“Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and also took Titus with me. And I went up by revelation, and communicated to them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to those who were of reputation, lest by any means I might run, or had run, in vain” (Galatians 2:1-2).
Small details are often important in helping us understand and apply a particular Biblical passage- and Galatians 2:1-2 is no exception. For instance, we’re told that Barnabas and Titus accompanied Paul the Apostle on this visit to Jerusalem. This aspect of Paul’s trip will take on greater significance later.
We should also notice that this journey took place “…after an interval of fourteen years” (NASB). That equals two visits to the heart of first-century Christianity in well over a decade. This period of time would have been important to the original audience for this letter, a group who had been asked to believe that Paul received second-hand information regarding the gospel he preached. The implication was clear: there was no reasonable way Paul could have received his gospel from other leaders within the church because the calendar simply didn’t support that conjecture.
That ties into the third important detail from this passage: “I went in response to a revelation from God” (GW). In other words, Paul did not travel to Jerusalem at the request of the other apostles nor did he make that trip to seek their approval. Instead, he went because God told him to go. So the God who met Paul on the Damascus road and gave him the message of salvation he shared with the congregations of Galatia was the same God who instructed him to make this trip to Jerusalem.
Upon his arrival, Paul met with the acknowledged leaders of the first-century church, a group he characterized as “…those who were of reputation.” One commentator provides us with some insight on Paul’s use of this term…
“This phrase was typically used of authorities and implied a position of honor. Paul refers to them in a similar way two other times (vv. 6, 9), suggesting a hint of sarcasm directed toward the Judaizers, who claimed they had apostolic approval for their doctrine and Paul did not. They had likely made a habit of exalting these 3 leaders at the expense of Paul.” (1)
But why would Paul elect to meet privately with these leaders instead of holding this meeting in public for all to see? We’ll consider the likely rationale behind that decision next.
(1) MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Ga 2:2). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.