Exploring the Book of Galatians – Chapter 2

Hello friends! I’m so excited you have join me for Week 2 of Exploring the book of Galatians.

Have you have ever competed in something like music or speech where you were judged? Do you remember that awkward time between finishing your performance or presentation, just standing there waiting for the judges or adjudicators to give you their thoughts? My stomach would just be in knots!

In Chapter 2 of Galatians, Paul tells us about his visit to Jerusalem and standing before the the leaders of the Church. Verse 2 tells us that he went because he had experienced a revelation, but was very nervous that the leaders would say he was wrong.

Now to get down to understand the situation Paul was dealing with in his visit to Jerusalem, let’s turn back to Acts 15.

Verses 1 & 2 of Acts 15 tell us why Paul went to Jerusalem and verse 5 explains what some of the Jewish believers believed to be true.

Now don’t get too caught up in the fact that they are just talking about the Gentiles being circumcised, because it goes deeper than that. As Paul references in Galatians 2:4, “This matter arose because some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedoms we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves.”

Let’s get a little background or foundation before we go any further.

The law. I feel like there needs to be sound effects that accompany those two simple words. It can be a scary subject, and no one really wants to read Leviticus, so I’m going to give a brief overview so that when I refer to the law, you have some frame of reference.

The Law:

  • Given as a guidebook for holy living.
  • Instructions for worship, offerings and regulations of moral, civil and ceremonial laws.
  • Regulations for “cleanliness” to prepare to stand before God.
  • Theme of the law is holiness.
  • Set apart Israel from other tribes and nations.
  • God wanted to change the mindset of the Israelites from slave to set-free.

The law that God gave to the Israelites was given to instruct the people on how to have relationship with Him. And a major part of it that most of them missed was that there was no way they could fulfill all the requirements on the law.

And before I lose anyone with the word ‘law’ and run the risk of you thinking that the law is irrelevant for us today, let me share this. While the ceremonial and civil laws given to the Israelites are no longer necessary for us to apply because Jesus fulfilled them, we are still called to obey the moral laws.

So that gives you a little information on the law.

Now back to Paul.

Timothy Keller summarizes it the situation in this way: “The countless regulations for ‘cleanliness’ in the laws of Moses were designed (among other things) to show us how impossible it was to make ourselves perfectly acceptable before a holy God. But these ‘false brothers’ had used the regulations in order to teach the exact opposite: that we could make ourselves pure and more acceptable to God through strict compliance with them.”

Paul stood by his teaching that ‘clean’ and ‘unclean’ were not the issue any or under the Gospel. Neither was whether you were a Jew or Gentile. Under the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the issue or differentiation lies between obeying the law for selfish gain or obeying the law to please God.

“We who are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.” Galatians 2:15-16

In Paul’s letter to the Romans, he discussed this very thing in 3:21-24 says: “But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”

Then down to verse 27-31: “Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law. Is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.”

Basically Paul is saying that before faith in Christ, he kept the law not for God, but to save himself. He was very moral and good, never for God, but all for Paul.

Now, at this point you may be thinking this has nothing to do with you or that it’s not relevant in your life.

But it does and comes down to the this.

We still get caught in the battle of “obeying the moral law to save ourselves” or “obeying the moral law because I simply want to please God.” Have you ever heard someone say they don’t need Jesus or religion because they are a good person? Yep! This is where the battle lies.

Before Faith

  • Slave to sin
  • Striving to obey moral laws
  • Doing “good” was for selfish gain

After Faith

  • Free from bondage of sin
  • Justified through faith
  • Obey the law to please God

At this point, you may be asking why God even gave the law in the first place. He did it so that we would know what sin was. He did it to show us that we cannot become holy or justified without Him, without our Rescuer.

Remember how the law was given to transition the people of Israel from the mentality of a slave to the mentality of a free people? That is what God wants for us through the Gospel. He wants to free us from the mentality of being a slave to sin. He wants us to live and think as a freed people who are no longer working for their worth.

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We don’t obey for selfish or self-saving reasons. We do it because God accepted us through faith in Christ, which has then given us a new and stronger motive to obey Him.

Because at the heart of this whole discussion is really this: Christ’s death is meaningless if we continue to do what is right to save ourselves or win brownie points from God. When we realize there is nothing we can do to save ourselves, it radically changes our lives to give us the perspective of how can I please God with my life.

Reflection Questions:

  • Do you ever feel guilty or insecure in your relationship with God? What might this be telling you about how you view your acceptance with Him?
  • How would you explain the difference between being moral and being a Christian to someone who thinks being good makes them acceptable to God?
  • Has Christ’s death made a difference in your life? How?

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