I am being stretched! For those who don’t know, this “verse for the day” project started out as a way to send an email each day to my children to encourage them in their faith. At first, I did random verses, but was convicted to do more of a study to keep the verses in context.
This has required much more from me. I find myself having to work harder and study more to put together a post. I’m trusting that my theologian husband will correct me if I am misunderstanding something! Truly, I am fascinated by God’s Word and what I am reading and pondering.
Today we move into Galatians 2 with the first five verses:
“Then after fourteen years I [Paul] went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and also took Titus with me. 2 And I went up by revelation, and communicated to them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to those who were of reputation, lest by any means I might run, or had run, in vain. 3 Yet not even Titus who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised. 4 And this occurred because of false brethren secretly brought in (who came in by stealth to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage), 5 to whom we did not yield submission even for an hour, that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.” (NKJV)
Most of the notes I read seem to think that Paul is talking about 14 years after his conversion. He has gone up to Jerusalem by revelation, something that the Lord revealed to him to do, to communicate to them the gospel he has preached among the Gentiles.
In Genesis 17, God established his covenant with Abram. God would multiply Abram exceedingly and make Abram the father of many nations. God made an everlasting covenant with Abram and his descendants. The sign of the covenant was that every male child would be circumcised. This sign of circumcision would continue generation to generation.
At one point, I studied the word “covenant” in the Old Testament. It was an interesting study, and I Iooked back at some of my notes today. The first mention I found of the word “covenant” in the Bible was in Genesis 6:18, followed by Genesis 9:9-17, which describe the Noahic covenant. It was between Noah and his descendants after him. Never again would God flood the earth or cut off all flesh with a flood. The sign of this covenant was a rainbow. God would look on it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh on the earth. Even today, when I see a rainbow, I remember that covenant.
In Genesis 15:18, God made a covenant with Abram to give him and his descendants the land.
You could continue to trace the thread of covenant throughout the Bible. An everlasting covenant sounds like a pretty big deal, doesn’t it?
Now in the New Testament after Jesus’ resurrection with the apostles having been sent out to make disciples of all peoples and nations, there was conflict over this sign of circumcision.
As we’ll see, Peter had been sent to the Jewish people, while Paul was sent to the Gentiles. In Romans 1:16-17, Paul tells us that the gospel of Christ is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. So though the Gentiles/Greeks had not been part of this initial covenant with Abram, they were offered salvation through Christ, and Paul is making the point that they do not need to be circumcised to be saved. For salvation comes by grace through faith in Jesus, not by any works we can do.
Paul points out that Titus had not been circumcised, indicating that the Gentiles did not have to follow Jewish law to become a Christian. Salvation is God’s gift to those who believe in Jesus. False brethren were around, though, who tried to tell them otherwise, who tried to add circumcision as a requirement to the gospel.
In Galatians, Paul is defending the true gospel of God against these false brethren who want to bind the new converts with legalism instead of giving them the freedom and liberty found in Christ.
This issue is mentioned several times in Paul’s letters, and he is very passionate about clarifying the pure and true gospel of Christ – that it comes not as a result of works or of the law, but through Christ, by grace, through faith, as a gift, given by God. Paul is laboring for this gospel, and doesn’t want those labors to be in vain, to be set aside by thinking something else must be done to be saved.
These verses tell us Paul does not submit for a moment to those who would steal their liberty in Christ, so that the truth of the gospel may continue with them.
PRAYER: Lord, these are heavy verses. I don’t know if I’ve understood them all completely correctly, but I do pray that we would know and love and cherish your gospel – the truth that we are sinners, but through Jesus, through your gracious gift, we can be saved. Jesus came to earth as a man, fully God and fully man, lived a perfect life, died on the cross, taking our sin and shame and the punishment we deserved, and rose from the dead validating all that He said and did. We will celebrate Sunday this resurrection after we remember on Good Friday the sacrifice Jesus made and the cost he paid so willingly for us, so that by faith in Jesus, we can be forgiven and walk in new life, in fellowship with God. We rejoice in this gospel, that it comes to us so freely, that we don’t have to earn it, that we don’t have to do something to attain it, we just believe. Thank you, Jesus. May we also defend your gospel, as Paul did, and be willing to share it with others who need to know this truth. Awaken their hearts by the power of your Holy Spirit to know you, too. In Jesus’ name, Amen.