In the previous section of his autobiography (1:16-24), Paul has been describing the nature of his relationship with the original apostles in Jerusalem to show that he had been commissioned directly by God, not by the apostles, to preach the gospel to the Gentiles. He has worked independently from them. In fact, his contact with them has been minimal. He did not visit them until three years after his conversion; and then he spent only two weeks with Peter in Jerusalem in order to get acquainted with him. On that trip to Jerusalem, the only other apostle he saw was James. After that time he remained unknown by face to the churches in Judea. But they kept hearing, "He who once persecuted us is now preaching the faith which he once tried to destroy."It was a long time before Paul met again with the apostles in Jerusalem.
With these facts, Paul has sharpened his rebuke for turning to a different gospel. It is ludicrous for the Galatians to discard Paul's gospel as if it were a secondhand, abbreviated version that needed to be supplemented with additional instructions from the Jerusalem apostles. Paul did not spend enough time with the original apostles in Jerusalem to get his gospel secondhand from them. Since Paul's gospel was given by revelation from God, the Galatian believers should have maintained unswerving loyalty to it.
Now put yourself in the place of the Galatian believers. Paul has made a powerful case and has reestablished his credibility in their minds as they read this letter. But the question inevitably arises: "Is there, then, a contradiction among the apostles themselves?" Do we have men of equal authority preaching two different gospels? The Judaizers claimed to represent the apostles in Jerusalem, but their message did not square with Paul's. So even when the question of Paul's authority is settled, another serious and threatening question looms: "Is there disunity among the apostles?" If one apostle preaches one gospel, and another apostle preaches another gospel, the foundation of the church is cracked, and the whole edifice will eventually collapse:
Ephesians 2:20 (NASB) having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone,
So in Galatians 2:1-10, Paul deals with this serious question of a divided apostleship and two gospels. The two-fold main point of the paragraph is found in the last part of verse 6: "...those who were of reputation contributed nothing to me," and verse 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." In other words, Paul's main point is: When, after fourteen years, I did finally confer with the apostles, they added nothing to my gospel (and so I remain an independent authority), but instead they approved of my work and gave me their blessing (and so there are not two gospels but one). The Galatians should conclude, then, that the Judaizers do not really represent the Jerusalem apostles.
Galatians 2:1 (NASB) Then after an interval of fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along also.
The word "again" in this verse indicates that Paul had previously visited Jerusalem. Presumably, the first one was the 15-day visit mentioned in Chapter One.
Was Paul's visit to Jerusalem fourteen years after his first visit to Jerusalem or was it fourteen years after his conversion? Who knows? There are folks on both sides of the discussion, but the outcome has little bearing on the thrust of Paul's message here.
A more important question is: "Was Paul's second visit to Jerusalem in response to a severe famine, mentioned in Acts 11, or was it really his third visit, which came about because of doctrinal issues that resulted in the great Jerusalem Council, mentioned in Acts 15?" Once again, there are Bible teachers that will line up on either side of the discussion.
Paul's second visit to Jerusalem took place while Claudius was reigning over the Roman world. Claudius was the Roman emperor from A.D. 41-54. So Paul's visit had to have taken place during this time period. Paul decided to go to Jerusalem, because a prophet named Agabus came to Antioch from Jerusalem and predicted a horrible famine over the whole Roman Empire. In response to the need in Jerusalem, a love offering was collected and sent to the believers in Jerusalem by way of Barnabas and Paul:
Acts 11:27-30 (NASB) Now at this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 And one of them named Agabus stood up and began to indicate by the Spirit that there would certainly be a great famine all over the world. And this took place in the reign of Claudius. 29 And in the proportion that any of the disciples had means, each of them determined to send a contribution for the relief of the brethren living in Judea. 30 And this they did, sending it in charge of Barnabas and Saul to the elders.
Some Bible teachers think the visit to Jerusalem, that Paul is talking about in Galatians 2, is referring to the famous Jerusalem Council that came about because of doctrinal tension in the Body of Christ caused by the Judaizers. The Jerusalem Council is found in Acts 15.
Acts 15:1-11 (NASB) 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." 2 And when Paul and Barnabas had great dissension 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. 3 Therefore, being sent on their way by the church, they were passing through both Phoenicia and Samaria, describing in detail the conversion of the Gentiles, and were bringing great joy to all the brethren. 4 And when they arrived at Jerusalem, they were received by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they reported all that God had done with them. 5 But certain ones of the sect of the Pharisees who had believed, stood up, saying, "It is necessary to circumcise them, and to direct them to observe the Law of Moses." 6 And the apostles and the elders came together to look into this matter. 7 And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, "Brethren, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. 8 "And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He also did to us; 9 and He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith. 10 "Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? 11 "But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are."
At the Jerusalem Council, the Church leaders from Jerusalem, along with Paul and Barnabas, were in agreement that it is through the grace of Jesus Christ that one is saved, and not by keeping the Law of Moses.
Now, the question we must answer is: "Which visit is Paul talking about in Galatians 2?" Was he talking about the "famine visit" or the "Jerusalem Council?" I believe that Paul was referring to the "famine visit," when he wrote Galatians 2. The reason I have arrived at this conclusion is based upon several things.
First, in Galatians 2, Paul says that he went to Jerusalem in response to a revelation. Paul's visit to Jerusalem for the Jerusalem Council came about because he was appointed by the church leaders in Antioch, because of the teachers who were causing trouble by adding to salvation by grace alone. There is a difference between being appointed and a revelation.
The second reason why I believe Paul is referring to the famine visit is because in Galatians 2, Paul says that he went to Jerusalem, and he spoke with the leaders "privately." There was nothing private about the Jerusalem Council. I believe that the issue of the Judaizers and the battle over salvation came to a head after the visit that Paul is referring to in Galatians 2.
A third reason is that both the accounts of Luke (Acts 11:27-30) and Paul (Galatians 2:1ff.) present this journey to Jerusalem as Paul's second visit.
Fourth, Peter, James, and John urged Paul and Barnabas to "remember the poor" (2:10), which strongly implies that the occasion for this visit was the presentation of the gift from Antioch to the leaders of the Jerusalem church (Acts 11:30).
Paul says, "....I went up again to Jerusalem..." - it doesn't matter where in the world you are, be it North, South, East or West of Jerusalem. According to Scripture, you are always going up to Jerusalem, which is the mount upon which the Lord resides. So, despite the fact that Antioch is north of Jerusalem, Paul is still going "up" to this city, as every Jew would have understood this expression.
"I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along also." - let's talk for a minute about these two companions of Paul.
Barnabas' name pops up 23 times in the book of Acts and 5 times in Paul's letters. We first read about Barnabas in Acts 4, which talks about the early Christians sacrificially selling their possessions and giving the proceeds to the apostles for distribution to the needy. In that context, we read:
Acts 4:36-37 (NASB) And Joseph, a Levite of Cyprian birth, who was also called Barnabas by the apostles (which translated means, Son of Encouragement), 37 and who owned a tract of land, sold it and brought the money and laid it at the apostles' feet.
So Barnabas' real name was Joseph, but the apostles nicknamed him "Barnabas," because he was such an encourager. Barnabas' love gift must have been an encouragement to the leaders and all of the people of the church!
In Acts 9:26-27, after the conversion of Paul, the disciples were scared to death of him because of his past, but Barnabas introduced Paul as a "brother in Christ" to the apostles. What an encouragement he was to Paul!
The following account shows how Barnabas lived up to his name:
Acts 11:22-23 (NASB) And the news about them reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas off to Antioch. 23 Then when he had come and witnessed the grace of God, he rejoiced and began to encourage them all with resolute heart to remain true to the Lord;
Barnabas exhorted, or encouraged, those new believers to stay true to the Lord with all their hearts. That's a great example for all of us to follow. We need to exhort and encourage each other to grow in the Lord by abiding in the Word of God.
Later, Barnabas went to Tarsus and got Paul, and together they went to Antioch where they ministered together for a year. When they heard through Agabus that the brothers and sisters in Jerusalem were in the midst of a deep famine, they took an offering to the church. What a great encouragement to the believers in Jerusalem!
Paul and Barnabas had been on a missionary journey with a young man named John Mark. John Mark was young and inexperienced, and he got homesick and left Paul and Barnabas. When Paul and Barnabas decided to go on another missionary journey, Barnabas wanted to give John Mark another chance. Paul refused to allow John Mark to go, so instead of telling John Mark, "No," Barnabas split with Paul and took John Mark with him (Acts 15:36-41). What an encouragement to John Mark! Is it any wonder that the apostles renamed Joseph the "Son of Encouragement"?
Paul could not have taken a better team with him to Jerusalem to demonstrate to them the way that God was working among the Gentiles by His grace. Titus was a Gentile convert, an uncircumcised Gentile convert, who had come to know Jesus through Paul's ministry. Titus was a remarkable man and associate of the apostle Paul. In 2 Corinthians 2:13, Paul refers to Titus my brother, and says that he had no peace when Titus was absent. 2 Corinthians 7:6 says that Paul was comforted . . . by the coming of Titus. 2 Corinthians 8:6 shows how Paul trusted Titus to receive a collection from the Corinthians. 2 Corinthians 8:16 says that Titus had the same earnest care that filled the heart of Paul. In 2 Corinthians 8:23, Paul says, "If anyone inquires about Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker concerning you." In 2 Corinthians 12:18, Paul speaks again of Titus, and how he shares Paul's heart: "Did Titus take advantage of you? Did we not walk in the same spirit? Did we not walk in the same steps?" In Titus 1:4, Paul calls Titus "a true son in our common faith." Paul loved and trusted Titus and regarded him as a valuable associate.
Having Titus accompany Paul to Jerusalem, the heart of Jewish tradition and the birthplace of the Church, would have been irrefutable evidence that God was at work among the Gentiles and not just the Jews. Titus' life of faithfulness, gentle humility, and passion for the work of God would have been validation of the transformation of the change that Jesus had brought about in his life.
Paul took these two men; one a Jewish Levite who had accepted Jesus, and one a converted Gentile, with him to Jerusalem to present Paul's message to Peter, James, and John. As Paul, Barnabas, and Titus walked through the streets of Jerusalem, a beautiful picture of the Body of Christ was present for everyone to see.
The gospel is for all people - people like Barnabas, a man who was a Levite, of the tribe of Levi, given the responsibility of tending the people of God. The tribe of Levi was the only tribe to stand with Moses against the people who worshiped the golden calf in Exodus 32:25-29. Barnabas had a proud religious heritage. He grew up listening to the Word of God, attending synagogue, and praying with his family, but the gospel is not just for those like Barnabas.
The gospel is also for folks like Titus, a Gentile, a God-forsaken Gentile by all estimations of the Jews of Jesus' day. Of all the nations of the world, the Lord God chose Israel to be His Chosen People. They were chosen to bless the other nations of the world, to shepherd them and bless them, and to lead them to an understanding of God's purpose in history. The Chosen People turned God's mission into a badge of pride and looked down their noses at the other nations. As a result, the Gentiles were looked upon as "dogs," less than human, and not worthy of anything except ridicule and scorn. The perception of Gentiles was so skewed that one of the morning prayers found in the Talmud and recited by Jewish men went like this: "Blessed are you, Lord, our God, ruler of the universe who has created me a Jew and not a Gentile, a man and not a woman, a free man and not a slave." You need to know that although the Jewish people may have viewed people of other races and nations as less than human, the Lord had a much greater plan for the foreigners. And in the Gospel of John, Jesus, to the shock of the Jews, said that God loved the world - Jews and Gentiles.
Galatians 2:2 (NASB) 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.
This trip came about as a result of the revelation given by God to a prophet named Agabus, who spoke of an impending famine, so a relief effort was organized and money was sent to Jerusalem in the care of Barnabas and Saul. That is what Paul is referring to here where he says, "it was because of a revelation that I went up."
Now notice carefully what Paul says next, "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."
What is Paul saying here? Is he seeking the apostles approval of his gospel? Did he thing he might be preaching the wrong gospel? No! Absolutely not! Let me give you several reasons why this could not be his meaning. First, the context militates against it. Since Paul is trying to establish the fact that his gospel was obtained independently from men, to say he was seeking the approval of the apostles would be contradictory. Since Paul had received his message directly from the Lord, why would he feel compelled to seek the approval of men, even of the apostles?
Second, Paul would hardly have waited 14 years to gain such approval. Paul had been preaching for 14 years without any approval. If he had serious doubts (as the need to seek apostolic approval would suggest), why would he have waited so long to approach the apostles? Why would he not have obtained approval on his first visit, for example?
Third, the Greek word rendered "submitted to them" in verse 2 does not suggest an act seeking official approval. In the ancient Greek papyri, it had the sense of: "impart, communicate, with a view to consultation."
What, then, was Paul's purpose for this private meeting? It is my understanding that Paul happened to be in Jerusalem and in contact with Peter, James, and John in connection with the collection he and Barnabas were conveying to the elders of the church. It was an appropriate moment for Paul to speak privately so as to avoid any unnecessary misunderstanding between himself and the leaders of the Jerusalem church, especially in light of growing opposition from the Judaizers, who claimed to be supported by the apostles.
Paul did not say that he feared his message might be in error, but rather that "he might be running, or had run, in vain." To "run in vain" is to run in such a way as to fail to achieve the goal. Paul's ministry would have been in vain if the Judaizers were right; that is, if the apostles in Jerusalem disagreed with Paul and insisted on circumcision for Gentile believers. This would mean that the apostles of Christ had contradictory messages, and no church could be established on such a fractured foundation. Paul did not need to confirm his own gospel, he needed to confirm that the other apostles agreed, and that there was unity.
If the heart of the early church, the Jerusalem Christians, could not support his gospel preaching, then the Judaizers would have just what they needed to divert these young converts into their false teaching. So Paul submits the gospel to the leading apostles for their evaluation and for their confirmation, so that they might be running together in the unity of the gospel.
Galatians 2:3 (NASB) But not even Titus who was with me, though he was a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised.
The fact that he used the word translated "compelled" indicates that Paul and Titus refused circumcision for Titus in the face of pressure. Some false brothers tried to require that Titus be circumcised - in other words, become a Jew - in order to be included in the church. But since such a requirement denied the equality and unity of Gentiles and Jews in the church, Paul did not give in to them.
We are not taken by surprise that Paul would refuse to have Titus circumcised, for he would have viewed this as a surrender to those who had directly attacked the truth of the gospel. I believe the point Paul is stressing here is that even under strong pressure to compel Titus to be circumcised, the apostles did not insist upon his circumcision as a matter of necessity. What the Judaizers demanded, the apostles did not. Paul and Barnabas thus were in accord with the apostles in withstanding the Judaizers.
Paul's point is that the leadership in Jerusalem accepted Titus, a Gentile convert, even though he was not circumcised in accord with the Mosaic law. This shows that the Jerusalem leadership accepted Paul's gospel of grace.
Galatians 2:4 (NASB) 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.
Those who tried to get Titus circumcised were called "false brothers" by Paul, because they were unwilling to accept Titus as a true brother. They would allow him to be included in the Christian family only if he became a Jew. The basis of unity in the church for them was race rather than grace.
The Greek word for "spy out," means: "to inspect, view closely," or "in order to spy out and plot against." Rather than upholding the liberty we have in Christ Jesus to be accepted before God on the basis of God's grace, they required adherence to Jewish customs as the basis of acceptance.
The parallel between these intruders and the intruders in the Galatian churches is clear. In both cases their requirement to maintain a distinctive Jewish lifestyle denied the liberty of all believers to be included in God's family, regardless of racial, cultural or social status. In both cases, their message led to slavery - slavery to the law of Moses.
Paul's refusal to give in to the demands of the intruders in the Jerusalem church protected the truth of the gospel for the Galatian Christians. If he had given in, they would also have been required to become Jews to be included in the church. As a result, the truth of the gospel - that they were accepted by God as Gentile believers in Christ - would have been lost.
Galatians 2:5 (NASB) But we did not yield in subjection to them for even an hour, so that the truth of the gospel might remain with you.
The "hour" was the smallest increment of time in the Greek language. So what Paul meant was that he gave them no time at all. Not for a moment did the apostle Paul submit to the pressures that were being brought to bear. He did not yield to any suggestion that salvation involves anything more than grace. And he is now telling the Galatians to similarly reject such false teaching that the true gospel, the gospel of grace, might remain in their churches.
Galatians 2:6 (NASB) 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.
The point Paul is making here, and indeed throughout these chapters, is that the truth he teaches was given him by God through direct revelation. Convinced that he stands correctly on the issues in discussion, he is not going to let anyone, no matter how important they are or appear, to change the truth.
Galatians 2:7-8 (NASB) But on the contrary, seeing that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been to the circumcised 8 (for He who effectually worked for Peter in his apostleship to the circumcised effectually worked for me also to the Gentiles),
The early church divided the people they ministered into two general groups (1) the Jews, that is, the blood descendants of Abraham, whom they called the circumcised; and (2) the Greeks, a catch-all phrase for all non-Jews, whom they called the uncircumcised.
Paul's main ministry was to Gentiles, and Peter's main ministry was to Jews. These distinctions were not absolute; each did minister to the other groups.
This verse speaks volumes to the Judaizers in that just as Peter was a true apostle who was recognized among the other apostles, Paul was also recognized as a true apostle. And so, in turn, the Judaizers must also recognize Paul, as do the rest of the apostles, that his ministry is valid.
Interestingly, the Roman Catholics make a big thing of Peter's being the head of their church. The fact is, the Bible declares here in this verse that Peter's chief concern was with the Jewish people, (The Catholic Church, of course, is basically a Gentile church). The Apostle Paul was the one who ministered in Rome.
Galatians 2:9 (NASB) 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.
It is this verse that climaxes Paul's argument, for here he establishes that the "pillars" embraced his gospel of justification by faith apart from works of obedience.
How did James, Peter, and John "recognize" that Paul had been commissioned by God to go with His gospel to the nations?
Today many think that numerical growth is a sign of divine pleasure and appointment. This criteria is one of the most outlandish and blatantly unbiblical that is used today.
When Jesus died, He had only 120 who awaited His promise from on high. When Paul was near death, he said, "All have forsaken me." Moses was able only to see two of an entire generation go into the land -and he was not one of them! Isaiah was notably unsuccessful in the numbers game. Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Habbukuk - all eminently unsuccessful by that standard.
How is it that James and Peter and John were able to recognize the grace given to Paul? He did not have the appearance of a powerful apostle. He was not very popular (he had the nasty habit of speaking the truth in love). He was not ministering to the elite. He was always in trouble with the local authorities. And, in doctrine, he was notably unyielding. How was it that they recognized the grace given to him? By his doctrine. No one can honestly read the account of the meeting in Jerusalem and not get the definite impression that the issue was correctness of doctrine.
What are the requirements of the term "grace"? To answer that, we must look at some biblical statements which establish those requirements.
Romans 4:4 (NASB) Now to the one who works, his wage is not reckoned as a favor (charis), but as what is due.
With this statement, Paul clearly eliminates anything as a "grace" which comes as a result of work. The idea of the text is that if one agrees with another to reward that other with a certain reward if that other does certain actions of work, the reward cannot be called "grace". This verse completely undermines every theology which calls salvation "gracious" if it is given because one has done certain works (like being baptized, joining a church, praying a prayer). Paul's apostleship fit this requirement, because it was bestowed upon him in spite of his persecution of the church, and not because of his godliness or obedience prior to bestowal.
Another verse that establishes the requirements of the term "grace" is:
Romans 11:5-6 (NASB) In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God's gracious choice. 6 But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace.
These verses clarify Paul's meaning in Romans 4:4 in that they plainly teach these facts of grace: Grace and work are mutually exclusive systems in that a little work in a grace system destroys the system as of "grace", and a little grace in a work system destroys the system as of "work" (this is why salvation has to be totally of God to be gracious, or totally of merit to be of works).
Paul's apostleship met these requirements, since he was not seeking what he got, and he did nothing in order to obtain it.
It is clear that the "grace" which James, Peter, and John "recognized" was Paul's apostolic status in relation to the gospel's progress toward the nations. Thus, the "grace" given to Paul was the doctrinal content of the gospel and the authoritative position as apostle of that gospel specifically as God's key representative to the non-Jewish nations.
Right hand - When the Jerusalem church leaders gave the right hand of fellowship to Paul and Barnabas, they were expressing their total agreement with these two brothers.
Fellowship - "Fellowship," translated from the Greek word koinonia, is a popular word today in many church circles. But in the minds of many, it merely means social gatherings of churchgoers, or some outward show of love or affection for one another. All of this is good, but it falls far short of the full implication of the word koinonia
The fellowship of believers is a deep, rich, and eternal union that is far more than having social gatherings together and showing some kind of superficial love. It is the fellowship that exists because we are partakers of the body of Christ.
There is no longer any debate. The company of the apostles in Jerusalem recognize Paul as one of them when it comes to this special office. And so, when Paul delivers his message, devoid of any part of the law being added to the gospel of grace, this immediately places anyone preaching a different gospel as those who are opposed to the true Christian faith, and therefore opposed to Christ.
Galatians 2:10 (NASB) They only asked us to remember the poor-- the very thing I also was eager to do.
Probably the poor meant, as Paul says in Romans 15:26, "the poor among the saints in Jerusalem." The believers in Jerusalem were in dire straits, because of the ostracism which their commitment to Jesus Christ had caused. The apostles were very concerned about the welfare of their brethren in such poverty. Therefore, they encouraged Paul to remember these poor to the believers among the nations who could help them. While financial help was needed by the Jerusalem church, the request may have had a broader reference to the special relationship between Paul's missionary outreach to the Gentiles and the Jewish church in Jerusalem.
The truth of the gospel is nonnegotiable. Paul's account of his defense of the truth of the gospel against intruders in Jerusalem presents a challenge to his readers to do the same in Galatia. His purpose for recording this episode in his autobiography is to provide an example for the Galatian Christians in their own struggle against the demands of the intruders in their churches. The Galatians should not give in to them for a moment; the truth of the gospel must be preserved.
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