1. Then, fourteen years after, I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with me also.
1. Deinde post annos quatuordecim ascendi rursus Hierosolymam una cum Barnaba, assumpto simul et Tito.
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.
2. Ascendi autem secundum revelationera, et contuli cum illis evangelium, quod praedico inter Gentes; privatim vero cum iis qui in pretio erant, ne quo mode in vahum currerem, aut cucurrssem,
3. But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised:
3. Sed neque Titus, qui mecum erat, quum esset Graecus, compulsus fuit circumcidi;
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:
4. Propter subingresses falsos fratres, qui subintroierant ad explorandum libertatem nostram, quam habemus in Christo Iesu; quo nos in servitutem adigerent;
5. To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour, that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.
5. Quibus ne ad heram quidem cessimus per subjectionem, ut veri tas evangelii maneret apud vos.
1. Fourteen years after. This cannot with certainty be affirmed to be the same journey mentioned by Luke. (Acts 15:2.) The connection of the history leads us rather to an opposite conclusion. We find that Paul performed four journeys to Jerusalem. Of the first we have already spoken. The second took place when, in company with Barnabas, he brought the charitable contributions of the Greek and Asiatic Churches. (Acts 15:25.) My belief that this second journey is referred to in the present passage rests on various grounds. On any other supposition, the statements of Paul and Luke cannot be reconciled. Besides, there is ground for conjecturing that the rebuke was administered to Peter at Antioch while Paul was residing there. Now, this happened before he was sent to Jerusalem by the Churches to settle the dispute which had arisen about ceremonial observances. (Acts 15:2.) It is not reasonable to suppose that Peter would have used such dissimulation, if that controversy had been settled and the decree of the Apostles published. But Paul writes that he came to Jerusalem, and afterwards adds that he had rebuked Peter for an act of dissimulation, an act which Peter certainly would not have committed except in matters that were doubtful. 1
Besides, he would scarcely have alluded, at any time, to that journey 2 undertaken with the consent of all the believers, without mentioning the occasion of it, and the memorable decision which was passed. It is not even certain at what time the Epistle was written, only that the Greeks conjecture that it was sent from Rome, and the Latins from Ephesus. For my own part, I think that it was written, not only before Paul had seen Rome, but before that consultation had been held, and the decision of the Apostles given about ceremonial observances. While his opponents were falsely pleading the name of the apostles, and earnestly striving to ruin the reputation of Paul, what carelessness would it have angered in him to pass by the decree universally circulated among them, which struck at those very persons! 3 Undoubtedly, this one word would have shut their mouth: "You bring against me the authority of the apostles, but who does not know their decision? and therefore I hold you convicted of unblushing falsehood. In their name, you oblige the Gentiles to keep the law, but I appeal to their own writing, which sets the consciences of men at liberty."
We may likewise observe, that, in the commencement of the Epistle, he reproved the Galatians for having so soon revolted from the gospel which had been delivered to them. But we may readily conclude, that, after they had been brought to believe the gospel, some time must have elapsed before that dispute about the ceremonial law arose. I consider, therefore, that the fourteen years are to be reckoned, not from one journey to another, but from Paul's conversion. The space of time between the two journeys was eleven years.
2. And I went up according to revelation. 4 He now proceeds to prove his apostleship and his doctrine, not only by works, but also by a Divine revelation. Since God directed that journey, which had for its object the confirmation of his doctrine, the doctrine was confirmed, not by the concurrence of men only, but likewise by the authority of God. This ought to have been more than enough to overcome the obstinacy of those who blamed Paul by holding up the names of the apostles. For although, up to this time, there had been some room for debate, the communication of the mind of God put an end to all discussion.
I communicated to them. The word communicated claims our first attention; for the apostles do not describe to him what he ought to teach, but, after listening to his own account of his doctrine, express their concurrence and approbation. But, as his opponents might allege that, by cunning dissimulation on many points, he had gained the favor of the apostles, he expressly states that he "communicated to them that doctrine which he preacheth among the Gentiles;" which removes all suspicion of hypocrisy or imposture. We shall see what followed; for the apostles did not take it amiss that he had not waited to obtain their sanction. On the contrary, without dispute or expostulation, they approved of his labors; and did so by the direction of the same Spirit, under whose guidance Paul had performed his journey to Jerusalem. Thus, he was not made an apostle by them, but acknowledged to be an apostle. But this point will be treated more fully afterwards.
Lest by any means. What then? Shall the word of God fall, when it is unsupported by the testimony of men? Though the whole world were unbelieving, yet the word of God remains firm and unshaken: and they who preach the gospel by the command of God are not uselessly employed, even when no fruit is produced by their labors. This is not Paul's meaning; but, as the consciences of men, so long as they doubt and hesitate, derive no benefit from the ministry of the word, so a preacher is said, so far as men is concerned, to run in vain, when his labors are ineffectual, and unaccompanied by proper edification.
It was, therefore, a formidable weapon for shaking weak consciences, when the doctrine which Paul preached was falsely declared by impostors to be at variance with the doctrine of the apostles. Multitudes in this manner fell away. The certainty of faith, indeed, does not depend on the agreement of human opinions; but, on the contrary, it is our duty to rest in the naked truth of God, so that neither men nor all the angels together, could shake our faith. Yet ignorant persons, who have imperfectly understood, and never have cordially embraced, sound doctrine, feel the temptation to be almost irresistible, while teachers of acknowledged eminence are found to entertain opposite views. Nay, strong believers are sometimes powerfully affected by this stratagem of Satan, when he holds out to their view the "strife and divisions" (1 Corinthians 3:3) of those who ought to have been
"perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment." (1 Corinthians 1:10.)
It is hard to tell how many were driven from the gospel, how many had their faith shaken, by the mournful controversy about the bodily presence of Christ in the Lord's Supper, because, on a question of the highest moment, very distinguished men were observed to take opposite sides.
On the other hand, the agreement of all who teach in the Church is a powerful aid for the confirmation of faith. Since, therefore, Satan was laboring so insidiously to hinder the progress of the gospel, Paul resolved to meet him. When he had succeeded in demonstrating that he held the same views with all the apostles, every hinderance was removed. Weak disciples were no longer perplexed by the inquiry, whom they ought to follow. His meaning may be thus summed up: "That my former labors might not be thrown away and rendered useless, I have set at rest the question which disturbed many minds, whether I or Peter deserved your confidence; for in all that I had ever taught we were perfectly at one." If many teachers in our own day were as heartily desirous as Paul was to edify the Church, they would take more pains to be agreed among themselves.
3. But neither Titus. This is an additional argument to prove that the Apostles held the same views with himself; for he had brought to them an uncircumcised man, whom they did not hesitate to acknowledge as a brother. The reason is assigned why he was not circumcised; for circumcision, being a matter of indifference, might be neglected or practiced as edification required. Our invariable rule of action is, that, if "all things are lawful for us," (1 Corinthians 10:23) we ought to inquire what is expedient. He circumcises Timothy, (Acts 16:3,) in order to take away a ground of offense from weak minds; for he was at that time dealing with weak minds, which it was his duty to treat with tenderness. And he would gladly have done the same thing with Titus, for he was unwearied in his endeavors to "support (Acts 20:35) the weak;" but the case was different. For some false brethren were watching for an opportunity of slandering his doctrine, and would immediately have spread the report: "See how the valiant champion of liberty, when he comes into the presence of the apostles, lays aside the bold and fierce aspect which he is wont to assume among the ignorant!" Now, as it is our duty to "bear the infirmities of the weak," (Romans 15:1,) so concealed foes, who purposely watch for our liberty, must, be vigorously resisted. The duties of love to our neighbor ought never to be injurious to faith; and therefore, in matters of indifference, the love of our neighbour will be our best guide, provided that faith shall always receive our first regard.
4. And that because of false brethren. This may mean either that false brethren made it the subject of wicked accusation, and endeavored to compel him; or that Paul purposely did not circumcise him, because he saw that they would immediately make it an occasion of slander. They had insinuated themselves into Paul's company with the hope of gaining one of two objects. Either he would treat with open scorn the ceremonial law, and then they would rouse the indignation of the Jews against him; or he would refrain entirely from the exercise of his liberty, and in that case they would exult over him among the Gentiles as one who, overwhelmed with shame, had retracted his doctrine.
I prefer the second interpretation, that Paul, having discovered the snares laid for him, determined not to circumcise Titus. When he says that he was not "compelled," the reader is led to understand that circumcision is not condemned as a bad thing in itself, but that the obligation to observe it was the subject of dispute. As if he had said, "I would have been prepared to circumcise Titus if higher matters had not been involved." Their intention was to lay down a law; and to such compulsion he would not yield.
5. To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour. This steadiness was the seal of Paul's doctrine. For when false brethren, who wished nothing more than a ground of accusation against him, exerted themselves to the utmost, and he stood firm, there could no longer be any room for doubt. It cannot now be insinuated that he deceived the apostles. He asserts that he did not for a moment give place to them by subjection, that is, by such a mode of yielding as would have implied that his liberty had been crushed. In every other respect, he was prepared, to the very close of his life, to exercise mildness and forbearance toward all men.
That the truth of the gospel. There was no danger that Paul would be deprived of his liberty even by yielding to them; but the example would have done harm to others, and therefore he prudently inquired what was expedient. This shows us how far offenses must be avoided, and points us to edification as the object which ought to be kept in view in all matters of indifference. The amount, is this: "We are the servants of the brethren, but still keeping in view that we all serve the Lord, and that the liberty of our conscience shall remain unimpaired." When false brethren wished to bring the saints in to bondage, it was their duty not to yield to them.
The truth of the gospel denotes its genuine purity, or, which means the same thing, its pure and entire doctrine. For the false apostles did not altogether set aside the gospel, but mixed up with it their own notions, so as to give it a false and disguised aspect, which it always has when we make the smallest departure "from the simplicity that is in Christ." (2 Corinthians 11:3.)
With what effrontery then will the Papists boast that they possess the gospel, which is not only corrupted by many inventions, but more than adulterated by many wicked doctrines? Let us remember that it is not enough to retain the name of the gospel, and some kind of summary of its doctrines, if its solid purity do not remain untouched. Where are the men who, by pretended moderation, endeavor to bring about a reconciliation between us and the Papists? as if the doctrine of religion, like a matter affecting money or property, could be compromised. With what abhorrence would such a transaction have been regarded by Paul, who affirms that it is not the true gospel, if it is not pure!