The Verdict

Galatians 2:1-10

It was crucial that Paul “took Titus along also” (v 1). Titus “was a Greek” (v 3)—a flesh-and-blood, uncircumcised Christian. Paul’s “false brothers” (v 4) who had “infiltrated our ranks”—the church—would have insisted that, in order to be saved, Titus needed to trust Christ and live according to Jewish rituals, such as circumcision. So in Titus, Paul confronted the other apostles with a concrete test case. The Jerusalem meeting could not be an abstract discussion. Would they require Titus to be circumcised, or not?

“Yet not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek” (v 3). By God’s grace, the Jerusalem apostles rose to the occasion and “walked the walk” rather than just “talking the talk”. They did not insist on Titus’ circumcision before having fellowship with him. “God does not judge by external appearance” (v 6). Externalities are to do with our doing; internalities have to do with our being; and Christianity is about who I am in Christ, not what I do for Him.

Paul says “they added nothing to my message” (v 6). The Jerusalem apostles agreed that it is faith in Christ alone, and not any other performance or ritual, that is necessary for salvation. Their acceptance of Titus was proof that they had accepted Paul’s ministry and these radical implications of the gospel.

The implications of this are fundamental to our understanding of what the Christian faith is. The countless regulations for “cleanliness” in the laws of Moses were designed (among other things) to show us how impossible it was to make ourselves perfectly acceptable before a holy God. But these “false brothers” had used the regulations in order to teach the exact opposite: that we could make ourselves pure and more acceptable to God through strict compliance with them.

The number of times the New Testament talks about this mistake shows how easy it is to get it wrong. “The gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper. They are only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings—external regulations applying until the time of the new order” (Hebrews 9:9-10; see also Colossians 2:16). Only in Christ can we become “holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation” (Colossians 1:22). In other words, these ceremonial laws have not been so much abolished or replaced as fulfilled. They are fulfilled in Christ; it is Christ who makes us clean (see Mark 7:14-19; John 13:2-11).

So the acceptance of Titus by Jewish believers was a vivid illustration of this principle, that an individual becomes spiritually clean and acceptable through Christ, and not through any deeds or rituals. We need to keep repeating this truth to ourselves and each other, just as the New Testament did. Gentiles could become full members of the people of God without becoming Jewish in custom or culture. The acceptance of Titus was a radical public statement of the implications of the gospel.

Published by Intentional Faith

Devoted to a Faith that Thinks

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