Home Bible Study©
Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)
Established November 2008 Published Weekly on Friday
This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men (and women) to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1Timothy 2:3-4)
Greetings; and welcome to HBS.
Undoubtedly you’ve tried to please someone at some time in your life, whether that was one or more of your siblings, your friends, neighbors, co-workers, supervisors, or your spouse. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to please people, unless you have an ulterior motive or a selfish reason motivating that activity. If that’s the case, pleasing people just to get on their good side, or to get something from them is called manipulation or social maneuvering.
We’re talking about this because our Apostle Paul was accused of trying to please men for selfish reasons by the Judaizers who were preaching a different gospel from that which Paul preached. This false accusation had a two-fold purpose: it was meant to discredit Paul’s apostolic authority while building up their different gospel which they had been proclaiming to the Galatian churches. However Paul wasn’t guilty of the accusation. He clearly stated: For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ (1:10).
The Galatian churches were in the process of deserting God and adopting a tainted version of the gospel (1:6-9). The Judaizers sought to add the keeping of the O.T. law to faith in Jesus as a requirement for salvation. They attacked Paul’s apostleship as part of their teaching of a different gospel, a gospel different from that which had been revealed to Paul. Chapters 1 &2 are Paul’s defense of both his apostleship and the gospel.
Chapters 3 & 4 expose the theological error of leaving God’s Grace and returning to the Mosaic law, or God’s Prophetic Program in general, demonstrating it was never intended, nor was it capable of accomplishing what the Judaizers promised, meaning, there is no power in the law or works to save anyone. Paul does this by offering evidence from the O.T. that those who lived before Christ, especially Abraham, were in truth justified not by obeying any laws or rituals, but by placing their faith in the promises of God (Galatians 3:19-29, 4:1-8; Hebrews 11:6).
Please open your Bible at Galatians 2:1.
The Council at Jerusalem
1: Then after an interval of fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along also.
Paul’s saying he returned to Jerusalem again, fourteen years after his conversion. It goes without saying if Luke and Paul used dates in their writings the Bible student’s task would be much easier. However that shouldn’t deter the faithful from trying to understand what this book is saying. By using the Bible resources that are available I was able to put together a Bible timeline that should prove to be helpful. However, I wouldn’t be dogmatic about the dates below; consider them approximated. Permit me to explain; Bible scholars have been debating the year of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection for centuries and after all their research they still can’t agree. Thus, the dates below are not exact but close enough; they are for point of reference only.
The Lord Jesus Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection occurred in the year 29-30 AD
Stephen was stoned to death by his brethren in the year 32 AD (Saul was present)
Saul persecuted the church of God 33-34 AD
Saul was converted on the road to Damascus in 34 AD – he escaped death in Damascus - then traveled to Arabia and stayed away for 3 yrs
Saul returned to Damascus, but exits the city for his own safety in 37 AD – goes to Tarsus in Cilicia, his hometown, and begins preaching Jesus Christ crucified.
Barnabas travels to Tarsus seeking Saul 46 AD (Acts 11:25)
Saul goes to Antioch with Barnabas teaching many people 47-48 AD (Acts 11:26), Agabus prophecies a great famine (Acts 11:27-28), aid sent to Jerusalem through Barnabas and Saul (Acts 11:29-30).
Paul goes up to the Jerusalem Council with Barnabas in 49-50 AD (Acts 15:1-29; Galatians 2:1).
There’s a parallel account of the Jerusalem Council recorded in Acts 15. I’m going to ask you to find that chapter in your Bible and bookmark it because we’re going to be flipping back and forth during this study.
Our Apostle Paul traveled to Jerusalem at least five times according to the book of Acts (9:26-30, 11:30-12:25, 15:4-6, 12, 22, 18:18-22, 19:21), and he mentions being in Jerusalem twice in Acts 22:17-21, and 26:20. As with so many other Bible subjects, opinions vary as to which account in the book of Acts this particular Bible text refers to and the date of his visit to Jerusalem. I’m in the habit of informing all my students, when it comes to dates in scripture it’s a good idea not to “major in the minors.” This simply means there’s no need to get bogged down chasing after things that are trivial. I’m not saying Bible dates are unimportant; I am saying they are not of great importance when you’re considering the “big picture.”
The word “again” in verse 1 implies a “return visit” to Jerusalem. It stands to reason it has to be either the second or the third visit. I cast my vote for the third visit based on the timeline above and the timing of Luke’s account in Acts 15:1-29 re: the Jerusalem Council, which would have been around 49-50 AD (Galatians 2:1).
Taking Titus along also - Titus was a Greek, converted by Paul and he calls him his “true child” (Titus 1:4); this doesn’t mean they were blood relatives as some suggest; read the rest of Titus 1:4 if there is any doubt about this. Titus accompanied Paul frequently on his travels and he served him and the church in especially difficult situations regarding church business (See 2 Corinthians 2:13, 7:6, 8:6, 8:16, 8:23, 12:18).
2: It was because of (what) a revelation that I went up; and I submitted to them the gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but I did so in private to those who were of reputation, for fear that I might be running, or had run, in vain.
I need to let you know some people believe the revelation Paul speaks of here is the prophecy Agabus received about the famine upon the entire Roman world and it was because of this he went up to Jerusalem (Acts 11:27-30). However, the text doesn’t support this notion.
Paul received his revelations (communications) from the risen Lord and they are not all recorded for us in the book of Acts; we’ve discussed this fact. Here Paul gives us the reason he went up (to Jerusalem at this particular time); it was because of a revelation (or communication) from the Lord for the purpose of submitting to them the gospel (good news) which he preached among the Gentiles.
This is an important statement from Paul for a couple of reasons. #1: it underscores the fact he didn’t go up to Jerusalem to receive instructions from the twelve regarding the teachings of Jesus. He’s been saying this all along, but here for the first time stated he went up by the expressed command of the Lord. #2: it gives him the opportunity to submit an important question to the pillars. Paul and Barnabas went up to Jerusalem to submit an important question pertaining to God’s church that existed beyond the borders of Judea. What was the issue, i.e. conflict? To answer that question we need to go Acts15:1-2.
1: Some men came down from (where) Judea and began teaching the brethren, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.”
2: And when Paul and Barnabas (confronted them and) had great dissension and debate with them, the brethren determined that Paul and Barnabas and some others (Titus was one of these selected) of them should go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders concerning this issue.
Bibles students are in the habit of asking questions, and then searching for answers. So, who are these men coming down from Judea into a Gentile congregation, in Antioch, Syria, about 130 miles from Jerusalem, for the sole purpose of teaching them? I think we can easily eliminate two groups right-off-the-bat and that would be the orthodox Jews and the Pharisee. These folks wouldn’t offer a Gentile a cup of water on a hot day, why? As far as they were concerned, Gentiles were lower than a stray “dog” running loose in their neighborhood (Matthew 10:5-7; 15:21-28). The stray dog had a better chance of receiving that drink of water. That only leaves one group, Jewish Believers, Christians, who believed that Jesus was the Christ, or the Son of God; they just didn’t believe in Paul’s apostleship or his gospel.
The one other thing most people seem to overlook is these Jews were Believers, but they still obeyed the Mosaic Law. The early chapters of Acts and this Bible verse makes this so clear; read it again carefully: Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. In plain English, these Judaizers were saying, “You can’t be saved by Paul’s gospel. You have to believe, be circumcised, and keep the Law of Moses.”
Of course, we know they’re preaching the wrong message because God has said in this Dispensation of Grace the individual is saved through faith (alone) in the gospel apart from works or keeping the Law (Ephesians 2:8-9; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4). Yet, as you can see, these men were mixing Law and grace together and to be quite honest nothing’s changed; this is still going on today. Let’s be clear, anyone who adds one thing to faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) is in effect saying His work of the cross was insufficient. They’re saying it takes faith plus works in order to be saved, and that contradicts what God has said.
So, at some point the Lord informed Paul, by revelation, the time had come to meet with the apostles and elders about this issue. This necessitated the trip up to Jerusalem to settle the matter of adding the Law to God’s grace. We find this issue plainly verbalized in Acts 15:5 - But some of the Pharisees who had believed stood up, saying, “It is necessary to circumcise them and to direct them to observe the Law of Moses.”
Please turn to Acts 15:6.
Now we have the twelve, the Jewish elders, Paul, Barnabas, Titus and some others who are not named, meeting in Jerusalem for this very important church council.
6: And the apostles and elders came together to look into this matter. It’s generally understood in certain social circles two topics to avoid in open discussion are politics and religion. This is because personal convictions run deep and heated arguments usually develop. You may have had a taste of this during the last presidential election… However, the reason for this council was to come to agreement over their religious differences. I can imagine there was more than a little arguing back and forth in that room, on that day; one side trying to influence the other? However, try to picture the Judaizers holding firmly to their religious beliefs while our Apostle Paul, the main spokesperson for the Lord, expressing God’s concerns for the gospel and the Body of Christ, who are not under the Law. You see, that program is no longer valid; both Jew and Gentile are now saved by Grace, i.e. faith (alone) in the gospel.
Unless this matter is resolved, the Judaizer would continue to hinder the gospel’s progress wherever it’s preached and the building up of the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 3:10). So, these men are involved in intense debate, lasting quite some time, when Peter suddenly decides to stand up and offers this vital piece of information:
After there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brethren, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles would hear the word of the gospel and believe. “And God, who knows the heart, testified to them giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He also did to us, and He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith (alone).”
For those of you who are unaware of what Peter’s talking about he’s recalling his visit to the home of the Roman Centurian, Cornelius; a Gentile, in Caesarea, because the Holy Spirit commanded him to go and not because he elected to go of his own accord.
Let’s all turn to Acts 10.
Here we have God who knows the beginning, the middle, and the end of the story helping Paul, years in advance of this Jerusalem Council, by preparing the Apostle Peter for this event. According to Peter, this experience occurred back in “the early days.” If you’re not familiar with Luke’s account of Cornelius’s Vision, and then Peter’s subsequent trance brought about by the Lord through a vision (10:10-16), I suggest you read the entire chapter, however, for the sake of time, we’re going to skip around a bit.
God put Peter in a trance and through a vision revealed to him a significant change has taken place in what he may eat. God showed him the vision twice, but Peter stubbornly refused to change his strict Jewish dietary laws, which prompted God to say: “what God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy,” (10:10-15), revealing a deeper meaning. God showed him the vision a third time, and the object was taken up into the sky. Peter could fish with the best of them; he was not a Rhodes Scholar by any means. He was greatly perplexed in mind as to what the vision meant (10:16-17). But by it God wasn’t changing His dietary laws. God was informing Peter the barrier between Jew and Gentile had been removed!
While Peter was working on the meaning of this vision, the Spirit said to him, “Behold three men are looking for you. But get up, go downstairs and accompany them without misgivings, for I have sent them Myself” (10:16-20).
As this book says, Cornelius was a gentile, a Centurian, a righteous and God-fearing man, well spoken of by the entire nation of the Jews, and Peter was being sent by the Holy Spirit to his house to hear a message from Peter. If you know your scripture, rightly divided, then you’re aware Jews did not associate with Gentiles it was against the Mosaic Law and the expressed command of Jesus Christ (Matthew 10:5-7). This is clearly revealed in the text. Peter was an upright Jew. Not one of us can know what was going through his mind, we can’t realize the shock this had to his system, or the dread and stress that came upon him knowing he had to go to the home of this Gentile, Cornelius that day. Peter had no idea God was doing something new by involving Gentiles in salvation; he didn’t have a clue.
For those who are unfamiliar with the idea and/or teaching of scripture that says Jews and Gentiles did not “mingle” read what Peter said after entering Cornelius’ home: And he said to them, “You yourselves know how (what) unlawful it is for a man who is a Jew to associate with a foreigner (Gentile) or to visit him; and yet God has shown me (through a recent vision) that I should not call any man unholy or unclean. That is why I came without even raising any objection when I was sent for. So I ask for what reason you have sent for me” (Acts 10-28-29). Again, Peter didn’t know why he was there, but I bet he’s hoping no Jews witnessed him going into this home.
Skip on down to verses 10:34-35: Peter said: “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him…”
Peter continues to bear witness to Jesus of Nazareth, His life and ministry, and to the fact that those who believe in Him receive forgiveness of sins. (Note: Peter isn’t preaching Paul’s gospel which is believe that Jesus died for your sins, was buried, and rose from the dead. He’s preaching the only good news he knows, which is believe in Him or believe that Jesus is the Christ, i.e. the Prophetic Program)
While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message. All the circumcised believers who came with Peter were amazed because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they were hearing them speaking with tongues and exalting God… (this salvation event resembled the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost) Acts 10:44-46.
Please turn back to Acts 15:8-12. This is Peter addressing the Jerusalem Council:
“And God, who knows the heart, testified to them giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He also did to us (at Pentecost – Acts 1:24); and He made no distinction between us and them (the Gentiles), cleansing their hearts (how) by faith. Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are.” All the people kept silent, and they were listening to Barnabas and Paul as they were relating what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles.
Now I want you to remember that last sentence concerning signs and wonders; we’re going to be coming back to that in just a bit. For now, let’s return to the book of Galatians at verse 2 where Paul stated: I submitted to them the gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but I did so in private to those who were of reputation…
I imagine this private conversation took place in a small room off of the large room. The twelve apostles and the Jewish elders met with Paul and his small group that included Barnabas and Titus for the purpose of explaining his gospel and the Church Age Doctrine, a.k.a. the mysteries, which he preached to the Gentiles. The gospel he preached and was not ashamed of had absolutely nothing to do with adhering to the Law of Moses (Romans 1:16; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
For fear that I might be running, or had run, in vain – with this metaphor Paul is saying it’s possible to run in such a way as to fail to achieve the required goal Of holding fast the word of life (Philippians 2:16; 1 Thessalonians 3:5). Paul desired to meet with the twelve and the elders so that his salvation message would not be misunderstood, and he didn’t want to be misrepresented either when the case came before them, so Paul decided a private meeting was the only way to accomplish this goal.
3: But not even Titus, who was with me, though he was a Greek (a Gentile), was compelled to be circumcised. This statement confuses some people because Paul circumcised Timothy himself (See Acts 16:3). But here would not, for one minute, give in to the demands of those demanding Titus’ circumcision. Let’s make sure we understand the issue here isn’t circumcision per se but how an individual becomes “right with God.” (Romans 2:28-29; Galatians 6:15) This letter to the Galatians contrasts the works-oriented way of the Judaizers with the Grace-oriented way of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
4: But it was because of the false brethren secretly brought in, who had sneaked in to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, in order to bring us into bondage.
No one knows who these false brethren were. We don’t know if they were brought in at Jerusalem or at Antioch. We know from the text they were opposed to Paul and his teachings and we know Paul had met men like them before (2 Corinthians 11:26).
Paul’s saying these folks crept in unnoticed (sneaked in) Pareisduno in the Greek language, meaning: to settle in alongside quietly, without drawing attention. These men who attempted to get Titus circumcised Paul called false brethren because they were unwilling to accept Titus as a true brother in Christ Jesus. The only way they would accept him in the Christian family was if he agreed to be circumcised and then obey the Law of Moses. From Paul’s perspective they had supplied sufficient evidence for him to conclude they were false brethren, since they were clearly leading him, and others, into a works-grace type of gospel.
Who had sneaked in to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, in order to bring us into bondage – the word spy in the Greek is Kataskopeo (kat-as-kop-eh’-o), Verb, Strong’s Greek #2684, meaning: to inspect, view closely, in order to spy out and plot against. Instead of upholding the liberty they had in Christ Jesus; to be accepted before God the Father on the basis of His Grace, (alone), these Judaizers required adherence to Jewish customs and rituals as the basis for that acceptance + faith. They wanted to bring them into bondage. That bondage would be a return to living under the demands and decrees of the Torah.
(To be continued)
© Copyright 2011
GJ Heitzman’s Ministry
All Rights Reserved