After a gap of fourteen years, I went back to Jerusalem – this time with Barnabas. And Titus came along with us, too.
I went there because God revealed to me that I should go. While I was there I met privately with those who were considered to be the leaders of the church and I 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. But they supported me and did not even demand that my companion Titus be circumcised, though he was a Gentile.
Even that question only arose because of some the so-called believers there—false ones, really—were secretly brought in. They sneaked in to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus. They wanted to enslave us. But we refused to give in to them even for a single moment because we wanted to preserve the truth of the gospel message for you.
And 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.) Instead, 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. For the same God who worked through Peter as the apostle to the Jews also worked through me as the apostle to the Gentiles.
In fact, James, Peter, 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. Their only suggestion was that we keep on helping the poor, which I have always been eager to do.
But when Peter came to Antioch, I had to oppose him to his face, for what he did was very wrong. When he first arrived, he ate with the Gentile believers. 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. As a result, other Jewish believers imitated Peter’s hypocrisy, and even Barnabas was led astray.
When 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?”
We who are Jews by birth, not lawless like the Gentiles, 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.
But 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! Rather, I would be guilty if I rebuilt the old system of law I had already torn down.
For when I tried to keep the law, it condemned me. Therefore I died to the law so that I might live for God. My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I don’t reject the grace of God, for if keeping the law could make us right with God there wouldn’t have been any need for Christ to die.