1-10 The Episode in Jerusalem
The first part of Chapter Two begins with Paul’s “Episode in Jerusalem.” This is very possibly Paul’s second trip to Jerusalem taken after he was saved. Fourteen years earlier Paul made his trip to meet Peter and James, which is mentioned in Galatians 1. This second trip however may have been made in connection with aid that was sent to suffering brethren in Judea. That narrative is recounted at the end of Acts 11.
NIV Acts 11:29 And in the proportion that any of the disciples had means, each of them determined to send a contribution for the relief of the brethren living in Judea. 30 And this they did, sending it in charge of Barnabas and Saul to the elders.
It is of note that after this trip Paul begins his missionary journeys. It’s interesting that Galatians 2 gives specifics as to who goes with him. First, we have Barnabas who would be his companion on the first missionary journey. Here is a man who is personally well known by the 12 apostles and leaders in Jerusalem.
NIV Acts 4:36 Now Joseph, a Levite of Cyprian birth, who was also called Barnabas by the apostles (which translated means Son of Encouragement), 37 and who owned a tract of land, sold it and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.
Barnabas is someone well trusted and commended by brethren in Jerusalem. They were familiar with his integrity and holy living. Barnabas was well connected with and respected by the key brethren in Jerusalem.
Second is the Greek young man, Titus. He is an example of the grace of God among the gentiles. We read of no worries about the character of Titus. Titus was devoted to the Savior and came in association with Barnabas. Not one person asked if he was circumcised and faithful to the ceremonial Mosaic laws. Apparently this was not an issue that we read of.
In Paul’s private visit with the leaders in Jerusalem he explains their work and ministry to the gentiles. We’ll find this an insightful and important action, as men would soon be accusing him of deception, independence and self-aggrandizement. Paul wants to make it perfectly clear what they are doing! There are three things pointed out in light of this ministry to the gentiles.
1. Transparency of Ministry
Paul presents a detailed account of what his burden is and what God is doing through their ministry. Read how the Message Bible puts his conversation with these leaders.
Message Bible 2 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.
Paul gives a comprehensive description of what he is saying, whom he is going to and what he saw for the future! This is what can be called “Transparency of Ministry.” Nothing was concealed and there were no hidden agendas. Paul simply pointed out what God revealed to him and his desire to go forward. Paul recognized the potential of this ministry to the gentiles. If there were questions, concerns or issues he wanted them dealt with before anything started and led to an endangering or disgrace of the ministry. This way no one could come back and criticize afterwards what he was doing. No one could say, I didn’t know Paul was up to that! Transparency resolves the pointing of fingers and accusations every time.
2. Unity of Ministry
Why was this important? Because there needed to be a “Unity of Ministry.” They were all on the same page saying the same thing in complete agreement. If any disagreement were to arise, this was the occasion to raise concerns or give input. The powerful moving of God is difficult to argue with. Acknowledging in humility God’s calling without jealousy is the mark of holy men working together in a “Unity of Ministry.” The leadership in Jerusalem accepted and recognized the God’s hand moving toward the gentiles and gave Paul and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship. The Message bible reads in verses 7-9…
Message Bible 7 It was soon evident that God had entrusted me with the same message to the non-Jews as Peter had been preaching to the Jews. 8 9 Recognizing that my calling had been given by God, James, Peter, and John – the pillars of the church – shook hands with me and Barnabas, assigning us to a ministry to the non-Jews, while they continued to be responsible for reaching out to the Jews.
Everyone was in agreement, there was a “Unity of Ministry” and they all enjoyed the right hand of fellowship.
3. Continuity of Ministry
Finally, Paul notes this “Continuity of Ministry.” We see there was transparency of ministry, unity of ministry and they committed to working on their own assignments in complete continuity with each other.
Though these ministries worked apart from one another they did not labor at odds or in competition.
NIV 9 [They] gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the Jews.
The message was the same, the goal was the same, and the only thing different was the area of responsibility. There was a “Continuity of Ministry” that displayed there was one body and one fellowship in Christ.
Transparency, unity and continuity are the three essential elements that Paul sought to maintain by fellowshipping what God was doing with brethren in Jerusalem. He didn’t have to go, Paul needed no permission slip to work; God alone had called him. But, what made the moving of God’s hand evident was the agreement of believers. And so Paul goes up by revelation with revelation to share God’s burden for his ministry with brothers in Jerusalem. And this would be very important when the enemy seeks to divide. Paul brings up this episode in Jerusalem to the Galatians to demonstrate he wasn’t working in vacuum void of direction; he labored together with brethren throughout the world.
I continue verses 11-16: “The Episode in Antioch” in part 3.
J. Robert Hanson