To stand your ground wisely you must acquaint yourself with the opposition (vv. 1-2). In Paul’s journey back to Jerusalem after being gone for 14 years, he clearly “went up by revelation.” How the revelation came is not important, whether it came by a vision, dream, or angelic messengers. He understood the issue. He must explain his preaching the Gospel among the Gentiles. In Jerusalem, he made his first contact among “them which was of reputation.” If he could not convince them of the validity of his work, all was lost. He would have labored in vain. He took two men with him, Barnabas and Titus. Barnabas had been his staunch supporter from the beginning of his ministry (Acts 9:27). Titus was a different matter, a Gentile convert who was able to defend himself, symbolizing what the Gospel of Jesus Christ was doing.
The presence of Titus proved Paul was willing to face the opposition boldly (vv. 3-5). He was aware that those opposing him had not been completely open with him. “False brethren unawares brought in” were present to undermine Paul’s ministry among the Gentiles. In his words, they sought to “spy out our liberty which we have in Christ.” Specifically, they were trying to impose the Jewish ritual of circumcision on Gentile believers. But more than a ritual was involved. The whole fabric of Judaism was the issue. Paul understood what the Judaizers wanted. He let Titus handle them. What better way to refute legalism than by someone whose personal testimony reflected the liberty of the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
Further, when facing someone of importance, refuse to be intimidated (vv. 6-8). Paul does not identify “those who seemed to be somewhat,” but we knew they were men of influence in the Jewish community who had made a profession of faith in Christ, but insisted on preserving many Jewish practices. Their spiritual and academic credentials counted for nothing when exposed to the light of Jesus Christ. Also, they had to admit the dual ministries of Peter among the Jews and Paul among the Gentiles. Nothing succeeds like success, as the saying goes.
Paul further pursued his position and sought to establish common ground (vv. 9-10). He established rapport with James, Cephas, and John who validated Paul’s ministry among the Gentiles. They offered Paul and Barnabas “the right hands of fellowship,” urging him and Barnabas to continue their work among the Gentiles while they ministered to those of the circumcision. They urged all to “remember the poor.”
We conclude with the affirmation never to compromise on fundamentals (vv. 11-14). Antioch was gradually developing as the outreach center of evangelism as Jerusalem lost its zeal. When Peter visited Antioch, Paul accosted him for inconsistent living. He ate with Gentiles until men representing James (v. 10) appeared, at which time he “withdrew and separated himself.” Even Barnabas was affected by his actions. Paul chewed him out, pointing out that the Jews could not live up to the rituals of Judaism, so why should they impose those restrictions on Gentile converts (v. 14)?
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