“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.”
Paul now begins to evaluate the debate of the Jerusalem Council beginning in verse 6.
But from those who seemed to be something—
The word “seemed” signifies to be of opinion, to suppose. The reputed leaders of the Jerusalem Council did not intimidate Paul. Paul recognized that James, Peter, and John held high esteem in the church in Jerusalem (Ga 2:9), and that was also the generally accepted opinion of Christians. This did not daunt Paul from setting forth his message of grace at the Council.
whatever they were, it makes no difference to me;
“Difference” here means to excel. When it came to standing up for “the truth of the gospel,” Paul did not recognize reputation or even excellence. “Difference” comes from two words: to carry and through. The leadership in Jerusalem brought considerable estimation in the eyes of Christians there. Reputation, however, did not impress Paul. He respected their position in the church, but he did not put them in an exaggeratedly high place either.
God shows personal favoritism to no man—
The status of the Jerusalem apostles did not diminish Paul’s status as an apostle. The Judaizers possibly claimed that Paul did not have as much status as the Jerusalem apostles because he came from the Gentile city of Antioch in Syria. They said, “Go to the mother church in ancient Jerusalem. That is where you can find the truth.” God is not impressed with status or position, so He does not show favoritism to the apostles in Jerusalem over the apostle Paul.
“I have become a fool in boasting; you have compelled me. For I ought to have been commended by you; for in nothing was I behind the most eminent apostles, though I am nothing. Truly the signs of an apostle were accomplished among you with all perseverance, in signs and wonders and mighty deeds” (2 Corinthians 12:11-12).
for those who seemed to be something added nothing to me.
The leaders in Jerusalem did not contribute to Paul’s reception of the doctrine of grace. He did not consult them because God gave the gospel to him by direct revelation. The apostles did not lay their case before him. “Added” comes from two words: to lay and before. The apostles did not give out of their truth tank to the apostle Paul. They did not communicate or impart anything to him. Neither did they correct Paul’s message in any way. They did not add to the truth of his message.
This is not arrogance on Paul’s part; he simply stated the truth of the validity of his apostleship. This is not pride, for Paul said it as a matter of fact. He had great confidence in the authenticity of his apostleship. If he had submitted to legalism, he would have undermined his message. Paul does not undermine the apostles in Jerusalem by saying, “They added nothing to me,” but countervails the attacks of the Judaizers upon the authority of his apostleship. In another passage, he diminishes himself as the person who holds the gift of apostleship.
“For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. Therefore, whether it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed” (1 Corinthians 15:9-11).
Yet, Paul had more training and understanding of truth than all the other apostles. As the most astute student of God’s Word in the first century, he made a clean-cut break with Judaism. The Judaizers did not make a clean break. They lacked discernment of the principle of grace with legalism or works salvation. They followed Paul around the Roman Empire, trying to undermine his message. They did everything they could to destroy him. Even Peter, however, held Paul in high esteem.
“…as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures” (2 Peter 3:15-16).
Status or position does not alter the truth.
Are you overly impressed with the “big names” in Christianity? They have feet of clay just as you do. Over-idealization of our leaders will ultimately lead to disillusionment. Ultimately, status and fame mean little, especially in God’s eyes.