Sometimes It Takes a Little Digging
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.
Sometimes (actually quite often) Bible Study requires some effort on our part. It’s not always easy. The thorny grammatical and interpretive issues that meet the modern reader at almost every step through 2:1–10 require patience. [Das, A. A. (2014). Galatians. (p. 161). Saint Louis, MO: CPH.] Apparently, these 10 verses fall into that category. But they are crucial to the entirety of the book of Galatians, for in them we find Paul’s passionate response to a heresy that was invading the Church in Galatia. People from outside of the Christian community were at work to add something to the faith which God did not require. Paul is addressing a fundamental question with a strong and unyielding answer.
“The basic issue was this: Is the Law necessary for justification, or is it not?… Circumcision was not necessary for justification.” Luther, Martin (AE 26:85). Paul’s case for this truth is strong and persuasive. These 10 verses are rather surprising in that he intersperses His own opinions into the text. His passion for this topic shows in that uncharacteristic writing.
At other times, Paul’s agitation expresses itself in what are called anacolutha, broken sequences that do not seem to correspond to what immediately precedes. One could skip from 2:1–2 to 2:6–10 without breaking stride.
Das, A. A. (2014). Galatians. (p. 160). Saint Louis, MO: CPH.
[An anacoluthon is an unexpected discontinuity in the expression of ideas within a sentence, leading to a form of words in which there is logical incoherence of thought. Anacolutha are often sentences interrupted midway, where there is a change in the syntactical structure of the sentence and of intended meaning following the interruption.]
Paul brings with him into the conversation, Titus- a walking object lesson for his point. Titus is a Gentile who has come to know Jesus as his Lord and Savior. And he is not been circumcised. He did not come through Jewish traditions into the faith, for that is not necessary. This is an important point and one that will be stressed over and over through this letter.
With the presence of the uncircumcised Titus, Paul forces the Jerusalem apostles and leadership to face the practical implications of a Gospel message that places Christ first. Bringing Titus along was a provocative move, and the situation soon became more complicated than Paul had anticipated thanks to the intrusion of the “false brothers” (Gal 2:4).
Das, A. A. (2014). Galatians. (p. 164). Saint Louis, MO: CPH.
I want to note the distinct point made of the passage of 14 years. There is some debate as to whether Paul is referring to 14 years since his conversion to Christianity, or 14 years since his last visit to Jerusalem. Regardless, it means that Paul has been out of the loop, so to speak, with the Church in Jerusalem and the movements of the original 12 Apostles. Now, with this serious matter before the entire Church, Paul is back in Jerusalem.
Why do we need to know all of this? Because the Church always faces challenges to the truth and that is most certainly the case today, just as it was 2,000 years ago. We simply must keep our attention upon God’s Word and let it be the “source and norm” for what we believe. Anything less and we begin to lose what God has given us.