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2: 4 - 16.
pp. 41 - 46
In the visit to Jerusalem described in the second chapter of the epistle Paul found
disturbing elements. After stating that Titus, a Gentile was not compelled to be
circumcised*, the apostle refers to:
". . . . . 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:" (2: 4).
[* - Some may be disturbed by a footnote in the N.E.B. where it is
stated that "some witnesses", omitting hois oude at the beginning of
verse 5 make the sense to mean that Paul did yield to the circumcision
of Titus. The witnesses are not given, but full information is found in
the critical notes of The Greek New Testament edited by Kurt Aland,
Matthew Black, Bruce Metzger and Allen Wikgren. Most, if not all the
modern translations ignore this reading as does the Nestle text. Bearing
Paul's character in mind and the crucial struggle for the truth of the
gospel in the context, we can ignore it too.]
The words in the Greek suggest that these false brethren had been deliberately
`planted' on the church and been brought in secretly to spy out their liberty in Christ and
if possible to bring them back into bondage again. We cannot be sure whether the
Jerusalem church or the Galatian church is meant, but it makes little difference. The
main thing is that here was a Satanic onslaught on the gospel of the grace of God which
the Apostle of liberty resisted to the utmost, so that its purity and its very existence might
be preserved for the future:
"To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the
gospel might continue with you" (2: 5).
We little realize what we owe to the courageous stand of this man, so that the gospel
might not be blotted out, but continue, not only with the believers of the time, but also
right through to us today. At Jerusalem, in spite of the "somebodies" and "somewhats"
and the insidious infiltration of the enemy, one man, by the grace of God, in the face of
all odds, stands resolutely for the truth and refuses to yield. All the Jewish leaders could
do was to ask him "to remember the poor!". They could add nothing to him (2: 6). At a
crucial time like this, personalities pale into insignificance. Truth must have first place.
Let us always remember this fact. We little know what practical effects a faithful stand
can have on others. Paul had been called and fully qualified by the risen Christ and this
had been abundantly vindicated by the Lord in the saving response of many to the
Christ-given gospel of grace, apart from works or merit, that he had faithfully preached.
How many times such a situation has occurred in past history, only the Lord knows. It
surely is perfectly clear, that today, with its increasing darkness, there is a need to exhibit
such an unyielding response as that given by Paul at the beginning, even though we have
to stand by ourselves, humanly speaking.