Writing to the Galatians, Paul jumps ahead of his story to fourteen years after his conversion. Now, Paul saw Jesus in 35 CE, immediately following his receiving new orders from the high priest. Caiaphas was put out of that office cir. 35-36CE near the time of the Passover. In any event, Paul would need new arrest warrants to take to the synagogues, showing the high priest, whether Caiaphas or Jonathan, his replacement, sought the synagogue leaders’ assistance in arresting Grecian Messianic Jews there so they could be brought to Jerusalem for judgment (Acts 9:1-2).
This means that the Jerusalem council took place cir. 49-50 CE and is, evidently, the year of Paul’s writing to the Galatians. Remember, Mark had left Paul and Barnabas, when they were on their way to Galatia during their first missionary journey. Mark returned to Jerusalem, and his report concerning Paul apparently prompted the attack by non-believing Jews, perhaps false brethren who were sent into the believing community by the high priest. When the time was right, these men were sent out to attack Paul’s work among the gentiles in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia and probably Galatia, as well.
This is spiritual warfare that was probably set in motion as a result of Paul binding Elymas, who may have been a well received ‘wise’ Jew in Jerusalem and, perhaps an adviser to the governor of Cyprus (Acts 13:8-12). Many today don’t understand the seriousness of and the cost incurred by spiritual warfare. Most of us believe it is a mere game or obligatory chant to “bind up the enemy” (Satan). The fact is, no one binds a powerful spiritual enemy without incurring a significant blow to one’s work in Christ or even a fearful personal attack.
Paul may not have expected the set-back that had occurred in his ministry. His later missionary journeys seem to show him adjusting his method of undertaking spiritual warfare to the point where only he was attacked. That is, Paul physically bore the brunt of the attacks of the enemy, while those of his party and his work with new believers were left unscathed for the most part. I am also of the opinion that Paul had to mature in his understanding of spiritual warfare before the Holy Spirit would allow him to preach Christ in Asia, a great stronghold of the enemy (Acts 16:6; 18:19-23; 19:1). There is much to be gleaned from Paul’s missionary journeys that would enlighten us today, as it pertains to spiritual warfare.
But, returning now to Paul’s letter, Paul wisely brought Titus with him to Jerusalem. If Titus was able to keep company with the brethren without being compelled to be circumcised, this would be practical evidence that what the party of the circumcision were saying must be wrong. However, not only was Titus not compelled to become a Jew (Galatians 2:3), but James wrote letters to the gentile churches of Syria, Cilicia and Antioch and sent along representatives of the Jerusalem church to show what Paul had been preaching was true, and those who came in the name of James were wrong and had not properly represented the Jerusalem body of believers.
At this point in his letter, Paul lashed out at those responsible for the trouble, calling them false brethren, who had come into the church and were received as brethren under false pretense. So, there was more to what occurred in Antioch and the other gentile churches than is readily obvious (Galatians 2:4). There were secret forces in play, working behind the scenes played out in Antioch, Syria, Cilicia and, evidently, in Galatia as well. Notice the implication behind Paul’s reference to the true authorities at Jerusalem. He claimed what they had been (fishermen, tax collectors, etc) didn’t matter to him. God accepts no man’s person—implying that those who were sent to the gentile churches may have been Jews of noble birth at Jerusalem—i.e. the high priests. This was a very powerful attack against the work of Paul, conducted in the name of James, but in reality false brethren were behind it all.
Paul went on to write that the true authorities in the Jerusalem church—“those who seemed to be somewhat” or of high reputation among the believers—added nothing to Paul’s ministry to the gentiles. On the contrary, having witnessed the hand of God upon Paul among the gentiles, just as God’s hand was upon Peter among the Jews, these leaders offered their full approval (Galatians 2:8-9), sending letters and representatives to the affected churches, showing they had been misinformed by these high ranking Jews concerning Paul’s ministry.