False Brothers slipped in
to Spy Out our Freedom in Messiah
DIG: How does Paul confront those who believe Gentiles had to first become Jewish to be really believers? How did the decision about Titus confirm Paul’s message? Give the charges against him (1:10), why was this a critical issue for Paul? Given the position of Peter, James, and John, how would their approval of Paul’s message validate his claim in 1:11-12? How does caring for the poor relate to preaching the gospel (Galatians 2:10; Acts 11:25-30)?
REFLECT: How do you feel when your beliefs run counter to popular opinion? What would you have done in Paul’s position? What would it matter to you if Paul’s argument had lost out? What forms of legalism have you had to confront today? Have there been times in your life when you have begun to think that your performance counts toward salvation? What caused you to think this way? ADONAI sent Peter to take the gospel mainly to his fellow Jews, and He sent Paul to take the gospel mainly to Gentiles. To whom has God sent you? Are you ready to share your testimony in a couple of minutes?
Paul brought Titus with him to a meeting with the apostles to seek their endorsement for his gospel to the Gentiles. Had Paul been unwilling to wage this spiritual warfare, the Church might have become nothing more than a Jewish sect, preaching a mixture of Torah observance and grace. But because of Paul’s courage, the gospel was carried to the Gentiles with great blessing.
Galatians 2:1-10 would appear to refer to an earlier private meeting between Paul, Barnabus, James, Peter, and John at which an already-determined decision to let Peter concentrate on Jewish and Paul on Gentile evangelism was ratified. Behind this decision would seem to lie the conviction that the Gentiles were not required to be circumcised – a fact that Peter’s initial behavior supports.
It was because of a revelation from God Himself that Paul went up and presented to them the Good News that he proclaimed among the Gentiles. It is possible that the Ruach ha-Kodesh spoke to the leaders of the Antioch church, along with Paul, just as He had done when Paul and Barnabas were commissioned for their First Missionary Journey (see the commentary on Acts Bs – Paul’s First Missionary Journey). In any case, the matter was resolved when Paul, divinely appointed to go up to Jerusalem, was obedient, and the Antioch church affirmed that command by giving their blessing.
There were two councils; there was a public council and a private council. The private one is spelled out here with the three key elders of the Messianic community in Jerusalem, James, Peter and John. But I did so privately to those who seemed to be influential (2:2). Paul was received in brotherly fellowship, and had been accorded full recognition as the apostle to the Gentiles. Thus, he again demonstrated his entire independence of any human authority. After the private meeting, it must have been agreed among all the parties that a larger public meeting among the other apostles, elders and members of the Messianic congregation at Jerusalem, other local Messianic congregations, as well as the elders of the Antioch church needed to be included in the decision to gain a larger consensus. The word went out, and after a time, the public council took place.
Paul took Titus with him and probably asked him to share his testimony before the whole council. Can you share your story before others? Every believer should be able to tell their story of salvation. Yet not even Titus who was with me, a Greek, was forced to be circumcised. Now this issue came up because of false brothers who secretly slipped in to spy out our freedom in Messiah (also see Acts 15:1), in order to bring us into utter bondage, the slavery of obedience to the 613 commandments of Moshe (2:3-4). The people who Paul is talking about were Judaizers (see Ag – Who Were the Judaizers), or false brothers (Greek: pseudadelphos), who had been claiming apostolic approval of their perverted gospel. Although the Judaizers did not proclaim the same gospel as taught by the Twelve, they knew they needed apostolic confirmation in order to be taken seriously. They therefore made-up a lie that their message was approved by the apostles in Jerusalem and that they were among the apostles’ acknowledged representatives.47
Those Judaizers were like spies who were determined to discover weak points in the enemies’ military position. They claimed to be believers, but when Paul would start a new church in a new city, after he left those Jewish unbelievers would swoop in to try to confuse the baby believers into thinking they had to be circumcised, follow the 613 commandments of the Torah and the Oral Law (see the commentary on The Life of Christ Ei – The Oral Law). They are the ones who are cursed in Galatians 1:8. Peter basically told Simon the sorcerer: May your silver go to ruin, and you with it (J. B. Phillips’ rendering, “To hell with you and your money!” conveys the actual sense of Peter’s words) because he was a false brother (see the commentary on Acts Ba – Simon the Sorcerer).
The Judaizers stood up and declared: Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses you cannot be saved (see the commentary on Acts Bs – The Counsel at Jerusalem). Believers are never cursed in the Scriptures. At worst, if a believer teaches false doctrine or continually drags ADONAI’s name through the mud, the Bible tells us to turn him over to Satan for the destruction of his fleshly nature, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Yeshua (First Corinthians 5:5). And Paul was beyond aggravated (see 3:1, 3:3, 4:19-20, 5:12).
But we did not give in to the Judaizers even for a moment, so that the truth of the Good News might be preserved for you (2:5). Paul stood his ground. How important were Paul’s actions? The entire status of Gentile believers was involved in the case of Titus. The question as to whether the Church was to be merely a modified form of Judaism or a system of pure grace, was at stake. Salvation equaling faith-plus-nothing was on trial. Circumcision would have set it aside. The phrase be preserved is from the Greek word diameno. The idea of firm possession is present in the compound verb. For you is from pros humas. The idea is not that of simple rest. The preposition expresses the relation of an active bearing on life. One could translate for you, and paraphrase it: with a view to your welfare.48
Not only did the Jerusalem council approve Paul’s gospel of salvation equals faith-plus-nothing, and oppose the Judaizers, but they also encouraged Paul’s ministry and recognized that ADONAI had committed Gentile evangelism into Paul’s hands. They could add nothing to Paul’s message or ministry, and they dared not take anything away from it. They were in agreement. There was only one gospel to preach to Jews and Gentiles alike. Therefore, James, the leader of the Messianic community in Jerusalem, wrote a letter to be circulated to all the other churches (see the commentary on Acts Bt – The Council’s Letter to the Gentile Believers).
We need to recognize the fact that God calls people to different ministries in different places, yet we all preach/teach the same gospel and are seeking to work together to build Messiah’s Church made up of Jews and Gentiles (Ephesians 2:14). Among those who know and love Yeshua, there can be no such thing as competition. Peter was a great man, the leading apostle, yet he gladly yielded to Paul – the newcomer – and permitted him to carry on with his ministry as the Lord led him. In Galatians 1, Paul explained his independence from the apostles; now in Galatians 2, he points out his interdependence with the apostles. He was free, and yet he was willingly in fellowship with them in the ministry of the gospel.49