The Book of Galatians
James J. Barker
PAUL'S DEFENSE OF THE GOSPEL
- Galatians 2 is
a continuation from chapter 1 -- the apostle Paul's defence of the Gospel (cf.
- "Then" (2:1) continues his narration. The trip
to Jerusalem referred to in 2:1 is recorded in Acts 15. Since the first church was established
in Jerusalem, and since most of the apostles lived there, it was chosen as the
designated meeting place for this important conference.
- According to
Galatians 2:1 and Acts 15:2, Paul traveled with Barnabas and Titus. (Acts 15:2 does not mention Titus, only
- Barnabas was a
close associate and traveling companion of Paul. Acts 9:26 says that when Paul came to Jerusalem after his conversion on the
road to Damascus, "he assayed to join himself to the disciples: but they were
all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple."
- Acts 9:27 says,
"But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared unto them
how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how he
had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus."
- According to
Acts 4:36, Barnabas' name means "The son of consolation" or "son of encouragement,"
and he certainly lived up to that name (cf. Acts 11:22-26).
accompanied Paul on his first missionary journey (Acts 13:1-4).
- When Paul and
Barnabas returned to Antioch from their first missionary journey, they reported
how the Lord had "opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles" (Acts
- But the
Judaizers (those who mixed law and grace) in Jerusalem were not happy with this
report, so they came to Antioch to stir up trouble. Acts 15:1 says,
"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."
- It is significant that Paul brought Titus with him to
the conference in Jerusalem because Titus was a saved Gentile who had never been
circumcised (Gal. 2:3).
- Therefore, Titus' testimony would reinforce Paul's
position -- i.e., that circumcision has nothing to do with salvation (cf. Gal.
2:4; Acts 15:7-11).
PAUL DID NOT WANT TO RUN IN VAIN
- The Bible often
describes the Christian life as a race to be won (cf. I Cor.
- Paul did not
want to "run in vain" (Gal. 2:2).
Paul said in Philippians 2:16, "Holding forth the word of life; that I
may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither
laboured in vain."
- Paul went up to
Jerusalem "by revelation" (2:2; cf. 1:12).
- Upon arriving
in Jerusalem, Paul preached "privately to them which were of reputation" (2:2), i.e.,
the church leaders.
- Apparently Paul
wanted their approval before he faced the whole assembly. By presenting a united front at the
conference, Paul avoided a split among the preachers.
- Paul was led by
the Lord, therefore he behaved wisely.
He did not want to "run in vain" (2:2).
PAUL HAD TO CONTEND WITH FALSE BRETHREN
- Notice these
"false brethren" crept in "unawares" and "privily"
- Jude 4 says,
"For there are certain men crept in unawares."
- Second Peter
2:1 says, "But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there
shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable
- There are many
similar warnings in Scripture regarding false teachers. The epistle to the Galatians was written
to refute false doctrine.
- Back in Paul's
day, the false brethren were teaching one had to be circumcised in order to be
saved. Today, it is baptism,
or sacraments, or good works, or Sabbath-keeping, etc. (cf. Eph. 2:8,
- Those trapped
in a works-salvation system are in "bondage" (Gal. 2:4; cf. Acts
- According to
the false brethren, Titus needed to be circumcised in order to be saved (Acts
15:1; cf. Gal. 2:3, 4).
- It would have
been wrong for Titus to submit to circumcision, for he was converting to Christ,
not to Judaism (2:3).
- Paul and Titus
understood that to cave in on this issue would seriously compromise the
Gospel. Later on, Paul did
circumcise Timothy, but the circumstances were much different (Acts 16:3). Timothy had a Jewish mother.
Paul felt that Timothy's willingness to submit to circumcision would remove a stumbling block.
- Paul said in I Corinthians 9:22, "To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the
weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some."
- Matthew Henry said Paul "circumcised
Timothy, not, as those teachers designed in imposing circumcision, to oblige him
to keep the ceremonial law, but only to render his conversation and ministry
passable, and, if it might be, acceptable among the Jews that abounded in those
quarters. He knew Timothy was a man likely to do a great deal of good among
them, being admirably qualified for the ministry, if they were not invincibly
prejudiced against him; and therefore, that they might not shun him as one
unclean, because uncircumcised, he took him and circumcised him. Thus
to the Jews he became as a Jew, that he might gain the Jews, and all
things to all men, that he might gain some. He
was against those who made circumcision necessary to salvation, but used it
himself when it was conducive to edification; nor was he rigid in opposing it,
as they were in imposing it. Thus, though he went not in this instance according
to the letter of the decree, he went according to the spirit of it, which was a
spirit of tenderness towards the Jews, and willingness to bring them off
gradually from their prejudices. Paul made no difficulty of taking Timothy to be
his companion, though he was uncircumcised; but the Jews would not hear him if
he were, and therefore Paul will humour them herein."
PAUL WAS ACCEPTED BY THE APOSTLES
- The apostles "added nothing" to Paul's message or to his apostolic
authority (2:6). They approved Paul's message and they declared the Judaizers wrong.
- The other apostles accepted Paul's apostleship, and gave him "the
right hand of fellowship" (2:9).
- This signifies partnership.
God was working "effectually" in all the apostles (2:7, 8). The Lord gave Peter a ministry to the
Jews, and Paul to the Gentiles (2:7-9).
- The first "pillar" of the church mentioned is James (2:9),
probably the pastor of the church in Jerusalem (Acts 15:13; 21:18).
- James was the
half-brother of our Lord (Matt. 13:55; Mark 6:3; I Cor. 15:7), and the brother
of Jude (Jude 1). He wrote the epistle of James.
- Cephas (Peter) and John are mentioned as well
(2:9). Their only suggestion was to "remember the poor," which Paul was "forward (eager) to do"
- This probably refers to the poor
believers in Jerusalem. Acts 11:29 says, "Then the disciples, every man according to his
ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judaea."
- Romans 15:26
says, "For it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain
contribution for the poor saints which are at
- This special
need is often referred to in the New Testament. In addition to this, the church
in Judea was afflicted with famine.
Paul said in Acts 20:35, "to remember the
words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive."