Galatians 2:7-10 True unity is sustained through persistent works of love

Galatians 2:7-10 True unity is sustained through persistent works of love

7 But on the contrary, seeing that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been to the circumcised 8 (for He who effectually worked for Peter in his apostleship to the circumcised effectually worked for me also to the Gentiles), 9 and recognizing the grace that had been given to me, James and Cephas and John, who were reputed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, so that we might go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. 10 They only asked us to remember the poor—the very thing I also was eager to do.

Background

The pillars of the Jerusalem church, by virtue of the grace that is working in Paul acknowledged him as an apostle. Through Titus (who is an extraordinary disciple) they also recognised Paul’s effectual work among the Gentiles just as Peter is working effectually among the circumcised. The meeting concluded with a joined commitment to remember the poor among them. Today’s devotion teaches us that true unity must be sustained through consistent works of love.

Observation

But on the contrary, seeing that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been to the circumcised.

Even as the apostles in Jerusalem recognise Paul’s apostleship to the Gentiles, the question remains: Was their recognition based on his account of how he was commissioned (v1:11)? Or on what they heard about his missionary activities to the Gentiles? Or the arguments that he put forth in the private meeting? It is probably the result of all the above brought together by God’s providence.

The Jerusalem leaders have explicitly acknowledged that Paul’s commission (to the Gentiles) is a counterpart to Peter’s commission (to the Jews) and that God gave success to both. “The right hand of fellowship” was an idiom for pledging partnership and spiritual unity as equals and bearers of one gospel message amongst two distinct missionary strategies. The next statement: “so that we might go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised” reinforces the idea of two apostolic missions working in unity albeit freely and independently. Paul and Peter’s commission are likened to a railway track, comprising two rails heading in one direction, but never actually touching each other.

They only asked us to remember the poor — the very thing I also was eager to do.

This request appeared like a concession for the right hand of fellowship. Although this request is not related to the issues stirred up by the Judaizers, the Gentiles are rightly indebted to the saints in Jerusalem. When Paul was requested to remember the needy Christians in Jerusalem, he responded with eagerness as evidenced by the financial contributions made by the Gentile churches of Macedonia and Achaia. Paul spoke on behalf of the Gentile believers,

“Yes, they were pleased to do so, and they are indebted to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in their spiritual things, they are indebted to minister to them also in material things.” Romans 15:27

Indeed, charity is the visible and unmistakable manifestation of the gospel. Love expressed through giving is the bridge that unequivocally pulls people of different backgrounds together. Without making charity the goal, the efforts of the apostles will be empty, and devoid of life.

Truth

True recognition of one’s calling is accorded only by the fruit of his ministry

Paul’s claim to apostleship, to be substantial, must be accompanied by its fruit. Until the apostles in Jerusalem recognise that Paul is just as effectual in his ministry to the Gentiles as Peter is to the circumcised, they will not recognise Paul as a fellow apostle. Paul brought along for the meeting his disciple, Titus, a Gentile believer of Greek origin as evidence of his thriving mission to the Gentiles (v2:1). And Titus is not just a common believer, but a missionary, a church leader consecrated as Bishop of the Island of Crete. The fact that Paul is able to raise up disciples of such high calibre speaks volumes of the grace that is upon him. Note,…

first, they saw the fruit…

for He who effectually worked for Peter in his apostleship to the circumcised effectually worked for me also to the Gentiles,

Then, they gave recognition…

and recognizing the grace that had been given to me…

Many tried to promote themselves through social media and by political means. Some flaunt their titles, academic credentials and associations with big guns to raise their profile. But true recognition is accorded only by evidence of the fruit. That said, what is the fruit of a Christian, a disciple maker or a full time minister?

A Christian – living and displaying the characteristics of Christ: humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love. (see Ephesians 4:2).

A Disciple Maker – disciples imitate them as they imitate Christ (see Luke 6:40, 1 Corinthians 11:1).

A Minister – consistently producing fresh revelations from the word to edify the church while growing in the gifts of the Spirit (see Acts 6:2-4). Making disciples who are competent to preach, to heal and to deliver those in bondage (Luke 9:1).

Therefore, let us work hard not be seen or heard, but rather to produce fruit worthy of our calling.

True unity is sustained through persistent works of love

Because God’s wisdom is infinite, it is not possible for man to understand at any point in time the whole counsel of God except by progressive revelation. Hence, it should be expected that there will be differences in understanding doctrine among different peoples at any time. Indeed, God reveals Himself progressively to different people groups occasioned by their peculiar cultures, spiritual heritage and needs. Differences in interpretation concerning certain aspects of the word: religious practices, manifestations of the Spirit etc, must be handled with mutual respect and with humility. Therefore, it is important that Christians see doctrinal differences as opportunities for learning so that all may progress together.

What is the biblical way to prevent differences from dividing Christendom? By persistent works of charity and sincere love. Paul is exemplary in that aspect, for he is zealous in contributing to the needs of the brothers in Jerusalem.

That said, not every so-called brother with differing views should be received. Paul does not warn against associating with immoral people, but against associating any so-called brother who is an immoral person,

But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one. 1 Corinthians 5:11

Associating with such a person not only causes disunity in the church but it also leads the people astray. As a good tree bears good fruit, true believers will care for the poor even though they do not come from the same church or denomination.

Application

Are you driven by recognition or by the love of Christ? Having a correct motive will bring God’s favour upon you to bear much fruit in your company as well as your ministry. The apostle Peter spoke against personal ambition,

Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time. 1 Peter 5:5-6

Therefore, we must do all things (in our workplace, in church) with the right motive — not to be recognised, but to bear fruit worthy of our calling as Christians.

Do you have a tendency to care only for those who agree with you? Do you distant yourself from those who are not part of your family or the church? The fruit of the gospel is evidenced through works of love towards those who are different, and those who has no ability to repay.

Dear Lord, thank you for calling me with a holy calling. Cause me to bear fruit by making disciples of the truth. Use me to unite people of diverse background through works of love. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.


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