For an introduction to this series, click here.
In this chapter Paul continues to describe his experiences as an apostle in order to prove that the Judaizers were false teachers:
"Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along with me. 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. But even Titus, who was with me, was not forced to be circumcised, though he was a Greek. 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— to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you." (2:1-5)
When Paul and his group came to visit Jerusalem, the apostles accepted them, even the uncircumcised Gentiles. They did not expect Titus to be circumcised, but these new teachers, who certainly have less authority than the apostles, were telling them they had to be.
"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 (for he who worked through Peter for his apostolic ministry to the circumcised worked also through me for mine to the Gentiles), 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. Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do." (2:7-10)
These false teachers claimed their authority from the apostles in Jerusalem. Paul's point here is that their claim of authority is a lie, since the apostles clearly endorsed Paul's ministry. It is interesting that Paul threw in the part about giving to the poor, which doesn't seem to be relevant. But it was important to Paul, and it should be more important to churches in our time. It is a shame that the government's welfare state has pitted working people against the poor. A lot of people I know resent the poor, because they benefit from our tax dollars. If the government would get out of the way, the poor would be better off because people would have more money and the poor would receive more meaningful gifts.
Back to the text, the story becomes more personal:
"But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 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. And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 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?'" (2:11-14)
So even Peter and Barnabas were led astray by these people. These Galatians were in good company in that they were not the only ones deceived. Next Paul clearly states that the Law is insufficient for salvation:
"We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is not justified 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." (2:15-16)
This is an important point that Paul will bring up later in the book: no one, including the Galatians, was saved by the law; all were saved by grace through Christ. So trying to add in something later is dangerous and is an insult to the power and sufficiency of Christ.
"I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if justification were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose." (2:20-21, ESV)
Lots of people like to quote verse 20, but they miss the point of the passage. A life in Christ does not answer to man-made rules (not that Moses’ Law was man-made, but the imposition of it on the church was) but is answerable only to God Himself. The Judaizers (and the Galatians who followed them) were nullifying the grace of God by adding their own rules to their salvation. I don't want to steal my thunder from the first part of Chapter 3, but it needs to be said now.