CONFIRMATION BY THE JERUSALEM CHURCH
Throughout Paul's ministry, he was continually faced with the attacks of those who sought to discredit him. So determined were his enemies that they had him stoned, beaten, arrested and imprisoned, all for the crime of preaching the truth in love.
But the attacks against Paul and his message were not limited to the outward and the obvious. Much more devastating were those subtle moves against him which pretended to be for the cause of Christ. Such were the false teachers who had infiltrated the churches of Galatia. They did not deny that Christ had died for sins. They merely added the keeping of the Law as a requirement for salvation.
The tactics of the enemy has not changed much in 2000 years. The same false doctrine has infiltrated many churches today. There are many who would label the teaching of justification by faith as an "easy believism theology." They insist that certain outward actions are necessary prerequisites to salvation. The substance of these works differ from church to church. They includes such things as baptism, church membership, verbal pronouncements of allegiance, tithing, and even extend to such extremes as the length of a person's hair or the type of music to which he listens. It does not matter what form of works you might subscribe to. Anything that you add to the gospel renders it accursed.
The false teachers who had come into the churches of Galatia claimed to be representatives of the Jerusalem church and the Twelve Apostles who used that church as their base of operations. They had charged Paul with being a secondary and subservient apostle who was given his message third hand from the Twelve.
In chapter 1 of Galatians, Paul goes to great lengths to demonstrate that his gospel and his apostleship was given to him, not from Peter or James or any of the other apostles, but from God. He did this by relating his conversion experience and then by showing what little contact he had with the church at Jerusalem In the years that followed. The conclusion Is that Paul was independent of the Jerusalem apostles.
But now this brings up another problem. The accusation can now be made that Paul is merely a renegade, that he has departed from the truth because he never had the truth and that this is demonstrated by his lack of cooperation with the church and the apostles at Jerusalem. Therefore Paul now sets out to show how the church at Jerusalem had confirmed both his apostleship as well as his message.
He has already related the divine revelation of the gospel. He now relates the human endorsement of that same gospel. This endorsement will show that the gospel that Paul preaches is the same that is preached by the apostles in Jerusalem.
Coming to Jerusalem
His traveling companions
Because of a Revelation
A meeting in private
Titus was not compelled to be circumcised
Commendation of the Apostles
Those of high reputation contributed nothing new.
On the contrary, they ...
This section can be divided up into three parts.
1. Paul's Coming to Jerusalem (2:1-2).
After a period of 14 years, Paul returns to Jerusalem with Barnabas and Titus to proclaim the gospel that had been preached among the Gentiles.
2. The Compulsion of Titus (2:3-5).
When the news broke out that Titus, an uncircumcised Greek, was traveling with Paul and was considered to be a Christian brother, pressure was brought to bear to compel Titus to submit to the rite of circumcision. However, neither Titus or Paul submitted to this pressure, nor did they compromise their message.
3. The Commendation by the Apostles (2:6-10).
The Jerusalem apostles demonstrated that they understood and were in agreement with Paul s message and his apostleship.
Thus, by the end of this section Paul will have shown that the very church and apostles whom the false teachers were claiming to represent, had sanctioned and commended both his apostleship as well as his gospel.
PAUL'S COMING TO JERUSALEM
Then after an interval of fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along also.
And it was because of a revelation that I went up; and I submitted to them the gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but I did so in private to those who were of reputation, for fear that I might be running, or had run, in vain. (Galatians 2:1-2).
Paul has already related a trip to Jerusalem that took place three years after his conversion. On that trip he had only remained fifteen days and had only met Cephas and James of the apostles. Now he tells of a later trip to Jerusalem which had a much different purpose from the first.
Luke relates the events which led up to this meeting at Jerusalem in Acts 15.
And some men came down from Judea and began teaching the brethren, "Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved."
And when Paul and Barnabas had great dissention and debate with them, the brethren determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders concerning this issue. (Acts 15:1-2).
The purpose for this visit to Jerusalem was to meet with the apostles and the elders of the Jerusalem church and to officially settle the controversy on who can be saved and how that salvation takes place.
This is going to be extremely relevant to the Galatian believers. There are false teachers in their midst who are saying exactly the same thing — that you cannot be saved apart from the Jewish rite of circumcision.
This is also very relevant to us today, too. Many false teachers have come into the church today, preaching that you cannot be saved apart from baptism, apart from church membership, apart from keeping the Ten Commandments, apart from speaking in tongues.
But Paul will make it very clear that anything that is added to the work of Christ in our salvation renders the effect of that work null and void.
1. The Chronology of Visits and the Famine Visit: After an interval of fourteen years (2:1).
This is fourteen years after the last visit that he had mentioned in Galatians 1:18. That trip had taken place three years after Paul's conversion. But now, as Paul makes his way once more to Jerusalem, he is no longer a new believer. He has been preaching and ministering and teaching for seventeen years.
There are some Bible teachers who have attempted to equate this visit to Jerusalem as the famine visit of Acts 11:27-30 where Paul and Barnabas were sent to Jerusalem with relief funds to assist the believers who were in financial trouble. The major problem with this view is that it does not fit the chronology of Acts. The death of Herod Agrippa (recorded in Acts 12:20-23) took place AFTER Paul and Barnabas had come to Jerusalem in this famine visit. We know from secular sources that Agrippa died in 44 A.D. If the visit recorded here in Galatians 2 is the same as the famine visit, then Paul's conversion would have had to take place in the year 27 A.D., two years before Jesus began His public ministry!
Now we are confronted with another question. Why didn't Paul mention the famine visit in his letter to the Galatians? Won't this omission be considered as a time when Paul might have received authority or part of his message from the apostles? I don't think so. You see, it is not necessary for Paul to mention this trip because it took place quite some time after his conversion and he had already been actively preaching his gospel throughout the churches of Cilicia and Syria by this time. He has already shown that it was three years before he even visited Jerusalem, and that this initial visit had only lasted two weeks. The point that Paul learned his gospel independently of the Jerusalem apostles has already been proven.
But now Paul is going to prove a different point that his independence of the Jerusalem apostles. Now he is going to demonstrate his agreement and his unity with those apostles.
This man needed no introduction to the Galatian believers. He had accompanied Paul in the first missionary journey that had resulted in the formation of the Galatian churches. He was a man who was well-respected by all of the believers throughout that part of the world. He would be an eye-witness of the events that Paul is now going to relate.
There us something that I like about Barnabas. He seems to have had a ministry of reconciliation.
Titus was a Greek convert. Paul called him "my legitimate child in the faith." Paul himself seems to have led Titus to faith in Christ.
Titus is going to be "Exhibit-A" in Paul's defense of the gospel. The false teachers have been insisting the a man cannot be a Christian unless he has been circumcised. But Paul has Titus with him. Titus is an uncircumcised Greek. He is also a Christian.
His life and his actions must have been such that it was very obvious that he was a Christian and that the Holy Spirit was active in his life.
4. The Revelational Reason: it was because of a revelation that I went up (2:2).
Once again we see Paul's independence of the Jerusalem church. He did not go to Jerusalem because the apostles had ordered him to do so. He went up because God had ordered him to do so. You see, the purpose of this visit was not so that Paul could get straightened out by the Jerusalem church. The purpose was so that Paul could straighten out the legalists and the confusion that had resulted in their teaching.
This revelation to go to Jerusalem was confirmed by the determination of the church at Antioch. They also voiced their decision that Paul and Barnabas should go to Jerusalem (Acts 15:2).
5. The Gospel Presented: I submitted to them the gospel which I preach (2:2).
Paul is going to let the Jerusalem church hear first-hand the message that he has been preaching among the Gentiles. He does not do this because he is unsure whether it is a true message or not. He does it to put an end to the controversy that has arisen. He does it to show that his message and the message of the apostles in Jerusalem are one and the same.
There are not two gospels. There are not two ways to be saved. There is only the one true gospel and anything else is not really a gospel at all.
What is the gospel? It is that God has provided salvation to man through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and that this salvation can be had by anyone who believes. It does not matter whether you are a Jew or a Gentile, whether you are rich or poor, whether you are slave or free, whether you are male or female, whether you are Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist or Catholic. The way of salvation is the same for all. It is through faith in Jesus Christ.
Now I want you to be aware of something. The false teachers were not denying the importance of the death of Christ. Neither were they claiming that Christ did not rise from the dead. They were not even teaching that you are not saved through faith In Christ. But they were saying that faith is not enough. They Insisted that a man must believe in Christ PLUS proselyte to Judaism and begin to keep the Mosaic Law in order to be saved. It is for this reason that Paul has come to Jerusalem. He will reveal the lie of the false teachers for what it really is.
6. A Private Proclamation: But I did so in private to those who were of reputation (2:2).
Now Paul describes the tactics that he used in dealing with a potentially explosive situation. He didn't walk into the gathering-place of the Jerusalem church on Sunday morning, stand up, and say, "Hello, I'm the Apostle Paul and I'm here to set all of you straight." If he had done this, he probably would have succeeded in tearing the church in two.
Paul used common sense. He first went to those who were respected in the church, those who held positions of responsibility. In verse 9 he will identify these men as Peter, James and John. Paul began by meeting with these men privately and explaining the situation to them. Once it has been made clear to these leaders what is happening, they will be prepared to present a united front to the rest of the church. In fact, this is exactly what finally happened.
Acts 15 tells us the outcome of these private meetings. The entire church in Jerusalem was assembled to discuss the matter. Paul and Barnabas were allowed to give a missionary report on what they had done and on the gospel that they were preaching. Then when opposition arose from the false teachers, it was not Paul or Barnabas who answered their accusations. Rather it was Peter and James who stood up before the elders of the church and defended the message that Paul and Barnabas had been preaching.
The elders of the Jerusalem church would have thought of Paul and Barnabas as outsiders and might not have wanted to listen to their reasonings. But when those same reasonings were presented by the very men whom everyone at Jerusalem considered to be the very pillars of the church, they were ready both to listen and to agree.
THE COMPULSION OF TITUS
But not even Titus who was with me, though he was a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised.
But it was because of the false brethren who had sneaked in to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, in order to bring us into bondage.
But we did not yield in subjection to them for even an hour, so that the truth of the gospel might remain with you. (Galatians 2:3-5).
We have already seen that Titus was brought to Jerusalem to be a test case. He is Paul's proof that a Christian can be filled with the Spirit and yet not be circumcised. You can be sure that his presence brought a stir to Jerusalem. The false teachers were not long in making their opposition known. They quickly sought to bring pressure to bear that would force Titus to be circumcised.
Paul is quick to point out that it was not the Jerusalem apostles who try to compel Titus to be circumcised. Rather it is a group of outsiders. He calls them "false brethren." They are not believers. But they are pretending to be believers. They are in the army of the enemy. They might not realize it, but their father is the devil. They have not been born into the family of God. They are illegitimate children. They have sneaked into the church. They have come on a secret mission. They are spies, coming in to spy out the Christian liberty enjoyed by Paul and Barnabas and Titus. Their goal is to bring believers into bondage.
Satan's children are those who are doing his work. His work is to bring believers into bondage. He seeks to slave believers. He seeks to bind them. Jesus described the hypocrisy of these false teachers in the days before His crucifixion.
"And they tie up heavy loads, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger." (Matthew 23:11).
Notice that the false teachers are not really interested in putting themselves under the same legalistic burden that they insist on laying on others. They don't say, "I want to uphold a law that will stop me from doing certain things." Rather, they always want to focus on laws which will affect others.
The bondage the false teachers sought to bring in this instance was the forced circumcision of Titus.
Paul and his companions were firm in their stand against the pressure of the false teachers. This was not an issue on which they could compromise. The truth of the gospel was at stake. If Titus were to submit to the rite of circumcision, then this action would make it seem as though circumcision was a necessary part of salvation.
Salvation through faith alone is at stake. Paul's gospel is on trial. Paul was not unmovable because his personal reputation might be at stake or because he simply wanted to have his own way. He refused to yield because the truth of the gospel was in the balance.
THE COMMENDATION OF THE APOSTLES
But from those who were of high reputation (what they were makes no difference to me, God shows no partiality)— well, those who were of reputation contributed nothing to me.
But on the contrary, seeing that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been to the circumcised8 (for He who effectually worked for Peter in his apostleship to the circumcised effectually worked for me also to the Gentiles), 9 and recognizing the grace that had been given to me, James and Cephas and John, who were reputed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we might go to the Gentiles, and they to the circumcised.
They only asked us to remember the poor — the very thing I also was eager to do. (Galatians 2:6-10).
Paul now picks up the same thread of thought that he left at the end of verse 2. The intervening verses have been parenthetical. They dealt with the opposition of the false teachers. But now Paul turns back to his dealings with the leaders of the Jerusalem church.
1. The Reception of the Jerusalem Leaders: Those… contributed nothing to me (2:6).
The leaders of the Jerusalem church did not demand any change in Paul's message or in his method of preaching. They did not confer any authority upon Paul or elevate him to any rank within the church. Instead, they recognized the rank that God had given him. They agreed with the message that he presented. They gave their full approval of his gospel.
And they recognized the realm of his ministry — that it was to the Gentiles. Earlier in this verse, Paul speaks of these who were of reputation, saying, "What they were makes no difference to me." This does not mean that Paul thought any less of the position or of the authority of the Jerusalem apostles. Rather, it means that their position had no bearing on the truthfulness of his gospel as far as Paul was concerned. If this is the case, then why does Paul even mention the decision of the Jerusalem leaders? It is because they were REPUTED to be pillars in the church. Everyone recognized them as having authority in the church. Even the false teachers were forced to recognize that they had authority in the church. In fact, it is very possible that the false teachers who had now come to Galatia were claiming to be representatives of the Jerusalem leaders.
Now these same leaders of the Jerusalem church had agreed with Paul's message and to Paul's authority without adding anything to it. To the contrary, they realized that Paul had been sent to the gentiles with equal authority and with the same message with which Peter had been sent to the Jews.
2. The Recognition of the Jerusalem Leaders: The right hand of fellowship (2:9).
The result of this Jerusalem conference was that the pillars of the Jerusalem church gave Paul and Barnabas the "right hand of fellowship. A handshake today is considered merely a polite form of greeting with very little significance. It was quite different in the ancient world. The handclasp was a sign of promise and friendship. It indicated a pledge of agreement.
We cannot miss the implications of this. The false teachers had implied that their authority was from the Jerusalem apostles, but Paul now shows how those same apostles were in perfect and total agreement with his ministry.
3. The Remembrance of the Poor: They only asked us to remember the poor (2:10).
Although the remembrance of the poor is a general principle, in this particular context it may have referred to an appeal for the assistance of the poor and needy believers in Jerusalem. Even though Paul's primary area of ministry was among the Gentiles, the Jerusalem apostles requested that he also be involved in gathering funds which would help to support the needs within the Jerusalem church. Paul readily consented to this request for assistance and sought funds from many of the gentile churches (Acts 24:17; Romans 15:26-27; I Corinthians 16:1-4).
There is an important principle here. It is that salvation through faith alone does not mean that good works should be absent from my life. To the contrary, one of the reasons that I have been saved is so that I will do good works.
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus FOR GOOD WORKS, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10).
You have been saved so that you will do good works. But this is not all. I will go one step further. If you are claiming to be a Christian and yet there are no good works in your life, then something is tragically wrong with your Christianity. You see, if you have placed your faith in Jesus Christ, then He is at work within you, conforming you into His image.
For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6).
The reason that a believer does good works is because God is producing a change in his life. This work is never finished while the believer is still alive on planet earth. In fact, it is only completed when Jesus returns. It is a gradual process. It does not take place overnight. But, no matter how slow the rate may seem to be, there will be a continued progress.
But speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head, even Christ. (Ephesians 4:15).