Yet not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek. This matter arose because some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves. We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might remain with you. (Galatians 2:3-5 NIV)
At the beginning of our study, I promised I would try to offer some unique perspectives on the book of Galatians, avoiding the obvious issue of circumcision and its place in the debate between Jews and Greeks. But there are some passages that are so rooted in this issue, it cannot be ignored.
Now we have an insight into the reason Paul might have brought Titus with him to Jerusalem. He had evidently been a point of contention with the Jewish troublemakers who had come to Antioch. Titus was certainly not the only one being challenged with the subject of circumcision, but because he was an associate of the apostle Paul, he was especially vulnerable. Once in Jerusalem, Paul would be able to say, “See…here is one of the young men they were talking about. Interrogate him to see if there is some reason to doubt the sincerity of his faith.”
I have a question: In another letters the apostle Paul talks about his willingness to meet the cultural demands of both Jews and Greeks to engage them with the gospel. If Paul was careful not to put roadblocks in front of the message of Jesus, why didn’t he have Titus circumcised to keep from offending others? Instead, he said, “We did not give in to them for a moment.” This sounds like a stubborn act to me.
There was a time when Paul actually did have one of his young leaders circumcised for expediency’s sake. The young man’s name was Timothy. Timothy, however, was only half Greek, and because his mother was a Jew he had certain privileges in the Jewish community that provided inroads for the gospel. Being uncircumcised would have limited his ability to take advantage of these opportunities.
Paul was reluctant to have a full Greek circumcised, even though it would have made his life and Titus’ life easier. Or would it have? Had he given in to the wishes of those who wanted to add to the requirements of the gospel, He would have sent a flawed message to the church then, and today. He would have encouraged legalism: the adoption of man-made rules for the purpose of achieving righteousness with God.
This was a test case, and Paul had to stand his ground. Be thankful he did. His example stands as a testimony to fighters of legalism everywhere.
We are saved by grace, through faith…not of ourselves, lest any of us brag about our own self-righteousness (Ephesians 2:8).
This is the truth of the gospel.
Dear God, help me stay in the heart of the gospel. In Jesus’ name, Amen.