Galatians 2:1-6 When God considers a man, He does not take into account human credentials or his past mistakes

Galatians 2:1-6  When God considers a man, He does not take into account human credentials or his past mistakes

Then after an interval of fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along also. 2 It was because of a revelation that I went up; and I submitted to them the gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but I did so in private to those who were of reputation, for fear that I might be running, or had run, in vain.

3 But not even Titus, who was with me, though he was a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised. 4 But it was because of the false brethren secretly brought in, who had sneaked in to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, in order to bring us into bondage. 5 But we did not yield in subjection to them for even an hour, so that the truth of the gospel would remain with you. 6 But from those who were of high reputation (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)—well, those who were of reputation contributed nothing to me.

Background

Three years after Paul’s conversion brought him face to face with Peter, the head of the church he persecuted in Jerusalem. Thereafter, he went up to the regions of Syria and Cilicia where he preached among the Gentiles for 14 years. Under divine directive, Paul made a second visit to Jerusalem to meet with the apostles, this time as an apostolic counterpart to the Gentiles. Indeed, God has made an apostle of Paul; a murderer of the church, an unlikely candidate to reveal the mystery of the gospel to the world. Despite strong pressure to conform to Moses’s Law, Paul stood his ground that salvation is by faith alone, not by works of the Law. In today’s devotion, we learn: When God considers a man, He does not take into account human credentials or his past mistakes.

Observation

Then after an interval of fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along also.

In this account of his second visit to Jerusalem after his conversion, Paul lays down proof that there are no discrepancies in the account of his visits to Jerusalem. The Judaizers’ allegation that Paul is elaborately discipled by the apostles in Jerusalem is unfounded. This visit, which occurred 17 years after his conversion was initiated by God through divine revelation, not from human motivation. His purpose is to set before the Jerusalem leaders the gospel that he is preaching among the Gentiles. Because Paul’s commission is not derived from Jerusalem, it is important that Paul cement this cleavage between the Gentile church and the Jerusalem church through fellowship. If Christ is divided, then all efforts that Paul had invested to evangelise the Gentile world will be frustrated ( for fear that I might be running, or had run, in vain). The unity of the church amidst its diversity and mission was of great importance to Paul. Under all circumstances, the church of Christ must remain one as Christ is One. The setting is a closed meeting as opposed to an open one. Partakers of the meeting are restricted to Paul’s party, James and Cephas and John, who were reputed to be pillars of the Jerusalem church (v.9).

But not even Titus, who was with me, though he was a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised.

Apparently, some false brethren, who could not accept Gentile Christians as brothers of faith apart from circumcision infiltrated the meeting. They were Judaizers, self-professed Jewish Christians who purported, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.” (Acts 15:1). They were regarded by the apostles — notably at a time before issues regarding Jewish-Gentile relations within the church became clear. They came with the purpose to spy out the weakness of Paul’s arguments so as to enslave Christians back into the bondage of the Law’s rules and rituals. They agitated Titus and compelled him to submit to the rite of circumcision. If Titus yields, it will have set a precedence destroying the liberty the Gentiles have in Christ. And that is tantamount to denying that salvation is by faith alone and that obedience to the Law is a necessary supplement for acceptance before God. Paul stood absolutely firm despite their threats preserving the truth for salvation not only for the Galatians, but the entire Christendom.

But from those who were of high reputation (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality).

Paul, having ward off attacks from the false brethren return to the narrative concerning the meeting with the apostles. In the eyes of the church, the Jerusalem leaders: Peter, James and John being personal disciples of Jesus were ubiquitously regarded as custodians of the church bearing special prerogatives. It is the veneration of their special status that the Judaizers were using to disparage Paul. The goal of the Judaizers was to undermine the revelations that Paul received from Jesus. Here, Paul reacted by asserting that their special status (in the church) do not give them exclusive rights in Christendom, especially in the area of revelations and doctrine. For God has no regard for the credentials of persons but will reveal Himself to anyone He desires: God shows no partiality. In other words, their past position as personal disciples of Jesus holds no value in their present discussion.

… well, those who were of reputation contributed nothing to me.

The apostles in Jerusalem appeared to have allowed the Judaizers access to the meeting and to assert their agenda. This is not surprising given an incident when Peter vacillated at the arrival of certain emissaries from James in Jerusalem. Peter, in order to please the circumcision party from Jerusalem resort to separating himself from the Gentiles (see 2:12). Ultimately, Paul’s meeting with Peter, James and John concluded with no additional requirements for Gentile Christians (well, those who were of reputation contributed nothing to me). For Gentile Christians are not required to be circumcised or live life according to the Jewish Torah. Paul came away from the meeting with full endorsement for his gospel to the Gentiles.

Truth

When God considers a man, He does not take into account human credentials or his past mistakes

It is natural that Peter, John and James, being personal disciples and brother of Jesus were regarded by the church as superior to Paul. In fact, Paul, as a former persecutor of the church even considered himself as the least of the apostles, and not fit to be called an apostle (see 1 Corinthians 15:9). However, the fact that God chose to reveal the mystery to Paul instead of the Jerusalem apostles shows that God does not take into account human credentials or one’s past achievements or mistakes.

That said, what does God take into account of? God looks at the heart’s posture more than anything else. For one, Paul is faithful; He commented on himself, “because He considered me faithful, putting me into service,…” (1 Timothy 1:12). And the fact that he laboured even more than all of them (the other apostles) in making known the mystery of the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:10). He also demonstrated utmost integrity and clear headedness when he opposed Peter for not being straightforward concerning the Gentiles’ position in the church. Thus, God exonerated Paul’s violent past because he acted in ignorance: “even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief” (1 Timothy 1:13).

Because Paul understood God’s sovereign ordination in his life, he persevered despite the constant attacks against his apostleship. For he refuted those of high reputation and did not allow them to undermine his calling and revelations. He wrote letters to the churches and taught them in the capacity as apostle. Likewise, we should lay hold of God’s calling and its inherent authority to do God’s work without fear. Many are petrified by titles, appearances of power and eloquence. They succumb to intimidation preferring to walk in someone’s shadows. So much so they can no longer stand up for themselves to do what is right or to speak contrary to consensus. If they learn to take their eyes off their own inadequacies to look to God, they will receive divine enablement to fulfil the purpose that God has ordained for them. If God can raise Paul out of oblivion, He will do the same for you.

The truth when spoken projects divine authority

17 years after Paul’s conversion, he returned to Jerusalem under divine directive to consult with the Jerusalem apostles concerning his gospel to the Gentiles. His purpose is not to seek their approval of its truth and accuracy, but rather for them to consider its relationship to the gospel proclaimed in Jerusalem. Even though Peter did receive revelation concerning the Gentiles being partakers of God’s salvation (see Acts 10:11-16), he did not have full revelation as to how Gentiles should relate with the Jews in the church. Given that Judaism is an established faith for thousands of years, Paul faced an uphill task in defending the liberty of Gentiles with respect to the practice of Moses’s Law.

Nevertheless, Paul proclaimed the mystery that was revealed to him without holding back. He believes the truth when spoken carries divine authority to convict whoever the hearer is and no one will be able to stand against it. Paul said,

Now we pray to God that you do no wrong; not that we ourselves may appear approved, but that you may do what is right, even though we may appear unapproved. For we can do nothing against the truth, but only for the truth. 2 Corinthians 13:7-8

Indeed, men can do nothing against the truth, but only for the truth. Acts 4 records the disciples as having been arrested and interrogated by men of high reputation and priestly descent (see Acts 4:6). Even though Peter and John were uneducated and untrained men, they spoke with confidence and wisdom. And they were subsequently released because their opposers could not stand against the truth that was spoken.

Therefore, we must not be unsettled by false appearances of power or empty intimidations but speak the truth confidently and humbly. That said, we must also live out truth as people believe what they see, not what they hear.

Application

Are you intimidated by an appearance of power either by a person’s dressing, demeanour, or eloquence? Such that you cannot step up to display your fullest potential? Practice visualising in your mind’s eye God sitting supremely in the midst. And God’s authority and wisdom is given for you to work towards the good of all. And your word is a conduit through which divine wisdom flows into the world. Therefore, get into the habit of speaking your mind, being actively and courageously involved in shaping the direction of your company or organisation.

Dear Lord, I thank you that despite my imperfections, you have ordained me for great works. As I take courage to stand up for the truth, cause me to make an impact in my company and in my church. I will not be intimated by people, but will work with them as fellow contributors to the common good. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.


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