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Galatians chapter 2

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11But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. 12For 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. 13And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation. 14But 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? 15We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, 16Knowing 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. 17But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid. 18For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor. 19For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. 20I 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. 21I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.

What does Galatians chapter 2 mean?

Galatians 2 begins with a crucial meeting between Paul and the other apostles in Jerusalem. It ends with a magnificent description of being justified before God through faith in Christ. The prior chapter ended as Paul was explaining his conversion and subsequent study, leading him to begin preaching the same gospel he had once persecuted.

Eventually, Paul traveled to Jerusalem with Barnabas, a Jewish Christian, and Titus, a Gentile Christian. They had likely been sent from the believers in Antioch with relief for those suffering from a great famine. Paul took advantage of the occasion, though, to have a private meeting with the influential leaders of the Christian movement in Jerusalem, including the other apostles like Peter and John (Galatians 2:1–2).

To these other apostles, Paul presents the message about Jesus which he has been preaching to Gentiles in other parts of the world. He confirms it to be the same message they are preaching: that one cannot be saved by keeping the law. Salvation is found only through faith in Christ and his substitution for us in dying for our sin on the cross. The question for Gentile believers is whether they must start following the law after trusting in Christ. All of the apostles agree: this is not needed, and they say Titus does not need to be circumcised, as the law of Moses would have required.

Some in Jerusalem do not agree, however. Paul calls them "false brothers" who want to steal away the Gentiles' freedom in Christ. They want to make all Christians slaves to the law. The other apostles, though, recognize that Paul is an apostle in his own right and has been sent by Christ to preach to the Gentiles. Peter, James, and John express their official approval with what's referred to here as "the right hand of fellowship." This might have been some kind of overt, formal means of declaring their approval of Paul, so others would accept him (Galatians 2:3–10).

Later, though, when Peter comes to where Paul lives in Antioch, things don't go nearly so well. Peter has said he believes that Gentiles who trust in Christ are fully accepted in God's sight. So, while the traditional approach to Jewish law and customs would never allow a Jew to eat with a Gentile, Peter does so while in Antioch—for a while. However, when some followers of Jesus' brother James show up, men who still disapprove of Jewish Christians eating with Gentile Christians, Peter gets scared. This looks bad, he thinks. So he leaves the table. Because of his influence, all of the other Jewish Christians leave the table, too. Even Barnabas, Paul's partner in ministry, can't take the pressure.

Paul stands up and opposes Peter right to his face because of Peter's hypocrisy. If you now live as a Gentile—by eating with Gentiles—Paul asks, how can you force the Gentiles to follow all the Jewish rules and customs? This challenge, issued to a fellow apostle over such a sensitive issue, becomes the theme of Paul's message for the rest of the letter. There is no reason for a Christian to behave as if good deeds, traditions, or rituals are part of our salvation (Galatians 2:11–14).

Paul then begins to make his grand case that nobody can be justified—made righteous before God—by following the works of the law. Peter and Paul, though born Jewish, have both now been justified before God by faith in Christ. In fact, that's the only way anyone can be justified.

Finally, Paul declares he has "died to the law" and has come alive to God. How? By believing in Christ, he was crucified with Christ in a spiritual sense. His sinful self was executed by faith in Christ and then Christ came to take its place in Paul. Now, Paul insists, he lives by faith in Christ (Galatians 2:15–21).

Why did Christ give himself for Paul, and for us? Paul implies his motive is simple: Love (Galatians 2:19).
What is the Gospel?
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