In the previous passage, Paul upholds the gospel the Galatians have received as the absolute truth and condemns any other preaching that differs from this gospel. Now, he supports his argument by pointing to the divine origin of the gospel and his apostolic call.
(“But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1:11-12).)
Did You Know...?
1. Judaism (1:13) is the name of the Jewish religion.
2. Arabia (1:17): “The Nabatean kingdom in Transjordan stretching from Damascus southwest to the Suez.” [ref]
3. Damascus (1:17): “Ancient capital of Syria (Aram in the OT). Paul had been converted en route from Jerusalem to Damascus (Ac 9:1-9).” [ref]
4. Syria and Cilicia (1:21) were provinces in Asia Minor. Tarsus, Paul’s hometown, was in Cilicia.
5. Barnabas (2:1) was an apostle and Paul’s companion on the first missionary journey (Acts 13:1-14:28).
6. Titus (2:1): “A Gentile Christian who served as Paul’s delegate to Corinth and later was left in Crete to oversee the church there (see Tit 1:5).” [ref]
7. Circumcised (2:3): Circumcision was a sign of God’s covenant with Abraham and his descendants (Gen 17:10-14).
8. James, Cephas, and John (2:9): James was the Lord’s brother; Cephas was Peter; John was the son of Zebedee, one of the twelve disciples (Mk 3:13-19).
9. The right hand of fellowship (2:9): “A common practice among both Hebrews and Greeks, indicating a pledge of friendship.” [ref]
- Source of the Gospel (1-11:12)
- Paul's Former Zeal in Judaism (1:13-14)
- God's Calling and Paul's Response apart from Human Counsel (1:15-17)
- First Visit to Jerusalem, Meeting only Peter and James (1:18-20)
- Personal Ministry in Syria and Cilicia (1:21-24)
- Second Visit to Jerusalem (2:1-10)
Compare 1:11-24 and 2:1-10. How do these two passages form two parts to Paul’s argument?Hide Answer
1:11-24 emphasizes the divine origin of the gospel he preached and his independence from the other apostles. 2:1-10 shows the unity of all the apostles in recognizing the mission God had entrusted to Paul.
Why is it necessary for the Galatians to know that the gospel Paul preached was not from man but from the revelation of Jesus Christ (11-12)?Hide Answer
The Galatians have been deceived into believing that the gospel Paul preached was not the genuine gospel. So Paul wants them to realize that the gospel they have forsaken is in fact the true gospel because it came not from man but from God. Turning away from this gospel would be turning away from the God who has called them (1:6).
How does Paul use the following to convince the Galatians of the divine origin of the gospel he preaches? His former conduct (13-14)Hide Answer
Paul used to be a zealous believer of Judaism who even persecuted the church. The drastic change in him can only be attributed to an act of God, not any human persuasion. The fact that he now preaches salvation through the grace of Christ is a powerful testimony that the gospel he preaches comes from God’s revelation (15-16).
His stay in Arabia (16-17)Hide Answer
After the Lord had called Paul, he went to Arabia instead of conferring with the other apostles in Jerusalem. Paul’s point in stating this is that his message did not come from consulting with anyone, but came from God directly.
His first visit to Jerusalem (18-19)Hide Answer
Paul’s emphasis in mentioning his first Jerusalem visit is that from among the apostles, he saw only Peter and James, the Lord’s brother (James was actually not one of the Twelve). His brief stay in Jerusalem was not a formal meeting to secure the apostles’ recognition, but to testify about his conversion experience to them (Acts 9:26-27). At this time, Peter had not received revelation from the Lord that salvation must also reach the Gentiles (Acts 10). Therefore, Paul’s mission to the Gentiles and his gospel message of salvation by grace could not have come from his meeting with Peter.
His ministry in Syria and Cilicia and the churches’ response (21- 24)Hide Answer
Paul’s early ministries in Syria and Cilicia were independent of the churches in Judea. In fact, the churches in Judea had not met him in person but had only heard of his conversion. This reinforces Paul’s argument that the gospel he preached was not taught by man. Despite Paul’s independence, the churches glorified God upon hearing about his evangelical efforts. Such positive response from the churches in Judea confirms the fact that Paul’s message was in no way contradictory to the true gospel.
What can we learn from Paul’s words about the nature of God’s calling? “When it pleased God” (15)Hide Answer
God has chosen us according to the pleasure of His will (Eph 1:5). Our salvation is not through our own choice, but the sovereign will of God (Jn 15:16).
“Separated me from my mother’s womb” (15)Hide Answer
God’s election precedes any human decision or effort (Rom 9:11,12,16).
“Through His grace” (15)Hide Answer
Our salvation does not depend on our own merits but is a free gift of God (Eph 2:8).
“Reveal His Son in me” (16)Hide Answer
We have come to know the Lord Jesus Christ through the revelation of the Heavenly Father (Mt 16:13-17).
“That I might preach Him” (16)Hide Answer
God’s purpose in delivering us is so that we may declare His praises (1Pet 2:9).
Paul’s personal experience served as a powerful testimony in his defense of the gospel. What experience can you share with others when you bear witness for the Lord to show how true the gospel is?
While Paul was in Tarsus, it was Barnabas who went to look for him and brought him to Antioch. Read Acts 11:19-26. Considering the circumstances, why do you think Barnabas sought Paul?Hide Answer
Barnabas was keenly aware of God’s unique mission for Paul. When the disciples still held a guarded suspicion of Paul after his conversion, it was Barnabas who brought him to the apostles (Acts 9:26-27). Because of the circumstances that prevented Paul from preaching in Jerusalem, he was sent back to Tarsus. Years later, when the church scattered because of persecution, the gospel spread to Gentile regions (Acts 11:19-20). At this point, Barnabas went to search for Paul and brought him to Antioch. He realized that God had called Paul to bring the gospel to the Gentiles, and it was probably this very reason that led Barnabas to enlist Paul’s help at this key moment in the church’s missionary efforts.
What led Paul to visit Jerusalem for the second time?Hide Answer
Paul went up to Jerusalem this time by divine revelation (2:2).
Why is this fact important?Hide Answer
While Paul was also sent to Jerusalem by delegation of the church, Paul points out that his visit to Jerusalem was based on divine direction. He does not want anyone to think that his mission to the Gentiles was entrusted by man or that he went up to Jerusalem out of his own initiative to win the approval of the church leaders.
What was the purpose of this visit?Hide Answer
Paul went up to Jerusalem to communicate to the church the gospel which he preached among the Gentiles (2:2).
How was the meeting conducted? Why?Hide Answer
The meeting was conducted “privately to those who were of reputation lest [Paul] might run, or had run, in vain” (2:2).
Explain what Paul means by “lest by any means I might run, or had run, in vain.” (2). What did he want to avoid?Hide Answer
Paul did not want popular opinion to obstruct or even ruin the work of the gospel. Concerned that the legalist might use an open meeting as an occasion to sway the decision of the church, Paul chose to meet privately with the leaders.
How did Titus play a crucial role in this particular visit?Hide Answer
The leaders in Jerusalem must confront the issue of whether Gentiles needed to be circumcised. Had the leaders compelled Titus, a Greek, to receive circumcision, then the legalists would have won. But because Titus was not compelled to do so, the clear message was that Gentiles are saved by grace and do not need to be subjected to the law.
What are the two contrasting words in 2:4?Hide Answer
Liberty and bondage.
Based on verse 5, explain the reason for Paul’s uncompromising attitude.Hide Answer
Paul did not give in to the false brethren in order that the truth of the gospel may continue to spread among the Gentiles. If he were to yield to them, the Galatians would not have been able to hear and accept the true gospel.
What is the point of verse 6?Hide Answer
The thrust of Paul’s statement is that men’s reputation had no part to play in the gospel truth God had revealed to him.
Notice the phrases “those who were of reputation” (2), “those who seemed to be something” (6), and “who seemed to be pillars” (9). Why do you think Paul uses such phrases to refer to the leaders in Jerusalem?Hide Answer
Paul was not putting down the leaders in the Jerusalem church. Rather, he is pointing out that the things men esteem, such as reputation, position, and leadership, are completely irrelevant as far as the gospel is concerned. God shows no favoritism, and His grace does not depend on any personal merit.
How does the recognition that God shows no personal favoritism determine our conduct and motivation?Hide Answer
If we acknowledge that God shows no favoritism, we will remain faithful to the word of God and not make compromises in order to please those whom the world respect.
How did the other apostles know that the gospel for the uncircumcised had been committed to Paul?Hide Answer
The divine origin of Paul’s mission was something that others could see (7; “they saw…”). The power of God that was at work in Paul was a clear evidence that God had chosen him to preach to the Gentiles (8).
Why was the gospel God had committed to Paul a “grace” (9)? Why is the word “grace” a key word in this passage?Hide Answer
Paul considers his ministry the grace of God (Rom 1:5; 12:3; 15:15; 1Cor 3:10; Eph 3:8; Phil 1:7). Although Paul was the worst of sinners, God in His mercy had chosen him for this work. Furthermore, the gospel itself is God’s grace because it brings the free gift of salvation to those who believe.
That the gospel is God’s grace is crucial to Paul’s argument. Salvation
comes to us freely apart from observing the law. The Judaizers, who had
denied the grace of God, hoped to put Gentile believers under bondage.
But Paul did not give in to them in order that the grace of Christ may remain with the believers. In this passage, Paul also argues that God’s grace does not come by means of men’s merit, nor does it need the endorsement of reputable men. Instead, men must humbly acknowledge and submit to the work of God, who wills that His grace of salvation be made available to all.
As God’s workers, what lessons can we learn from the apostles in this passage?Hide Answer
Although the pressures from the Judaizers were great, the apostles did not bow to their demands but acted according to God’s will. It was by no means easy for the church to break through the traditional Jewish values. But the disciples had the spiritual wisdom and perception to see the will of God in saving the Gentiles, and they submitted to God and lent their support to Paul. Likewise, when it comes to carrying out God’s word, we ought to do what is right and not let the demands of men prevail.
We can also learn from the spirit of unity and cooperation among the apostles. Recognizing that God had given Paul the mission of preaching to the Gentiles, they gave him and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship. Rather than compete with one another or disparage one another’s ministry, the apostles acknowledged their respective roles in God’s work and committed themselves to their tasks accordingly.