Paul's conversion to Christ, calling into apostleship, and early communication with the other apostles demonstrates that his gospel does not teach righteousness and justification by observance of the Jewish law but by faith in Jesus Christ alone.
Chapter 2 Notes
- vv. 1:13-24. In defense of his calling and ministry as an apostle, Paul gives a brief account of how he and his message came to be recognized by those who were already apostles.
- His unusual conversion. See Acts 9. A most zealous persecutor of the church has a personal encounter with the risen Lord.
- His subsequent seclusion. Paul did not immediately take the stage or go on tour as a celebrity Christian. He did not become personally acquainted with the apostles until several years later.
- vv. 1-5. In his own experience among the brethren in Jerusalem, with Barnabas and Titus in his company fourteen years later, Paul set before the church leaders his message that he had been preaching to the Jews and Gentiles. Even among the Jews when some had placed pressure on them to conform to certain aspects of the Law (circumcision), they did not give in so as to demonstrate the freedom from the Law which the gospel brings.
- vv. 6-10. When they recognized the calling and the grace of God that was operating through Paul, the apostles Peter, James, and John gave him and Barnabas official recognition ("the right hand of fellowship") and confirmed the area of ministry to which they had been called: the Gentiles.
- vv. 11-14. Further evidence that Paul has dealt with the inconsistencies of mingling Jewish law with the gospel of Christ can be seen in his confrontation of Peter's hypocrisy in Antioch. Peter typically ate with Gentiles believers, but when the circumcision group arrived, Peter pulled back and did not eat further with them. Paul clearly teaches that this kind of behavior does not promote the gospel truth that in Christ, Jews and Gentiles are one people of God.
- How then is a person justified in the sight of God? Paul uses the term justified to mean a legal declaration of righteousness. Are we justified by observing the law or by believing in Jesus Christ? It is not by observing the law but by faith. He will go into further details of the relationship between law and faith in chapter 3.
- In the gospel, a Christian has been so identified with Christ that it can be said, "I have been crucified with Christ. I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. And the life I live now is a life of faith, for if I were still trying to gain righteousness through the law, the Christ died for nothing."
- The grace of God is strong enough to overcome the will of man. It would be difficult to find a person more zealous for religion than Paul, and yet when he had a personal encounter with the risen Lord, he could do nothing other than obey.
- The gospel message has no room for the intermingling of religious observance as a means of obtaining righteousness. The gospel brings freedom and rest, but religious observance will inevitably bring slavery. Law and religious observance have a place, but not as a means to righteousness.
- We should offer affirmation and fellowship to those who preach the same message of grace and forgiveness through faith in Jesus Christ.
- We should examine our own lives and be open to the input of others when someone sees that we are not acting in line with the truth.
- No one is justified in the sight of God by keeping the law.
- A Christian has spiritual union with Christ by faith, such that one can say, "I no longer live, but Christ lives in me."
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