Paul accepted by the Apostles
1 Then after fourteen years, I went up again to Jerusalem, this time with Barnabas. I took Titus along also. 2 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. 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 believers 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 be preserved for you.
6 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. 7 On the contrary, they recognized that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the uncircumcised,[a] just as Peter had been to the circumcised.[b] 8 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. 9 James, Cephas[c] 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. 10 All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along.
Paul Opposes Cephas
11 When Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. 13 The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.
14 When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?
15 “We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles 16 know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in[d] Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.
17 “But if, in seeking to be justified in Christ, we Jews find ourselves also among the sinners, doesn’t that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not! 18 If I rebuild what I destroyed, then I really would be a lawbreaker.
19 “For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”
Something that we can learn about Paul here, specifically from verse one, is that he spent time getting ready and preparing to do the work that God had called him to do. Our application tells us that this time was spent alone with God, but also having conversations with other Christians.
Verse two and three have some insight for us as well. You see, Paul knew God wanted his message to be preached, but in order to do so, he had to talk to the church leaders in Jerusalem about his message; “that God’s salvation is offered to all people regardless of race, sex, nationality, wealth, social standing, education level or anything else. Anyone can be forgiven by trusting in Christ.” (application) In doing so, our application tells us that this meeting also prevented a split in the church and built a foundation of the new church.
In verse six, there is a line that really stood out to me, “God does not show favoritism” I remember a time when I was in constant battle with this. I knew this was the truth, but my flesh would tell me, “no, God obviously favors them over you.” It was a real personal struggle. Have you ever felt that God was favoring someone over you? How does this bit of scripture, the flat out truth, help you in that? We are all equal in Christ’s eyes!
I really needed help understanding what was going on in this part with Peter and Paul in verse 11and 12. So, here is what I learned from it, all these people, Paul, Peter, the Judaizers and some Gentile Christians are all together eating a meal, and Paul calls Peter out. Peter wasn’t preaching a false gospel BUT he was also was not preaching to the Gentiles, which by doing so, made it look like he was supporting the Judaizers claim about salvation. While Peter thought he was creating harmony by sticking to preaching to the Jewish and avoiding the group that James was preaching too, he was in turn compromising the message of salvation. “Compromise is an important element in getting along with others, but we should never compromise the truth of God’s Word. If we feel we have to change our Christian beliefs to match those of our companions, we are on dangerous ground.” (application) Our application gives us some insight on why Peter was acting weird here, it actually calls him a hypocrite, but that he was afraid, he was afraid of James and what he would say and also afraid of what others would think… slippery slope. We see a bold, necessary move by Paul, he publicly calls him out. Not trying to hurt him, but to be sure he knew what he was doing. “Sometimes sincere Christians make mistakes…And it may take other sincere Christians to get them back on track.”
I want to touch on verses 15 and 16 too. There has been so much talk about how the laws are not the way to salvation, HOWEVER, we need to know that Paul is NOT saying that the laws are bad, what he is saying is that they cannot work as a means to make us saved or accepted by Christ. The laws are still so important! They give us standards of behavior, convict us of our sins and serve as a guide to live as much for God as we can, the way God desires for us to live.
The last place I want to look further into and where we will be reflecting today, is verse 20. The fact of the matter is that Christ died for us, for our sins to be forgiven, so that we could have a relationship with God. Did you ever have a moment where you experienced Christ, maybe it was when you became a believer, but it changed your life and you wanted to live for Christ instead of for yourself? That’s what I think of here. This scripture is for us to see that we must die to ourselves because Christ now lives in us. I felt led to share this scripture from Colossians 3:2-17, that God put on my heart about dying to our old selves…
2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your[a] life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you:[b] sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming.[c] 7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self[d] with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave,[e] free; but Christ is all, and in all.
12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
What is an area that you haven’t been crucified of your old self? Where are you still struggling to give OR where do you want the Lord to come in and move on what you want to “put on” instead?
Heavenly Father, this chapter had so much information, so much happening, help us to understand your word, help us to know what it is that you have for us. Give us the courage to never compromise the truth of your word. Help us to be bold, but in a helpful way when we see a need to stand up. Guide us as we navigate dying to our past selves, help us to remember that it is no longer us who live, but it is you within us. Help us to live lives that reflect that you are leading it. Help us to trust and find confidence in that fact. We are so grateful for Christ dying on the cross for our sins and for the forgiveness of them. We know that his death is the reason we are saved and that no laws, good deeds, service or giving could ever get us closer to you, it is through faith in Christ alone that we are saved and we thank you for paying that price for us because you love us so much. In Jesus name we pray, AMEN!