«Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and also took Titus with me» (Galatians 2:1).
IN CHAPTER 2 of the book of Galatians, Paul makes reference to a journey to Jerusalem. The apostle tells us that Titus was not circumcised (vv. 2-5) and that there were certain differences of opinion with Peter (vv. 6—10). Finally, he states that those who are justified do not live in sin.
Paul explains that there are not two different gospels, one for the circumcised and one for the uncircumcised. As Paul said in chapters 3 and 4, both Jews and Gentiles are saved by faith, not by the works of the Law. The message for both groups was the same; only the previous condition differed in those who were given the message.
We meet a Paul who resists Peter, because he had become reprehensible (vv. 11—16). What had happened? A decision had already been made about the ceremonies. As an apostle, Paul justified his argument of not requiring Gentiles to be subjected to Jewish ritual practices. Paul, Barnabas, and two other brethren were chosen to take the council’s decision to Antioch. Because Peter had been in favor of the decision and no doubt agreed with it, it would be difficult to say that there had been a controversy between him and Paul. They were in agreement, at least regarding general principles. This clear and unequivocal decision was the basis of Paul’s rebuke to Peter.
The way Peter, Barnabas, and other Jews acted caused confusion and division in the church. The rebuke was public because the offense had been public. Everyone, or almost everyone, was involved. Paul later wrote to Timothy, stating that a public rebuke for sin that is exhibited publicly is effective in deterring others from following the same path (1 Tim. 5:20). However, we must take something very important into account: the one who is giving the rebuke is not just anyone; it is the apostle Paul, who is not a customary critic, but a missionary committed to the cause of the gospel.
And what was Peter’s attitude? He acknowledged his mistake and made no attempt to justify or excuse himself. This reaction is consistent with what would be expected of Peter after his great confession. It distinguishes him as a man of great spiritual stature.
The true gospel impacts both listeners and speakers, sheep and shepherds. Paul’s preaching was also the great theme of the Reformation.
«What is justification by faith? It is the work of God in laying the glory of man in the dust, and doing for man that which it is not in his power to do for himself» (Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, p. 456).