These small group studies of Galatians contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, and applications. Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.
Galatians 2:1-10 Inductive Bible Study – Discussion Questions and Commentary
I. Paul’s vision verified by the apostles (1-6)
II. Paul’s message verified by the apostles (7-10)
I. Paul’s vision verified by the apostles (1-6)
- Why did Paul go to Jerusalem?
- What did he do there?
- What opposition did Paul run into there?
- What do we know about Titus?
- How did Paul react to those false brethren?
- Why was he so stubborn? Is stubbornness a good thing?
- What was his motivation for not compromising?
- Who were people of “high reputation” that Paul speaks of?
- Why did he mention their reputation if he didn’t care about it?
- What does he mean that they “contributed nothing to me?”
Titus 1:4 – To Titus, my true son in our common faith.
Acts 4:36 – Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”)
Acts 15 – Describes some of the events of the Jerusalem Counsel. This is probably the same time frame described in Galatians 2.
Romans 4:9-12 – Is this blessedness only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? We have been saying that Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness. Under what circumstances was it credited? Was it after he was circumcised, or before? It was not after, but before! And he received circumcision as a sign, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. So then, he is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them. And he is then also the father of the circumcised who not only are circumcised but who also follow in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.
Galatians 5:1 – It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
Verse by Verse Commentary
1. I went up to Jerusalem – This probably refers to the events taking place during the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15.
Acts 15:1 – But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.”
Acts 15:5 – But some believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees rose up and said, “It is necessary to circumcise them and to order them to keep the law of Moses.”
The Jerusalem Council looked at this teaching that the law of Moses and circumcision were necessary for salvation. Peter presented his case, which is summed up in Acts 15:8, “But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”
And Paul and Barnabas also presented their case (Acts 15:12). It is evident from Galatians 2:2 that Paul also met with some of the apostles privately to share with them in depth the gospel that he proclaimed, namely salvation by grace through faith.
The result of the Jerusalem Counsel was that Gentiles were not required to be circumcised or follow the law of Moses (Acts 15:19).
2. To those who were of reputation – Namely Peter, James, and John. Remember that Paul is defending his apostleship. During this trip to Jerusalem, his stance on circumcision and legalism was at stake. He did not doubt that what he was preaching was true since it was revealed to him directly by God. It seems some of Paul’s attackers were claiming that these three apostles were real apostles, while Paul was not. And therefore they rejected the gospel he preached as being genuine. Their goal was to force Gentiles to become Jews first before they could be saved and make them be circumcised and follow the law of Moses.
The next few verses describe the apostle’s conclusion on the gospel Paul was preaching. He didn’t need their endorsement since he knew what he was preaching was directly from Christ, but their endorsement would act to give “his gospel” more credibility in front of those false teachers and the church at large. The church in Jerusalem was still considered the Mother church by many and the apostles’ opinions who served there might sway some people who weren’t swayed by Paul.
Paul met privately with these three apostles. This was not because he wasn’t sure if the gospel he was preaching was genuine or not. It is clear that it was revealed to him directly by Christ and he was willing to stake everything on it. Instead he wanted to meet privately with these three, probably to make sure they agreed and would support him during the full counsel.
During this first meeting he didn’t want everyone there with lots of opportunity for debate and/or disagreement. Instead he preferred to keep the circle small and limited to the leaders who would be deciding the issue. This was an issue worth fighting for, and yet Paul realized there was a right way and a wrong way to fight for it.
Paul followed his own teaching from this verse. He did not rashly charge in guns glazing. He was wise and cautious. He appealed directly to the top leaders and made sure to have a good opportunity for clearly explaining his position without interference. Then with the full support of the apostles, he could move his case to the public arena.
Application: It is important to be bold and to stand on the truth. It is also important to be wise. There is a right way and a wrong way to argue for the truth. It should be done in humility and in an orderly way. Next time you face a situation where you need to speak out for truth, pray first and then proceed with wisdom.
3. Titus was not forced to be circumcised – Paul won a resounding victory. Titus was not compelled to be circumcised! Circumcision was a key issue among the Judaizers. They believed that one could not be saved without being circumcised. However, circumcision is a work. If circumcision was required for salvation then salvation would at least be partially by good works.
We must also realize today that salvation is not by good works. Although in the modern world few people teach circumcision as necessary for salvation it is common to equate baptism with salvation. Some don’t believe a person is a true Christian until they have been baptized. If that were the case, we would be falling into the same trap of endorsing a type of good works salvation.
Question for thought: What are some other good works which people rely on?
The results of this teaching would have been devastating.
- The importance of God’s grace would have been lowered.
- We would be more prideful since we rely on ourselves and our own good works.
- The weight and burden of the law would once again be on our shoulders.
- The progress of the gospel would have been greatly slowed since every person must become a Jew in order to become a Christian. Many may have rejected the gospel because they were unwilling to be circumcised and because the Old Testament law was too difficult to follow.
4. False brothers were secretly brought in to spy on Titus – What does this mean? Well, in short it means that men snuck in to the restrooms of the day to observe Titus and take note of whether he was circumcised or not.
Satan is sneaky and devious. He often doesn’t attack head on. Rather he sneaks and spies. His attacks tend to be more subtle. He still sends false teachers into the church. These generally don’t identify themselves. They don’t stand up in the pulpit and announce, “I am a false teacher. Today I am going to deceive you.”
They bring in false teaching secretly. Sometimes they observe for a while. They blend in. Then when they think the time is right, they lay the snares. They promote division.
We must always be alert. Satan has not given up. A wounded lion is the most dangerous kind. There are many cults in the world. False teaching is also rampant. We must diligently study the Bible so that we can recognize false teaching. Beyond that, we must diligently stand up to and fight against false teaching wherever we see it.
Application: Some people say, “I need to study false teaching and cult so that I can combat them.” However, we would do well to learn from bank tellers. A bank teller does not study every type of counterfeit money. He simply is very familiar with the look and feel of real money. Then whenever he encounters counterfeit money, any kind of counterfeit money, he will instantly know that it is not real.
You don’t need to spend your time researching false teaching. Study God’s Word diligently and then by knowing the truth you will be equipped to quickly discern the lie.
5. We did not yield in submission – No compromise! For the sake of the gospel, Paul would not budge or compromise one inch. One might question why Paul didn’t just let Titus be circumcised. After all, it is not sinful to be circumcised. The problem is that if he gave in, the false teachers would take it as proof that circumcision was always necessary. They would say even Paul required his disciples to be circumcised. Then the true gospel would be in danger of being forever tainted by a works based foundation.
Application: There are many areas we can and should compromise in. We should compromise when our personal preferences or convenience is at stake. For example, I shouldn’t always demand that my family eat what I like or go where I like. But on Biblical issues, where the Bible speaks clearly, we must not compromise. How do we balance Christian unity with no compromising on truth?
Note that Paul refused to compromise on a gospel essential issue. The entire gospel is at stake. We should not compromise on our Biblical convictions, but neither should we promote disunity or gravitate to conflict.
This a difficult balance to maintain. Many believers go off on one side or the other. Some enjoy arguing. They will latch on to any disagreement with other believers, even on small issues, and argue about it. Their attitude is often prideful and they will look down on others if they don’t agree with them. Their first solution to many problems is to divide and start their own group/church.
Others prefer an ecumenical approach. They can seemingly accept any and every doctrine and position. Doctrinal issues are not very important to them. In turn, they may look down pridefully on those who emphasize doctrine. How can we balance these issues?
We can serve together with believers of other viewpoints if we cooperate in areas we agree about. For example, I can go out and share the gospel together with a believer who doesn’t believe in predestination or who has a different view on eschatalogy. But I would not hold an end times seminar together with a believer who doesn’t believe in the rapture or invite him to speak on this topic to my Bible study group. Cooperate with other believers as far as you can without violating your Scriptural convictions.
Don’t compromise, but also be diligent to maintain unity.
Perhaps humility is the most important ingredient for dealing with believers who embrace different doctrines.
6. Those who are influential added nothing to me – Paul mentions their reputation not because he cares about it, but because some would respect and believe what the apostles in Jerusalem said. The apostles obviously had very good credibility.
Today, we should not believe something just because a famous preacher said it. It is not a good argument to say, “I believe…because John MacArthur said…”
When someone asks you what you believe do not answer them by saying, “My church teaches that…” or, “Pastor X says…” Study God’s Word for yourselves. And always train yourself to ask the question, “What does the Bible say?”
One huge point of the entire Protestant Reformation is that every person can come to the Bible, read it, understand it, and apply it on their own. We can still learn from Bible scholars, but we should not use that as an excuse for not researching the Bible ourselves. And neither are they the final authority Nowadays for example, many so-called Bible scholars in the church will tell you that Genesis 1-3 is not to be taken literally and that the six day creation is a myth. In this case their reputation doesn’t matter.
God does not show favoritism. It is unhealthy to attach ourselves as followers of people. Paul was not happy with the Corinthian church because they divided into camps based on their favorite preacher. They said, “I am of Apollos” or “I am of Paul.” Neither should we identify ourselves based on which preacher or speaker we like. That would create problems and disunity.
II. Paul’s message verified by the apostles (7-10)
- What does it mean that Paul was “entrusted with the gospel?” Who are the “uncircumcised?”
- Who is the He in verse 8? What does Paul mean that He worked for Peter and for himself?
- How did the meeting with James, John, and Peter conclude?
- What is the “right hand of fellowship?”
- What request did they make of Paul? Why make this request?
2 Corinthians 12:11-12 – I have made a fool of myself, but you drove me to it. I ought to have been commended by you, for I am not in the least inferior to the “super-apostles,” even though I am nothing. I persevered in demonstrating among you the marks of a true apostle, including signs, wonders and miracles.
Romans 1:14-15 – I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. So, for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.
Acts 9:15 – But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel.
Acts 22:21 – Then the Lord said to me, ‘Go; I will send you far away to the Gentiles.
Verse by Verse Commentary
1. They saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel – What task has God entrusted you with? Do you know what God has called you to do? Have you been faithfully doing it this past week?
We should be as clear in our own minds as Paul was in his what our calling is. I would also encourage couples to discuss together jointly what their calling is and even write it on a paper to refer to it from time to time. This big picture goal can help you make decisions on little things. For example since my goal is to train and equip believers for sharing the gospel and starting groups I would likely decline if the church asked me to become a Sunday School teacher or choir member. Having a clear understanding of God’s vision for your life will help keep you on track and know when to say, “yes” and when to say, “no.”
2. They gave me the right hand of fellowship – Remember that Paul’s point in all of this is defending his apostleship and the gospel he has been preaching. Here he notes that the pillars of the Jerusalem church agreed with him and extended to him the “right hand of fellowship.” This “represented a solemn vow of friendship and a mark of apostleship.” Clearly they affirmed Paul as a true apostle and the gospel he preached as the true gospel.
Paul told the Galatian church this so that they would believe in what he was preaching to them and stop listening to the false teachers who pushed a works based salvation.
3. Remember the poor – The poor are sometimes easy to forget. We get comfortable in our own world and don’t always think of those who are in less fortunate positions than we are. When we do think of them, we sometimes even blame them for their misfortune and say trite things like “he should work harder.” You don’t need to look far to realize this is an issue the Bible talks a lot about. (Proverbs 19:17, Matthew 5:42, Luke 3:11.)
Application: Think about and write down one thing you can do this week to remember the poor.
Galatians E-Book Bible Study – You can access the complete online study of Galatians by downloading our e-book here.
Galatians Paperback Study Guide – You can also order a paperback version of the study from Amazon.
We want to help you study the Bible, obey the Bible, and teach the Bible to others. We have therefore created a library of almost one thousand (and growing) inductive Bible studies, which are available for free. This takes a lot of time and hard work.
Help us continue to create Bible study resources by supporting Study and Obey for as little as $1.