Paul did not shy away from confrontation. He did not fear disunity as much as he feared false doctrine. Paul confronted his elder, Peter, “I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed” (Galatians 2:11).
The major drive of many religious groups and churches today is unity, they do nothing to offend. They try not to make church uncomfortable for attenders. One lady said, "The church we visited played secular music as people came in." When they spoke to the pastor about it he said, "We don't want them to feel uncomfortable." That was a “seeker-friendly” church. Many say, "Don't say anything about another's religion." "Don't be so dogmatic about what you believe." Most religionists have a morbid fear of controversy. The church lacks discernment, mainly because it is too cowardly to stand against error. One young couple asked me not to say anything negative about a certain cult that was prevalent in our city. They didn't want their children to feel they were any different from their friends who were part of the cult. It did not surprise me to learn that those children are now a part of that cult.
Now I believe strongly in a biblically based unity and a kind, caring and concerned pulpit, but not at the expense of Truth! Why? Truth is far more important than unity!
“With all these things in mind, dear brothers and sisters, stand firm and keep a strong grip on the teaching we passed on to you both in person and by letter” (2 Thessalonians 2:15).
It has never been popular to stand for Truth!
•For Truth's sake Martin Luther said, "Here I stand."
•For Truth's sake Wesley was pushed from pillar to post.
•For Truth's sake, Spurgeon fell ill and died. Even his own brother had fallen prey to the "Downgrade Controversy" (Very similar to the “Church growth” movement).
•For Truth's sake Jonathon Edwards, Missionary to the Indians, died young.
•For Truth's sake, Polycarp, pastor at Smyrna was burned at the stake.
•For Truth's sake martyrs through the ages have suffered indescribable torment.
•For Truth's sake, New Guinea Missionary Stan Dale took over one-hundred arrows into his body.
•For Truth's sake, Jim Elliot and his fellow missionaries suffered death at the hands of the ones they were trying to help.
•For Truth's sake James, the Lord's brother was thrown from the temple and stoned, John was exiled, Peter crucified, Stephen stoned, and Paul beheaded.
•For Truth’s sake, Christians are suffering hardship, deprivation, torture and death in the Middle East today!
Unity is a wonderful blessing, but not at the expense of Truth. Every minister who dispenses God's Truth must be passionate in standing for that Truth. Those who preach God's Truth must be serious about the handling of that Truth. The minister’s goal in life must be, with God as their helper and judge, through every means possible, and with all of their effort always, “fight with everything you have in you for this faith entrusted to us as a gift to guard and cherish” (Jude 1:3 MSG).
All minister’s have their own preferences as to style, but no one has a choice as to what is to be preached! Our messages may be expository, textual, or topical, but always the Word of God, verse by verse, chapter by chapter, book by book, principle by principle, but we are in good company listen to the Apostle Paul: "Necessity is laid upon me, yes woe is me if I do not preach the Gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:16). "One who does not need to be ashamed…who correctly explains the Word of Truth" [2 Timothy 2:15 NLT].
Verse 6a: “But from those who seemed to be something…”
This describes the men held in high esteem, which included Cephas (Peter), John, and James, the Lord’s brother, to whom the Judaizers pointed to as their authority.
Verse 6b: “Whatever they were, it makes no difference to me; God shows personal favoritism to no man…” (cf: Romans 2:11).
God (and Paul) are not impressed by man’s personal magnetism or political ability, or by titles or offices which we may attain, or by men’s supposed importance. It is our ministry that counts.
Verse 6c: “…for those who seemed to be something added nothing to me.”
Paul stresses that he had had nothing important to learn from the leading Apostles. When a person knows the truth, and is confident in that truth, he needs no input from those who would question that truth!
“The Apostle repeats: 'I did not so confer with the apostles that they taught me anything. What could they possibly teach me since Christ by His revelation had taught me all things? It was but a conference, and no disputation. I learned nothing, neither did I defend my cause. I only stated what I had done, that I had preached to the Gentiles faith in Christ, without the Law, and that in response to my preaching the Holy Ghost came down upon the Gentiles. When the apostles heard this, they were glad that I had taught the truth.'” –Martin Luther
Verse 7,8: “But on the contrary, when they saw that the gospel for the uncircumcised had been committed to me, as the gospel for the circumcised was to Peter. (for He who worked effectively in Peter for the apostleship to the circumcised also worked effectively in me toward the Gentiles)…”
He notes that they had recognized his special ministry to the Gentiles. Peter’s main ministry was to Jews and he was very successful (later his ministry would necessarily expand), but he had heard how God was working powerfully through Paul and had acknowledged that the grace of God was at work there too. They had agreed that the Gospel of the uncircumcision and the Gospel of the circumcised was the same Gospel, and that God was working through him as He was through them, and they had confirmed their approval of his activities by offering “the right hand of fellowship.” (Verse 9)
There will always be those influential persons in the church who want to dictate to their minister about how the church is to be managed. But they never have the right to change the message of the gospel. Paul wrote, “Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant”(Galatians 1:10 NLT). One of my friends, after having been at his church for a short time told me that several of his members came to him saying, “We don’t like what you are preaching.” He asked them what their objections were. Their response was, “well it’s not so much what you are saying, it’s what you’re not saying.” As it turned out it he was not preaching against facial hair, long hair on men, short skirts, and women wearing pants, movies…well. You know the typical legalistic taboo’s that many make the major part of their preaching. He laid his Bible in front of them and said, “I will preach anything that is in this book!” And like the men about whom Jesus wrote in the sand, “…when the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one’ (John 8:9).
“Followers of Jesus Christ, and especially pastors and church leaders, have a responsibility to speak the truth of Scripture, calling sin what it is, and acknowledging that it has always reigned in the hearts of the human race. It is not any worse today than it was ‘in the beginning.’ Christians are called to shun acceptance of sin in all forms, not because we are perfect people but as a testimony to the transformation God brings about in a life surrendered to Him; washed clean by the blood of Christ and clothed in His righteousness. We must be people of endurance in the face of criticism or any form of persecution. If we do not exhibit godly courage to stand strong in the faith, we cannot overcome Satan’s seducing spirit that grips the world. The Bible says: ‘Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared…If you instruct the brethren in these things, you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine.’” (1 Timothy 4:1-2, 6) –Billy Graham
Verse 9a: “…and when James, Cephas, and John…”
The order of their names probably suggests their position in the Jerusalem church. James was the esteemed pastor of the Jerusalem church, the same as the one identified as the Lord’s brother in 1:19. Cephas (Peter) was the oldest of the apostles, and regarded as at the head of the apostolic college. John the apostle and evangelist, who is also known as “that disciple whom Jesus loved” the beloved disciple.
Verse 9b: “…who seemed to be pillars…”
Apparently these three Apostolic leaders were esteemed very highly among Christians in Jerusalem for them to be referred as “pillars.”
When I was just a babe in Christ, less than a year from the day I accepted Christ, an evangelist came to our church and before he left that week, he called me a “pillar” in the church. I wasn’t even sure want that meant, but when I finally understood, I was blessed enough to try to prove that he was right!
The Greek word for “pillar” is stulos, a support, column, or large post, often used for supporting architecture. The primary function of a pillar is support! Pillars Stand for Something! A pillar must be joined properly to the structure to be able to serve its function. James, Peter and John were solidly joined to the Lord Jesus Christ!
Not only that but the Apostles were the solid foundation of the church, “…the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth…” (1 Timothy 3:15 ). It is “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone” (Ephesians 2:20).
Verse 9c: “…perceived the grace that had been given to me…”
The Greek for “perceived” is gnosko, meaning “to come to know by experience.’ The pillars had themselves experienced the grace which was sufficient to save through faith and that needed nothing added for it to be efficacious!
Let me ask a personal question, are others able to perceive, to see that you have experienced the grace of God? Grace is everything for nothing to those who don't deserve anything. Grace is what every man needs, what none can earn and what God Alone can and does freely give. God’s grace is not just a saving grace but a living grace. Grace is “that goodwill on God’s part which not only provides and applies salvation, but blesses, cheers, and assists believers.” –John Eadie “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me” (1 Corinthians 15:10).
“Do you know anybody like that? Maybe it is in your family. See, grace works. This is not a passive message. Jesus was obedient to His Father unto death. And so therefore, He is going to be obedient in us. He is going to perfect that obedience in us, that willingness to do, “…for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). We will become “doers of the word” (James 1:22). We will not go out and do it in the strength of our fallen flesh; we will become doers of the word if we are living under grace. The works will take care of themselves. But have you ever been walking in that freedom, just enjoying Jesus and, I mean, being responsible to the things that God has put in front of you? And somebody comes around, maybe it is in your family, maybe it is in your family. Do you have a mother or a father who was never pleased with you? You never can quite attain. But when you are around them, suddenly you lose all the joy of walking with Christ, suddenly you feel like you have got to go do something to prove yourself so that you can win from them something (eg, affirmation) that you should have already had.” – preceptaustin.org
Verse 9d: “…they gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship…”
Today a handshake is just a simple way to greet one another, and has very little significance. It was very different in the ancient world. The handclasp was a sign of promise and friendship. It indicated a pledge of agreement.
“The handshake is thought by some to have originated as a gesture of peace by demonstrating that the hand holds no weapon.” –Wikipedia
Verse 9e: “…that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised.”
Do not overlook the implications of this. The false teachers had implied that their authority was from the Jerusalem apostles, but Paul now shows how those same apostles were in perfect and total agreement with his ministry. The outcome of this theological controversy was that the Apostles accepted Paul’s gospel of grace. They changed nothing, added nothing and subtracted nothing, and the Judaizers with their claim of salvation by works were routed. The Apostles were united one hundred percent and the Judaizers were defeated by the keen theological insight of the Apostles.
Verse 10: “They desired only that we should remember the poor, the very thing which I also was eager to do.”
“This is not a request added to the agreement, but a part of the agreement itself. Remember is from mnemoneuo. This is the only instance in the New Testament where this word means “to remember” in the sense of “benefit or care for…Paul and Barnabas had done this before when they brought relief to the poor at Jerusalem on a previous occasion (Acts 11:27–30). Judaea often suffered from famine, and the Christians there were perhaps the worst sufferers because of the ill-will and persecution which came from the unsaved Jews. This passage implies that there was a state of chronic poverty there, as does Paul’s efforts in collecting money on his missionary journeys. He was not attempting to meet an emergency, since it took more than a year to collect the fund, the latter being organized to
Accepting Christ can mean the loss of friends, status, and fortune. Jews may still today be disowned and disinherited if they convert to Christianity.
“Following Jesus may cost the loss of your possessions. One rich man proudly thought he was good enough to go to heaven. ‘Jesus said to him, ‘If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me’” (Matthew 19:21). Loving wealth more, the rich man sadly forsook Jesus.” –gotquestions.org
“Next to the preaching of the Gospel, a true and faithful pastor will take care of the poor. Where the Church is, there must be the poor, for the world and the devil persecute the Church and impoverish many faithful Christians.” –Martin Luther
Are we aware of the needs of others? Let love be genuine!
We say we love God, other believers and the lost.
Romans 12:9 MSG, “Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.”
“We must never minimize the needs of others” (Billy Graham).
“Gold and the gospel seldom do agree; religion always sides with poverty” –Bunyan
Where are the Christians who, as a part of their responsibility in life, carry the burdens and wounds of others, and are outraged by them?
A good way to forget your own troubles is to help others in theirs.
Galatians 6:2 MSG, “Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ’s law. If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived.”
Romans 15:1,2 MSG, “Those of us who are strong and able in the faith need to step in and lend a hand to those who falter, and not just do what is most convenient for us. Strength is for service, not status. Each one of us needs to look after the good of the people around us, asking ourselves, “How can I help?”
In Isaiah 58, God describes a people who were self-centered, so He says to His people, “Yet they seek Me daily, and delight to know My ways, as a nation that did righteousness, and did not forsake the ordinance of their God. They ask of Me the ordinances of justice; they take delight in approaching God. ‘Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and You have not seen?
Why have we afflicted our souls, and You take no notice?’… Is this not the fast that I have chosen: To loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; when you see the naked, that you cover him,
And not hide yourself from your own flesh? (Isaiah 58:2,3,5-7 MSG).
Take the words of our Lord to heart:
“I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to you?’ The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” (Matthew 25:35-40 MSG).
Unless otherwise noted, the New King James Version of the Bible was used. Also The New Living Translation (NLT); The New American Standard Bible (NASB); The Message (MSG); The New Century Version (NCV); The Amplified Bible (AMP); The King James Version (KJV), The New Life Version (NLV); English Standard Version (ESV); J.B. Phillips New Testament; Easy to Read Version (ERV); Common English bible (CEB); NET Bible (NET) and The Living Bible (TLB). Contemporary English Version (CEV).