Galatians 2:1-10; Paul, Titus & The Issue of Circumcision

Galatians 2 Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and also took Titus with me. 2 And I went up [a]by revelation, and communicated to them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to those who were of reputation, lest by any means I might run, or had run, in vain. 3 Yet not even Titus who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised. 4 And this occurred because of false brethren secretly brought in (who came in by stealth to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage), 5 to whom we did not yield submission even for an hour, that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.6 But from those who seemed to be something—whatever they were, it makes no difference to me; God [b]shows personal favoritism to no man—for those who seemed to be something added nothing to me. 7 But on the contrary, when they saw that the gospel for the uncircumcised had been committed to me, as the gospel for the circumcised was to Peter 8 (for He who worked effectively in Peter for the apostleship to the circumcised also worked effectively in me toward the Gentiles), 9 and when James, [c]Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that had been given to me, they gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. 10 They desired only that we should remember the poor, the very thing which I also was eager to do.

This morning we are considering this first half of Galatians 2. Next week we will finish the chapter and will then roll into the advent season with four sermons consistent with that theme.

There are matters here that we need to absorb in our 21st century context.

You will recall that the the book of Galatians is in many ways the book of Romans with the difference that the book of Romans Paul is dealing with the same issues in a much more systematic fashion whereas in Galatians St. Paul is dealing with the same issues as in a triage situation. There is a danger of the central doctrines of the Gospel being abandoned due to subterfuge and deception. Enemies as termites are in the Church in Galatia seeking to eat away the foundation and so recast the new and better covenant in the image of the old and worse covenant. There is an attempt to re-imagine the faith once delivered forever unto the saints. There is an attempt put people into a intolerable bondage and all this as in the name and under the authority of Jesus the Christ.

In this book Paul uses some of his roughest language in order to defend the Gospel which he sees at being at immediate risk. He asks the Galatians “Who has cast a spell (bewitched you).” He says of his enemies that given their hyper concerns for circumcision as an absolute ceremonial law necessity for salvation he wishes that they would just go the whole way and emasculate themselves. He says that if anyone should preach another Gospel than the one he is preaching let them be eternally cursed/damned.

Certainly not very nice.

This startling language reminds us that there is a time and a place for everything under the sun, including defiant, militant, and shocking language. It reminds us of Calvin’s quote;

The pastor ought to have two voices: one, for gathering the sheep; and another, for warding off and driving away wolves and thieves. The Scripture supplies him with the means of doing both.”

Now we live in a epoch in the history of the Church where frankly there is a need for the unrelenting usage of the voice required for driving off the wolves as by the clergy. As sheep you need to realize that when your shepherd throws rhetorical left hooks and uppercuts it is in the interest of protecting you. This is what St. Paul does in the book of Galatians because the Gospel is at stake.

Before wading in the matter at hand consider St. Paul here. Here is a man’s man. Perhaps one of the greatest heroes who has ever walked the planet. The man was a genius – one of those original thinkers who comes around every two or three generations. On top of that he was implacable and un-moving. He took all the outrageous slings and arrows of a determined enemy and did not budge. He considered not the opinion of man unless that opinion was consistent with the Word of God. He was beaten down… hounded relentlessly, scarred, shipwrecked, and stoned. According to Scripture he was not much to look at. Some scholars think he was a physically unimposing specimen and not very eloquent of speech. Yet, Scripture breathes with the man’s heroic humility. He was self-effacing and only for the sake of the Church would he speak of his accomplishments.

Parents …. if you want a hero for your sons, consider putting the Apostle Paul in their pantheon of heroes.

When we come to chapter 2 the battle has already underway.

There are 4 issues that St. Paul addresses here. Some of these 4 will overlap somewhat but we will look at them as 4 issue all the same because there are some slight nuances that are subtle enough to consider in their own right.

Paul time stamps the events with the mentioning of his going to Jerusalem again 14 years later with Barnabas taking Titus along with them. There is some debate among the scholars (as there always is on almost anything) as to exactly when and what the 14 years is later. We won’t get into the weeds of that debate and will just offer that a strong though not complete consensus believes that Paul is speaking of here the famous Jerusalem council mentioned in Acts 15. The reason that it is believed that the Jerusalem council that is being referred to here is because there is a good deal of overlap between Acts 15 and the issues that are swirling here in Galatians 2. Then there is the fact that you have some of the same players mentioned in Acts 2 that we find central to Acts 15.

In vs. 2 when Paul says that he went “and communicated to them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to those who were of reputation, lest by any means I might run, or had run, in vain,” the meaning here is not that Paul was fearful that he might have been in error but rather the concern that the other Apostles, though perhaps agreeing in principle with him, might have gone soft due to the politics of the situation seeking to try to keep the peace with the Judaizing party that had crept into the Church. We learn from Acts 15 that Paul learned that he was not running in vain and the Church leadership of Peter and James was with him on the matter of grace alone.
Here then we bump up against the first issue in this section.

I.) Issue #1 – The Matter of Titus (vs. 2-3)

They brought Titus with them to Jerusalem because he was a living incarnation of the issue at hand. Titus was a Greek and so uncircumcised and yet this Titus had expressed faith in Christ and was counted as among the Redeemed.

The issue at hand though was … “Is this to be allowed.”

Circumcision had been a sign of the old covenant but the old covenant had passed and a new and better covenant had been issued in by the Lord Christ. Circumcision was a blood right exercised upon the source of life. However, with the coming of Christ all blood rights had ended with the shedding of His blood and by His being cut off that which was typological in the OT was fulfilled in Christ. Christ was THE source of life which in his death had been cut off as the fulfillment of all the lesser cuttings at the source of life prefigured in the OT cutting of circumcision.

By demanding that circumcision be continued – that Titus be circumcised – the enemies of the Gospel wanted to return to the OT shadows. In point of fact the Judaizing- Pharisee party wanted to return to a Talmudism that found salvation being grounded in works. By this demonic desire to return to a Talmudic faith the enemy would have overturned the Gospel of free grace.

Understand that had they been successful in this attack on the centrality of Christ alone they would have overthrown Baptism and God’s sovereign grace and so salvation would have been redefined. The Judaizers said “be circumcised, keep the ceremonial law, and then you can come to Christ.”

This is what Titus’s presence was all about. If a Gentile Christian like Titus present in the very heart of the Hebrew Church in an Convocation led by Hebrew Christians was not compelled to be circumcised, then the principle was established and no Gentile would be forced to be circumcised.

Understand that the kerfuffle here was about the fact that Gentiles were coming in without being circumcised. They were pulling their hair out over this. All this angst over Gentiles coming into the covenant and yet not a peep in the NT about these same people being told that their children were no longer members of the covenant which is what we are being asked to believe if the Baptists are right about excluding children.

Anyway … this is the issue surrounding Titus’s presence. Titus was a symbol of the conflict. Is the Gospel Christ alone or is the Gospel in concert with the Judaizing impulse?

This is an issue we as Theonomist must keep before us. We desire to honor the Law and we should but we learn here in Galatians that it is possible to go to far. It is possible to go so overboard with the law that we find ourselves wasting away again in Judaizing-ville. We need to ask ourselves careful questions about the applicability of the law lest we fall into this Galatians error. We need to develop principles to teach us where and when the general equity of the law continues and when the law has been eclipsed in the new and better covenant.

Well, we know how the issue with Titus turned out @ the Jerusalem council.

10 Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? 11 But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus [b]Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they.”

Salvation would be by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.

This moves us to the next issue here in Galatians 2

II.) Issue #2 – The Problem of Subversion – vs. 4

4 And this occurred because of false brethren secretly brought in (who came in by stealth to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage)

Clearly, St. Paul is dealing with the problem of 5th columnists in their midst. In the early Church existed poseurs whose work was not to build the church up but to tear it down. In today’s language we would refer to these types that Paul mention as FBI plants or “controlled opposition.”

Paul calls them “false brethren” which means they were not brethren at all. Neither were they simply misguided. They had an agenda. They were epistemologically self-conscious about what they were seeking to achieve. They were trying to kill the church.

Before we continue down this path let me briefly mention that here we find one more example in Scripture wherein there is support for the truth of and reality of conspiracy theory. Paul is speaking of a conspiracy here. Listen to the language here. “False brethren.” “Secretly brought in.” “Came in by stealth.” “To spy out our liberty.” “That they might bring us into bondage.” St. Paul could guest host for Alex Jones and the Info Wars.

I only bring this up because so many in the Church today want to dismiss conspiracy theory as one legitimate tool in which to understand reality. If St. Paul could, as inspired by the Holy Spirit, identify a Conspiracy then I can say that the Bible teaches explicitly that men act in a conspiratorial manner in order to advance an predetermined agenda contrary to what it looks like on the surface.

The conspiracy unto subversion here was to overthrow the liberty from the ceremonial law that Christians have in Jesus Christ. Once we are in Christ we are delivered from the ceremonial law.

We would add that we likewise have been saved from the accusatory power of the law. The law can no longer condemn those in Christ Jesus. The Gospel is that though we are great sinners we have been delivered from the law of sin and of death. The law now points us to Christ as the one who has stood in our place and took upon Himself the just accusation that fell upon His people. The law now points us to Christ as the one who has paid for all of our sins, rebellions, and guilt. We walk in that kind of liberty.

Oh blessed liberty that we have in Jesus Christ. To not only be forgiven of that which I hate most about myself but also to be reckoned with the obedience of Jesus Christ is sweet liberty indeed.

The false brethren wanted to steal all that way and put upon all believers again a yoke of bondage that would make them miserable their whole lives and they were doing it by means of the most subtle of subversion.

This is the way fifth columnists usually roll when they bring their rank heresy into the Church. They are subtle. They sprinkle their heresy in all the nicest phrases. They dress it up to look pleasing and to sound reasonable. This is what in our time R2K has done. This is what Federal Vision has done. This is what the New Perspective on Paul has done. This is what Dispensationalism has done. These fifth columnists always sound fair but when one gets close enough they always smell foul.

If the early Church closest to the death of Christ had to deal with this it should be no surprise that the Church in every generation will have to deal with fifth columnists acting conspiratorially with the intent of re-fashioning the Church.

Note, before we move on that this subtlety is a always a matter of a worldview shift. Whatever direction there heresy is attempting to run, it can not run in that direction apart from significant worldview shifts. This is why we bang so hard here on knowing what you believe and why you believe it and what you don’t believe and why you don’t believe it. You need to have that ever growing ability to sniff out the fifth columnists conspiratorialists.

This brings us to issue #3

III.) Issue #3 – The Territorial Arrangement (vs. 7-8)

7 But on the contrary, when they saw that the gospel for the uncircumcised had been committed to me, as the gospel for the circumcised was to Peter 8 (for He who worked effectively in Peter for the apostleship to the circumcised also worked effectively in me toward the Gentiles),

Here we see that the work is divided. It was not that Paul couldn’t evangelize Jews or that Peter couldn’t evangelize Gentiles, it was merely a matter where the emphasis of their ministry would be.

Now were Peter and Paul living today they would be accused of “racism” because of this arrangement. “How dare you divide people up according to their race/ethnicity?”

Don’t you two know that “Jew” and “Gentile” are a social construct?

We will speak more to this point next week but notice that while there is a respect of both people groups there is no agenda communicated here for there to be some kind of required assimilation between the two so that the distinctions of “Jew” and “Gentile” would disappear in a kind of pork sausage matzo ball soup.

Indeed, even upon conversion we know that often Jew and Gentiles did not worship together. Sure, there were times they would but there was no requirement to that end. There was nothing immature about a congregation that was a uniquely Gentile congregation nor about a congregation that was a uniquely Jewish congregation.

Hear Theologian John Frame on this matter;

“Scripture, as I read it, does not require societies, or even churches, to be integrated racially. Jews and Gentiles were brought together by God’s grace into one body. They were expected to love one another and to accept one another as brothers in the faith. But the Jewish Christians continued to maintain a distinct culture, and house churches were not required to include members of both groups.”

John Frame,
“Racism, Sexism, Marxism”

Jew and Gentiles were one spiritual body in Christ. Peter would minister among the Jews and Paul among the Gentiles and their respective church plants would all be one in Christ but the existence of the oneness in that Spiritual body in Christ did not require an assimilation that would result in the disappearance of both Jew and Gentile. John Calvin (Sermon on 1 Corinthians 11:2-3)

“Regarding our eternal salvation, it is true that one must not distinguish between man and woman, or between king and a shepherd, or between a German and a Frenchman. Regarding policy, however, we have what St. Paul declares here; for our, Lord Jesus Christ did not come to mix up nature, or to abolish what belongs to the preservation of decency and peace among us….Regarding the kingdom of God (which is spiritual) there is no distinction or difference between man and woman, servant and master, poor and rich, great and small. Nevertheless, there does have to be some order among us, and Jesus Christ did not mean to eliminate it, as some flighty and scatterbrained dreamers [believe].”

And here we see that order. Paul would go to the Gentiles and Peter would go to the Jews. Territorial issues are resolved and the unity of Christ is kept intact.

I need to keep my powder dry for next week on this subject but the abject idiocy and recklessness of the putative “White-Hat” churches is maddening beyond speech. It can only be explained by God sending a delusion upon them to blind them lest they see with their eyes, turn, and be saved.

IV.) Issue #4 – The Agreed Upon Requirement

10 They desired only that we should remember the poor, the very thing which I also was eager to do.

We need to speak on this so as to demonstrate that the OT law was still in force even though it is clearly noted in this text that the ceremonial law has been eclipsed.

The law throughout Scripture had required just this.

(Ex. 23:10-11; 30:15; Lv. 19:10, Dt. 15:7-11)

The prophets required this.

(Je. 22:16, Dn. 4:27, Am. 2:6-7)

It is found in the words of Jesus

(Mt. 7:12, Lk. 6:36, 38; John 13:29

The law continues to have its impact. Here we see that there is attention paid to these commandments of God.

When you combine this with the law that was placed upon the Gentile converts in Acts 15

(that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual[j] immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well.)

You see that the law had abiding validity. The law answers the question that is being answered here, “How shall we then live.” The law, in its third use, is a guide to life and applies to every area of life. The Law is Holy, Righteous and Good, when used lawfully. The Law is where we find our delight both day and night. There is no dialectic between law and grace such as the R2K cognitively challenged want to posit when used lawfully. The law is the means of God that He has ordained whereby grace restores nature in the believer who is saved by a grace alone that in the finished work of Christ, God’s ordained law was honored – that law that taught; “that the without the shedding of blood there could be no remission of sin.”

So, on this issue we see that there that, in the words of Jonathan Edwards, “the Law and Gospel doth sweetly comply.”



Therefore having looked at the 4 issues covered in Galatians 2:1-10 let us resolved to move in terms of a proper understanding of these issues.

Author: jetbrane

I am a Pastor of a small Church in Mid-Michigan who delights in my family, my congregation and my calling. I am postmillennial in my eschatology. Paedo-Calvinist Covenantal in my Christianity Reformed in my Soteriology Presuppositional in my apologetics Familialist in my family theology Agrarian in my regional community social order belief Christianity creates culture and so Christendom in my national social order belief Mythic-Poetic / Grammatical Historical in my Hermeneutic Pre-modern, Medieval, & Feudal before Enlightenment, modernity, & postmodern Reconstructionist / Theonomic in my Worldview One part paleo-conservative / one part micro Libertarian in my politics Systematic and Biblical theology need one another but Systematics has pride of place Some of my favorite authors, Augustine, Turretin, Calvin, Tolkien, Chesterton, Nock, Tozer, Dabney, Bavinck, Wodehouse, Rushdoony, Bahnsen, Schaeffer, C. Van Til, H. Van Til, G. H. Clark, C. Dawson, H. Berman, R. Nash, C. G. Singer, R. Kipling, G. North, J. Edwards, S. Foote, F. Hayek, O. Guiness, J. Witte, M. Rothbard, Clyde Wilson, Mencken, Lasch, Postman, Gatto, T. Boston, Thomas Brooks, Terry Brooks, C. Hodge, J. Calhoun, Llyod-Jones, T. Sowell, A. McClaren, M. Muggeridge, C. F. H. Henry, F. Swarz, M. Henry, G. Marten, P. Schaff, T. S. Elliott, K. Van Hoozer, K. Gentry, etc. My passion is to write in such a way that the Lord Christ might be pleased. It is my hope that people will be challenged to reconsider what are considered the givens of the current culture. Your biggest help to me dear reader will be to often remind me that God is Sovereign and that all that is, is because it pleases him.

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