“…and when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that had been given to me, they gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised”
and when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars,
A “pillar” was a column that supported the weight of a building. Pillars usually stay put; James, Cephas (Peter), and John are symbols of stability in leadership. These three leaders bore the responsibility of maintaining doctrine and practice in the local church (1 Timothy 3:15). They were the outstanding leaders in and around Jerusalem.
Paul lists James first because he was the leader of the church in Jerusalem. This James was Jesus’ half-brother.
perceived the grace that had been given to me,
The leaders in Jerusalem now see the significance of the grace given to Paul’s apostleship. Paul himself did not have such a great ministry; it was the grace of God working in him. God gave Paul his apostleship by “grace.” It was a gift; he did not earn or deserve it.
they gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship,
This is the only place in the Bible where we have the phrase “the right hand of fellowship.” The “right hand of fellowship” is a symbol of mutual agreement and trust. The apostles in Jerusalem endorsed the ministry of Paul and Barnabas to the Gentiles by extending their right hand of fellowship. James, Peter, and John were in synch with Paul doctrinally and personally. They gave Paul the right hand in recognition of his apostolic authority.
that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised
Different fields of service do not mean different doctrinal positions, for they preached the same gospel. The first-century church clearly targeted its mission fields. James, Peter, and John are pushed to the Jews. Paul and Barnabas went to the Gentiles. They clearly organized their evangelism approach. By dividing the job, they made a better endeavor.
The church needs pillar leaders to uphold the truth.
We have either pillars or caterpillars for leaders in the church! The church always stands in need of outstanding leaders. It is one of the greatest needs of our day. Many churches can be more than they are if their leaders establish a big vision and greater goals. Risk-taking leadership takes unusual faith and confidence in what God can do.
When your pastor or leaders in your church decide to take faith steps, do you support them? Are you behind your leaders? If James, Peter, and John can recognize leadership, can you recognize the leadership in your church?
Leadership in truth and doctrine is the most difficult leadership task of all. Stand behind your leaders when they take a stand for doctrine and truth.