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Summary: Arguments: Grace or the Law

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The Great Grace Debate Galatians 2/Acts 15

In the first chapter of Galatians, Paul defends himself as a legitimate apostle whose message of Grace was from God Himself. He establishes that this Gospel of Grace is the only true Gospel. He identifies the grace killers as those who would add any rules, regulations, or any other thing to the precious blood of Christ for salvation.

In Chapter 2, we see the defense of the gospel of Grace brought to Jerusalem. Many scholars believe that Galatians Chapter two lines up with the Jerusalem Council found in Acts Ch. 15. Though there is some debate about this, the two story lines line up nicely, and the terms of debate are similar. Paul, Barnabas, and Titus (an uncircumcised Greek convert) went to Jerusalem because Paul was led by God’s revealed will to go up there.

Galatians 2:1-2 (NIV)

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.

Because of the Judaisers, Paul had concern that there might be a split in the young church, or that there would be a confused doctrine set forth. He had not gotten his gospel from man, so Paul was not there to debate if His gospel was right. However, it was important that the leadership of the young church was in agreement, and aware that Paul’s Gospel was from God and it was authoritative.

Wiersbe suggests that there are four different meetings involved where the future of the Gentile church is being discussed.

(1) a public meeting, at which Paul recounted what God had done among the Gentiles,

Acts 15:4 (NIV)

4 When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and elders, to whom they reported everything God had done through them.

(2) Paul’s private meeting with the leaders, Gal. 2:2;

Galatians 2:2 (NIV)

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) the public debate of Acts 15:5 and Gal. 2:3–5;

Acts 15:5 (NIV)

5 Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, “The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the law of Moses.”

Galatians 2:3-5 (NIV)

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.

(4) The council session at which the matter was finally settled, Acts 15:6ff.

Acts 15:13-20 (NIV)

13 When they finished, James spoke up: “Brothers, listen to me.

14 Simon has described to us how God at first showed his concern by taking from the Gentiles a people for himself. 15 The words of the prophets are in agreement with this, as it is written: 16 “‘after this I will return and rebuild David’s fallen tent. Its ruins I will rebuild and I will restore it, 17 that the remnant of men may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who bear my name, says the Lord, who does these things’

18 that have been known for ages. 19 “It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. 20 Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood.

At the end of all these meetings, there was a united front presented. Paul was affirmed in his ministry to the gentiles, and Peter was affirmed for his ministry to the Jews. All were agreed that the Gospel that gave salvation by Grace alone was the one true Gospel. Even Peter, who was called to bring the message to the Jews, stood up and gave a stirring report:

Acts 15:7-11 (NIV)

7 After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: “Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. 8 God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us.9 He made no distinction between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith.10 Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear? 11 No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”

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