Online Bible Commentary
Those Who Seemed to be Something
Galatians 2:6 But from those who seemed to be something--whatever they were, it makes no difference to me; God shows personal favoritism to no man--for those who seemed to be something added nothing to me. 7 But on the contrary, when they saw that the gospel for the uncircumcised had been committed to me, as the gospel for the circumcised was to Peter 8 (for He who worked effectively in Peter for the apostleship to the circumcised also worked effectively in me toward the Gentiles), 9 and when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that had been given to me, they gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. 10 They desired only that we should remember the poor, the very thing which I also was eager to do. (NKJV)
The Apostle Paul is writing to believers in southern Galatia from his home in Antioch, Syria in 49 A.D. He has just completed his first missionary journey in which he and Barnabas planted churches in southern Galatia at Antioch in Pisidia, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe. This letter is the first of Paul’s letters.
The churches in Galatia, influenced by Judaizers, have already turned from Paul’s Gospel to a false gospel of a mix of works and grace instead of grace alone. Judaizers claimed that Christians must also follow the Old Testament law, including circumcision. So Paul is writing to the Galatian believers to direct them back to the true Gospel.
In this passage, Paul is writing of his ministry relationship with Peter, James and John, “those who seemed to be something” (v. 6a). They were “something” in that Peter and John were appointed by Jesus as two of the original twelve apostles and James was the half brother of Jesus. Paul is doing this to prove his credibility to the Galatians, that he is just as credible as the “pillars” of the Jerusalem church (v. 9a). The name “Cephas” is a Syriac name that means Peter, which was given to him by Jesus.
Paul contends that what these three pillars were “makes no difference to him” because God does not show “personal favoritism” to any man (v. 6b). Paul is saying that his ministry is just as important and relative as the three pillars.
Even though Paul was not an original apostle or half brother of Jesus he was still appointed as an apostle by Jesus, on the road to Damascus. Also, like the others, he was directly trained by Jesus when he received divine revelation during his sabbatical in Arabia.
Peter, James and John “added nothing” to Paul’s Gospel (v. 6c). Jesus gave the same Gospel to Paul as he gave to the three pillars of the Jerusalem church.
As to the legitimacy of his ministry Paul gives evidence of this in two ways that was recognized by Peter, James, and John. First of all, he was appointed by Jesus to take the Gospel to the Gentiles, just as Peter had been appointed to take the Gospel to the Jews and Jesus had “worked effectively” in both ministries (vv. 7-8).
Secondly, “the grace that had been given to me” by Jesus was “perceived” by the three pillars of the church (v. 9b). Seeing this evidence the three congratulated Paul by shaking his and Barnabas’ hands in agreement, giving “the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised” (v. 9c).
Recognizing that Paul’s ministry was legitimate, and unable to add anything to it, all the three pillars were able to ask of Paul was to “remember the poor”, which Paul was already “eager to do” (v. 10). In this passage, Paul has attempted to establish the legitimacy of his Gospel to the churches in Galatia so that they would not be deceived by the false teaching of the Judaizers.
There is only one Gospel. That is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He taught it to his apostles who took it to all those who became disciples. Paul’s Gospel was the same as that of “those who seemed to be something.”
The Gospel is expressed in the New Testament. Every generation is charged with ensuring that the Gospel as given to them by Jesus is properly taught. Our generation is no different.