Fourteen years later I went up again to Jerusalem, this time with Barnabas. I took Titus along also. I went in response to a revelation and set before them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. But I did this privately to those who seemed to be leaders, for fear that I was running or had run my race in vain. 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. (verses 1-5)
Freedom in Christ Jesus. What an exhilarating rallying cry.
It doesn’t mean freedom to do whatever we want. No, how could it? For if we are truly “in Christ,” then he is Lord, which means our behaviour and actions will be subject to his will. We make it our goal to please him.
Rather, freedom means living life in all its fullness. It means being at peace with God, fully reconciled, being unconstrained by the necessity of constantly seeking to secure God’s favour by our own efforts. It means there is now no condemnation – the oppressive weight of the law is gone; the yoke is easy, and the burden is light.
All of this is encompassed in the gospel Paul preached, a gospel focused fully on Jesus. But false teachers, purporting to be “brothers” in Christ, had infiltrated the church and found such freedom to be simply too free. They were convinced it couldn’t be that easy. They contended that salvation was dependent on much, much more of our own effort.
So, they made an issue of circumcision. They insisted that the covenant sign God had given to the people of Israel must remain an ongoing requirement for followers of Jesus, whether Jew or Gentile.
These “false brothers” spread their distorted thinking in the Galatian church and elsewhere. Many were being swayed.
So, Paul and Barnabas, together with Titus, visited the “mother church” in Jerusalem, laying before the leaders and apostles the gospel they had preached, a gospel that was dependent on faith in Christ alone, not requiring supplemental works of the law. In this there was full agreement – what Paul had received by revelation from the Lord had also been fully embraced by these leaders in Jerusalem. Circumcision was not required. Not even Titus, an uncircumcised Greek believer, was required to do otherwise. The truth of the gospel was maintained. Freedom was preserved.
For us today, the tension remains. It is so easy to slip into the distorted notion that something more is required for salvation than simply faith in Christ. There are so many good, helpful, faith-filled elements of discipleship to be embraced, but none of them must be viewed as adding certainty and security to our salvation. None must be seen as essential for peace with God.
It's Christ alone. In him is freedom.
So, whenever you are tempted to secure more peace by your own actions and efforts, lean instead into Jesus. Embrace him yet more fully. Place faith in his finished work. Don’t “for a moment (let go of) … the truth of the gospel.”
Lord, I affirm that salvation is found in you alone. There is nowhere else for me to go, no other foundation on which to stand. Praise you for the freedom I have received in this reality. Guard my mind from seeking security in any other source. Keep me leaning into you. Amen.
Reflect: Consider the question, “Am I currently at peace with God?” Notice where your thoughts take you. Are you finding security in anything other than Christ himself? If so, repent. Take the thought captive to Jesus. Stake your full claim in him.