Let’s get a running start and work from Galatians 1:6 all the way through 2:16. This will give us the full idea of what God is saying in this section of scripture.
The gospel says that only Jesus justifies
6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:6-9)
The only way for sinners to be justified (made innocent) before God is to trust in Jesus. There were people in the Galatian churches who were saying sinners need to trust in Jesus and abide by Jewish law to be justified. But if you add Jewish law or anything else, like church attendance, Bible reading, evangelism, or good deeds to the gospel, you ruin it.
The gospel came from God
10 For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant[b] of Christ. 11 For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. 12 For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. (Galatians 1:10-12)
Paul received the gospel from God, not people. This means that no one, not even influential leaders, have the right to adjust the gospel.
God sent Paul with the gospel
13 For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. 14 And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers. 15 But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, 16 was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone; 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.18 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and remained with him fifteen days. 19 But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord’s brother. 20 (In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie!) 21 Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. 22 And I was still unknown in person to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. 23 They only were hearing it said, “He who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” 24 And they glorified God because of me. (Galatians 1:13-24)
Once saved, Paul abandoned his Jewish achievements and got to work preaching Christ. He didn’t consult with the apostles or seek approval from the mother church in Jerusalem first because God had commissioned him directly.
The apostles agreed about the gospel
Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along with me. 2 I went up because of a revelation and set before them (though privately before those who seemed influential) the gospel that I proclaim among the Gentiles, in order to make sure I was not running or had not run in vain. 3 But even Titus, who was with me, was not forced to be circumcised, though he was a Greek. (Galatians 2:1-3)
Paul brought a Gentile Christian named Titus to the apostles and they agreed that he did not need to follow the Jewish law by being circumcised to be justified before God.
Paul preserved the gospel
4 Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in—who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery— 5 to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you. (Galatians 2:4-5)
During this visit to Jerusalem, Judaizers tried to influence the apostles to add Jewish legal requirements to the gospel, but they didn’t yield to them.
The gospel was not influenced by anyone other than God
6 And from those who seemed to be influential (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)—those, I say, who seemed influential added nothing to me. 7 On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel to the circumcised 8 (for he who worked through Peter for his apostolic ministry to the circumcised worked also through me for mine to the Gentiles), 9 and when James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. 10 Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do. (Galatians 2:6-10)
All the apostles embraced Paul’s grace-based, law-free ministry to the Gentiles. Paul was independent from any human influence, yet aligned with the rest of the apostles because God was their shared source for the gospel.
Christian conduct should align with the gospel
11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party.[a] 13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?” (Galatians 2:11-14)
In Antioch, Jewish and Gentile Christians ate together, free from Jewish legal restrictions that would otherwise have kept them apart. Cephas (Peter) joined this mixed fellowship until the “Circumcision Party” arrived. Swayed by their peer pressure, Cephas withdrew from the Gentile Christians. Paul confronted him sternly because his “conduct was not in step with the gospel” and he was leading others astray.
The gospel says that sinners are not justified by works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ
15 We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is not justified[b] by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. (Galatians 2:15-16)
My only hope is Jesus. I cannot pastor well enough to make myself right with God. Your only hope is Jesus. You cannot be good enough or religious enough to make yourself innocent before God. Your children, grandchildren, parents, and grandparents have only one hope: Jesus Christ. Demonstrators in the streets, politicians in D.C., powerful people, weak people, seemingly good people, overtly evil people—all people are sinful and in need of the justification that comes only through faith in Jesus.
Now, looking back over all this scripture, we can see two paths.
There is the path of the true gospel and the path of distorted gospels.
You walk the path of the true gospel by trusting in Jesus alone for justification before God. This path is marked by freedom, grace, and faith.
You walk the path of distorted gospels by trusting in Jesus and something else for justification before God. This path is marked by slavery to rules and obligations.
Which path are you on?
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