IN JERUSALEM, FOURTEEN YEARS AFTER
Agreement. With Apostles concerning circumcision.
Opposition. By false brethren.
Agreement. With Apostles concerning the Gospel.
- 2:11-14 Opposition.
By certain from James.
Vs. 1 - 3 AGREEMENT
It was a bold move on the part of Paul to bring with him to the Jerusalem
council, an uncircumcised Gentile, introducing him as a test case. The dispute over the
necessity of Gentile circumcision took place at the Antioch Church, and was successfully
resisted there. Then the church in that city determined to send its decision to the
Jerusalem church to see whether it would or would not sustain its action (Acts 15:1,2).
The context clearly indicates that strong pressure was brought to bear upon the Jerusalem
church to impose circumcision upon Gentile converts, Titus being the individual around
whom the controversy was waging. The Jerusalem council sustained the decision of the
Antioch church to the effect that circumcision was not to be required of Gentile converts.
"But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because
he was to be blamed."
Peter came to Antioch. a few weeks later he was followed from Jerusalem by Jews
who had remained Pharisees though disciples of Christ. The subsequent controversy which
rent the Antioch church and brought Paul into conflict with Peter was of crucial
importance to the development of Christianity. Like many disputes which in retrospect
proved turning points of history, the subjects might seem trivial to later ages:
invitations to dinner, and a minor operation on the male organ. The issues, however, were
||Whether Christianity should
be merely a variety of Judaism -
||Whether a man may be forgiven
simply and instantly by trusting Jesus Christ -
||Whether such forgiveness is
incomplete and conditional until he can show that he has worked faithfully and obediently
to his lifes end to do what is right.
When Peter came to Antioch, the only place in the world where ex-pagans
were living on terms of complete equality with Christian Jews, everybody watched what he
would do. His courageous words and gifts of leadership had made him the central figure of
the early church; his willingness to shock Jews by eating with the Roman Cornelius had
opened the way to the winning of Gentiles. Yet at Jerusalem, where the disciples were
primarily concerned to commend Jesus Christ to Jews, he had continued to observe Jewish
laws including the normal segregation when eating. If, in the mixed community that was the
Antioch church, he went off and ate by himself he would give the strongest support to
those who still believed that a pagan on becoming a Christian must accept Jewish ways and
Jewish law, and thus that the new faith remained simply a liberal Jewish sect.
Peter, however, joined Paul and Barnabas in living like a gentile, thereby
ruining his status in the eyes of orthodox Jews. He no longer observed the Mosaic fasts or
taboos nor refused to eat with Gentile converts at the common meal called "agape"
- the love feast - which preceded the Lords supper. He thereby made plain that he
believed as Paul did: no Gentile Christian need live like a Jew.
Then the "Christian" Pharisees arrived. Their words and actions were
later repudiated, but they claimed to be traveling with the authority of the recognized
leader of the mother church in Jerusalem, James the Lords brother. They were shocked
by the laxity at Antioch - and of Peter in particular.
The Great Controversy
saw Jews eating with "sinners and Gentiles" (to Pharisees the words were
synonymous), who thus were put on an equality.
||They discovered that every
Gentile believer had been excused the necessity, binding on all Jewish proselytes, of
submitting to the rite of circumcision.
At once they began a campaign: "Unless
you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses," they told converts, "you
cannot be saved." Everybody involved in the dispute knew what they meant:
"Unless, after believing in Jesus, you become a proselyte by undergoing the surgical
operation, and thereafter observe all the ceremonies and do the good works required by the
Mosaic Law and keep ritually undefiled in addition to your trust in Jesus Christ, you
cannot be saved - Jesus by Himself cannot save you."
The implications of such an argument went far wider than
the issue at Antioch which remained in the context of Jewish obligations. Paul saw that
the Christian Pharisees contention was totally at variance with a truth he had
understood since Damascus and would expound fully in his letters later on: that
Self-righteousness, however expressed, is the rival and not the complement of Grace.
The matter came to a head over the issue of ritual defilement. The advocates of
"circumcision" argued their case so hotly and cogently that Peter stopped eating
with the Gentiles. Paul was indignant. Peter may have been swayed by representations that
his actions in Antioch must severely embarrass his Jerusalem friends in their ministry to
Jews, but Paul was sure Peter did not honestly believe the
Judaizers were right. Peter had
conformed from fear of their tongues, or from a willingness to sacrifice principle for
peace and unity. Indeed, if there were any apostle walking crooked, it was not Paul, but
Next, most of the Jewish members of the congregation followed Peters
[NIV: Even Barnabas was led astray]
Barnabas, who had taken Pauls part when the point had been discussed in
Jerusalem during the famine visit, who had seen overwhelming evidence in Galatia that God
remade pagans into full Christians.
Paul resolved to speak out. This deep crack in the Christian church must not be
papered over in order to preserve a spurious unity. The dispute was not about trivialities
- the fundamental principle was whether anyone might be Justified by Faith alone.
He chose an occasion before virtually the entire congregation. In the most
public manner he criticized Peter to his face, using words that not only pointed out the
inconsistency but went right to the heart of the matter: "If you," said Paul
loudly for all to hear, "a Jew born and bred, live like a Gentile, and not like a
Jew, how can you insist that Gentiles must live like Jews?"
It was a moment when the church might split into factions
and destroy itself. But the man who had wept when the Lord, at His trial, turned and
looked on the disciple who had denied him with oath, immediately accepted the justice of
Pauls rebuke. Peter repented, and when the issue was debated again months later at
Jerusalem it Peter's his strong support of Pauls position which gained the day (Acts
15). Nor did he resent Pauls intervention.
LAW - as used here is in its qualitative and legalistic
sense. It denotes divine law looked upon as a purely legalistic system. It consists of
statutes. If a person obeys the law, he secures thereby the divine approval. If he
disobeys it, he is subject to divine condemnation. The divine approval is a matter of debt
which God "owes" and "pays" to the person who obeys. This is a
salvation which the person merits, and which is given on the basis of works, not Grace.
We must be careful to note that the Bible nowhere teaches this concept of
divine law as an answer for salvation from the wages of sin. This concept had its origin
in the thought and practice of mankind all down the ages since its inception in the heart
of Cain. Paul had held this view as a self-righteous Pharisee. The commandment which he
thought was ordained to give life, he found to be a ministration of death (Rom. 7:10). He
admits, that with all the racial superiority and privileges inferred in what he says in
verse 15, that even Jews found out that they could not be declared righteous by virtue of
their obedience to the legal enactments of the Mosaic law.
JUSTIFIED ( dikaioo). The cognate noun
also means "righteousness".
It is the act of God in justifying a believing sinner.
It is God taking away our guilt and sins penalty as Christ bore both on the
It is God imputing His righteousness, even Christ Jesus Himself, and causing us to
stand guiltless and uncondemned for time and eternity.
Translation by Wuest: "And knowing that a man is not justified by law works but
only through faith in Christ Jesus, we also placed our trust in Christ Jesus, in order
that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by law works, because by law works
there shall no flesh be justified."
|Paul rests his case on this as an axiom in
theology, referring to Psalm 143:2 -
These are presented as diametrically opposed to each other.
The moral law is, in respect to Justification, more legal than
the ceremonial, which was an elementary and preliminary Gospel.
So "Sinai" (ch. 4:24), which is more famed for the
Decalogue than for the ceremonial law, is made pre-eminently a type of Legal Bondage -
therefore, Justification by the Law, whether moral or ceremonial, is absolutely
impossible. (Rom. 3:20)
|Vs. 17 & 18 - INCONSISTENCY
By eating with the
Gentiles, Peter is declaring the Levitical legislation null and void.
Then, by withdrawing from that fellowship, he declares it valid.
Paul tactfully puts himself into the picture and insists: instead of committing
sin by abandoning the law for Grace, he actually becomes a transgressor by returning to
- (parabates) - [NIV: Lawbreaker]
now, the word "SINNER" (vs 17) has been
used, which is "hamartolos".
||one who disregards the ethical spirit of the law.
||one who disregards the letter of the law.
|By using the word "Transgressor"
here, God is emphasizing the point that one who is obedient to the statutes of the
Levitical Law may miss the real meaning and purpose of that law.
by withdrawing from fellowship with the Gentiles in the "Love Feast", obeyed the
letter of a law that he knew had been set aside by God. He was ignoring the significance
of the law, that of a temporary measure for the time of the Old Testament dispensation, to
be fulfilled and superseded by the Cross of Christ. He had now become a transgressor of
the present Law of Christ.
|Vs. 19 & 20 - I ... AM DEAD TO THE LAW
[NIV: I died to the
died to the law, and so
I AM DEAD TO IT
= I am passed from under its power. (Col.2:20; Rom.6:14; 17:4,6) Just as a woman, once
married and bound to a husband, ceases to be bound to him when he dies and she may be
lawfully married to another husband. So by the believing union with Christ
IN HIS DEATH, we, being considered dead with him, are
severed from the laws past power over us.
Paul does not say that he is dead to all law - thus a lawless individual.
He is dead to "Law in Particular" - not "Law in General."
He still holds to the great ethical principles of Love and
Justice, for instance, which are eternal in their significance and taught by Jesus in His
sermon on the mount (Matt. 5, 6, 7).
|He found that it provided no remedy for sin,
but rather condemned him hopelessly, for no one can fulfil its requirements.
THE LAW EXERCISED A
DOUBLE POWER OVER HIM
It made him a sinner
It punished him for being one
The poet says, "Do this and live, the law commands, but gives me neither
feet nor hands. A better word the Gospel brings. It bids me fly, and gives me wings."
I MIGHT LIVE UNTO CHRIST
Galatians is the study of the death we have passed from, and how
we passed from it. Ephesians is the study of the life we have passed into, and how we
passed into it. Verse 19 states the fact: I died so that I might live. Verse 20 explains
|I was crucified with Christ
||Christ now lives in me
in me are:
It is empowered by the faith of the Son of God:
the Life-sustaining force is total reliance on, and absolute union with Jesus Christ.
And Ephesians expands the thought.
To Chapter One
To Chapter Three