Monday, May 02, 2011

Galatians Part 5: Paul defends his apostleship - (b) (1:10-2:14)

III. Paul defends his apostleship continued...

5. Paul’s second visit to Jerusalem—2:1-10 

2:1—Then after a period of fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem—Fourteen years later he went back up to Jerusalem. We cannot be absolutely certain whether the fourteen years followed his conversion or his previous visit to Jerusalem (1:18). However, it may be a reference to his previous visit to Jerusalem. First, Paul is busy demonstrating his independence from the apostles in Jerusalem. Thus he would be showing that it took fourteen years between visits. Second, the Greek construction differs between 1:18 and here. In 1:18 Paul writes epeita meta tria ete where it refers to his conversion whereas here in 2:1 he writes epeita dia dekatessaron eton. In 1:18 the direct translation is “then after three years” and in 2:1 it is “then through fourteen years.” I am sure that if Paul wanted both phrases so close to each other in his writing to mean the same he could have made it the same. Then both occurrences would have meant a dating from his conversion. Yet, in 2:1 he uses the word through to explain what he means. Since both phrases have visits to Jerusalem in mind, it is possible that Paul is referencing the first visit here and then showing that through another fourteen years he visited many other places and only then returned to Jerusalem.

When we look at the context of this verse, where the context informs us that Paul is still dealing with the issue of the legalists and the solution of it, then this visit of Paul to Jerusalem must be his visit mentioned in Acts 15. This being the case, the record in Acts also informs us that Paul indeed visited Jerusalem another time after his first visit and before the visit mentioned here in 2:1. Is Paul then lying about his visits to Jerusalem? No! The other visit Paul made to Jerusalem and indeed Judea had nothing to do with the issue at hand. The prophet Agabus came from Jerusalem to Antioch and indicated “by the Spirit that there would certainly be a great famine all over the world.” (Ac 11:28) As a result the church in Antioch collected a contribution as they had means and sent it to the elders by Barnabas and Paul. Nothing more is said about this visit. From this we can see that Paul’s visit was not to confer with the apostles but simply to deliver the collected contribution. This visit could have been to Jerusalem but it also could not have been. First, we are told that they made this collection for “the brethren living in Judea.” (Ac 11:29) Jerusalem was the capital of Judea for the Christians since that was where the apostles resided. If indeed they did go to Jerusalem it would have been mentioned explicitly. Second, the text refers to the elders alone in verse 30 and makes no mention of the apostles. If they did indeed go to Jerusalem, surely it would have included the apostles here as it does in Ac 15:2, 4, 6, 22, 23 with the visit also mentioned in Gal 2:1. Third, it seems that the custom of the time was that in the case of doing an important work as Barnabas and Paul did here, that when a region was mentioned the capital city was also implied. Fourth, it could be that the reason why only the elders are mentioned is that the apostles were absent from Jerusalem at this time. However, we are nowhere told explicitly in Acts—anywhere—that no apostles were present in Jerusalem. 

with Barnabas, taking Titus along also—The visit to Jerusalem mentioned here must have been the one in Acts 15 since Paul and Barnabas again went together, but this time taking Titus with them. The reason why  this information is important in determining which visit to Jerusalem this was is that in verse 3 it is mentioned explicitly that Titus was not “compelled to be circumcised.” This fits the context of Acts 15 beautifully. 

2:2—It was because of a revelation that I went up—We do not know what this revelation was. However, since Luke told us of the outward cause in Acts 15 why Paul and Barnabas went to Jerusalem, Paul could also have received an inward revelation from God to go. A similar pattern can be found when Peter was asked by Cornelius to come to his home (Ac 10:1-23). 

and I submitted to them the gospel which I preach among the Gentiles—In chapter 1 Paul asserted his independence from the other apostles as far as his ministry as apostle was concerned. In chapter 2 Paul affirms the correctness of his gospel. This is why Paul informed his readers that he submitted his gospel to the leaders in Jerusalem. If they accepted his gospel then the legalists had no ground against Paul and his gospel. The gospel that Paul preached was the gospel of God’s grace. 

but I did so in private to those who were of reputation, for fear that I might be running, or had run, in vain—Even though the council in Jerusalem mentioned in Acts 15 was a very public council, Paul submitted his gospel to them privately before the council started.

Those of reputation could have been Peter, James and John (2:9). Peter is the one who spoke after some apostolic deliberations with the elders (Ac 15:6). James made the final judgement on this issue (Ac 15:13).

Paul knew that if the Jerusalem church did not affirm his gospel as the true gospel, his labours would have been in vain. This means that all the Gentiles that came to know Christ through his ministry and who were free from Mosaic legislation would indeed not have been saved after all. This simply shows the human side to Paul. He also had fears but he was also very concerned about the truth. 

2:3But not even Titus, who  was with me, though he was a Greek, was compelled to be circumcisedPaul had been preaching the gospel to the Gentiles after the Jews had rejected the gospel (Ac 13:46). Now since some legalists claimed that even Gentiles must be circumcised to be saved (Ac 15:1), the church in Antioch sent Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem concerning this issue. After deliberations the apostles and the elders compiled the following letter that explicitly excluded circumcision for the Gentile Christians.

“[23] ‘The brothers, both the apostles and the elders, to the brothers who are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia, greetings.  [24] Since we have heard that some persons have gone out from us and troubled you with words, unsettling your minds, although we gave them no instructions,  [25] it has seemed good to us, having come to one accord, to choose men and send them to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul,  [26] men who have risked their lives for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ.  [27] We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will tell you the same things by word of mouth.  [28] For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements:  [29] that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.’” (Ac 15:23-29 ESV)

When Paul wrote that “not even Titus, who was with [him], though he was a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised” he effectively put an end to the plans of the legalists that came to Galatia. Paul probably took Titus to Jerusalem as a test case for the apostles and elders to consider. Paul’s fears of verse 2 never materialised. 

2:4—But it was because of the false brethren—Who were these false brothers? These were the same people who wanted all new believers to be circumcised if they had not already been.

The phrase false brethren comes from the Greek pseudadelphos (ψευδαδελφος), meaning “false brother, i.e. one who pretends to be a Christian brother, but whose claim is belied by his unbrotherly conduct.”1 It is someone who is “a Christian in name only.”2 These men were therefore not Christians. Considering what they preached—adding the law to the gospel—and the fact that Paul clearly put God’s curse on them (Gal 1:8-9), these men could not have been Christians. 

secretly brought  in, who had sneaked in to spy out our liberty which we  have in Christ Jesus, in order to bring us into bondage—These men were sneaky, underhanded and did not conduct themselves as Christians should. The phrase secretly brought in comes from the Greek pareisaktos (παρεισακτος), which means to have been in “a negative sense secretly brought in, sneaked or smuggled in, joined under false pretenses.”3 The idea of this word is that of an inside job. Someone on the inside sneaked these false brethren in. From the context it seems that these men were secretly brought in to the council in Jerusalem. In Ac 15:5 “some of the sect of the Pharisees who had believed stood up, saying, It is necessary to circumcise them and to direct them to observe the Law of Moses.” The same group that Paul wrote about are in view here. Luke wrote that these men from the sect of the Pharisees believed. However, after reading the description Paul gave of them, these men were not Christians but in name only. How could Luke say they were believers in Acts 15.

Berkhof4 writes of the elements of faith. He defines three elements that are necessary for saving faith. First, there is knowledge. It is a positive recognition of the truth and certainty of God’s Word as it relates to salvation and man’s condition. The second element is assent. This holds a deep conviction—an emotional element—of the truth of the object of our faith. The last element is trust. Faith is not merely intellectual and/or emotional, but it is also a matter of intense trust in the object of faith—Jesus Christ. It is a personal trust in Christ as Lord and Saviour.

If we consider these elements of faith then it is certainly possible that the level of belief for these Pharisaic Christians was knowledge and assent. The fact that Paul writes they are accursed and are false brethren indeed points us to the fact that these men did not have a personal trust in Christ as Lord and Saviour. If this were the case then these men would not have needed to supplement their salvation with the Law. They would have understood the importance of salvation by grace alone through faith alone because of the work of Christ alone.

These men had sneaked in previously into the church with two purposes in mind. To spy out the liberty the church had in Jesus Christ and to bring the church into bondage. The bondage Paul wrote about here is the bondage of making the church believe that the Mosaic law was essential for salvation. We see this clearly in Ac 15:5, “But some of the sect of the Pharisees who had believed stood up, saying, It is necessary to circumcise them and to direct them to observe the Law of Moses.” 

2:5—But  we did not yield in subjection to them for even an hour, so that the truth of the gospel would remain with you—Paul ensured the Galatians that they did not yield to the legalists at all. The stakes were high, for an infiltration of this type meant that grace was at stake and that Christianity could become a mere modified form of legalistic Judaism. The court was in session and justification by faith was on trial.

They did not subject themselves to the legalists so that the truth of the gospel would remain. The importance of truth is explained in the article "Importance of truth."

The phrase “truth of the gospel” stands in stark contrast to the “false brethren” of the previous verse who wanted to subvert the gospel. The end result is either a pure gospel or no gospel at all. The gospel cannot be added to or subtracted from. As soon as this is done it is no gospel at all. With Paul, we need to stand for the truth of the gospel in thought, speech, conduct and writings. 

2:6—But  from those who were of high reputation (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality) -- well, those who were of reputation contributed nothing to me—When Paul mentions “those who were of high reputation” he is referring to the apostolic leaders in Jerusalem. These are the same men mentioned in verse 2. Paul added concerning them that it did not matter what they were, since  God shows no partiality. God is not a respecter of persons. Paul’s intention here is not disrespect toward the apostles in Jerusalem. He is simply stressing his independence from them.

The apostolic leaders did not contribute anything to Paul. “The Jerusalem apostles imposed on him no burden of doctrine or practice, and imparted to him nothing in addition to what he knew.”5 Wuest adds, “Not only did Paul successfully maintain his position with regard to the matter of Gentile immunity from the obligation of circumcision at the Jerusalem Council, but the persons of eminence in the church there, imposed no restrictions nor commands upon him relative to the matter.”6 

2:7—But on the contrary, seeing that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been to the circumcised—Contrary to the hope of the legalists, the apostolic leadership in Jerusalem came over boldly to Paul’s side when they heard Barnabas and Paul relating “what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles.” (Ac 15:12 ESV) This does not mean that the apostles were previously on the side of the Judaizers. It simply means that this issue had not previously come to a head, but now that it did, the apostles boldly sided with Paul.

When Paul writes that the apostles saw that he “had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised,” we can see how this influenced them when Paul and Barnabas related the events of their missionary journeys in Ac 15:12. Peter, on the other hand, was the apostle primarily to the Jews. 

2:8—(for He who effectually worked for Peter in his apostleship to the circumcised effectually worked for me also to the Gentiles)—Paul ensures his readers that the same God who worked for Peter to the Jews also worked for Paul to the Gentiles. It was the same gospel and the same God.

2:9—and recognizing the grace that had been given to me—When the apostles heard all the amazing things as told by Paul and Barnabas, they recognised the grace of God that was with them. They knew immediately that it was God at work.

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—Paul mentions the men of reputation again in this verse to show his total acceptance by the apostolic leadership in Jerusalem.

There are four possible reasons why Paul mentions James first. “First, Paul showed his respect to the mother-church at Jerusalem and its highly esteemed leader. Second, this James was the brother of our Lord. Third, he had presided at the Council. Fourth, his well-known strictness as to the observance of the Mosaic law gave special weight to his support of Gentile freedom from the law.”7

These pillars of the church gave their support to Paul and Barnabas by accepting them into their circle of fellowship. They accepted the fact that Paul and Barnabas were called to minister to the Gentiles and they to the Jews. 

2:10—They only asked us to remember the poor -- the very thing I also was eager to do—Those of reputation—James, Peter and John—did ask one thing of them. To remember the poor. This however, was something that Paul always had in mind. He was always organising collections for the poor. 

6. Paul rebukes Peter—2:11-14

2:11—But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned—Paul now comes to the highest point of his defense of his apostleship. The word “but” creates a contrast between the fellowship Paul enjoyed with the apostles in Jerusalem and what occurred when Peter came to visit in Antioch. Even though Paul experienced great fellowship with the apostles in Jerusalem he did not squirm to oppose anyone of them if he thought they were wrong. In this case he opposed Peter. 

2:12—For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision—Paul gives us the reason why Peter was condemned by Paul for his actions. Even though they have already gone through the Jerusalem council and it was made clear that the Gentiles were under no obligation to follow any of the Mosaic laws, Peter still withdrew from eating with the Gentiles when the Judaizers arrived in Antioch. To Paul this was hypocritical and a denial of the gospel of grace. God, sometime before this, already made it clear to Peter that the legislation regarding eating food were done away when He showed him the vision in Ac 10. This should not have been difficult for Peter. He was already shown the truth concerning the matter in a vision from God, and he had the backing of the council at Jerusalem.

2:13—The rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy—As a result of Peter’s hypocrisy the rest of the Jews and even Barnabas were influenced toward hypocrisy. The fact that Paul finally adds the defection of Barnabas to the list of defectors shows how difficult it was for Paul to accept this. Apart from Paul, Barnabas had been the most effective minister to the Gentiles. This must have felt like a betrayal to Paul. This could also have been the start of their separation mentioned in Ac 15:39. 

2:14—But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of all, If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?—The word “straightforward” in the Greek is orthopodéo (ορθοποδεω), which means to walk straight or upright. Paul uses it here in the present tense (ορθοποδουσιν) which makes it clear that he realised that Peter and the others did not continually walk upright concerning the gospel as this case proves. This was a blight on Peter’s record and also on that of the others including Barnabas.

It is for this reason that Paul rebuked Peter publicly. It was important for Paul to openly correct an error which openly injured the gospel. The same is desired from us today! Since the Jerusalem council, and indeed since the vision that Peter had, Peter knew that he no longer needed to follow the Mosaic laws on circumcision and food. As a result he was indeed living like the Gentiles in this regard. However, with this incident in mind Paul rebukes Peter for living like a Gentile, even though he was a Jew, and then expected the Gentiles to conform to Jewish laws. This was totally abhorrent to Paul. 

C. Questions to ponder

1. Who’s favour should we be seeking?
2. If we are seeking the favour of man, are we still bond-servants of Christ?
3. How did Paul come to know the gospel he preached?
4. As an unsaved Jew, what was Paul’s attitude toward Christianity?
5. When was Paul’s salvation secured?
6. Who was Paul mainly to preach to?
7. Where did Paul preach the gospel first?
8. How long after his conversion did Paul go to Jerusalem?
9. How long did Paul stay there?
10. Why did he stay as long as he did?
11. Where did Paul go to after he visited Jerusalem?
12. Did the churches in Judea know Paul in person at the time he visited Jerusalem?
13. Was James, the Lord’s brother an apostle?
14. How long between Paul’s visits to Jerusalem?
15. Why did Paul take Titus to Jerusalem?
16. Why did Paul go to Jerusalem this time?
17. Who were the false brethren?
18. Did Paul preach a different gospel than the other apostles?
19. Why did Paul rebuke Peter? 

End Notes

[1] Arndt, William, F. and Gingrich, F. Wilbur, A GREEK-ENGLISH LEXICON of the NEW TESTAMENT and Other Early Christian Literature, Second Edition, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago and London, 1979, p891.
[2] Friberg, Timothy & Friberg, Barbara & Miller, Neva F., Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament, Baker Books, Grand Rapids, MI, 2000, p413.
[3] Ibid., p299.
[4] Berkhof, Louis, Systematic Theology New Combined Edition, Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI, 1996, p503-506, Systematic Theology.
[5] Wuest, Kenneth S., Wuest’s Word Studies from the Greek New Testament for the English Reader, Volume One, Galatians in the Greek New Testament, Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI, 1973, p63.
[6] Ibid., p62.
[7] Ibid., p66.

For more on this series, simply visit the Galatians label.
The next part in the Galatians series will be available next Monday!

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