21 days of prayer and fasting - Galatians 2
Paul must have been in a hurry when he wrote this letter. He was worked up - maybe even furious - from the way he expresses himself. Perhaps he was anxious that the work in establishing churches in Galatia would be in vain and that they would not be the healthy, life-giving communities that he expected.
The problem? Some Jewish believers in Jesus were watering down the gospel, by persuading non-Jewish Christians to adopt some Jewish legal requirements.
This was going beyond just expecting everyone to conform to a certain style. That would be failing to recognise that the church should look different in various different cultures. This was not just adding some Jewish cultural trappings to the churches in Galatia. This was forcing non-Jews to obey the Jewish law to be accepted by God.
The real problem is that God accepted them already, through Jesus, on the basis of grace. So adding some legal requirements was in danger of taking the new believers away from Jesus.
Paul carries on, from chapter one, the account of his calling from God to preach the gospel to the Gentiles. He goes to great lengths to show that his revelation about the gospel came from God and was accepted by the key leaders of the ‘home church’ in Jerusalem. His emphasis on not depending on them does not mean he was not accountable - there are clear signs he submitted to those apostles leading the church and to the leaders in the church in Antioch. But he is making clear that the Jewish leaders of the church in Jerusalem had agreed with his gospel and accepted his ministry.
Paul even had to rebuke Peter (v14) and it seems Peter accepted that he had been hypocritical by ceasing to eat with Gentiles when some busybodies arrived.
In effect Paul is saying that Jewish believers are included in God’s people by faith and new birth in Jesus, not by being born Jewish. So Gentiles are included included on the same basis.
This is not just interesting history. It matters today even though the issue is not likely to be unity between Jewish and Gentile Christians. Our issues are more likely to be about trying to achieve God’s favour by doing certain things rather than by trusting Him. And we may well face issues of how to express church in different ways in different cultural contexts: we need to know what really matters and what can be different.
How can we navigate these issues? By living on the basis of faith (trusting in God) rather than by sight (human thought and abilities). For the opposite of faith is not doubt, it is mere human abilities. When we know we have died with Christ, and count ourselves dead to the world and to living in the world’s ways, then we can experience Jesus’ life in us (Gal 2:20).
That really is good news, the gospel!