Galatians 2:1-5 KJV (NIV link below)
1Then fourteen years after I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with me also.
2And 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.
3But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised:
4And 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:
5To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.
The Jerusalem Council and the Freedom of Christ
Paul, who had been serving as a missionary, returns to Jerusalem. The last time he had come as someone needing to be mentored. Now he comes with a partner in ministry, Barnabas, and someone whom he (Paul) is mentoring: Titus. This is interesting to keep in mind in light of what was discussed yesterday.
Paul is retelling the incident of the Jerusalem Council (which you can read about in Acts). It is important to note that Paul did not come as a lone crusader ready to form the Christian faith as he saw fit (as some commentators of the events in Acts have argued). Instead, he came humbly as part of the church. He had been given a particular revelation to preach the Gospel to gentiles and came to make sure he had not misinterpreted it; especially since the message as Paul preached it meant the loss of almost all of the external indicators of the Judaism from which the Christian faith grew. The central question was: is Christianity a Jewish sect or did Christ start something new and broaden the covenant of God wider than it had ever been before. Paul wanted to be sure he wasn’t working in vain. He needed the broader community of the Church to help him, because he understood that though he had received a divine revelation, he was nevertheless human. Keep this in mind as we read the bible. Yes, it is the revelation of God to us. Nevertheless, we are human and not yet perfected. We need the broader community of the Church to help us confirm our interpretations, to ensure we are not deviating from the truth of the Gospel, or pursuing novelty for the sake of novelty. We need to read the bible in community, not isolation. The Lord’s Supper/Communion signifies this community. In most Baptist traditions, we all take the wafers together. In most liturgical traditions, the bread is taken from a single source. In both instances it is meant to show a picture of unity. The Anglican Book of Common Prayer (the British one at least) even includes the line “though we are many, we are one, for we all share in one bread.” And this unified Church, despite those who argued to the contrary, confirmed the gospel of freedom.
Freedom is a major theme in the book of Galatians. It is the substance of the Gospel. It is what Grace means. It means freedom. About a week ago, I posted about how to translate the bible to today’s society. One of the things I said was to use the language you use every day. Perhaps we should understand our salvation in terms of freedom. Of course, it means more than that, but freedom is essential. Grace is, of necessity, free. This means that we needn’t worry about our status. Because we did not save ourselves, we cannot “unsave” ourselves. That is grace. That is the Gospel. That is freedom. And it is not to be compromised.
Join the conversation and add your thoughts, comments, or ask questions you’d like me or other readers to address. Let’s build each other up. If you need help getting started, here are some reflection questions: What does it mean to understand the Gospel as freedom? Do you find it difficult to read the bible in community? What suggestions do you have for doing this?