Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Galatians 2:6-10

6 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.
7 But on the contrary, seeing that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been to the circumcised
8 (for He who effectually worked in Peter in his apostleship to the circumcised effectually worked for me also to the Gentiles),
9 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 was eager to do.

Today’s passage is a very encouraging one – it’s all about how God uses our individual strengths for His kingdom.  Let’s start in verse 6, where Paul begins this point by mentioning that the Christians with the “holiest” reputations are really the most ineffectual.  Remember the numerous times in the Gospels when Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all” (Mark 9:35, also in Matthew 19:30, 20:16, Mark 10:31, and Luke 13:30)?  The thing is, if you’re concentrating on looking holy on the outside, you’re not concentrating on being holy on the inside.  If you’re preoccupied with what everyone else thinks of you, you’re not truly concerned with what God thinks of you.  Therefore, verse 6 tells us, just because we’re not on the cover of Saints to Applaud Weekly, it doesn’t mean that we’re not doing God’s work.  Earthly praise for perceived holiness or religiosity does not reflect God’s heart.  The Bible tells us that when we do good deeds with the mindset of not attracting attention for them, God rewards us (Matthew 6:4, 6:6).  So if you’re not getting earthly recognition for your work for God’s kingdom, don’t despair – you are storing up treasures in heaven (Mathew 6:20).

Now, in verses 7 and 8, we read that Paul “had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised.”  Here is a beautiful example of how God used Paul’s past experiences to enable him for ministry work – who better to preach salvation through faith alone than a man who, if salvation through works (the Law) were possible, would have been completely righteous?  Paul had a unique capability that few others had, and it no doubt made his testimony immensely effective.  God also used Paul’s talents (in this case, his vast knowledge of the Scriptures) for His kingdom – Acts9:22 tells us, “But Saul (Paul) kept increasing in strength and confounding the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that this Jesus is the Christ.”  But we also see the flip-side of this in these same verses – Peter, a common fisherman, was not educated in the Scriptures, and would therefore be viewed by humans as wholly incapable of convincing Jews that Jesus is Messiah, was called to do so.  In Acts 4:13, after Peter had just used prophetic scripture to assert Jesus’s Christhood to a group of Sadducees, scribes, and priests, we are told, “Now as they (the priests, etc.) observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed […]”  Simply put, people start to pay attention when someone is able to do something that they shouldn’t be able to do.  So, while God can certainly use our talents to accomplish His work, He can also give us supernatural abilities and spiritual gifts – abilities beyond our normal talents and capabilities – to accomplish His work.  Both can be highly effective.

Finally, in verses 9-10, we see that the early apostles worked in groups toward common goals (you can see the account of this in Acts 9:1-4).  Unfortunately, I have seen Christians bristle at the thought of collaborating on ministry work (and I have struggled with it myself), mainly because we honestly don’t want to share credit or are concerned that the other person will somehow mess it up.  While there are some genuine concerns when teaming up, and we should always be extremely prayerful about who (if anyone) to collaborate with, there are also many benefits.  I’d like to mention two here.  Firstly, it humbles us.  Teaming up forces us to relinquish your sense of “getting credit,” and to remember that this is God’s work, not our work.  This helps us avoid sin, and in keeps our focus in the right place (see first paragraph).  Secondly, teaming up can just plain be more effective.  Remember in Matthew 10, when Jesus sent out the twelve apostles while He was still ministering?  His ministry could cover a lot more ground with more people than only Himself ministering.  It’s also effective in that when you have two people working together, you combine the talents and abilities of both individuals.

One question for today:
1 – What stories can you share about how God has used your abilities and you inabilities for His kingdom?
2 – What do you think it means when the passage calls James, John, and Cephas “pillars?”
Remember – don’t feel limited to my questions!  :-)

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