September 21, 2013

The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Galatians

Tom Lowe

II. Personal: Defense of Paul’s Apostleship (1:11–2:21)

II.B: Independent of Jerusalem Apostles (1:13-2.21)

II.B.3: Confirmed by the Jerusalem Apostles (2.1-10)


Chapter II.B.3.b: The Approval of Paul (2.6-10)


Galatians 2.6-10 (KJV)

6 But of these who seemed to be somewhat, (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man's person:) for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me: 

7 But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter; 

8 (For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:) 

9 And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision. 

10 Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do.



Commentary


6 But of these who seemed to be somewhat, (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man's person:) for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me: 


In this verse and the next five verses, Paul provides us with an illustration of his independence from the Twelve and the heads of the Jerusalem Church with regard to both his doctrine and ministerial position, and at the same time informs us of the complete recognition which they had accorded him in both cases.


But of these who seemed to be somewhat,

When Paul wrote, “But of these who seemed (or, who were reputed) to be somewhat” it seems that he may have meant to add, "I received nothing new either in knowledge of the gospel or in authority as Christ's minister," or something like that. The words he has placed within the parenthesis asserting his independence with respect to those whom his critics in Galatia would seem to have declared his superiors, both in knowledge and in authority, have in them the sound of sarcasm. “Seemed to be somewhat” means they were “reputed to be important persons,” or they were “highly thought of,” or “highly regarded.” It is obvious that he refers to the twelve and the leaders of the mother Church of Jerusalem, however, there is nothing in scripture or otherwise to indicate that these men possessed an extravagant conceit; nor were they thought to be something when they were nothing, because they really were something; they were ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of grace; they were the Lord's ambassadors, and the apostles of the Lamb. However, says the apostle, 



(whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: 

“Whatsoever they were” has the feel of something that is in the past, so that it may be more appropriate to render it as “whatever they were anytime in the past.” The term “anytime,” would include the time when The Twelve were constantly in the presence of our Lord, which was a situation which Paul's detractors were no doubt in the habit of to bring up as a mark of distinction not possessed by him. “It maketh no matter to me” is not exactly equivalent to "I don’t care," as if it was an almost pompous waving aside of the consideration; it is more accurately a serious assertion of an actual fact. Whatever were the gifts of knowledge and spiritual insight which the twelve or the other heads of the Jerusalem Church possessed, or whatever their apostolic privileges or authority, whether derived from personal communication with the Lord Jesus while He was upon earth or in any other way, Paul's knowledge of the gospel and Paul's apostolic authority did not come from them and neither was it affected by them. At the time he is writing this Epistle, he was just the same in respect to the possession of the essential truth of the gospel and to his apostolic authority as the spiritual rulers of the Jerusalem Church. 



Paul may have said this to defend himself from accusations made against him by the false teachers who endeavored to make him out to be less by giving glowing and enthusiastic praise to the apostles at Jerusalem. It looks as if they may have chastised the apostle for being a persecutor of the church before his conversion, when nothing of that nature could be said of these men, and therefore he was not to be considered on a level with them. This may have been his reply to that accusation; that it is true, he had persecuted the saints; and he was willing to admit it, for his own humiliation, and to illustrate the grace of God in his conversion; and as for these excellent men, what they were before their conversion was no concern of his. If he had been disposed to look into their characters, I am sure he would have found some blemishes, though, perhaps not as stark as his was; but it is not what he and they had been, but what they now were, that mattered. He could have found that they were formerly persons of a very low standing in life, of lowly occupations, fishermen by employment, and very illiterate persons, while he was raised as a scholar at the feet of Gamaliel; but he chose not to make such an investigation since he knew that God was no respecter of persons, nor was He influenced by any such external circumstances, but chose whom he pleased to serve in such a high office; and that he, who made apostles out of fishermen made him who was a persecutor an apostle too. Or these false teachers perhaps had objected to him, saying that these valuable men had been with Christ from the beginning, were eyewitnesses of his majesty, heard the doctrines of the Gospel from his lips, and saw his miracles, but that Paul had come to be an apostle at a much later date, and could not pretend to have such advantages, and therefore ought not to be considered equal to them. His answer is, that whatever privileges of this kind they had enjoyed, and it could not be denied they were considerable, yet it did not matter, nor did it make any great difference between him and them; he had seen Christ too, though as one born out of due time; had received an immediate commission from him to preach his Gospel, and was appointed an apostle by him as they were. And though they might have entertained different opinions from him formerly, concerning the observance of the law, he indicates he had nothing to do with that, and that their own master, to whom they must give an account, will, without respect of persons, render to every man according to his works.



God accepteth no man's person:)

That is, “it is never on account of his person that God accepts a man.” For example, God’s acceptance is not due to his worldly rank or position, his office, his nationality, even his Church status—“Then Peter opened his mouth, and said , Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons” (Acts 10:34). The meaning of “God accepteth no man's person,” as the phrase is used here is a metaphorical application of the idea that was so common among the Romans; the word "person" seemed well fitted to denote the part which a man plays on the stage, rather than the essential internal character of a person. The phrase denotes accepting the special assistants and helpers referred to in the present passage who were called by the Lord Jesus while upon earth, and, in the case of James the Lord's brother, all of whom had a personal relationship with Him. And what Paul means to imply is that his knowledge of Divine truth and his ministerial commitment and competence might be as real and as great, as the knowledge and ministerial commitment and competence of the twelve and St. James, whom his critics were honoring far above him merely for the sake of their standing as apostles. God made no such distinction between him and them, and accomplished just as much with him as He did with them.



for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me:

“Seemed to be somewhat” does not mean that they (the twelve apostles and James) seemed to be what they were not, but that they “were reputed to be persons of considerable consequence"; not insinuating a doubt in the matter, but that they were actually what they were reputed to be—ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of grace; they were the Lord's ambassadors, and the apostles of the Lamb. The sense of this clause seems to be this: “I explained my gospel to them; but they were unable to inform me of anything new—“To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood” (Galatians 1:16). The "for" appears to be related to the previous clause. That God does not respect man for his person was demonstrated by the fact that Paul's knowledge of the gospel was already so complete and his work was so honored by God, that those whose person seemed to many so decidedly superior to his, found that all they could do was to frankly recognize his teaching as already adequate and complete, and his work and standing on a perfectly equal footing with their own. 


His object here is to show that he and his ministry had the blessing and approval of the most eminent of the apostles.



7 But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter; 


But contrariwise, 

“But contrariwise” (or, on the contrary) refers to the previous clause, “for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me;” on the contrary,



when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, “When they saw,” that is, “when the twelve apostles got to see.” This implies that the fact was new to them. A few of them, no doubt, were apprised of it previously, Cephas in particular—“Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days. But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord's brother. (Galatians 1:18, 19); but the majority of that assembly of apostles and elders at Jerusalem knew Paul chiefly from hearsay, which was not always the most friendly to him. The three named in verses 8 and 9 are to be considered to have acted as they did in order to give expression to this newly awakened feeling of the general body, and not merely on their own individual judgment.  



“Gospel of the uncircumcision” means the gospel preached to the Gentiles. The word "gospel" is frequently used by Paul to denote, not so much the substance of its doctrine as it does the business of proclaiming it, and therefore the gospel of the uncircumcision does not indicate any difference in the doctrine communicated to the uncircumcision from that communicated to the Jews, but simply a diversity in the sphere of its proclamation.  



James, Cephas, and John, were so far from censuring or correcting anything in the apostle's ministry, or adding anything to it, that they highly approved of it; and as a token of their agreement with him and Barnabas, gave them the right hand of fellowship. The reasons for them doing it are found here, and in the following verses. The reason here given is, because they saw that the Gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me when I was converted and called to the ministry (see Acts 9:15; Acts 22:21), just as the Gospel of the circumcision was committed to Peter. By "the uncircumcision and circumcision" are meant the Gentiles and Jews—“Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision? (Romans 2:26). But “gospel of the uncircumcision,” and “gospel of the circumcision,” does not mean there are two gospels, because there is only one Gospel. Paul did not preach one Gospel unto the uncircumcised Gentiles, and Peter another to the circumcised Jews; but the same Gospel was preached by both, and they are designated differently to indicate the different persons to whom it was preached by these apostles. The Apostle Paul was ordained a minister of the Gentiles, and he chiefly preached among them. Peter was principally employed among the Jews: however, the subject of both their ministrations was the Gospel, which is said to be "committed" to them, as a trust deposited in their hands, not by man, but by God. When this was understood by the apostles at Jerusalem, they came to an agreement that Paul should discharge his ministry among the Gentiles, and Peter among the Jews.



as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter;

This distinction between the spheres of work entrusted to the two apostles only held true when viewing their entire ministry; since as Peter was, in fact, the first to open the gospel to the Gentiles (Ac 10:1-48; 15:7), and afterwards, towards the close of his work, he showed his concern for the welfare of Gentile Christians by writing his two Epistles to them. Also, everywhere Paul went in his ministerial work, he would first seek out the Jews and address himself to them, and he is credited with writing the Epistle to the Hebrews. Nevertheless, generally speaking, Peter was the head of the Church of the circumcised, and Paul was the head of the Church of the uncircumcised. But how completely the substance of Peter's doctrine was one with that of Paul's is strikingly revealed by his two Epistles (see 1 Peter 5:12). It is difficult to believe that Paul could have written as he does here, if he was aware that Peter had been set up by the Lord Jesus to be His own high priest upon earth, with authority over the whole Church and all its ministers. 



8 (For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:) 


(For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, 

This sentence is an absolute statement of fact; the perception of which led that assembly to the conviction that Paul had been entrusted with the apostleship of the uncircumcision. The worker is God, not Christ—“And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all” (1 Cor. 12.6). God worked on Peter's behalf the apostleship of the circumcision; that is, to uphold and advance his work as their apostle, by constituting him their apostle, by making his ministry effective in turning their hearts to Christ, and by miracles done by his hands, which included the imparting of miraculous gifts through him to his converts; these were "the signs of the apostle"—“Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds” (2 Corinthians 12:12). The Spirit of God filled Peter with amazing gifts, and inspired him with great zeal and perseverance. He discharged his office as an apostle among the Jews; and God performed through him wonderful works which confirmed him as an apostle, such as, curing the man that was lame from his birth, striking Ananias and Sapphira dead for telling lies, and raising Dorcas from the dead, and communicating miraculous gifts by the laying on of his hands; and the same Spirit also made his ministry effective in converting a large number of souls, such as the three thousand by one sermon on Pentecost. 



the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:) 

God had done the same on Paul’s behalf, but in his case it was towards the Gentiles—“Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them” (Acts 15:12). The absence of Barnabas's name in this verse, though mentioned in the next, is significant. Barnabas was not an apostle in that strictest sense of the term in which Paul was an apostle; although he was associated with Paul, both in ministerial work and in that lower form of apostleship which both had received from men. 



The Spirit of God worked just as effectively in him, as He did in Peter, by filling him with extraordinary gifts for the accomplishing of his work among the Gentiles, and inspired him with equal zeal, devotion, and boldness; worked as many miracles by him to confirm his mission; such as striking blind Elymas the sorcerer, healing the cripple at Lystra, raising Eutychus from the dead, with many other signs and wonders wrought by him among the Gentiles, through the power of the Spirit of God, so that they became obedient to God by word and deed. The same Spirit also accompanied the Gospel preached by him, to the end that multitudes were converted, by which means many famous churches were founded and prospered among the Gentiles; and this is another reason which prompted the apostles at Jerusalem to welcome Paul and Barnabas into their association with them and extend to them “the right hands of fellowship.” 



The argument made here, in a nutshell, is this: The same effects had been produced under the ministry of Paul among the Gentiles which had been produced under the preaching of Peter among the Jews. It is inferred, therefore, that God had called both to the apostolic office—“Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ ; what was I, that I could withstand God? (Acts 11:17). God gave the Gentiles the Holy Spirit, and His various gifts and graces, in the same way and in the same measure in which he gave them to the Jews. Realizing this, Peter says, “What was I, that I could withstand God?” It was not Peter who called them to salvation: it was God; and the proof of it is that only God could dispense the Holy Spirit. All these extraordinary signs, then, were given in order to show Peter and the Jewish Christians that the Gentiles were also accepted. 



9 And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision. 


And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, 

The expression, "the grace that was given unto me," also occurs in 1 Corinthians 3:10, Romans 12:3, and Romans 15:15, where, as well as here, it is used with a definite reference to the office of apostle having been conferred upon him together with the qualifications and gifts necessary for its efficient operation and success. This definite reference to a heavenly gift connected with his office of apostle is also prominent in the apostle's use of the word "grace," in Romans 1:5--"By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name" (also see 1 Corinthians 15:10, and 2 Corinthians 12:9). The "grace that was given unto him," therefore, consists of his having been put in trust of the gospel of the uncircumcision, and of God's having worked on his behalf in his discharge of that trust, which are presented in the two preceding verses. 



The James mentioned here is, no doubt, the same James who appears in the great meeting described in Acts 15.6-21 where he holds a prominent position; president or chairman. The "James" who, along with Peter and John was often given special privileges by Jesus, such as being present at his transfiguration, was not alive at this time. This James, is named first, even before Cephas and John, though he was not an apostle, probably because he was the leading "elder" (or bishop, as his office was soon to be designated) of the Church of Jerusalem. The twelve had no official connection with this particular Church any more than with the other Churches; and, therefore, when meetings were held at Jerusalem, the presiding official was not any of the apostles, but the man who was recognized as the highest ranking "elder" of this particular community. John's name is not mentioned in Acts 15; but it is in other places in the Acts. "Peter and John" are found together at times, even working together as they did when curing the lame man--"Now Peter and John went up together into the temple..." (Acts 3.1) (Also see Acts 4:13; Acts 8:14), and they held a very prominent place among the apostles. The reason why these three are named, and none of the other apostles, is probably that on the occasion referred to these three, James on behalf of the Church of Jerusalem, and Peter and John on behalf of the twelve, stepped forward before the meeting, and all three formally clasped hands with Paul and Barnabas in recognition of their recognizing and ratifying their doctrine and ministry. 



The apostle's reason for adding the clause, "who seemed to be pillars,” is apparently, to indicate why these three, rather than any of the other apostles, represented the Twelve in this formal proceeding, and at the same time to suggest to his Galatian readers the superb nature of the validation afforded both to his gospel, which certain ones among the Galatians were now tinkering with, and to his standing as an apostle which those same persons were beginning to belittle. 



When Paul wrote, “when James, Cephas, and John perceived the grace that was given unto me,” he meant the grace and benefits of apostleship, which was conferred upon him, and all those extraordinary gifts of grace, whereby he was qualified for the discharge of it; and particularly the value and success of his ministry through the grace of God which went along with it, and was so clearly discernible in it. 



they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision. 

This hand-clasp simply ratified by a conspicuous gesture the formal agreement between the two parties that they regarded each other as friendly partners in a common undertaking; and that Paul and Barnabas were admitted as apostles into their society (Though Barnabas did not meet the apostolic requirement of having seen Jesus, he often did the work of an apostle or assisted them.). The use of this gesture in ratifying a covenant, contract, etc., has been very common in all ages. Its use among the Jews is confirmed, not only by the phrase, "they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship" employed here, but by the phrases, "strike hands" and "give one's hand," in Job 17:3, Proverbs 6:1, and Ezekiel 17:18.  The Jews did not consider a handshake to be the most sacred of all forms of covenanting: they would, of course, regard an oath by the Name of God as providing a higher sanction. In the case now under consideration there was no "strife" between James, Cephas, and John, and Paul and Barnabas, which needed to be "ended" by "an oath:" the solemn and cordial mutual pressure of the right hand seems just the method appropriate to the circumstances. 



“That we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision” may be read either the way it was written or "that we should be ministers of the heathen.” This distribution of the work may also have been geographical as well as national; which is indicated by the mention in the next verse of "the poor" whom Paul and Barnabas were to bear in mind; they were the poor in Judaea, the province of James, Cephas, and John. This was a reasonable request; “for, if the Gentiles were made partakers of their spiritual things, it was their duty to minister to them in carnal things” (Rom. 15:27) .Paul certainly did remember the poor in Jerusalem; he put a lot of effort towards gathering a contribution among the Gentile churches for the sake of the saints in Jerusalem.



10 Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do.


Only they would that we should remember the poor; 

The poor in this case is the poor Christians in Judea. It should not be assumed that it would be necessary to make this an express stipulation in regard to the converts from among the Gentiles, and it would not have been very relevant to the meeting of the minds that was taking place between these pillars of the Church. The reason behind this request was to unite the Christians who were saved from among the pagans (Gentiles) and those saved from among the Jews, and to prevent alienation and unkind feelings. It might have been alleged that Paul was of a mind to forget his own countrymen altogether; that he thought of himself as the apostle to the Gentiles and to no one else; that he would become completely alienated from those who were his "kinsmen according to the flesh," and thus it might be expected that those who had been converted from among the Jews would not have a good opinion of Paul. But nothing could be better adapted to dispel this line of reasoning than for him to pledge himself to feel a deep interest in the poor saints among the Jewish converts; to remember them in his prayers; and to endeavor to obtain contributions for their needs. In this way he would show that he was not alienated from his countrymen; and as a result the whole church would be united in the closest bonds. It is likely that the Christians in Judea at that time were suffering from the evils and hardships of poverty arising from some public persecution; the persecution at the hands of Paul was gone, but it was probably still going on at the hands of others. History reveals the unkind feelings of the Jews at that time in regard to Christians; that the followers of Jesus of Nazareth would be subjected to many hardships on account of their love for Him. For example: a wife might be disowned by her husband; a child disinherited by a parent; a man might be fired from his job simply because others could not stand him or his religion; a family might be persecuted by their countrymen, who took away all their possessions for professing the name of Christ. The region of the world that included Judea was in the midst of a famine at this time (See Acts 11:30; Romans 15:25-27; 1 Corinthians 16:1-2; 2 Corinthians 8:1-7); many of the Christians had made themselves poor through their having given up all their substance into one common stock and fund, as they did at first; therefore, for all these reasons many of the Christians would be poor. It became a serious and immediate need to provide for them; and this is often referred to in the New Testament.



the same which I also was forward to do.

“The same which I also was forward to do” was just mentioned in the previous verse. They saw clearly that God had called Barnabas and me to go to the Gentiles just as he had called them to preach to the Jews; and they did not attempt to give us any new instructions; they only asked us to remember the poor in Judea; but this was something to which we were already committed—“Now about the collection for God's people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do” (1 Cor. 16.1) (Also see Acts 11:23-30.). Paul was definitely interested in taking up a collection for the poor saints at Jerusalem—which is abundantly clear from his epistles to the churches, and especially from his two epistles to the Corinthians—and in this way he gave the best evidence that he was not estranged from them, but that he was deeply interested in the welfare of his countrymen. One of the ways in which people come together in a church is through helping support the poorer members of their community, and every church has some poor persons, around whom they form these bonds of union. The best way to unite all Christians, and to prevent alienation, and jealousy, and strife, is to have a great common object of charity, in which everyone is interested and to which they all may contribute. One such common object for all Christians is our present sinful world. All who bear the Christian name may unite in promoting its salvation, and nothing would promote union in the modern divided and distracted church of Christ like a deep and common interest in the salvation of all mankind. Often this involves sending missionaries, training Christian workers, providing relief for the victims of tragedies, the poor, and starving, etc.



NOTE--In order to understand this epistle and parts of others, the reader must keep in mind the two great divisions of apostolic Christianity, the Jew and the Gentile. Of the Jewish, Peter, James and John were leaders; of the Gentile, Paul and Barnabas. These leaders were in full harmony, but the two sections of the church were not equally harmonious. The Jewish Christians, as a rule, still kept the Jewish law, and hoped for the conversion of the whole Jewish nation, until the destruction of Jerusalem; one extreme wing of them insisted that the Gentiles should keep the Jewish law, also. It is with this wing that Paul comes in conflict. Here in this chapter, and also in Acts 15, we have accounts of the conflict. After Jerusalem was destroyed, the temple in ruins, and the church forced to go elsewhere, the Jewish Christians gradually gave up the Jewish law, and the two divisions welded into one body in which there was neither Jew nor Gentile, but all one in Christ.


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