Defending Liberty

Galatians 2:1-10

Jerry A Collins




·        Do traditions have any significance for our xian lives?

·        What is to be the basis of our unity as believers?

·        Do any man-made rules have a part in our spiritual growth?


We should always measure the church’s teaching, traditions, structure and authority by Scripture. During the Reformation, the mantra, sola scriptura, showed the commitment to only the Scripture to determine what was correct for the church. Today, the church should continue to scrutinize the teachings and traditions taught against those given in the Bible. If these are shown as unnecessary or wrong they must be changed or abandoned. Traditions are only helpful if they teach something but they are never sacred in and of themselves. Institutions, structures, traditions must be seen as a means to an end. When no longer useful or biblical we should not hesitate to opt for another. Traditions can become so sacred that we even teach them as doctrine. Remember that false teaching can come from within the church as easily as from without (Col 2). So the body of Christ must be in subjection to Scripture not the traditions of men. Galatians 2 illustrates the significance of tradition giving way to scripture and God’s truth. Our traditions, whatever they may be, must never become more important than the truth of the gospel.


Ministry for 14 vears 1-2 5 times Paul went to Jerusalem (1) Acts 9:26-30; Gal 1:18-20 visit after he left Damascus (2) Famine visit Acts 11:27-30; Gal 2:1-10 (3) To attend Jer Council Acts 15 (4) Visit at end of 2nd miss journey Acts 18:22 (5) Final visit Acts 21:15-23:35. 14 years he has been preaching the gospel. Now with Barnabas a Jewish believer and Titus a Gentile believer her visits Jerusalem probably during famine visit which came by revelation from the prophet Agabus vs 2. So an excellent opportunity afforded to him to meet privately with Peter, James and John—the men of high reputation vs 2 & 6 and specifically named in vs 9 while he was there.

Run in Vain 3-5 The reason for this private meeting was the fear that I mite be running or had run in vain vs 2. It is not that the apostle has any doubts or misgivings about his gospel message of the past 14 years. After all he had received that very message from Jesus Christ. But he feared that his ministry could be hindered or compromised by Jewish OT Law-keepers who insisted that things like circumcision were still necessary to be saved even for gentiles (Acts 15:1). And if the Jerusalem apostles, like these pillars, Peter, James and John insisted on the same kinds of things, then this rift would be exploited by the growing opposition of Judaizers and cause division and strife—thus be running in vain. A private meeting would clarify issues and prevent any misunderstandings. The attack came against Titus who was an uncircumcised gentile vs 3. With Titus present they demanded that he be circumcised vs 4. Their chief slogan being Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses you cannot be saved Acts 15:1. Circumcision was visible sign of commitment to God, that they belonged to God not surrounding culture, reminder of promise to Abe—an act of obedience according to the Law Lev 12:3. But the Law has been fulfilled in Christ. It is null and void now. It has no compelling purpose. These Jewish traditionalists are described as : (1) false brothers—pseudo or fake or bogus brothers in Christ. (2) They were infiltrators—they slipped in with others and came alongside the true believers. (3) They were spies-they came against to look at critically with view of overthrowing the liberty of the gospel of grace. So they slipped in as companions, passed themselves off as fellow believers and attempted a coup to overthrow the message of the gospel of grace with one of bondage. It would have enslaved everyone again to a lifetime of measuring up to the demands of the Law as means of relationship with God.  There was no surrender vs 5 at all or whatsoever! This would have perverted the very gospel Paul had been preaching and the apostles agreed with him. Be careful of traditionalists. They add to the gospel. They might have a gospel of: (1) Jesus plus popular issues (prosperity, abortion, civil rights, xian America) (2) Jesus plus my church traditions (like catholic, Baptist, reformed, orthodox, charismatic, fundamentalist) (3) Jesus plus my religious sub-culture (like don’t smoke or drink or go to movies or play cards) (4) Jesus plus other goals (like get more people in my church or have successful evangelism campaign or stewardship campaign) (5) Jesus plus my favorite means of salvation (like being baptized, praying a prayer, coming forward in a meeting) By adding to the gospel traditionalist detract from it. By reducing xianity to mechanics it neglects the heart of God and encourages people to ask ‘how close can I get to the worldly edges of xianity without stepping over.

2. BIBLE PEOPLE MUST STAY UNITED ON TRUTH OF THE GOSPEL On one hand the apostles supported decision of Paul & Barnabas not to have Titus circumcised--a specific issue. Titus was living proof that apostle’s doctrine was different than Judaizers. Apostles & Paul held same beliefs. Man never saved or sanctified by man-made traditions or rules. On other hand they also recognized Gods hand & calling of Paul/Barnabas  to ministry of gospel.

No correction or modification 6 The apostle’s did not correct or modify Paul’s message. There were no changes made. This amounted to a full endorsement instead. Titus was allowed to leave Jerusalem just as he had entered it—uncircumcised gentile believer! His ministry and message were treated as equals.

Affirmed His ministry 7-10 Here, Paul’s ministry is put on equal footing with Peter’s. The one to the gentiles and the other to the Jews. This apparently, contrasted vs 7 with the view of the Judaizers whose traditions said that al gentiles had to become good Jews in order to be saved. It was clear to those who mattered that this ministry was authenticated with God’s favor vs 8. God had given success to both as they preached the gospel message to two different groups of people. This was so clear in fact, that it was all sealed with James, Peter and John vs 9 ratifying this understanding with and endorsement by handshake. In other words, they all shared this message and ministry in common. There was unity and agreement that allowed the gospel to advance in spite of opposition to distort it. They only made one request vs 10—continue caring for the poor which is why they were in Jerusalem at this time in the first place. Of course, they would continue to do this. So no demands no conditions only agreement of message and ministry and encouragement to continue in the work they each were doing.

(1) Don’t believe that your religious or spiritual or personal traditions have the same authority as the Scriptures. Your rules can be broken and I would not sin. But God’s Word cannot or I will sin. If you believe your rules carry same weight as Word of God you will cause division and become a false teacher.

(2) Tradition keeping leads to pride and pride biggest enemy of growth. Say I believe xians should not mow on Sunday so I make that rule which I keep. It is impossible for me to pass my neighbor on way to church without saying ‘I thank the Lord I am not like he is’. Keepable rules always lead to ride which destroys growth. By the way, Gods has rules too but for most part you cannot keep them mt 22:34-40; mk 7:15-23; Gal 5; Mt 5:48. But unkeepable rules don’t lead to ride they lead to humility-he starting point fr growth isa 66:1-2.

(3) Know the Word so well that you can discern what the truth is and have unity based on truth not tradition. That is the only kind of unity the Bible recognizes. The same unity the apostles and Paul had.