Thursday, May 3, 2012

One Gospel, All of Grace

As Paul wrote to the believers in Galatia of his work in the gospel, he wanted to impress that the message he and Barnabas preached from Antioch was the same as that preached by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem.  He retells an occasion (Gal 2:1-10) when the Lord had revealed that he, Barnabas, and Titus should make the trip to Jerusalem and meet with the church leaders explaining the work among the Gentiles.

This act would benefit both the church in Antioch and Jerusalem.  Paul and Barnabas could tell firsthand how the gospel was being delivered and what was being required of the Gentiles concerning the Law.  The Jerusalem leaders could readily give their acknowledgment for the work and fruit of the labor.  Titus was the example of how a Greek could receive and abide in salvation wholly of grace, apart from circumcision or other works of Law.  Even when false brethren had made their way into the church seeking to require adherence to Moses, Paul and Barnabas stood firm.

They met quietly with James, Peter, and John who noticed immediately the grace going forth from Paul's teaching and sealed the fellowship.  The work being accomplished was validated. Both churches had clear mandates concerning the gospel, and this meeting acknowledged the ministries as being undertaken by co-laborers in different fields of service.

I do not see this passage as a blueprint for how to resolve conflict between Christians.  There is no hint animosity on either side.  Tension might be expected on a human level from Jerusalem: it was the "mother church," some of the original apostles were still in the city, and Jesus' half-brother was an elder.  On the other hand, Antioch was a growing work with the giftedness of Paul and his companions.  This was where things were happening.  Yet there is neither jealousy nor fear circulating between the two churches.  They affirmed the same gospel was going forth from both locations to the glory of God.  His people were of one mind.  Only those of the evil one had wrongly crept in and sowed discord.  Rather this passage is a testament of the gospel of grace manifesting that
There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all (Eph 4:4-6).

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