In these next ten verses, Galatians 2:1-10, we learn that Paul went to Jerusalem but not to learn from the apostles there, or to have his gospel tweaked. They did not add to his Gospel or to his authority as an apostle, these were secure as his gifting and calling from the Lord Jesus. Rather, Paul went so that he would not have run in vain, that is to say, that his work would not be undone by false apostles. If he did not address the issues now, the Gentile churches would have lost sight of the true Gospel, justification by faith alone. The false notion of being good enough, or earning favor with God would have taken root and destroyed all his labor.
Paul also went to defend the liberty we have in Christ, so that the Gospel of justification by faith alone would not be muddled by ceremonial law keeping. We are free from condemnation–because what the law could not do, Christ did (Romans 8). We are free from a guilty conscience, because Christ’s righteousness is now ours, when our lives are hid in Him (Hebrews 9-10; Colossians 1-3). We are free from keeping ceremonies that point to Christ, since He has already come and fulfilled them. We are free from all that formerly enslaved us–fear, lies, doubt, worry, desires-run-amok, vices we were too weak to walk away from. We are finally free to worship in spirit and truth, free to wrestle and overcome in the battle against sin and darkness (see Romans 7; 1 John 4-5).
This work of Christ on our behalf, and the promise of eternal life in Him, is gift of grace, not a reward of merit. So Paul’s trip to Jerusalem begins with reminding his readers that his commission was not derived from Jerusalem, but from the Lord. This mission of preaching the pure Gospel to the Gentiles must be carried out in fellowship with the Jerusalem church that is ministering the Gospel to Jews; any division between the Gentile believers and the Jewish believers would have been disastrous to the Gospel, undermining the truth to those newly hearing it. There is no division in Christ, there is no partiality with God; and so there must be no division in preaching the Gospel. Still today–there is One True Church, One Gospel, one faith, one hope, one God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, one Spirit. If the Gospel be changed by a “teacher” or one claiming to be a modern day “apostle” do NOT extend to them the right hand of fellowship in approval of their brand of Christianity–for it is not Christianity.
This trip to Jerusalem was a weighty one for Paul, and true to form he does not carry it out alone. Verse one sets the stage for this important mission by reminding us of the need we all have for constant Gospel centered friendships. Not just acquaintances, so many today consider acquaintances to be friends. Paul had true, deep, loving friendships; and we all need these type of people in our lives. Paul was not an island, and never carried out his mission alone. He took Barnabas and Titus with him (Was it just these three, or were there others? The text does not say, so I will not speculate.) Barnabas found Paul years prior, and the two spent many years together traveling, preaching, teaching, caring for various peoples’ needs, and working to earn money outside of their mission field. Titus was also dear to Paul, so much so that on one occasion, when the Spirit had opened up a door for preaching but Paul could not find Titus, he left the mission in search of his friend (see 2 Corinthians 2:12-17). The Spirit-led Paul knew not to go it alone. Alone, we fool ourselves, we more easily believe doubts, fears and lies. The unity of the brethren is the bond of Christ’s love, in and among us. We cannot live without it, or carry out His calling in our lives without it, or work for His truth without it. If your calling is to preach or teach, or to parent your children, or carry out a vocation while loving your neighbors, it makes no difference: you are not an island, you need these Gospel-centered friendships.
And so, “Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart…”
(1 Peter 1:22)