Fourteen years after his conversion, Paul went to Jerusalem to consult with the other apostles. They added nothing to his understanding and gave him the right hand of fellowship.
Paul wrote this letter around 49 AD, about 15 years after the death and resurrection of Jesus to churches he founded during his first missionary journey. After Paul left, the Judaizers began teaching the Galatians they must keep the law to be fully Christian. Paul wrote this letter in response.
Paul opens his letter by defending his authority and his gospel. He argues you can recognize the true gospel by its source and its substance. Its source is divine revelation from God. Its substance is a complete understanding of the cross of Jesus Christ.
Paul defends his trustworthiness. He argues they can have utter confidence in the message he preached to them because he received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.
That raises a new question: how we know Paul’s gospel is the same as the other apostles?
1Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along with me. 2I went up because of a revelation and set before them (though privately before those who seemed influential) the gospel that I proclaim among the Gentiles, in order to make sure I was not running or had not run in vain. 3But even Titus, who was with me, was not forced to be circumcised, though he was a Greek. 4Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in—who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery—5to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you. 6And from those who seemed to be influential (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)—those, I say, who seemed influential added nothing to me. 7On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel to the circumcised 8(for he who worked through Peter for his apostolic ministry to the circumcised worked also through me for mine to the Gentiles), 9and when James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. 10Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do. -Galatians 2:1-10
- Paul went to Jerusalem because of a revelation.
- Paul is referring to Acts 11: 27-30 (not Acts 15). Paul wrote this letter before the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15).
- The revelation is probably the prediction of famine by Agabus (Acts 11:28).
- Paul meets with Peter, James and John in private.
- Paul notes two significant things result from this meeting: Titus was not circumcised (2:3-5) and the other apostles did not change Paul’s gospel (2:6-10).
- Paul taught the cross of Christ is sufficient for salvation. The Judaizers said, belief alone is not enough, everyone must also keep the Law.
- Titus was a test case for the two competing gospels. Titus gives Peter, James, and John a chance to act on which gospel is true.
- The leaders of the church in Jerusalem do not compel Titus to be circumcised. Not only that, they wholeheartedly approve of Paul’s teaching.
- We can verify the message of Christianity through many messengers and testifying miracles. Paul did not receive it alone in a cave. Many people heard Jesus teach, saw his miracles, and saw him raised from the dead.
- The apostles and the prophets received their understanding independently, but they all teach the same message.
- By now Peter, James and Johns are older, and their beards are gray. They have gained a larger-than-life reputation.
- Paul’s words here tell us all Christian leaders are fallible human beings. God does not recruit superheroes.
- God shows no partiality to those we humans revere.
- Paul understands God gave him this role as a gift. He’s not here by accident. Peter’s role isn’t an accident, and neither is anyone else’s. God has a plan and a purpose for each one of us.