Mutual Respect and Affirmation: Galatians 2:1-10
“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. 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.” Galatians‬ ‭2:6-10
Paul now describes the actual Jerusalem Council. He points out that James, Cephas and John were recognized as leaders over this council. The reader must note that this was not James the son of Zebedee, the brother of John who was called by Jesus to be an Apostle. (See Matthew 4:18-22; Matthew 10:2-5) A chronological reading of the book of Acts tells us in Acts 12:2 that James the brother of John was put to death with a sword. He became the first Apostle to be Martyred.
So who was this James? According to Galatians 1:19, this was none other than “James the Lord’s brother.” Compare to Matthew 13:55 where his brothers are named when Jesus visited his own town.
Though his brothers were critics early in his public ministry, they became convinced followers of Jesus and leaders in the early church. His brother James was used by the Holy Spirit to write the book of James, and his brother Judas who came to be called “Jude” wrote the small book of Jude. (See Jude 1:1)
From this meeting in Jerusalem the gospel launched forth in every direction with new clarity and resolve. Paul became recognized as “the Apostle to the Gentiles.” This was in harmony with the words of Jesus to Ananias at the time of Saul’s conversion. (See Acts 9:15-16)
At first reading this text in Galatians is a bit hard to understand. It almost sounds like there was a rude or disrespectful spirit between Paul and the leaders of the Council, but that was not the case. There was mutual respect, acceptance and understanding. None of the power plays, politicking or self agendas so common in the modern church were present in this meeting. They were there seeking the mind of Christ. They were each willing to die for the gospel message affirmed at this meeting. I defer to the description from Barns Notes on the New Testament to help explain this context:
“When he was there, there was no attempt made to compel him to submit to the Jewish rites and customs; and what was conclusive in the case was, that they had not even required Titus to be circumcised, thus proving that they did not assert jurisdiction over Paul, and that they did not intend to impose the Mosaic rites on the converts from among the Gentiles, Galatians 2:3-5.
The most distinguished persons among the apostles at Jerusalem, he says, received him kindly, and admitted him to their confidence and favour without hesitation. They added no heavy burdens to him, Galatians 2:6; they saw evidence that he had been appointed to bear the gospel to the Gentiles, Galatians 2:7,8; they gave to him and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, Galatians 2:9; and they asked only that they should remember and show kindness to the poor saints in Judea, and thus manifest an interest in those who had been converted from Judaism, or contribute their proper proportion to the maintenance of all, and show that they were not disposed to abandon their own countrymen, Galatians 2:10. In this way they gave the fullest proof that they approved the course of Paul, and admitted him into entire fellowship with them as an apostle.”
The full respect of Paul was noted by Peter in 2 Peter 3:14-16. In this context Peter conceded that the letters written by Paul had many things which were hard to understand, but were to be considered on par with Scripture.
This passage in Galatians 2:1-10 is a great example of accepting and affirming the gifts and callings of others. Though their ministries headed in different directions which called for uniquely distinct methodology and resulted in developing very different church traditions, they were unified and one “in Christ.”
It should be observed that Paul was not sent out to plant synagogues among the Gentiles. His calling was affirmed to start uniquely Gentile Churches with strict adherence to the gospel and the foundation of the Word of God. It was his work that eventually developed and defined a “New Testament Church.”
Our Christian hermitage today can be traced back to the Jerusalem Council. We are the benefactors of the recognition of the calling and anointing of God on the Apostle Paul.
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global