And recognizing the grace I had been given, James, Cephas, and John--those reputed to be pillars--gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, so that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the Jews.
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 —
III. AS PRESENTING AN EXAMPLE OF STABILITY.
IV. AS ADORNING THE EDIFICE OF THE CHURCH.
(Conybeare and Howson.)
(S. Pearson, M. A.)
(Dean Stanley.)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.)
(Paul of Tarsus.)
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.
The right hands of fellowship.
(John Eadie, D. D.)
(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.
II. III. (J. Lyth.) II. III. (J. Lyth.) II. III. (J. Lyth.) II. III. IV. (J. Lyth.)
III. (J. Lyth.) II. III. (J. Lyth.) II. III. (J. Lyth.) II. III. IV. (J. Lyth.)
II. III. (J. Lyth.) II. III. (J. Lyth.) II. III. IV. (J. Lyth.)
(J. Lyth.) (J. Lyth.) (J. Lyth.)