Summary of Week 3: Galatians 2:1-10
-Paul continues his sequential narrative noting his second appearance in Jerusalem fourteen years after his conversion experience (or since he had last been at Jerusalem). In this passage, Paul takes Barnabas, his faithful advocate and companion, and Titus, a Gentile, to the Jerusalem church to meet with the James, Cephas, and John. He presented before these “pillars” of that church the Gospel that he proclaimed among the Gentiles. At the same time, Paul notes that “false brothers… slipped in to spy out our freedom… so that they might bring us into slavery.” Paul’s language is not neutral or politically correct, in fact, it's fairly straightforward. First, the imposters who wished to have Titus circumcised are referred to as false brothers. These Jewish Christians thought that Paul was distorting the Gospel, compromising the religion in order to make it more palatable to those who would not become Jews (become circumcised). Paul flips their argument on its head writing that it is not he, but they, who are distorting the religion of Christ and they are doing this in no small way. These “false brothers” are undoing the Gospel of freedom and instead offering a false Gospel that amounts to slavery. With the Gospel at stake, Paul refuses to yield, not even for a moment.
-Paul notes that those who seemed to be influential—James, Cephas, and John—affirmed his actions and added nothing to him. They offered Paul the “right hand of fellowship” and thereby acknowledged that Paul was indeed an apostle of Christ. Earlier Paul made it clear that his apostleship was not “by man, or through man,” and here we see the pillars of the church acknowledging that reality. They saw that Paul had been entrusted by God with the gospel to the uncircumcised (the Gentiles). This resulted in victory, not primarily for Paul, but for the advance of the Gospel (unlike what we’ll see next week in Galatians 2:11-21.)
-Interestingly enough, while Paul obviously respects the other apostles, he makes it very clear by the tone of his letter, that the “pillars” are judged by the Gospel and not the other way around. Just as Paul wrote in chapter 1 about the Gospel being over angels, apostles, and even himself, here he confirms what he wrote earlier by noting that “what they [the apostles] were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality.” Despite his earlier notion that he had gone to the “pillars” to make sure he “was not running or had not run in vain,” Paul clearly impresses upon the reader that even if the apostles would have said that his Gospel was too radical, he would have continued in his ministry proclaiming that same Gospel (this impression is made even more explicit in Gal. 2:11-21. A passage will we take a look at next week in which we will witness no Pauline victory--no advance of the Gospel--but instead a political loss). The fact that Paul took the time to gain “the right hand of fellowship” shows that for Paul it very important to have a unified public Christian witness to the Gospel of Jesus.
-The only thing the “pillars” asked of Paul was that he remember the poor, and as Paul notes, that was “the very thing I was eager to do.” Something we will see clearly in other letters of Paul (namely II Corinthians) when he raises funds for the suffering Jerusalem church. The same church these “pillars” oversaw.
In Sum: Last week we looked at Gal. 2:1-10. In that passage Paul, Barnabas, and Titus went to the church at Jerusalem and met with the “pillars” there—James, Cephas, and John. Members of the Jerusalem church wanted to force Titus to become circumcised. Paul says that he did not “yield for even an hour” to those “who came in to spy on our freedom.” Then James, Cephas, and John offered the “right hand of fellowship” to Paul, thus acknowledging that Paul was an apostle (what he had claimed came from the Lord himself and not from people) and that his ministry would be particularly focused to the Gentiles. This resulted in a victory, not primarily for Paul, but for the Gospel.