Defending the Gospel
Then fourteen years after I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with me also.
2 And I went up by revelation, and communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to them which were of reputation, lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain.
3 But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised:
4 And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage:
5 To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.
6 But of these who seemed to be somewhat, (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man’s person:) for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me:
7 But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter;
8 (For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:)
9 And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision.
10 Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do.
Paul continued to show his independence from the twelve apostles during a visit to Jerusalem at the meeting of the church council (Acts 15:1-29). Paul took Titus with him on this visit.
The church council at Jerusalem convened to discuss the conflict over circumcision. Certain false brethren had been teaching that obedience to the Mosaic law, and in particular the rite of circumcision, must be observed in order to complete one’s salvation.
Paul communicated “his gospel” to those in authority in the Jerusalem church with the unity of the church at stake.
- Communicate from anatithemi – to set forth in words for others to consider
It must be remembered that Jerusalem was still the center of apostate Judaism. If the prejudices of those in authority in Jerusalem resulted in opposition to Paul’s gospel of grace free from Mosaic ritual a split between the Jewish and Gentile members of the church would be created. A schism of this magnitude would effectively destroy the fledgling church.
Paul brought Titus as a “test case” for the decision in front the council. He was a Greek saved during Paul’s missionary work. Where this confrontation first occurred at the church in Syrian Antioch, the truth that salvation was by grace alone without any additional requirement such as circumcision.
The council in Jerusalem agreed with the church at Antioch and upheld the unity of the church.
The false brethren referred to in verse 4 were the Judaizers. Judaizers were unsaved Jews who had infiltrated the church. These people had accepted Jesus as Messiah but knew nothing of salvation by grace through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. They clung to the salvation by works system of apostate and legalistic Judaism. This very system is what they were trying to bring into the church to displace the precious blood of Jesus.
As an aside… How many of people sitting on pews in our churches have accepted Christ as their “Messiah” –– a political position in their lives? How many are still trusting in themselves –– trusting in good deeds or offerings or sacraments to get rewarded with heaven? How many have still not surrendered to Jesus Christ and accepted the gift of salvation only available from and through Him?
Notice the reason Paul gives for not submitting to the ritual of circumcision, so the truth of the gospel would continue.
Although Paul stressed his independence from the twelve apostles, he also recognized their leadership. They weren’t superior to him, but he describes Peter, James and John as “pillars” of the Jerusalem church. They recognized Paul’s leadership in his ministry to the Gentiles as being equal the Peter’s ministry to the Jews. Paul and his commission are affirmed and symbolized by the three apostle leaders giving to Paul and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship.