“I went there because God revealed to me that I should go. While I was there I met privately with those considered to be leaders of the church and shared with them the message I had been preaching to the Gentiles. I wanted to make sure that we were in agreement, for fear that all my efforts had been wasted and I was running the race for nothing” (Galatians 2:2 NLT).
A wise person knows that internal discussions with others are often best kept private until a consensus is reached. This approach usually serves to promote good communication, mutual understanding, and a clear sense of direction for others to follow. Judging from the passage quoted above, that seemed to be one of Paul the Apostle’s objectives as he entered into these conversations with other leaders in the first-century church.
One source rephrases the idea behind this passage in the following manner: “Not wanting to cause trouble, I talked this matter over privately with Peter, James, and John. I had no doubts about the truth of the gospel I had been preaching, but if the other apostles did not stand with me on this, I was afraid all my work as an apostle would go for nothing!” (1)
Nevertheless, Paul may have had a second motive for entering into a private discussion with these leaders. Remember that the civil and religious authorities often followed Paul during this portion of his life. If Paul had chosen to assume a prominent role in his return to Jerusalem, it might have resulted in additional harassment, imprisonment, or perhaps even death. Therefore, it made good sense for him to meet privately with these spiritual authorities.
Paul then went on to use a familiar illustration to characterize this meeting: a sporting analogy. You see, Paul often turned to the world of athletic competition to communicate important spiritual truths. That included things like racing (2 Timothy 4:7), boxing (1 Corinthians 9:26), and wrestling (Ephesians 6:12). In this instance, Paul used the imagery of a long-distance runner, an illustration that was so effective that he will return to it again in Galatians 5:7.
So much like an athlete who trains hard for a competition that is later cancelled, Paul was concerned that the concept of salvation by grace through faith might be offset by those who insisted that one must follow the Old Testament law before finding salvation in Christ. Thankfully, this meeting served to alleviate that concern as we’ll see later in this chapter.
(1) Ice, Rhoderick D. “Commentary on Galatians 2:4”. “The Bible Study New Testament”. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ice/galatians-2.html. College Press, Joplin, MO. 1974.