WEEK 2 OVERVIEW- GALATIANS
March 5 - March 11, 2023
Galatians 2 Overview
Galatians chapter 2 continues Paul’s defense of his ministry and his message - the gospel of grace. In this chapter, he focuses not on the source of his message but on its content. God told Paul, through a revelation, to meet with the church leaders in Jerusalem to pursue unity about the message he was preaching to the Gentiles. The essence of Paul’s message to both Jews and Gentiles was that God’s salvation is offered to all people regardless of race, sex, nationality, wealth, social standing, education level, or anything else. Anyone can be forgiven by trusting in Christ. The gospel of grace puts everyone on the same level as one family in Christ.
In verses 1-10, Paul recounts an important meeting he had with the leaders of the Jerusalem church. The debate was between Paul and those who believed that Gentiles needed to live like Jewish Christians in order to be accepted by God. These Jewish Christians had been raised to think that circumcision, dietary laws, and more were essential to being right with God, and they hadn’t grasped the implications of the cross and the “freedom” that Jesus proclaimed. And then in verses 11-21, Paul has a face-to-face meeting with Peter (who had been swayed by the Judaizers) to call out his hypocrisy. The Judaizers’ chief slogan is found in Acts 15:1: “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.” Ever since Paul’s time, the enemies of grace have been trying to add something to the simple gospel of the grace of God. They tell us that a man is saved by faith in Christ plus something - good works, the Ten Commandments, baptism, showing up at church, religious ritual, or something else. Sometimes we even tell ourselves that it couldn’t be this simple - this free; there must be more required than just believing and trusting what Jesus has already done! But if more was, in fact, required, then Christ didn't need to die! It’s stated clearly in the last verse of Galatians 2:
I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die. Galatians 2:21
The bold confrontations in Galatians 2 were resolved as the leaders approved of Paul’s gospel and encouraged his ministry. They could add nothing to Paul’s message or ministry, and they dared not take anything away. There was agreement and unity: One gospel would be preached to Jews and Gentiles.
It’s interesting to note that the decisions made at these meetings had a great impact on the early church. Had Paul been unwilling to fight for freedom in Christ, the church in the first century might have become only a Jewish sect, preaching a mixture of law and grace. But because of Paul’s courage, the gospel was kept free from legalism, and it was carried to the Gentiles with great blessing.
In contrast to legalism, grace has no rules, code, or ritual. It is an invitation directly from the heart of God simply to believe and receive. Still today, we’re tempted to forget that our salvation isn’t a contract with God. “I do this for you, and you do this for me.” It’s a free gift offered by God and protected by God, and all we can do is receive it. Jesus gave His unconditional, completely abiding love to us. And that’s the basis of our relationship with him - not something he owes us or we owe him.