these Gentiles anymore, because it might offend the Jewish brethren.
Peter was respecting one race above another; which is contrary to the New Covenant in which all races are called into a single spiritual organism and there is no race, except the race of Godliness. Paul continues this through Galatians 3.
Galatians 2:13 And the other Jews which were among us dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas himself was carried away with their dissimulation.
And they all got upset about associating with uncircumcised Gentiles who had been called into the New Covenant and were circumcised in the heart and they begin to separate themselves from the Gentile converts, because they had not been circumcised in the flesh according to the Mosaic Covenant.
2:14 But when I, [that is Paul]; saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If you, being a Jew, live after the manner of Gentiles.
That is; these men were not so concerned with all of these Jewish traditions like fasting on certain days of the week and so on, which were traditions of the Pharisees. And if you are not concerned about the traditions of the Pharisees anymore, and you live similarly to the New Covenant Gentiles and you do not live as the Pharisees did, according to their traditions,
. . . why compellest you the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?
Now Paul goes into the need to keep the law of God in the New Covenant and that it is wrong to reject other brethren in the New Covenant now circumcised in heart.
2:15 We who are Jews by nature [being physical Mosaic Israel now converted into New Covenant spiritual Israel], and not sinners of the Gentiles, 2:16 knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, [that is; the deeds and traditions of men, or any future law keeping; does not atone for PAST sins] but is justified 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.
No flesh, no person; can be justified before God for their past deeds of sin by any future law keeping. That is because ALL have sinned at some point and even if we keep the law perfectly after that, we must still pay for that PAST sin and NO amount of future law abiding can atone for past sin.
For example if you murder someone and then live perfectly for many years; you are still a murderer.
We can keep all kinds of traditions and fast three days week and avoid associating with physically uncircumcised yet converted New Covenant Gentiles, which is the subject here. And that is not going to justify anyone.
People can only be justified by sincere repentance, a genuine baptismal commitment to go and sin no more, and faith in the application of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, which is circumcision of the heart!
No matter how perfectly the law is kept, it still does not atone for PAST sin.
We can wake up today, and say we are going to be perfect from here on out forever. But that doesn’t pay for previous sins!
To have those PAST sins paid for, to have an atonement and reconciliation made between us and God, comes only through sincere repentance and faith in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
Paul says, you can’t be justified, you can’t be made right with God, by your own deeds. You can only be made right with God by having the sacrifice of Jesus Christ applied to you; and then going forward to diligently do the DEEDS of God; living by every Word of God in future!
The sacrifice of Christ is only APPLIED to the REPENTANT; to those who STOP sinning! and it is sincere repentance to stop sinning and the application of the atonement of Christ for our past sins; which justifies and purifies us.
After that, we are to go forward; avoiding sin and living by every Word of God. But keeping the commandments does not justify anyone from PAST sins. It is sacrifice of Christ which justifies us and makes us right with God and atones for past sins.
2:17 But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, [that is, if we continue in sin,] is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid.
Once we are justified by sincere repentance, a baptismal commitment to go and sin no more and faith in the sacrifice of Christ, we are NOT to continue in sin as Paul said, God forbid that we should continue in sin!
2:18 For if I build again the things, which I destroyed, [that is, if I continue in my sinful nature] I make myself a transgressor.
If I have destroyed my sinful nature in sincere repentance and baptism, rising up from the grave of baptism a NEW being in Christ, and then being justified by my faith in the sacrifice of Christ; if I go out and continue in sin, I have returned to my sins and I am still a transgressor.
2:19 For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. 2:20 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
Christ was crucified for our sins, if that sacrifice is applied to us, our old sinful self is also dead because Christ died and the crucifixion and sacrifice of Jesus Christ has paid the penalty for PAST sincerely repented sin. Therefore we must live by every Word of God through the indwelling power of Christ; from henceforth and forever more!
Our repentance, our baptismal commitment and faith in Christ and his sacrifice, atones for PAST sin. And the sinful man, our sinful nature is dead and gone, and we rise up new persons in Christ.
Jesus Christ can then dwell in us through the power of God’s Holy Spirit, and when he [Christ] is dwelling in us, Christ will do the things he has always done, now doing them within us, that is, he will live by every Word of God and we will live by every Word of God in Christ-like zeal as we are led by the Spirit of Christ.
This is the New Covenant circumcision of the heart:
God’s Spirit is not divided against God. God’s Spirit is the Spirit and nature of God. God is not divided against himself. He keeps his own Word.
Christ says, “I have kept my Father’s commandments” and the Holy Spirit of God will empower us and lead us to also keep God’s commandments; to turn away from sin.
John 15:10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.
Galatians 2:21 I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ death is in vain.
If we have sinned, and we could stop sinning today and be perfect from this point onward: What about past sins?
Keeping the law from this point forward does not atone for our PAST law breaking. Only sincere repentance and the application of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ can atone for past law breaking; and then, the Holy Spirit is given to us, and empowers us to go forward, putting away all sin and living by every Word of God in the future.
To summarize: We must sincerely repent of all PAST sin and then STOP sinning; then to really get that point across we must make a formal baptismal commitment to stop sinning and destroy our PAST sinful self; going down into the grave of water and destroying the old person of sin, and then rising up out of the water a NEW person in Christ and Christ-like zeal to Live by Every Word of GOD.
Then the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ the true Lamb of God, will be applied to us and we must go forward in Christ-like zeal to live by every Word of God through the strength of the ultimate overcomer dwelling in us, henceforth and forever!
Physical circumcision is only a symbolic removal of a piece of flesh and avails nothing unless God is obeyed [except that physical circumcision is a prophecy of spiritual circumcision into the New Covenant]; but it is the spiritual circumcision of the New Covenant which removes our sins which have separated us from God!
The true doctrine of Salvation through Jesus Christ, is that we must become spiritually circumcised, removing all of the sin which separates us from God the Father through sincere repentance, a baptismal commitment to sin no more and the application of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ the Lamb of God.
Anyone who teaches the false doctrine that we need not be passionately faithful and obedient to the whole Word of God, just as Jesus Christ was and is; teaching that we can tolerate compromise with the Word of God; is teaching that we need not be spiritually circumcised and is an antichrist and is under a curse from God!