Paul Returns to Jerusalem

I went up because of a revelation and set before them…the gospel that I proclaim among the Gentiles, in order to make sure I was not running or had not run in vain” (v. 2).  

- Galatians 2:1–2

In their attempt to undermine Paul’s apostolic authority in Galatia, the Judaizers made much ado about the various trips Paul took to Jerusalem following his conversion. If these false teachers had not been referring again and again to the apostle’s visits to the Holy City, there would be little reason for Paul to spend so much time telling his audience why he went there in Galatians 1:18–2:10. It makes sense that the Judaizers pointed to Paul’s journeys to Jerusalem to make their case. What better way could there be to prove that the apostles, not Christ Himself, commissioned Paul than to highlight his visits with Peter, James, and John (1:18–19; 2:9)? Certainly, the emphasis on these meetings would help the false teachers convince the Galatian Christians that Paul received his gospel from the apostles and later perverted its message.

Paul’s second visit to Jerusalem (2:1–10) would have provided them with the most ammunition for their attacks, since it was on this occasion that Peter, James, and John recognized Paul as a fellow apostle (vv. 6–10). Yet it is clear from today’s passage that Paul was not seeking the pillars of the church to sanction his message when he went to Jerusalem again years after his first post-conversion visit. As Paul writes in Galatians 2:1–2, Jesus Himself initiated this trip, appearing to the apostle and telling him to go to the Jerusalem church. Barnabas, Paul’s co-laborer during his early ministry (Acts 9:26–15:41), and Titus, a Gentile convert who was like a son to Paul (Titus 1:4) went along with the apostle on this second visit, which is recorded in Acts 11:27–30.

Paul’s vigorous defense of his independent calling as an apostle precludes us from thinking that he sought the approval of the Jerusalem church on his ministry when he went to the city to make sure he was not evangelizing in vain (Gal. 2:2). Instead, he knew the Gentile Christians would get confused about salvation and that his ministry would be hindered if the Jewish church in Jerusalem misunderstood Paul’s work outside of Judea. Therefore, at the behest of Jesus, Paul went to clarify his teaching so that no slander from his enemies could stand and make the other apostles question Paul’s gospel.

Coram Deo

Many of the problems we have in the church arise from the misunderstandings we have about other Christians and the work they are doing. Teachers, especially, can run into difficulties when their words and intentions are misrepresented. As Christians we should follow Paul’s example and work to make sure that we clearly explain ourselves to others. We should also be willing to give others the benefit of the doubt lest we give ear to gossip and thereby sin against God.

Passages for Further Study

Psalm 133
Proverbs 24:28–29
John 13:35
Ephesians 4:1–3

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