As we move into Galatians chapter two, the apostle Paul is still making his argument against the Judaizers, those holier than thou enemies of the true gospel of Jesus Christ. He has spent the first chapter defending himself against their false testimonies, and now he brings out the big guns in chapter two, and proceeds to shoot holes in their argument.
The issue that they are pushing is this. They say that any gentile who wants to become a Christian must first agree to follow the Mosaic laws, and get circumcised. And Paul says no, you don’t have to do that stuff anymore. Jesus changed all that. But they are continuing to persuade the believers in the Galatian church that Paul is not preaching the same gospel that the "true" apostles would teach. They were talking about Peter, James (the brother of Jesus), and John. They liked to throw the names of these guys around like they were best buds or something, and they tried to prop up their false version of the gospel by saying that the "Big Three" agreed with them.
So Paul sets out for Jerusalem to set everything straight, and he takes Barnabas and Titus with him. Barnabas was a good character witness for Paul, since he was the one who repped Paul with the other apostles when he was first converted. And he took Titus as an object lesson.
See, Titus was a Greek. A gentile. He was the pastor of the church in Crete, and a very reputable leader. He was a genuine follower of Christ. And he was uncircumcised.
So Paul stands Titus before the Guys in Jerusalem, and asks, "What do you do with Titus here? He’s a respected church leader. Are you saying he’s not legit, just because he has a little extra skin?"
Ultimately, the other Apostles confirm Paul, and stand with him in his presentation of the Gospel, and the Judaizers' arguments are busted.
The issue that Paul was warning the Galatians about specifically was law and circumcision. But ultimately, this was an issue of culture over the Gospel. These false teachers were trying to adapt the gospel to fit their culture, and that doesn’t work.
Jesus stands above culture. He is always relevant, but he is never CHANGEDby culture.
Today, we fight the same issues as Paul did in Galatia, only in different forms. People try to change the gospel to make it more "appealing" to different cultures or generations. They water it down, stretch it, bend it or add to it. And we, as real, committed, followers of Jesus Christ, should never give in to those who want to change Jesus for their own benefit.
Paul says in Galatians 2 vs.5:
"We did not give in to them for a moment so that the truth of the Gospel might remain with you".
Stand firm. Don’t give in. Not even for a minute.
In Galatians 1:11-24, we find the apostle Paul defending his own apostolic authority. We can tell by Paul’s statements in this passage what kinds of questions were being asked. The Judaizers were saying that either he himself made up what he was preaching, or he learned it from someone. They were also calling in to question whether Paul even had the authority to teach as an apostle. They knew that if they could discredit him as an apostle, they could shut his ministry down. If he has no authority, then why listen to him, right?
In Verse twelve, Paul says "I did not receive it (the Gospel) from any man, nor was I taught it, rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ".
Then he goes on to tell about the transformation that took place in his life. Paul, who was once filled with hatred against the Christian church and aggressively persecuted them, had met Christ on the road to Damascus.
And he was transformed.
Here is how Paul relates his experience to the Galatians:
"For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers. But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being. I did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went into Arabia. Later I returned to Damascus." Galatians 1: 15-17
As I studied this passage, there were three points of truth that made an impact on me.
The first is that people can be very passionate about an idea or set of beliefs, but that doesn’t make that idea true. When Paul (then Saul) was persecuting the church, he was as passionate about his beliefs as anyone could be, but he was wrong.
1 John 4: 1 says:
"Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world."
The second truth is also clear from Paul’s writing. Paul was not saved by his own will, or by any human influence. He was saved because God was the active agent. God can and will save whomever he wants, whenever he wants. And here is the difficult part for many of us. I know that I have struggled with having views of certain people that, because of their lifestyle or their personality or attitude seemed "unsaveable". We write them off as if God is powerless to do anything with them. The fact is that when Paul was persecuting the Church, many people would have viewed him in the same way that we might view a Bin Laden or even Hitler. He was that militant against Christians. If Paul was alive today he would be considered a terrorist. And yet God saved him. What does that say about how we view those "unsaveable" people? Is God "mighty to save", or do we just sing that song because its catchy? I’ll let you wrestle with that one.
And thirdly, I kept coming back to the fact that this book, and every other book in the Bible for that matter, is about truth. Paul is saying to the Galatians "I am giving you the truth, but you are also hearing lies, and you have to decide". This is not something you can avoid or ignore.
The same principle holds true for us as we read Paul’s letters. We are presented with his argument that what he writes is GODS WORD, and we have to make a choice. There are those, even today, who like to discredit some of Paul’s writing, saying things like "that’s just his opinion", or "some of what he says is just not culturally relevant now". Here’s the problem. Paul wrote 13, possibly 14 of the books in the New Testament. That is HALF of the entire New Testament. We as well must listen to Paul’s argument that his teaching is the revealed word of God and decide. If What Paul was preaching to the Galatians was not true, then what do we do with the other 12 or 13 books he wrote. It is all truth, or it is all a lie. There is no middle ground.
A little something to think about.