DEFENSE IN JERUSALEM
Lord, thank You for freeing me from the yoke of the Law.
Read GALATIANS 2:1–10
Paul Accepted by the Apostles
2 Then after fourteen years, I went up again to Jerusalem, this time with Barnabas. I took Titus along also. 2 I went in response to a revelation and, meeting privately with those esteemed as leaders, I presented to them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. I wanted to be sure I was not running and had not been running my race in vain. 3 Yet not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek. 4 This matter arose because some false believers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves. 5 We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you.
6 As for those who were held in high esteem—whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not show favoritism—they added nothing to my message. 7 On the contrary, they recognized that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the uncircumcised,[a] just as Peter had been to the circumcised.[b] 8 For God, who was at work in Peter as an apostle to the circumcised, was also at work in me as an apostle to the Gentiles. 9 James, Cephas[c] and John, those esteemed as pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the circumcised. 10 All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along.
a Galatians 2:7 That is, Gentiles
b Galatians 2:7 That is, Jews; also in verses 8 and 9
c Galatians 2:9 That is, Peter; also in verses 11 and 14
New International Version (NIV)
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“Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it” (1 Cor. 12:27). With all our differences, we are united in Christ. How marvelous!
When Paul narrates that he visited Jerusalem in response to a revelation (2), had a private meeting with the Jerusalem leaders where an agreement was sealed by a handshake (2,9), and was asked to remember the poor (10), his account corresponds more with Acts 11:19–30 than with Acts 15. It seems that Paul was in Antioch for a year before he embarked on this Jerusalem visit (Acts 11:26,30). Antioch was the first mixed church of Jewish and Gentile believers and became Paul’s home church, adopting his vision of Jews and Gentiles reconciled and united in Christ.
Some false believers had infiltrated the Antioch church (not the private meeting in Jerusalem). Embracing their beliefs would have compromised the truth of the Gospel (4,5). If these infiltrators were Law-keeping Jewish believers (Judaizers), who had come from Jerusalem to impose the Mosaic Law on the Antioch church, Paul would have wanted to clarify his ministry with the Jerusalem leadership. Since Paul is about to start his first missionary journey (Acts 13,14) which includes establishing the Galatian churches, he seeks assurance from the Jerusalem church that his ministry to the Gentiles be not in vain. Titus, an uncircumcised Gentile convert, becomes a test case: since the Jerusalem leaders do not require his circumcision, it would follow that they would not demand it of the Galatians either (Ben Witherington III, The Acts of the Apostles: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, 134–135).
Paul’s assertion that he is keen to remember the poor is no hollow statement. A large part of Paul’s ministry in the 50s comprised collecting money from his churches in Macedonia and Achaia for the impoverished Jerusalem church (Rom. 15:25–28; 2 Cor. 8,9). For Paul, proclaiming the Gospel, planting churches and providing for the poor are equal aspects of his overall ministry.
Paul was no lone ranger; he partnered with the Jerusalem church. Reflect on how you can work together better with fellow believers for the sake of Christ’s church.
Lord, bring me to a place where I can fully appreciate the work of Your hand in establishing the belief system of the early church.