The Approval of Paul: Part 2 of 4 (series: Lessons on Galatians)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

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;

But contrariwise,
“But contrariwise” (or, on the contrary) refers to the previous clause, “for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me;” on the contrary,

when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, “When they saw,” that is, “when the twelve apostles got to see.” This implies that the fact was new to them. A few of them, no doubt, were apprised of it previously, Cephas in particular—“Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days. But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord's brother. (Galatians 1:18, 19); but the majority of that assembly of apostles and elders at Jerusalem knew Paul chiefly from hearsay, which was not always the most friendly to him. The three named in verses 8 and 9 are to be considered to have acted as they did in order to give expression to this newly awakened feeling of the general body, and not merely on their own individual judgment.

“Gospel of the uncircumcision” means the gospel preached to the Gentiles. The word "gospel" is frequently used by Paul to denote, not so much the substance of its doctrine as it does the business of proclaiming it, and therefore the gospel of the uncircumcision does not indicate any difference in the doctrine communicated to the uncircumcision from that communicated to the Jews, but simply a diversity in the sphere of its proclamation.

James, Cephas, and John, were so far from censuring or correcting anything in the apostle's ministry, or adding anything to it, that they highly approved of it; and as a token of their agreement with him and Barnabas, gave them the right hand of fellowship. The reasons for them doing it are found here, and in the following verses. The reason here given is, because they saw that the Gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me when I was converted and called to the ministry (see Acts 9:15; Acts 22:21), just as the Gospel of the circumcision was committed to Peter. By "the uncircumcision and circumcision" are meant the Gentiles and Jews—“Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision? (Romans 2:26). But “gospel of the uncircumcision,” and “gospel of the circumcision,” does not mean there are two gospels, because there is only one Gospel. Paul did not preach one Gospel unto the uncircumcised Gentiles, and Peter another to the circumcised Jews; but the same Gospel was preached by both, and they are designated differently to indicate the different persons to whom it was preached by these apostles. The Apostle Paul was ordained a minister of the Gentiles, and he chiefly preached among them. Peter was principally employed among the Jews: however, the subject of both their ministrations was the Gospel, which is said to be "committed" to them, as a trust deposited in their hands, not by man, but by God. When this was understood by the apostles at Jerusalem, they came to an agreement that Paul should discharge his ministry among the Gentiles, and Peter among the Jews.

as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter;
This distinction between the spheres of work entrusted to the two apostles only held true when viewing their entire ministry; since as Peter was, in fact, the first to open the gospel to the Gentiles (Ac 10:1-48; 15:7), and afterwards, towards the close of his work, he showed his concern for the welfare of Gentile Christians by writing his two Epistles to them. Also, everywhere Paul went in his ministerial work, he would first seek out the Jews and address himself to them, and

he is credited with writing the Epistle to the Hebrews. Nevertheless, generally speaking, Peter was the head of the Church of the circumcised, and Paul was the head of the Church of the uncircumcised. But how completely the substance of Peter's doctrine was one with that of Paul's is strikingly revealed by his two Epistles (see 1 Peter 5:12). It is difficult to believe that Paul could have written as he does here, if he was aware that Peter had been set up by the Lord Jesus to be His own high priest upon earth, with authority over the whole Church and all its ministers.

8 (For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:)

(For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision,
This sentence is an absolute statement of fact; the perception of which led that assembly to the conviction that Paul had been entrusted with the apostleship of the uncircumcision. The worker is God, not Christ—“And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all” (1 Cor. 12.6). God worked on Peter's behalf the apostleship of the circumcision; that is, to uphold and advance his work as their apostle, by constituting him their apostle, by making his ministry effective in turning their hearts to Christ, and by miracles done by his hands, which included the imparting of miraculous gifts through him to his converts; these were "the signs of the apostle"—“Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds” (2 Corinthians 12:12). The Spirit of God filled Peter with amazing gifts, and inspired him with great zeal and perseverance. He discharged his office as an apostle among the Jews; and God performed through him wonderful works which confirmed him as an apostle, such as, curing the man that was lame from his birth, striking Ananias and Sapphira dead for telling lies, and raising Dorcas from the dead, and communicating miraculous gifts by the laying on of his hands; and the same Spirit also made his ministry effective in converting a large number of souls, such as the three thousand by one sermon on Pentecost.

the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:)
God had done the same on Paul’s behalf, but in his case, it was towards the Gentiles—“Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them” (Acts 15:12). The absence of Barnabas's name in this verse, though mentioned in the next, is significant. Barnabas was not an apostle in that strictest sense of the term in which Paul was an apostle; although he was associated with Paul, both in ministerial work and in that lower form of apostleship which both had received from men.

The Spirit of God worked just as effectively in him, as He did in Peter, by filling him with extraordinary gifts for the accomplishing of his work among the Gentiles, and inspired him with equal zeal, devotion, and boldness; worked as many miracles by him to confirm his mission; such as striking blind Elymas the sorcerer, healing the cripple at Lystra, raising Eutychus from the dead, with many other signs and wonders wrought by him among the Gentiles, through the power of the Spirit of God, so that they became obedient to God by word and deed. The same Spirit also accompanied the Gospel preached by him, to the end that multitudes were converted, by which means many famous churches were founded and prospered among the Gentiles; and this is another reason which prompted the apostles at Jerusalem to welcome Paul and Barnabas into their association with them and extend to them “the right hands of fellowship.”

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