The Gospel in Galatians
 by E.H. “Jack” Sequeira 

3 – Only One Gospel

Galatians 2:1-10:

Then after fourteen years, I went up again to Jerusalem, this time with Barnabas.  I took Titus along also.  I went in response to a revelation and, meeting privately with those esteemed as leaders, I presented to them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles.  I wanted to be sure I was not running and had not been running my race in vain.  Yet not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek.  This matter arose because some false believers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves.  We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you.

As for those who were held in high esteem — whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not show favoritism — they added nothing to my message.  On the contrary, they recognized that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been to the circumcised.  For God, who was at work in Peter as an apostle to the circumcised, was also at work in me as an apostle to the Gentiles.  James, Cephas and John, those esteemed as 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 circumcised.  All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along.

As we turn to chapter two of Galatians, keep in mind what we have already covered in chapter one in our last two studies.  Here is a quick review before we turn to chapter two.  Paul was ordained by God and Jesus Christ to be an apostle to the Gentiles.  Wherever Paul went, the Judaizers — Jewish Christians who opposed Paul’s message — dogged his footsteps.  As soon as Paul planted a church in some location, these false teachers would come and trouble the new believers with their perverted gospel, that is:  salvation is not by faith alone in the righteousness of Christ but that we must also add circumcision and the keeping of the law as a requirement to be saved.

Unfortunately, these Judaizers had plenty of success both within and without the church.  Did you know, for example, that most Islamic scholars consider Paul, especially in view of his message of salvation by grace alone, as the greatest heretic of Christianity?  All those who would like to promote legalism in one form or another within Christianity often have a low opinion of Paul and his writings.

It is important that we come to grips with the issues Paul is discussing in Galatians.  As we have already seen, in order to discredit Paul’s gospel, the Judaizers launched a powerful two-pronged attack on Paul and his message.  They accused him of being a self-appointed apostle and inventing his own gospel.

In chapter one, Paul made it clear that both his apostolic authority, as well as the gospel he proclaimed, did not come from men or from himself but from God and Jesus Christ.  But the Judaizers did not stop at this two-pronged attack.  One of the powerful ways they tried to undermine Paul’s gospel was by putting a wedge between Paul and the other apostles.  They hinted to these Gentile believers that the gospel Paul preached was very different from the one that Peter and the other apostles were preaching in Palestine.  Keep in mind that, in those days, communication was very poor.  There was no way for these Gentile believers in Asia Minor, in Galatia and other places, to be sure what the apostles in Palestine were preaching.  The Judaizers took advantage of this.  Paul is proving there is only one gospel that he and the other apostles were preaching.

With this introduction, let us now turn to Galatians 2:1-10:

Then after fourteen years, I went up again to Jerusalem, this time with Barnabas.  I took Titus along also.  I went in response to a revelation and, meeting privately with those esteemed as leaders, I presented to them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles.  I wanted to be sure I was not running and had not been running my race in vain.  Yet not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek.  This matter arose because some false believers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves.  We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you.

As for those who were held in high esteem — whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not show favoritism — they added nothing to my message.  On the contrary, they recognized that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been to the circumcised.  For God, who was at work in Peter as an apostle to the circumcised, was also at work in me as an apostle to the Gentiles.  James, Cephas and John, those esteemed as 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 circumcised.  All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along.

What a powerful, tremendous passage this is!  What is Paul saying here in this passage?  First, let us look at the opening statement:

Then after fourteen years....

Fourteen years after his conversion he went up again to Jerusalem.  Remember, he had gone there the first time, as mentioned in chapter one, verse eighteen, when he stayed in Jerusalem only for fifteen days.  But this time, he went with Barnabas (who was a fellow Jew and a coworker with Paul) and Titus, a Greek, a Gentile convert, who was an intern under Paul.  Verse 2 tells us why he went to Jerusalem:

I went in response to a revelation....

Paul did not come to Jerusalem to be investigated by the other apostles.  He went up because God directed him to go to Jerusalem.  Why?  Because of the damage the Judaizers were doing by their false teachings.  They were implying to the Gentile believers that there was a discrepancy between the gospel that Paul had preached to them and the gospel that Peter, James and John, the pillars of the church, were preaching in Jerusalem.

God wanted to stop this problem immediately.  Paul says:

I went in response to a revelation and, meeting privately with those esteemed as leaders, I presented to them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles.

He shared, with the other apostles, the message that he had proclaimed to the Gentiles.  But he did it privately to those who were of reputation.  He does not mention in verse two who those people in reputation were but he does in verse nine.  They were James, Cephas (that is, Peter), and John.  These were the pillars of the church in Jerusalem.  He says:

I wanted to be sure I was not running and had not been running my race in vain.

It was not because Paul doubted his gospel but it was to report to the leaders so that they might be in perfect unity with the gospel they were both proclaiming.  This unity should be our goal, also.  There is only one gospel that the Christian church should preach and that is why it is important that we understand this epistle to the Galatians.

Now look at verse 3 of chapter 2 of Galatians:

Yet not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek.

To understand this, keep in mind, that the Judaizers were insisting that the Gentiles be circumcised in order to be saved.  In Acts 15, at the first Jerusalem council, this was the central issue.  Acts 15:1-21:

Certain people came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the believers:  “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.”  This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them.  So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question.  The church sent them on their way, and as they traveled through Phoenicia and Samaria, they told how the Gentiles had been converted.  This news made all the believers very glad.  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.

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 keep the law of Moses.”

The apostles and elders met to consider this question.  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.  God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us.  He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith.  Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear?  No!  We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”

The whole assembly became silent as they listened to Barnabas and Paul telling about the signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through them.  When they finished, James spoke up.  “Brothers,” he said, “listen to me.  Simon has described to us how God first intervened to choose a people for his name from the Gentiles.  The words of the prophets are in agreement with this, as it is written:  ‘After this I will return and rebuild David’s fallen tent.  Its ruins I will rebuild, and I will restore it, that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, even all the Gentiles who bear my name, says the Lord, who does these things’ — things known from long ago.

“It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.  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.  For the law of Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.”

And here, in Galatians, Paul is saying that if there was a discrepancy between his gospel and the one that Peter, James, and John were preaching, if he was not in harmony with these three great men of God and that the Judaizers were correct, that circumcision was essential for salvation, then Titus, who was a Gentile, uncircumcised, would have been compelled by these leaders of the church in Jerusalem to be circumcised.  It was God who led Paul to take Titus with him as a test case.  Titus was Exhibit A.  The whole unity of the gospel depended on what these leaders in Jerusalem would do with Titus.  The reason Paul took Titus was to make sure that Paul and the other apostles were in harmony.

Paul says in verse 4:

This matter arose because some false believers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves.

If the Judaizers had succeeded in bringing a wedge between Paul and the other apostles, it is doubtful that the Christian church as it is today would have lasted for so long a period.  We thank God that on this very important occasion, the apostles were perfectly united in their stand.

Paul adds in verse 5:

We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you.

The “we” here refers to Paul, Peter, James, and John.  Not for a single moment did they allow these Judaizers to pervert the gospel or to bring a wedge between Paul and the other apostles.  Paul and the other apostles were in perfect harmony in the proclamation of the gospel.  Yes, today the Christian church is fragmented with all kinds of issues but one thing must be clear:  the church has to be united when it comes to defining what the gospel of Jesus Christ is.

Paul goes on (verse 6a):

As for those who were held in high esteem — whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not show favoritism....

Paul is not being disrespectful to the leaders and the believers in Jerusalem.  Reminding them of the priesthood of all believers, that God shows personal favoritism to no one for we all — apostles and laity, leaders and members of the church, all of us — are one hundred percent sinners saved by grace.  There is no distinction when you and I come under the umbrella of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Then he makes this wonderful statement at the end of verse six:

...They added nothing to my message. 

The leading brethren of the church in Jerusalem, Peter, James and John, did not contradict, they did not add, they did not modify or supplement Paul’s gospel.  The message Paul preached was full and complete:  salvation for all men is by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and nothing else.  He continues in verses 7-8:

On the contrary, they recognized that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the uncircumcised [Gentiles, i.e., anyone who wasn’t Jewish], just as Peter had been to the circumcised [Jews].  For God, who was at work in Peter as an apostle to the circumcised, was also at work in me as an apostle to the Gentiles.

The source of the gospel is Jesus Christ.  The gospel proclaimed by Peter to the Jews and the gospel proclaimed by Paul to the Gentiles was the same gospel.  There was no distinction.  Paul and Peter preached the same gospel.  True, it was to a different audience, therefore their style may have been different; their approach may have been different but the substance of the message they preached was one.

Paul says in verse 9:

James, Cephas and John, those esteemed as pillars [leaders of God’s church in Jerusalem], 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 circumcised.

In other words, these apostles said to Paul and Barnabas, “Continue the good work.  We are perfectly united.”  This was a very crucial moment in the history of the Christian church.  Thank God, this meeting proved extremely successful.  It showed that the Judaizers were liars and deceivers, that they were agents of Satan who came to destroy the truth as it is in Christ.  We read that, before Paul and Barnabas left Jerusalem, they had come to an agreement that the message they preached was one and the same message.  They desired only one thing, said Paul in verse 10, that these Gentile believers remember the poor Jewish believers who were being persecuted and who were facing financial and material hardship:

All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along.

There are two important facts that we must remember concerning this message in Galatians 2:1-10:

  1. The truth of the gospel is unchanging.  Paul said in Galatians 1:8-9 that anyone who perverts this gospel, anyone who brings about another gospel other than the one that he, Paul and the other apostles preached, let him be accursed of God even though that person, that individual may be an angel from heaven.  Peter and Paul and the other apostles all preached the same gospel.  They were perfectly united as to how man was justified before God.  So those who preach the gospel today must also be united.  The moment we preach different gospels, we are doing great damage to the cause of Jesus Christ.  Yes, our emphasis, our style may be different.  For example:  Paul’s greatest enemies in his proclamation of the gospel were the Judaizers.  His greatest enemy was legalism and so Paul, in his writings, speaks against legalism with much emphasis.  James, on the other hand, writing to Jewish believers, is dealing with an opposite problem:  antinomianism (literally, “anti-legalism” or lawlessness; the theological doctrine that by faith and God’s grace a Christian is freed from all laws, including the moral standards of the culture), or what is called “cheap grace.”  Both were preaching the same gospel, both were in perfect harmony, but they were dealing with two different problems, two different groups of people, so their approach was somewhat different.  But their message was the same.

  2. The second truth that our passage brings out is that the truth of the gospel must be maintained at all cost.  Perverting the gospel is one of Satan’s most powerful ways of destroying the faith of believers and the unity of the Christian church.  Paul tells us in Galatians 5:3-4 that anyone who adds law keeping to justification by faith alone in the righteousness of Christ is fallen from grace and Christ has become of no value:

    Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law.  You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.

All through his ministry, Paul warned his believers to be on guard against perverting the gospel.  We find an example in 2 Corinthians 4:3-4:

And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing.  The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

The devil has, to a large degree, put a veil in front of the eyes of many of the church people today.  He has convinced them that man has, in himself, the power to save himself.  This is the mistake that Karl Marx made; this is the mistake that many who believe in humanistic methods have made.  But the Bible is clear that there is no one who is able to save himself from sin by his own good works because sin is not only an act that condemns us but sin is a slavery; sin is a law; it is a principle that dwells in our sinful nature which makes holy living impossible.  When we come to Galatians 3:10, Paul makes it clear that all who are depending on the law for their salvation will be under the curse:

For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written:  “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.”

“Cursed is everyone who does not obey the law perfectly and continually,” something that none of us have been able to do.  We must maintain the purity of the gospel for we do not want this gospel to be perverted.

Another passage in the same book is 2 Corinthians 11:3-4:

But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.  For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the Spirit you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough.

We need to give serious thought to what Paul says here.  Paul is saying, “I am concerned for you Corinthian Christians.  It is so easy to sidetrack you from the true gospel.”  What Paul is saying about the Corinthians is true of all of us today because legalism is very appealing to our egocentric nature.  The gospel is a standard.  It shows us how poverty-stricken we are when it comes to the spiritual realm.  It is important that, as Christians, we maintain the purity of the gospel, that we allow none to pervert the gospel.  This is what the devil has been trying to do right from the beginning.

On this historical occasion — fourteen years after Paul’s conversion, when he came to Jerusalem for the second time — if the apostles disagreed in terms of the content of the gospel, the whole destiny of the Christian church was at stake.  It is true that Paul, in this passage that we have just studied, was referring to the Jerusalem Council because there is a close similarity between Paul’s statement in Galatians 2:1-10 and in Acts 15, especially verses 6-11.  In conclusion, to show the similarity, read Acts 15:6-10:

The apostles and elders met to consider this question.  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.  God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us.  He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith.  Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear?”

Keep in mind that the issue was circumcision and the keeping of the law as a requirement for salvation.  This is the response of the apostles at this Jerusalem Council.  Peter is reminding the Judaizers that Judaism, after 1,500 years, had miserably failed to produce a righteousness that can stand before the judgment seat of God.  In Acts 15:11, the next verse, we read Paul’ conclusion:

“No!  We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”

In other words, there is only one way that God saved mankind.  It does not matter whether you are a Jew or a Gentile, it does not matter whether you are male or female, educated or uneducated, whether you are living in the first world or the third world, there is only one way that sinful man can be justified before a holy God:  it is through grace that we are saved by faith and not by works.

It is my prayer that you will know this truth and this truth will set you free and you will allow no one to sidetrack you from this gospel of grace alone.  Thank God for Paul, the champion of the gospel.  We thank God that almost half of the New Testament is Pauline epistles, especially for his epistle to the Galatians which has been preserved for your benefit and mine that you and I may know the truth and may stand by the truth.  The truth which is Jesus Christ and Him crucified will set us free.


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