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Gospel Fellowship

Galatians 2:8-10
For God, who was at work in Peter as an apostle to the circumcised, was also at work in me as an apostle to the Gentiles. James, Cephas and John, those esteemed as pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognised the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the circumcised. All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along. (NIVUK)

Although Paul and Peter were ministering to different people-groups they were in true fellowship.  They were not in competition, nor did they despise each other because they were ministering to radically different people-groups.  They recognised that the work, to which they had been called, was God’s work; and that He had given them the same gospel to be presented in different ways, but with the same ‘Jesus-crucified-and-raised’ content (Romans 4:25).

Their gospel ministry was not only working for God, but God Himself was at work in the apostles and through what they said (Philippians 2:13; 1 Thessalonians 2:13).  The power of the gospel, to bring sinful people to repentance, is extraordinary (Romans 1:16), and God entrusts its distribution to faithful servants (2 Timothy 2:2) by His grace.  Gospel partnership is not about building one person’s ministry rather than another, but all servants of the gospel should encourage one another to fulfil God’s calling even though the circumstances and people-groups may be very different.     
The three leaders of the church in Jerusalem did not criticise the converted persecutor (Galatians 1:23-24).  They gladly recognised that God had given His grace to Paul.  Without the Holy Spirit’s gifting and empowering, he would have had no ministry at all.  Also, his writings have been the basis of much of the church’s teaching ever since (2 Peter 3:15-16).  But Peter, James and John wanted to stress the need to care for poor people, which was already one of Paul’s practical concerns (2 Corinthians 9:6-15).
Sometimes, there is a needless competition between churches, ministries, evangelists, pastors and congregations - who link themselves with one style of ministry, or the personality of a minister.  Of course, it is most important that we should stay true to the content of the gospel as revealed in the Scriptures: without that there is no basis for fellowship in the gospel (Philippians 1:3-6).  So then, with the apostolic gospel in our hearts, we should support others who share the same grace of God, in the workplace as well as worship-place, even though they may work among different sorts of people.  At the same time, we all need to show our faith practically in giving to those who cannot give back to us, in money and time and loving care: and we need God’s grace to do that as well.

Loving God. Thank You for the gospel which the apostles preached which is expressed through many different ministries in a wide variety of methods in different languages and cultures. I am sorry when I have failed to encourage a godly fellowship between believers from different backgrounds but who all believe the same gospel. Please help me, and millions of other Christians around the world, to identify true believers in the workplace as well as the worship-place. May I recognise the grace which God has given them and encourage them to stay true to God’s Word in their doctrine and practice. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams