NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY
by Dr. Robert R. Seyda
PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIAN CONGREGATIONS OF BELIEVERS
CHAPTER TWO (Lesson II)
Jewish commentator Adriaan Liebenberg notes that some Christians fall into the same trap today that Paul warned the Gentiles about. But instead of circumcision, these Christians declare “Water Baptism” as the doorway into the Kingdom of YaHWeH. Many churches in Christendom teach that infant baptism makes them a “member of the church.” In doing so, they place the “cart before the horse” as the Galatian Judaizers did with circumcision. Immersion is Scriptural does not come before personal faith in Yeshua, and the new believer in Yeshua must go through a period of spiritual instruction so that they fully understand the immersion steps they are taking and not be rushed, forced, or compelled into doing so before then.1 We might say, that Baptism is the Christian form of Circumcision. However, for the Christian, it is circumcision of the heart.
Don Garrison puts a special emphasis on why Paul took Titus with him to Jerusalem. As Garrison sees it, Titus is a crucial figure at this pivotal point in the history of early Christianity. It would stand to reason that Paul purposely took Titus along as a perfect example for the Galatians themselves to provoke a confrontation with the Judaizers and to use Titus as a test case to confirm that he and the Apostles were in one accord about not needing circumcision in order to serve the Anointed One.2 In other words, it’s one thing to talk about something, and another thing to offer proof. Paul used Titus to demonstrate to the doubters in Jerusalem, and Galatia, that what he preached to the Gentiles really worked in leading them to the Anointed One, and accepting Him as their Lord and Savior.
Garrison also mentions that New Testament Professor G. Walter Hansen feels that Paul’s inclusion of Titus on his team boldly expresses his conviction that it was not necessary for Greek Christians to change their ethnic identity by becoming Jews in order to be included in the congregation. The presence of Titus forced the conference in Jerusalem to resolve the issue of discrimination against Gentile Christians. Hansen further comments that Paul’s associates included Christian Jew Barnabas and the Christian Greek Titus, thereby providing a living illustration of the new found freedom in the Anointed One. Furthermore, says Hansen, Paul’s team was a mini example of the mighty power of the Gospel to break down the barriers that separated Jews and Gentiles, and to create a new unity in the Anointed One – a unity that transcends all ethnic, cultural, racial, gender, esteem, and social divisions in the world.3
Vincent Cheung adds more things for us to consider about Titus’ character and abilities. Paul called him his “true son,” in the faith.4 Paul entrusted him to deal with the Corinthians, and we know what sort of people they were. Nevertheless, he returned with a good report.5 This shows his ability to remain patient and open-minded. Paul also sent him to collect donations pledged by the Corinthians,6 so he could be trusted with money as well. Regarding God’s work, Titus’ eagerness, zealousness, and a willingness to initiate help when needed really impressed Paul.7 Titus also proved himself to be a dependable ministry worker, and a strong leader. In fact, Paul trusted him to complete what he himself left unfinished on the isle of Crete, implying Paul’s full confidence in his competence and character, so he instructed him to “appoint elders in every town,” something not given to a novice or young man with little experience. The truth is this required authority, knowledge, discernment, and maturity. The fact that Cretans were known in general to be “liars, evil brutes, and lazy gluttons,”8 reflects on the exceptional courage and skill of Titus to manage troublesome people. Paul told Titus to “rebuke them sharply”9 and “with all authority.”10 No wonder Titus was later appointed Bishop over this area.
Luke tells us that Barnabas’ first name was Joseph, but the people in the congregation in Jerusalem called him Bar-Nabba (which means “Son of the Exhorter),” which interpreted means, “Son of Consolation.” He was a Levite and a native of Cyprus. He sold a piece of land which belong to his family and brought the money to the Apostles.11 He certainly proved to be a source of consolation, for when Paul finally came to Jerusalem after three years on his own in Syria and Arabia, it was Bar-Nabba who befriended Paul and took him to meet the Apostles.12
In the meantime, some trouble was brewing in Antioch because several of those sent out to preach were only reaching out to the Jews, while a number of Jewish Christian converts outside Israel in Cyprus and Cyrene, were also preaching the Gospel to the Gentiles. This caused the Council in Jerusalem to send Bar-Nabba to Antioch to report on how things were going there. So we should count it no wonder that when the congregation in Antioch needed some skilled teachers. It was Bar-Nabba they sent all the way to Tarsus to find Paul and bring him back.13
Paul stayed there for about a year. During that time, another delegation came from Jerusalem to visit the congregation in Antioch. During one of the services, the Holy Spirit gave a word of prophecy to one of the visiting ministers named Agabus. Through Him, the Spirit told the congregation that a famine was coming and it would affect Judea and Jerusalem directly. Luke tells us that this happened while Claudius was the Emperor. It involved the period between 41 to 54 AD. So the congregation took up a love offering and chose Paul and Bar-Nabba to take it to Jerusalem.14
Once they got back to Antioch, they brought along Peter’s nephew,15 John Mark. It wasn’t too long after that, that the Holy Spirit spoke once again and told the congregation to select Paul and Bar-Nabba and send them out to do the work for which the Lord called them. Thus began the ministry of Paul as a missionary with Joseph Bar-Nabba, the Son of Consolation, close by his side.16 Their relationship exhibited its ups and downs, but they remained friends up until the end.
As far as Titus is concerned, Paul mentions him as though everyone knew about him. According to one Roman Catholic tradition,17 Titus studied Greek philosophy and poetry in Antioch until Paul came there preaching the Gospel of Jesus the Anointed One, and when Titus heard about Jesus and what Jesus did in dying on the cross on behalf of his sins to bring him freedom and rising again from the dead in order to give him timeless life, he believed and became a devoted Christian. From that point on, Paul took him under his wing and it’s clear from the twelve different times Paul mentions him, in four of his letters, that he and Paul became best of friends.
We find that when Titus is mentioned by Paul in his letter to the Corinthians, the Apostle is distraught because he could not locate him. 18 And later, Paul is so happy to welcome Titus back from a visit to Corinth and the good news he brought.19 Later, Paul mentioned the good work that Titus did in Corinth and how much it helped them and him.20 Apparently, Titus carried a soft spot in his heart for the Corinthians.21 No wonder Paul referred to him as one of his closest associates. As we say today, his “right-hand man.”22 We see now why Paul put so much confidence in Titus that he would later ordain him as Bishop of Crete.23 Here in his letter to the Galatians, Paul will reveal that Titus, a Greek Gentile convert, never underwent circumcision.24
When you stop and think about this, Paul traveled around preaching the powerful Gospel of the Anointed One and bringing the lost to Him for salvation. Some fourteen years went by before he went up to Jerusalem again to meet with the executive committee of the congregation to get their stamp of approval. And as some scholars point out, this came after the three years he spent in Arabia, for a total of seventeen years. It didn’t mean that Paul was being arrogant or even dismissive of his place in the congregation and the needed guidance he provided. Rather, he found out that they were receiving false information about him and his ministry. If Peter, James, or John disapproved of his work they certainly would have made that known a long time ago. That’s why he calls the accusers, spies.
Thank goodness that the Apostles in Jerusalem exercised good sense to wait and speak to Paul before making up their minds about his ministry. But even more important, Paul knew who he was, and whose he was. Too often ministers seek the approval of their peers or superiors before they seek approval from the One who called them. Even our strongest supporters cannot live our lives for us, nor do the work God called us to do; neither are they able to go with us every place we go and undergo the same pressures and demands that our calling often brings us into. But the One who called us is able to do all of that. Trust Him first, and all others second. While we may rightly respect our peers, we must reverence our Lord and Savior, our Great Shepherd, our Master and Redeemer.
1 Adriaan Liebenberg: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit. p. 31
2 Don Garrison: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 54
3 G. Walter Hansen, On Galatians, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series, 2010, p. 54
4 Titus 1:4
5 2 Corinthians 7:13-16
6 Ibid. 8:6
7 Ibid. 8:16-17
8 Ibid. 1:12
9 Ibid. 1:13
10 Ibid. 2:15
11 Titus. 4:36-37: Complete Jewish Version
12 Acts of the Apostles. 9:27
13 Ibid. 11:19-26
14 Ibid. 11:27-30
15 John Mark should not be confused with Mark, the cousin of Barnabas: See Colossians4:10; Philemon 1:24
16 Ibid. 13:1-2
17 See CatholicNewsAgency.com. Friday, January 26, 2018
18 2 Corinthians 2:13
19 Ibid. 7:13-16
20 Ibid. 8:6
21 Ibid. 8:16
22 Ibid. 8:23
23 Ibid. 12:18; Titus 1:5-6
24 Galatians 2:3