Summary: There is only one gospel! And that one and only gospel is the gospel of God’s grace. In Galatians 2:1-10 Paul explains that not only he but also his message was accepted and affirmed by the Jerusalem apostles.
Today we continue our study in Paul’s letter to the Galatians. Let us read Galatians 2:1-10:
"1 Fourteen years later I went up again to Jerusalem, this time with Barnabas. I took Titus along also. 2 I went in response to a revelation and set before them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. But I did this privately to those who seemed to be leaders, for fear that I was running or had run my race in vain. 3 Yet not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek. 4 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. 5 We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might remain with you.
"6 As for those who seemed to be important—whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not judge by external appearance—those men added nothing to my message. 7 On the contrary, they saw that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles, just as Peter had been to the Jews. 8 For God, who was at work in the ministry of Peter as an apostle to the Jews, was also at work in my ministry as an apostle to the Gentiles. 9 James, Peter and John, those reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the Jews. 10 All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do." (Galatians 2:1-10)
Galatians is Paul’s most explosive letter. In vigorous language Paul sets forth the gospel of grace, and the effects of it have transformed the world. At the heart of the letter is the doctrine of grace. It teaches us that God’s grace is for sinners.
This is the truth that gripped Martin Luther, the Roman Catholic monk who lived in the sixteenth century. He labored diligently to earn favor with God, but it didn’t work.
Luther once said, “If ever a monk got to heaven by his monkery, I would have got there too. All the brothers with me will testify to that. For if I had gone on much longer, I would simply have martyred myself to death with vigils, prayers, reading and other work.”
But then the grace of God broke through his troubled conscience into his mind by means of Paul’s words to the Romans, “For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it has been written: ‘The righteous will live by faith’” (Romans 1:17).
Listen to Luther’s own words, “Then I began to comprehend the ‘righteousness of God’ through which the righteous are saved by God’s grace, namely, through faith; that the ‘righteousness of God’ which is revealed through the Gospel was to be understood in a passive sense in which God through mercy justifies a man by faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous will live by faith.’ Now I felt exactly as though I had been born again, and I believed that I had entered Paradise through widely opened doors. . . . As violently as I had formerly hated the expression ‘the righteousness of God,’ so I was now as violently compelled to embrace the new conception of grace and, thus, for me, the expression of the Apostle really opened the Gates of Paradise.”
This is the truth that was being attacked in the Galatian churches. False teachers (known as “Judaizers”) were distorting the gospel of God’s grace. They taught that righteousness from God came by faith in Christ and by the works of the Law. Unfortunately, the Christians in the Galatian churches believed this teaching and were losing their joy in the gospel.
Now, the facts of the gospel were not at stake. The Galatians—and the Judaizers, for that matter—believed that Jesus died and was buried. They also believed that three days later he rose from the dead and was seen by many other people (cf. I Corinthians 15:3-5). These facts were not in dispute.
However, it was in the terms on which the benefits of Christ’s work were received that the conflict lay. The Judaizers insisted that the benefits of Christ’s work become theirs only by keeping the Law of Moses (which included circumcision).
It was this that stirred Paul up and got him heated, “Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all” (Galatians 5:2). In Galatians 3:11 he says, “Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, “The righteous will live by faith.”