Galatians Chapter Two — ‘I am crucified with Messiah’

Last week I posted my rendering of (click here) Galatians One, and as promised, here is the second chapter. Below the text, as translated from the Greek New Testament, are notes on the translating work, then study questions. I intend to post a chapter a week, so come back for more.

Galatians: Chapter Two

1. Fourteen years passed. Again, I went up to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along.

2. I went because of a revelation. I laid out the gospel I preach among the Gentiles* to the muckety mucks**, all alone, to make sure I was not running, or had run, in vain.

3. And Titus, who was with me, a Greek, was not compelled to be circumcised. 

4. Because*** of those false brothers and sisters who were brought in secretly, they slipped in to spy out our freedom, what we have in Messiah Jesus, so that they might enslave us to the law. 

5. We never yielded, not even for a second, in submission to them, so that the truth of the gospel might endure with you. 

6. But for those leaders – whether they were or weren’t it matters not to me for God is not impressed by people – but the muckety mucks added nothing else to my message.  

7. Quite to the contrary, they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised just as Peter the circumcised. 

8. For the one who worked through Peter as an apostle to the circumcised worked also in me to the Gentiles. 

9. And recognizing the grace having been given to me, James, Cephas, and John – those seeming to be pillars, — muckety mucks — gave me the right hand of fellowship affirming we were for the Gentiles but they were for the circumcised.  

10. Only one thing more, that we should remember their poor, which is the very thing I was excited to do. 

11. But, when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face because he stood condemned.  

12. He always ate with the Gentiles until a group of people sent by James came. When they arrived, he began to draw back and kept separating himself out of fear of the circumcised.

13. The other Jews were all in on it together with him so much so even Barnabas got carried away in their hypocrisy.

14. When I realized they were not walking in a straight line toward the gospel truth, I said to Cephas**** in front of them all, ‘If you, being Jewish, live like a Gentile and not a Jew, how dare you compel Gentiles to live the Jewish lifestyle?’

15. We who are by nature Jews, and not Gentile sinners.*****

16. We know people are not made right from works of the law, but instead through faith in Jesus as Messiah. We trusted Messiah Jesus so as to be made right by faith in Messiah and not by works of law. No flesh will be made right by the works of the law.     

17. But if, seeking to be made right in Messiah, we then are found out to be sinners, does Messiah the serve sin? Never! 

18. For if I destroy these things then rebuild them, I show I have transgressed against myself. 

19. Because of the law I died to the law, so now I can live for God. I have been crucified with Christ

20. I no longer live, but Messiah lives within me. For now, I live in the flesh by faith in the son of God, the one who loved me and gave himself for me. 

21. I dare not cancel the grace of God, for if rightness is gained by law, then the Messiah’s death was meaningless. 

Translation Notes

*I am following most translations of ‘Gentiles’ at this point, but the word is best understood as ‘nations.’ In the elite Jewish mindset, there are only Jews and everyone else. Paul is saying this is what I preach to everyone else – to all the other people groups in this great big world. 

**I am not playing as fast and loose with the wording here as you might suspect. The way Paul uses this phrase to describe the important people among the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem is fascinating. It is impossible to tell if he is sincere or if he is critical. The language is ‘I laid out before the ones who seem to be something, all alone, to make sure I was not running …’ As the chapter unfolds, I become more and more convinced Paul is critical of these people who think they are such a big deal, yet at the same time he desperately wanted and needed their approval of his ministry at that time.  

***Paul is getting angry, and he loses context. It is a good thing that Titus didn’t have to be circumcised, but here he remembers the argument and the battle against the ‘false brothers and sisters’ who wanted to make him be do so. The ‘Because’ is more in his head than grammatical.

****Sometimes he calls him Peter, sometimes he calls him Cephas. One wonders what ‘name’ Peter might have called Paul.

*****This sentence makes very little sense except to see it as Paul’s concluding summary of Peter’s hypocrisy in which he includes himself in the ‘it is impossible for a Jew to live the Jewish lifestyle, much less a person who grew up without ever knowing the law’ category. For Paul, this impossibility was a very powerful reason why the gospel was so beautiful.  

Study Questions

  1. Pretend for a moment you have to to Jerusalem and are being asked to lay out before them the gospel as you understand it. What would you tell them?
  2. Paul is clearly still upset, years later, about the fake Christians who snuck in to try and derail grace. Have you ever seen someone sabotage grace? What did you do to stop them?
  3. Paul opposes Peter, but he calls out Barnabas for hypocrisy. Have you ever been guilty of hypocrisy? Do you think this might have had some impact on their relationships, or maybe even why they ceased being partners in ministry together?
  4. How do you understand verse 20?
  5. Obviously Jesus’ death was not meaningless. However, are there actions we take on a regular basis that seem to downplay his atoning death?