Recognizing the grace that had been given
Galatians 2:1-16 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
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. 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.
11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision. 13 The rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of all, “If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?
15 “We are Jews by nature and not sinners from among the Gentiles; 16 nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified.
In today’s text it says: Seeing that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been to the circumcised (for He who effectually worked for Peter in his apostleship to the circumcised effectually worked for me also to the Gentiles), 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. Sometimes within the church it becomes difficult for us to see the grace of someone else’s calling. There are different ways that we minister to and present the gospel to different people. In 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 Paul says: Though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under [c]the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it. It requires a different grace to minister in a third world country than it does to minister in an affluent suburban neighborhood. It requires a different grace to minister in the streets, to drug dealers, prostitutes and destitute people, focused only on the urgency of the day than it does to reach the middle class families juggling their busy schedules, filled with the demands and obligations of work, school, children’s activities and more. Perhaps Paul was unique in his ability to minister across such a broad spectrum, but in that he could, he was like Jesus, whom he served. Jesus Himself ministered to both the least and the greatest. He could be found among the outcasts and sinners, but He also would teach at the temple and at synagogues.
We, the church, need to recognize that none of us are graced or equipped to reach all people. We should encourage rather than criticize or condemning those who minister in a different way to a different group than we do. The error in our thinking, the criticism and condemnation of those who minister differently does not go just one way. It is not just the traditional church who is guilty of being critical of the methods of those who minister to the outcasts and undesirable elements of society, but frequently also, those who minister in the streets become critical of all those who minister in traditional ways. God loves all people and He is: not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9) In John 14:12-14 Jesus says: “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father. Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.” In part, the reason we can do greater works than Jesus is of course not that we ourselves are greater than He, but rather because He is with the Father and They sent the Holy Spirit to us. We can do greater works because the same Spirit guides and empowers the one ministering in South America, Africa, Asia and even here in the U.S. The same Spirit guides and empowers the one ministering to the prostitute as the one ministering to the lawyer; the one who shares the gospel to the homeless person as the one who shares the gospel in an ornate building. We should not criticize or condemn those who are called differently than we are. Rather we should encourage, support and pray for each other and the challenges of our ministries and callings.
In today’s text though, Paul confronted Peter regarding his hypocrisy of holding to tradition and the law, when in the company of others who held those highly. Paul says: “We are Jews by nature and not sinners from among the Gentiles; nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified. Regardless of where or to whom we minster we must hold to the truth that we are saved, justified by faith in Christ, not by any works. As Ephesians 2:8 says: By grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God. Regardless though of what we may have to do or become in order to relate to people where they are, our message, the gospel itself never changes. In 1 Corinthians 1:23 Paul says: We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles. In 1 Corinthians 2:2 he says: I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. Paul says: I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it. We relate to all people just as they are, but we cannot participate in or embrace sin for the sake of the gospel. If we are partakers in sin we will not be a partaker of the gospel. Jesus says: “Whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:19) Like Paul we should encourage and relate to all people. We should encourage, support and pray for those who minister in different places, in different ways and to different people, but we should also encourage each other to hold fast to the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ and the cross, that He died so that we could live, not in our sin, but free from sin.
Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ; precious Holy Spirit thank You for Your love and grace, that Jesus died so we could live. Thank You for the multitude of gifts and callings You have given to Your people, that we might truly reach the world with the gospel, the good news of Your love and grace demonstrated in the cross. Bless each and every individual and ministry serving You and sharing Your message. Strengthen them and empower them; most of all guide them and protect them that they may hold to and declare Your truth, that through the power of the Holy Spirit, Your church and Your people would indeed do the works that Jesus did, for all people everywhere. Amen.