As we have discovered, the Galatian people at one time fully and joyfully embraced grace and where thankful to Paul for teaching them about grace.
It filled them with joy to know that righteousness (being clean and pure before God, declared innocent of breaking the Ten Commandments, thus enabling them to have eternal life in God’s kingdom) was by grace through faith in Jesus.
Yet, when certain men came to Galatia from Jerusalem, they convinced the Galatian people that righteousness was not given by God as a free gift but must be earned by following the Law of Moses.
Consequently, they now rejected Paul and the message of grace given him by the resurrected, ascended Jesus.
Paul needed to re-establish his credibility with them so he could communicate, once again, the good news of grace to them.
To do this, Paul shared some of his journey from law to grace, from Judaism to Jesus.
We began this examination in the previous post.
In this post, we will examine another of Paul’s experiences that was pertinent to the Galatians as Paul wrote to convince them to return to the truth that righteousness comes by grace through faith in Jesus alone, apart from any works (Galatians 2:1-10).
This experience centers around James (the brother of Jesus) and Peter and John (from the twelve disciples of Jesus) (Galatians 2:9).
They were the leaders of the Jerusalem church, a church that believed Jesus was the Messiah (Israel's coming King to establish God’s kingdom on earth), yet a church that was still passionate about adhering to the Law of Moses for righteousness.
Paul writes about a time when he went up to Jerusalem to meet with leaders of the Jerusalem church (James, Peter, and John) to set before them the gospel of grace he taught in the Gentile cities (Galatians 2:1-10).
The reason Paul went to Jerusalem was because of a revelation given to him by Jesus, telling Paul to go to Jerusalem and explain to the leaders the truth of grace - the gospel - that righteousness comes by grace through faith in Jesus (Galatians 2:2).
The reason Jesus sent Paul to Jerusalem was because the opponents of grace and proponents of law were the leaders of the Jerusalem church - James, Peter, and John (Galatians 2:9).
The Jerusalem church was sending out spies into the cities where Paul started grace churches to spy on the freedom from the law and freedom in Christ Paul taught (Galatians 2:4, 12).
The spies would seek to destroy the reputation of Paul and the message of grace for the purpose of enslaving people to the Law of Moses.
What was happening in Galatia had previously happened in Antioch, and Paul recounts this event in his letter to the Galatians (Galatians 2:1-21).
The false brothers from Jerusalem, those who taught righteousness came through faith in Jesus plus obedience to the Law of Moses, came to Antioch to oppose the message Jesus gave Paul, that righteousness is by grace through faith in Jesus alone, apart from works (Acts 14:26-15:1).
The church in Antioch was established by Barnabas and Paul in the truths of grace (Acts 11:19-29).
The false brothers infiltrated the church in Antioch, pretending to be grace believers (Acts 15:1).
They did this to spy on the freedom from the law believers have in Christ and then to enslave believers to the law (Galatians 2:4).
After listening to the teaching that righteousness comes by grace through faith in Jesus, apart from the law, and seeing the people did not follow the Law of Moses, these false brothers revealed who they really where and why they were really involved in the Antioch church...to put people back under the Law of Moses to earn righteousness (Acts 15:1)!
Yet Paul and Barnabas did not give into them, not even for a second, so that the good news of grace might remain in Antioch (Galatians 2:5).
Paul and Barnabas entered into sharp debate with these false brothers, proclaiming that righteousness is by grace through faith in Jesus alone (Acts 15:2).
It was at this point, Paul, Barnabas, and Titus went up to Jerusalem (Galatians 2:1) to present the good news of grace to its leaders (Galatians 2:2 - James, Peter, and John) - that righteousness comes by grace through faith in
Jesus and not by following the Law of Moses (Acts 15:2).
The leaders of the Jerusalem church - James, Peter, and John, where highly influential and respected pillars of the church (Galatians 2:9).
Yet Paul was not intimidated by them, nor did he hold them in high esteem because the people they were and positions they held.
After presenting the good news of grace to them, they became aware God had given Paul the message of grace, agreed with it (Acts 15:11), and extended their hands to him in a friendly handshake, wishing Paul well as he carried out the mission given to him by Jesus of taking God’s grace into cities (Galatians 2:6-10).
To read more about Paul’s presentation of the gospel of grace to the leaders of the Jerusalem church, read Acts 15.
Why did Paul recount this event in his letter to the Galatians (chapter 2)?
The reason was because the Galatian people held James, Peter, and John in high esteem because of the people they were and positions they held.
So if Paul could convince the Galatians that James, Peter, and John now agreed with him that righteousness comes by grace through faith in Jesus (Acts 15:11), and not through the Law of Moses, then the Galatian people should agree with Paul as well by returning to grace and turning away from the law for righteousness.
And just as James, Peter, and John reached out their hands to Paul in a friendly handshake, where they all agreed on the message of grace, the Galatians should reach their hands out to Paul too, ending their hostility to him and renewing their friendship with him.
In the next post on Galatians, we will see Paul’s confrontation with Peter when Peter turned away from grace and back to the law for righteousness (Galatians 2:11-21).