Galatians 2:9

I. THE GOSPEL IS OFFERED TO MEN IS ALL CIRCUMSTANCES OF LIFE. It is for men of every race, practising all varieties of social habits, living in different stages of civilization, holding the utmost diversities of creed, viewing the gospel itself from many distinct standpoints. None are so privileged as not to need it - the circumcised want it. None are so neglected as to be excluded from it - the uncircumcised have it preached to them. In the breadth of Divine love God has so ordered it that means shall be found for spreading his grace in the various directions where it is needed.

II. DIFFERENT MEN ARE CALLED TO DIFFERENT FIELDS OF CHRISTIAN WORK. Division of labour is as valuable in the Church as in business. This principle is generally recognized in foreign missions. It would greatly economize work and money and save much unseemly strife if it were equally acknowledged at home. It is to the shame of the Church that so much of its efforts is spent in maintaining the rivalry of the sects and parties, while the great world lies neglected. If the labourers are few it is a scandal that they should be quarrelling for their rights on the little patch already cleared. We are too short-sighted. We should "lift up our eyes." There the fields white to the harvest would call us out to broader efforts.

III. THE VARIOUS FUNCTIONS OF CHRISTIAN WORK ARE DETERMINED BY THE VARIOUS GIFTS OF THE CHRISTIAN LABOURERS. St. Paul was most fitted for Gentiles, St. Peter for Jews. They wisely recognized their diversity of vocations. It is important to see that we are in the right work. What is the best work for one man may be very unsuitable for another. We shall fail if we slavishly copy the most successful servants of Christ in a line that may not be ours. Butler could not organize a revival; nor could Wesley confute deism. We may be discouraged needlessly at our failure. Try some other work till the right work is discovered. The important point is to find our mission in our capacities rather than in our inclinations. We are not necessarily most fit for the work we like best. Still sympathy with a particular work is one great aid to success; only let us see that we do not confound this with self-will or ambition.

IV. DIVERSITY OF ADMINISTRATIONS IMPLIES SO DISCORD. Rather it is the best security for harmony. When all attempt the same work jealousy and rivalry spring up. If we differ naturally we are sure to come in conflict when trying to do the same thing. The ox and the ass are useful beasts, but bad yokefellows. The Apostles Paul and Peter could not have remained on friendly terms if they had kept to the same field. We should show friendship for those who are carrying on a different work from our own, recognizing them as fellow-servants with one Master.

V. THE SAME TRUTH AND GRACE ARE FOUND IN DIVERSITIES OF ADMINISTRATIONS. St. Paul and St. Peter preached essentially the same gospel. There is but one Christ and one narrow way. Diversity cannot go beyond the one gospel without becoming apostasy. - W.F.A.







And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars.
I. AS FOUNDED ON CHRIST.

II. AS SUPPORTING BELIEVERS by —

1. Sympathy.

2. Prayer.

3. Preaching.

III. AS PRESENTING AN EXAMPLE OF STABILITY.

IV. AS ADORNING THE EDIFICE OF THE CHURCH.

This is the only meeting between the two recorded in Scripture. It is, moreover, the last notice that we find there of St. John, until the time of the Apocalypse. For both these reasons the mind seizes on this incident. Like other casual Scriptural notices it is Very suggestive. St. John had been silent during the discussion, but at the close he expressed his cordial union with St. Paul. That union has been made visible to all the ages by the juxtaposition of their Epistles in the same sacred volume. They stand among the pillars of the Holy Temple; and the Church of God is thankful to learn how contemplation may be united with action, and faith with love in the spiritual life.

(Conybeare and Howson.)

It might seem to these Galatians, as it seems to some acute critics now, that several gospels were being preached. But Paul shows that this could not be. Of course Christian truth is presented in different phases by Paul, James, Cephas, and John respectively, but only as each facet of a diamond differs from the rest, each displaying its own brilliance, reflecting the light in its own way, but all belonging to one jewel.

(S. Pearson, M. A.)

Henceforward the Church and the world become coextensive; other evils may hinder the diffusion of Christianity, but not the limits of a local and national worship; other restrictions may be imposed on the freedom of the human race, but the yoke of Judaism never; other forms may be assumed by the spirit of bigotry and superstition, but from its earlier province it is utterly expelled; the most exclusive zealot will never again venture to confine the privileges of the true religion to a single nation; the most ardent admirer of ancient usages and external forms will never again dare to insist on the necessity of circumcision.

(Dean Stanley.)

The apostles were to continue to devote themselves to evangelization with the understanding that Paul and Barnabas should go to the Gentiles, and Peter and John to the Jews. This arrangement, however, was not made on geographical considerations (see James 1:1; 1 Peter 1:1; Revelation 1:9). The one party were to evangelize the Gentiles, the other the Jews, without distinction of place (see ver. 11, etc.).

(E. Reuss, D. D.)Not indeed that Paul would object to any association with the special ministry of Peter — on the contrary, he frequently addressed the Jews — but, the rule was a general one, and in effect most important, because it was a formal acknowledgment of Paul's mission, and of its total independence. Henceforth the two Churches were to be one in faith and mutual goodwill, but different in their ritual, ceremonies, and government. The Church which Peter was to construct was national, that which was put under Paul's guidance was oecumenical. The story that Peter ruled the Church of Rome for a quarter of a century is of course contradicted by the facts stated in this Epistle, and is plainly a baseless, though ancient, fable, which has been maintained and amplified in order to serve particular ends, and to justify ecclesiastical caesarism.

(Paul of Tarsus.)

He knew that the best way to obviate quarrels was to recognize differences. He was well aware that men may work for a common purpose, even though their several methods of procedure may be so various as to seem incongruous, and that, provided the means be just and honourable, identity of end is a sufficient bond of unity. The wisdom of the statesman consists in effecting a harmony of interests, that of a religious reformer in enlisting all action on behalf of one grand purpose. Both wreck their reputation when they ally themselves to party cries and narrow rules.

(Paul of Tarsus.)

Ours is not a unity like that of the waters of a stagnant pool, over which the purifying breath of heaven sweeps in vain. Ours is not the unity of darkness, like the cloud-covered midnight sky, where neither moon nor star appears. Ours is not the unity of a forced conformity, such as is found in polar seas, where eternal winter has locked up the waves; but rather like the fountain flowing ever fresh and free; like the rainbow that combines the seven prismatic colours into one glorious arch of promise; like old ocean's unfettered flow as its waves rush in all their majesty and might, distinct as the billows, but one as a sea.

(S. Weir.)

These four pillars of the Church stand before us for our contemplation.

1. For example, we see that the widest diversity of gifts can be employed to advantage in winning souls to Christ. It would hardly be possible to sketch four characters differing more in essential particulars than these apostles. Paul was the theologian of the early Church. Peter had an undeniable headship in organization. But James brought his cool temperament into service in decisions involving difficult points of casuistry, while John was of all the best calculated to labour for spiritual eminence in the converts. Now when results are before us, no one could venture to pronounce which was the most useful in the grand work Christ gave them all to do. Each was the best for his own work.

2. So this would suggest a second lesson: failure in one particular field or sphere of action does not preclude great after-success in another for the same man. As a home missionary he was a failure. The Lord had other work for him to do.

3. Then once more: we might learn that the individualities of personal character are in no wise destroyed by the new life under the gospel. Paul, after his conversion, was just as earnest and driving as before. James carried his carefulness as a Pharisee into his demeanour as a Christian. Peter left his boats and tackle to become a skilful fisher of men, with the same adroitness and patient business absorption put into his fresh profession. So John was affectionate to Jesus' mother, because he had grown up affectionate to his own. Naturalness is one of the best evidences of grace, for it excludes assumption and hypocrisy. No one will ever succeed in making himself better by making himself over into another man's likeness.

4. In the fourth place, we see that true religion in the heart is a powerful helper in intellectual advancement. The history of all these four men affords an illustration of the Scripture text: "The entrance of Thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple." We all know how Simon Peter was reared. How is it possible that he could reach literary attainments sufficient to enable him to write two such Epistles as those which bear his name?

5. Again, we can learn from these men's biographies and writings that the very best Christian excellences may be, unfortunately, marred by personal weaknesses. For every one of them was faulty enough to make some notable mistake, which has been handed down to us in the imperishable record. Paul quarrelled sadly with Barnabas about Mark. James refused to welcome Paul at Jerusalem.

6. Just a suggestion now, which may or may not be called a lesson. Perhaps the ideal Christian might be made up of the best excellences in all. Put Paul's orthodoxy in doctrine alongside of James's morality in behaviour; put Peter's activity in impulse with John's extensive experience; join all these into one man.

7. Finally, we cannot fail to learn, as the sweetest and best lesson of all, that the truest Christians are those who are most like their Leader, and most loyal to Him as supreme.

(C. S. Robinson, D. D.)

Essex Remembrancer.
Christians are frequently called "God's building," and the temple of the Holy Ghost; and said to be "built up.a spiritual house": and as some occupy more important places in this spiritual house than others, so they may properly be called pillars, or the main supports of the building in comparison with others. But it is one thing to seem to be pillars, and another to be really such, as were James, Cephas, and John.

1. Pillars should be formed of solid materials. In modern architecture, it is too common to decorate the front of buildings, with what seem to be pillars, and are not. The form of a large pillar is often built up with broken tiles, cement, and stucco: it seems to bear a great pressure of responsibility, which is deceptive like the whited sepulchres of old, for, in fact, the burden is borne by some modern supports, that are concealed from view. Now, God's building does not need the help of such pillars. Those who would seem to be pillars, merely for show, who have no solidity, and can bear no burden, had better take a mote humble position. These imitation pillars are good for nothing but show. They are always porous, and absorb the rain; often retain the damp, generate dry rot, and disgrace what they were intended to adorn.

2. Pillars should be upright. Pillars that incline to one side are painful to 1ook at, and dangerous to the building. When the pillars in the church lose their erect position, the whole building is on the point of falling.

3. Pillars that are designed for use arid ornament should be straight, and not crooked. A bending pillar can bear but little pressure, and is very offensive to the eye. Crooked materials can be used to greater advantage in almost any other position in the building.

4. Pillars should be placed under, and not on the top of the building. They should bear the building, and not compel the building to bear them.

5. Pillars are fixtures, and must always be found in the same position. A weathercock at the top of the edifice may turn with the wind, but a pillar that supports it should remain unmoved by wind and storm. A window or a blind may be adjusted here or there, to the season or the weather, but the pillar can never shift its position without danger to the edifice of which it forms a part.

6. The pillars need a sure foundation, or they will yield to the pressure that is upon them. "The Rock of Ages" is recommended as their best support.Inferences:

1. We infer, that it requires at least ordinary qualities of Christian character, to fit a man to be a pillar. He must have solidity, uprightness, humility, steadfastness, and true faith. These are indispensable.

2. Many, who seem to be pillars in these days, are far from what they seem; they show a painted surface and a florid capital, but they are of little use, and easily marred and broken.

3. Many whose unassuming dispositions will not allow them to be pillars, have, notwithstanding, the best qualifications for it.

4. Let all who aspire to be pillars, seek to combine those qualities which will fit them for the station they would occupy, and the burden they will have to bear.

(Essex Remembrancer.)

I. THE RECOGNITION WHICH PAUL RECEIVED FROM THE CHURCH WAS DISCERNING.

1. They saw that to him was entrusted the gospel which was to be preached to the Gentiles. The gospel of the uncircumcision was committed to Paul. The gospel is a Divine deposit or treasure.

2. The Church saw that the power which contributed to the success of the one apostle was effectual also in the other. In Paul as well as Peter God had wrought effectually. They discerned the triumphs of the gospel in both instances.

3. The Church recognized the religion of Paul to be a religion of love. They perceived the grace given unto him.

II. THE RECOGNITION PAUL RECEIVED WAS GIVEN IN SPITE OF CERTAIN DIFFERENCES THAT HAD SEPARATED HIM FROM THE CHURCH IN JERUSELEM IN THE PAST.

1. Many of them had been familiar with the Lord Jesus Christ when He was on earth. Paul had not. Yet they now saw that God was no respecter of persons, "but in every nation, he that feareth Him and worketh righteousness, is accepted of Him."

2. There was a difference between them in respect to gifts.

3. There was also a difference as to position. Many of them were of acknowledged reputation. Paul was not regarded as an authority in the Churches of Judaea. Yet in spite of these differences there was a full recognition of his apostolic character and office.

III. THE RECOGNITION WAS COMPLETE AND HEARTY.

1. There was no reservation as to its extent. They admitted the whole truth Paul declared. They addressed no communication to him, but fully embraced the doctrines he enunciated.

2. It was cordial. They gave to Paul and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship. "What a moment must that have been! What a blessed working of the Holy Ghost!"

IV. IN RECEIVING THIS RECOGNITION, PAUL WAS ANXIOUS TO MANIFEST HIS HIGH ESTIMATE OF THEIR BROTHERLY KINDNESS. They had nothing new to communicate concerning doctrine, but they desired him to remember the poor, and this request he gladly complied with. He here shows his fraternal co-operation with the other apostles, and .his love for Jewish Christians. He could not comply with the demands of the false brethren, but it was from no lack of charity. Immediately after writing this Epistle, he made a tour, gathering the alms of the Greek Churches for the saints at Jerusalem. Lessons:

1. Unity in the Christian Church has its foundation in Christ.

2. Christian unity is the product of the Holy Spirit.

3. Its genuineness is manifest by acts of beneficence.

(R. Nicholls.)

The right hands of fellowship.
The three apostles here referred to, whatever their prepossessions, yield to the force of Paul's statements. Peter also at the council called the imposition of the law on Gentile converts an intolerable yoke, for the Gentile was saved by the same grace as the Jew. Peter appealed only to the great facts which had met him unexpectedly in his own experience; but James, in the old theocratic spirit, connected the outburst of Christianity with ancient prophecy as its fulfilment. In his thought, God takes out of the Gentiles a people for His name, and by an election as real as when He separated Israel of old from all the nations. The prophecy quoted by him describes the rebuilding of the tabernacle of David, not by restoring his throne in Jerusalem over Jews, and over heathen who, as a test of their loyalty, became proselytes, but by the reconstitution of the theocracy in a more spiritual form, and over myriads of new subjects — "all the Gentiles" — without a hint of their conformity to any element of the Mosaic ritual. This expansion of the old economy had been foreseen; it was no outgrowth unexpected or unprovided for. Believers were not to be surprised at it, or to grudge that their national supremacy should disappear amidst the Gentile crowds, who in doing homage to David's son, their Messiah, should raise "the tabernacle of David" to a grandeur which it had never attained, and could never attain so long as it was confined to the territory of Judaea. The Jewish mind must have been impressed by this reasoning- this application of their own oracles to the present crisis. So far from being perplexed by it, they ought to have been prepared for it; so far from being repelled by it, they ought to have anticipated it, prayed for it, and welcomed its faintest foregleams, as in the 'preaching of Philip in Samaria, and of Peter to Cornelius. Paul and Barnabas, in addressing the multitude — "the Church, the apostles, and elders" — did not launch into a discussion of the general question, or attempt to demonstrate abstract principles. First, in passing through Phoenice and Samaria, they "declared the conversion of the Gentiles;" and secondly, at the convention, theirs was a simple tale which they allowed to work its own impression — they "declared what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them." The logic of their facts was irresistible, for they could not be gainsaid. Let their audience account for it as they chose, and endeavour to square it with their own opinions and beliefs as best they might, God was working numerous and undeniable conversions among the Gentiles as visibly and gloriously as among themselves. The haughty exclusiveness of the later Judaism made it impossible for the Church to extend without some rupture and misunderstanding of this nature. That exclusiveness was nursed by many associations. For them, and them alone, was the temple built, the hierarchy consecrated, and the victim slain. Their history had enshrined the legislation of Moses, the priesthood of Aaron, the throne of David, and the glory of Solomon. The manna had been rained upon their fathers, and the bright Presence had led them. Waters had been divided and enemies subdued. Sinai had been lighted up, and had trembled under the majesty and voice of Jehovah. Their land was hallowed by the only Church of God on earth, and each of them was a member of it by birth. His one temple was on Mount Moriah, and they gloried in the pride of being its sole possessors. The archives of their nation were at the same time the records of their faith. Nothing was so opposed to their daily prepossessions as the idea of a universal religion. Or if the boundaries of the covenanted territory were to be widened, Zion was still to be the centre. Foreign peoples were to have no separate and independent worship; all nations were to flow to the "mountain of the Lord's house, established in the top of the mountains, and exalted above the hills." It is impossible for us to realize the intensity of Jewish feeling on these points, as it was ever influencing Hebrew believers to relapse into their former creed, and leading others into the self-deceptive and pernicious middle course of Judaizers. In such circumstances, the work of St. Paul naturally excited uneasiness and suspicion in the best of them, for it was so unlike their own sphere of service. But the elder apostles were at this period brought to acquiesce in it, and they virtually sanctioned it, though there might not be entire appreciation of it in all its extent and certain consequences There is no ground, therefore, for supposing that there was any hostility between Paul and these eider apostles, or any decided theological difference, as many strenuously contend for. They all held the same cardinal truths, as is manifest from the Gospel and Epistles of John, and from the Epistles of Peter. There are varying types of thought arising from mental peculiarity and spiritual temperament — accidental differences showing more strongly the close inner unity. Nor is the Epistle of James in conflict with the Pauline theology. It was in all probability written before these Judaistic disputes arose; for, though addressed to Jews, it makes no mention of them. Its object among other things was to prove that a justifying faith must be in its nature a sanctifying faith; that a dead faith is no faith, and is without all power to save; and that from this point of view a man is justified by works — the products of faith being identified with itself, their one living source. Nor can we say that there were, even after the convention, no misunderstandings between Paul and the other apostles. While they were at one with him in thought, they seem not to have had the same freedom to act out their convictions. There was no opposition on any points of vital doctrine; but though they held that his success justified him, they did not feel at liberty, or had not sufficient intrepidity, to follow his example. Though their earlier exclusiveness was broken, their nationality still remained — their conservatism had become an instinct — "they to the circumcision." The mere separation of sphere might not give rise to division, but these pharisaic Judaists, who were nat so enlightened and considerate as their leaders, were the forefathers of that Ebionitism which grew and fought so soon after that period, having its extreme antagonism in Marcion and his adherents. How the other, apostles who had left Jerusalem at the Herodian persecution, and may have been in different parts of the world, acted as to these debated matters, we know not. It is storied, indeed, that John, living amidst the Hellenic population of Ephesus, kept the paschal feast on the fourteenth day of the month, in accordance with the Jewish reckoning; and that he wore in his older years one special badge of a priest... The power of early association, which grows with one's growth, is very difficult to subdue; for it may suddenly reassert its supremacy at some unguarded moment, and expose inherent weakness and indecision.

(John Eadie, D. D.)

God would build for Himself a palace in heaven of living stones. Where did He get them? Did He go to the quarries of Paros? Hath He brought forth the richest and the purest marble from the quarries of perfection? No, ye saints: look to "the hole of the pit whence ye were digged, and to the rock whence ye were hewn!" Ye were full of sin: so far from being stones that were white with purity, ye were black with defilement, seemingly utterly unfit to be stones in the spiritual temple, which should be the dwelling-place of the Most High. Goldsmiths make exquisite forms from precious material; they fashion the bracelet and the ring from gold: God maketh His precious things out of base material; and from the black pebbles of the defiling brooks he hath taken up stones, which He hath set in the golden ring of His immutable love, to make them gems to sparkle on His finger for ever. He hath not selected the best, but apparently the worst of men to be the monuments of His grace; and, when He would have a choir in heaven, He sent Mercy to earth to find out the dumb, and teach them to sing.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

I. To whom should we give it — to all who hold the truth — to all by whom God is pleased to work — to all in whom God exhibits His grace.

II. How must we give it — not by forsaking our own position or encouraging them to leave theirs — but by the maintenance of brotherly esteem and love, by provoking them to love and good works.

(J. Lyth.)

I.To all to whom God has given grace.

II.By the pillars of the Church, as an example to others.

III.Heartily, without reserve.

(J. Lyth.)

I.Expedient — it prevents collision — economises labour.

II.Advantageous — it provokes emulation — develops effort — accomplishes more.

III.Necessary — there is room — and need for all.

(J. Lyth.)

I.Some seem to be pillars and are not.

II.Some are pillars and do not seem to be.

III.Some both seem to be and are really such.

(J. Lyth.)

I.One gospel yet different views.

II.One Master yet different spheres of labour.

III.One source of power yet different instrumentalities.

IV.One heart yet different modes of procedure.

(J. Lyth.)

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