|Series Theme: Meditations in Galatians|
Meditation No. 7
Meditation Title: Apostolic Approval
Gal 2:9 James, Peter and John, those reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the Jews.
There is a fundamental fact about Christianity which is often missed. It is the whole subject of discipleship. Jesus' followers were called ‘disciples'. We take it so much for granted that we miss the significance. A disciple is a learner-follower, one who follows and learns from a teacher. Thus we are all called to be learner-followers. So far we are all happy, but the truth is that this subject goes to the root of our pride which has to be put to death if we are to truly become a follower of Jesus. We are probably mostly comfortable with the idea of letting Jesus be our teacher but the trouble is that Jesus delegates it to human beings, so we have leaders, apostles, teachers and so on. Suddenly we are wary, because people can be domineering – and they may be wrong.
Well let's not go down that path, but let's take a more general one that is associated with it. It's all about how we relate to other people. Here's a simple question: are you open to being corrected by other people? It is a foundational issue in the New Testament. Paul himself taught, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Eph 5:21) It simply means be open to others for them to be able to input help and guidance into your life. This is very significant in a world where in reality we are taught to question everyone and everything else and to hold our own position – right is what is right for me, is what is often taught. But the Bible teaching is very different. It says there ARE very clear things that are right and very clear things that are wrong and we are to learn from one another.
To make this more even more clearly, consider and take in some of the ‘one another' verses of the New Testament:
That is a lot about relating to others! So why are we thinking down this path? Because it is obvious from the Scriptures that although Paul was not afraid to stand up for the truth of the Gospel (as we'll soon see), he also submitted himself to the apostles of Jerusalem. He would not have gone there is he wasn't willing to submit himself and check what he had with them. The first time he went to Jerusalem, “he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple.” (Acts 9:26) and it needed Barnabas to explain to the church the genuine change that had taken place in him.
The second time they went to Jerusalem “they reported everything God had done through them.” (Acts 15:4) and told, “about the miraculous signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through them.” (Acts 15:12). Again they were looking to the Jerusalem apostles for their sign of approval which came in the form of a letter sent from them to the church back at Antioch, along with Judas and Silas who were to confirm the integrity of the letter which said, “We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said. So we all agreed to choose some men and send them to you with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul-- men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore we are sending Judas and Silas to confirm by word of mouth what we are writing.” (Acts 15:24-27).
It is clear from this that the authority within the church still rested in Jerusalem (which it would continue to do until AD70 when Jerusalem was destroyed) and that Paul submitted himself to that authority. Without doubt, he was a strong believer, zealous and utterly committed to the Gospel – but he still submitted himself to others.
Thus Paul was now able to testify, “We did not give in to them (the Jews) for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might remain with you… those men (the apostles) added nothing to my message.” (Gal 2:5,6) and “James, Peter and John, those reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the Jews.” (v.9) By submitting himself to their authority, now he could stand strong and use their authority to back up and support his position – that the Gospel he brought was true and these others were false. Submitting our lives to others, only strengthens us and our position.