Galatians Chapter 2
Gal. 2:1 Then fourteen years after I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with me also.
Gal. 2:2 And I went up by revelation, and communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to them which were of reputation, lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain.
Paul went to Jerusalem “by [special] revelation,” not just on a whim.
As an apostle and an ambassador of the Lord, he had a special revelation and special duties to perform. It is one thing to obey God in our own personal life, but as an apostle, he had another obligation, which was to use the greatest amount of wisdom possible to make converts to Christ. Making converts had to be done the Lord’s way, not his own way. He was fearful that in trying to be faithful to his calling, he might overlook the Lord’s method, and lest he unnecessarily stumble some, he went “privately to them which were of reputation.” In other words, why raise up unnecessary anger or strife if his communicating could be accepted in this private fashion? In one of his epistles, he said that we have to be careful lest we destroy brethren with our knowledge. Instead we should consider that they are thoroughly dedicated and consecrated to the Lord and not harp on an issue and bear down hard every time we see them. Through tact, we should try to eliminate unnecessary friction yet not compromise on principle.
By not only running in the present life as an apostle, the office for which he had been appointed, but also being faithful in that office, Paul did not want to run in vain by doing things in his own way. Therefore, he went privately to the elders and other apostles lest their pride would be a barrier to accepting his strong message. Thus where he could, he went privately, but on other occasions, he went publicly. For instance, when Peter dissembled at the table, Paul rebuked him publicly because it was necessary for all who were present to see the impropriety of Peter’s hypocrisy. Had Paul not rebuked Peter openly before all, he would have lost the opportunity to resolve the matter with those who were observing. Those individuals would have returned to their several locations with the wrong thought on the Law versus Christ. Had Paul remained silent, he would have been compromising principle for the sake of peace. In talking privately with elders and other apostles, who were teachers themselves, Paul might even have reasoned with them on Scripture. However, had he done so in the presence of others as an audience, it would have looked like he was trying to demean the elders and the apostles.
Gal. 2:3 But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised:
Other brethren had insisted on circumcision for Titus, but Paul did not permit him to be circumcised because he was a Greek. Paul was refuting those Jewish Christians who said that the Christian had to obey the Law and Christ. Judaizing Christians were troublemakers throughout Paul’s ministry. (Originally, the other apostles were also confused on this matter, but they were won over to Paul’s thinking.)
Gal. 2:4 And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage:
Judaizing Christians “came in privily to spy out our liberty.” These false Christians had never really grasped the fundamental truth of the grace that is in Christ Jesus. Although they were respected individuals who were called “brethren” and were eloquent in speech, financially prosperous, or outstanding in some other superficial way, they were false brethren. Here they came with a wrong motive, for they were purposely trying to cause trouble and find fault. Considering Paul to be too liberal in regard to Gentiles, they wanted to make Titus, a Gentile,
the center of the issue and force him to be circumcised. In other words, these false brethren came with the motive not to try to understand and reason on the matter but to stipulate that all—Jews and Gentiles—had to obey the Law in order to be a Christian. They wanted to stop the gospel from going to the Gentiles, unless they first became proselytes to the Jewish faith and then accepted Christ. In short, the Judaizing element wanted to bring the Christian “into [the] bondage” of the Law. As here, both principle and doctrine are important in keeping the Church pure.
Gal. 2:5 To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.
Verse 5 suggests that those who “came in privily” did not remain quiet; they came in stealthily but created an issue. However, Paul stood his ground and did not in any way compromise or give in to the false brethren on the issue of Titus’s circumcision. The statement in verse 3 that Titus “was compelled to be circumcised” shows pressure on the part of the Judaizing element. If they could not compel Paul, they would put pressure on Titus himself; that is, they would try to separate or wean him from Paul’s influence. However, Paul would not allow the separation to take place.
Notice that Paul used the plural pronoun “us” in verse 4; namely, the false brethren wanted to “bring us into bondage.” If Titus had ignored Paul and agreed to circumcision, he would have been in bondage under the Law, and if Paul had agreed to circumcision, he would have been in bondage, for henceforth he would have preached to new converts that before they could experience the grace of Jesus, they first had to come under the yoke of the Law. One cannot obey two masters!
Gal. 2:6 But of these who seemed to be somewhat, (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man’s person:) for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me:
Gal. 2:7 But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter;
Paul did not trouble himself to expose the false brethren at this time, for to have done so would have distracted from the very important principle of circumcision, the issue immediately at hand. These false ones were of reputation, but they were wrong. Paul’s mind was set, and these false brethren did not sway him regardless of reputation.
Paul came off victorious, not only personally but also in winning the battle with the brethren. Although he did not convince the false ones, he persuaded the others who were assembled there. By Paul’s presence and firm action, they began to see the light; they recognized that he had been called to preach to the Gentiles and that his thinking was correct. Had Paul been wobbly, he would have lost the debate, and the truth would have suffered.
Gal. 2:8 (For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:)
Gal. 2:9 And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision.
Even James, Peter, and John were not too clear on the issue of circumcision until Paul reasoned with them. Now they gave Paul and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship and encouraged them in their ministry to the Gentiles. Meanwhile, they would continue in their ministry to the Jews. Incidentally, Paul was sustained in his Christian walk by multiple visions, which raised him out of low points.
Gal. 2:10 Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do.
Gal. 2:11 But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed.
Gal. 2:12 For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision.
Gal. 2:13 And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation.
Gal. 2:14 But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?
Gal. 2:15 We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles,
Gal. 2:16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.
Gal. 2:17 But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid.
Gal. 2:18 For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor.
Paul had already “destroyed” justification by the works of the Law by showing that the Christian is justified by faith in the blood of Jesus Christ, so if he now gave in to the Judaizing element, he would be undoing what he had properly done and would make himself a “transgressor.” Incidentally, this verse shows that disobedience incurs more responsibility after one has light than before he is enlightened. This is true both doctrinally and morally. Some acquire knowledge and development along a certain line at a different time period in their Christian walk but are far more developed along other lines. What matters most is the finished picture, where a person needs both grace and truth to have a rounded-out Christian character.
Gal. 2:19 For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God.
Gal. 2:20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
Gal. 2:21 I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.
Paul said, “I am [present tense] crucified with Christ” because he considered his crucifixion of the flesh to be ongoing until death.
Paul treated the subject from two different perspectives, which have to be kept separate. (1) He said, “We walk in newness of life as though we had been dead and are now alive.” (2) He also said, “I am being baptized in death.” From the first perspective, Christians walk as children of the day, and from the second perspective, they are being planted in death. Paul also taught that the Christian is an embryo in a womb, awaiting birth. In another picture, he taught that the Christian is a little child needing the milk of development in order to grow to maturity in Christ. If pictures are not mixed, there is no confusion.