A Tragic Breech in the Early Church: Galatians 1:23-2:10
“22) And I was still unknown by sight to the churches of Judea which were in Christ; 23) but only, they kept hearing, “He who once persecuted us is now preaching the faith which he once tried to destroy.” 24) And they were glorifying God because of me.” Galatians‬ ‭1:22-24‬
The story of Saul’s conversion circulated widely. Because a time of peace came to the region of Judea, the churches there knew of his conversion but had no personal dealings with him. They would not have recognized him in a crowd.
Yet the story of his conversion send shock waves through the region. They knew that he who once persecuted them was now preaching and defending the faith he once tried to destroy. Saul’s conversion was being celebrated throughout the region.
There was only one problem, these Jewish believers were zealous for the Law of Moses. (See Acts 21:17-22) They had been hearing rumors about Paul and his teachings. When he finally made it to Jerusalem, it was the Jewish Christians that joined the attack on him. They had not been taught the implications of the doctrine of Justification by faith. There was a huge rift between the Jewish and Gentile churches.
Because the churches of Judea were primarily Jewish, they had a very Jewish flavored approach to faith and worship. The big clash came in the outlining area’s like Galatia where the teachings of Paul to the Gentile believers and those of Peter to the Jewish believers collided.
As chapter two of the book of Galatians opens, Paul refers to an important meeting in Jerusalem. This was most likely what scholars call “The Jerusalem Counsel” as recorded at length in Acts 15:1-35.
The conclusions of the counsel were celebrated widely in the Gentiles churches where Paul focused much of his ministry far to the West, but the implications of the doctrine of justification by faith was evidently not taught within the Jewish churches of Judea. (See Acts 15:22-35) This tragic oversight soon brought confusion and a huge rift between Jewish and Gentile churches.
From this point forward, Paul’s life work and ministry would be devoted to the defense and confirmation of the gospel. (Please read Philippians 1:7-20) This breech was never healed and ultimately led to Paul’s arrest and imprisonment in Rome. This background is essential in understanding Paul’s writings.
There is a huge lesson in this story about the importance of embracing the full implications of the gospel. The flesh and carnality always reign when believers are given a watered down gospel. It may take years to embrace the full meaning of the gospel, but the transforming journey is worth the effort.
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global