1Then fourteen years later I went back to Jerusalem again, this time with Barnabas; and Titus came along, too. 2I went there because God revealed to me that I should go. While I was there I met privately with those considered to be leaders of the church and shared with them the message I had been preaching to the Gentiles. I wanted to make sure that we were in agreement, for fear that all my efforts had been wasted and I was running the race for nothing. 3And they supported me and did not even demand that my companion Titus be circumcised, though he was a Gentile.a
4Even that question came up only because of some so-called Christians there—false ones, reallyb—who were secretly brought in. They sneaked in to spy on us and take away the freedom we have in Christ Jesus. They wanted to enslave us and force us to follow their Jewish regulations. 5But we refused to give in to them for a single moment. We wanted to preserve the truth of the gospel message for you.
6And the leaders of the church had nothing to add to what I was preaching. (By the way, their reputation as great leaders made no difference to me, for God has no favorites.) 7Instead, they saw that God had given me the responsibility of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles, just as he had given Peter the responsibility of preaching to the Jews. 8For the same God who worked through Peter as the apostle to the Jews also worked through me as the apostle to the Gentiles.
9In fact, James, Peter,c and John, who were known as pillars of the church, recognized the gift God had given me, and they accepted Barnabas and me as their co-workers. They encouraged us to keep preaching to the Gentiles, while they continued their work with the Jews.10Their only suggestion was that we keep on helping the poor, which I have always been eager to do.
Paul Confronts Peter
11But when Peter came to Antioch, I had to oppose him to his face, for what he did was very wrong. 12When he first arrived, he ate with the Gentile Christians, who were not circumcised. But afterward, when some friends of James came, Peter wouldn’t eat with the Gentiles anymore. He was afraid of criticism from these people who insisted on the necessity of circumcision. 13As a result, other Jewish Christians followed Peter’s hypocrisy, and even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy.
14When I saw that they were not following the truth of the gospel message, I said to Peter in front of all the others, “Since you, a Jew by birth, have discarded the Jewish laws and are living like a Gentile, why are you now trying to make these Gentiles follow the Jewish traditions?
15“You and I are Jews by birth, not ‘sinners’ like the Gentiles. 16Yet we know that a person is made right with God by faith in Jesus Christ, not by obeying the law. And we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we might be made right with God because of our faith in Christ, not because we have obeyed the law. For no one will ever be made right with God by obeying the law.”d
17But suppose we seek to be made right with God through faith in Christ and then we are found guilty because we have abandoned the law. Would that mean Christ has led us into sin? Absolutely not! 18Rather, I am a sinner if I rebuild the old system of law I already tore down. 19For when I tried to keep the law, it condemned me. So I died to the law—I stopped trying to meet all its requirements—so that I might live for God.20My old self has been crucified with Christ.e It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die.
This is what it all comes down to. This is the entire Gospel and the meaning of our lives for all eternity. No amount of goodness, laws, works, traditions or anything else can save us. In the end, Jesus died for us and if we want have a relationship with him, his death saves us. Without him, we are doomed to hell.
But there is more than that here. Here is Freedom! The laws and rules and traditions are replaced with a one on one relationship with God. If you have a truly loving relationship with another person, do you have a long list of rules? Some people do wrap their relationships in a bunch of rules and expectations, but those people are really missing the closeness of a truly emotionally intimate relationship.
God’s wraps his relationships is love, kindness and forgiveness…and he expects us to do the same. Read again what Paul is talking about here, and he will discuss it more in the rest of this letter. He is tearing down systems and government and replacing it with relationships with God.
Lord, help me to live in an intimate relationship with you, and with those around me. Help me do what you want out of love for you and love of my neighbor.
What “works” do you do or traditions do you follow because you think you are winning brownie points with God?
Who do you look down on because they don’t do those works or follow those traditions? Are you sure Jesus looks down on them too?
What do you do because you simply love God and you know it is what he loves?