Galatians 2:1–10 (NKJV)
1 Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and also took Titus with me. 2 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. 3 Yet not even Titus who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised. 4 And this occurred because of false brethren secretly brought in (who came in by stealth to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage), 5 to whom we did not yield submission even for an hour, that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.Galatians 2:1-5
Paul continues to chronicle his interaction with the church at Jerusalem. He lived, preached, and learned for three years away from Jerusalem, then visited Peter and James for about two weeks before spending another fourteen years away from Jerusalem preaching the gospel all throughout Asia Minor, and then came back to Jerusalem with Barnabus and Titus. The converts on the field of mission were not all from a Jewish background. As a matter of fact, Paul probably won more, non-Jewish (Gentile) converts than he did Jewish converts to Christianity. He did not hold all the converts to the same legalistic standards as the Jewish people observed, most notably the practice of circumcision.
6 But from those who seemed to be something—whatever they were, it makes no difference to me; God shows personal favoritism to no man—for those who seemed to be something added nothing to me. 7 But on the contrary, when they saw that the gospel for the uncircumcised had been committed to me, as the gospel for the circumcised was to Peter 8 (for He who worked effectively in Peter for the apostleship to the circumcised also worked effectively in me toward the Gentiles), 9 and when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that had been given to me, they gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. 10 They desired only that we should remember the poor, the very thing which I also was eager to do.Galatians 2:6-10
Paul then teaches the Galatians the principle that God shows no favoritism toward or among men. Instead, all men are equal in the sight of God. Paul was beholden to no man, and thus spoke freely, giving quarter to no insistence on legalistic obedience to the law. He then recounts the event (probably the Jerusalem Council of Acts 15) where Peter, James, and John gave Paul and his companions the right hand of faith and insisted on nothing more from them than that they remember the poor, to provide for them. In this task, Paul already felt a great kinship and responsibility.
When someone accepts Christ, they often are ignorant of practices or traditions of the church. Some of those traditions will be helpful to the new Christian. Others will be unnecessary. To insist that every new disciple be brought up in the image of men and women who lived by a certain tradition is artificial and oppressive. Paul would not allow the Jewish Christians to insist that the Gentile Christians live by all the law and traditions by which they lived for all the years of the nation of Israel under Mosaic law. Instead, Paul gave them the necessary, the absolutely needed principles, and nothing more. Therefore, Christianity looked somewhat different than Judaism, but that was fine. In life today, don’t think every church has to look exactly and worship exactly like your church in order for it to be right. Churches can look, sound, and operate differently as long as they operate according to the Word of God in doctrine and right living. Be open, and gather around the truths of Christ and salvation taught in the Bible. Then, the church can be one, united while diverse, and win the lost of the world around them. Don’t compromise Biblical truth, but don’t make specific personal traditions sacrosanct.
Most have hear the story about the new bride who cut off part of her ham before cooking it. The new husband asked why she did it. She simply replied, “My mother always did it.” He proceeded to ask his new mother-in-law why she cut off part of the ham before cooking it, and she gave a similar response that her mother had always done it. When he next saw his wife’s grandmother, he asked her the same question, eager to get the answer. She simply replied, “Because my pan was not big enough to hold the entire ham!” Sometimes we can carry on traditions that have no practical basis in the society in which we live. Be certain that you live in the freedom which God intends, and do not be bound by the outdated traditions that do not offer salvific value. Be free!