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Grace Christian Huynh
1 “Then fourteen years later I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with me also.”
2 “And I went up by revelation, and communicated unto them that Gospel which I preach among the gentiles, but privately to those who were of reputation, lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain.”
Fourteen years after Paul’s first meeting with Peter, he, Barnabas, and Titus went to Jerusalem. The reason why they went to Jerusalem was because they wanted to address the topic of circumcision with the Church there. Judeans from Jerusalem previously taught the churches in Galatia that circumcision was a necessary component to salvation. Only the circumcised could be saved. However, Paul knew the truth: circumcision was not necessary in order to be saved. Therefore, Paul and Barnabas felt it critical to go to Jerusalem in order to dispel the inaccuracies taught by the Judeans or at least clarify the true Gospel.
Paul was commissioned by the Church at Antioch. Furthermore, he was sent by a revelation from God. This revelation to Paul meant that it was God’s will for Paul to travel to Jerusalem. At Jerusalem, Paul “communicated”, or declared, the true Gospel (the same message he had communicated to the gentiles). However, this time, he preached “privately” to the high officials of the Church, the ones with “reputation.” By consulting privately with the apostles first, Paul could know if the Gospel he preached to the gentiles was the same as the message the apostles taught in their own churches. This discussion of the Gospel in private with the apostles was most likely done in order to avoid the effects of announcing the Gospel publicly to the Church without the personal meeting with the apostles. If Paul had done a public meeting instead of the private meeting, it might have turned the apostles against him and made Paul’s efforts and journey all for nothing. With a private meeting, Paul could at least peacefully explain the Gospel with the apostles in a benevolent atmosphere which would give him a higher chance of reaching his goal in Jerusalem.
3 “But neither was Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, compelled to be circumcised;”
4 “and that because false brethren were brought in by stealth, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage.”
Titus, a new Greek believer, came with Paul on his journey. Paul did not require Titus to be circumcised upon Titus’ conversion. That made Titus a good partner to take along to Jerusalem. In Jerusalem, Titus also was not compelled by the Church to be circumcised. If circumcision was truly necessary in order to be saved, wouldn’t the Church in Jerusalem compel gentiles (Titus) to be circumcised? This lack of consistency to the ceremonial laws proved Paul’s case.
There were false teachers or hypocrites who blended in with the Church (brought in by stealth) and turned good brothers from the true Gospel and pushed the ceremonial laws onto them. The false brethren were ignorant of what it means to be a true believer and were opposed to the mission of Paul. Slavery in this context means to be under the bondage of the law; once you try to keep a ceremonial law in order to be saved, then you are bound to keep all ceremonial laws for that purpose. Liberty in Christ refers to the freedom and peace we experience after our liberation from our sins and from all the ceremonial laws through His death. The death of Christ ended the necessity of all ceremonial laws and washed away all of our sins. In order to be saved, one only needs to repent and believe that fact. Therefore, we are free from the obligations of Judaism. These false brethren “spied” out on Paul and his colleagues’ freedom. In other words, the false brethren took note on how Paul and his colleagues did not follow the ceremonial customs. It is likely that the false brethren would have tried to use this information against Paul and to bring Paul into “bondage.” To bring into “bondage” refers to trying to impose Judaism onto the Church.
In modern times, we can still encounter false brethren. However, false brethren today are different. Instead of trying to get the Church to follow strict ceremonial laws, some actually allow Christian living to be looser. In other words, churches may permit their members to sin. This allowance is due to the Church’s lack of understanding of the scripture. They may permit and excuse these sins by saying that many of the laws that oppose the sin are found in the Old Testament and therefore do not count anymore since we are living in the New Testament. The sins I mention are not usually the sins that are not easily excusable such as murder and stealing. They are usually “smaller” sins that seem to be the most easily excusable such as lying, any actions that mar the body (tattooing or smoking), and sexual sins. Of course, true Christians know that all of these sins are not excusable on any level.
5 “To them we gave place by submission not even for an hour, that the truth of the Gospel might continue with you.”
In order to oppose the false brethren, we should not even give into their teachings for an hour, not even for a second. We should always practice the true Gospel and stay strong in the truth. Our strong stance in the Gospel will further strengthen the Gospel’s hold on the Church. One second of weakness to the false teachings will be enough for it to take footing in the Church and cause inner conflict.
6 “But of those who seemed to be something (whosoever they were, it maketh no difference to me: God accepteth no man’s person) — those who seemed to be somewhat in consultation added nothing to me;”
Paul sees little worth in the inflated self-image of man. No matter how famous or rich or respected someone is in the Church, Paul will deliver the same, unaltered message of God. The truth of the Gospel may not be satisfying to those with stubborn ears, but Paul doesn’t care about hurt feelings. He cares about the truth and what God wants.
7 “but contrariwise, when they saw that the Gospel to the Uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the Gospel to the Circumcision was unto Peter”
8 “(for He that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the Circumcision, that Same was mighty in me toward the gentiles),”
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.”
Paul’s calling was similar to that of the other apostles. While their mission was to reinforce the Gospel into the Jews or the chosen people of God, Paul went out and brought the Gospel to the gentiles. The fact that God specifically wanted Paul to do this proves His love for not just His chosen people, but for all of His children. Paul emphasizes that the same God stretched out His hands to His chosen people and the gentiles.
John, Cephas, and James are described as pillars. That means that they are important people who support the Church; their teachings and fellowship within their community were highly influential. These men also knew the grace of God that was shown on Paul. They were able to serve God and to help Paul spread the truth to the gentiles. The right hand of fellowship means that they all dedicated their lives to the truth and to each other’s work. This friendship and brotherhood is a strong bond that is further fortified by Christ.
10 “Only they would that we should remember the poor, the same as I also was eager to do.”
Paul and the apostles did not discriminate the poor. In fact, it was the poor who needed the Gospel the most because of the love and hope that they could know about from the Gospel. Being an apostle doesn’t mean that one is too special to associate with the poorer citizens. They needed to be humble and extend their love to the poor as well as Jesus would do. Even the poorest of the poor, the slave of a slave, is a child of God. Additionally, the poor could refer to the poor Christians and teachers who also need help for their mission.
Through these verses, we get a good idea about the character of a good Christian and the kind of work Paul did with the help of his colleagues. What we can learn from these verses is the importance of understanding the Gospel and how to identify the false teachers and teachings. The effects of a Church that adopts false teachings can be detrimental to the congregation. Our souls are on the line, so if you are ever unsure about what you have learned, read the Bible and pray to God for guidance. He is the best teacher that we can ever know.
Jay Christian Huynh
1 Then fourteen years later I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with me also.
2 And I went up by revelation, and communicated unto them that Gospel which I preach among the gentiles, but privately to those who were of reputation, lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain.
Paul eventually traveled to Jerusalem with Barnabas and Titus in order to help legitimize his service in Christ before the other apostles. Paul communicated his mission to the apostles in Jerusalem by explaining the revelation he had received from God: that gentiles are able to be saved through Christ’s salvation. Paul needed to explain the Gospel he was teaching the gentiles so that the apostles would understand that Paul was working with God and not working in opposition or conflict with the other apostles. Paul privately brought the Gospel he taught to those who had higher rank within the Church, such as the apostles, so that they could have time to understand Paul’s revelation from Christ before any discussion in public Church meetings.
3 But neither was Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, compelled to be circumcised;
4 and that because false brethren were brought in by stealth, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage.
Titus was one of Paul’s traveling companions for bringing the Gospel to the gentiles. It could be that Paul brought Titus with him to visit Antioch as an example of a Gentile Christian that Paul had taught for the Jewish Christians to meet. The reason Titus had not ever been circumcised was due to the fact that he was a Gentile. Titus was not compelled to follow the unnecessary Jewish tradition of circumcision as a Christian. While Titus has no obligation to follow the unnecessary traditions, there are false Christians who try to mislead other Christians by binding them to the traditions and ceremonial laws. False brethren, or people who had infiltrated the Church by acting as a Christian, do not uphold the values of Christ. False brethren are like wolves in sheep’s clothing, trying to disguise themselves among the Church members to corrupt the Church. The bondage that fake Church members attempt to place on true Christians is the requirement to keep ceremonial laws which serve no use after the death of Christ. Those laws symbolize what will be done by Christ when He comes. For example, the ceremonial law requiring circumcision symbolizes Christ’s intent to cut away our sinful nature. One modern example of false teachers attempting to hold true Christians bondage include denominations, such as the Coptic Orthodox Church, which continues to uphold the tradition of circumcision despite there not being a need to do so. The liberty in Christ is the freedom we experience when Christ had freed us from our guilt. He also redeemed us from any need to uphold man-made traditions and laws to be saved. As a result of this freedom, we no longer have to be bound to the old traditions such as circumcision.
5 To them we gave place by submission not even for an hour, that the truth of the Gospel might continue with you.
We must avoid yielding to or even compromising with false brethren in order to ensure that the truth of God is not tainted by man. If even one false tradition is introduced into the scripture, we have failed to uphold the Word of God, which would mislead others who wish to follow Christ.
6 But of those who seemed to be something (whosoever they were, it maketh no difference to me: God accepteth no man’s person) — those who seemed to be somewhat in consultation added nothing to me;
When Paul brought the Gospel he taught the gentiles to the apostles and elder members of the Church, they did not try to add or change it. By not making alterations to the Gospel for the gentiles, the apostles must have acknowledged that this Gospel was from God.
7 but contrariwise, when they saw that the Gospel to the Uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the Gospel to the Circumcision was unto Peter
8 (for He that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the Circumcision, that Same was mighty in me toward the gentiles),
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.
10 Only they would that we should remember the poor, the same as I also was eager to do.
Those who are uncircumcised are the gentiles, while the circumcised are the Jews. Paul’s purpose was to reach the gentiles with the Gospel of Christ while Peter’s purpose was to bring the Gospel to the Jews. The Gospel, no matter who taught it, came from the Lord. Some of the apostles who served as important members of the Church had given their blessing for Barnabas and Paul to bear witness to the gentiles. These apostles who had approved of Barnabas and Paul were considered to be important members of the Church; they were essential leaders in keeping the Church strong and healthy, like the pillars of a temple. By giving their right hand of fellowship to Paul and Barnabas, they acknowledged that the Gospel Paul taught was indeed from Christ. The apostles had reminded Paul and Barnabas to reach to the poor with the Gospel. Paul, who does not care for the reputation or wealth of those he teaches, had gladly accepted the duty to lead the poor to Christ.
Paul wrote of his experiences with the apostles and of his trip to Jerusalem in order to help explain how the Gospel he taught to the gentiles was indeed from God. He showed that no apostles had opposed his teachings and that they actually accepted the Gospel. Paul also spoke about the attempts of fake Christians to poison the Church with the unnecessary burden of the Jewish traditions and law.