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.Galatians 2:9(NASB)
Paul had been entrusted to go to the gentiles and preach the gospel of grace to ‘the uncircumcised’, while Peter had been given a responsibility towards Israel – ‘the circumcised’. Both were empowered by the same Spirit of God and He it was who equipped both men for their respective ministries.
It was necessary for both Peter and Paul to receive revelation from the Lord about the post-cross, dispensation of the grace of God, which started with the birth of the Church at Pentecost. Both received revelation about the Body of Christ, which is the Church – a mystery that had been kept hidden for ages and generations – from before the world began.
Jew and Gentile were to become ‘one new man’ in Christ, despite these two branches of humanity, having been segregated for so long. They were to enjoy full membership the same spiritual Body. Both Jew and Gentile were to become one new man in Christ and understand that He chose us, in Him, before the foundation of the world, that we may be holy and unblemished in His sight in love.
In this current Church age, every believer, both Jew and Gentile, is placed into Body of Christ the moment they believe on Christ. They are also indwelled by the Holy Spirit of God at the point of salvation. Both groups needed to be taught the same truth, but God in His wisdom commissioned the two apostles to address the differing issues and questions that would arise from Jewish believers and their Gentiles counterparts.
It is very telling that at Pentecost it was only Jews or Jewish proselytes that were saved on that special day. It was only ‘men of Israel’ that Peter addressed, in those early, fledgling days of the Church. Jesus had told them during His time on earth that He had only been sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel and Paul became a Christian at a time when the gospel was almost exclusively taught to the Jews.
However, the spiritually hungry Gentiles heard the good news and spiritual revival broke out in their ranks, prompting the early Church leaders to agree the fundamentals of the Christian faith - how it applied to both Jews and Gentiles and what were the foundational principles and practice.
Paul, who had met with Christ on the road to Damascus; been commissioned as His apostle to the Gentiles and received direct revelation from the Lord, was acknowledged by the foundational Church leaders as a chosen vessel of the Lord.
He travelled to Jerusalem to participate in the early Church discussions, with James, Peter, who we also called Cephas, and John, who recognised the grace that God had been bestowed on Paul. Although some things that Paul taught remained hard to understand, these three pillars of the Church offered him, and his companion Barnabas, the right hand of fellowship and they agreed that Paul would take the gospel to the Gentiles, while Christ’s other apostles would teach the Jews.
However, it is important to remember that both Peter and Paul taught the same gospel, which some teachers today try to refute. The issues about which Peter spoke in his two letters detail the same truths about which Paul wrote in all his epistles. Areas such as our new birth and the deity of Christ together with the subjects of our justification, sanctification, growing in grace and our Christian development are areas that both apostles taught in their writings, together with Christ’s sinless life and His eternal power.
Other areas included Christ’s rejection and suffering; His death and resurrection; His ascension and glorification; His coming again; the great and terrible ‘day of the Lord’ and our blessed hope, in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Both men urged their readers to be diligent to grow in grace, mature in the faith, be found in Christ and to understand that any perceived delay in Christ’s return points to God’s long-suffering kindness towards men, for it is not God’s will that any should perish but that all come to repentance and find peace in Him.
It is very telling that as Peter draws his final epistle to a close, he draws our attention to all the writings of our beloved brother Paul and the godly wisdom with which he was endowed. Both men were given different roles and responsibilities by God in the early Church, but both taught the same gospel of grace and both endured much suffering for righteousness sake.
Heavenly Father, thank You for the teachings of both Peter and Paul and for the wonderful way their joint ministries were united in teaching the truth of the gospel of Christ. Thank You for the corrective teachings in Galatians, about perverting the gospel of grace, by returning to legalistic practices, which can so often be permitted in our places of worship. Keep me alert to any deceptive practices and thank You that I am both saved by Your grace and kept by Your grace. Keep me pure in thought, word, deed and doctrine – this I ask in Jesus name, AMEN.