Scripture Reading – Galatians 2; Acts 4:31-37, 9:26-27,
Galatians 2:1 KJV
Then fourteen years after I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with me also.
In order to understand the context of Galatians 2:1, we must understand the culture of the location and time. During the first century, Christianity was looked upon as a scourge of the earth. The Jewish religious leaders hated Christians, and Rome was also known to be hostile to believers. Just glance around the New Testament and see how frequently extreme abuse took place against those who followed Christ. The Gospel of Christ would have produced more animosity than most (if not all) controversial topics we deal with today. At a time and place where following Christ could have been a death sentence, fellowship with other believers was precious. Imagine going today to certain parts of the world where Christianity is sparse and unwelcome, feeling the hatred of so many around you. If you were to find any Christians, you would likely be overjoyed for their friendship, and I dare say that their differences would be mostly irrelevant. At least they would not distract from a shared faith in Christ!
In Galatians 2, we find a wonderful glimpse of unity found in the Gospel of Christ. Barnabas, a Jewish man, was a long time Christian. Paul, had a much different background, having been a Pharisee who persecuted and even killed Christians. Titus was a gentile, who just a couple decades before Paul’s writing here, would have had no fellowship with the other two, but all three were brought together by unity in Christ. All were heirs of God and joint heirs of Christ. All were sons of God and Christian brothers to each other. All three were sinners saved by the grace of God, and that is an incredible bond! We know from Scripture they all had many differences, but that did not keep them from serving God in a unified and powerful way! Because before Christ, we must realize that we are all sinners equal, and after Christ, we must understand that the blood of Christ is our only claim! Equality in Christ brings unity of believers. There is no room for boasting, arrogance, or pride at the cross. We all need the same thing, and we all arrive the same way. Christ is a unifier because through the lens of Calvary and the blood of Christ, all are equal, not of their own merit but of Christ’s!
Barnabas, Paul, and Titus did not allow differences to divide them (that is not to say that differing standards are not important and worth holding to, but they may not be worth having a sharp division over). Their shared faith in Christ united them. Unless, as we see in Galatians 1, someone perverted the Gospel of Christ, Paul did his best to get along with others. While there are certain things worth dividing over (such as the purity of the Gospel), there are a lot of things that we tend to elevate to a position they were not intended to have. In so doing, we hurt the name of Christ, and we hinder our testimony and effectiveness with those who need Christ. John 13:35 reminds us that the distinguishing Christ-like characteristic is not a sacred standard but a love one for another. Divine love is not revealed by loving those just like you. Divine love is demonstrated when we show love to those who are different and even “unloveable” without God’s help. When we choose to hate and divide over secondary things, we do not prove ourselves to be better Christians. We perhaps become unrecognizable as Christians altogether. Imagine if (like Paul, Barnabas, and Titus) instead of focusing our energies on temporary battles of our day and culture, we poured our energies into bringing one more soul to Christ. Imagine if our common faith in the Gospel caused us to give liberally and sacrificially to missions and world evangelism. Imagine if our meditations and secret conversations were on praying for lost souls and our part in bringing them to Christ. When we let preferences divide us, our preferences become magnified. If we allow the Gospel to bring us together in love to spread the Gospel to every land and every person, Christ would be magnified and glorified! Like Paul, Barnabas, and Titus, we are all so different, but when we look at the cross, we are all so much alike! Let us focus on what was our Saviour’s passion and have unity in His Gospel!
— Eli Faulds