6. But of those who seemed to be somewhat, (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man's person:) for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me:
6. Ab iis autem qui videbantur aliquid esse, quales aliquando fuerint, nihil mea refert (personam hominis Deus non accipit, Deuteronomy 10: 17; 2 Paral.19:7; Job 34:19; Wisdom 6:8.; Ecclesiastes 35:15; Acts 10:34; Romans 2:11; Ephesians 6:9; Colossians 3:25; 1 Peter 1:17) nam mihi, qui videbantur esse in pretio nihil contulerunt
7. But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter;
7. Imo contra, quum vidissent mihi concreditum fuisse evangelium praeprputii, quemadmodum Petro Circumcisionis;
8. (For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:)
8. (Nam qui efficax fuit in Petro ad apostolatum Circumcisionis efficax fuit et in me erga Gentes);
9. And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision.
9. Quumque cognovissent gratiam mihi datam Iaeobus et Cephas et Ioannes, qui videbantur columnae esse, dextras dederunt mihi ac Barnabae societatis, ut nos inter Gentes, ipsi vore in Circumcisionem, apestolatu fungerenur.
10. Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do.
10. Tanturn ut pauperurn memores essenms, in quo et diligens fui, ut hoc ipsum facerem.
6. Of those who seemed to be somewhat. Paul is not yet satisfied, without making the Galatians understand that he had learned nothing from Peter and the apostles. Hence Porphyry and Julian accuse the holy man of pride, because he claims so much for himself that he cannot endure to learn anything from others; because he boasts of having become a teacher without any instruction or assistance; and because he labors so hard not to appear in an inferior character. But any one who will consider how necessary that boasting was, will acknowledge that it was holy boasting, and worthy of the highest praise; for, if he had yielded this point to his opponents, that he had profited under the apostles, he would have furnished them with two charges against him. They would immediately have said, |And so you made some progress; you corrected your past errors, and did not repeat your former rashness.| Thus, in the first place, the whole doctrine which he had hitherto taught would have fallen under suspicion; and, secondly, he would ever afterwards have possessed less authority, because he would have been reckoned but an ordinary disciple. We find, therefore, that it was not on his own account, but by the necessity under which he lay to establish the doctrine, that he was led to this holy boasting. The controversy has no reference to individuals, and therefore cannot be a struggle of ambition; but Paul's determination was that no man, however eminent, should throw into the shade his apostleship, on which the authority of his doctrine depended. If this be not enough to silence those dogs, their barking is sufficiently answered.
Whatsoever they were. These words must be read as a separate clause; for the parenthesis was intended to assure his opponents that he did not concern himself with the opinions of men. This passage has been variously interpreted. Ambrose thinks that it is a passing reference to the folly of attempting to lower Paul by holding up the apostles; and represents him as saying; |As if I were not equally at liberty to object that they were poor, illiterate men, while I, from my early years, enjoyed a liberal education under the care of Gamaliel. But I pass over all this, because I know that there is no respect of persons with God.| Chrysostom and Jerome take a harsher view of the words, as an indirect threatening of the most distinguished apostles. |Whatsoever they may be, if they swerve from duty, they shall not escape the judgment of God; neither the dignity of their office, nor the estimation of men, shall protect them.| But another interpretation appears to me more simple, and more agreeable to Paul's design. He admits that they were first in the order of time, but contends that this did not prevent him from being their equal in rank. He does not say that it is of no consequence to him what they are at present; but he is speaking of a period now past, when they were already apostles, and when he was opposed to the faith of Christ. In short, he does not choose that what is past shall decide the matter; and refuses to admit the proverb, that he who comes first has the best right.
No man's person. Besides the interpretations which I have mentioned, a third is not unworthy of notice, -- that in the government of the world distinctions of rank are admitted, but in the spiritual kingdom of Christ they can have no place. There is plausibility in the statement, but it is in reference to worldly government, that it is said,
|Ye shall not respect persons in judgment,.|
But I do not enter into that argument, for it does not affect this passage. Paul simply means, that the honorable rank which the apostles had attained did not prevent him from being called by God, and raised, all at once, from the lowest condition to be their equal. The difference between them, though great, is of no value in the sight of God, who does not accept persons, and whose calling is not influenced by any prejudices. But this view may likewise appear liable to objection; for, granting it to be true, and a truth which must be carefully maintained, that in our intercourse with God there is no respect of persons, how does this apply to Peter and his fellow-apostles, who were venerable, not merely for their rank, but for true holiness and spiritual gifts?
The word person is contrasted with the fear of God and a good conscience; and this is its ordinary acceptation in Scripture. (Acts 10:34,35 1 Peter 1:17.) But piety, zeal, holiness, and other similar graces, were the principal grounds of the esteem and respect in which the apostles were held; while Paul speaks contemptuously of them, as if they had possessed nothing but the outward forms.
I reply: Paul is not discussing the real worth of the apostles, but the idle boasting of his adversaries. In order to support their own unfounded pretensions, they talked in lofty terms of Peter, and James, and John, and took advantage of the veneration with which they were regarded by the Church, for accomplishing their earnest desire of degrading Paul. His object is not to inquire what the apostles are, or what opinion must be formed respecting them when controversy is laid aside, but to tear off the disguises which the false apostles wore. As in a subsequent part of the Epistle he treats of circumcision, not in its real character, but in the false and impious notion attached to it by those impostors, so he now declares that the apostles were in the sight of God disguises, by which those persons attempted to shine in the world; and this is evident from the words. Why did they prefer them to Paul? because they were his predecessors in office. This was a mere disguise. In any other point of view, they would have been highly esteemed, and the gifts of God manifested in them would have been warmly admired by one so singularly modest as the apostle Paul, who elsewhere acknowledges that he was |the least of the apostles,| and unworthy to occupy so exalted a station.
|I am the least of the apostles, and not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the Church of God.|
(1 Corinthians 15:9.)
They communicated nothing to me. It might also be rendered, |they communicated nothing with me;| for it is the same word which he formerly used twice. But the meaning is the same. When the apostles had heard Paul's gospel, they did not on the other side bring forward their own, (as is commonly done when something better and more perfect is desired,) but were satisfied with his explanation, and simply and unhesitatingly embraced his doctrine, so that not even on the most doubtful point did a single word of debate pass between them. Nor are we to suppose that Paul, presuming on his superiority, took the lead in the discussion, and dictated to his brethren. On the contrary, his faith, about which unfavourable rumors had been spread, was fully explained by him, and sanctioned by their appropation.
7. But, on the contrary. They immediately gave him the right hand of fellowship. (Galatians 2:9.) Consequently they gave their testimony to his doctrine, and without any exception; for they produced nothing on the other side, as is commonly done on debated points, but acknowledged that he held the same gospel in common with them, and was therefore entitled to the honors and rank of an associate. Now, one condition of this fellowship was, that they distributed the provinces among themselves. They were therefore equal, and there was no subjection on the part of Paul. To |give the right hands of fellowship| means here, to have a partnership settled by mutual agreement.
When they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed to me. He asserts that he was not indebted to the apostles for the favor of being made an apostle by their consent and approbation, but that, in conceding to him the apostleship, they only refused to take away what God had given. He constantly urges that he was made an apostle by the gift and appointment of God, but adds here that he was acknowledged as such by the apostles themselves. Hence it followed, that those unprincipled men were attempting, what the apostles durst not have attempted, to oppose the election of God.
And here he begins to claim what belonged to himself in preference to others, the apostleship of the uncircumcision. For Paul and Barnabas differed from the rest in this respect, that they had been appointed to be apostles of the Gentiles. (Acts 13:2.) That had been done by a Divine revelation, which the apostles not only did not oppose, but determined to ratify, because not to obey it, would have been impious. This shows us in what manner they arranged their respective duties, in compliance with a Divine revelation, namely, that Paul and Barnabas should be the apostles of the Gentiles, and that the others should be the apostles of the Jews.
But this appears to be at variance with the command of Christ, which enjoins that the twelve shall
|go unto all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.| (Mark 16:15.)
I reply, that command was not intended to apply specifically to each individual, but describes in general terms the design of the apostolic office, which was, that salvation must be proclaimed to all nations by the doctrine of the gospel. For the apostles evidently did not travel over the whole world; nay, it is probable that not one of the twelve ever passed into Europe. What they allege about Peter may, for aught I know, be fabulous, and is, at all events, quite uncertain.
All of them, it will be objected, had still a commission both to Gentiles and to Jews. I own they had, as occasion offered. Each apostle, I grant, was entrusted with the publication of the gospel both among Gentiles and Jews; for the distribution was not of such a nature as to assign them fixed boundaries, like those of kingdoms, principalities, and provinces, which could not lawfully be passed. We see that Paul, wherever he went, uniformly offered his labors and services, in the first instance, to the Jews. As he had a right, while living among the Gentiles, to offer himself as an apostle and teacher to the Jews; so the others were at liberty, wherever they had it in their power, to bring Gentiles to Christ; and we find Peter exercising this privilege with regard to Cornelius and others. (Acts 10:1.) But as there were other apostles in that district, which was almost wholly inhabited by Jews, Paul traveled through Asia, Greece, and other distant parts, and on this occasion was specially ordained to be an apostle to the Gentiles. Nay, when the Lord first commanded him to be set apart, he directed him to leave Antioch and Syria, and perform voyages to distant countries for the sake of the Gentiles. On ordinary occasions, therefore, he was the apostle of the Gentiles, and on extraordinary occasions, he was the apostle of the Jews. The other apostles, again, took the Jews for their own department, but with the understanding that, when an opportunity occurred, they would be at liberty to direct their ministrations to the Gentiles; this last, however, being in their case an extraordinary service.
But if Peter's apostleship had a peculiar reference to the Jews, let the Romanists see on what ground they derive from him their succession to the primacy. If the Pope of Rome claims the primacy because he is Peter's successor, he ought to exercise it over the Jews. Paul is here declared to be the chief apostle of the Gentiles, yet they affirm that he was not bishop of Rome; and, therefore, if the Pope would establish any claim to his primacy, let him gather churches from among the Jews. He who by a decree of the Holy Spirit, and by the consent of the whole apostolic college, has been solemnly declared to be one of the apostles, cannot but be acknowledged by us in that character. Those who would transfer that right to Peter set aside all ordination, both human and divine. It is unnecessary to explain here the well-known metaphor in the words circumcision and uncircumcision, as applied to Jews and Gentiles.
8. He that wrought effectually. That the province which had been assigned to him was truly his own, is proved by the exertion of divine power during his ministry. Now, this manifestation of divine energy, as we have frequently seen, is the seal by which his doctrine was attested, and his office as a teacher sanctioned. Whether Paul refers God's effectual working to the success of his preaching, or to the graces of the Holy Spirit which were then bestowed on believers, is doubtful. I do not understand it as denoting the mere success, but the spiritual power and efficacy, which he has elsewhere mentioned. (1 Corinthians 2:4.) The amount of the whole is, that it was no idle bargain which the apostles had made among themselves, but a decision which God had sealed.
9. And when they perceived the grace. They who treated with contempt the grace of God, by which the most eminent apostles had been led to admire and reverence Paul, are charged with hateful and proud disdain. If they should allege that they were ignorant of that which the apostles knew from the beginning, the hypocritical pretense was not to be endured. This admonishes us to yield to the grace of God, wherever it is perceived, unless we choose to contend with the Holy Spirit, whose will it is that his gifts shall not remain unemployed. The grace which the apostles perceived to have been given to Paul and Barnabas, induced them to sanction their ministry by receiving them as their associates.
James and Cephas. I have already stated, that James was the son of Alpheus. He could not be |the brother of John| who had been lately put to death by Herod, (Acts 12:2,) and to suppose that one of the disciples had been placed above the apostles would be absurd. That he held the highest rank among the apostles, is made evident by Luke, who ascribes to him the summing up and decision of the cause in the council, (Acts 15:13,) and afterwards mentions his having assembled |all the elders| of the church of Jerusalem. (Acts 21:18.) When he says, that they seemed to be pillars, he does not speak contemptuously, but quotes the general opinion, arguing from it, that what was done by such men ought not to be lightly set aside. In a question relating to diversity of rank, it is surprising that James should be mentioned before Peter; but the reason perhaps is, that he presided over the church at Jerusalem. As to the word pillar, we know that, from the nature of things, those who excel in ability, prudence, or other gifts, possess greater authority. And even in the Church of God, he who enjoys a larger measure of grace ought, on that account, to receive the higher honor. It argues ingratitude, nay impiety, not to worship the Spirit of God wherever he appears in his gifts; and as a people cannot want a pastor, so the assemblies of pastors require a moderator. But in all cases let the rule be followed,
|He that is greatest among you shall be your servant| (Matthew 23:11.)
10. That we should remember the poor. It is evident that the brethren who were in Judea labored under extreme poverty: otherwise they would not have burdened other churches. That might arise both from the various calamities which befell the whole nation, and from the cruel rage of their own countrymen, by which they were every day stript of their possessions. It was proper that they should receive assistance from the Gentiles, who owed to them the inestimable benefit of the gospel. Paul says, that he was forward to do, that he faithfully performed, what the apostles had requested from him, and thus he takes away from his adversaries a pretext which they were desirous to seize.