Galatiansby Khan Hui Neon
When it comes to evangelism, can different strategies, target audiences, and workers lead to confusion, disagreement, and disharmony? By studying Paul's teaching, we can avert this possibility.
In Galatians 2:1-5, Paul focused on the Jerusalem leaders' agreement with his gospel. Now he turns his attention to their affirmation of his apostleship and ministry.
Paul mentions ″those who were held in high esteem″ (v. 6). He is referring to the Jerusalem leaders. As his critics, the Judaizers, have been calling Paul's apostleship into question, Paul emphasises that his apostleship is not inferior to these Jerusalem leaders because ″God does not show favouritism″ (v. 6). The Judaizers may have been saying, ″For your information, two of the leaders who met Paul, Peter (also known as Cephas) and John, were hand-picked by Jesus himself. They lived and trained under Him for 3 years. As for James, why, he was Jesus' own brother! But Paul, who is he?″ However, Paul is replying, ″I may lack such special connections, but it makes no difference.″ God does not award apostleship based on who you are related to. Instead, God acts in accordance with His will. But of greater importance to Paul is that these leaders agreed with his gospel: they added nothing to it (v. 6).
It is interesting to note that instead of focusing on the validity of his apostleship, the Jerusalem leaders discussed mission field demarcation with Paul (vv. 7-9): He was to reach and minister to the Gentiles (uncircumcised) as they were to the Jews (circumcised) (v. 9). Clearly, his apostleship was not an issue with them. The clincher is in verse 8: By working powerfully in Paul just as He had with Peter, God unequivocally authenticated Paul's apostleship; hence, it is not inferior to anyone's.
How did the Jerusalem leaders respond? They gave Paul and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship (v. 9)-symbolising that they recognised what God had done, and accepted that just like them, Paul was already an apostle whose calling was to the Gentiles. That was why they added no condition or demand, except to request that he continue to remember the poor, the very thing that Paul ″had been eager to do all along″ (v. 10).
Why was there such instant harmony and mutual acceptance among these leaders? It was because they were united in spirit and purpose. They were fully aware that while different people were reaching out to different groups-Peter to the Jews, and Paul to the Gentiles-they shared the same God-given mission, which was to make disciples of all men, and they were preaching the same gospel, of salvation through faith in Christ alone. And that should also be our approach.
How does the phrase ″God does not show favouritism″ (Galatians 2:6) challenge and encourage you today?
Sometimes it is not easy to accept people whose ministry and calling are different from ours. How do we deal with this situation?