Galatians 2:3-10 (ESV)
But even Titus, who was with me, was not forced to be circumcised, though he was a Greek. Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in—who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery—to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you. 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. 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 (for he who worked through Peter for his apostolic ministry to the circumcised worked also through me for mine to the Gentiles), 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. Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.
When the New Testament Scriptures refer to the ‘circumcised and uncircumcised,’ it means ‘Jews and Gentiles.’ Paul is formally established here as the Apostle to the Gentiles. God had already called him to that role, but when he went to Jerusalem to meet with the other Apostles/leaders—referred to here as ‘those who seemed influential, pillars’—he was accepted by the leaders of the early church.
Paul spent a good many years serving Christ, making disciples, bringing people to know the Lord. After his time persecuting the Church, when Jesus got hold of him, Jesus showed him how much he would have to suffer for Christ’s sake. God is not vindictive, and although the purpose of Paul’s suffering is not made clear in the Scriptures, he makes it clear that it does not gain for him any better standing in the kingdom than anyone else has. In fact, Paul refers to himself as the ‘chief of sinners.’ – Kind of getting off track here.
So the Apostles extended the right hand of fellowship to Paul, and blessed him in his endeavors. It is strange to me, that the one who had the most education in the Hebrew religion and life, was now sent to the Gentiles. But he was also a Roman Citizen. For whatever reason God had, He certainly knew what He was doing. Paul ended up visiting and converting people all over Greece, Rome, and many other places.
I think this mission to the Gentiles, as well as what Paul had to suffer for Christ were both to keep him humble. And he accepted all that was brought upon him. Whether through imprisonment, beating, or whatever, he was always ready to preach the Gospel. He knew how the Roman law worked, and used that to get out of a sticky situation, but he also knew that he would be taken to Rome, so he appealed to Caesar for this purpose.
What does all this mean for us? We need to remember that God will put things into our lives to keep us humble. We need to pay attention to the laws of our country (except when man’s law contradicts God’s law) and be obedient. We need to be always ready and willing to preach the Gospel message. You never know when you will have opportunity, nor will we know when it will produce fruit. The Scriptures teach that one man plants, another waters, but it is the Lord who brings the harvest. So preach the Word of repentance and forgiveness. Let God take care of the results. But we must live in accordance with the Gospel, lest we turn people away from the truth.
by Virgil Stripes
photo: hole in the floor of Caiaphas' house in Jerusalem -- they would lower prisoners into the dungeon thru this hole. Jesus was lowered thru this same hole after His arrest, before His trial.