We pick up Paul’s oration in Galatians 2:6 having described, in the previous five verses, three years in Damascus with only momentary influences from Peter and James. Paul then tells us that after fourteen years of preaching he is now making a second trip to Jerusalem, to visit the church council of the believing world, which primarily consist of the Apostles.
All the while Paul, who had been a Pharisee, engrossed in the law, and a strict holder of Jewish tradition, has been made aware that the Torah and Tenach (the law and the prophets,) held the freedoms we now understand through Jesus Christ. This insight came strictly from conversations with Yeshua himself. What that conversation looked like is unknown; for example, was it a vision, or a very realistic dream, such as Abram had.
You will find God appearing to Abram several times, once in Genesis 12, and here in Genesis 15. Take the time to study this, and you will see a fascinating detail that most seem to miss. Abram is asleep!
Genesis 15:12-21 NASB Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, terror and great darkness fell upon him. 13) God said to Abram, “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years. 14) “But I will also judge the nation whom they will serve, and afterward they will come out with many possessions. 15) “As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you will be buried at a good old age. 16) “Then in the fourth generation they will return here, for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete.” 17) It came about when the sun had set, that it was very dark, and behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a flaming torch which passed between these pieces. 18) On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your descendants, I have given this land, …
Pay attention to the title Amorite. The ISBE tells us the name Amorites is always in the singular like the Babylonian Amurrū from which it is taken. Israel was taken captive by the Babylonians, who had ties with the Assyrians.
Let’s take a quick side trip in the book of Acts so that we can see the specifics of what Paul was doing for fourteen years. Without it we only have assumption to fill in the details behind it all. Some might think Paul just sat on his behind and did nothing? Hardly!
In Acts 9 Saul meets Jesus on the road to Damascus.
Acts 9:8-18 introduces us to Ananias who prays for Saul and asks that he be filled with Holy Spirit.
When many days had elapsed, the Jews plotted together to do away with him, but their plot became known to Saul. They were also watching the gates day and night so that they might put him to death; but his disciples took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a large basket. Acts 9:23-25 NASB
“When he came to Jerusalem, he was trying to associate with the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took hold of him and brought him to the apostles and described to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had talked to him, and how at Damascus he had spoken out boldly in the name of Jesus. And he was with them, moving about freely in Jerusalem, speaking out boldly in the name of the Lord. And he was talking and arguing with the Hellenistic Jews; but they were attempting to put him to death. But when the brethren learned of it, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him away to Tarsus.” Acts 9:26-30 NASB
With Saul now a changed man, there was peace. The church began to grow and be built up. Moving forward in the fear of the Lord and the Holy Spirit, it continued to increase. And everyone said, Amen.
Galatians 2:6 NASB 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.
“But from those who were of high reputation (what they were makes no difference to me.)” Paul knew well that elders deserved respect, but the knee will bow to no one but the Messiah.
The Message translation puts it a bit differently.
Besides, the so-called ‘authorities’ (it makes no difference to me what their status used to be — God pays no regard to the externals of men), these ‘authorities’ had no additions to make to my gospel. Galatians 2:6 Moffatt NT)
“these ‘authorities’ had no additions to make to my gospel.” Whether this means they had no knowledge of what Paul was saying, or they could say nothing different, is not clear. Paul was not a man to shirk, nor did he waste words being derogatory. It would be safe to assume that he continued to preach and teach the message he had received from the Holy Spirit.
On the contrary, they saw that I had been entrusted with the Good News for the Uncircumcised, just as Kefa (Peter) had been for the Circumcised; Galatians 2:7 CJB
The Easy to Read Version puts it like this,
“God gave Peter the work of telling the Good News to the Jews. But God gave me the work of telling the Good News to the non-Jewish people.”
Isn’t it odd how this worked out? Peter was the one shown the vision of the animals being let down, unclean with clean, and he was told to eat. (Acts 10.) This offering of unclean animals and the push to eat them, was, of course, intentional on God’s part and explained to Peter. Only moments later he is called to the house of an unclean (as far as a Jew was concerned,) Roman centurion. God brazenly demonstrated His acceptance of this man’s entire family, by baptizing them all in the Holy Spirit. And, it happened right in the middle of Peter’s sermon. Most would tell you that Peter had been the one initially called to the Gentiles, but this was about as far as it gets. Here in Galatians 2:7 Paul acknowledges that God has now given him the work of telling the good news to the Gentiles.
Some translations leave the next verse out. Apparently, it is an interpretive thought and adds little to the context. None-the-less, I give it to you.
Galatians 2:8 LITV (for He working in Peter to an apostleship of the circumcision, also worked in me to the nations),
“And recognizing the grace that had been given to me.”
Galatians 2:9-10 NASB 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.
The words we see here in verses nine and ten have been so important to me lately, as I have recently been mocked by a pastor about the possibility of having a prophetic gift (This was not something I advertised but came out of private conversations with that Pastor.) I wondered how that pastor could not or would not recognize the grace that God had possibly given to me. Instead of having someone we deem more skillful or mature in this walk we are on berating us; how about they acknowledge that God may have given us some tremendous gift, even if it works outside their parameters?
Question; How would someone recognize the grace that God had given to you?
I have seen this happen more than once, where fast, smooth talking, people come into to church, and within weeks they are teaching a class. Sadly, only a few weeks later they are gone, offended or bored. Ah, but you might say I am not a smooth talker. If what you are doing is filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, you might be shocked to know that the power invested in you exhibits itself in daily conversations; especially to leadership. (I am not condoning rudeness. However, the same people you need to talk to, are often those who consistently dominate conversations. They find assertiveness uncomfortable when directed toward them.)
Corroborating evidence. The primary source of this is testimony from others.
Sometimes, in your simplicity, you will speak the most profound things, and think, why did I say that? Watch the responses you get; those people can be your most valuable witness. As I write this, I am thinking of the blind man Jesus healed, on the Sabbath. That man, a few minutes later, went into the temple (well, that makes sense for he was a Jew.) The priests, knowing that it was the man who sat outside and begged, chose not to believe and ridiculed him, even though he could now see. The point being, some will never perceive the grace in you.
A significant validation may come from someone who is recognized in the body as being prophetic.
(I use the word prophetic as it is on my mind; but, I am assuredly not limiting the conversation to the prophetic. In Paul’s case, we are talking about evangelism, something I am not gifted in.)
“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.” The right hand of fellowship leans itself towards acceptance. Acceptance allows for freedom. Paul did not start with a mission to the Gentiles but had it forced upon him after repeated attacks from Jews who felt the same way as Paul had.
I spoke of this once before, but because Saul was a well-trained Pharisee, then we know Saul understood the law and the prophets. Gaining insight into the mercy and grace embedded into those texts through revelation may have been an easy task in comparison to teaching Gentiles who knew nothing. Paul, as he was now known, would have had to teach them basics. This new direction would have been quite the task.
Finally, the last obligation given to Paul was to remember the poor. No, we are not under the law, but we do live under the perfect law of liberty, and this should compel us to remember the poor as well.