The Treatment of Titus: Part 5 of 5 (series: Lessons on Galatians)
by John Lowe
that they might bring us into bondage:
“That they might bring us into bondage” refers to being in bondage to the laws of Moses, which would be burdensome and oppressive, or which would infringe on their freedom as the children of God. It is called "a yoke of bondage" in Galatians 5:1. A "yoke" is a symbol:
1. Of slavery or bondage—“Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honour, that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed” (1 Timothy 6:1).
2. Of affliction—“It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth” (Lamentations 3:27).
3. Of punishment—“The yoke of my transgressions is bound by his hand: they are wreathed, and come up upon my neck: he hath made my strength to fall, the Lord hath delivered me into their hands, from whom I am not able to rise up” (Lamentations 1:14).
4. Of oppressive and burdensome ceremonies—“Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:29-30). Here the “yolk” is the restraints of Christianity.
The Laws of Moses would be a “yoke” to the Religion of Christ that would ruin it by making the way of salvation by works instead of by grace.
5 To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.
“To whom,” that is, to the false brethren who were seeking to have Titus compelled to be circumcised; not the apostles, elders, and brethren at Jerusalem, who did not insist upon the observance of the rituals of the Law as being necessary, but were unanimously of the opinion that the Gentiles should be free from them. These false brethren used suggestion, persuasion, and demands along with commotion—“But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, that it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the Law of Moses” (Acts 15:5). They were men of that sect who, like Paul, had become Christians, but unlike him had retained their Jewish bigotry. Perhaps some of them were Paul's old friends.
“We” is Paul, Barnabas, and Titus.
“By subjection” is used in other passages in which it means the habit or spirit of subjection, and never an act of submission (2 Corinthians 9:13; 1 Timothy 2:11; 1 Timothy 3:4). In this verse it probably indicates a spirit of subjection to those who were so authoritatively laying upon him their directives; he might give way on some non-crucial point in a spirit of brotherly concession; but he would not bow to any man's overbearing mandate. The sense seems to be, “We would willingly have yielded out of love (if no principle was at stake), but not in the way of subjection, when "the truth of
the Gospel" was at stake (namely, the fundamental truth of justification by faith only, without the works of the law. Here, the phrase "by subjection" means, that he did not allow himself to be compelled to yield. Because the issue was so important, Paul was stubborn.
The phrase rendered “for an hour” occurs several places in the New Testament—(John 5:35; 2 Corinthians 7:8; Philemon 1:15); and it is equivalent to the shortest period of time. He did not waver, or yield at all. There seems to be an underlying allusion to those occasions about which the apostle declares, “And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law. To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. (1 Corinthians 9:20-22); but he would not do this when dealing with false brethren, whose aim was in effect to turn gospel freedom into legal slavery. He did not yield one little bit. He felt that a great principle was involved; and though on all proper occasions he was willing to yield and to become all things to all men, yet here he did not court them, or defer to them in the least.
“That the truth of the gospel” can only be the sure unadulterated doctrine, which is embodied in the gospel, and is its very heart and essence. The refusal of Church fellowship to a believer of this gospel unless he was circumcised would have nullified the truth that faith in Christ is the sole and sufficient ground of justification. Paul had defended these same views among the Galatians, and he now sought that the same views might be confirmed by the clear decision of the college of apostles at Jerusalem.
“Might continue with you” is the apostles' express desire that “the truth of the gospel might never cease to have its home with them. It is possible that Paul did not at this time have the Galatians in mind, but rather the Gentile Churches in general. It may be supposed that the circumstances of those Gentile Churches which he and Barnabas had recently founded were much in his thoughts at that time; because, it is shown by his numerous references to his specific intercessory prayer that his spirit was continually conversant with "all the Churches"—“Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches” (2 Corinthians 11:28); and he was keenly aware of efforts made from the very first by legalizing Christians to pervert their faith.
Paul defied them, and prevailed. Titus was not circumcised!