Paul, Barnabas, and Titus in Jerusalem
Gal. 2: 1-10
Paul continues to tell us his experiences after his conversion. In his trip to Jerusalem, he offered convincing proof that the good news he is proclaiming is the same to that of the other 12 apostles.
I. Jerusalem Visit (Gal. 2:1)
A. There is controversy with regards to this particular visit to Jerusalem.
B. Paul took Barnabas, a Jewish believer, and Titus, a Gentile believer. The Book of
Acts mentions five Jerusalem visits made by Paul after his conversion:
1. The visit after he left Damascus (Acts 9:26-30; Gal. 1:18-20).
2. The famine visit (Acts 11:27-30).
3. The visit to attend the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:1-30).
4. The visit at the end of the second missionary journey (Acts 18:22).
5. The final visit which resulted in Paul’s Caesarean imprisonment (Acts 21:15- 23:35). Scholars are divided primarily over whether Gal. 2:1 refers to the famine visit or to the Jerusalem Council visit. But in the context in which he is listing all contacts with human authorities, why would Paul omit reference to his second trip to Jerusalem? And if the reference is to the Council of Acts 15, why did not the apostle allude to its decrees? It seems this passage has the famine visit in
II. By Revelation (Gal. 2:2)
A. “And I went up by revelation…” (Gal. 2:2). The Holy Spirit prompted him to go (Acts 11:12; 16:6, 7). Whether this “revelation” was made to Paul in Person, or whether it was through the Spirit to the church, is not known. In either case, it gave Paul the absolute assurance that it was the will of God for him to go to Jerusalem to attend the historic council which determined for the Church and for all time the very question which the false teachers had revived in Galatia. This was whether Christians needed to observe the Law of Moses.
B. “Communicated unto them… privately.” Paul wisely consulted with the apostles privately, and “declared all things that God had done with them” (Acts 15:4). The apostle to the Gentiles sought the cooperation rather than the opposition of Peter, James the Lord’s brother, and John. This private conference was held that those “which were of reputation” might fully understand his work among the Gentiles.
C. The present tense of the verb “preach” is significant. Paul is preaching the same gospel that he preached in Galatia. This gospel had received the sanction of the church in Jerusalem. Paul is no timeserver. He did not change his message to suit different occasions and hearers. If “a different gospel” had been preached to the
Galatian churches, it was by false teachers and not by Paul. He knew only one Gospel (Gal. 1:12). Those who change this gospel are under a curse (Gal, 1:8, 9).
D. “Lest I… I should run… in vain.” Paul felt that the success of his whole ministry was at stake. He uses the familiar figure of the foot race. If he did not get the church leaders convinced of the divine origin of the gospel he preached, he would be like a runner, who, in spite of all his efforts, was to be disqualified or was to lose the prize of victory.
Illustration 1: Revelation
This means the disclosure of something that was unknown. There are two types of revelation: natural and special. Natural revelation is that which is revealed about God through what we can see in creation (Rom. 1:20). Through creation we may learn that there is a God, that He is in control, that He has an order, and that He is concerned for our welfare. However, through natural revelation, we are not able to discover the plan of salvation. That comes from special revelation.
Special revelation is that which is given to us through Prophets, the Bible, and even visions and dreams (Num. 12:6–8). The ultimate in revelation is the incarnation of Jesus because He came to reveal the Father to us (Matt. 11:27; Luke 10:22; Heb. 1:1–3) and to communicate to us the gospel (1 Cor. 15:1–4) by which comes salvation. — 10,000 Sermon Illustrations
III. Circumcision repudiated as a religious rite (Galatians 2:3-5).
A. But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised: (Galatians 2:3) This was a bold move for Paul. This was an open confrontation of the legalist at the Jerusalem council. He had taken Titus with him for this very purpose. And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. (Acts 15:1) The Judaizers passionately pushed the rite of circumcision as
necessary for salvation. However, Titus was a living example of someone who became a Christian without circumcision. The Jews required every convert to Judaism to be circumcised and they tried to carry their rules over into the Church and make it a requirement for getting saved. However, Titus wasn’t becoming a Jew,
he had become a Christian. Though Titus was a Christian and in the ministry with Paul, the Jerusalem Council did not require him to be circumcised. This proved to the Galatians that the leaders of the Jerusalem church were in agreement with the gospel of grace that Paul preached.
B. Having completed his discussion of Titus, Paul resumed the narrative relating to his conference with the apostles in Jerusalem and declared that they added nothing to his message (Gal. 2:6). They did not correct or modify Paul’s message but recognized
its divine source and affirmed its truth and completeness. But why did the apostle speak in what appears to be a derogatory manner about some of the Jerusalem leaders? In verse 2 he referred to them as “those who seemed to be leaders”; in verse 6 he described them as those who seemed to be important; and in verse 9 he finally named “James, Peter, and John” as “those reputed to be pillars.” In view of
the fact that Paul’s purpose in this passage was to emphasize his unity with the apostles, it seems best to explain these allusions as stemming from the fact that the Judaizers, in order to disparage Paul, had made much of the Jerusalem leaders. While there may be irony in Paul’s expressions, he declared that he was not awed by the past or present stations of James, Peter, and John. Indeed, they endorsed Paul’s
message and received him as an equal.
Illustration 2: Circumcision
The Jewish custom of cutting away the foreskin of male children. God commanded Abraham to practice circumcision as a sign of His covenant (Gen. 17:9-14). Physical circumcision is not required of Christians (1 Cor. 7:18-19; Gal. 5:1-12; 6:15), but it is used in the N.T. as a symbol of the new birth (Col. 2:10-14).
IV. The Joint Conclusion (Gal. 2:7-10)
A. The leaders of the Jerusalem church realized and agreed that Paul had been sent to the gentiles with equal authority and with the same message with which Peter had been sent to the Jews.
B. The pillars of the Jerusalem Church gave Paul and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship. This was much more than the handshake that we are familiar with in the western word. It had a much greater significance in the ancient world. The right hand of fellowship. It signified a pledge of friendship and promise. The leaders of the
Jerusalem Church were in full agreement with Paul and totally committed to the same gospel.
The Pillars of the Jerusalem church was convinced that the gospel being preached by Paul is the same gospel they are proclaiming. Indeed, Paul was the Apostle to the Gentiles and Peter is the Apostle to the Jews.