Galatians 2:1-16 Exploring the Passage

Below are some preliminary questions to assist in the study of this passage. For a comprehensive study of the passage, download the Study Guide (PDF download).

1. What do verses 1 through 3 (printed below) tell us about Titus?

Then, after an interval of fourteen years, I again went up to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along with me. (2) I went up in response to a revelation, and I laid out before them the gospel that I preach to the Gentiles. But I did so privately before those who were esteemed as leaders, so that by no means would I be running, or had I been running, in vain. (3) But not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek. (Galatians 2:1-3)

Titus was a Gentile who had become a Christian. Because he was a Greek, and not a Jew by birth, he was therefore uncircumcised at the time of his conversion. By remaining uncircumcised, Titus was thereby demonstrating his complete trust in Christ alone for his salvation. By his action he was declaring, “Christ and His work are fully sufficient; I need not and cannot contribute anything of my own.”

2. Why did Paul and Barnabas go to Jerusalem, taking Titus along with them? See verse 2 (printed above under question #1)

Paul and Barnabas went to Jerusalem in obedience to a revelation, the Holy Spirit instructing them to do so. At Jerusalem Paul explained to the other apostles the doctrine he was preaching, namely, that salvation is by faith in Christ alone. Titus, being an uncircumcised Christian, would serve as a test case: would he need to be circumcised and adopt the Jewish customs in order to be saved, or was his faith in Christ sufficient?

3. According to verses 4 and 5 (printed below), what was the cause of the controversy over circumcision? Also see Acts 15:5 (printed below).

This whole matter arose because of the false brothers who entered the church undetected, having sneaked into our fellowship in order to spy on our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might makes us “slaves.” (5) But not even for a moment did we submit to them; we resisted them so that the truth of the gospel might remain with you. (Galatians 2:4-5)

Then certain men of the sect of the Pharisees who believed, stood up and said, It is necessary to circumcise them (the Gentile converts) and to charge them to keep the law of Moses. (Acts 15:5)

Some of the Pharisees (whom Paul identifies as “false brothers” in Galatians 2:4) had affiliated themselves with the Christian church. Jesus’ resurrection convinced them that He was the Messiah, but they did not understand the gospel of salvation by grace. Consequently, they demanded that Gentile converts must be circumcised and adopt the Jewish religious customs in order to be saved. Recognizing this teaching of the Pharisees to be a heresy that stood in subtle, but direct, opposition to the gospel, Paul and Barnabas refused to yield to their demands that the Gentile converts be circumcised—Paul and Barnabas took their stand “so that the truth of the gospel might remain” with the church (Galatians 2:5)

4. What was the final outcome of the conference held in Jerusalem? See verse 3 (printed below). What is the significance of the apostles’ decision?

But not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek. (Galatians 2:3)

The final outcome of the council was that the apostles and elders agreed with Paul and Barnabas and consequently, “not even Titus…was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek.” (Galatians 2:3) The apostles and elders, by agreeing that Titus need not be circumcised, were supporting the truth of gospel that salvation is by Christ alone.

5. According to Galatians 2:11-12 (printed below), why did Paul publicly oppose Peter and rebuke him?

But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him directly to his face, because his actions deserved to be condemned. (12) Before certain men came from James, Cephas had been eating with the Gentile believers. But when they came, he withdrew and separated himself from the Gentiles, because he was afraid of those who belonged to the faction who advocated circumcision. (Galatians 2;11-12)

The apostle Peter had come to Antioch to visit the church in that city (a church mainly composed of Gentile converts). During his stay in Antioch Peter entered into complete fellowship with these fellow Christians who had come out of a pagan background and were Gentiles by race and nationality—Peter even went so far as to eat with them, a thing that had been strictly forbidden under the Old Testament Jewish law (note Acts 10:28). Peter’s action demonstrated his conviction that the Gentiles need not become Jews and submit themselves to the regulations of the Old Testament ceremonial law in order to be saved, they need only trust in Jesus Christ for their salvation. But when men who supported the Pharisaical position arrived at Antioch—men whom Peter may have known personally, and who knew Peter to be a strict Jew from the time of his birth—Peter became intimidated. He began to withdraw from fellowship with the Gentile Christians of Antioch. What Peter’s action amounted to was the statement that faith in Christ is not enough, one must also receive the sacrament and take upon himself the obligation of observing the whole Old Testament law with all of its regulations. At this point the apostle Paul was bold to stand up in opposition to Peter because Peter was not acting in accordance with the truth of the gospel.