Galatians 2:1-5: Part 1, The Judaizers

March 29, 2018


Galatians 2:1-5: Defending the Gospel-Part 1, the Judaizers

First let me assure you that our God is a mighty God! Our God can defend Himself against all of His enemies! His word is “…living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword…” (Hebrews 4:12). Someone has said, God’s word is like a lion, just let it out of it’s cage, it will defend itself. But Paul tells us that he is “…in the defense and confirmation of the gospel” (Philippians 1:7). “I am appointed for the defense of the gospel” (Philippians 1:17). So every believer is must defend the gospel!”

There was a perversion in the churches of Galatia, a pervesion called “The Judaizers.” He wrote in chapter 1, “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel,  which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ” (Galatians 1:6,7).

Jude writes, “I have to write insisting—begging!—that you fight with everything you have in you for this faith entrusted to us as a gift to guard and cherish” Jude 3 MSG).  

“How sensitive are you to the truth of the gospel?  Paul faced the daunting task of calling the attention of the entire church to the infectious teaching that was undermining gospel preaching.  He knew clearly where he stood on the gospel, for he had received it by ‘a revelation of Jesus Christ.’  His concern was for the balance of the church, as to whether or not they were falling prey to the influence of the law-minded Judaizers.” –Phil Newton

It is every pastor’s duty to defend the gospel! We can’t sit idly by as false teachers destroy the gospel of Jesus Christ. That’s our calling, defending the gospel. Paul's defense of the gospel gave others the courage to do the same.

“Paul's defense of the gospel gave others the courage to do the same! Paul states that he was put in jail for the defense of the gospel. Are we all of a sudden supposed to lie down and play dead? No!! The word is clear, we are to preach sound doctrine and dispose the false doctrine. If you are offended by that then you are offended by Christ and what He taught and what many others have laid down their lives for. At what point did Paul refuse to defend the gospel? At what time was he quiet? There is a difference in someone telling me not to preach to them anymore, and someone that is trying to destroy the gospel telling me not to preach to them anymore.” –Bishop Mark Shaw

The Judaizers taught that salvation was for the Jew only, therefore in order for a Gentile to become a Christian he had to become a Jew, by submitting to the rite of circumcision, That’s what the Acts 15 counsel was about. “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved. Paul and Barnabas disagreed with them, arguing vehemently” (Acts 15:1,2). They were influencing babes in Christ, telling them that they had to keep Jewish holy days, feasts, and fasts, and to make Jewish sacrifices and keep Jewish customs.

Listen to God’s word:

Philippians 3:1-3 NLT, “Watch out for those dogs, those people who do evil, those mutilators who say you must be circumcised to be saved. For we who worship by the Spirit of God are the ones who are truly circumcised. We rely on what Christ Jesus has done for us. We put no confidence in human effort.”

Galatians 6:12,13 MSG). “These people who are attempting to force the ways of circumcision on you have only one motive: They want an easy way to look good before others, lacking the courage to live by a faith that shares Christ’s suffering and death. All their talk about the law is gas. They themselves don’t keep the law! And they are highly selective in the laws they do observe. They only want you to be circumcised so they can boast of their success in recruiting you to their side. That is contemptible!”

Verse 1: “Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and also took Titus with me.”

In Galatians 1:18-19, Paul described a trip he made to Jerusalem three years after Jesus met him on the road to Damascus. Here he describes a second trip to Jerusalem, fourteen years later.

“This was the period from the time of his first visit to Jerusalem (Galatians1:18) to the one Paul refers to here, which probably was for the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:1–22) called to resolve the issue of Gentile salvation.” –MacArthur

Why Jerusalem? Jerusalem was the hub of Christianity at that time and all the original Apostle’s were there.

Why take Titus? In view of the controversy, Titus was an uncircumcised Greek. Paul needed an example of a Gentile who was a Christian without having submitted to circumcision.

Verse 2a:And I went up by revelation…”

We don't know what this revelation was. Whatever it was, it was clearly from God, and Paul faithfully obeyed it. This shows that he was not seeking approval or direction from the apostles, but was acting under the direct authority of Christ. The occasion for this visit to Jerusalem was not a result of a summons from the church leaders in Jerusalem to call Paul “on the carpet” to defend his actions.

Paul’s apostleship and the Gospel he preached came directly from the Lord Himself. It was independent of human teaching (1:11-17) and independent of the Judean churches (1:18-24), and apparently independent of the other apostles, he was in fellowship with them but he was not sent by them.

Verse 2b: “…and communicated to them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles…”

Paul's efforts here were directed to the purpose of correcting false views prevalent in the church in Jerusalem; therefore, he laid the pure gospel before them. Paul defines the pure gospel:

“Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).

Any deviation from that message is a false gospel!


That self-same Gospel, which he had preached, and still continued to preach to the Gentiles; relating to free and full remission of sin by the blood of Christ, justification by his righteousness without the works of the law, and freedom from all the rituals and bondage of the Mosaic dispensation.” –John Gill

Verse 2c: “…but privately to those who were of reputation…”

Paul may have met with the leadership first for the purpose of getting a better hearing instead of meeting with the whole congregation which may have been previously infiltrated with Judaizers. It would have been a smart move for Paul to have met with the leaders and officers of the church before presenting his case to the membership at large.

This is may be the meeting described in Acts 15:2,6, “Therefore, when Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and dispute with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem, to the apostles and elders, about this question…Now the apostles and elders came together to consider this matter.”

These were men of recognized position such as James, Peter, and John. The idea is “to men of eminence.”

‘The general communication to the Jerusalem Christians was accompanied by a private consultation with the leaders. Not that a different subject was discussed in private, but that the discussion was deeper and more detailed than would have befitted the whole body of Christians.’ –Marvin Vincent

Verse 2d: “…lest by any means I might run, or had run, in vain.”

Galatians 2:2 MSG, “I went to clarify with them what had been revealed to me. At that time I placed before them exactly what I was preaching to the non-Jews. I did this in private with the leaders, those held in esteem by the church, so that our concern would not become a controversial public issue, marred by ethnic tensions, exposing my years of work to denigration and endangering my present ministry.”

“The great apostle expresses therefore a fear of present failure together with a fear that his past labors have been of no avail.” –MacArthur

“It was not, we may be sure, that he had any personal doubts or misgivings about his gospel and needed the reassurance of the other Jerusalem apostles, for he had been preaching it for fourteen years; but rather lest his ministry, past and present, should be rendered fruitless by the Judaizers. It was to overthrow their influence, not to strengthen his own conviction, that he laid his gospel before the Jerusalem apostles.” –John Stott


“Had Paul been unwilling to wage this spiritual warfare, the church in the first century might have become only a Jewish sect, preaching a mixture of Law and grace. But because of Paul’s courage, the Gospel was kept free from legalism, and it was carried to the Gentiles with great blessing. (adding that ‘had run in vain’) does not mean that Paul was unsure either of his message or his ministry....What he was concerned about was the future of the Gospel among the Gentiles, because this was his specific ministry from Christ. If the ‘pillars’ (Galatians 2:9) sided with the Judaizers, or tried to compromise, then Paul’s ministry would be in jeopardy. He wanted to get their approval before he faced the whole assembly; otherwise a three-way division could result.”

Verse 3: “Yet not even Titus who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised.”

Titus is a test case for freedom from the law, because he had believed in Jesus and being a Greek had not undergone circumcision. Paul reasoned that since some {Pharisees were teaching that it was necessary for Gentiles to be circumcised and to observe the Law of Moses. (Acts 15:5), they would compel Titus to be circumcised, then other Gentile believers would have to be circumcised to be in accord with this false teaching.

Verse 4a: “And this occurred because of false brethren secretly brought in…” who came in by stealth…”

“False brethren” were those who  pretended  to be a believers, professing belief in Jesus but destitute of any fruit of the Spirit. In the context the “false brethren” are the Judaizers. By calling them “false” Paul is saying he had absolutely no confidence in their profession of faith because of their steadfast insistence on the need of circumcision for salvation.

The fact that Paul calls them “false brethren” indicates that they were not true Christians, but were only masquerading as such so they could capture the conference for themselves.” –Wiersbe

Verse 4b: “…to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage.”

I have been accused in the past of being a “liberal!” I am not a liberal theologian, I am a “liberated” Christian. I have liberty in Jesus Christ! I an not bound by the “touch not, taste not, handle not” philosophy of many Christians today. Christian liberty comes from a knowledge of the truth of that is found in Christ. Galatians 5:1 MSG, “Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you..”

Legalism today!

In today’s church there are two extreme positions that have existed since apostolic times. Each is critical of the other. Neither is biblically correct. And both are devastating to the cause of Christ. On the extreme right is Law, touch not, taste not, handle not, a general ignorance of the grace of God. On the opposite extreme is license, the belief that since I am saved, I can do anything I want to do.


The Galatian error was legalism. In the church at Galatia there were those who were guilty of mingling grace and works. They were teaching that in order to be a Christian, they had to believe in Christ by faith, but also had to observe rituals, of circumcision and Levitical law.

Paul writes,” Galatians 3:1-4, “O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified?  This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?  Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh? Have you suffered so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain?”

Legalism today can take different forms. The first is where a person attempts to keep the Law in order to attain salvation. The second is where a person keeps the law in order to maintain his salvation.

Legalism is a term used to describe a belief system of beliefs that must be adhered to in order to be a “good” Christian. What is of vital importance, however, is that these “legalisms” are not found in the Bible. Many legalists would go as far as to say that if a person does not adhere to their own beliefs of legalism then they are not Christians at all even if they have placed their trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of their lives. They simply say that any action going against what they believe to be right or wrong is evidence that they are not believers at all.

True Christianity is not what we do for God, but simply responding to what He has done for us!  That’s what makes Christianity different from all other religions. They say, “Clean up your act.” “Straighten up your life.” “Get it all together.” “Live a good, clean life,” then you can come to God. Then you will be pleasing to God and He will love you. Only the Gospel of Christ is “good news.”

Does this sound familiar? “I just can’t seem to get it together. I read the Bible as often as I can. I pray every day. I witness when God gives me opportunity. I don’t have any real bad habits. But something just isn’t right. No matter how hard I try, I’m never satisfied. I feel that I haven’t done enough and I just don’t feel the joy and peace that should feel.” The Psychiatrist would recognize these symptoms as “perfectionism,” constant activity to feel worthwhile or accepted, and would label it “neurosis.”

But this person has a theological problem as well. He has transferred his poor self-worth attitude on God, so that he will always feel inadequate in his Christian life.

How do we counsel him? What do we say to him?  “You are feeling the same frustrations that many are feeling today. You feel that you must do something to please God. But let me tell you something, no matter what you do or how hard you try, you will never feel that you have done enough. Why? Because you are trying to relate to God by living under the law, you do not understand the grace of God.”

Many years ago a young man asked: “What must I forsake to be a Christian?” “Colored clothes for one. Get rid of everything in your wardrobe that isn’t white. Stop sleeping on a soft pillow. Sell your musical instruments and do not eat white bread. You cannot, if you are sincere about obeying Christ, take warm baths or shave your beard. To shave is to lie against Him who created us, to attempt to improve upon His work.” This list has constantly changed.

Robert Roberts, in an article in Christianity Today, wrote: “There’s something comfortable about reducing Christianity to a list of do’s and don’ts, whether your list comes from mindless fundamentalism or mindless liberalism, you always know where you stand, and this helps reduce anxiety. Do’s and don’ts-ism has the advantage. You don’t need wisdom, you don’t have to think or make hard choices.”

Legalism leaves the Holy Spirit out of our decision making. A good friend was speaking at a youth camp. As the pastors and youth leaders were sitting around talking between services, a young girl came up to her youth pastor asking, “Is my skirt long enough?” He looked at it and assured her that it was fine. After the girl walked away, my friend turned to the youth pastor asking, “Who made you the Holy Spirit for that girl?”

Eugene Peterson wrote, “We all know pastors and Christian people who do not want us to be free. To be accepted just as we are by His grace. They don’t want us to be free to express our faith creatively in the world. They insist that we all look alike, talk alike and act alike, thus validating one another’s worth. Without being aware of it we become anxious  about what others will say about us, obsessively concerned about what others think we should do. We no longer live the good news, but anxiously try to memorize  and recite the script that someone else has assigned to us. We may be secure, but we will not be free.”

Chuck Swindoll said, “Rigidity is the trademark of legalism, the archenemy of any church on the move. Let legalism have enough rope, and there will be a lynching of all new ideas, fresh thinking and innovative programs.”  He also said, “ The bite of legalism spreads paralyzing venom into the body of Christ. Its poison blinds our eyes, dulls our edge and arouses pride in our hearts. Soon our love in eclipsed as it turns into a mental clipboard with along checklist.”

2 Corinthians 3:17, “Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”

James 1:25, NLT, “But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.

Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is peace.

Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is love.

There is comfort in life’s darkest hour.

There is light and life, there is help and power,

In the Spirit, in the Spirit of the Lord.

Stephen R. Adams

Verse 5: “…to whom we did not yield submission even for an hour, that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.”

Paul is saying, “we did not cave in to their demands.” Notice the “we” which indicates that Paul, Barnabas and Titus (the leaders) did not budge. It never crossed their mind to yield on the essential truth of the Gospel. “Hour" was the smallest increment of time in the Greek language. Paul did not compromise with them one iota!

“It is impossible for us to estimate how much we owe to the apostle Paul.  Of all who have ever lived, we who are Gentiles owe more to him than to any other man. See how he fought our battles for us. When our Jewish brethren would have excluded us because we were not of the seed of Abraham according to the flesh, how bravely did he contend that, if we were partakers of the same faith, Abraham is the father of all the faithful that he was loved of God, and the covenant was made with him, not in circumcision, but before he was circumcised, and that we are partakers of that covenant.” –Spurgeon

“Now the truth of the gospel is, that our righteousness cometh by faith alone, without the works of the law.  The corruption, or the falsehood of the gospel is, that we are justified by faith, but not without the works of the law.” –Martin Luther

Never budge from your stand for the pure gospel of Christ! This is what Jude means “to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3).

On April 17th, 1521 at about 4:00 pm, Martin Luther appeared before Emperor Charles the Fifth, and all the representatives of Rome. He thought he was coming to a debate, not realizing the verdict was already in. He would not be allowed to speak, except to answer two questions. The Archbishop gestured to a table in the middle of the impressive assembly, which was piled high with books. He told Martin Luther he had been called to the Diet of Worms to answer two questions: 1. Had he written these books? 2. Was there any part of them he would now choose to recant? Martin Luther spoke in a voice that could scarcely be heard, "The books are all mine–I have written more." But then, as he considered the second question, "This touches God and His Word. This effects the salvation of souls. I beg you, give me time." And so he was given one day. Back in his quarters Luther wrote, "So long as Christ is merciful, I will not recant a single jot or tittle." He was not admitted to the assembly the next day until nightfall. He stood in the candle-lit hall. After realizing again there was no room for debate, he made this statement, "Unless I can be instructed and convinced with evidence from the Holy Scriptures or with open, clear, and distinct grounds and reasoning–my conscience is captive to the Word of God–that I cannot and will not recant, because it is neither safe nor wise to act against conscience. Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me, Amen."

Unless otherwise noted, the New King James Version of the Bible was used. Also The New Living Translation (NLT); The New American Standard Bible (NASB); The Message (MSG); The New Century Version (NCV); The Amplified Bible (AMP); The King James Version (KJV), The New Life Version (NLV); English Standard Version (ESV); J.B. Phillips New Testament; Easy to Read Version (ERV); Common English  bible (CEB); NET Bible (NET) and The Living Bible (TLB). Contemporary English Version (CEV).


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