The apostles in Jerusalem accept Paul
114 years later, I went to Jerusalem again. This time I went with Barnabas, and I took Titus with me also. 2I went there because God had shown me that I should go. I talked to the Christian leaders there. I explained to them the good news that I teach to the Gentiles. But I talked only to those men who seemed to be the leaders. I wanted to be sure that they agreed with the message that I taught. I did not want my work, both in past times and now, to be worth nothing. 3Titus was with me then. He is a Greek person and nobody had circumcised him. But the leaders in Jerusalem did not say that we must circumcise him. #2:3 Titus was not a Jew, and nobody had ever circumcised him. Some Jewish Christians said that all believers must be circumcised. But the apostles in Jerusalem did not say that this must happen.
4But some men did want us to obey all the Jewish rules. Those men came secretly among our group. They said that they were believers, but they were not really true believers. They wanted to see how we lived as believers. They wanted to know how Christ Jesus has made us free from the Jewish rules. They wanted to make us slaves to those rules. 5But we did not agree at all with what those men wanted us to do. They wanted to spoil the true good news that you have believed. We kept the good news safe for you.
6The church leaders in Jerusalem did not argue with me. (They were the people who seemed to be the leaders. It does not matter to me whether they were really important people or not. God does not respect some people more than others.) Those leaders did not tell me to change the message that I teach. 7Instead they saw that God had given a special job to me. God wanted me to tell the good news about Christ to the Gentiles. In the same way, he had told Peter to tell the good news to the Jews. 8God gave Peter the authority to be his apostle to the Jews. God also gave me the authority to be his apostle to the Gentiles.
9James, Peter and John, understood that God had given this special job to me. They are the leaders that the church in Jerusalem respects. And they were happy to accept Barnabas and me as their friends. They agreed that we should teach God's message to the Gentiles. They themselves would continue to teach the Jews. 10They only asked us to do this: We should remember to help the poor people among their group. That is something that I myself wanted very much to do.
Paul argues with Peter
11But later, when Peter came to Antioch, I spoke against him. I told him clearly that he had done something wrong. 12When he first arrived in Antioch, Peter had been eating meals with the Gentile believers there. Then James sent some Jewish believers from Jerusalem to Antioch. After those men had arrived, Peter started to keep himself separate from the Gentiles. He stopped eating meals with them. He was afraid of those Jews who wanted to circumcise the Gentile believers. 13The other Jewish believers in Antioch also did what Peter did. They became hypocrites like him. Even Barnabas agreed and he copied their example.
14But I could see that they were wrong to do this. They were not living in a way that agrees with God's true message. So, I spoke to Peter in front of all of them. I said to him, ‘You were born as a Jew, but you have been living like a Gentile. As a believer, you no longer obey all the Jewish rules. So you should not try to make Gentile believers obey those Jewish rules.’
15We were born as Jewish people. We are not Gentiles who have never obeyed God's rules. 16But we know that we do not become right with God because we obey his Law. A person only becomes right with God when they believe in Jesus Christ. And we, as Jewish believers, have believed in Christ Jesus. We have become right with God because we trust in what Christ has done. It is not because we obey God's Law that he accepts us. Nobody becomes right with God only because they obey the rules in God's Law.
17So then, we Jews become right with God when we believe in Christ. That means that we no longer obey all the Jewish rules. But that does not mean that Christ causes us to do wrong things. Certainly, it does not mean that! 18Instead, I would really be doing something wrong if I tried to obey all those rules again. I would be building again something that I had destroyed. That would really be against God's Law. 19But God's Law showed me that I could never obey all its rules. So I became like a dead person, free from the authority of those rules. That means that I can now live to please God. #2:19 God gave his Law to the Jews to help them to live as his own special people. But the Jews could never completely obey all those rules. Those rules could never make them completely right with God. As a result of those rules, it became clear that people needed another way to become right with God. That other way is Christ's sacrifice on our behalf.
20Christ died on the cross on my behalf. It is like I died there with him. So I do not live my own life any more. Instead, Christ lives in me. The life that I live now in my body, I live because I trust what he has done for me. He has loved me so much that he died on my behalf. 21So, I do not refuse to accept the kind gift of God. If the rules of God's Law could make me right with him, then Christ would have died for no reason!