Galatians 2:1-10

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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

  • 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 stubborness 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?”
  • 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?

Cross-References

  • Titus 1:4-5 – Summary of Titus
  • Acts 4:36 – Barnabas
  • Acts 15 – Describes some of the events of the Jerusalem Counsel. This is probably the same timeframe described in Galatians 2.
  • Romans 4:9-12 – Paul discusses circumcision and salvation by grace through faith.
  • Acts 15:1,5,24 – The false teachers argue that circumcision is necessary for salvation.
  • Galatians 5:1 – It was for freedom that Christ set us free.
  • 2 Corinthians 12:11-12 – The signs of a true apostle were performed among you.

Teaching Points

Verse 1: This probably refers to the events taking place during the Jerusalem Counsel. See Acts 15. Read some select sections of Acts 15 and discuss the purpose of the Jerusalem Counsel. Also introduce Titus and Barnabas.

Verse 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. The next few verses describe their 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. See 1 Corinthians 14:40. Everything should be done decently and in and orderly fashion.

Verse 3: Paul won a resounding victory. Titus was not compelled to be baptized! 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. Some people almost equate baptism with salvation. They don’t believe that they are 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.

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.

Verse 4: The false brethren secretly brought in. 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 don’t always identify themselves immediately. Sometimes they observe for a while. They blend in. Then when they think the time is right, they lay the snares. They promote division. Their goal was to enslave them to false teachings and ruin their Christian freedom.

We must always be alert. Satan has not given up. A wounded lion is the most dangerous kind. There are many cults in China. False teaching is also rampant. We must dilligently study the Bible so that we can recognize false teaching. Beyond that, we must dilligently stand up to and fight against false teaching wherever we see it.

Verse 5: 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 is. 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? Notice 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. The 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?

My opinion is that 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. We can still fellowship together and partner for some activities. Don’t compromise, but also be diligent to maintain unity. Ephesians 4:3. John 13:35. 2 Timothy 2:15. Perhaps humility is the most important ingredient for dealing with believers who embrace different doctrines.

Verse 6: Paul mentions their reputation not because he cares about it, but because some would respect and believe what the apostles in Jerusalem said. I would say that the apostles 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…” 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. Nowadays for example, most Bible scholars in the church will tell you that Genesis 1-3 is not to be taken literally and that the 6 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.

Verse 7: What task has God entrusted you with? Last week, we discussed our callings. 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. We would do well to have a clear vision of how we believe God wants to use us.

Verse 9: 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. This is also confirmed in Acts 15.

Verse 10: Remember the poor. The poor are sometimes easy to forget. We get comfortable in our own worlds 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.

Study Galatians 2:11-21

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