March 29, 2012
Back to Basics
Never Running in Vain
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In the letter to the Galatians, Paul has explained that God revealed truth to him directly. Paul emphatically asserts that no man on earth taught him the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but God revealed it to him without human instrumentality. As believers, we can rest confidently in the revelation of God because it speaks to our needs, wants and desires today. The Scriptures provide direct communications from God to our lives, if we open our ears to hear Him speak to us today. Our study today will focus upon Paul’s second trip to Jerusalem.
Up again to Jerusalem. In Galatians 2:1, Paul described his second visit to Jerusalem. In Galatians 1:18-20, we read that Paul had previously been to Jerusalem, and met Cephas (Peter) and the Lord’s brother and apostle, James. On this second trip to Jerusalem, Paul explained that he took Barnabas and Titus along with him.
Barnabas and Titus. We first met Barnabas in Acts 4:36, as a Cypriot, who sold land and laid the proceeds at the apostles’ feet. The apostles named him “Barnabas” meaning son of encouragement. As you read through Acts, you will see Barnabas play a critical role in the life and development of Paul. Barnabas sought out Paul on more than one occasion, and introduced him to believers and others. He also accompanied Paul on missionary projects. Barnabas greatly encouraged Paul in his early ministry. Notice here that Paul went up with Barnabas, describing them as equals. You may recall that in Acts 13:1-2, the Holy Spirit directed the church at Antioch to send Barnabas and Saul (“Paul”) to the work which the Holy Spirit had called them. On their first missionary journey together, Barnabas and Paul went back to Cyprus, the home country of Barnabas. As they travelled further, Paul and Barnabas ministered to people shoulder to shoulder. So, naturally, Paul went up to Jerusalem with Barnabas (“μετὰ Βαρναβᾶ”). Notice too, however, that Paul describes Titus as someone they took (“συμπαραλαβὼν”) along. This phrasing implies that Barnabas and Paul went up as long-standing fellow workers, with Titus coming along as the companion. Paul worked with other men constantly. He lived the great commission (Matthew 28:18-20), and trained men in the spirit of 2 Timothy 2:2. Barnabas had a great role in training Paul, not on matters of revelation, but by introducing him to people in Jerusalem, bringing him from his home in Tarsus to the revival in Antioch, and joining him on missionary travels. We all need a son of encouragement in our lives, and to be an encouragement to every other believer. Titus must have had a great time working with Paul and Barnabas, and truly enjoying the time under these great men of God discipling him. All of us need to review our lives today to see what disciples we are making. Are you a part of a ministry team, working daily to make disciples who will in turn make disciples of other believers, to propagate the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the whole world and to encourage believers to live for Christ all day, every day? When you look around your life, do you see a Barnabas and a Titus? God loves to make ministry teams, and He will help you join one if you desire to do His will.
Because of Revelation. In Galatians 2:2, Paul isolated the reason he went up to Jerusalem: a revelation. When comparing Galatians 2:2 with the visit of Paul to Jerusalem described in Acts 11:27-30, we see that Paul and Barnabas took a contribution from Antioch to Jerusalem, following the prophecy of Agabus concerning a famine. Galatians 2:2 may correspond with that visit from Antioch to Jerusalem. Of course, we cannot discount that the Galatians 2:2 visit may have been related to the Jerusalem Council described in Acts 15:1-35. In either event, the content of the visit seems more important. Paul pointed to revelation (“κατὰ ἀποκάλυψιν”) as the reason he went up to Jerusalem. Paul does not clarify whether he meant a revelation told him to go up, or because he wanted to discuss his previous revelation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ with the men in Jerusalem. The original language, according to some scholars, indicated that Paul received a revelation directing him to go up to Jerusalem. At any rate, Paul went up to Jerusalem for the purpose of discussing the revelation he had already received concerning the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Submitted the Gospel. In Galatians 2:2, Paul submitted (“ἀνεθέμην”) the Gospel which he preached among the Gentiles (compare Acts 15:4). The only other use of this root term occurs with Festus laying the case of Paul before King Agrippa. One official explained the facts to another official. In this case, Paul laid the facts of the Gospel he preached to the Gentiles before the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem. I am not fond of the translation “submitted” here because it may convey the idea that gospel Paul preached was somehow lower, inferior or different from the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. As we have seen in Galatians and elsewhere, Jesus only proclaimed one gospel of salvation for the entire world, and Jesus revealed it directly to Paul, and Paul preached it all over the world.
In Private. In Galatians 2:2, Paul laid the facts of the Gospel before the men of reputation (“τοῖς δοκοῦσιν”) in private (“κατ’ ἰδίαν”). We should notice that Paul spoke again about the men of reputation in Galatians 2:6. There, Paul mentioned that God did not show partiality (“πρόσωπον . . . οὐ λαμβάνει”) to these men of “reputation.” Therefore, we may gain some insight into the full meaning of Paul’s communications with them. First, based upon all that Paul has described in Galatians so far about his direct revelation from God, Paul was not “submitting” the Gospel he received by direct revelation from God for the approval of the men of reputation in Jerusalem. Second, Paul communicated the Gospel to them in private, perhaps because Paul did not want to stir up a general controversy among the people, without first going to the leadership. Third, Paul sought a review of his actions and Gospel for the purpose of checking his own actions.
Never Running in Vain. In Galatians 2:2, Paul exposed his worry that he may have been “running, or had run, in vain” (“εἰς κενὸν τρέχω ἢ ἔδραμον”). We may gather from this phrase that Paul consulted with the men of reputation in Jerusalem to be sure he was not running in vain. Without their support, his ministry would be separate and focused only upon the Gentiles. With their support, the body of Jesus Christ would not be divided in message, ministry, or spirit. Paul did not seem ready to abandon the gospel revealed to him directly by Christ, but rather he did seek to establish a working relationship with the church leaders in Jerusalem. For all of us, we need to seek ways to minister in concert with other believers, and to be united in doctrine and ministry. Just because we are convinced that we hold the revealed truth from God in our hands does not commission us to ignore the other believers. As Paul spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, many areas of conflict with the Jews would arise, and certain Judaizers were already at work in the Galatian churches trying to impose the Old Testament law upon new Christians. Paul knew he was not running in vain concerning the substance of the Gospel, but he sought the fellowship of the brethren, and their communion with the Gospel of Jesus Christ he preached to the Gentiles.
So we learn more about never running in vain today.
● Jesus revealed the Gospel directly to Paul, and Paul never doubted that revelation, but preached it to both Gentiles and Jews around the world. We should be sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ, without doubts, every day.
● Paul labored on a ministry team, working with Barnabas and taking Titus along for the journey to Jerusalem. We should all be on such teams every day.
● Paul sought the fellowship and communion of the saints in Jerusalem, and particularly the Jewish saints, because he wanted the Galatians to know that God provided only one Gospel, for all people. We should live in fellowship and communion with all faithful believers every day.
Application for Today
As I walk through life today, I love to minister with other believers, and disciple other believers. Together, sharing the good news of Jesus Christ, we live and breathe the spiritual life of Jesus Christ to a dark and dying world. Will you be running with the ministry team of Jesus Christ, or running in vain today?