This chapter tells of Paul’s second visit with church leaders in Jerusalem. Fourteen years from his conversion rather than from his previous visit fits well with the story as described in Acts Chapter 15. Paul was accompanied by Barnabas, and Titus. Once the collection taken by the churches in Asia Minor was delivered to the Apostles Peter and James, they met privately and Paul shared the message he preached to the Gentiles to make sure there was no disagreement. Once it was determined that they preached the same gospel, Paul brought up a controversy raised over Gentile converts and Jewish law raised by intruders into the church in Antioch. As recorded in Acts, James spoke out against making it more difficult for Gentiles to turn to God by insisting they follow certain aspects of the Law.
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When Paul shared his gospel to the Gentiles — of justification by faith alone — with Peter, James and other church leaders, they were in complete agreement and recognized Paul as Christ’s Apostle to the Gentiles. When Judaizers in Antioch insisted Gentiles had to be circumcised to receive salvation, Paul resisted. Had he yielded by accepting that salvation does not come by faith alone, his message to the Gentiles would have been considerably weakened. Peter’s plea to continue helping the poor applies to both finances and spirit.
Later, while Peter was visiting Paul in Antioch, he waffled in his commitment to the doctrine of salvation by God’s grace alone. At the meeting of the apostles, Peter agreed with James that no burdens should be imposed on Gentile Christians. Earlier, he’d been charged with visiting Cornelius and was assured in a vision to "call nothing common or unclean." Yet under the influence of Jewish converts from Jerusalem who advocated circumcision for Gentile converts, he held back from eating with his new Christian brethren.
By rebuking Peter’s hypocrisy, Paul demonstrated absolute confidence in the gospel. It also shows Paul’s belief that “God has no favorites.” Paul defines the essence of Christianity. “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. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” Paul saw Peter’s compromise as undermining the gospel, which is why he confronted him.
So it is with all who believe in Christ. We wake each day to die to self — that is, to our egos — and in doing so allow Christ to work in and through us in a way that accomplishes our goal here on earth, which is to glorify God through our speech, our deeds, and our very thoughts.
Food for Thought:
What prompted Paul to visit Jerusalem a second time after his conversion?
What prompted the church leaders to fully accept Paul and Barnabas as co-workers?
What was their one suggestion to Paul?
Why did Paul publicly rebuked Peter during his visit to Antioch?
What argument did Paul use on Peter?
The false teachers who grew up under the law doubtless believed the Good News would lead to lawlessness, that the freedoms we have by believing in Christ would ultimately lead to sin. How does Paul counter this wrongful thinking?