“6 But from those who were reputed to be important (whatever they were, it makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality), those, I say, who were of reputation imparted nothing to me.”
It’s interesting to me that Paul makes this statement about Peter, James, and John, the three top leaders in the church of Jerusalem. I think it shows that Paul always has everything in proper perspective. He knows that all of us, no matter what our position is, are simply servants of the Lord, and that the honor of His name is all that matters. God has given each of us gifts to be used for His glory, and we all have our own individual calling. God doesn’t look upon leaders any differently than He does anyone else. What He cares about is our faithfulness.
In saying “whatever they were, it makes no difference to me,” he was saying it about himself. For he too was a top leader in the early church. It was, therefore, a statement of humility. Thus he was not wowed by their leadership. But don’t misunderstand, he was not disrespecting them. Again, he was just keeping everything in proper perspective, keeping the focus where it belonged.
Paul’s attitude toward leadership serves as a good example for us to follow. We should certainly respect our church leaders, but we should not be wowed by them. They’re susceptible to the same sins and failures as the rest of us. We live in a time when Christian leaders are falling like dominoes. Leaders are letting us down and dishonoring the name of Christ left and right. Therefore, while we’re to respect them, we’re not to elevate them to a place of importance that is inappropriate and unwise. We should follow the teaching and godly example of faithful leaders, but to do so guardedly. Christians make a mistake by putting too much stock in certain pet leaders. They’re not infallible. So we shouldn’t set ourselves up for disappointment. We shouldn’t follow them blindly, and assume that everything they teach is the truth. We should consider their life and ministry and everything they teach in light of what we learn through the diligent study of the Word of God.
While Paul didn’t overvalue the importance of these men, keeping his focus on Christ, he also knew that these leaders carried a lot of weight in the eyes of the people. Therefore, for the sake of the message of grace that he proclaimed to the Gentiles, it was important to secure their support.
“imparted nothing to me”
“those men added nothing to my message” NIV
According to the sovereign plan and purpose of God, these leaders didn’t add anything to the gospel message that he preached. They didn’t discredit anything that Paul was preaching to the Gentiles. On the contrary, they recognized his message as the truth, and as the same message of grace that they themselves preached, as the following verses reveal:
“7 On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, even as Peter to the circumcised
8 (for He who worked for Peter in his apostleship to the circumcision, worked for me also to the Gentiles),
9 and when they perceived the grace that was given to 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 to the Gentiles, and they to the circumcised:”
These leaders recognized that God had entrusted Paul with the same message of grace that He had entrusted them with, and so they could do nothing but to give their full approval (Acts 15:6-21). They recognized that Paul was not working independently, but that it was God who was working through him in the same way that He was working through Peter. The only difference was, that Paul’s ministry was primarily to the Gentiles, and Peter’s ministry was primarily to the Jews….though they both ministered to both groups.
We as followers and servants of Jesus Christ, must be aware of how important it is to be fully yielded to Him to work through us. Our walk with Jesus needs to be so intimate that it truly is Him living His life through us. To experience God’s power in our lives, we must be fully surrendered to a life of holiness and separation. We lose God’s power when we begin to compromise with the world. God draws back from the one who tries to serve Him with one foot in the world….indeed, they make themselves an enemy of God:
“You adulteresses, do you not know that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Therefore, whoever would be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” (Ja 4:4)
As a result of what they saw in Paul’s message and ministry (Acts 15:4), they gave him and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship. In other words, they gave their full blessing regarding their calling to the Gentiles. This should have been enough for the Galatian Christians to turn away from the the false gospel of the Judaizers, and to turn back to the truth that had been delivered to them in the beginning.
” 10 only that we should remember the poor. The very thing I was also zealous to do.”
This seems like a side-note to the subject at hand, and it is to some degree. However, the Bible is full of instruction about taking care of the poor, and there is also blessing for those who do:
1 John 3:17
Those who open their hearts to the poor prove themselves to be true servants of Christ. Those who close their ears to the cry of the poor, prove themselves to be self-centered, and that they clearly don’t have the same heart for people that Jesus has. One cannot claim to care about people when they do not have the same heart for the poor as our Lord does. Our attitude toward the poor is really a test of our love for people in general. If we have a genuine love for the poor, then we will have a genuine love for others, as well. Paul and the leaders of the Jerusalem church had a sincere concern for the poor, proving themselves to be like-hearted servants of Jesus Christ.