Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along with me. I went up because of a revelation and set before them (though privately before those who seemed influential) the gospel that I proclaim among the Gentiles, in order to make sure I was not running or had not run in vain. But even Titus, who was with me, was not forced to be circumcised, though he was a Greek. Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in—who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery— to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you.
And from those who seemed to be influential (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality) —those, I say, who seemed influential added nothing to me. On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel to the circumcised (for he who worked through Peter for his apostolic ministry to the circumcised worked also through me for mine to the Gentiles), and when James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.Two trips to Jerusalem—once, three years after his encounter with the Lord and another trip fourteen years later—bolsters Paul's case that he did not rely on the "pillars" for his mission. However, to make sure that "he did not run in vain" he wanted to ensure that he was preaching the same message as the Jerusalem apostles. From this chapter we see that circumcision of the Gentile believers would be a prime issue throughout Paul's heated letter.
It's clear that not even the Jerusalem leaders compelled Titus, a Gentile convert, to be circumcised. Paul was careful not to discount the grace of God and considered that for Titus to be circumcised would have brought all of them "into slavery." Even though he went to those who were influential, what mattered to Paul was that he set things straight. The truth of the gospel was at stake. This encounter with the apostles was because of a revelation, showing how connected Paul was to the Lord and his direction.
I don't know about you, but I want to stay near the Lord at all times. To speak with such boldness knowing that the Lord sent me, remembering that cultural observances add nothing to my salvation. I think of Samuel when he spoke his farewell address to the Israelites:
"And do not turn aside after empty things that cannot profit or deliver for they are empty."
—1 Samuel 12:21, ESV
I want to have the same focus as Paul in his relationship with the Lord and the courage to never "yield in submission even for a moment" to those who would want to validate my salvation by other means.
Jesus, I cling to you! I appeal to your mercy! It is only by your finished work that I find my hope and favorable judgment before God. Continue to equip me with your love and courage today and in the days ahead. Amen.