Picking back up in Galatians, we arrive this morning at Galatians 2:6-10:
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. (NAS)
It’s not completely clear who Paul is speaking about in verse 6, but it is those of “high reputation,” or those “who seemed to be something” (NKJV). Most commentaries I read seemed to indicate this is speaking of James, Cephas (Peter), and John, who are again mentioned in verse 9. Back in Galatians 2:2, Paul also wrote about speaking privately to those who were of reputation, and the notes say this was presumably the inner core made up of James, Cephas, and John.
With that understanding, it seems this small section is pointing out that, though there is one gospel about which Paul has been writing, there are different callings, each of importance. Paul is saying those of high reputation, though esteemed, added nothing to him. God has called and equipped Paul, and though his path is different from the others, coming from a radical conversion after persecuting the church, his calling is not insignificant compared to theirs. God does not show personal favoritism, Paul notes.
We see that Peter has been entrusted with the gospel to the circumcised (Jewish people), and Paul to the uncircumcised (Gentiles), and that God is working effectively in both Peter and Paul. And when James, Cephas (Peter), and John (pillars of the church) recognize the grace given to Paul, they extend to him and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship. My NKJV Nelson Study Bible notes, “The right hand of fellowship was a common sign of acceptance and friendship. It indicated full recognition of Paul by the representatives of the Jerusalem church.”
So here we see unity among these leaders who are all witnesses to the true gospel and involved in making disciples and growing the church by the power of the Spirit, but in different ways according to their callings from God.
In our current day, it’s easy to look around and want to compare or be competitive or think someone else’s life or ministry is more valuable or effective or wider reaching, but this passage tells us that God doesn’t show partiality. We should be faithful and obedient to the calling God has given to us, leaving the results in His hands, and not look around at others to validate or add something to us, but look to God who has given us our salvation and calling. And of course, we encourage one another with gospel friendship and are unified around the gospel of Jesus Christ that is directing our lives.
Paul concludes with the mention of remembering the poor, the thing he was eager to do. This was something they were also all united on doing, too, helping the poor in the church, giving from those who had an abundance to those who had a need. This is something our church does with its “Helping Hands” and something we should also consider individually.
PRAYER: Dear Lord, we thank you again for Your Word that is living and active and by which You teach us and lead us, correct us and train us. Please help us to keep our eyes fixed on you, being watchful and prayerful about what it is you have called or are calling us to do, the places you would have us be involved. Show us where you are calling us to give to those in need. Open our eyes to see and our hearts and minds to know and understand where you are leading. Help us to follow you and obey. In Jesus’ name, Amen.