We are going to look more at the history and the background. Let me start with the first five verses, “Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and also took Titus with me. 2 And I went up by revelation, and communicated to them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to those who were of reputation, lest by any means I might run, or had run, in vain.”
“3 Yet not even Titus who was with me, being a Greek, was forced to be circumcised. 4 And this occurred because of false brethren secretly brought in (who came in by stealth to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage), 5 to whom we did not yield submission even for an hour, that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.”
That final statement is the reason that Paul wrote this book: “So that the truth of the gospel would remain with you.” He was in a battle against those preaching a false gospel. They were called Judaizers. They were Jews from Jerusalem who had come into Galatia with the purpose of following Paul into the churches that he had established in the region of Galatia.
There were a number of cities there where he had planted churches. The Judaizers followed him, and they came into those churches preaching a different gospel, a false gospel. Paul was shocked that the believers in Galatia even listened to them. Galatians 1: 8, “But if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!”
This continued to happen throughout Paul’s entire ministry. He would preach the true gospel of grace and faith, and along would come the Judaizers and say, “Gentiles cannot be saved unless they come through circumcision, the Law of Moses, the ceremonies, ancestral traditions.” They made those a necessary pre-salvation work, and they wanted to impose those on Gentiles.
So Paul had to defend the gospel of salvation by grace through faith alone, and that’s why he wrote the book of Galatians. He sets the record straight about the gospel. And the purpose of the book is summed up in verse 5, “so that the truth of the gospel would remain with you”, so you would not lean toward a different gospel, a false gospel which is merely a message that brings about damnation.
There are, on the surface of life in this world, constant wars. We’re more aware of them today than any civilization has ever been because of media. The world is in an endless conflict. It is in human relationships. It is in the family and among family members. It is in communities, in cities, in states, in nations and between nations. It is a difficult world to live in; the curse is apparent to everyone.
But there is a far greater spiritual war going on that rages at more extensive and consequential levels than anything you can see; and that is the war between God and Satan, between God’s truth and Satan’s lies. That goes on all the time. It is an endless battle. And anyone who comes into the Kingdom is defined by God as a soldier who has to defend the gospel and to defend the truth.
Our Lord warned His disciples in Matthew 13, in which He describes life in the kingdom: how it’s going to be, what it’s going to be like to evangelize the gospel in the kingdom. Satan is not just devising religions that are alternatives to Christianity, which are anti-Christianity. But that Satan would spend a great amount of his time and energy in false forms of Christianity.
Our Lord says, “There are going to be tares sown by Satan inside the kingdom, and you won’t be able to tell them apart. So you can’t go accusing people, because you do not know the true believer’s heart. Leave that to Me at the end of the age.” That is our Lord saying that the church is going to be populated by true believers and false believers. We all know this; and we all must contend with this.
Everywhere there will be false teachers; for every preacher in every era, in every place in the world. Because Satan is always at it, not only in religions outside Christianity, but also in forms of Christianity; and that is where he does his greatest damage. So Paul says to the Galatian churches, “Stop believing those false teachers. Come back to the true gospel which I preached to you.”
The point is, if you are confused about the gospel, even though you are a believer, you can’t preach the true gospel. We must first understand the true gospel. This has been Paul’s main burden, that there is ignorance about the true gospel. Consequently, they can’t proclaim that true gospel; and the church then is unable to tell the world its purpose of proclaiming the good news.
The Judaizers were saying, “Paul does not give you the truth. Paul is not an apostle. Paul does not speak for Christ. We are the representatives from the church in Jerusalem. We come from Jerusalem,” they said. “We are your Jewish brothers. We understand the true gospel. We represent the truth, Paul does not.” By doing this they tried to become the satanic sowers of tares in the churches in Galatia.
When Paul writes to Timothy, he warns him about false teachers as a young pastor. When he writes to Titus, he warns him about false teachers. All pastors and all leaders are to be able to refute false doctrine; that is a qualification. They not only are to be able to do it, but they are to do it. Satan and his emissaries are disguised as angels of light, but they are from hell. They are the angels of darkness.
Paul has to defend not only the gospel, but first his own apostleship. He begins by saying, “I did not receive my apostleship from men, nor through the agency of man.” Down in verse 12, speaking of the gospel, he says, “I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it. I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. I received the gospel the same way the original twelve apostles did, from the lips of Jesus.
After his conversion he went into Nabataean Arabia for three years. Paul was given his three years to learn directly from Christ. “I received my message not from men, not even from the apostles, not from the leaders of the Jerusalem church, not from Christians in Damascus where I was brought low when Christ called me; I received it from heaven. This is a gospel that came to me first-person from the Lord.”
But the Judaizers say, “Well, you received your gospel three years out in the wilderness. Maybe that is what you think the Lord gave you. But it doesn’t agree with the Jerusalem leaders. We know that they were afraid of you because you had terrorized the church. Finally Barnabas was willing to take you, and introduce you to the apostles. And they accepted you, and they loved you.
We actually shipped you out so you didn’t get hurt. You went back where you’d come from, the area of Tarsus where you were raised. So maybe because you have not had enough exposure to the apostles, you’ve come up with a gospel of anarchy. You have developed your own sectarian gospel, and it’s different than Peter’s, James and John, the three leading apostles.
Paul answers it in Galatians 2:1, “Then after fourteen years I went again up to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along also.” What did you go back for this time? I went back to have the apostles hear my gospel, hear the accounts of my gospel, and tell me whether this was, in fact, the true gospel. I had learned that gospel for three years in Nabataean Arabia where I was being tutored by Jesus.
I preached for fourteen years in Syria and Cilicia, and I saw that gospel work for seventeen years. I was with the apostles fifteen days, and then on one other occasion I was with them for a very brief time. Apart from that, I was alone with the Lord in my ministry for seventeen years. But I came to Jerusalem after three years in Arabia and fourteen years of ministry and brought Barnabas, my companion.
Paul founded the churches in Syria and Cilicia. He worked with Barnabas. A church was started in Antioch in Syria. It was about the time of the death of Herod Agrippa 44 AD or so that he accompanied Barnabas on that relief mission to Jerusalem. Acts 11 and 12 tells us about it. They brought relief to the famine-struck believers there and in Judea. He then went right back to Antioch.
After that Paul went on his first missionary journey. Coming back from that first missionary journey, he remained in Antioch, and finally makes this trip to Jerusalem fourteen years after that with only that one brief delivery of some goods to help the saints there. It’s the trip recorded in Acts 15. Meanwhile some Judaizers came down from Judea and began teaching the brethren this false gospel.
Paul and Barnabas opposed them vehemently. Then it was determined that Paul and Barnabas should go to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders concerning this issue. When they arrived at Jerusalem, they were received by the church, and reported all that God had done with them. But some of the Pharisees said, ‘It is necessary to circumcise them and to direct them to observe the Law of Moses.”
Notice what it says in verse 2, “It was because of a revelation that I went up.” Paul is still getting direct revelation from God. He got direct revelation on the road to Damascus. He got direct revelation in the house of Ananias. He received direct revelation three years in Arabia. He has been getting direct revelation from the Lord for the fourteen years of his ministry. And that’s the reason he goes up to Jerusalem.
That’s very important to state, because Paul is not questioning his gospel, he is being sent there by God. This revelation may have come to Paul first. It may have come to the church leaders with Paul collectively. But they all agree that he needs to go to Jerusalem. This is how the early church and the apostles functioned, with direct revelation. Verse 2: “I submitted to them the gospel which I preach among the Gentiles.”
Verse 2 continues, “but also privately to those who were of reputation.” That would be to the apostles named in verse 9: James, Peter and John. The Judaizers, though they believed in Christ, held on to their Judaism, and therefore held on to their spiritual pride, and they even looked down at the apostles. Verse 2 continued, “Lest by any means I might run, or had run in vain.” That’s genuine honesty.
Paul wanted their affirmation. He said, “I’ve never doubted the truth that the Lord gave me. I heard it from His lips. I’ve never doubted its power. I’ve watched it for seventeen years. I’ve seen it in my own life. How else can you explain me?” I know the truth of it, but I want apostolic affirmation. And the confirmation came quickly. It came almost instantaneously.
Verse 3, “Yet not even Titus who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised.” That’s the answer. Let’s not talk about theoretical things, let’s talk about practicality. He brings Titus, a Gentile, a living illustration. Paul calls him “my true child in a common faith.” Titus, a believer transformed, possessor of the Holy Spirit, companion of Paul and Barnabas.
Here is a living, redeemed, Spirit-indwelt Gentile who has not been circumcised, and who has not been made to conform to ancestral traditions or Mosaic ceremonies. What would the apostles do with him? Because whatever they would do with him would be their response to the issue. But, “Though he was a Greek, he was not compelled to be circumcised while at Jerusalem in the presence of the apostles.”
The Judaizers were looking for a corroboration of their view and they failed to get it. If the Jewish apostles in Jerusalem didn’t require this Gentile to be circumcised, then how could the Judaizers require it all over the Gentile world? But wasn’t Timothy circumcised after his conversion?” Yes in Acts 16. But Timothy’s mother was Jewish. And Timothy needed to enter into the synagogue Paul would go.
It added nothing to his life spiritually, it added nothing to his life in a saving sense. It was simply a way to give him access to the Jews along with Paul. But Titus is a Gentile. From the beginning the apostles James, Peter and John agreed with the position of Paul and Barnabas. No circumcision is not necessary for salvation, no ritual, no external ceremony. I might add no baptism, no sacrament.
Acts 15:6-8, “Now the apostles and elders came together to consider this matter. 7 And when there had been much dispute, Peter rose up and said to them: “Men and brethren, you know that a good while ago God chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. 8 So God, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit to enable them to speak different languages.”
Barnabas and Paul related the signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles. The Council at Jerusalem said, “No circumcision is required. There is no work, or ceremony or tradition necessary for salvation. The Gentile is saved exactly like the Jew through faith apart from works.” They formulated a letter that said, “Be careful not to purposely offend the Jews, but preach the gospel of faith alone.”
The Judaizers had voiced their opinions, and they had been denounced by the apostles. Verse 4 says, “This was because of the false brethren secretly brought in,” (by Satan) “They came to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, in order to bring us into bondage.” The Christian is free in Christ; free from any external ceremonies and rituals. “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” Let us pray.