Chapter # 2 Paragraph # 1 Study # 7
April 17, 2011
6 But of these who seemed to be somewhat, (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man's person:) for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me:
7 But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter;
8 (For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:)
9 And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision.
10 Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do.
1901 ASV Translation:
6 But from those who were reputed to be somewhat (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth not man's person)-they, I say, who were of repute imparted nothing to me:
7 but contrariwise, when they saw that I had been intrusted with the gospel of the uncircumcision, even as Peter with the gospel of the circumcision
8 (for he that wrought for Peter unto the apostleship of the circumcision wrought for me also unto the Gentiles);
9 and when they perceived the grace that was given unto me, James and Cephas and John, they who were reputed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship, that we should go unto the Gentiles, and they unto the circumcision;
10 only they would that we should remember the poor; which very thing I was also zealous to do.
- I. Paul's Confrontational Clarification of the Gospel in Jerusalem, Part Nine: Jerusalem's Response. [The first eight parts: The "fourteen years"; The issue of "going up to Jerusalem"; Barnabas and Titus; The divine mandate; Paul's action; The key result; The false brethren; and Paul's response.]
- A. Jerusalem's Response.
- 1. This response is "from those who seemed to be something".
- a. This "seemed to be" issue is stated, interrupted, and restated -- making it a major issue.
- b. That it was "interrupted" only increases its importance as an issue.
- 1) The interruption was deliberately "T"heological: God does not accept the face of a man. In what sense is this true? In an absolute sense: God simply does not "accept" man on the basis of "appearance before other men" because God "sees" beyond that level.
- 2) The interruption was also deliberately "application": since God doesn't, I don't either. This does not mean that Paul could "see" as God does, in the sense that he could discern invisible realities. But it does mean that Paul held something higher than human appearance. And what was that something? Validated words from God. Even as an apostle, Paul did not expect that folks should simply "believe" him (Note Acts 17:11 and 1 Kings 13:18).
- c. Question: if their "appearance" is really insignificant, how much significance is actually attached to their response?
- d. The significance is this: those who "seemed" had significant leverage before men, if not before God. Paul, who had spent his life seeking "appearances before men", knew two things: the vacuity of such seeking; and the reality that most men never learn that vacuity. Since "appearances" matter to almost everyone, Paul could use it to his advantage for their sakes, even though it was a vacuity. [If a man fears a thing that is not actually fearful, the fear can still be a useful tool.]
- 1) One of the issues of "seeming" is that those "who seemed" were considered, among other things, "apostles". According to 2:9, it was James, Peter, and John whose identities Paul was dismissing as significant.
- 2) Being considered an apostle was the very issue that Paul was attempting to establish for himself in Galatians 1-2.
- 3) If their identities as "apostles" could be so easily set aside, how is it that Paul strove so hard to establish his own identity as an "apostle"?
- 4) Additionally, in 1:8 Paul suggested the possibility that he might "preach another gospel" and, if he did, that he should be accursed (Note also 1 Corinthians 9:27).
- 5) The conundrum seems to be this: by dismissing the "appearances" of the other apostles Paul seemed to lay the foundation for the dismissal of his own. If people are free to say, "...what they were, it maketh no matter to me...", how is it that those to whom Paul wrote are not just as free with his identification as an apostle?
- a) The identity of someone as an apostle is crucial at some level. Paul would not have claimed the identity if it was of no import. But, clearly, the "apostle" Peter played the hypocrite in the record of Galatians 2. And, just as clearly, the "apostle" Paul condemned his behavior publicly. How much good does it do for people to have others as "apostles" if those "apostles" can drop the ball? At what level is one's identity as an apostle critical?
- b) The bottom line: the message is greater than the apostle. What, then, does it mean for a man to be an "apostle"? Paul's argument in Galatians has not been that his apostleship guaranteed his message. Rather, his argument has been that his message guaranteed his apostleship. In his arguments in our context, he has not argued, "...my message is true because I am an apostle...". But, does this not undercut his argument that "...my apostleship is valid because my message is true..."? Why present "apostleship" as a real issue if, in fact, it can be dismissed? It seems to be for this reason: a real apostleship is the instrumentality for an uncorrupted message. Even if a real apostle can corrupt the message, it is only a real apostle who can bring an uncorrupted message from God. In other words, if one is not an apostle, he does not have God's "gift" of absolutely accurate information. Apostles may corrupt the information but non-apostles do. God's gift of apostleship is a specialized "gift" that focuses, not upon a guarantee of human faithfulness in communicating true information, but upon actual access to absolute truth. Thus, Paul's claim to be an apostle is a claim to be gifted by God with the possession of absolute, inerrant, truth. This is not the same thing as claiming to be telling the absolute, inerrant, truth. The amazing reality is that God did gift certain men with access to absolute, inerrant, truth. The terrible reality is that men sometimes do corrupt their gifts for their own gain. So, this brings us back to the main question: what is the point of Paul's claim to apostleship if the people to whom he speaks cannot, ipso facto, trust his words? Since human depravity can corrupt divine words, what is the point of a human being in direct contact with divine words? The point seems to be this: apostles are God's intermediate agents for the communication of His truths to mankind. As such, they can communicate those truths even though they may choose not to. That is wholly different from those truths simply not being available because there are no agents of truth. But, if the failure of man can corrupt the instrumentality, where does that leave us? Dependent upon God. Consider this parallel reality: we have an "original manuscripts, inerrant Word of God" in our Bible that does nothing to guarantee our accurate understanding of it. In other words, we have a legitimate communication from God to us through apostles made able to communicate it, but we have no guarantee that our understanding of it is even close to being accurate. What we have is a God Who is willing to give us understanding if we are willing to humble ourselves and seek Him. His apostles and their writings are "in place" as instruments of the communication of His truth so that we have access to that truth. And, with that access, there exists the possibility of legitimate understanding on our part. But, it is only possibility because God exists as a person, not a machine. In other words truth is an instrument of relationships between persons and will not/can not be used apart from those relationships. If a person wishes to actually relate (in a good way) to another person, there will be, and is, legitimate help in inerrant truth from God empowered by the God of relationship. But, if a person wishes to exalt himself/herself over others, to the destruction of relationships, there is no help in an inerrant communication from a God opposed to self-exaltation.
- 2. This response was: "to me they added nothing".