1 – 2
It was fourteen years before I went back to Jerusalem with Barnabas and Titus.
This time it was because God revealed to me that I should go, and I explained the Gospel that I teach to the Gentiles to the Jerusalem leaders. I did it privately to make sure that my teaching was correct.
One of the biggest problems in the church is that Christians have not been taught to stop saying bad things about each other. The Bible teaches us that if we have a problem with another brother we should talk to him alone about it.
If he does not listen, then we are to bring the problem to the leaders of the church. We are not taught to spread the problem by talking to other people about this.
Paul came to Jerusalem because he knew that the idea of Gentiles being saved was a big problem for the Jewish Christians. He could have came to Jerusalem and started going around getting people to follow him. Instead, he talked about it privately with the church leaders.
If your brother sins, go and show him his offense in private ; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. Matthew 18:15
Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any sin, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness ; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. Galatians 6:1
But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it upon both their shoulders and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were turned away, so that they did not see their father's nakedness. Genesis 9:23
3. But if being circumcised is so important, then why was Titus (who was with me) not forced to be circumcised even though he is a Greek?
Paul is reminding them that if following the Jewish Law was so important, then why was it not forced on Titus when Paul was visiting the church leaders in Jerusalem?
This is how the Judaizers taught the way to follow Christ:
Some men came down from Judea and began teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” Acts 15:1
It makes us wonder where did they get these ideas from? Jesus did not teach this and we base everything that we believe on the words of Jesus.
If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine that works with godliness, he is proud and understands nothing. 1 Timothy 6:3-4
4 – 5
I went to Jerusalem because of the false brothers who came into our group secretly, to spy on the freedom which we have in Jesus, so that they could control us. We did not listen to them, not even for one hour, so that the truth of the Gospel would remain with you.
If God had not prepared a man like Paul, we could be thinking that we are saved today by the law of Moses, and Jewish traditions, mixed with the Gospel of Christ.
6. As far as these so-called leaders (I do not know, and I do not care what their position was. God does not treat some men differently than other men) they had nothing that needed to be added to the Gospel.
There are some groups that teach people that they need to read their study guides if they want to join the group. What about a man who lives in an isolated place somewhere in the world?
If he heard that Jesus was the Son of God who paid the penalty for our sins and rose again to give us new life - would that not be enough for him to be saved?
Some of these isolated people treat their brothers better than some of us do. Why would we think that someone who does not have our personal views on the Bible is not a real Christian?
7 – 9
But instead, the Jerusalem leaders saw that I have been given the Gospel for the Gentiles and Peter was given the Gospel for the Jews. Because the same Lord who had given authority to Peter as an apostle to the Jews had also given me authority as an apostle to the Gentiles.
So Peter, James and John (who were the leaders of the church of Jerusalem) saw the grace that have been given to me, they shook hands with Barnabas and me as friends, and agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they should go to the Jews.
God gives us the freedom to have different preferences in our service to Him. There are Christians who think that they should not have electricity. Maybe God is using them to teach us that someday we may have to live without some of these comforts?
There are Christians who think that we should have more respect for God in our worship. Maybe God is using them to teach us that sometimes we are too careless in our worship?
Paul is saying that the leaders of the church gave him the freedom to serve God in the way that he was called to serve, and he gave them the freedom to serve God in the way that they were called to serve.
The main thing is that we hold ourselves back from doing anything that offends another brother.
If food causes my brother to be offended, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause my brother to be offended. 1 Corinthians 8:13
The faith which you have, is your own conviction before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he allows. Romans 14:22
Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day— Colossians 2:16
One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind. Romans 14:5
10. The only suggestion they had was that we should not forget the poor, who were suffering for Christ in Jerusalem, which, of course, I was already planning to do.
There is evidence that the Christians of Jerusalem were suffering for Christ in many ways. See 1 Corinthians 16:1 for an example of how Paul collected love-gifts for the Christians in Jerusalem. See also Acts 24:17.
11 – 12
But when Peter came to Antioch I had to stand against what he was doing in front of everybody. So here is how it happened, Peter had been eating every day with the Gentile Christians until James sent some Jewish Christians to visit with us.
When those men came Peter got up from the table and began to stay away from the Gentile Christians because he was afraid of what these Jewish Christians would say.
As you study the Bible you will learn that many times God repeats His words two or three times. You will see that many times he called men by their name's names twice to remind them of who they are. The Bible says that everything that is true is repeated two or three times or by two or three witnesses.
Peter received a vision two times. God was trying to help him to not forget the vision but Peter forgot not only the vision but his own words. Let us be careful not to forget what God has plainly shown to us about our own lives.
Opening his mouth, Peter said: “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to love only cetain people, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to come to Him. Acts 10:34-35
13. After this, our Jewish Christians in Antioch began to stay away from the Gentile Christians and even Barnabas joined in their hypocrisy.
The original word for a hypocrite here is the same word used by the Greeks for actors who were pretending to be someone who they were not. If we teach ourselves to believe something that is wrong, it will show in the way we act.
14. But when I saw that what they were doing was going against the truth of the Gospel that we had agreed on in Jerusalem, I said to Peter, in front of everyone, “If you, as a Jew, do not live like a Jew but like a Gentile ***in some ways*** then why do you try to make Gentiles live like Jews?
Peter was, at first, acting like there was no wall between Jews and Gentiles, but then began to confuse the Gentiles by acting like there was a wall when the Judaizers came.
15 – 16
And then I explained to him that we are born as Jews and not born as Gentile sinners. And we know that it is not by keeping the law that any human being is clear before God, but only by faith in Jesus Christ. It was never said that keeping the law would make us clear before God.
For in Your sight no man living is righteous. Psalm 143:2
17. If we want to be clear before God only through Christ, but we find out that we need to add something else which is sinning against God, then does following Christ lead us into a position of being sinners? May it never be!
This is a difficult scripture. Paul is saying that men who think that they will go to heaven by keeping the law of Moses are not trusting only in Christ. Trusting in something else to save us is a sin against God. So any Jew who thinks they can be saved by the law is sinning against God. If Jesus wanted us to do this then He would be causing us to sin. That could never be!
Paul is saying that if you go back to the Law, then you are saying that you are still trapped in sin and need to be saved by the Law because Jesus alone cannot save you.
This kind of thinking would be teaching men that Jesus is not enough and that Jesus wants you to sin against God by trying to save yourself through the law.
18. So if I tore down the idea of being saved by the Law and then I start building it back into my life again, then I am saying that I still need something else to save me besides Christ.
Paul is saying, "I was there in Jerusalem, Peter, when you told all the leaders that we should not put a yoke on the Gentile Christians. You said that they were saved the same way that we were saved. You tore down the idea of living by the Law. Why would you want to build it back up again?"
Here are Peter's words which he spoke at the Jerusalem Council:
Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?
But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are. Act 15:11
19 - 20
For myself, I died to the idea of the Law saving me so that I could become alive to God.
I died on the cross with Christ and it is not me living this life, but Jesus living His life in me. The life I now live, I live by trusting in the Son of God who loved me and sacrificed Himself for me.
There are many scriptures which teach us that Jesus lives His life inside of us if we allow Him to. We can read stories of Christians who suffered for Christ. These Christians speak about times when God took over their body and allowed them to overcome the pain of torture.
We can overcome the things that people do to us when we see that they are really doing it to Christ and not to us. We can say, "You did not do anything to me, you did it to Christ, and because He forgives you, I can forgive you."
Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me. Matthew 25:40
21. I refuse to replace the grace of God with something else. If we are made clear before God by keeping the Law then there was no reason for Christ to die!
Verse 21 shows us the end of the words which Paul spoke to Peter.
We do not have any record of how Peter responded to the things which Paul was saying. The only proof we have that Peter changed his mind is that he shared the Gospel in Gentile cities and he also wrote a letter which said that he loved Paul and that Paul's letters were inspired by God.
Our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction. 2 Peter 3:15 – 16
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen. 1 Peter 1:1