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. 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.
- Paul was still going strong after 14 years (vs. 1). Consistency in ministry is an admirable characteristic of a Christian.
- Paul was not a loner. He had other believers around him (vs. 1). This provided support, companionship, and accountability.
- Paul was led to go to Jerusalem “by revelation” (vs. 2). He was wholly submitted to the Holy Spirit, Who guided him through his ministry (see Acts 13:2-4; 16:6)
- Given the context both here (vs. 3) and later in the epistle (5:1-11), Paul was communicating the gospel to Jews and contrasting it with the demands of the Law (vs. 2). He preached the same thing “among the Gentiles”. There were some who were adding circumcision to the gospel and Paul sought to argue against the necessity of that practice for salvation.
- Those who were “of reputation” (vs. 2), likely meaning the leaders or those held in high esteem, had a private sitting with Paul. His reason for this is stated as not wanting to run “in vain”. Those who have influence over others must be influenced themselves. These are the ones who will often determine the success (or failure) of ministries. Paul needed to convince them of the truth so that it would not be undermined.
- One hindrance the Gentiles had in accepting the gospel was the rite of circumcision that some were requiring. However, this was a perversion of the gospel. Titus, as a Gentile, rightly felt no need for circumcision (vs. 3). Today, some people add certain activities to the gospel, which makes it a works-based religious system. This is wrong.
- We must always be looking for false doctrine being brought into the church. Often this occurs when false believers come into our midst (vs. 4).
- Christians have liberty in Jesus Christ (vs. 4). This does not mean that we are free to do whatever we want, but rather, we are free from the bondage of the Law and free from the penalty of sin. Our law is the Law of Christ (Galatians 6:2), which is not burdensome like the Law of Moses (Matthew 11:28-30).
- Some cannot stomach the liberty of the gospel, which seems unreasonable to them. They try to bring believers back into the bondage of the Law (vs. 4).
- The order of the words in verse 5 may give you pause, but the idea is that Paul and his companions did not accept the teaching of the false believers, not even for an hour. They utterly rejected the perversion of the gospel and expected the same of the Galatian believers. This is necessary for “the truth of the gospel” to continue.
- The verb “might continue” is in the subjunctive mood which emphasizes possibility. The continuance of a pure gospel is not guaranteed. It must be diligently communicated and defended.
Ideas for Teaching/Preaching/Personal Study
- Look up other references to Barnabas and Titus (vs. 1) in the New Testament to identify how these companions where helpful to Paul’s ministry.
- Using this and other passages, list the components of “that gospel” (vs. 2, cf. vs. 5) that Paul preached to the Gentiles. In other words, if someone said to clearly and concisely define what the true gospel is, what would you say?
- It is obvious that the Holy Spirit was very active in Paul’s life. How can we ensure that the Holy Spirit is active in our life? What can we learn from Paul?
- What cultural or religious reasons would the Jews have for imposing circumcision on the Gentiles for salvation? How could the Christian Jews have so easily strayed from the simplicity of the gospel message?
- Develop a sermon or lesson on the subject of identify “false brethren” (vs. 4). Be sure to deal with the word “unawares” and how this could happen. There is a great phrase which describes the infiltration of the church (“spy out our liberty”) which was needed to inject the false teaching.
- Another great sermon or lesson topic could center on the phrase “no, not for an hour” (vs. 5), describing utter resistance to false teaching. The concept is that when we give an inch, Satan takes a mile. Paul tells us to not entertain false teaching at all.
- How might the pure gospel continue in the church (vs. 5)? It has been perverted by a number of false teachings through church history. Demonstrate examples in Scripture where false teachings and practices were rooted out (see Acts, 1 Corinthians, and Colossians, for starters).