” Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along with me. I went up because of a revelation and set before them (though privately before those who seemed influential) the gospel that I proclaim among the Gentiles, in order to make sure I was not running or had not run in vain. But even Titus, who was with me, was not forced to be circumcised, though he was a Greek.” (Galatians 2:1–3 ESV)
When I read these three verses I can feel the tension. We have Paul the apostle to the Gentiles together with his teammate Barnabas, a man of encouragement who trusted Paul and we have Titus, a Greek Christian, how now is a follower of Jesus.
At first, we may not notice the tension, but it is real. Paul after fourteen years and probably already completed his first mission trip is now going to Jerusalem because of a revelation to speak to the rest of the apostles. To clarify that his Gospel is genuine and that he has not run his race in vain.
Paul went to Jerusalem because of a revelation and not because he was called by the leaders of the Jerusalem church to give an account of his Gospel. Paul is consistent with his message, he is the apostle to the Gentiles commissioned and empowered through an encounter, a revelation of Jesus. The Gospel is the Revelation of Jesus.
Why did Paul say that Titus “was not forced to be circumcised”? (Here we are being introduced to the “other gospel” that had infiltrated the church in Galatia). Why is Paul making that comment? Was he aware that the Jerusalem church would not welcome his friend and spiritual son Titus because he was not circumcised?
I want you to know that circumcision was and still is a racial separation between Jews and Gentles.
It is like bringing someone to church, a man who has encountered Jesus, and before I introduce him to the congregation or the leaders of the church, I need to clean him up. I need to ask him to speak in a certain way, behave in a proper manner worthy of the sanctity of the occasion so he can be part of us. I buy him respectable clothes, and I put a Bible under his arm.
That is not the Gospel and that is not discipleship.
Can you feel the tension? The tension is the uncomfortable truth that Grace is savage and pushes away my unattractive racial boundaries.