The Treatment of Titus: Part 2 of 5 (series: Lessons on Galatians)
by John Lowe
2 And I went up by revelation, and communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to them which were of reputation, lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain.
And I went up by revelation,
And I went up by revelation (or, and I went up in accordance with a revelation), but not for the purpose of receiving instruction from the apostles there in regard to the nature of the Christian religion. We should remember that the purpose which the apostle has in view is to show that he had not received the gospel from human beings. He is wise, therefore, to state that he went there by the express command of God. He did not go there to receive instructions from the apostles in regard to his own ministry, or to be endorsed by them in his apostolic office, but he went to submit to the apostles an important question pertaining to the church at large. In Acts 15:2, it is said that Paul and Barnabas were appointed by the church at Antioch to go to Jerusalem. But there is no discrepancy between that account and this, for though he was designated by the church in Antioch, there is no improbability in supposing that he was directed by a special revelation to comply with their request. The reason why he says that he went up by direct revelation seems to be to show that he did not seek instruction from the apostles; he did not go of his own accord to consult with them as if he were dependent upon them; but even in a case where he went to consult with them he was under the influence of explicit and direct revelation, proving that he was commissioned by God as much as they were. Revelations were frequently made to the apostle, both to communicate important truths (Ephesians 3:3) and to direct or encourage his actions. They appear to have been made in different ways: some through dreams and some through visions (Acts 16:9, 10; Acts 18:9; Acts 22:18-21; Acts 27:23); through prophets (Acts 13:2; Acts 21:11); often, no doubt, through a strong impulse brought to bear upon his spirit, prompting him to, or barring him from, some particular line of conduct (Acts 16:6, 7).
The journey Paul refers to here is the one recorded in Acts 15. The apostle may have hesitated going, taking into consideration, perhaps, the prejudice against him by the Jews at Jerusalem, not only, as Christ had himself indicated to him, by the unbelieving Jews—“and saw the Lord speaking. 'Quick!' he said to me. 'Leave Jerusalem immediately, because they will not accept your testimony about me.'” (Acts 22:18), but, as James later on confessed, by even the members of the Church itself—“They have been informed that you teach all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to turn away from Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or live according to our customs” (Acts 21:21); but his hesitation was overruled by Christ himself, who in some way revealed to him that it was his will that he go. Likewise, when visiting Jerusalem for the first time after his conversion, his hasty departure from the city is attributed by St. Luke to the concern of the disciples for his safety—“But his followers took him by night and lowered him in a basket through an opening in the wall” (Acts 9:25); whereas St. Paul, in his speech from the stairs, ascribes it to a" trance," in which the Lord appearing to him told him to depart from there without delay—“When I returned to Jerusalem and was praying at the temple, I fell into a trance…Then the Lord said to me, 'Go; I will send you far away to the Gentiles.' “(Acts 22:17, 21). The two accounts in each instance are mutually complementary, the one viewing the case historically from the outside, the other as an autobiographical reminiscence from the person involved. The apostle's reason for mentioning the incredible direction under which he took this journey, had evidently indicated its being the design and will of Christ, and for that reason the doctrine and ministerial work of Paul should be sealed with the recognition of the first apostles and of the early Church—something of prime necessity for the successful development of the whole Church.
and communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles,
By “them,” that is, by those who were there, obviously means, not the inhabitants in general, but the Christians currently present in the place, though not mentioned before this.
“And communicated unto them that gospel” indicates that he made them acquainted with the doctrines which he preached
among the Gentiles; but certainly not with any intention of having it modified by their suggestions. He stated completely the principles on which he acted; the nature of the gospel which he taught; and his doctrine about the exemption of the Gentiles from the obligations of the Law of Moses. By doing so, he satisfied them in regard to his views of the gospel; and showed them that he understood the system of Christianity which had been revealed to him by Christ Himself. The result was, that they had complete confidence in him, and welcomed him into their fellowship—“And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision” (Galatians 2:9). They recognized Paul as a colleague in the apostleship, and that the Gospel he received by special revelation and preached to the Gentiles was the same as theirs.
“That gospel which I preach” refers to the whole period of his ministry up to the time at which he was writing. It is implied that his teaching had been the same all along.
“Among the Gentiles” indicates the nature of his doctrine which is focused upon the acceptance of Gentiles before God simply upon their faith in Christ—“For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles…This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus…Although I am less than the least of all God's people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Ephesians 3:1, 6, 8).
but privately to them which were of reputation,
“To them which were of reputation” means the leading men among the apostles. The Greek is, literally, "those who seem;" and in Galatians 2:6 it is those "who seem to be something"—“As for those who seemed to be important—whatever they were, makes no difference to me; God does not judge by external appearance—those men added nothing to my message” (Gal. 2.6), that is, who are persons of note, or who are distinguished. Paul may have used this expression, because of some disparaging remark describing him as a man of NO reputation and no importance.
The men “of reputation” with whom he met “privately” were representatives of larger bodies of men—"James" representing the elders (James "the Lord's brother" was the presiding officer or Bishop of the Church of Jerusalem, and not one of the twelve apostles), and "Cephas and John" representing the twelve, who may have been the only apostles in Jerusalem at this time, though these two were certainly the leading ones.
“But privately” means that he did not confer with the apostles in public; not before a general assembly; not even before all the apostles together, but in a private manner to a few of the leaders and chief persons. He gave them a private explanation of his intentions and opinions, so that they might understand it before it became a matter of public discussion. The point on which Paul made this private explanation was not whether the gospel was to be preached to the Gentiles, because that issue had no doubt been settled by the revelation Peter had (Acts 10); but whether the rites of the Jews were to be imposed on the Gentile converts. Paul explained his views and his practice on that point, which were that he did not impose those rites on the Gentiles; that he taught that people are justified without observing those rites; and that they were not necessary in order to be saved. The reasons why he sought this private meeting with the leading men in Jerusalem has not been stated. But we may suppose that they were somewhat like the following:
1. The Jews, in general, had very strong bonds to their own customs, and this attachment existed in a high degree in those Jews who were converted to the Christian faith. They would be very excited, therefore, by the doctrine that it was not necessary to observe those customs.
2. If the matter were submitted to a general assembly of converts from Judaism, it could not fail to produce great excitement. They could not be made to readily understand the reasons why Paul believed and taught this doctrine; it would be impossible in an aroused and agitated assemblage to offer the explanations which might be accepted; and after every explanation which could be given in this matter, they would probably have been unable to understand all the circumstances of the case.