Fourteen years later I went up again to Jerusalem, accompanied by Barnabas. I took Titus along also.
I. HOW AGREEABLE TO THE MIND OF THE SPIRIT THE CONFERENCE OF BRETHREN IS. (Ver. 2.) For Paul went up with Barnabas and Titus "by revelation." The Spirit impelled him to confer with the apostles at Jerusalem, and to strengthen his own judgment by securing theirs. And in the conference he seems to have laid before them the gospel of free grace which for fourteen years he had been preaching among the Gentiles. His statement was an exposition of his message, how he had taught the Gentiles that they were to be justified by faith and not by ceremony. Moreover, he was careful to enter into conference only with those who were of reputation, whose judgment would command respect, and to insist on the conference being private and confidential. Now, there can be no question about the great value of such confidential interchanges of thought by brethren. Even when there is not much light shed upon the path of duty, as seems to have been the case here, there is yet the confirmation of the Lord's servants in the propriety of their course.
II. IN CONTENTION WITH OTHERS WE SHOULD HAVE CLEARLY BEFORE US THE INTERESTS OF THE GOSPEL. (Vers. 3-5.) Titus, who accompanied Paul to Jerusalem, had been Paul's companion in Galatia and in the mission tom's of Asia Minor. He was a Greek, a Gentile therefore, as distinct from a Jew. He had not, like Timothy, any Jewish blood in his veins. When the Judaizers, therefore, urged that Titus should be circumcised, and so become a proselyte to Jewish ceremonials, Paul resisted the demand so determinedly that no circumcision of Titus ever took place. In doing so, Paul had the interests of truth clearly in view. Had he yielded to the clamour, the gospel would have ceased practically to be a power in Galatia. It would not have continued with them. It would have been said, on the contrary, that salvation does not come by faith alone, but by ceremony as well. It was the interests of the gospel which Paul had clearly in view. It would be well if we had always so clear a view of the interests of truth in our contentions with others. It is to be feared we sometimes fight for our consistency and personal interests rather than for the gospel. We should suspect our motives until we see the gospel's interests clearly involved in our struggle.
III. A CONFERENCE MAY ADD NO FRESH LIGHT TO WHAT WE HAVE, BUT SIMPLY CONFIRM US IN OUR COURSE. (Ver. 6.) The apostle admits that the brethren at Jerusalem seemed to the Galatians to be most important judges of such matters as were brought before them. He himself did not form the same extravagant opinion of their ability, for he felt assured that "God accepteth no man's person," and that he, as an apostle born out of due time, had as much light given to him for his work as those who were in Christ before him. Hence he states plainly that they imparted nothing to him in the conference. They simply confirmed him in the practice of Christian liberty. And this will often be the case in Christian conferences. It is not the fresh light they shed upon doctrine or duty, but mainly the confirmation they afford of lines of duty already taken up. This, however, ought not to be despised, but rather gratefully accepted as according to the will of God.
IV. THE IMPRIMATUR OF THE APOSTLES IS SIGNIFICANT. (Vers. 7-9.) It is to be observed that Paul never sought apostolic ordination. He and Barnabas were designated by the brethren at Antioch when about to proceed upon their first missionary journey (Acts 13:1-3). But he had never all these years sought for ordination at the hands of the apostles who were in office before him. At the end of fourteen years he gives in a report, and all that he receives from the apostles is "the right hand of fellowship." In this connection we may quote from the able book of the "American citizen" on 'The Philosophy of the Divine Operation.' He is contending for Paul, not Matthias, being the twelfth apostle. After showing Paul's superior marks of apostleship, he proceeds," Ordination, where there is no Holy Spirit, is not scriptural ordination. The laying on of hands by men who do not possess the Spirit of Christ themselves is not consecration. Hence offices and interests imparted by men or Churches whose spirit is merely formal and secular have no Divine validity. The men appointed under such circumstances may be good and useful, as many of them are. Communications of grace from above may be granted them. But the seal of God is not in the act of ordination. And Paul, called of God, with only the right hand of fellowship given him by the apostles, does the work of God better than Matthias, ordained by non-spiritual administrators."
V. THE REMEMBRANCE OF THE POOR WAS ALWAYS TO CHARACTERIZE THE CHRISTIAN MISSION. (Ver. 10.) The apostles, in recognizing Paul's policy and mission among the Gentiles, merely reminded him of the care of the poor, which was to be a first note of the Christian mission. The gospel is preached to the poor; it charges itself with their care. It was with the gospel the obligation recognized by the "poor laws" arose. The care of the poor was not felt by other religious systems as it is by Christianity. And it is questionable if the poor are as well cared for by law as they would be if left to Christian love. Now, there can be no doubt of this trait of Christianity being a most important evidence of its Divine origin. The care of the poor would never have become the commonplace it now seems to be had not Christianity charged itself with the enlightenment and the care of the poor (Matthew 11:5). The Christian commune, the noble experiment which succeeded Pentecost, put for a time poverty outside the Church's pale (Acts 4:34). But even when poverty is driven out of the Church, it will still exist in the world, and for the poor Christianity must provide. This is one of its great missions; the apostles, though poor themselves, nobly responded to the call and faced the problem; and so must we all in our spheres if we have aught of the apstolic spirit. - R.M.E.
I went up to Jerusalem.I. WHICH? The third (Acts 15:2), the first being that of the previous chapter (Acts 9:26), the second that of Acts 11:30, both the purpose and time of which forbid its being confounded with them. Both Galatians 2. and Acts 15. agree in time, geography, persons, intent, and subsequent events.
II. WHEN? Fourteen years after, when by experiences, trials, and achievements, Paul had earned the right to take the position he had assumed. Let young Christians learn from this to wait until experience and service give them the right to assert their equality with their elders.
III. WHAT FOR? To fight and win the battle of Christian liberty, equality, and fraternity.
IV. WITH WHOM? Titus, a representative of the cause he was fighting; Barnabas, an unexceptionable witness of the justice of his cause.
(E. Reuss, D. D.)and Paul: — Barnabas may be said, in a certain sense, to have made Paul what he afterwards became. He brought him out of obscurity. He put him in the forefront, though he must have been well aware that he was likely to become more distinguished and powerful than himself. This is that peculiar mark of a generous disposition, the absence of anxiety for personal credit, the readiness for friendly combination in useful undertakings without any selfish end in view. There are some men who have no heart for any enterprise unless they can have the first place in it. This is perhaps a prevalent temptation with most energetic characters. But this habit of mind is not according to Christ (Matthew 20:27), and Barnabas is a good example to show us how such temptation can be overcome.
(Dean Howson.)I. THE TIME WHEN IT WAS UNDERTAKEN. "Fourteen years after I went up to Jerusalem."
II. THE COMPANIONS OF HIS JOURNEY. Barnabas was appointed to go to Jerusalem with Paul, and the latter took with him Titus also. Christian companionship should therefore include —
1. Unity of purpose in the chief aims of life. There may be differences as to inferior things, but in regard to the highest endeavours of the heart and life there should be unity.
2. Christian companionship ought to be the friendship of men governed by the same spirit, and that spirit should be the Spirit of Christ.
3. Christian companionship should be formed with a view to mutual edification.
III. THE REASON FOR PAUL'S JOURNEY — "And I went up by revelation." In Acts 15. there is given the history of the events which apparently led to this journey being undertaken. Lesson: In the life of every good man there are epochs which show the progress of God's plan in reference to him.
(W. M. Taylor.)
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