In my last post Paul had been giving us a summary of how he came to Yeshua. We last left him as he had gone to Syria and Cilicia.
Galatians 2:1-10 (KJV)
Then fourteen years after I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with me also.
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.
But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised:
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:
To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.
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:
But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter;
(For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:)
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.
Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do.
"After fourteen years," Paul went back to Jerusalem with Barnabas and Titus (verse 1). This fourteen year period of time began with Paul's conversion on the Damascus Road or from his first visit to Jerusalem.
Barnabas was a Jew from Cyprus, who became a follower of Messiah Yeshua. In Acts 9:27 Barnabas introduced Paul to the Apostles in Jerusalem. In Acts 11:22-26 Barnabas was sent to Antioch and from there sought Paul in Tarsus, bringing him back to Antioch with him. Paul and Barnabas are commissioned to go on Paul's first missionary journey together.
Titus was a Gentile believer in Messiah Yeshua who apparently knew Paul and Barnabas from Antioch.
Verse 2 states that Paul went up "by revelation, " in other words he decided to go back to Jerusalem not because of any human person telling him to do so, but because of a revelation by the Holy Spirit. His purpose in going was to communicate with the apostles the gospel message that he was preaching to the Gentiles. He spoke privately to those of reputation, meaning those in authority, probably James, Peter, and John (see verse 9). Verse 2 also states that the reason why Paul wanted to discuss his gospel message with the apostles was so that his ministry was not in vain. Since Paul had received his message directly from God, he was not concerned that his message was in error, but knew that without agreement from the apostles his message would be questioned (which apparently happened as evidenced by the false teachers coming in and making accusations). By being able to relate this history the accusers' accusations were diminished.
In verse 3 Paul points out that Titus, the Gentile was not compelled to be circumcised by the apostles. This is a key verse that helps us to understand what the controversy in Galatians is all about. However, it is also part of what has led many believers astray. We will come back to this.
Verse 4 gives us even further information about the false teachers. They came in with an ulterior motive to spy out the liberty that the believers had in Yeshua. They wanted the new believers to come under bondage. Paul strongly resisted the false teachers and wouldn't allow them even for an hour to have their way (verse 5).
The apostles that Paul spoke to, the ones who seemed to be of reputation, added nothing to Paul's Gospel message. This was the decision of the apostles, that Paul's message was acceptable to them. Paul added in this verse (6) that rank or importance didn't really matter to God nor to him. (An aside: Paul seems to be a rather stubborn and unique character!)
Verse 7 indicates that Paul was acknowledged as an apostle to the Gentiles in the same way that Peter was an apostle to the Jews. Notice how the word "circumcision" is used here. It denotes a group. It means the "Jews." In the same way, "uncircumcision" refers to Gentiles. Verse 8 informs that the power behind both men is God. The apostles then gave Paul and Barnabas the "right hand of fellowship." They were acknowledging that both groups were of the one body of Yeshua.
Verse 10 ends by the apostles instructing Paul and Barnabas not to forget the poor. This was the only area where the apostles apparently thought that Paul and Barnabas might fail, but Paul already had this in mind.
Although this post is already lengthy, it is essential for us to understand what the difference was between the gospel preached by Paul and that of the apostles. From Galatans 1 we saw that the message really sounded the same, that God raised Yeshua from the dead, that Yeshua gave himself for our sins, and that He might deliver us from this present evil world. In this regard the message was the same.
Prior to Paul's preaching to the Gentiles, only Jews became believers in Messiah Yeshua (for the most part). Being Messianic differentiated the believers from all the other sects of Judaism, but it was Judaism. There are no accounts of God informing the apostles of any new revelation. The Jews simply believed in Yeshua and by faith they entered the Kingdom of God.
As the Gentiles came in contact with the Messianic Jewish believers they also found faith in Yeshua. They experienced the same results as the Jews (receiving the Holy Spirit). They were incorporated into the body of Messianic believers alongside their Jewish brothers and sisters.
This is where the trouble began, because of the Jews' understanding that only Jews were to have a part in the World to Come. Even though the Old Testament is clear that Gentiles would be a part of the Kingdom in the World to Come they didn't fully understand. Paul did. This was really what his revelation from God was about, that Jews and Gentiles together would make up the Kingdom of God. They would both come to faith in the same way.
The false teachers, however, apparently had heard that these Gentiles were being accepted without becoming Jews first. This was not acceptable from their understanding. The Gentiles needed to go through ritual conversion, which consisted of circumcision (if male), agreeing to obey the written as well as Oral Law, paying the temple tax, and immersion.
This is what was contrary to Paul's gospel message. The Gentiles did not need to go through ritual conversion. They were accepted as they were. Titus had become a believer and had been admitted to fellowship without being compelled to being circumcised. Just like no one can force someone to be baptized, no one can be compelled to be circumcised. This doesn't mean that circumcision or baptism is not commanded by God.
Paul's "new" message was not really new, but a refinement of what God had already revealed. The false teachers wanted the Gentile believers to come under a bondage that the Jews themselves had not been able to bear (the Oral law). Paul resisted and shared his message with the apostles and they added nothing to Paul's understanding and they gave him their support.
We will see how this plays out in future posts!