For most of us, there is a tendency to be impressed when we meet people of accomplishment. The world certainly has its ways of measuring the greatness of individuals.
The same thing is true in the Christian world. When we speak of pastors, for example, we often measure greatness by the size of that pastor’s church. In the academic Christian world we measure such greatness by the number of scholarly books and articles written, or by the department chairmanship a seminary professor may occupy.
People with such reputations often hold an advantage over the “common” believer. Their words and writings carry weight. We often hear people say that Dr. so and so says this or that. It is intimidating to disagree with people held in such high regard.
This is a situation that Free Grace people often find themselves in. There are numerous commentaries and well-known preachers who put forth a Lordship view of things. If a relatively unknown Free Grace writer or speaker (and that is pretty much all of us!) suggests another way of understanding a verse, an almost immediate reaction is: there is no way the unknown insignificant writer can be right and a renowned scholar can be wrong. There may even be a charge against the Free Grace guy that he is arrogant. You have to be one arrogant guy to think that you are right and Dr. so and so is wrong.
Paul found himself is such a situation in Galatians. He was going up against the big boys. At first glance, it even looks like that he is indeed displaying an arrogant attitude. He had made a trip to Jerusalem from Antioch to meet the Apostles there. In referring to the Apostles he writes in 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.”
He calls these Apostles “those who seemed to be something.” This sounds like he is saying that they think they are important people but they really aren’t. It almost seems a little disrespectful to the men who had walked with the Lord during His time on earth.
A couple things can be said about this. It is unlikely that Paul, who would later call himself the least of the Apostles felt an arrogant attitude towards his fellow Apostles. We must remember that he was combating false teachers we often called Judaizers. These Judaizers were accusing Paul of perverting the Gospel by saying that the Law was not a requirement for receiving eternal life. The Gentile Christians were no longer under the Law according to Paul.
The Judaizers were perhaps saying that Paul only preached such a message because the “real” Apostles were not around in Paul’s area of ministry in Antioch. If these “real” Apostles knew what Paul was teaching they would put him in his place.
In any event, what Paul is saying is that he got the message he preached from Christ. He did not need the approval of any man, even men that he highly respected. In addition, as Paul says in this section, the Apostles in Jerusalem preached the same message he did.
There is a lesson for us today. As Free Grace messengers, we proclaim the same message of grace that Paul got from the Lord. The world often says that we have no business teaching these things. Like Paul, we need to hold firm to the fact that our message comes from the Lord, whether those around agree or not.