Summary: We must be stubborn about the gospel, but we must be flexible about matters of lesser importantance.
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FREEDOM IN CHRIST
In the first century, Christian freedom was under attack.
Freedom is precious. It often comes at a great price. And sometimes it can be easily lost.
Paul was a freedom fighter. The apostle Paul was determined not to let his enemies take away the freedom of his Gentile converts.
There was a group of false teachers (Judaizers) who were telling the Galatians that Paul’s gospel was incomplete. They claimed that they represented the apostles in Jerusalem.
In chapter 1, Paul demonstrated his independence from the other apostles. Now in chapter 2, Paul shows his unity with them. He did not receive his message from the other apostles. He received it directly from God (1:12). But he preached the same gospel as the Twelve.
Paul made at least four visits to Jerusalem after his conversion: (1) Acts 9:26-30; Galatians 1:18-19; (2) Acts 11:27-30; (3) Acts 15 (Jerusalem council); (4) Acts 21-28. Which of his visits to Jerusalem is Paul referring to in Galatians 2? We can’t be certain, but I think he may be describing his second visit (Acts 11:27-30). Paul says that he took two of his coworkers: Barnabas, a Jew, and Titus, a Gentile.
During this visit, Paul presented to the apostles the gospel that he preaches to the Gentiles. He writes that he did this “for fear that [he] was running or had run [his] race in vain” (v. 2).
“What Paul was concerned about was not the validity of his gospel (of which he had divine assurance) but its practicability. His commission was not derived from Jerusalem, but it could not be executed effectively except in fellowship with Jerusalem.”
“To describe his fears, Paul used the illustration of a footrace, such as a relay race. Paul knew that he would complete his leg of the race, but he needed to be sure that the other apostles were also carrying the gospel baton. Otherwise, his efforts would be wasted and the church would never make it to the finish line.”
The Judaizers were saying that Gentile believers had to be circumcised in order to be truly saved (cf. Acts 15:1, 5). They were adding human works to the gospel. “Yet not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek” (v. 3).
According to the gospel, we are FREE from working for salvation.
“Free” and “freedom” are key words in Galatians, occurring eleven times (2:4; 3:28; 4:22-23, 26, 30; 5:1, 13).
This matter arose because some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves (v. 4).
Paul uses military language in v. 4. He says that the Judaizers had “infiltrated our ranks” (cf. 2 Peter 2:1; Jude 4). They claimed to be “brothers” (Christians), but they were “false” (cf. 2 Corinthians 11:26). They were really “spies,” wanting to take away the freedom of Gentile believers.