6 And from those who seemed to be influential (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)—those, I say, who seemed influential added nothing to me. 7 On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel to the circumcised 8 (for he who worked through Peter for his apostolic ministry to the circumcised worked also through me for mine to the Gentiles), 9 and when James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. 10 Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do. -(Galatians 2:6-10 ESV)
Can you imagine having to go into such a detailed explanation every time somebody asks you about Jesus? Paul defends his position of leadership in several places, but most notably in Galatians 1-2 and 2 Corinthians 10-13. There's a lot more going on here than just this, but Paul is continuing to refute the Judaizers who were trying to enforce circumcision and obedience to the whole law. If Christianity is the house, the Judaizers wanted Judaism to be the door into house.
Paul had people undermining his ministry: going back to ch. 1 we see him defending his position of leadership as an apostle as neither from man nor by man.
From Martin Luther's commentary:
"These Jewish-Christian fanatics who pushed themselves into the Galatian churches after Paul’s departure, boasted that they were the descendants of Abraham, true ministers of Christ, having been trained by the apostles themselves, that they were able to perform miracles.
In every way they sought to undermine the authority of St. Paul. They said to the Galatians: “You have no right to think highly of Paul. He was the last to turn to Christ. But we have seen Christ. We heard Him preach. Paul came later and is beneath us. Is it possible for us to be in error—we who have received the Holy Ghost? Paul stands alone. He has not seen Christ, nor has he had much contact with the other apostles. Indeed, he persecuted the Church of Christ for a long time."
Two things we can learn here:
1. Paul's defense of his ministry is always for the sake of the gospel, not for building himself up.
2. We're also entrusted with preaching the gospel, and our authority also comes from Christ.
So when fears and doubts arise about our ability to share the gospel, we too can say that God has entrusted us with a ministry and as verse 9 mentions "the grace that was given to me", He has graced us with his unshakeable love and mind blowing good news of the gospel: "You mean I can be saved and that God would really want to know me? And he's promised to make all things new?" The gospel really is that good!
That brings us to another question we might have from this passage: "Why is this Jew/Gentile distinction so important?" If we go back to Abraham:
"and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice." -(Genesis 22:18)
Paul's ministry to the Gentiles was a really big deal because it meant that God was fulfilling an ancient promise to bless the whole world. We'll see the implications of this unfold in later chapters, but for now we see that God is drawing people from all over the world to Himself and to this day that means including us in His blessings!
Martin Luther's commentary on Galatians. This was written eighteen years into the reformation and is a firecracker document against salvation by works.
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
(Galatians 2:20 ESV)
This week's posts were written by Chris Adams.