The Treatment of Titus: Part 4 of 5 (series: Lessons on Galatians)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

was compelled to be circumcised:

Apparently, Paul and his fellow apostles at Jerusalem were in agreement about the necessity of circumcision, and other rituals of the Law of Moses, to salvation, so that Titus, whom he brought along with him, though he was a Gentile and an uncircumcised person, was not compelled to be circumcised. The elders did not urge it, or insist upon it as something necessary; they looked upon it with indifference, and left it up to him whether to be circumcised or not; they were of the opinion, as was Peter and James, that such a yoke ought not to be put upon the necks of the disciples, and that those who turned to God from among the Gentiles, should not be troubled with these things. Thus they virtually sanctioned Paul's ministry among the Gentiles and admitted his autonomy as an apostle: the point he wanted to make to the Galatians. On the other hand, he did circumcise Timothy (Ac 16:3) who was a proselyte of the gate (see A GATE PROSELYTE below), and son of a Jewess (Ac 16:1). Christianity did not interfere with Jewish practices that were regarded merely as social ordinances, though no longer having their religious significance, in the case of Jews and proselytes, while the Jewish state and temple still stood; after the overthrow of the latter, those usages naturally ceased. If they had insisted on applying Jewish practices to Gentile converts, they would have essentially made them elements of Christianity. But to have rudely excluded them at the beginning of the church, in the case of Jews, would have been inconsistent with that charity which (in insignificant and indifferent matters) is made all things to all men, that by all means, it may win some (1 Co 9:22). Paul brought Titus with him as a living example of the power of the Gospel upon the uncircumcised heathen.

A GATE PROSELYTE is a "resident alien" who lives in the Land of Israel and follows some of the customs. They are not required to be circumcised nor to comply with the whole of the Torah. They are bound only to conform to the seven precepts of Noah, the Noahide Laws: do not worship idols, do not blaspheme God's name, do not murder, do not commit immoral sexual acts, do not steal, do not tear the limb from a living animal, and do not fail to establish courts of justice to be assured of a place in the world to come.

4 And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage:

And that because of false brethren unawares brought in,
It is impossible to know for sure who these “false brethren” were, and it is equally difficult to know whether he refers to those who were at Jerusalem or to those who were at Antioch. It is probable, though, that he refers to Judaizing Christians, or persons who claimed to be Christians and to have been converted from Judaism. Whether they were liars or hypocrites, or whether they were so imperfectly acquainted with Christianity, and consequently stubborn, opinionated, and unreasonable, though in some respects really good men, it is not easy to determine. It is clear, however, that they opposed the apostle Paul; that they regarded him as teaching dangerous doctrines; that they perverted and misstated his views; and that they claimed to know more than he did about the nature of the true religion. Paul met such adversaries everywhere he went—“In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren” (2 Corinthians 11:26); and it took all his tact and skill to meet their reasonable arguments.

It is evident here that Paul is giving a reason for something which he had done, and that reason was to counteract the influence of the "false brethren.” But what is the thing for which he assigns a reason? It is commonly supposed to have been on account of the fact that he did not agree to the circumcision of Titus, and that he

means to say that he resisted that in order to counteract their influence and to defeat their plans. Was he helped greatly in this by a private meeting with the leading men among the apostles? (Galatians 2:2). His reasoning was evidently accepted, and with their help, he was able to counteract the influence of the false brethren, who sought to impose the Jewish rites on Gentile converts.

These “false brethren” were “unawares brought in.” The word rendered "unawares" is derived from a verb meaning “to lead in by the side of others, to introduce along with others; and then to lead or bring in by stealth, to smuggle in.” It probably refers to men who had been craftily introduced into the ministry, who pretended to be pious, but who were actually either not pious at all, or who were seriously ignorant of the true nature of the Christian religion; and who were inclined to impose on others the observance of the special rites of the Mosaic system. It is not clear from this what they were brought into. It may have been that they had been introduced into the ministry in this manner; or it may be that they were introduced into the "assembly" where the apostles were gathered to deliberate on the subject. Another possibility is that Paul refers to his experiences in Jerusalem, and that these “false brethren” had been “brought in” from Antioch or some other place where Paul had been preaching, or that they were persons whom his challengers had introduced to demand that Titus should be circumcised, under the likely pretense that the laws of Moses required it, but really in order that there might be corroboration of their view that this rite was to be imposed upon the Gentile converts. If Paul was compelled to agree with them; if they could win on this one point, it would be all they needed, and would settle the question, and prove that the Mosaic laws were to be imposed upon the Gentile converts. This was the reason why Paul so strenuously opposed it. If the question should be asked—who brought them in?—the parable of the tares suggests the answer—the devil—“Therefore it is no great thing if his (the devil) ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works” (2 Corinthians 11:15). The devil is always working behind the scenes doing all he can to ruin Christ’s church and Christ’s people. These men had been “brought into” the Church after having been prepared by Satan to detect and to regard with the strongest dislike anything, either in doctrine or in Church action, which would infringe upon their own legalism, and to wage war upon it. This notion of hostile intent is strongly suggested by the verb rendered "to spy out." The apostle views them as emissaries of the great enemy; Satan's aim is to use his agents to wage war against Christians, enslaving them to the law, and depriving them of their gospel liberty. This liberty means the whole spirit of freedom which faith in Christ imparts to the Christian, including, for one thing, his emancipation from the yoke of ceremonialism.

who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus,
“To spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus”—in the practice of the Christian religion. The liberty referred to was, without a doubt, the liberty from the painful, expensive, and burdensome rites of the Jewish religion—“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1). Their object in spying out the liberty which Paul and others had, was, undoubtedly, to substantiate that they did not observe the special rites of the Mosaic system; to report it; to insist upon their complying with those customs, and in that way to ensure the imposition of those rites on the Gentile converts. Their first object was to satisfy themselves of the fact that Paul did not insist on the observance of their customs; and then to obtain from the apostles a ruling or order that Titus should be circumcised, and that Paul and the converts made under his ministry should be required to comply with those laws.

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