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After receiving a divine charge and 14 years of faithful labor Paul returns to Jerusalem concerned that it was all for nothing. Why was he concerned about that and what did he fear that the Jerusalem leadership would say?:

ISV Gal 2:1 Then fourteen years later I again went up to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus with me. Gal 2:2 I went in response to a revelation, and in a private meeting with the reputed leaders, I explained to them the gospel that I'm proclaiming to the gentiles. I did this because I was afraid that I was running or had run my life's race for nothing.

And why were his fears relieved when the gentiles were not required to be circumcised?:

ISV Gal 2:3 But not even Titus, who was with me, was forced to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek.

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In Galatians 1:11-12, we learn that Paul did not learn the gospel that he taught from anyone else, believing that he learnt it by divine revelation:

Galatians 1:11-12: But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.

He had begun concerned that what he taught was at variance with what was being taught in Jerusalem, possibly because missionaries claiming to come from Jerusalem were contradicting him. Wanting to teach the same message as was taught in Jerusalem, Paul felt a revelation that he should talk to James, Peter and John in Jerusalem.

John Gill says:

Commentary: ... for as the Gospel he preached was all of a piece, uniform and consistent, so he did not preach one sort of doctrine to the Gentiles, and another to the Jews; but the very self-same truths which were the subject of his ministry in the Gentile world, which were a crucified Christ, and salvation alone by him, these he communicated, laid before, and exposed unto the consideration of the elders and apostles at Jerusalem; not with a view either to give or receive instructions, but to compare their sentiments and principles together; that so it might appear that there, was an entire harmony and agreement between them ...

Gill goes on to say that it was not that Paul had entertained any doubt of the doctrines he had preached, and needed any confirmation in them from them; for he was fully assured of the truth of them.

Paul talked to them privately, concerned that he had run in vain. If Paul was concerned that he had run in vain, he was not concerned about the false teachers, because nothing said between him and the pillars of the Jerusalem church would affect any false teachers who may have been opposing him. You don't "run in vain" by teaching correct doctrine that is opposed by false teachers. This can only really mean that he was, after all, worried that his teachings were inconsistent with those of the Jerusalem church.


In part, the outcome was that Titus was not compelled to be circumcised (2:3), but it was more than just this. The pillars of the Jerusalem church changed nothing of what Paul taught (2:6), with his relief evident in 2:5: ... that the truth of the gospel might continue with you. James, Peter and John agreed to give Paul a free hand in proselytising to gentiles, while they they, including Peter, would preach to Jews (2:7-9).

Perhaps Paul drove a hard bargain, realising that by keeping Peter and the others away from the gentiles there would be less opportunity for mixed messages going out.

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While a satisfactory answer has already been provided I wanted to add some additional thoughts, beyond what is suitable for a comment.

Paul's concern was that he had an incomplete gospel. He had a mandate directly from the lord Jesus (through Ananias) to proclaim his gospel but now a serious challenge to the sufficiency of that gospel as some were insisting that circumcision was necessary to inherit the promises. The likely passage being put forth is here:

Gen 17:9 And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations. Gen 17:10 This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised. Gen 17:11 And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you. Gen 17:12 And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed. Gen 17:13 He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. Gen 17:14 And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant.

Paul's concern as he meets with the apostles in Jerusalem is that if they pull rank or convince him that circumcision is necessary to be saved and inherit the promises then all of the converts that he has "racked up" in his 14 years of labor will not be saved at all and all of his labor will have been for nothing!

But he had brought Titus with him, an uncircumcised Greek believer and the Jerusalem apostles did not insist that he be circumcised. They were on the same page as Paul and their only suggestion was to remember the poor of Jerusalem, which he was already working on.

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