“Yet not even Titus who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised” (Galatians 2:3)
As mentioned earlier, small details are often important when reading through the Scriptures. For instance, consider Paul the Apostle’s visit to Jerusalem as discussed in the opening verse of this chapter. While Paul could have told the Galatian churches that he simply went to Jerusalem, notice that he chose to add the following detail under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit: “…I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and also took Titus with me” (Galatians 2:1).
We’ll discuss Barnabas’ role in this narrative a bit later but for now we can say that this small detail regarding Titus in Galatians 2:1 helps to explain what we read in Galatians 2:3. You see, Titus had not been born into a Jewish family and was therefore uncircumcised. That distinction was important for if Titus had been made to follow the Jewish ritual of circumcision, then other non-Jewish converts to Christianity could be pressured into doing so as well.
In fact, modern-day readers of this account may be unaware that the act of circumcision formed a highly controversial topic among some members of the first-century church. As the early church grew and began to incorporate people from Jewish and non-Jewish backgrounds, there were many who had difficulty adapting to this new cultural reality.
Some (like the Judaizers mentioned in our look at Galatians chapter one) responded by attempting to add something to Jesus’ sacrificial work on the cross. Paul will characterize those individuals as “…false brothers with false pretenses who slipped in unnoticed to spy on our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, to make us slaves” (NET) in the following verse. Others turned to exclusionary tactics, including one of Jesus’ most prominent disciples as we’ll see later in this chapter.
Despite such differences, Christians then and now are one in Christ. Jesus is the thread who unites all together and it is through Him that we find real unity in diversity. While we may differ in racial composition, cultural upbringing, age, gender, experience, and personality, every genuine Christian is a part of “…the body of Christ, and members individually” (1 Corinthians 12:27).
As one source comments, “Even though Titus was among a conference full of Jews, he was treated as having a fully legitimate right to fellowship among them by virtue of his faith alone. It is likely that the Galatians were struck by this. All of those important Jewish believers, and they placed no further requirements upon Titus? Why then are these Judaizers demanding more?” (1)
(1) McClelland, S. E. (1995). Galatians. In Evangelical Commentary on the Bible (Vol. 3, p. 1007). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.