1 Then after fourteen years I 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.
Barnabas = son of prophecy, or son of comfort. This name was given by the apostles. His given name was Joseph. He was a Levite born on Cyprus.
Titus was a Gentile believer. Paul probably took Titus as a test case — an uncircumcised Gentile believer.
But notice that the Holy Spirit had never told the 12 that circumcision and adherence to the law was no longer necessary — further proof of the uniqueness of Paul’s message.
Barnabas (I went … with) was a colleague. Titus (took … with me) was a subordinate (v.1).
revelation (v.2) — divine guidance, and by the request of the church in Antioch.
preach (v.2) — proclaim as a herald
reputation — thought well of by others — Peter, John, James (v.9)
lest by any means (v.2) — explaining why he went to the leaders before talking to the whole church. Paul sought a meeting with the apostles lest the controversy about the need for Gentiles to follow the law ruin his ministry.
In vain — These words are not to be understood as indicating any misgiving in the apostle’s mind concerning the gospel he preached. They refer to his apprehension of the possibility of non-success in his mission. When “dissension and questioning” arose at Antioch, he had consented to take the judgment of the church at Jerusalem. If then, through any lack of diligence or forethought on his part, a decision adverse to the broader, more liberal gospel were to be given, the work of God among the Gentiles would be set back indefinitely. Hence his precaution that the leaders should be put in possession of all the facts and arguments, so that, if possible, their weighty influence in favor of freedom might be secured before the points in dispute were debated in public. Paul had not come to Jerusalem to obtain sanction for the continuance of his ministry among the Gentiles, indeed, but in view of the efforts that had been made to nullify his labors, to convince the elders and the church there of the validity of the gospel he preached, and to counteract the misrepresentations that had been made. — Vine, page 154
Greek (v.3) — used for any Gentile who spoke Greek
Paul was willing, for the sake of the ministry, to go to Jerusalem and talk with the church leaders, but his conciliatory attitude did not extend to giving up his liberty under grace. He was pressured to have Titus circumcised but refused.
false brethren (v.4) — non-believers posing as believers who were urging law, or Judaizing Christians with ulterior motives.
secretly (v.4) — privately, not straightforwardly. Spies sent into the church by Jews to establish the law.
to spy out (v.4) — with a view to overthrowing
liberty (v.4) — Christian freedom from the law
However he [Paul] was not sent to check with the twelve or to make sure that he was preaching the same message as they. Rather, the Lord sent him to Jerusalem to communicate to the leaders “that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles.” Why did he need to tell them what he had been preaching to the Gentiles, and why this phraseology if his gospel was exactly the same as their gospel? This is not the only place where he used such wording regarding the message which he preached. Three times he called his good news “my gospel” (Romans 2:16; 16:25; 2 Timothy 2:8). Frequently he said, “our gospel,” or “that gospel which I preach unto you” or “that gospel which was preached of me.” His epistles are filled with such phraseology. Why should he put such emphasis on the distinctiveness of his message if it were not distinct and separate from that which the twelve had been preaching? — Stam, page 107.
Paul has been accused of inconsistency because in the case of Titus he refused to observe the Jewish rite which he had administered to his other friend and companion, Timothy (Acts 16:3). The principles involved were, however, quite different. In the case of Titus, Paul was refusing to admit the principle that observance of the Mosaic law was necessary to salvation. This was the doctrine of the Pharisaic legalists who opposed Paul in the Council at Jerusalem and who were represented by the false teachers troubling the Galatian churches.
In the case of Timothy, however, no such principle was at stake. Jewish Christians were not involved. Paul wished to avoid needlessly offending the unconverted Jews among whom he was to work. Paul made a concession to Jewish prejudices merely to avoid needless opposition. He permitted the rite as a matter of racial and social significance, and not as a ground of salvation. It was at most a practical compromise to make his companion more acceptable to the Jews. Furthermore, Titus was a pure Gentile, while Timothy was the son of a Jewess, and the question at issue involved the Christian liberty of Gentiles. — Erdman, page 44
There were three parties in the Jerusalem controversy: Paul and Barnabas who maintained that the Gentile converts were not to be circumcised, the false brethren who demanded that they be circumcised, and the Jerusalem apostles who for the sake of expediency were urged by the false brethren to insist that Paul and Barnabas require circumcision of their Gentile converts. — Wuest, page 60