Lesson 58: "By the Works of the Law Shall No Flesh Be Justified." (Galatians 2:16)
Paul's Missionary Journey Epistles. This is lesson #58. Welcome again! To understand Galatians chapter 2, one needs a clear concept of what the Judiazers were teaching. If you were to take a moment and re-read the first 10 verses of Gal. ch. 2; one of the striking things about Paul's double barreled approach is that he showed without doubt the Judiazing doctrine of circumcision was NOT a part of "the truth of the gospel" (v.5). Christians, followers of Jesus Christ, were not (and are not) required to be circumcised to be saved. Acts 15: 1,5, 24 makes this point for us so clear that we might simply say: case closed. Of course, I trust you realize the book of Acts had not been written when Paul was wrangling with the Judiazers here in the book of Galatians. Luke penned the book of Acts some 4 or 5 years after the time Paul wrote the Galatian letter; i.e. if we have our chronology correct and I believe we do. This Pharisaical doctrine or the Judiazing doctrine (which ever you prefer to call it), that was being taught in competition with Christianity by this sect of the Jews had two main facets to that doctrine. There may have been other differences; but, two main facets. Number one facet of that doctrine was: that to be saved one must be circumcised. I appeal to Acts 15:1, 5. This facet of their false doctrine was/is precisely stated in those verses. The second facet of that false doctrine (stated in the same verse, Acts 15:5) was "to command them to keep the law of Moses." Now as you read Galatians ch. 2, notice that Paul dealt with the first facet (or circumcision) in the first 10 verses; which we covered in our last lesson. The second facet (or commanding them to keep the law of Moses), Paul deals with in Galatians 2:11-21. We are now ready to read those verses.
But, before we do; let me caution you! I referred to the material in our last lesson (v. 1 -10) as double barreled. In that section, Paul simply told the story of what had happened in the past. Fourteen years after Paul was first at Jerusalem, he went up again with Barnabas and Titus on another trip concerning circumcision. Titus was not required to be circumcised (v.3). I'm paraphrasing; but, Paul said he did finally have an opportunity to compare notes with the other apostles. The bottom line in those ten verses comes down to the fact that circumcision is not required of Christians to be saved. The apostles (all of them), guided by the same Holy Spirit, were in perfect agreement on that point. It's easy to read those 10 verses, trying to follow the historic connections to that occasion and miss out on the conclusion: that the Judiazers WERE TEACHING a false doctrine; in that, they were teaching that male Christians must first be circumcised before being baptized into Christ. Likewise, it is easy to read v. 11 -21 and focus so strongly on the episode of Peter coming to Antioch and Paul confronting Peter; that you miss the bottom line in this section, i.e. namely, that Christians are NOT REQUIRED to keep the Mosaic law in order to be saved. So, for the moment, as we read this: please focus on that keeping of the law aspect. We'll get back to the Peter-Paul dispute. We won't skip over that! But, right now; I ask you: what did Paul say about keeping the old law? Is law keeping a requirement to become a Christian or remain a Christian and ultimately receive a crown of life that Jesus promised in heaven? Have you got the question? Alright, let's read! We begin in v. 11 and we'll read down through the end of the chapter. Here we go! "But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and
separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him, insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation. But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews? We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be Justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid. For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor. For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness came by the law, then Christ is dead in vain."
O.K. let's re-do it! Here's a question for you: what was it that Paul saw in Peter and the others that needed correcting? Paul stood up to Peter, he said. In v.ll, Paul said, "I withstood him to the face." Paul here tells the brethren in the Galatian churches about an occasion back at Antioch, i.e. Antioch of Syria when Peter came to Antioch. Paul said, Peter "was to be blamed." (end of v.ll). Now, don't miss my question: what was wrong? Why did Paul confront Peter? The answer is in v.l 4, Paul said: "I saw that they walked not uprightly according to" [...according to what?] "according to the truth of the gospel." Why had Paul gone to Jerusalem about circumcision? "That the truth of the gospel might continue with you." (v.5). To teach the truth of the gospel is very important! Please don't miss this point. I have heard some today say, it doesn't matter what you believe or what you teach as long as you are sincere. Truth is relative. They condone and even promote any doctrine and claim that all of it came from Jesus. Don't you believe it! My friend, if that were true; then Paul had no reason to confront Peter. But, this shows that even among the apostles, themselves, it was very important to teach the truth of the gospel; not only in doctrine but also IN PRACTICE. My friend, it is very easy to teach one thing in word and doctrine and then practice something else. Someone has said: actions speak louder than words. That's called being a hypocrite. Saying one thing and acting another way. I know and you know; that this very problem in our day has in many cases made Christianity a laughing stock to the general public. All the atheists in the TV industry play and prey upon this [that's spelled "prey"]. They see inconsistencies in so-called Christianity and they play it to the hilt. OH! sometimes they are unfair with their criticisms, that's true; but, too many times, they are right, hypocracy is there. There are inconsistencies in so-called Christianity. It shouldn't be that way. I confess to you, that most of the religious error in the world today is just as dogmatic and just as overbearing as the Judiazers in Galatia and the Judiazers in Antioch were in teaching: to be saved, one must be circumcised and keep the old law. Everybody is an expert today. They have all THE ANSWERS. The only problem is they haven't as ed all the questions. Don't be an expert! Be a disciple or learner of God's word. Repentance very simply means to make our actions conform to our beliefs, i.e. our faith. About five or six verses down in chapter three, Solomon said in the book of Ecclesiastes: there's a time to keep silence and a time to speak. Many today are speaking when they should be listening and speaking when they should be reading. If Peter and Paul had difficulty enduring the peer pressures and keeping their actions consistent with their doctrine; what makes us so smart today?
Now, there is an interesting tid-bit of new information woven in this account that is not given in the book of Acts. The congregation at Antioch was undoubtedly the largest Gentile church in the brotherhood at that time. This is the congregation where Barnabas went after the stoning of Stephen (Acts 11:19). Barnabas exhorted them "that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord.. A great number believed, and turned to the Lord." (Acts 11:21). Barnabas went from Antioch to Tarsus, "for to seek Saul: [v.25] and when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch." (Acts 11:26). It was from that big Gentile church that the Holy Ghost said: "Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them" (Acts 13:2), i.e. it was from Antioch of Syria that the Holy Spirit commissioned Paul and Barnabas to begin what we usually call the first missionary journey. After that first missionary journey; Paul and Barnabas came back to Antioch again, "and there abode long time with the disciples." (that's Acts 14:28). It was while they were thus at Antioch that the big wangle came up over circumcision, recorded in Acts ch. 15, to which I have called your attention several times already. Paul and Barnabas took Titus and made a 300 mile trip from Antioch to Jerusalem. This was done by revelation, i.e. per instruction of the Spirit (Gal. 2:2). Paul and Barnabas met with Peter, James and others on that occasion; we're talking about the occasion when the little short letter was written that is quoted in Acts 15:23-29. It was sent to Antioch, Syria and Cilicia; you will remember. Here in Gal. 2:11, we learn that Peter, himself, came to Antioch a little later, I would assume. New information! Now, look at v.12! Paul said, "he did eat with the Gentiles." (i.e. Peter ate with the Gentiles). Now, keep your eyes in the middle of v.12! "BUT!" Do you see that? But what Paul? "But when they were come..." Now, who were they that came Paul? Obviously, this has reference to Jews. Jewish Christians no doubt. And I would suspect some of the very sect and some of the very crowd we have here called Judiazing teachers. The Jews considered it unlawful to have any social dealing with the Gentiles. Peter, had, through the Holy Spirit, been taught better than that. This no longer applied. Do you remember the household of Cornelius, Acts ch. 10 and Peter's roof-top vision at the house of Simon a Tanner in Joppa? When Peter was called on the carpet about this in Acts 11:17-18; both Peter and the other apostles concluded that "God gave them [i.e. the Gentiles) the like gift as be did unto us... God (hath) granted repentance unto" [the Gentiles also]. When Peter came to Antioch, he undoubtedly got pressured by the Judiazers-like that night when Jesus was in the house of the high priest and Peter got pressured into denying Jesus. Do you remember that? Notice here in Gal. oh. 2, Paul reiterates what he said to Peter and the others. Notice also, there is no indication that Peter argued with Paul on this point. I don't know if Peter went out and wept as bitterly as that night that Peter denied Jesus; but, if you have learned anything about Peter's personality; you know Peter was an humble man. Peter wanted to do it right. When exhorting Christians to be DILIGENT at a later time (IT Pet. 3:14-15), Peter said: "even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you..." Yes, but, Bro. Horsley, Peter was an apostle! I know that! Peter knew that! had Peter was an apostle that night he denied Jesus, too. But, the point is, Peter let the pressure of the Judiating teachers get the best of him once at Antioch. I suppose Peter had to take a dose of his own medicine. Do you remember what Peter told Simon the Sorcerer when Simon the Sorcerer messed up? "Repent., .and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven." So, when Peter found himself in this inconsistency; he knew what to do AND I believe he did it. That's one of the beautiful things about Christianity. When you find yourself in error: repent and pray. God will forgive you! Repent! Get your actions back in accordance with your faith and your understanding. If some brother has to slap yo on the wrist a time or two with a few righteous words to get you back to your right senses; thank him for it! Don't try to whack him back! Peter may have found himself in an inconsistency, i.e. in doctrine -vs-practice. But, one thing for sure Peter didn't do: he did not try to whack Paul back. Many years later, Peter said: be DILIGENT "even as our beloved brother Paul also....hath written unto you."
In the moment or two we have left; try to get v.l 1-21 in focus. The old law (i.e. the law of Moses) was to the Jews -eat certain foods, don't eat certain unclean foods, be circumcised and keep that law. Jesus said in Matt. 5:17; that he did not come to destroy that law. Jesus said be came to fulfill that law along with the prophets; i.e. all the old testament. Jesus did not destroy that law; Jesus fulfilled it. That very covenant, the Mosaic law itself was given with an eventual view to being terminated and being replaced. When the church was established in Jerusalem, the apostles taught that the Mosaic law was replaced in Christ. Peter preached in Jerusalem (Acts 3:22, this is what Peter said): "Moses truly said unto the fathers, A Prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me [i.e. like unto Moses, a Jew in other words] HIM [i.e. Jesus] shall ye bear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you." How much is that? "All things whatsoever..." That covers about all of it! doesn't it? Peter quoted Moses - - Listen to Jesus! On the mountain of transfiguration (Matt. ch. 17) where Moses appeared; God said: Hear ye Jesus, "in whom I am well pleased..." John said in his prologue (John 1.17), "the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ." The O.T. law was fulfilled in Jesus; i.e. brought to a logical conclusion. But, you know what? The Judiazers were not teaching that! Their doctrine was in effect: follow the O.T. law first and THEN: it s all right to follow Jesus. Paul said: not so! Paul said that was "the truth of the gospel." (Gal. 2:5,2:14). Circumcision is not required to be saved. "A man is not justified by the works of the law", v. 16. Thus, the Judiazing doctrine was a false doctrine. Paul said. "I through the law am dead to the Iaw..."(v.l9). Look at the middle of v.l6, Paul said, "we have believed in Jesus Christ (what for Paul?), that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and NOT by the works of the law..." Have you got it? So, in v. 11 -21, Paul simply told the story of Peter coming to Antioch; a story that most of those Judiazers there probably knew only too well. The bottom line says: Paul was an apostle, too! And just as circumcision is not required to be saved: keeping the old law is not necessary to be saved. It just won't work: that's Paul's conclusion (v.21). Paul was under that law once! To "transgress" (v. 18), means to encroach upon that which is not proper. If MEN teach inconsistencies; does that make Christ inconsistent? ( v.l7) Absolutely not! God forbid! I'll see you in lesson # 59. Have a good day.