by Mike Ratliff
3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave himself on behalf of our sins so that he might rescue us out of this present evil age according to the will of God our Father, 5 to whom be the glory into the ages of the ages, Amen. 6 I marvel that you are so quickly being turned from the one who called you in the grace of Christ to a different gospel; 7 which is not another; except there are some troubling you and are desiring to pervert the gospel of Christ. (Galatians 1:3-7 Possessing the Treasure New Testament v1)
I normally work from home, however, today I had to make the 20-minute trip into our offices to oversee the moving of one of my database systems from our old datacenter to our new one. As I got within about a mile of our old offices I passed a pickup that had a sticker on the back window that I had never seen before. It resembled the COEXIST sticker we have discussed before, but with the same symbols, the lettering was changed to the word “FICTION.” Here we have two extremes that are obviously both deadly wrong. The first one assumes that all religions must compromise their beliefs to coexist while the second is atheistic, but in reality they both come to the same conclusion, that is, that everything is man-centered rather than God-centered. I see elements of this even in the professing Christians of our day who are staunch defenders of the sovereignty of the Free Will of man while denying that God has the freedom to be the potter at the wheel, making servants according to his will who will believe, that is, come to faith, according to his will and plan and in his timing and then will serve him in ways that make no sense to those mired in their man-centered religiosity.
1 Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking with me Titus also. 2 I went up because of a revelation; and I laid before them the gospel which I proclaim among the Gentiles, but privately to the ones of some reputation for fear that I might be running, or had run, in vain. 3 But not even Titus, the one with me, a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised. 4 But it was because of the false brethren secretly brought in who crept in to spy out our freedom which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might enslave us 5 to whom we did not yield in subjection for an hour that the truth of the gospel might continue with you. 6 But from those who were of high reputation (of what kind they were once nothing matters to me, God shows no partiality)–for to me those who were of reputation added nothing. 7 But on the contrary, seeing that I had been entrusted with the gospel for the uncircumcision as Peter had for the circumcision 8 (for the one having worked in Peter for an apostleship to the circumcision, worked also in me for the gentiles), 9 and realizing that grace had been given me, James and Cephas and John, the ones seeming to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship that we should be for the gentiles, but they for the circumcision. 10 They asked only that we should remember the poor, the very thing I also was eager to do. (Galatians 2:1-10 Possessing the Treasure New Testament v1)
The visit to Jerusalem Paul refers to in v1 is from Acts 15:1-22, which was the Jerusalem Council called to resolve the issue of Gentile salvation. Barnabus (Acts 4:36) was Paul’s first ally who vouched for him before the apostles at Jerusalem in Acts 9:27 and became his traveling companion on his first missionary journey (Acts 13:2,3). Titus was an uncircumcised Greek whom Paul and led to Christ. He was Paul’s coworker (Titus 1:4,5). His faith plus the fact that he was a gentile who had not submitted to the Judiazers in becoming circumcised was fitting proof of the effectiveness of Paul’s ministry.
What is the “revelation” Paul refers to in v2? This is a revelation from God, which was the voice of the Holy Spirit. Paul refers to the divine commissioning of his visit in order to refute any possible suggestion by the Judiazers that they had sent Paul to Jerusalem to have the apostles correct his doctrine. The gospel Paul refers to in v2 is, of course, the good news of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone (Romans 1:1; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4). The next part of v2 contains a bit of sarcasm, which is obvious in the Greek. Paul refers to those where were of some reputation, who where the 3 main leaders of the Jerusalem church—Peter, James the Lord’s brother, and John. The way Paul constructed this sentence and again refers to these men in v9 suggests that Paul was using sarcasm, not directed towards these men, but towards the Judiazers who claimed they had apostolic approval for their doctrine and Paul did not. When they attempted to persuade the Galatians to submit to their false gospel of adding works to faith, they likely made a habit of exalting these 3 leaders at the expense of Paul. Paul’s statement that he submitted his message to these men “…for fear that I might be running, or had run, in vain…” was Paul’s statement that he hoped the leaders would support his ministry to the gentiles and not soften their opposition to legalism. He did not want to see his ministry efforts wasted because of conflicts with the other apostles.
The judiazers works system had at its core the Mosaic prescription of circumcision. They were teaching that there could be no salvation without it (Acts 15:1,5,24). Paul and the apostles denied that and it was settled at the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:1-22). Titus was the living proof that the judiazers legalism mixed with the gospel was a false gospel since he was uncircumcised. Paul’s point in v3 that Titus not being compelled to be circumcised was proof that the very apostles that the judiazers pointed to for their support rejected their false doctrines.
Just as the visible church in our day has many false teachers and preachers, the judiazers pretended to be true Christians yet their doctrine, because it claimed allegiance to Christ, was opposed to traditional Judaism,, and because it demanded circumcision and obedience to the Mosaic law as prerequisites for salvation, was opposed to Christianity. Satan was using the judiazers as spies sent into the midst of the church to sabotage the true gospel. Despite what so many are trying to say today about our freedom in Christ today, Christians are free from the law as a means of salvation, from its external ceremonial regulations as a way of living, and from its curse for disobedience to the law—a curse that Christ bore for all believers. This freedom is not, however, a license to sin (Galatians 5:13; Romans 6:18; 1 Peter 2:16). Those who submit to the judiazers’ false gospel enter into bondage of absolute slavery to an impossible system of works righteousness.
In vv6-7 Paul shows that his apostleship was not in any way inferior to that of the other apostles because they recognized the legitimacy of his message and ministry as being from God—Christ commission them all. The Judiazers claimed Paul was preaching a deviant gospel, but the apostles confirmed that he proclaimed the true gospel. It was the same gospel Peter proclaimed, but to a different audience. All recognized that Paul ministered by the grace of God, how could they oppose that? This proved the legitimacy of their own apostleship. They offered the right hand of fellowship to both Paul and Barnabas and so that settled that. They then asked Paul to remember the poor. The Jerusalem church was full of Christians from all over the Roman world who came at Pentecost, heard Peter preach, were saved and never left. Those who did live in Jerusalem shared their resources with those in the Church, but many had little money. It was a poor church.
In our next post we will look at Galatians 2:11-21.
Soli Deo Gloria!