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Body of Christ Divided & United

Apr 06, 2019

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Body of Christ divided and united”

Not a greeting between old friends. Although they had an immediate bond as brothers in Christ, on a personal level the Jerusalem apostles and Paul barely knew each other. Christian unity is not based on our coming from the same place, enjoying the same things, or “going way back” with each other. We are one because we go back to Christ.

Not a bestowal of authority or official recognition on Paul by those his superiors. This is the main point Paul is making. 6a: These men added nothing to my message. Paul had not gone to Jerusalem on a summons from headquarters, but in response to a revelation – that is, from God (v. 2) Peter, far from being the chief pastor over all the church and Paul’s superior, recognizes that God has called Paul as much as himself, and also recognizes that his own ministry is mainly to the Jewish people, whereas Paul has been called to preach to “the nations”.

Not an admission to a group, an organization, or even a local church. Sometimes this phrase, “right hand of fellowship”, is used to refer to receiving people into church membership. But Paul and Barnabas are members of the church in Antioch. The only church they have in common with the Jerusalem apostles is the universal church to which all true believers belong.

Not a sign that the Jerusalem church and the Antioch leaders would agree to disagree. This is the spirit in which we shake hands all the time, but it was the farthest thing from the minds of anyone at this meeting. They are not parting on friendly terms, allowing for doctrinal diversity. There is no doctrinal diversity among the inspired apostles. There is no diversity within the New Testament – not in the sense of contradictory teachings.

James agrees with Matthew, who agrees with Peter, who agrees with Paul – read 1stPeter if you doubt it – who agrees with John. There is some diversity in style and even in terminology. But there is no disagreement about salvation, about the faith, the Christian life, or Jesus Christ. And there must not be disagreement in the church about these things today. Where there is, Scripture needs to be studied prayerfully and then submitted unto. We do not need to be in the same organization, but we do need to preach the same Gospel.

It is an acknowledgment by Peter, James, and John that Paul was their equal as an apostle of Jesus Christ. Here we need to be careful about rushing to application – something we do with Scripture too much. It is blessedly true that we are equal in Jesus Christ, all sinners saved by Christ, all children of God by adoption, all sealed with the same Holy Spirit, all co-heirs with Christ of eternal life. And that is certainly a secondary application of this clasping of hands. But the emphasis in the phrase “they recognized the grace given to me” has to do with the fact that Paul has been chosen by God’s grace as a personal representative of Christ, just as they had, and that God was working powerfully through him to take the Gospel to all nations.

It is an affirmation of unity based on the fact that all the apostles preached the same Gospel message. This is the opposite of what Paul’s opponents had been claiming. Every now and then someone still comes out with a book or even a movie that tries to cast doubt on the truth of the Bible and the Christian faith by claiming that there were other versions of the Gospel that were suppressed by some conspiracy or other, and often they try to make the Apostle Paul the villain. But here three of the earliest disciples declare with joined hands that the message that has come to us in the New Testament is one Gospel. (James does not appear to be the brother of John, but the leader of the Jerusalem church who wrote our book of James, which some say contradicts Paul, and who was also the brother Jesus, raised with him in Nazareth. The false teachers liked to drop his name, and so his giving his right hand to Paul is especially important.) You will notice that today there is a lot of talk about Christians not getting along and not always preaching the same message.

But we must also affirm that the one true Gospel – that Jesus Christ is God the Son, that He became man, that He suffered for our sins and rose from the dead, that salvation is found through faith alone in Him alone – this one Gospel is one that we share with dozens of denominations and across many cultures and every generations. And it is important that we celebrate not our human diversity but our Gospel unity.

It is a pledge to work in the respective areas that God has assigned them – Paul with the Gentiles throughout the Empire, the Jerusalem leaders with the Jews – for the same purpose, to bring them to Christ. Notice that the Jewish Christians are not promoting a different type of Christianity.

It is an expression of their love for one another as brothers, and of the unity of all the churches, and a pledge that they will continue to help each other out with material needs. Paul will make it a special concern to meet the physical needs of the hundreds of poor Christians in Judea.

..some false brothers infiltrated our ranks…we did not give in to them for a moment

This is not a problem of persecution, harassment, or misrepresentation from people who are openly hostile to the church. Jesus warns us that such people will exist, that they will cause us a lot of grief, and that we must show them God’s love while never denying Christ, even though they may kill us.

These are “false brothers”. It is a single, compound word: “pseudo-brothers.” They are people who pretend to be Christians, but they are not.

There are false brothers described in the NT who deny that a Christian must live a righteous life. But that is not where these people are coming from. They are not liberals or libertarians. They are in fact very strict. But strictness does not equal godliness.

They have come into the church not to build it up or to help its members grow in their walk with Christ. They have come in to cause trouble. It is not that they are opposed to Paul personally. It is that they oppose his message.

They do not deny anything in particular about the Christian message, at least not yet. Instead they want to add something.

What they want to add is a requirement for salvation. Their message is that for non-Jewish people to be saved, they must participate in all the Jewish rituals. This begins with male circumcision, but does not end there. It means that the regulations of the OT ceremonial law, the sacrifices, the holy days, and all the rest, must be kept, or you are not saved.

Paul was accused of saying that Christians did not have to keep any of the law. That is not what he said. He said that the ceremonial law is fulfilled in Christ, although there was nothing wrong with keeping it if one found that helpful, especially if you were brought up under it as a Jewish person. But it must not be added to simple faith in Jesus as a requirement for salvation.

    But it never becomes the basis for our salvation. We are saved by faith alone because faith looks to Jesus. To be saved by faith just means to be saved by Jesus alone. free amazon gift card generator and free amazon gift card generator and free amazon gift card generator

    Jesus sets us free from the law of sin and death, and nullifies the outward requirements of ceremonies. We must not give in to legalism even for a moment. It is not harmless. It hurts Christians by returning them to spiritual slavery. And it denies the importance of the work of Christ. This eventually will lead to denying Jesus’ deity and his supremacy.


Rev Dr Jasjit Singh

Punjabi Christian Fellowship




3060 Laurelhurst Dr # 91 Rancho Cordova California USA