Message Notes: The Letter of Paul to the Galatians | 2:1-5
The Letter of Paul to the Galatians
To Paul, his spiritual freedom in Christ was worth far more than popularity or even security. He was willing to fight for that freedom.
Paul’s first fight for Christian freedom was at the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:1–35; Gal. 2:1–10); his second was at a private meeting with Peter (Gal. 2:11–21). Had Paul been unwilling to wage this spiritual warfare, the church in the first century might have become only a Jewish sect, preaching a mixture of law and grace. But because of Paul’s courage, the gospel was kept free from legalism, and it was carried to the Gentiles with great blessing.
The Council at Jerusalem
The Private Consultation (2:1–2)
v.1 "Fourteen years after that first visit, Barnabas and I went up to Jerusalem and took Titus with us."
Paul and Barnabas had returned to Antioch from their first missionary journey, excited about the way God had "opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles” (Acts 14:27). But the Jewish legalists in Jerusalem were upset with their report; so they came to Antioch and taught, in effect, that a Gentile had to become a Jew before he could become a Christian (Acts 15:1).
v.2 "I went to clarify with them what had been revealed to me. At that time I placed before them exactly what I was preaching to the non-Jews. I did this in private with the leaders, those held in esteem by the church, so that our concern would not become a controversial public issue, marred by ethnic tensions, exposing my years of work to denigration and endangering my present ministry."
When the deputation arrived in Jerusalem, they met privately with the church leaders. Paul did not go to Jerusalem because the church sent him; he “It was because of a revelation that I went up”—that is, the Lord sent him (compare Gal. 2:2 and 1:12). And the Lord gave him the wisdom to meet with the leaders first so that they would be able to present a united front at the public meetings.
“for fear that I might running, or had run, in vain.” (Gal. 2:2) does not mean that Paul was unsure either of his message or his ministry. His conduct on the way to the conference indicates that he had no doubts (Acts 15:3). What he was concerned about waste future of the gospel among the Gentiles, because this was his specific ministry from Christ. If the “pillars "sided with the Judaizers, or tried to compromise, then Paul’s ministry would be in jeopardy. He wanted to get their approval before he faced the whole assembly; otherwise a three-way division could result.
What was the result of this private consultation? The apostles and elders approved Paul’s gospel. They added nothing to it and thereby declared the Judaizers to be wrong.
The Public Convocation (2:3–5)
v.3 "Significantly, Titus, non-Jewish though he was, was not required to be circumcised."
It seems that Titus became a test case at this point. He was a Gentile Christian who had never submitted to circumcision. Yet it was clear to all that he was genuinely saved. Now, if the Judaizers were right (“It wasn’t long before some Jews showed up from Judea insisting that everyone be circumcised: “If you’re not circumcised in the Mosaic fashion, you can’t be saved.”” Acts 15:1), then Titus was not a saved man. But he was a saved man, and gave evidence of having the Holy Spirit; therefore, the Judaizers were wrong.
How does this argument play out today in the church? Paul’s concern was "the truth of the gospel” (Gal. 2:5, 14), not the “peace of the church.” The wisdom that God sends from above is “first pure, then peaceable” (James 3:17).“Peace at any price” was not Paul’s philosophy of ministry, nor should it be ours.
v.4-5 "While we were in conference we were infiltrated by spies pretending to be Christians, who slipped in to find out just how free true Christians are. Their ulterior motive was to reduce us to their brand of servitude. We didn’t give them the time of day. We were determined to preserve the truth of the Message for you."
Ever since Paul’s time, the enemies of grace have been trying to add something to the simple gospel of the grace of God. They tell us that a man is saved by faith in Christ plus something—good works, the Ten Commandments, baptism, church membership, religious ritual—and Paul made it clear that these teachers are wrong. In fact, Paul pronounced a curse on any person(man or angel) who preaches any other gospel than the gospel of the grace of God, centered in Jesus Christ(Gal. 1:6–9; see 1 Cor. 15:1–7 for a definition of the gospel). It is a serious thing to tamper with the gospel.
How is the gospel "attacked" today and what role do we play in "preserving the truth" for others?