COMMENTARY ON GALATIANS
Gal 2:1 “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.”. . . . . . Galatians 2:1-2
AFTER FOURTEEN YEARS – JERUSALEM AGAIN
In the first chapter, Paul has firmly established that the Gospel that he preached was not received from men. He had not counseled with the apostles or elders in Jerusalem concerning the Gospel, and they had not sent him forth to preach. In this regard, the ministry of Paul differs substantially from all other preachers, with the exception of the twelve apostles. All others, so far as the record is concerned, accepted and delivered “the apostles’ doctrine,” referring to the twelve (Acts 2:42; 4:33; 8:14; 2 Pet 3:2; Jude 1:17). However, with Paul, the doctrine was especially revealed to him by Jesus Himself, sometime after He had ascended back into heaven. Paul will establish that the validity of his Gospel is confirmed in two ways. First, by the results that it yielded. Second, by the agreement of the twelve apostles that it was the truth. The apostleship of Paul is devastating to the view of papal authority that is held by the Roman Catholic church. Paul was not taught by Peter, but by the real Head of the church. It is quite true that Jesus said to Peter, “I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matt 16:19). The idea is not that heaven would respond to Peter’s edicts, but that Peter would act in strict concert with determinations made in heaven. The Amplified Bible reads correctly, “whatever you bind (declare to be improper and unlawful) on earth must be what is already bound in heaven; and whatever you loose (declare lawful) on earth must be what is already loosed in heaven.” Additionally, precisely the same promise was spoken to the rest of the apostles in Matthew 18:18. Paul’s Gospel, though not received from the other apostles, was in perfect agreement with what they had been given. This entire incident confirms that Jesus does not reveal contradicting things to those He commissions. When differing messages are preached in His name, one of them must be wrong, and both of them can be. The supposition that denominations are a valid expression of faith is not true. God does not work in a divisive manner, choosing first this message and then another through which to save and sanctify a people unto Himself. This is why Paul was not afraid to go to Jerusalem and declare to the chief apostles precisely what he was preaching. How different it was then!
I WENT UP TO JERUSALEM AGAIN
Gal 2:1 “Then fourteen years after I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with me also.”
There is a difference in establishing a point, and merely recounting history. Paul is making a point, and thus extracts from history things pertinent to his point. This is a consistent practice in Scripture, and yet is generally unknown. There is a view of Scriptural facts that assumes they must all harmonize in the minds of men – i.e. they must be able to see the harmony of them. To be sure, the Word of God in all of its affirmations and teaching is perfectly harmonious, for God is “not the author of confusion” (1 Cor 14:33). However, the harmony exists whether men can see it or not. Sometimes human attempts to harmonize Scripture only obscure the truth. This is because the scope of their understanding is too small. They are really only attempting to harmonize what they know, and yet, what they actually know may be woefully deficient, not at all reflecting the purpose of God. I say this because Paul now passes over a period of fourteen years, just as though it did not exist. This by no means indicates that things taking place during that time were irrelevant or unimportant. It does mean they were not pertinent to the point he was making. Blessed is the person who had handle the Word of God skillfully, always seeking to establish what God Himself has determined.
FOURTEEN YEARS AFTER. While there is some disagreement on this matter, I am taking the view that the “after” refers to the previous trip to Jerusalem that Paul mentioned. That puts this occasion around seventeen years after his conversion. The book of Acts records Paul going to Jerusalem four times. First, after his initial conversion (Acts 9:26). This correlates with Galatians 1:18. Second, when Paul and Barnabas delivered a special offering to the elders in Jerusalem (Acts 11:29-30). Third, when Barnabas and Paul went to Jerusalem concerning the matter of circumcision (Acts 15:2). I am assuming that this correlates with our text, although that is doubted by some. Fourth, when he made a special trip to Jerusalem during which he was arrested, and finally faced a number of courts (Acts 21:15), ending up in prison in Rome.
During these fourteen years a lot had taken place – namely the incidents recorded in Acts 13:1 through at least 14:28. Yet, those events were not pertinent to the point Paul is making in this text. He therefore does not laden their understanding with facts that do not pertain to what he is addressing. That would take away from the strength of what he is saying.
In both preaching and teaching, it is essential that spiritual dialog not be scattered in nature, so that the point being made is not obscured by meaningless trivia, or irrelevant information. I realize there is a sense in which all Scripture is relevant. However, unless that relevance is clear, no real teaching or exposition will result. This is an aspect of edification that must be reflected in what is being taught. There will be growth in this area, to be sure, but it is important that we pick up on the manner in which reports are given, and truth is expounded in the Scriptures. Edification cannot occur where teaching does not make sense.
This is why the teaching of the scribes and Pharisees was like contaminating leaven that led the people astray (Matt 16:6-12). Their teaching attempted to mingle Scripture with human tradition, thus neutralizing the power of truth itself.
I WENT UP WITH BARNABAS. We know from this account that the event being reported took place before Acts 15:30, for it was at that point that Paul and Barnabas separated over the contention concerning John Mark. It was then that Paul chose Silas, who was his noted companion from that point on in his ministry. Silas is mentioned thirteen times from Acts 15:22 through 18:5. Also, it is assumed that “Silvanus,” mentioned in the epistles, was, in fact, Silas, being a variation of that name (2 Cor 1:19; 1 Thess 1:1; 2 Thess 1:1). He also was the scribe for Peter in the writing of his first epistle, which is supposed to have been written around 65 A.D. (1 Pet 5:12).
The phrase “went up with Barnabas,” suggests that correlates well with the events reported in Acts 15, when the brethren from Antioch sent them both to Jerusalem concerning the matter of circumcision. Until that time, Barnabas had been laboring with Paul, and could confirm the reports he would give of the power of the Gospel he had been preaching.
AND TOOK TITUS WITH ME ALSO. Titus is not mentioned in Luke’s account of this trip. However, Luke does report that when Paul and Barnabas went to Jerusalem “certain other of them” from Antioch also went with them (Acts 15:2). Titus is mentioned two times in this book (2:1,3). He is also mentioned in Second Corinthians (2:13; 7:6,13,14; 8:6,16,23; 12:18), and Second Timothy (2 Tim 4:1). We know from the Galatians 2:3 text that Titus was a Greek who was not a Jew, for he had not been circumcised.
Thus Paul comes to Jerusalem with Barnabas, who had participated in his labors, and knows very well what was preached and its results. He also takes Titus, who was a sterling example of a Greek who had not been circumcised, yet had embraced the truth of the Gospel and brought forth fruit. He was a living proof that circumcision was not essential to salvation.
I WENT UP BY REVELATION
2:2a “And I went up by revelation, and communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles . . . “
We must not lose sight of what Paul is seeking to establish. The Galatians had defected from the Gospel, being removed from the One who had called them into the grace of Christ. Paul is showing them that the message which they had now accepted was not the gospel at all. He knows this by the fruit that it produced in them – for every teaching is designed to produce a certain kind of fruit. Sectarian teaching produces a sectarian. It cannot produce an individual that is “born of God.”
There is no room for conjecture here. The kind of response produced by a doctrine is a commentary on the teaching itself. Paul is now drawing attention to the impact of the Gospel he preached, not only among the Galatians, but among stabilized spiritual leaders in Jerusalem. Novices, or spiritual infants, cannot confirm the truth of the message of the Gospel. It is only when they begin to bear fruit that the confirmation is made. The brethren in Jerusalem had produced fruit, and they were fully competent of confirming the truth of what Paul had been teaching. They were more advanced than the brethren in Galatia, and therefore the apostle Paul will mention how they responded to the report of his preaching.
I WENT UP BY REVELATION. Paul did not make a special trip to Jerusalem to obtain the approval of the apostles and elders. He rather went up “by revelation.” Other versions read, “because of a revelation,” NASB “in response to a revelation,” NIV and “in obedience to a revelation.” CSB Thus, it is clear that the apostles did not send for Paul in order that he might give an account to them. Neither, indeed, was this a decision on Paul’s part, as though he required the apostles’ approval in order to be assured that he was preaching the truth.
If this is referring to the trip he made with Barnabas from Antioch concerning the matter of circumcision, then several things become more apparent. First, the fact that Paul was directed by a revelation does not contradict the fact that he and Barnabas were sent by the brethren in Antioch (15:2). If this is the time to which he refers, the Spirit confirmed to his heart that this was the appropriate action to take. Both Paul and Barnabas already knew that circumcision was not required, which is why they disputed with those who insisted that it was (Acts 15:2). However, the Lord chose to resolve this dilemma by having letters from the apostles and elders at Jerusalem direct the Gentile churches on the matter. It was apparently necessary to know that the apostles and elders were in agreement with Paul on this matter. The dialog in Acts 15, however, suggests that they were not yet clear on the matter. The Lord used the occasion described in that chapter to move the apostles and elders to make a discerning decision on the matter. That is the way the Lord used to correct the error. In some way this was revealed to Paul, else he would not have consented to do to Jerusalem.
AND COMMUNICATED UNTO THEM. Paul was truly “not ashamed of the Gospel” that he preached, and therefore divulged it to those in Jerusalem. Here Paul alludes to the manner in which he and Barnabas reported what they preached to the Jerusalem brethren. The record in Acts reads, “Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them” (Acts 15:12). We learn from the Galatian text that Paul did not merely declare the miracles and wonders that God had wrought through them, but also affirmed the means through which such marvelous things were done. It was through “the Gospel” that he preached “among the Gentiles.” In other words, he did what very few contemporary preachers do, he reported the details of the message that he proclaimed. That is something that should be required of every preacher. Of course, this would prove too challenging for some, for they do not actually preach a gospel – a message of good news. They are really nothing more than pretentious problem-solvers – and they are not even good at that.
Now Paul has added yet another proof of the validity of the Gospel that he had preached, particularly to the Galatians. First, he received that Gospel from the Lord Himself (Gal 1:11a.15 Second, he went out to preach by the Lord’s mandate (Gal 1:11b; Acts 9:15; 26:18), and not by a commission from the apostles and elders in Jerusalem. Third, after three years he went to Jerusalem and met with Peter and James, and was approved by them (Gal 1:18-19). Fourth, the churches in Judea, although they had not personally seen Paul, had heard of the change wrought in him, and had believed it (Gal 1:22-23). Fifth, the Galatians themselves had been the fruit of Paul’s preaching, confirming the truth of the Gospel that he declared (Gal 1:6; 3:1-3l 5:7). Paul is thus presenting a sixth proof of the validity of the Gospel that he preached.
You see the extensive thinking that was involved in removing from the One who had called them into the grace of Christ through the Gospel that Paul preached (Gal 1:6). The Galatians had to first receive the false teachers, then listen to what they had to say, then ponder it extensively, and then abandon the truth of the Gospel in favor of “another gospel” (Gal 1:6-7)
LEST BY ANY MEANS I SHOULD RUN IN VAIN
2:2b “ . . . but privately to them which were of reputation, lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain.”
PRIVATELY. Other versions read, “in private,” NASB “in a private meeting,” NRSV “particularly,” GENEVA “between myself and them,” MRD and “in a private session.” NJB
There are some matters that are to be discussed only with those possessing understanding. This was such a matter. Paul did not discuss what he preached with those who were factious, or had no understanding.
THEM WHICH WERE OF REPUTATION. The book of Acts identifies these men as “the apostles and elders” of Jerusalem. When Paul and Barnabas were there, certain from the sect of the Pharisees who believed came saying “it was needful to circumcise them [the Gentiles], and to command them to keep the law of Moses” (Acts 15:5). It was at that point that “the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter” (Acts 15:6). These were “them which were of reputation,”or “seemed to be leaders,” NIV “the acknowledged leaders,” NRSV “recognized as leaders,” CSB “who seemed influential,” ESV and “that were the chief.” GENEVA
These were not men that had been voted into leadership, but who were perceived, or recognized as being leaders. Paul would say of such people, “them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God” (Heb 13:7,17,24). In a purely denominational setting, this is not how those of reputation are perceived. In that kind of environment, leaders are those who have an understanding of the party line, and are willing to promote the sect. However, no genuine spiritual issue can be settled in such a setting.
It was at that gathering of the apostles and elders that Paul and Barnabas reported what “God had wrought among the Gentiles by them” (Acts 15:12). In that report, the message Paul and Barnabas had declared, and were declaring, was shared with the leaders. The apostles and elders would have been able to correlate the message with the effects, for God had born witness to the message they themselves had preached “both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to His own will” (Heb 2:4).
It ought to be noted that the validity of a message must include the approval of truly insightful men who are able to distinguish truth from error. The fact that a person is popular with the multitudes is not of itself sufficient confirmation that what he is saying is true.
LEST I SHOULD RUN OR HAD RUN IN VAIN. Other versions read, “for fear that I might be running, or had run, in vain,” NASB “in order to make sure that I was not running, or had not run, in vain,” NRSV and “that I was not running or had not run in vain [guarding against being discredited either in what I was planning to do or had already done].” AMPLIFIED
The point here is not that Paul was unsure of the truth of what he was preaching. He was not seeking to have his own heart confirmed on the matter. He had been personally taught by Jesus, and was not in doubt about the validity of what he preached. It was his reputation that was of concern – what false teachers were saying about him. Some, for example, had slanderously reported that Paul was teaching, “Let us do evil, that good may come” (Rom 3:8).
There were a significant number of believers who had swerved aside from the Gospel Paul; had preached. The “churches” of Galatia, which were no doubt of considerable number, had “removed from Him that called them into the grace of Christ” (1:6). The Corinthian church would also turn from the Gospel, willingly embracing “another Jesus,” “another gospel,” and “another spirit“ (2 Cor 11:4). The church in Colossae stood in danger of being corrupted by religious philosophers (Col 2:8). Should these brethren, partricularly those of Galatia, fall from grace, Paul would have wasted his time preaching to them, and thus, so far as they were concerned, “run in vain.” If evil reports continued to be circulated about Paul, and were received, his ministry would be neutralized. That is precisely why it is do wrong for men to speak against those who declare the truth.
A shallow thinker might imagine that God can and will stop such reports. But that is foolish thinking. God did not stop Satan from deceiving Eve, or Cain from killing Abel. He did not keep Joseph out of prison, or stop Herod from beheading John the Baptist. In the economy of salvation, things are being accomplished in a hostile environment in which truth and those who deliver it are often maligned. Men are to respond properly under such conditions, siding wih the truth and those who deliver it.
This is why Paul said to Timothy, “Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God”(2 Tim 1:8). Part of sharing in the “afflictions of the Gospel” is siding with and speaking well of those who preach it. When godly men and women stand beside those who speak the truth, it shows the wrongness of those who oppose the truth. It strengthens the hands of the preacher, and encourages the hearts of those who hear him, when he is held in high regard by those who know the truth. This is why Paul is sharing his timewith the leaders in Jerusalem with those in Galatia. They have sided against him, while kingdom leaders had embraced him.