Galatians 2:1-10 – Paul Straightens Out the Apostles
Gal 1:1-5 Paul set the stage for why it is so astonishing that the Galatians walked away from the truth! Salvation is by faith in what Christ did on their behalf. Christ gave himself for their sins to rescue them from the present evil age. He did it not because of anything they did, or because they deserved it or earned it. He did it “according to the will of our God and Father,” (Gal 1:4-5) according to the plan He made before the world began.
Gal 1:6-10 Paul expresses his astonishment in them for leaving all that and following the false teachers. He then prepares them to begin refuting the teaching that was causing so much confusion.
Gal 1:11-24 Paul sets out clearly without a doubt that his authority and his teaching came directly from God, and not from man.
Galatians 2:1-2 Fourteen years later I went up again to Jerusalem, this time with Barnabas. I took Titus along also. 2 I went in response to a revelation and set before them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. But I did this privately to those who seemed to be leaders, for fear that I was running or had run my race in vain.
Paul seems to be addressing 2 accusations laid against him. The first being a challenge to his authority, which he refuted with the previous argument. The second seems to be that the false teachers were accusing him of being a renegade prophet independent and opposed to the apostles in Jerusalem.
Fourteen years later I went up again to Jerusalem
We saw in the last passage that after his conversion Paul only spent 15 days in Jerusalem, and only met with James and Peter. (Gal 1:18-19) But, to refute the accusation that he was operating independent and even opposed to the apostles, Paul tells his accusers that he did spend some time with the apostles in Jerusalem.
This time (his second visit to Jerusalem) I went with Barnabas. I took Titus along also. 2 I went in response to a revelation
In Acts 15:1-21 we can read the account of that meeting. Paul tells the false teachers that his second visit to Jerusalem was to “respond to a revelation.” The “revelation” he received was that the apostles in Jerusalem had heard what Paul was doing among the Gentiles, but they were divided as to whether the Gentiles should be required to be circumcised. So, Paul went to defend the gentiles and to dispute with the apostles the very thing these false teachers were teaching. When you read Acts 15 it sounds like it was quite a debate.
Paul took with him Barnabas, a Jew, and Titus, a Gentile.
and set before them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. 3 Yet not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek.
Paul says he set before them “the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles.” What was the gospel that he preaches? Gal 1:3-5 Grace and peach to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5 to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”
This is the gospel of grace that the Galatians had so quickly deserted (Gal 1:6). The gospel which Paul had said, “even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned. (Gal 1:8) Paul was preaching this gospel to the Gentiles! The Galatians were Gentiles.
Paul and his companions described to the Apostles all that God had done and was doing among the Gentiles. (Acts 15:12) Paul brought Titus along also, to “prove” that the Holy Spirit was active and using an uncircumcised Gentile.
Galatians 2:4-5 This matter arose because some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to look over the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves. 5 We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might remain with you.
There were “false brothers” even in the church. They were “looking at their freedom,” and wanting to keep them from enjoying the freedom we have in Christ.”
Paul described the freedom we have back in Gal 1:4 “He who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our Father.” Eph 2:8-9 describes salvation as a free gift, and not by anything I can do! It’s completely by God’s grace independent of anything I do.
Application: We have this in our churches today. Those who believe grace isn’t enough. You must make Jesus “Lord.” You must do, in order to be approved. If you don’t, you can lose it… They watch our freedom and seek to “make us slaves.”
But, Paul said, “we did not give in to them for a moment.” Paul opposed the whole council of the Apostles, defending the freedom we have in Christ! Paul was determined that “the truth of gospel might remain in them.” He wanted all Gentiles to enjoy their freedom. Because of his courage, even the Apostles came to agreement that the Gentiles are not required to be circumcised. (Acts 15:19)
Galatians 2:6-7 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. 7 On the contrary, they saw that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles, just as Peter had been to the Jews
Those who seemed to be important. Paul is talking about the Apostles. Were the apostles important? um… yeah. They were the pillars of the church. And yet Paul says, “Well, it doesn’t matter who they are, it makes no difference to me. I didn’t change my story because of who they were or even what they were saying.” Paul followed what He knew God had told Him, even though the very apostles of Jesus Himself opposed him.
As Paul proclaimed what God was doing through him as his followers, the Apostles could see that God was truly at work and that Paul had been given a different mandate than they. Paul was entrusted with the task of preaching to the Gentiles, where their task was preaching to the Jews.
Galatians 2:8 For God, who was at work in the ministry of Peter as an apostle to the Jews, was also at work in my ministry as an apostle to the Gentiles.
The other apostles could see clearly that God was at work not only in their ministry among the Jews, but also in Paul’s ministry among the Gentiles.
Galatians 2:9-10 James, Peter and John, those reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the Jews. 10 All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.
After this big debate, Paul was able to show the Apostles that circumcision was not required for Gentiles. It was something God required only of the Jews in keeping with the Jewish law. Once they were all in agreement James, Peter and John, the “pillars” of the church gave Paul and Barnabas (and Titus) their stamp of approval to continue their ministry among the Gentiles.
They did have a stipulation that they wanted Paul to keep in mind though. Don’t forget about the poor, to which Paul acknowledged he was already eager to do.
Why is this written?
Paul is continuing to defend his authority. He proves that he is not working against the Apostles, on the contrary, he supported the apostles and even helped bring clarity to the apostles regarding God’s agenda in working with Gentiles.
What is God saying to me through this passage?
Even within the church there are many who don’t understand grace. They may understand salvation through faith in Christ, but they don’t understand the freedom we have or how to live out our Christian Life.
It’s amazing how in this passage we see even the pillars of the church didn’t understand freedom. But, Paul was not persuaded away from what he believed, even though it was the Apostles themselves who opposed him.
How convinced am I of what God has said? Would I be able to stand up against people like the Apostles, if they were teaching against what I understand to be true? I’m not sure I could.
This story emphasizes the need to speak truth, no matter who it is that is in error. Even the Apostles had some wrong thinking. Pastors, missionaries, other clergy are not exempt from having blind spots. If God reveals something that someone is in error, we who know the truth, do have an obligation to help them. Paul will talk about this in Galatians 6:1.
What do I need to do as a result of what I have read?
In Gal 6:1 Paul says to restore them in gentleness, knowing you are prone to the same things. Empathy begins with knowing I could be in the same boat, except for the grace of God in my life. But, to leave them there would not be loving my brother. “Restore them” is Paul’s exhortation.
Thank God that I am free from the burden of having to earn God’s love and approval.
Remember all He has done for me, and out of love for Him, be available for God to reveal Jesus through me.
What’s the first step?