Water for the Thirsty
Weekly Devotional

Water for the Thirsty

Christian Freedom

Weekly Devotional

‘As the deer pants for streams of water so my soul pants for you, O God’. (Psalm 42:1)
‘…Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink”…’ (John 7:37)

It’s easy to get confused over Paul’s approach to circumcision.

In Galatians 2:1-5 we read,

‘Then fourteen years later I went back to Jerusalem again, this time with Barnabas; and Titus came along, too. 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. And they supported me and did not even demand that my companion Titus be circumcised, though he was a Gentile. Even that question came up only because of some so-called Christians there—false ones, really—who were secretly brought in. They sneaked in to spy on us and take away the freedom we have in Christ Jesus. They wanted to enslave us and force us to follow their Jewish regulations. But we refused to give in to them for a single moment. We wanted to preserve the truth of the gospel message for you’. (Galatians 2:1-5 NLT)

Paul had absolutely refused to let Titus be circumcised, saying that the truth of the gospel was at stake. To concede that Titus should be circumcised would be tantamount to abandoning the gospel of justification by faith apart from works of law.

But what about Timothy?

Acts 16:1-3 says,

‘Paul went first to Derbe and then to Lystra, where there was a young disciple named Timothy. His mother was a Jewish believer, but his father was a Greek. Timothy was well thought of by the believers in Lystra and Iconium, so Paul wanted him to join them on their journey. In deference to the Jews of the area, he arranged for Timothy to be circumcised before they left, for everyone knew that his father was a Greek’. (Acts 16:1-3 NLT)

Was Paul inconsistent in his approach when he arranged Timothy’s circumcision but refused to let Titus be circumcised?

Well there are some differences between the Timothy situation and the Titus situation.

First Titus was a pure Gentile (Gr. Greek, Galatians 2:3). Timothy was born of a Greek father and a Jewish mother. According to 2 Timothy 3:15, from childhood Timothy had been taught the Old Testament scriptures. In other words, his Jewish mother brought him up as a Jew. But his Greek father had not allowed the circumcision. For Titus the pressure was to become Jewish. Timothy was already very Jewish by race and by training. For him to be circumcised would not have had the implication of moving from Gentile status to Jew status.

Second the people Paul resisted in Galatians 2:3-5 were ‘false brothers’ (Gr.). The Jews to whom he catered in Acts 16:3 were not even Christians. The pressure in Galatians 2:3-5 was from professing believers upon another believer to perform a work of law in order to be accepted. But Acts 16:2 says ‘Timothy was well thought of by the believers in Lystra and Iconium’. No Christians were pushing for Timothy’s circumcision. Rather it was ‘In deference to the Jews of the area’ (verse 3) that Paul had Timothy circumcised. “Jews” is used over 85 times in Acts and almost without exception refers to unbelievers. And here they appear to be distinct from “brethren.” So it appears that Timothy’s circumcision was not motivated by “Christian” pressure from within but by a missionary strategy from without.

Third Titus was a “test case” in Jerusalem but Timothy was to be a constant travel companion. Therefore, in Titus’ case a clear theological issue was at stake. But in Timothy’s case, what was at stake was how unbelieving Jews might best be won to Christ.

So, just as Christian freedom caused Paul to resist Titus’ circumcision, this same freedom allowed him to remove the stumbling block of Timothy’s lack of circumcision.

Paul applied his principle from 1 Corinthians 9:20, ‘When I was with the Jews, I lived like a Jew to bring the Jews to Christ…’ (NLT)

Paul was certainly not inconsistent when he resisted Titus’ circumcision but sought Timothy’s. He was exercising his theological and missilogical freedom in Christ.

Have a good week enjoying your Christian freedom,

Pastor Barry

22nd November 2009

Back to top