Thursday, April 25
Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along also.
2 I went up according to a revelation and presented to them the gospel I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to those recognized as leaders. I wanted to be sure I was not running, and had not been running, in vain. 3 But not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek. 4 This matter arose because some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus in order to enslave us. 5 But we did not give up and submit to these people for even a moment, so that the truth of the gospel would be preserved for you.
6 Now from those recognized as important (what they once were makes no difference to me; God does not show favoritism ) — they added nothing to me. 7 On the contrary, they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel for the uncircumcised, just as Peter was for the circumcised, 8 since the one at work in Peter for an apostleship to the circumcised was also at work in me for the Gentiles. 9 When James, Cephas, and John — those recognized as pillars — acknowledged the grace that had been given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to me and Barnabas, agreeing that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. 10 They asked only that we would remember the poor, which I had made every effort to do.
There’s a lot packed into these 10 verses, but we’ll focus specifically on verses 3-5. Paul is pointing out that Titus, being a Greek, was not compelled to be circumcised and that even though that was the case he was still accepted into being a disciple of Christ. What this meant is that the spiritual leadership in Jerusalem accepted the gospel of grace alone and faith alone, not the gospel of outside works. This was a potential problem because circumcision was the sign of initiation into the jewish faith and the old covenant. Since most Jewish men were circumcised and most gentiles were not it was an easy way to recognize those were “within the covenant” and those who were not. Now under the new covenant Paul is communication that circumcision had no bearing upon salvation and was therefore not to be forced upon the Gentiles. This may seem like arbitrary information but it’s actually a really big deal. See Paul realized that if people believed that in order to be saved in the new covenant you had to be circumcised it would be compromising the true gospel. Essentially it would turn the gospel message away from “grace alone” and into “you have to look the part to be accepted.” Paul understood that if the message of the gospel was compromised, it wasn’t just bad for the Gentiles, but it would mean a misunderstanding for everyone who believed in the name of Jesus. We see at the end of the passage a powerful statement of how Paul and his companions did not swerve from the true gospel even for a moment, and because of that people were able to see the truth that our salvation depends entirely upon Jesus saving us, not our deserving of it.
Paul again is touching on the reality that throughout our lives many things will come and challenge our belief in the true gospel. Circumcision isn’t much of a topic in our culture (thank goodness) but there are many things that could be compared to this same conversation. Take some time to think about your understanding of the gospel, are there areas that you’re allowing culture and outside influences to inform your belief? Let’s cast aside everything that doesn’t come straight from God regarding the good news of the gospel. Believe today that your salvation rests entirely on the work of Christ, not on your ability to meet a set of standards.
Father, forgive me for ways I have strayed away from the truth of the gospel. Forgive me for believing lesser things that lead me away from truth. Forgive me also for any way I have led others away from the true things you have to say about Yourself, us, the world, and how we are saved. Energize me with the power of the true gospel today so that I can live for you.
Pick Four More Activities
Listen and Worship.
Pray a Psalm.
Read a Book.
Retell the Gospel to Yourself.
Take Some Notes on Today's Devotional.
Pray for Yourself, Your Family, Your Church, and the Lost.
Memorize a Verse.
List Five Things You're Thankful For.