by Jonathan Bailey
“18 Then three years later I went up to Jerusalem to become acquainted with Cephas, and stayed with him fifteen days. 19 But I did not see any other of the apostles except James, the Lord’s brother. 20 (Now in what I am writing to you, I assure you before God that I am not lying.) 21 Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. 22 I was still unknown by sight to the churches of Judea which were in Christ; 23 but only, they kept hearing, “He who once persecuted us is now preaching the faith which he once tried to destroy.” 24 And they were glorifying God because of me.”
I almost skipped over these seven verses because there didn’t seem to be a whole lot of interesting information to draw from, but before I did that I decided to read N.T. Wright’s commentary on the verses and actually found that there were some interesting thoughts and points to be made. I am obviously a complete fool for thinking that. So let me share the two main points behind these seven verses.
This year our choices are going to be Obama, Hillary, or McCain. One of the things all candidates try to do is set themselves up as independent. I do not mean the Independent Party, but rather they want to differentiate themselves. Obama and Clinton are both Democrats but how are they different? We can view the letter of Galatians some what like their situation. Paul and Peter are both preaching the same Gospel about the same Kingdom of God and it’s King, but there is a slight difference. Not in the gospel itself but in how it relates to it’s constituents.
In verse 18 Paul goes to visit the lead apostles in Jerusalem to become acquainted with them. The point of verse 18 is not what Paul says, but what he doesn’t say. For example, he doesn’t say, “I went to Jerusalem to learn from Cephas,” or “I went to Jerusalem to apprentice my self to James, John and Cephas.” In no way does he suggest that he needed to be validated as an authentic apostle, or that he needed some training before he hit the mission field. He was an independent apostle and he went merely to get acquainted. By Paul adding in this peculiar visit in verse 18 he establishes the fact that he is indeed on his own and a legitimate apostle sent by Jesus. Verse 18 can be summed up in one word:Independent.
The remaining portion of the text is important to. while in Jerusalem he didn’t see many apostles except Jesus’ brother James. So by and large he was unknown to the Jewish Jesus communities. Even though he was unknown they all knew that Paul was who he said he was. They didn’t make a fuss about the meat, drink, circumcision debate. They didn’t give him any crap about watering down the gospel so it would be easier and more attractive for Gentiles. No, the one thing they cited time and time again was, “he used to kill us, now he loves us. He was against our faith, now he’s preaching it! And the natural response is to glorify God for such a sovereign miracle.” These verses were like icing on the cake for Paul’s argument of his apostleship, now as we move to chapter two we will get to the “cherry on top.”
Thanks for reading! May Jesus guide you and form you into His image now and forever more.
Seek the kingdom at All Costs,