“Fourteen years after” (2:1) Paul’s last trip to Jerusalem, the one he took three years after he got saved (Gal.1:18), he took another. Why’d he wait so long? We know it was his “heart’s desire” for the Jews there to get saved like he did (Rom.10:1). But the Lord had told him to get out of Jerusalem (Acts 22:17), and hadn’t yet told him to go back till now.
He brought Barnabas (Gal.2:1) because he was a well known and respected Jew (Acts 4:34-37), who would perhaps get him a more receptive hearing among the Jews at the Jerusalem Council. And attending that council is the reason Paul was returning to Jerusalem (Acts 15:1,2). The brethren there in Jerusalem suggested he go. But when he says he went “by revelation” (Gal.2:2), that means the Lord revealed Himself to Paul and told him it was finally time to return to Jerusalem to “communicate” his gospel to “them,” i.e., the apostles and elders of Acts 15:1,2.
But if Paul had to communicate his gospel to them, that means he didn’t receive it from them, as the legalizers were saying. And it means his gospel was different from theirs, despite what many Christians say today.
Now the “elders” (Acts 15:1,2) at Jerusalem didn’t have much of a “reputation” (Gal.2:2), but the 12 did. So they’re the ones Paul shared his new gospel of “no circumcision or the law” with “priviliy,” so as not to embarrass those sincere apostles who were still preaching circumcision and the law as the Lord told them to do. That would only make them less likely to accept his new apostleship and message, and he would have “run in vain.” That is, his converts would wonder if they did need circumcision and the law to be saved. And he “should” run in vain in the future if his new converts questioned their salvation.
Paul brought “Titus” to the council meeting (Gal.2:1) so that when he left the meeting uncircumcised, he’d be living proof that the leaders of the kingdom church recognized his message (Gal.2:3). I know that the council wrote letters to those new Gentiles converts (Acts 15:23-29), informing them of the their decision. But letters can be forged (IIThes. 2:10). You can’t forge an uncircumcision!
Some “false brethren” tried to circumcise Titus (2:4). The council let them speak because they were “unaware” they were false brethren. But Paul knew they were unsaved because they disagreed with him. Believers in the Bible always accepted dispensational changes, as when those who believed on the Father under the law believed on the Son (John 6:37) and received His words about the new kingdom program (John 17:8).
Those false brethren came to the meeting to “spy out” our liberty (Gal.2:5). We have liberty from our sins (Rom.6:6,7, 18,22). In the eyes of God, we are free from sin. But these false brethren wanted to learn more about our freedom from the law (Rom.7:1-6). You see, we are not just free from our sins, we are also free from the law that condemns our sins.
And that’s the liberty these false brethren wanted to learn more about, so they could bring those disciples back under the “bondage” (Gal.2:5) of the law (cf. Acts 15:10). Paul refused to “give place” to them. That is, when he had the floor, and was presenting his case (Acts 15:12), he refused to yield the floor when they kept trying to interrupt him.
“Subjection” means to subject yourself to an authority that you recognize as God-given (Eph.5:24; Titus 3:1; IPet.2:18). Paul recognized the authority of the council leaders, but not the authority of those false brethren. Not even for an hour, for that might be the hour someone passing through Jerusalem sat in on the council, and would have left the city thinking that Paul acknowledged that men still needed to be circumcised and keep the law to be saved.
A video of this sermon is available on YouTube: Paul’s Trip to Jerusalem – Galatians 2:1-5