About Jesus - Steve Sweetman
understand this section properly we need to see that there are three
groups of people being talked about. One
is Paul and his co-workers. Two
also need to understand that in the book of Acts, Paul visited Jerusalem
4 or 5 times, depending on how one views Acts 9:26, where it says that
thing to understand before talking about this chapter is that we need to
think about the Jewish Christians that Paul comes in conflict with.
They were those who were indoctrinated, and for good reason, in the
Old Testament Law of Moses, which was, the Law of God.
To leave the Law of Moses for the purpose of salvation was hard for
these people to take. It would
have been hard for Paul to take, but Jesus Himself came to Paul and that
was the only way Paul could be convinced of the gospel of Christ.
We need to sympathize with these Jewish Christians, because setting
aside the Law of Moses was not an easy thing for them.
also need to understand that the Law of Moses made provision for Gentiles
to become Jews. The first
thing a Gentile man had to do in order to become a Jew was to be
circumcised, and then agree to obey the Law of Moses.
Gentile converts to Judaism were called "proselytes".
So, with this thinking entrenched in the Jewish Christian, it would
only make sense to them hat they carry the same thinking over to their
lives as Christians. If a
Gentile wanted to become a Christian, he must first become a Jew by being
circumcised and agree to obey the Law of Moses.
I say this to say that we need to have some sympathy for these
Jewish Christians. It was not
easy for them to accept what Paul was now saying, which was, a Gentile
does not have to be circumcised and obey the Law of Moses in order to be
saved. And, even beyond that,
the same applies to the Jews. The
later was even harder for these Jewish Christians to accept.
1 says, "fourteen years later".
So, the events of this section happened fourteen years after what?
Some say fourteen years after the three years Paul spent in Arabia. Others say fourteen years
after his conversion. F. F.
Bruce, a Pauline scholar, says that Paul came to the Lord in 33 AD, took his first trip to
says in verses 1 and 2 that he went up to Jerusalem
in response to revelation. It was probably 14 yearss
11:30 tells of another visit Paul made to
it is true that this section of Galatians is explaining what happened in
the meetings of Acts 15, it sheds much more light on those meetings than
what we see in the book of Acts. It
puts this section into a perspective that you wouldn't have if you didn't
think this section concerned Acts 15. At
this point, it would be good to reread Acts 15 as a starting point for
is some difficulty with thinking that this passage is the Acts 15 passage.
If F. F. Bruce and
others are right in saying that this letter was probably written in 48 AD
and the Acts 15 meetings were in 49 AD, then clearly, Galatians 2 is not
the Acts 15 meetings. Paul
could not have written something that had not happened as if it did.
this letter was written in 49 A. D., shortly after the Acts 15 meetings,
then we have no problem with the order of events and Paul relating part of
what took place in Acts 15. I
can not dogmatically conclude whether Galatians 2 corresponds with Acts
fact that Paul was sent to
you read Acts 15:1 and 2 you will notice that those in
reason for this visit to
point that Paul wanted to get this issue straightened out with the leaders
took with him Barnabas and Titus. Titus was an uncircumcised Greek. Paul
knew very well that this would present a problem and therefore the issue
would come to a head. I am
sure that Paul knew exactly what would happen in
Concerning Barnabas, he originally came from Cyprus as stated in Acts 4:36. He was from Jerusalem and was sent to Antioch by the leadership in Jerusalem to see what was going on concerning the Gentiles finding salvation.
Acts 11:23 states that Barnabas was glad to see the grace of God at
work among the Gentiles. He
was so glad that he ended up moving in
Lenski in his commentary on Galatians translates the words "seemed to
be leaders" as "men of repute", thus agreeing with Kenneth
Wuest‘s translation. Linksi
feels that the thought behind "seemed to be leaders" should be
understood as "they who seem to be leaders to others." (Linski‘s
commentary on Galatians page 71) Paul
may speak boldly and even harshly at times, but I don’t think he put
people down by his words.
Acts 23: 1 to 5 Paul meets with the Sanhedrin and said to one of them,
"God will strike you, you whitewashed wall". Some men standing
by said to Paul, "you dare to insult God’s high priest"? Paul
answered, "I did not realize that he was the high priest, for it is
written; do not speak evil about the ruler of your people." By
this you see that Paul, even though he disagreed with someone, he still
spoke respectfully of them, and to them. He gave honour to those whom
honour was due, as he said in Romans 13: 6 and 7.
think it is important for Christians today to speak respectfully about
others who may disagree with them. You
can firmly, openly, clearly, and publically challenge and point out one's
error, but to make fun of him or ridicule him would not be godly.
The world around us today openly says hurting things about others.
This is seen on radio talk shows and in politics.
Christians should not be doing the same thing, but many are these
verse 2 Paul says that he met with those "who seemed to be
leaders" privately "for fear that he had run in vain".
again, according to Kenneth Wuest the phrase "seemed to be
leaders", would suggest a put down of these men by Paul, but the
Greek does not suggest that at all. Simply
put, "seem to be leaders" means that the general Christian
public held these men up as leaders.
should view these men "who seemed to be leaders" as being the
legitimate leaders in Jerusalem. These men were not the
Judaizers. Again, Paul is
emphasizing the fact that the Christian populous admire these leaders, but
in the end, it is who the Lord admires that is the important thing.
Therefore, it is important that these admired leaders speak the truth of
God in this matter.
Paul speaks here of a fear of "running in vain", he is not
afraid that his ministry might be all a big mistake because He knew for a
certain it wasn't. He also
didn't view that his ministry in
verse 3 we see Titus mentioned again. He was not compelled to be
circumcised. This matter arose because some "false brothers" had
spied on them and discovered that Titus was uncircumcised.
These false brothers are probably the Judaizers, or, at least this
is how I tend to see them. They
are not the
4 speaks of spies coming into the ranks of the Gentile Christians and
spying out their freedom in Jesus. It's
not conclusive if this took place while Paul, Titus, and Barnabas were at
the meetings, or it if took place some time earlier.
We do know from the first 6 verses of Acts 15 that certain men came
in verse 4 Paul says that these false brothers "spied on their
freedom", wanting to make them slaves. Paul "did not give into
them for a moment". Paul was set free from the Law, so why would he
want to be enslaved by it again. "No way", says Paul. The words
"not for a moment" show us a bit more of the intensity Paul has
for this issue, and intensity that I wish more Christians had today.
word "spy" in Greek is from the word "katascopio",
meaning to get down and view closely. The word "infiltrated" is
from "paralathra" meaning, to come in alongside unnoticed. These
men who were spying out the Gentile’s freedom were acting like real
spies. They did not come openly to ask about their freedom. They came into
their midst, acting like one of them. They were unnoticed by the church,
as spies would be unnoticed. The church thought they were one of them.
They came alongside the church, looked closely at their freedom and once
they saw that Paul wasn’t teaching the Law, they tried to expose Paul
for being a false teacher.
These spies not only noted Paul's
teaching, but from the two Greek words I mentioned above, these spies
"infiltrated the ranks of the Gentile believers and 'looked
closely'". What did they
"look closely at?" They
looked closely at Titus to see if he was circumcised. I'm not sure how
they did this, but they did.
I personally find this passage of
Scripture humorous. I often
have wondered just how these spies looked closely and spied out Titus'
uncircumcised penis. One could come up with all sorts of funny scenarios
as to how this could possibly happen.
It would make for a funny skit, although I guess it would have to
be rated parental guidance.
The sexuality of men in Paul's days
might clue us in a bit on just how these spies noted Titus not being
circumcised. Among Greek and
Roman men, the displaying of the male penis probably was not of a big deal
as it is in today's western culture. Many
sporting events were done in the nude.
You'd certainly see right away who was circumcised and who wasn't.
In the pagan Roman and Greek culture, the norm was to have open and
group sex with pre-adolescent boys. Wives,
for the most part were not seen to be those who would give sexual
pleasure. They were seen as
those who gave the men their children.
In many respects, male sexuality was simply pedophilia.
By no means am I suggesting that these Judaizers were pedophilias.
We have to ask who these false
brothers were. They were the
Judaizers. They were not
James, Peter, and the leaders of the church.
We do need to make this distinction.
Not all Jewish Christians were Judaizers.
Many, if not most of the Jewish Christians did struggle over the
idea that Gentiles could be saved without first becoming Jews, but that
didn't make them Judaizers. The
reason for this is that Gentiles could become Jews in Old Testament times.
This was incorporated into the Law of Moses. But, those Gentiles
had to first get circumcised, and then, obey the Law of Moses in order to
be seen as Jewish. These
Christian Jews would naturally follow this same reasoning into their lives
as Christians. So to be clear,
there were men like James who were true Christians but struggled over
Gentile believers not obeying the Law of Moses.
Then there were the Judaizers that Paul said were "false
brothers", meaning they were not true Christians.
They did not believe the cross of Christ was the only thing that
saved a person. This was
another gospel in Paul's mind.
One thing that I believe we should
understand here is that the early church was a church in progress.
They were in transition from what you might say as Judaism to
Christianity, although by saying that, I don't want to suggest that
Judaism is specifically distinct from Christianity.
Christianity is the fulfillment of true Judaism, although the
Judaism of Paul's day was far from true Judaism.
The same can be said when people become Christians.
They, especially in the beginning stages, are in a transition from
one life to another, and therefore it takes time to make this transition.
We do need to give people, and the early church, some grace in this
These few verses show us some things
that happened in the meetings at
Note the word "freedom" in
verse 4. Paul viewed the Law
of Moses as something to be "freed from".
I am sure this would have irritated the Jewish Christians to no
end. It would also probably
irritate most Evangelicals today as well, for many Evangelicals believe
that Christians must still obey "parts" of the Law of Moses.
The tithing rule is one such law that Evangelicals consider as
something to be obeyed. How we
can pick and choose what laws to obey and what laws not to obey from the
Law of Moses is beyond my way of thinking.
The simple fact is that Jesus put an end to the Law of Moses.
He fulfilled the Law as Paul said in Romans 10:4.
Note also the word "slave".
Paul saw himself as a "bond slave" to Jesus.
A "bond slave" is a man who freely becomes a slave by his
own choice. That's how Paul
viewed himself. If he had
freely chosen to become Jesus' slave, how could he return and be a slave
to the Law. You can only be a
slave to one master. I wonder
how many Christians consider themselves as slaves to Jesus.
I think we think of ourselves more as little kings than slaves.
We've got our priorities all mixed up.
I think one reason why Paul used the
word slave here is because he viewed the Jews as being slaves to the Law
of Moses. Paul speaks of being
free from the law he is not talking about being free to live as he
pleases. He has converted from
being a slave to the Law of Moses to being a slave to Jesus.
Paul wasn't talking about being free to sin here as so many said he
was. Paul still believed in
obedience to God, yet this obedience was to Jesus not the Law of Moses,
and especially not the rabbinical traditions.
When considering the false teachers
claim that Christians needed to obey the Law of Moses, we need to realize
that it is a sin to add rules to what Jesus has done for us on the cross
by providing us with salvation. He
alone can save us. Nothing we
can do can ever be added to what Jesus has done for us. If we add rules to
the gospel message, we are telling Jesus that what He did on the cross is
not good enough. We just need
to help Him out a bit by adding a few rules.
I can't think of a worse sin than that.
In verse 5 Paul said that he and his
companions did not give into these spies "for a moment'.
There was no way Paul was going to compromise the central truths of
the gospel, and neither should we. We
see how intent Paul was here. He
was going to get this issue straightened out, and it would be at these
meetings. It could not wait
for another day.
I believe we can have grace with one
another on secondary Biblical issues, but we cannot compromise the central
truths of what makes up the gospel message.
Paul did this in order for the Galatians to clearly understand the
gospel message. To see the
difference between the two ways of thinking would be a lesson in itself to
In today's Christian world as I type
these words, the pressure is on Christians to compromise the gospel, to
give into the modern day Judaizers that may not be seeking to unite us
with Judaism but are seeking to unite us with other religions. We must
stand up against the men who teach such things.
It is not wrong to publicly mention the names of these men who are
teaching false doctrine. And,
it is not wrong to publicly denounce their teaching.
Paul had no problem with publically telling the names of false
teachers. Two such men today
are Rob Bell and Brian McLaren.
There is a resurgence today to
incorporate Judaism into one's life as a Christian.
Some stress this more than others.
If someone today demands you obey such laws of Judaism, that is not
right. If they demand you to
follow the Law of Moses that is not the gospel that Paul taught.
If someone freely wants to keep the Sabbath laws, which would be
hard in our day, that's fine for them.
But they cannot teach others to do the same. That would be against
the gospel that Paul taught.
again in verse 6 Paul uses the phrase "those men who seemed to be
important, whatever they were, it makes no difference to me". Paul
may be speaking respectfully as I have mentioned above, but you do get the
sense that he was stressing his independence from them, as well as his
displeasure. Still these men "added nothing to my message", Paul
says in verse 6. "On the contrary, they saw that I had been given the
task of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles". Paul is saying, that
after he told his story, they could add nothing. They could not suggest
anything that would enhance his teaching.
They had nothing to say that could refute what he was saying was
right, at least in Paul's mind.
we need to learn here is that leadership is subject to the gospel truths.
If you are a leader, and if you are not following the gospel, then
others have the right to challenge and rebuke you for the sake of the
gospel message and those in the church. The point is simple.
Biblical truth comes before leadership.
Obedience to the truth of the Bible is more important than
following a leader who fails to preach the true gospel. Many
over the years have stressed the concept of submission to authority.
They say one submits to authority because the position the one in
authority has. That's not
Biblical. One submits to
authority when the authority submits to the truth of the gospel.
If the authority does not submit to the truth of Scripture, then
you don't submit.
have said earlier that Paul wasn't being disrespectful to leadership here.
That being said, he was blunt and he was fired up about this issue.
He was not beating around the bush.
He was hitting the issue right on.
As a matter of fact, right from the beginning of this letter you
can tell that Paul was ready to fight this issue through to the end, which
he did. Such intensity
is sadly lacking in the church these days.
What Paul is speaking about here to many Christians today is a
doctrinal issue, and, because it's doctrine, it's not important.
Such thinking is appalling and is the reason for much false
teaching these days. Doctrine
is important, especially when it concerns the essentials of salvation.
In verse 6 Paul states the importance
of not judging by external appearances, something Jesus Himself said in
John 7:24. The "external
appearances" Paul is referring to here is those "who seemed to
be important", that is, the leaders in
These leaders had gained a certain
measure of respect and recognition from the Christian community.
Yet for Paul, it did not matter how important these men seemed to
be. It did not matter that
some people held these men in high esteem.
The reason for this is because God does not judge by the
appearance. What is important is, "who does God esteem"?
Just because certain men appear to be leaders, doesn't mean they
are real leaders, and it certainly doesn't mean they are in obedience to
the true gospel. The same is
certainly true in today's church. These
men were legitimate leaders, but they were leaders who needed to change
their thinking on the issue at hand. Remember,
as I noted in the beginning of this chapter, Jesus sent Paul to these
meetings via a revelation. It
wasn't just Paul who wanted to get this issue straightened out.
It was Jesus Himself.
Verse 6 also says, "Those men
added nothing to my message". What
Paul seems to be saying here is that these men could say nothing that
would complement Paul's message. They
could say nothing that would change Paul's mind.
They could say nothing that would make any sense in refuting Paul's
message. They were simply
speechless. I'm sure that the
very presence of Paul could make many men speechless.
verse 7 the leaders at
convinced these leaders that he had a legitimate and valid calling from
God. Paul was called by God to
reach the Gentile world with the good news of Jesus, which included the
fact that Gentiles did not have to first become Jews in order to become
Christians. This helps confirm my thinking that Paul was one very special
also note that Peter's ministry was primarily to the Jews.
That being said, before Paul had a chance to preach to the
Gentiles, in Acts 10, God called Peter to preach to a Gentile man.
Peter appears to be the first to preach the gospel to a Gentile,
and he was reluctant at that. Peter
remembers this occasion when he speaks to the leaders in Acts 11 and 15.
He uses this experience to support Paul and his ministry.
Still, in the long run, much of Peter's ministry was to the Jews.
The same can be seen today. We
all have a ministry, and each of our ministries is distinctive in
themselves. In this way, the
gospel of Jesus can go to anyone and everyone.
both Paul and Peter had their distinctive ministries, but what they didn't
have was distinctive gospels. They
both preached the same gospel. That
being said, Peter, along with others, had to modify certain things that
they preach to line of with the truth of the gospel.
That is, the Gentiles received salvation by faith and not by the
works of the Law.
verse 8 Paul says that the same God who worked in Peter as an apostle to
the Jews worked in him as an apostle to the Gentiles.
Everyone had respect for Peter.
That is why Paul is saying this.
Peter had been around longer than Paul when it comes to the gospel
and church. Peter was with
Jesus from the beginning. Not
so with Paul. Paul is simply
saying that those who have respect for Peter should have the same respect
for him because it is the same Jesus who called both him and Peter.
the text states that Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles and Peter to the
Jews, this might not have been ethnically speaking.
It might well be geographically speaking.
Paul went to the Gentile world, even though he always preached to
Jews first in the Gentile world. Peter
might well have stayed mostly around the eastern shores of the
Paul's and Peter's distinct ministries, some over the years have used this
verse to support the idea of the Jews having one gospel and the Gentiles
another, but that is not what Paul is saying.
Again, there is one gospel, but more than one ministry of the
see from what Paul says about Peter's ministry, that even though Peter was
one of those who "seemed to be leaders"; Paul had great respect
for Peter. Yet, even though
Paul had respect for Peter, as we will see, he believed Peter was living
hypocritically. I'll talk
about that later.
verse 9 the leaders at
the phrase "right hand of fellowship"; I'd like to relate that
to the phrase, "the right hand of God".
When those in Paul's days used the phrase "right hand of God',
they weren't saying that God had a right hand.
This was an idiomatic statement portraying one's authority.
When Paul and others said that Jesus is sitting at the "right
hand of God", they were saying that Jesus was in authority along with
God. I can't say for sure at
the moment, but when James and the others gave Paul and his brothers the
right hand of fellowship, this might mean more than accepting them as
brothers. It might well mean
see the word "repute" in verse 9 in connection with Peter,
James, and John. This finally
makes it clear who those who "seemed to be leaders" were.
They were Peter, James, and John.
said in verse 9 that the above three men "recognized the grace"
of God given to them. Paul did not merit this ministry and this
recognition. God chose Paul because He wanted to, not because Paul
deserved it. Yet also, God
gave Paul grace, that is, the ability to perform this ministry in the way
it should be performed. Peter,
James, and John, had finally come to recognize this.
This must have made Paul feel much better.
decision was thus made that Peter, James, and John would preach the gospel
to the Jews while Paul and his brothers with him, would preach the gospel
to the Gentiles. This
agreement is not recorded in the Acts 15 account.
Therefore, we see more of what happened in Acts 15 than what is
recorded. Or, on the other
hand, this is not the Acts 15 meetings and that's why we don't see this
mentioned in Acts 15.
verse 10 we note that the only thing that these leaders suggested to Paul
was to "remember the poor", which Paul was already doing anyway.
In Greek, the words "remember the poor" means, "to
keep on remembering the poor". The
leaders weren't telling Paul to do something he wasn't already doing.
So that suggestion to Paul was no big deal. We
see the word "eager" here. I
suggest that the very use of this word implies that Paul was feeling much
better about things.
people might suggest that Galatians 2 is not speaking about the Acts 15
meetings because of what the leaders told Paul concerning looking after
the poor. The letter that was
drafted concerning the Gentiles and their faith spoke more than about
looking after the poor. What
the leaders told Paul here in Galatians 2 has nothing to do with that
letter. The letter was
addressed to all Gentiles. The
instruction to feed the poor was addressed to Paul, Barnabas, and Titus
only. So this instruction could have well been given to Paul in the Acts
15 meetings. Not everything
that took place in these meetings is recorded.
I think I can safely say that.
question could be asked, "Who is the poor that the
conclude, at the moment, I'm just not sure when this meeting that is
described here took place.