Our Text – Galatians 2:1-10
Our theme – “The gospel is for everyone”
Our key verse – Mark 16:15, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature”
Review of Paul’s Ministry
How responsive are you to the truth of the gospel? The apostle Paul faced the overwhelming task of calling the attention of the entire church to the infectious teaching that was undermining the gospel. He knew clearly, where he stood on the gospel, for he had received it by “a revelation of Jesus Christ.” His concern was for the balance of the church, as to whether or not they were falling prey to the influence of the law-minded Judaizers. Paul had been preaching for fourteen years when he went to Jerusalem. He took the opportunity to have his ministry examined by the church leaders. When they heard what he preached, they confirmed that he was speaking the truth. Then they encouraged Paul to continue faithfully in his ministry. The apostle Paul had only minimal contact with the church leaders in Jerusalem. He had spent fifteen days there with Peter (Galatians 1:18), but then he had to flee the city. For the next decade or longer, he ministered in Tarsus, and then for a year, he taught in the church at Antioch (Acts 11:26). Although he ministered to Jews, he focused primarily on proclaiming the gospel to the Gentiles. He had received this assignment from God (Galatians 1:15-16), and he faithfully performed it.
As we move into chapter 2 of the book of Galatians, it flows from what Paul was saying at the end of chapter 1, so let’s begin in Galatians 1:18, so we can get the flow of what Paul will be showing us in this chapter. We are told … in Galatians 1:18-24, “Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and remained with him fifteen days. But I saw none of the other apostles except James, the Lord’s brother. (Now concerning the things, which I write to you, indeed, before God, I do not lie.) Afterward I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. And I was unknown by face to the churches of Judea which were in Christ. But they were hearing only, ‘He who formerly persecuted us now preaches the faith which he once tried to destroy.’ And they glorified God in me.” With that as our background, let’s begin reading in Galatians 2:1 and see what the Lord has for us today.
The Same Gospel for All People
Galatians 2:1, Then through fourteen years, I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with me also.
Paul’s purpose (Galatians 2:1-2) … The period of “fourteen years after” in 2:1 may refer to fourteen years after Paul left Jerusalem for Tarsus (1:21). However, it may refer to a total of fourteen years from the time of his salvation (1:15, 16). Paul mentioned this interval to show that it had been a long time since he had had direct contact with the believers in Jerusalem. The visit to Jerusalem that Paul cited in Galatians 2:1 was likely the one described in Acts 11:27-30. The visit involved Paul, Barnabas, and Titus, and its primary purpose was to deliver to the believers a gift of money for famine relief. However, Paul also used the visit as an opportunity to reinforce that the gospel is God’s message of saving grace that must remain unchanged for all people in all places. His traveling companions on this visit were Barnabas (Acts 4:36-37, 11:22), a Jewish brother who helped evangelize and establish the Galatian churches on Paul’s first missionary journey (Acts 13-14), and Titus, a Gentile convert to Christ, but not submitted to the Jewish rite of circumcision. Because of the Judaizers, Paul was concerned that this false gospel was spreading to the Christian leadership in Jerusalem and thus Paul spoke to them privately. He was concerned that they would come against him and the work he was doing, spreading the Gospel of Grace, and thus, his efforts would be in vain! Yes, some were but not all, and as we shall see, the leadership believed in a salvation by grace through faith.
Galatians 2:2, And I went up by revelation. And I put before them the gospel, which I proclaim in the nations, but privately to those seeming to be pillars, lest I run, or I ran, into vanity.
Paul traveled to Jerusalem to defend the gospel, which God had given him to preach. He makes it clear that this gospel was not “learned” through man, but given by a direct revelation of God (Galatians 1:12). Paul didn’t compromise, but he didn’t seek to offend either. The fact that he had this private meeting with the leaders of the Jerusalem church shows that he cared about how they received his message and the impact that their opinion would have. He sought peace with these leaders and he obtained it. If they would have refused to listen to the Holy Spirit and had rejected the gospel, then it can be assumed that Paul would have heeded his own instructions in Galatians 1:8-9. Three of these leaders were mentioned by name (Galatians 2:9) … James the Lord’s brother and overseer of the Jerusalem church the apostle and son of Zebedee, and the apostle Peter who had already been called before the Jerusalem church for his work among the Gentiles. So the “big four” are together … Peter, James, John, and Paul … to discuss the problems of the gospel and the law among the Jews and Gentiles. They came into unity and presented a united witness to the truth of the gospel.
Paul informed the Galatians that the apostles had not summoned him to Jerusalem. Such a summons would have implied that he was inferior to the apostles. Paul had not initiated the contact with the apostles. The Lord had brought them together where Paul met privately with the Christian leaders to explain the gospel he had been preaching to the Gentiles (Galatians 2:2). He wanted to be reassured that he was indeed on the right path. Peter would have known by personal experience that God saves Gentiles without requiring them to become circumcised. God had compelled him to visit Cornelius, a Gentile, and deliver the gospel to him. When Cornelius and his household believed on Christ as Savior, Peter told him, “Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him” (Acts 10:34, 35). The believers in Judea criticized Peter because he had fellowshipped with Gentiles; however, when he told them about Cornelius, they glorified God and concluded, “Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life” (Acts 11:18).
Paul recognized that any addition of Jewish regulations to the gospel would undermine his ministry to the Gentiles. He did not want his ministry to the Gentiles to be subverted. He was prepared to confront anyone, even Peter, about the sin of regarding Gentile believers as second-class Christians (Galatians 2:11). Paul wanted the church to be unified, but unified around the truth of the gospel.
Galatians 2:3, But not even Titus, the one with me, a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised.
There are two things in this section of scripture (Galatians 2:1-10) that would verify the validity of Paul’s message of salvation by grace: (1) Titus, who was a Greek, was not compelled to be circumcised (Galatians 2:3), proving that salvation was through faith without the works of the law (Galatians 2:16); and (2) Paul’s gospel of grace was approved by the leaders of the “home” church, the church of Jerusalem (Galatians 2:6-9). The case of Titus served as a perfect test of whether Gentile believers needed to submit to Jewish law. A key regulation in the Jewish law required all males to be circumcised. The key word here is “compelled.” Previously, Paul had circumcised Timothy because of the offense that his uncircumcision would have been to the Jews (Acts 16:3). It is possible that Paul would have encouraged Titus to be circumcised also if it hadn’t been for the false brethren who were making an issue out of this. Paul sought to do whatever was necessary to win people to Jesus but he wouldn’t compromise. If Titus wanted to voluntarily submit to circumcision for the purpose of not offending the Jews that would have been okay. But when Titus chose not to be circumcised, and the Jews tried to make an issue out of it, Paul sided with Titus because of the gospel. We should not intentionally try to offend the religious traditions of others. Yet, when adherence to religious tradition is substituted for or added to the gospel, we cannot condone that. Paul didn’t yield to that kind of pressure, not even for an hour (v. 5).
Galatians 2:4, But because of those false brothers stealing in, who stole in to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus; they desiring to enslave us
Paul had brought Titus with him to Jerusalem as a test case of a full-fledged converted Gentile to faith in Jesus Christ. No doubt, Titus manifested all the fruit of salvation without the Jewish rite of circumcision. Would the leaders of the Jerusalem church reject such a trophy of grace because of a ritual? The apostles received Titus and the truth remained that man is justified by faith in Jesus Christ and not by the works of the law (Galatians 2:16). There were zealous Jewish believers (Romans 10:2) who had acknowledged Christ as their Messiah but they believed a person must still keep the Old Testament law in order to be right with God. They taught faith in Christ alone was not enough. This was in direct opposition to the gospel that Paul taught. Paul called these men false brethren. These are the ones whom he referred to in Galatians 1:8-9.
These men were saying that faith alone wasn’t enough. Holiness was needed as well. Yet, in an effort to promote holiness they were guilty of spying on Titus to see if he was circumcised! That’s a very private matter and can’t be determine by just looking at a person. They had to be spying on him in the latrines. They had become “peeping Toms” in the name of the Lord. They were committing a much greater sin than the one they were accusing Titus of in the name of holiness. Likewise, legalistic Christians today often operate in anger, hatred and cruelty with a judgmental attitude, which is much worse than the petty traditions they accuse others of violating. Churches have been split and lives devastated over points of doctrine that were nothing more than tradition. Paul makes the motives of these legalistic Jews very clear. They were not motivated out of love. They were on a “witch hunt.” They had already made up their minds and were looking for some way of discrediting Paul and the gospel he preached. Verse 5 shows Paul’s reaction.
Galatians 2:5, to whom not even for an hour did we yield in subjection that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.
How firmly did the apostle Paul hold to his position here? He held firm and steadfast to the gospel of Grace. Paul knew that this discussion about the gospel would affect the Galatians and all other Gentiles who had turned to Christ. Much was at stake in this controversy between grace and legalism. Thus, the council concluded that Titus didn’t need to be circumcised. This decision had far-reaching implications. It meant that the gospel was by grace alone, without any need for Jewish regulations. It meant that Gentiles could be saved as Gentiles, without having to become Jews. It meant the original apostles did not support the false teachers in Galatia, and it meant that Paul’s gospel was indeed God’s true Word.
Many a leader in a misguided effort to love everyone has actually empowered false brethren by giving them recognition. Paul didn’t do that and neither should we. There is a time for standing strong against those who oppose us, as Paul did here, and certainly today is that time. As believers in Christ we need to stand strong and firm in our faith. The apostle Paul‘s only concern was that these Galatians might continue in the truth of the gospel. Moreover, if the false brethren had carried the day, Christians would have split into two major factions. There would have been a Jewish church and a Gentile church, and there would have been two separate gospels, one true and one false. However, the apostles supported Paul’s contention that the gospel is for Jews and Gentiles alike, without any addition of Jewish regulations. God’s one message is for everyone.
Galatians 2:6, But from those who seemed to be something (what kind they were then does not matter to me; God does not accept the face of man), for those seeming important conferred nothing to me.
The NIV translates this verse as, “As for those who seemed to be important-whatever they were makes no difference to me, God does not judge by external appearance-those men added nothing to my message.” Thus, Paul is saying that the greatest leaders of the church in his day didn’t have any additions or corrections to the gospel, which had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit. Paul’s gospel was accurate and complete, even by the judgment of Peter, James, and John, the leaders of the church. This was not because of self-confidence or pride, but was because Paul had an intimate relationship with God and he knew the gospel he preached came by direct revelation of the Holy Spirit. Those who are overwhelmed in the presence of men have not spent enough time in the presence of the Almighty. The perversion of the gospel that Paul was rebuking in this letter was not a deletion of some truths, but the addition of more requirements than faith in Christ alone. Paul makes it clear that this was not the judgment of the leaders of the Jerusalem “home” church. They heard his message and added nothing to it. It was accurate and complete just the way Paul had presented it.
Galatians 2:7, But on the contrary, seeing that I have been entrusted with the gospel of the uncircumcision, as Peter to the circumcision;
God had commissioned the apostle Paul to preach the gospel to the Gentiles. In carrying out that commission, he communicated the good news in terms that were meaningful to the Gentiles, but he kept the message of grace in the forefront. Peter had received God’s charge to preach the gospel to the Jews (v. 7). Although he referred to the Old Testament more often than Paul did, his gospel of grace through Christ was the same gospel Paul preached. God had authorized and empowered both Peter and Paul to take the gospel to two different audiences (v. 8).
Therefore, the two men were colleagues rather than rivals. Both were servants of Christ and apostles of His good news. They were not free to alter the message, even though they may have presented it somewhat differently to their respective audiences. God’s one message was intended for all kinds of people. Truth cannot be established by majority vote or by authoritative decree. Neither can one powerful person determine what is true. We must always measure our doctrine and our practice by what God has said in His Word. If He is our Lord, we must stand with Him, even if standing with Him means going contrary to what everyone else says. Thus, the Lord’s vote is the only one that matters. Paul had received his message from the Lord. The church leaders merely recognized that what God had revealed to Paul was authentic.
Galatians 2:8, for He working in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision also worked in me to the nations.
It is amazing to our way of thinking that God would have chosen Peter to share the gospel with the Jews and Paul to share the gospel with the Gentiles. Paul was steeped in Jewish law and tradition. He could have out-argued any religious Jew. And Peter was a near pagan himself. Who could have related to the Gentiles better than he? Yet, God’s ways are higher than man’s ways (Isaiah 55:9, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD”). The Lord doesn’t want to argue men into salvation or get them to associate with those who are saved just because of friendship. Salvation has to be a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit. “God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to naught things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence” (1 Corinthians 1:27-29).
Galatians 2:9-10, and knowing the grace given to me, James, and Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, gave right hands of fellowship to Barnabas and me, that we go to the nations, but they to the circumcision. 10 Only they asked that we remember the poor, which very thing I was eager to do.
Obviously, James, the half brother of Jesus, Peter and John were looked upon as the pillars in the church, not because they sought that title but because the people looked upon them that way. It was these men that saw the power of God working in and through Paul who then gave him and Barnabas their blessings to go forth with the Gospel message of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles. Paul said in Acts 20:24, “But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” The leaders in Jerusalem, after giving their blessings to Paul, wanted them to remember the poor, probably the saints in Jerusalem who were in need, which Paul did do, hoping to break down those walls of division between Jews and Gentiles.
One thing you would have to say about the apostle Paul it didn’t matter who it was … a judge, a ruler, or his fellow apostle Peter … Paul said what had to be said. In Galatians 2:16, he made the same point three times: No one is justified by the works of the law. The law was a critical issue in the early church because many of the converts were Jews. Although they believed in Jesus, some of them just wouldn’t let go of their legalistic ways. Imagine hearing them say, “A person can’t be saved unless he is circumcised and refuses to eat meat offered to idols. And no Jewish believer should ever eat with Gentiles.” But the apostle Paul told them in no uncertain terms that they were wrong. Being made right with God comes by faith, not by any requirements a church or individual adds. As the author of confusion, Satan finds all kinds of ways to corrupt the gospel by giving us the impression that faith is not enough. He plays into our desire to be in control and to do something to save ourselves … adding anything from tithing to perfect church attendance to clothing styles to entertainment choices. Each of these is important to the believer, but none is essential to our salvation. The point is … “Salvation is by faith alone.”
Sin has been with us from of old and will be with us as long as we live on this earth. Romans 2:23-24, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus”. However, I like how Ephesians 2:8 puts it, “By grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.” My friend, God has designed a plan of redemption in which He can both “be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:26). His perfect standard is satisfied by the perfect sacrifice in His own Son Jesus Christ. The result? “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). Thus, no one can rightly accuse God of being unfair because His free offer of salvation is open to everyone who will receive it. According to hymn writer Julia Johnston (1849-1919), it is the “marvelous grace of our loving Lord, grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt!” The hymn concludes, “Grace, grace, God’s grace, grace that will pardon and cleanse within; grace, grace, God’s grace, grace that is greater than all our sin!”
Grace – Getting what we don’t deserve. Mercy – Not getting what we do deserve.