2 After an interval of fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along also. 2It was because of a revelation that I went up; and I submitted to them the gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but I did so in private to those who were of reputation, for fear I might be running or had run, in vain. 3 But not even Titus, who was with me, though he was a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised. 4 Yet it was a concern because of the false brothers secretly brought in, who had sneaked in to spy on our freedom which we have in Christ Jesus, in order to enslave us. 5 But we did not yield in subjection to them, even for an hour, so that the truth of the gospel would remain with you. 6 But from those who were of considerable repute (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no favoritism)—well, those who were of repute contributed nothing to me. 7 But on the contrary, seeing that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been to the circumcised 8 (for He who was at work for Peter in his apostleship to the circumcised was at work for me also regarding the Gentiles), 9 and recognizing the grace that had been given to me, James and Cephas and John, who were reputed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, so that we might go to the Gentiles, and they to the circumcised. 10 They only asked us to remember the poor—the very thing I also was eager to do. [Gal2:1-10]
As a result of the revelation Paul had referred to earlier (2Cor12:2), the apostle returned to Jerusalem with Barnabas and Titus. At the time Jerusalem was effectively Church Headquarters. That later transferred to Rome which as the Book of Acts indicates in its final chapter had always been God’s intention for the Church. For He knew what was to take place in Jerusalem in AD70, as foretold by Jesus. Such a siege would have impeded the Church’s work and evangelism for decades if not centuries. We know also that Peter died in Rome. Paul effectively affirms Peter (Cephas – note 1) to have been Christ’s chosen leader of the twelve apostles a few verses later where he writes “(the God) who was at work for Peter in his apostleship to the circumcised was at work for me also regarding the Gentiles”. For the subsequent calling of Paul to be an apostle to the Gentiles was a part of the secret plan hidden in the Father that Paul was in the process of revealing (Eph3:9) – a grasp of which is key to understanding the context of the Church and gospel salvation within broader benign providence to which I referred at the end of the previous post.
Paul verifies his understanding of the gospel
Paul writes that he verified the gospel he had been preaching to the other apostles “for fear I might be running or had run, in vain” (v2). That seemingly odd phraseology harks back to what I quoted from in the previous post concerning Paul’s depiction of the Christian pilgrimage as a race to be run and a prize to be attained (1Cor9:24). Such a description will appear particularly strange to those who, like myself in the past, understood the Christian’s position to be far removed from “running and competing in a race for a prize”. For me it was “standing in the grace of God, and resting in the Saviour’s merits, trusting in His completion of the course on my behalf”. Such psychological semantics are of themselves futile as I will continue to demonstrate. Jesus’ teaching should already make that clear, providing it is not regarded as simply “a preparation for the gospel of Paul”. So, to be on the safe side I shall demonstrate the point from the teaching of Paul. Then shall Jesus, Paul, James, Peter, and the gospel writers be at one with each other. And when that is demonstrably the case, we shall know we are in receipt of the fulness of truth.
This early part of the letter hints at what Paul’s epistle to the Galatians shall primarily concern: the distortion of the gospel by “false brethren” who had “sneaked in to spy on the freedom we have in Christ” (v4). Freedom from what? From the law? – no, from the Law [cf. Rom2:13; Rom8:4 Textus Receptus (“spirit” not “Spirit”); Gal5:14; James2:8]. [Proof texting has its limitations and is potentially dangerous; the four texts I have just quoted are mere clues or pointers – proof would be a fully coherent biblical synopsis and I believe such has now been provided]. The clue from the Galatian 2 passage is Paul’s reference to Titus who as a Greek had not been circumcised and (Paul asserts) was not required to be circumcised (v3; note Gal4:9-10 – that affirms more clearly that Paul is referring to the Torah, not God’s law in general as having no role in gospel salvation).
Light has also been shed on this matter by the discovery of Dead Sea Scrolls in the mid-twentieth century. It provides insights to the nature of first century Judaism (and more to the point the predisposition of the Judaisers Paul was dealing with). It clarifies what Paul meant by “faith” and enlightens concerning Paul’s reference on a number of occasions to the faith of Christ usually translated as faith in Christ (except the KJV). As earlier indicated, it is a distinction that is important in perceiving the broader benign providence being outlined. But as ever, I will primarily be relying on Scripture to interpret itself.
Note 1 “Cephas” is Aramaic for “rock”, not stone as many bibles translate the name – [see Biblehub]. Likewise, the Greek form – Peter (Πέτρος) means a boulder, rock or piece of a rock larger than a stone, a stone being “λίθος”. Peter’s name could hardly have been translated into the Greek as πέτρα (a substantial rock) for that is a feminine noun. Λίθος (stone) on the other hand is masculine so if it were intended that Peter be distinguished as a stone rather than a rock the New Testament writers would have translated his name as λίθος (stone).
Related post: The True Gospel