v. 1. Then, fourteen years after, I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with me also.
v. 2. 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.
v. 3. But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised;
v. 4. 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;
v. 5. to whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour, that the truth of the Gospel might continue with you.
After proving that he had not been made an apostle by any man's teaching, but by divine revelation, Paul now shows that his confidence and reliance upon this fact was so great that he could frankly challenge examination by any person and yielded to the unauthorized impetuosity of no man. He therefore relates the history of an event which occurred after his first missionary journey: Then, after fourteen years, I again made the journey to Jerusalem, with Barnabas, taking also Titus along. As he had been figuring from the time of his conversion in the previous chapter, as the foremost event in his life, so he here refers to the number of years which had elapsed since he became a Christian. Fourteen years he had spent in his apostolic office when an occasion arose which made it necessary for him to make the trip from Syria up to Jerusalem. He went with Barnabas, who had been his coworker on the first missionary journey and could testify to the wonderful success which the Lord had laid upon their labors. His young assistant Titus he took along as a companion.
Here again Paul's independence of the older apostles is set forth. For he went up, as he writes, in accordance with a revelation, not on account of any instruction which had been given by any hierarchy. The Lord Himself transmitted His will to the apostle, and the fact that the congregation at Antioch then chose him as a delegate shows that their decision was prompted by this revelation. Luke tells the story of this journey and of the meeting which it occasioned in Jerusalem in its general aspects, Act_13:1-29; Paul relates the incidents which will bear him out in his contention. There had been a meeting with the entire congregation, in which Paul had laid before them the Gospel which he preached among the Gentiles, giving them a summary of his preaching, of his message, thus enabling them to see for themselves that he was teaching the truth, justification by faith alone. But there had also been a private conference with the men that were of some reputation, that were leaders of the Congregation in Jerusalem, whether before or after the general meeting is immaterial. With his customary tact Paul wanted to avoid misunderstandings, mistaken ideas concerning his work. It was not that he was not absolutely sure of his position and of the truth of his doctrine, but that his doctrine might be represented falsely, lest perhaps he should be running or had run in vain, that his labor had been performed to no purpose.
What success the apostle had in this conference is implied in a striking manner by an incident which he here mentions: Yet even Titus, who was with me, though he was a Greek, was not compelled to be circumcised. Paul made a very complete and detailed report of his work among the Gentiles, not only of his preaching, but also of his practice, not concealing the fact that he no longer demanded that the Gentiles be circumcised. Now his argument to the Galatians is this: If the claims of the Judaizing teachers in their midst were true, if the ceremonial law had not yet been abrogated then the leaders of the congregation in Jerusalem would certainly have insisted upon his changing his practice in this respect. But far from declaring his position false, these men, two of whom were members of the original band of apostles, sided with him to that extent that they did not even demand the circumcision of Titus, who was of Gentile parentage.
Paul now returns to the reason for his journey to Jerusalem, saying that he went up because of the false brethren, Act_15:1, who had smuggled themselves in, such men as came in to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, to lie in wait to deprive us of it, in order to bring us into bondage. These men belonged to the Pharisaic party, and they had come into the congregation at Antioch in the same manner in which spies manage to enter into the camp of an army. They had given no evidence of their intention, but had come under the guise of seekers of truth. If they had had honest doubts of the truth of the one or the other doctrine taught by Paul and Barnabas, integrity would have demanded that they make an open statement of their position, state their objections, and accept Scriptural proof. But these men lacked all honesty and frankness; they were filled with malice; the object which they hoped to gain was to deprive the disciples at Antioch of the liberty which they had by virtue of the redemption of Christ, and thus to bring them back into the former bondage of the Law with all that this state implied.
But Paul soon discovered their duplicity and frustrated their intention by insisting upon the liberty which was his through the merits of Christ: To whom not even for an hour we gave place by submission, in order that the truth of the Gospel might permanently remain with you. Paul's spiritual insight, which amounted almost to instinct, sharpened as it was by his own experience, realized at once what was at stake, that the question did not concern an insignificant, indifferent matter, regarding which people could well be of different opinions, but that the contention of the Judaizing teachers struck at the very root of Christian doctrine. And therefore he and Barnabas refused to yield, to submit, even for a moment. They knew that if they had given way at that point, the whole fabric of Christ's doctrine would have fallen to pieces. And so the motive for their firmness was the maintenance of the truth of the Gospel, also for the Galatians, of the retention of the evangelical freedom to which the believers were entitled by virtue of Christ's redemption. Even at that time, therefore, the apostle had guarded the blessings of the Gospel for the Galatians and for all Christians; he had foiled the plans of the false teachers, he had prevented their reintroducing the servitude of the Law into the Christian Church. Just as soon as any suggestion is introduced into a congregation or a church-body which goes beyond things indifferent and attempts to confirm false doctrine and to suppress pure doctrine and Christian liberty, then the only stand to take is that of uncompromising opposition.