In Galatians 2, Paul recounts the story of his trip to Jerusalem for what scholars commonly call the “Jerusalem Council.” At this meeting, which is described in detail in Acts 15, church leaders debate whether or not Gentiles have to be circumcised in order to be saved. Paul’s position is that this step is unnecessary and legalistic. In Paul’s actions at this meeting, and an exchange shortly thereafter, we see five important principles for spiritual leadership:
1) Communicate. (v1-2): Before Paul addresses the entire council, he pulls aside the most influential of the brethren and communicates with them directly and privately. He wants to be sure they have accurate information, lest his efforts be in vain. Good leaders make sure everyone is on the same page.
2) Compromise – Don’t when it comes to the gospel. (v3-6): Despite pressure being applied by some prominent brethren to adhere to the old covenant requirement of circumcision, Paul does not yield submission, “even for an hour.” Why? “That the truth of the gospel might continue.” Good leaders are willing to yield in the non-essentials, but they never compromise the gospel.
3) Cooperate. (v7-10): Once the council determines that circumcision is not necessary for Gentiles to follow Christ, Paul agrees to a gospel partnership with Peter and the other apostles. Paul will focus his efforts on the Gentiles, while they continue to evangelize the Jews. They will work with, and not against, one another. Good leaders cooperate with others to carry out the Great Commission.
4) Conflict – Address in a healthy way. (v11-14): When Peter visits Paul’s home church at Antioch (presumably after the Jerusalem Council), he refuses to eat with the Gentile believers for fear of what his Jewish colleagues will say. Paul publicly calls him out on this hypocrisy, thus handling the matter swiftly and firmly, rather than allowing it to fester underneath the surface. Good leaders confront others in a healthy manner when the situation requires it.