A Meeting By Revelation

A Study of Galatians 2:1-5

Then fourteen years after I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with [me] also. 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. But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised: 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: To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you. [Gal 2:1-5]

During the fourteen years mentioned in verse 1, alot of things have happened. Paul passes them over in a few quick words. The fourteen years covered here I believe correspond to the events in Acts 9:30-15:1. Here is a quick overview of this time:

  1. Peter healed Aeneas who was sick of the palsy for eight years in Lydda. All that dwelt in Lydda and Saron saw him that he was healed and turned to the Lord. (9:32-35)
  2. Peter raised Tabitha from the dead in Joppa (9:36-43)
  3. Cornelius the centurion received a vision in Caesarea and Peter received a vision while in Joppa (10:1-16)
  4. Peter went to Caesarea and preached to the house of Cornelius that through the name of Jesus of Nazareth Who was ordained of God to be judge of the quick and the dead that whosoever believes in Him shall receive remission of sins. (10:17-43)
  5. Cornelius and those that heard the Word believed and received the gift of the Holy Ghost. They showed the signs of the believer (Mark 16:17) before being baptized. (compare to Acts 2:38)
  6. Peter told his story to the apostles and brethren in Jerusalem. (11:1-18)
  7. An assembly at Antioch began to grow. Note that preaching was to “none but unto the Jews only” (11:19) and began to be to the Hellenists (Grecian Jews). Barnabas brought Saul to Antioch. (11:19-26)
  8. The Antioch assembly sent aid to the Jerusalem assembly by the hand of Barnabas and Saul. (11:27-30)
  9. James, John’s brother, was killed by Herod. (12:1-4)
  10. Peter was arrested and subsequently set free by the ministry of an angel (12:5-19)
  11. Herod was killed by an angel of the Lord. (12:20-24)
  12. Barnabas and Saul returned to Antioch from their delivery of aid to Jerusalem. (12:25)
  13. Barnabas and Saul are separated by the Holy Spirit and called to His work. (13:1-2)
  14. Paul and Barnabas go through Asia, Cypress, and the islands and preach the Word of God to Jews and gentiles that are present. They are rejected and opposed by the Jews, and turn to the gentiles. (13:3-52)
  15. Paul and Barnabas are received as gods by the Lycaonians and then the Lycaonians turn on them and stone Paul. (14:1-19)
  16. Paul rose after being stoned and then returned through all of the places that they had previously visited and appointed elders in the cities. (14:20-25)
  17. Paul and Barnabas returned to Antioch. (14:26-28)

The reader is strongly encouraged to read these chapters to get an idea of what has been going on with the believers during these fourteen years. Then we come to Acts 15 and read:

And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, [and said], Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question. [Act 15:1-2]

Note that Paul adds here that he went up to Jerusalem “by revelation”. (Gal 2:2) While the assembly at Antioch determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain others should go to Jerusalem about this question of coming into Judaism by circumcision, Paul lets us in on another fact of why he went. The Lord revealed to him to go. He communicated unto them that gospel (good news) that he preached among the gentiles. Again remember that the gospel that he preached was not after man, he neither received of man nor was taught it but by revelation of Jesus Christ. (Gal 1:11-12) Now the Jerusalem assembly was receiving it from him. He spoke privately to those of reputation, i.e., the Apostles. See Acts 15:4. This was not to be a public argument but a talk among brothers who were all believers in the Lord Jesus. One thing that he would not do is to compel Titus, a Greek, a gentile, to be circumcised. The act of being circumcised was in effect becoming Jew. The gospel that Paul preached among the gentiles in no way required that gentiles become Jews. The requirement is belief in the Lord Jesus Christ. (Acts 16:31)

During the meeting, believing Pharisees-yes, you read that correctly-believing Pharisees said the same thing that these false brethren who came to Antioch said, that it was needful to circumcise the believing gentiles and to command them to keep the law of Moses. (Acts 15:5) In this, let us remember a few things from history. We will go back to Abraham:

And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep My covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations. This [is] My covenant, which ye shall keep, between Me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised. And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt Me and you. And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed. He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised: and My covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken My covenant. [Gen 17:9-14]

Many years later, when Peter addressed the men of Israel after making a lame man walk outside the Beautiful gate of the temple:

Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed. Unto you first God, having raised up His Son Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities. [Act 3:25-26]

These Pharisees were not clinging to religion in spite of what the Lord Jesus taught in His earthly ministry. These were Pharisees that believed. They still had the covenant. What Paul revealed to these Pharisees and to all of the elders and apostles was that gentiles as gentiles are brought into the family of God by faith in our Lord Jesus apart from the covenants. This is a change in the old order of things, and this is the change that is in question in Acts 15. Now who better as a witness to this fact, than Peter:

And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter. And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men [and] brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as [He did] unto us; And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they. [Act 15:6-11]

Notice the apostle Peter’s last words here:

But we [Jews] believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we [Jews] shall be saved, even as they [gentiles].

If that is not a change from the old order of things, what could be? The nation of Israel was to be a “kingdom of priests, and an holy nation” (Ex 19:6), and yet now, they are on the same ground as the gentiles.

… for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: [Rom 3:22-24]

For Christ [is] the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them. But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down [from above]: ) Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.) But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, [even] in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on Him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon Him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. [Rom 10:4-13]

For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that He might have mercy upon all. O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable [are] His judgments, and His ways past finding out! [Rom 11:32-33]

Paul would in no way subject those that he brought to Christ by the gospel given to him by the Lord Jesus to anything other than that gospel. Antioch would not be subject to Jerusalem, and the “weak and beggarly elements” would not be imposed. The truth of the gospel would continue, and be unmixed with the former order. The believers in Jerusalem would be taught of their own removal from the “camp” of “the Jews’ religion”, but that is another subject, the subject of that great epistle to the Hebrews. For now we can be satisfied to know that the gentile believers would in no way be subjected to “the Jews’ religion”. Their all in all is Christ, and Christ alone.

…charge some that they teach no other doctrine, Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: [so do]. [1Ti 1:3-4]

But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any [man] preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. [Gal 1:8-9]

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