You must certainly make every effort to please God, but watch out so that you don't begin to trust your efforts more than Christ.
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Galatians 2 (ESV)
1 Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along with me.
2 I went up
because of a revelation and set before them
(though privately before those who seemed influential)
the gospel that I proclaim among the Gentiles,
in order to make sure I was not running
or had not run in vain.
3 But even Titus,
who was with me,
was not forced to be circumcised,
though he was a Greek.
4 Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in—
slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus,
so that they might bring us into slavery—
5 to them we did not yield in submission
even for a moment,
so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you.
6 And from those who seemed to be influential
(what they were
makes no difference to me;
God shows no partiality)—
those, I say, who seemed influential added nothing to me.
7 On the contrary,
when they saw that
I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised,
just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel to the circumcised
8 (for he
who worked through Peter for his apostolic ministry to the circumcised
worked also through me for mine to the Gentiles),
9 and when James and Cephas and John,
who seemed to be pillars,
perceived the grace that was given to me,
they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me,
that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised.
10 Only, they asked us
to remember the poor,
the very thing I was eager to do.
11 But when Cephas came to Antioch,
I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned.
12 For before certain men came from James,
he was eating with the Gentiles;
but when they came
he drew back and separated himself,
fearing the circumcision party.
13 And the rest of the Jews
acted hypocritically along with him,
so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy.
14 But when
I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel,
I said to Cephas before them all,
though a Jew,
live like a Gentile
and not like a Jew,
how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?”
15 We ourselves are Jews by birth
and not Gentile sinners;
16 yet we know that a person
is not justified by works of the law
but through faith in Jesus Christ,
so we also have believed in Christ Jesus,
in order to be justified by faith in Christ
and not by works of the law,
because by works of the law
no one will be justified.
17 But if,
in our endeavor to be justified in Christ,
we too were found to be sinners,
is Christ then a servant of sin?
18 For if I rebuild what I tore down,
I prove myself to be a transgressor.
through the law
I died to the law,
so that I might live to God.
20 I have been crucified with Christ.
It is no longer I who live,
but Christ who lives in me.
the life I now live in the flesh
I live by faith in the Son of God,
who loved me
and gave himself for me.
21 I do not nullify the grace of God,
for if righteousness were through the law,
then Christ died for no purpose.
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Galatians 2 Summary
If Paul seems hostile and defensive as he writes chapter two, it's because he is. The early Jewish Christians assumed that all of the Mosaic rules and regulations they'd grown up with would continue to define them as God's people. They certainly rejoiced that Gentiles were being brought to faith, but then expected them to follow a bunch of customs that were totally foreign to these non-Jewish believers.
There are probably dozens of compromises that could have been found between these two groups, which of course nobody would be happy with, but yet would have kept the peace.
But Paul contends for a pure gospel, and he's willing to vigorously defend salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, because of Christ alone.
There are three types of people in this world:
Those who want nothing to do with God (we can set this group aside for a moment. There's not much we can do for them).
Those who try and placate God with their good deeds;
Those who trust in Christ alone to be justified in God's eyes.
Paul makes clear that Christians ought to identify with this third group. He writes in v16:
we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ...
The reason that Paul wrote the Galatians so forcefully is because the middle group is toxic to the the third group. Their visible efforts to impress God always seem more attractive, and they begin to chip away at our trust in faith alone.
You do need to be making every effort, as we read often in the New Testament, but always be cautious not to let your efforts erode your faith and trust in Christ alone.
ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: God is a holy Father, who fully accepts you as being righteous because of Christ;
ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Thank God for the salvation He has freely granted you and pray that you may no longer live to yourself, but that Christ will live in you (v20).
ASK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED: