Monday, May 28, 2007

Galatians 2

2:1-2 Paul Accepted by the Apostles

2:1 Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along with me. 2 I went up because of a revelation and set before them (though privately before those who seemed influential) the gospel that I proclaim among the Gentiles, in order to make sure I was not running or had not run in vain.

The 14 years is probably 14 years since his salvation. Paul went to Jerusalem with Barnabas. Some think this may be the trip recorded in Acts 15. Acts 15:2 says that Paul and Barnabas and others went to Jerusalem to speak to the apostles about the issue of whether Gentile believers had to obey the Jewish law. The following verses in Galatians 2 show that issue was at hand in this visit. The part that does not fit is that Paul said he went up by revelation.

There is another visit recorded in Acts 11, where Paul and other deliver an offering from Antioch to ease the suffering of the Jerusalem church in the famine. The revelation might be that of Agabus, who, in Acts 11:28, that there would be a great famine. That vision was the reason the church in Antioch sent the offering to Jerusalem.

Of course, it could be another visit that Luke did not record in Act. He may not have even known of it.

Regardless, Paul went to them and shared the gospel he had been preaching. That gospel is summarized in 1 Corinthians 15:1-3. By his other statements, it is clear Paul did not need their approval. But, he wanted to avoid any schism between Jew and Gentile believers and different church leaders. But, by telling the Galatian readers this, he showed them there is no difference between his preaching and that of the other apostles. It was the same gospel believed by and taught in the Jerusalem church.

2:3-6 Standing For The Gospel

3 But even Titus, who was with me, was not forced to be circumcised, though he was a Greek. 4 Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in—who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery— 5 to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you. 6 And from those who seemed to be influential (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)—those, I say, who seemed influential added nothing to me.

Paul had brought a Gentile believer with him, Titus. The apostles did not force him to be circumcised even though he was a Greek. So, Paul is saying to the Galatians, I brought and uncircumcised Gentile to the heart of Judaism, Jerusalem, to the core leadership of the church, the Apostles, and they did not require him to follow Jewish law.

But there were those who wanted them to. In verse 4, Paul calls them “false brothers”. They came in secretly to spy out Paul’s freedom in Christ. They had an agenda to end that freedom and bring the Gentiles into slavery to the law. Paul is describing them not only as preaching a false message, but of being deceitful.

In verse 5, we see that Paul did not submit to them. He wanted to preserve the true gospel message for them. So, you see, from the very beginning of the church, there has been a battle for the gospel. Satan does not want the message of grace to be preached.

Now, you probably don’t have a hang up with the idea of circumcision, because you did not grow up with it. But you may have other issues, other things you want to add to grace to obtain salvation, or that you have heard about.

In verse 6, Paul said none of the influential people added anything to his message. He made a parenthetical comment that God shows no partiality. He does not see one believer as more important than another.

2:7-10 Paul’s Calling Confirmed

7 On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel to the circumcised 8 (for he who worked through Peter for his apostolic ministry to the circumcised worked also through me for mine to the Gentiles), 9 and when James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. 10 Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.

In response to Paul sharing his message, the Apostles agreed that Paul was called to preach to the Gentiles, whom he called the “uncircumcised”. They put this on the level of Peter being called to evangelize the Jews. They gave them the right hand of fellowship to Paul and Barnabas. Their only instruction was to remember the poor.

I like the fact that Paul specifically says the same one worked through Peter for his ministry and through Paul for his. It is always good to remind us that it is not the ministers that are important, it is God working through them.

Note also that James is mentioned here ahead of Peter, or Cephas.

One thing I do not want us to miss is the instruction to remember the poor. Paul took this seriously, returning to Jerusalem to bring an offering at the expense of his freedom.

What is our responsibility to the poor?

Leviticus 19:10 says And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the Lord your God.” They were not to use all their livelihood for themselves, they were to save some for the poor.

Leviticus 25:35 says ““If your brother becomes poor and cannot maintain himself with you, you shall support him as though he were a stranger and a sojourner, and he shall live with you.”

Deuteronomy 15:7 says ““If among you, one of your brothers should become poor, in any of your towns within your land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother.”

We don’t take advantage of the poor. Psalm 10:2 says “In arrogance the wicked hotly pursue the poor; let them be caught in the schemes that they have devised.” I think this applies to those who implemented the lottery.

Proverbs 19:17 says “Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.”

Isaiah 58:7 says this is the kind of fasting God honors: “Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?”

In Luke 14:12-14, Jesus said “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”

James 2:1-6 says My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor man.”

From these verses, it appears to me we have a responsibility to support the poor. It seems, in the New Testament church, that the help of the poor was mostly for poor Christians. Similarly, in the Old Testament texts we read, there were many references to your poor “brother”, meaning fellow Israelite. Yet, the also had duties to the poor alien in their midst, and the aliens had certain rights.

Matthew 25 also has an interesting take on our treatment of the poor. Jesus labeled his chosen ones as those who fed the hungry, clothed the naked and visited those who were in prison, those who did these things to the least of his brothers.

What do you think the church should do for the poor?
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