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The Right Hand Of Fellowship…

The day of Pentecost, filled with many miracles, signs and wonders had come and gone, the disciples had waited at the Upper Room for the coming of the Holy Spirit, they had spoken in other dialects and language, and many had responded to the message of the Gospel and we understood and read that over three thousand people had been added to this newly formed body called the Church. We also learnt that many were also added to the Church, such as should be saved.

The message from some of the Apostles was predominantly directed at the Jewish men, women and children. We would read of things like, “Ye men of Israel” and none of these messages were addressed to the Gentile race or communities, probably because the remaining eleven disciples had not come to the full understanding that the death, burial and resurrection was so that the whole world (not just the Jews) would come to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

In the Book of John and in chapter 3, John was able to make known to us that God so loved the whole world and He gave His only begotten Son as a ransom and sacrifice, so that through the resurrection of the dead, righteousness could spread throughout the whole world and the racial barrier was pulled down, meaning, in the economy of the grace of God, there is neither Jews nor Gentiles but a formation of the mystical body called the Church. Eventually, we would all be called a member of the Body of Christ, irrespective of our race, stature and color.

The question in the mind of the reader, reading through the Book of Acts would be, who will take this message to the Gentile world because knowingly or unknowingly, the eleven disciples had remained in Jerusalem preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom. This continued to happen until the great Apostle Paul was saved by God Himself. God gave Him this assignment of going to spread the message (not of the Kingdom) but the Gospel in it’s entirety – the Gospel of the Grace of God which, Paul would later remind many that they had been saved by His Gospel.

Jerusalem remained the headquarters of the new thing that had just happened, any form of dispute, confusion and leadership was settled by the leaders – Peter, James and John. Something had started to happen; the Gentiles were responding to the message of the Gospel, they were getting saved by the day and many of the Jewish leaders were opposed to the fact that the message of the Gospel was extended to the Gentiles. Apostle Paul was fast becoming the Apostle of the Gentiles.

Sometimes, tradition is a tough thing to overcome.

Many had issues with this Apostle Paul; they couldn’t deny the many miracles, signs and wonders coupled with the response from the Gentile world. The Apostles were pressed to have a debate and meeting with Paul.

Finally they all (Peter, James and John) came to the conclusion that they would remain in Jerusalem, preaching the message of the Kingdom while Paul was allowed to continue his preaching and teaching to the Gentile kingdom.

What this means is that they (the two groups) would be restricted to the contract and agreement they had subjected themselves to. Paul would concentrate on the Gentile World while Peter, James and John would remain in Jerusalem teaching and preaching to the Jews.

Most of the Books written by Peter, James and John would have been restricted to the Jews while all the Epistles of Paul was written to the Gentiles and the Church. We have to keep this in hindsight as we interpret and teach the New Testament and most especially the message to the Church.

This is the way Paul described it, “Then fourteen years later I went back to Jerusalem again, this time with Barnabas; and Titus came along, too. I went there because God revealed to me that I should go. While I was there I met privately with those considered to be leaders of the church and shared with them the message I had been preaching to the Gentiles. I wanted to make sure that we were in agreement, for fear that all my efforts had been wasted and I was running the race for nothing. And they supported me and did not even demand that my companion Titus be circumcised, though he was a Gentile.

Even that question came up only because of some so-called believers there—false ones, really —who were secretly brought in. They sneaked in to spy on us and take away the freedom we have in Christ Jesus. They wanted to enslave us and force us to follow their Jewish regulations. But we refused to give in to them for a single moment. We wanted to preserve the truth of the gospel message for you.

And the leaders of the church had nothing to add to what I was preaching. By the way, their reputation as great leaders made no difference to me, for God has no favorites. Instead, they saw that God had given me the responsibility of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles, just as he had given Peter the responsibility of preaching to the Jews. For the same God who worked through Peter as the apostle to the Jews also worked through me as the apostle to the Gentiles.

In fact, James, Peter, and John, who were known as pillars of the church, recognized the gift God had given me, and they accepted Barnabas and me as their co-workers. They encouraged us to keep preaching to the Gentiles, while they continued their work with the Jews”.

This is the message of the Gospel according to Paul – Let me now remind you, dear brothers and sisters, of the Good News I preached to you before. You welcomed it then, and you still stand firm in it. It is this Good News that saves you if you continue to believe the message I told you—unless, of course, you believed something that was never true in the first place. I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said.

There is no where in the Scriptures where Peter, James or John went to the Gentile World to preach or teach but what we can do with their letters is to draw out truths in the light of the New Testament doctrine of the grace of God as opposed to seeing the truths from the purview of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God which was preached even before Jesus was slaughtered.

“But what they say may not after all be true; for the gospel is such a living gospel
that, if it were cut into a thousand shreds, every particle of it would live and grow. If
it were buried beneath a thousand avalanches of error, it would shake off the incubus and rise from its grave. If it were cast into the midst of fire it would walk through the flame as it has done many a time, as though it were in its natural element” – C.H Spurgeon

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