When some Jews from Jerusalem came to infiltrate the church of Antioch where Paul, Barnabas and Peter where teaching, they began to teach that the Gentile believers had to observe the Law of Moses (rituals, regulations and codes) to be justified before God and to have full salvation. This was contrary to the teaching that the work of Jesus on the cross was the means of attaining right standing with God. Peter, Barnabas and Paul all taught and believed in justification by faith, but when these Judaizers began to move through the Antioch church they criticized Paul’s doctrine until many believers were pulled over to the Judaizer’s position of trusting in works of obedience to the Law for salvation. In fact, Peter and Barnabas even sided with the infiltrating Jews against Paul and his doctrine of salvation by faith. Paul rebuked Peter in front of the church and had to rescue Barnabas from having been led astray by the imitation gospel presented by the Judaizers in the Antioch church:
“When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.” – Galatians 2:11-13
Paul quotes from his rebuke of Peter and Barnabas and the other misled Jews in Galatians chapter 2. Paul tells them even we who grew up as Jews know that we cannot attain justification through the Law. Simply put, if the Law was adequate for salvation and for justification before God, then why did Christ have to come, suffer and die?
“We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. …because by the works of the law no one will be justified” – Galatians 2:15-16
Paul’s words in Galatians 2:15-16 agree with Romans 3:20:
“Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin. But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.