The Truth of the Gospel Gal. 1:13 CLICK TITLE FOR AUDIO
The truth of the gospel [Gal 2:5, 14] is that we are “justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law,” [Gal 2:16]. However, there were some men who had come from Jerusalem that were teaching that “Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law” [Acts 15:24] in order to be “saved” [Acts 15:1, 5].
In order to counter this perversion of the gospel [Gal 1:7] Paul had to show the Galatians clearly that, while salvation is of the Jews [Jn 4:22], it is by the faith of Jesus Christ and not by the works of the law. Thus, he had to demonstrate that his gospel had no roots in the Jews’ religion. He did this by giving them the testimony of his life from before his salvation, through his early years in the ministry, including his meeting with the apostles in Jerusalem to settle the disputation over Gentiles keeping the law [Acts 15].
In our lesson today we will cover Acts 15 and Gal 1:13-2:21 to see how thoroughly Paul proved to the Galatians that he had preached the truth of the gospel to them and that those who had preached “another gospel” were frustrating the grace of God [Gal 2:21].
In Acts 15:1-5 the dispute is whether the Gentiles need to keep the law to be saved. In Acts 15:7-11 Peter recounts the salvation of Cornelius and his kinsmen and concludes that their hearts were purified by faith without the law. In Acts 15:12 Paul and Barnabas report on their miraculous work among the Gentiles. In Acts 15:13-20, James gives his sentence that the Gentiles do not need to keep the law to be saved, yet he gives them four things from which to abstain.
In Acts 15:22-29 the apostles and elders prepared a letter to the Gentiles to this effect and sent it to them by Paul and Barnabas and Judas and Silas from Jerusalem. In the letter they clearly stated that men preaching the need to be circumcised and keep the law of Moses were not under the authority of the apostles and they were subverting the souls of the Gentiles [Acts 15:24].
In Gal 1:13-24 Paul reasons with the Galatians that he was a more zealous Pharisee than any of these Jews who had come to pervert the gospel. There is no way that Paul would have quit persecuting the church and resigned his adherence to the law if God hadn’t called him by his grace and given him a command to preach to the heathen. No man could have convinced him to do this. Paul’s preaching has no roots in the Jews’ religion [Gal 1:13-14], in Jerusalem [Gal 1:17, 4:26], in Peter [Acts 15:7; Gal 1:18, 2:11], in James [Acts 15:13; Gal 1:19, 2:12], or in Judea [Gal 1:22]. The root of his gospel is in Jesus Christ alone [Gal 1:12].
In Gal 2:1-10, Paul tells the Galatians about what happened at the meeting in Jerusalem in Acts 15. In Gal 2:2 he had a private meeting with the men held in reputation [Gal 1:9] who checked out his gospel. In Gal 2:3-5 he tells of a trick some false brethren pulled to try to force Titus to be circumcised. Paul didn’t give in to their pressure and the brethren didn’t compel Titus to be circumcised [proof that even in Jerusalem they upheld the truth of the gospel]. In Gal 2:6 he tells them that at the conclusion of the conference in Acts 15 nothing was added to his gospel. To the contrary, in Gal 2:7-10, the whole group gave Paul and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship signifying that they should go to the heathen and keep preaching the truth of the gospel.
Furthermore, as one final “nail in the coffin” to stop anyone in Galatia from thinking that these men who were preaching circumcision were right, Paul exposed the hypocrisy of the leading Jews in an incident down in Antioch [Gal 2:11-14]. Peter and the other Jews were eating with the Gentiles, clearly demonstrating their common faith in Christ and their disregard for the prohibitions of the law against this. Yet, when James sent some Jews to see how things were going in Antioch, all the Jews, “fearing them which were of the circumcision” dissembled by separating from the Gentiles [pretending that they were keeping the law]. Paul got right in Peter’s face and rebuked him in front of them all. In all of their examination of Paul they could not find one thing wrong with what he was doing. But he surely found something terribly wrong with what they were doing.
Paul’s question to Peter in Gal 2:14 is a classic reproof like Jesus’ question in Matt 22:41-46. Gal 2:14-16 become the key verses to show once and for all that the truth of the gospel is salvation by the faith of Christ and not by the works of the law. Paul slams the door on these Jews who had come to Galatia to pervert the truth of the gospel he had preached among them.