COMMENTARY ON GALATIANS
Gal 2:6 “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: 7But 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:)”. . . . . .Galatians 2:6-8
THE MINISTRY OF PAUL WAS APPARENT
With the wisdom of a person who is living in fellowship with Christ, and has been called to be a spokesman for Him, Paul is showing the Galatians how inexcusable it was to remove from Him who had called them into the grace of Christ. They had done this in order to embrace “another gospel,” after they had heard the true Gospel, and tasted of its power. At this point Paul is affirming that the most informed brethren in the body of Christ had seen the truth of his calling and the precise correctness of his Gospel. The thing that validates the true worth of a message is not how the common people perceive it, but how the discerning ones do. It is said of Jesus, “And the common people heard Him gladly” (Mk 12:37). But this was not superior testimony to the truth of His person. The most significant approval of Jesus came from His Father in heaven (Matt 3:17). After that, those who received His testimony were a confirmation of the validity of His ministry. As it is written, “He that hath received His testimony hath set to his seal that God is true” (John 3:33). Thus Paul cites the caliber of those who had recognized the validity of his ministry, which confirmed the folly of the Galatians who, after hearing Paul and being converted through his message, turned their ears to someone else. It was not simply the right of everyone to hear whoever they pleased – not when it comes to the Gospel of Christ. Large congregations, fanciful programs, and impressive organizers are no reason to turn from the truth of the Gospel, even though it is being done all around us. Paul elsewhere affirmed that he was “not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ” (Rom 1:16). This lack of shame was evidenced in his faithful proclamation of that Gospel, regardless of how men reacted to it. He is now confirming that total lack of shame in a report of meeting with the pillars of the church in Jerusalem. He submitted what he was teaching to the spiritually elite of the body of Christ. What would happen if preachers and teachers were required to do this today?
TRUE DISTINCTION INCLUDES ADDING TO THE ELECT
Gal 2:6 “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.”
It is important to enter into this text with the understanding that Paul is not demeaning the leaders in the Jerusalem church. He will not engage in a comparison of himself with them, as that is not the intent of this word. He is rather commenting on the thoroughness of his message – a message that did not withhold any of the counsel of God (Acts 20:27).
WHO SEEMED TO BE SOMEWHAT. Other versions read, “seemed to be something,” NKJV “those who were of high reputation,” NASB “seemed to be important,” NIV “supposed to be acknowledged leaders,” NRSV and “seemed to be influential.” ERV
Those who were leaders in the Jerusalem church were not noted for their organizational skills, but for their teaching. Paul did not go to Jerusalem to learn how to start churches, or gather people, or address the various difficulties found in the affairs of the church. It is what he was preaching that was communicated, and the purpose was to confirm that he was not working in contradiction of other Christ-ordained leaders.
As a personal testimony, l have made it my practice to discern true leaders in congregations to which I have ministered, and with whom I have visited. This was done in the context of spiritual discussion and dialog. Out of the hundreds of congregations with which I am personally familiar, there are relatively few in which I detected true spiritual leaders.
IT MAKES NO MATTER TO ME. Other versions read, “It makes no difference to me.” NKJV Whether or not the men occupied a key position, or were held in high regard, did not shape the way Paul thought of them. Keep in mind, that Paul is speaking of the twelve apostles primarily, and of the elders secondarily. The point he is making is this: the fact that they had been with Jesus, and held a high position among men, was not the thing that truly distinguished them. It is what they taught, or said in conversation that was the point.
A modern parallel would be observing a man who had attended a prestigious Bible College and Seminary, then held a lofty position in a congregation or congregations. Such a man would not demand respect because of those credentials. It is rather what he taught that would be the key factor in estimating his worth among the people of God.
GOD ACCEPTS NO MAN’S PERSON. Other versions read, “God shows personal favoritism to no man,” NKJV “God does not judge by external appearance,” NIV and “God is not impressed with the positions that men hold and He is not partial and recognizes no external distinctions.” AMPLIFIED
The point here is not that God views all men alike, for that is not true at all. The Scriptures provide abundant witness of God thinking more highly of some men than He does of others: Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, etc. However, the natural distinctions of such men, and their accomplishments in the flesh are not what distinguish them before the Lord. He looks for such traits as “a contrite and humble spirit” (Isa 57:15), “trembling at His word” (Isa 66:2), and one “whose heart is perfect” toward Him (2 Chron 16:9).
IN CONFERENCE. These words are omitted in nearly every other version. However, they do most precisely set forth the point Paul is making. The thing he is highlighting is the discussion he had with these men. In that discussion it appeared that they were “somewhat” – or were informed in the things of God. Their spiritual caliber was made known in their dialog, or “conference,” not in the position they held, or the privileges they enjoyed.
ADDED NOTHING TO ME. The phrase “in conference added,” is translated from a single word which means “to take one into counsel, add to one’s store, or impart.” THAYER/STRONG’S When Philip was directed to the Ethiopian eunuch, he found the eunuch needed more understanding, and thus he “preached unto him Jesus,” beginning with a text that had confused him (Acts 8:35). When Aquila and Priscilla heard Apollos, they took him into their home and “expounded the way of God more perfectly” to him (Acts 18:26). The Epistles involve an enlargement of believer’s understanding.
However, when Paul communicated the Gospel to those of reputation in Jerusalem, there was no need for them to expound the way of God more perfectly to him. He had not been confused about Scripture, or about the Gospel in particular, and required no clarification from these men of God. They did not add anything to his understanding. They did not expand the scope of his spiritual knowledge, or enlarge his perception by the introduction of some aspect of the Gospel that he had not heard before. His tutelage by Jesus had been thorough.
As with Paul and the Jerusalem leaders, levels of spiritual understanding are made known in discussing the things of God. In this text, Paul is not accenting any lack in the Jerusalem brethren. Rather, he is confirming the thoroughness of the revelation that was given to Him by Jesus Christ Himself. Considering that God taught Him, as was confirmed in his meeting with the apostles and elders, it was inexcusable for his message to be rejected by those hearing it.
WHEN THEY SAW
2:7 “But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter.“
Paul will now compare the reaction of the leaders in Jerusalem to those in the churches of Galatia. He is confirming that they have, indeed, removed themselves from Him that called them “unto another Gospel.” This confirms that there really is no such thing as a valid connection with Jesus that is independent from one’s understanding of the Gospel. Those who boast they have no doctrine, but only believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, are doing nothing more than exposing their ignorance. It is by means of the doctrine of Christ that faith comes through hearing. There is no such thing as identity with Jesus that is divorced from the Gospel.
CONTRARIWISE. Most other versions read, “On the contrary.” Some exceptions include the following: “quite the opposite,” BBE “otherwise,” MRD and “instead.” NLT
When the apostles and other leaders heard what Paul was preaching – for he “communicated unto them the Gospel” that he preached “among the Gentiles” (2:2) – they did not react as the Galatians were reacting. Paul will confirm that they saw no competitiveness in what Peter was preaching, as though they had to make a choice between the Gospel Paul preached and the one they were preaching. The Galatians had made a choice to believe and shape their lives by “another gospel.” In so doing, they had set themselves above the twelve apostles, and Paul as well, who was the apostle Jesus had sent to them. How serious is it to do something like that? The soberness with which this should be treated is seen in the inspired assessment of the Galatians. They had “removed from Him that called them into the grace of Christ to another gospel” (1:6).
One of the heart-rending things that any servant of God must face is the competitiveness of other gospels. The truth of the matter is that those who deliver the truth of the Gospel are speaking out a different message with a difference emphasis, and different results.
WHEN THEY SAW. “When they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me.” Other versions read, “seeing that I had been entrusted,” NASB and “when they [really] saw that I had been entrusted [to carry] the Gospel to the uncircumcised.” AMPLIFIED
The word “saw” means perceived, discerned, and understood after inspecting or examining. STRONG’S First, Paul was not hesitant to submit what he had been preaching to the spiritually elite of the body of Christ – those with understanding who had themselves been commissioned by Christ. No true servant of God is afraid to do the same thing. In fact, in our own assembly, in a sense, this is done by opening our meetings to the comments and assessments of the brethren. This is to be done with godly discretion, as Paul himself demonstrated: “If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord” (1 Cor 14:37).
And, how was it that this assessment was made? Was it by a report of how many had believed? Or the number of churches to which they had ministered? Indeed not! It was what Paul TOLD them: “that Gospel” which he was preaching “among the Gentiles” 2:2). Acts adds that Paul “declared particularly what things God had wrought among the Gentiles by his ministry” (Acts 21:19). In both cases, it was the testimony of Paul that convinced them. That is, they were able to recognize a valid message as well as the valid results produced by it. If, for example. Paul would have said that marriages had been solidified, young people taken off the streets, and the poor and needy cared for, would that have been sufficient validation of his ministry? While the Gospel can certainly produce effects like that, so can efforts that are wholly unrelated to the salvation of God and the Gospel of Christ. When men give reports of what the Gospel has wrought, or what the Lord has done, care must be taken to point out the things that only the Lord can do. Even then, it must be in synch with what God declared He would do through Christ Jesus. For some, this is a rather thorny assignment, yet it really must be done.
AS THE GOSPEL WAS COMMITTED TO PETER. The “Gospel of the uncircumcision” and “the Gospel of the circumcision” were not different gospels. The recipients were different, but not the essential message. The Jews were approached as those who had been schooled to recognize and receive the Messiah, while the Gentiles were approached as those who had been alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and were strangers to the covenants of promise (Eph 2:12). Because of the message of the Gospel, both Jews and Gentiles were joined together to form “one new man” (Eph 2:15).
This text is also devastating to the Roman heresy that presents Peter as the head of the total church. Here it is affirmed that Peter’s primary ministry was to the Jews, even though he also preached to the Gentiles. Paul’s primary ministry was to the Gentiles, even though he also preached to the Jews. When it came to the Gospel of Christ and the work of the Lord, there was no competitiveness between Peter and Paul. This was, as discerned by those who were “somewhat” in Jerusalem, was owing to them preaching the same Gospel.
EFFECTUAL AND MIGHTY WORKING
2:5 “(For He that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles.) ”
When it came down to it, the current condition of the Galatian churches differed vastly from that of the Jerusalem church. No one of any discernment had gone to them to give an accounting of what they preached, or to have a critical spiritual matter clarified – as the church of Antioch did when they sent Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem concerning the matter of circumcision (Acts 15:1-4). This, of course, is the very thing Paul is pointing out. The Galatians had defected, and the church in Jerusalem had not.
HE THAT WROUGHT EFFECTUALLY. There is a vast difference between what men do and what the Lord has effectually wrought through them! Peter was the primary instrument in the replacement of Judas (Acts 1:55ff). He delivered the inaugural message of the day of salvation, resulting in 3,000 gladly receiving the word and being baptized (Acts 2:14-41). He delivered a message in the temple court that resulted in 5,000 men believing (Acts 3:12-4:4). Through his ministry “all that dwelt at Lydda and Saron saw , . . turned to the Lord” (Acts 9:35,40).
The reason God wrought effectually in Peter was not because he had the gift of performing miracles – which he did with godly discretion. It was not because of the office he held, or because Jesus had given him the keys to the kingdom. All of those were employed, but the reason for his fruitful endeavors was the message that he preached, for that is “the power of God unto salvation” (Rom 1:16).
APOSTLESHIP OF THE CIRCUMCISION. In the Kingdom of God, there is an element of Divine discretion that determines whether or not a person is successful. As seen in Peter, this is not intended to establish the fixed boundaries of one’s ministry, but rather the focus of attention. In Peter’s case, it is called “the apostleship of the circumcision.” Other versions read, “apostle to the Jews,” NIV “emissary to the circumcised,” CJB “apostle to the Jewish people,” GWN and “the mission to the circumcised.” AMPLIFIED
The versions that use the word “Jews” have not done well in such a translation. To begin with, there is no question about the Greek word peritomh/j. The word means “circumcised,” and is everywhere so defined in the lexicons. Circumcision was the “sign” relating to the covenant made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Acts 7:8; Rom 4:11). The term itself does not emphasis the physical action of circumcision, but its relationship to the First Covenant. While it was originally given to Abraham, it was also integral to the First Covenant (Lev 12:3). This was a sign in the flesh that the people were in covenant with God.
Thus, Peter was the minister of God to those who were formerly in covenant with God, had some knowledge of Him, and among whom the Lord had worked mightily. These were the people who had received the promises of God, and Peter particularly declared to them how those promises had been fulfilled in Christ. The expertise with which Peter ministered is confirmed in the accounts of him preaching and teaching (Acts 2:14-41; 3:12-26; 4:8-12; 5:29-32).
THE SAME WAS MIGHTY IN ME. Paul preached the same Gospel to the Gentiles, but did so within the context of their covenantal alienation from God. We do not have many examples of Paul preaching initially to Gentiles (Acts 14:14-17; 16:28-31; 17:22-26). Most of the words Paul delivered to the Gentiles are found in his epistles to Gentile churches (Rome, Corinth, Galatia, Philippi, Colossae, and Thessalonica). He referred to this as delivering the Gospel (Rom 1:15; 1 Cor 15:1; Eph 3:6; Phil 1:5; Col 1:23; 1 Thess 2:4).
The same Lord who worked effectually in Peter also worked in that manner in Paul. In both Peter and Paul, that effectiveness was owing to the Gospel that they preached. Thus, the sanction of God Almighty was upon the message Paul preached – a message that the Galatians had exchanged for an erroneous Gospel. As a result of their foolish choice, they were in a backward motion, no ,longer bearing fruit to God, and in danger of falling from the grace of God.
TOWARD THE GENTILES. The Gentiles were the focus of Paul’s ministry, although he was not limited to them. The epistles of Paul were written to Gentile churches, and individual Gentiles (Titus and Philemon). Although raised by a Jewish mother, Timothy was uncircumcised when Paul found him. Even after he was circumcised to confirm his seriousness to the Jews in that area, Timothy was also noted for laboring among the Gentiles.
Right here we come face to face with a contemporary circumstance that precisely parallels that of the Galatians. The only significant difference is that the Galatians had originally heard “the truth of the Gospel” (Gal 2:5). In the churches at large, there is an alarming ignorance of what Paul taught – of the Gospel that he effectually communicated because of the blessing of God. His Gospel has been exchanged for a dumbed-down version created by those who themselves are unacquainted with the ways of the Lord. I do not know how anyone could satisfactorily prove that those caught within this snare are in an acceptable state. If the Galatians were liable to falling from grace (5:4), and not obeying the truth (3:1), what can be said of those who have pursued the same course?