Summary: This is the third in a series of studies in the book of Galatians.
The Triumph of Grace
“No Strings Attached”
May 28, 2000
This Morning’s Text – Galatians 2:1-10
“Then after an interval of fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along also. 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. 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 secretly brought in, 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 would remain with you. 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 circumcised (for He who effectually worked for Peter in his apostleship tot he circumcised effectually worked for me also to the Gentiles), 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, so 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.”
It is hard to muster sympathy for false teachers—and Paul does anything but that! And while I don’t want to encourage that either, I will have to confess that, humanly, I can understand at least a little bit of what must have been going on in their minds. Talk about a sea change; the coming of Christ and the gospel of grace that Paul preached involved such a radical departure from the way they had been accustomed to thinking that we can at least understand why they didn’t rush so quickly to embrace it. All of their lives they had (in some ways rightly; in some ways mistakenly) seen the truth through Jewish eyes; now to be asked to understand and accept such a change in one’s obligations to God was a hard pill to swallow. Think you’d have responded differently? Don’t be too quick to answer; don’t be too sure of your answer! We’ll get to that in detail when we talk in a few moments about the significance of circumcision to the Jewish faith. Right now, let’s look at the
Background - :1-2
Timing of Paul’s trip to Jerusalem – “after 14 years”
Not certain whether this refers to 14 years following conversion, or to 14 years following his first trip to Jerusalem (ca. 17 years following conversion). A debate continues among faithful scholars as to whether this visit is the one described (briefly) in Acts 11, or whether this meeting with the apostles corresponds to the meeting of the Jerusalem Council described in Acts 15; there are good arguments on either side of this debate, and thus it is difficult to answer this question definitively.
Instead of making an assumption one way or the other, and then trying to read that assumption into this text, I am going to take the events depicted here and read them at face value without adding in the events of either Acts 11 or Acts 15.
Personnel who make the trip
Paul – the apostle
Barnabas – Paul’s co-laborer in the gospel (went with Paul on first missionary journey); “Son of Encouragement”; one who had had previous contact with the Jerusalem apostles
Titus – a Gentile convert; a fruit of Paul’s labor; a “test case”, so to speak
I suggest that Titus was likely a “test case” because he was a man whose life had clearly been changed by the gospel of God—and who had not submitted to the rite of circumcision.
Reason for the trip – “because of a revelation”
If one takes the approach that this trip is identical to the one described in Acts 11, then the “revelation” spoken of here would likely correspond to the prophecy of Agabus mentioned there.
But again, it is certainly unclear whether or not this is the case.
Action taken on the trip – “I submitted to them the gospel which I preach”
Paul gave to the apostles in Jerusalem due respect. While he argues in Chapter 1 that his gospel is independent of human authorities—that he wasn’t taught it, nor did he get it from man—he nonetheless has gracious consideration for others in ministry leadership. Remember the 3 clear points of Paul’s gospel which we laid out last week?