July 29, 2016

Right Hand of Fellowship

In the early church the Apostles endorsed newcomer Paul with the right hand of fellowship once they saw he was entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles. Paul said, “James, Peter and John, those reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the Jews” (Gal 2:9 NIV). Unfortunately, in today’s church extending the right hand of fellowship is often based on inclusiveness, rather than grace or the mission.


Steve Corey said...


-----So it seemed to be then, also. “But when Cephas came to Antioch I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he ate with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. And with him the rest of the Jews acted insincerely, so that even Barnabas was carried away by their insincerity.” (Gal 2:11-13) This happened after James, with Cephas (Peter,) and John gave Paul the right hand of fellowship. It seems that right hand of theirs had some criteria of their own attached to it.
-----Our own criteria seems beneficial to us. So we assume it is beneficial to everyone else. This is how error gets started. Situations are particular, each unto its own self. Every situation has its own demands and challenges. People are conquerors by nature. It is in our fiber to never let a good challenge go by without a successful response. What that response will be depends upon the criteria by which we define success.
-----Peter’s criteria is obvious. When his situation was the courtyard the morning of Christ’s crucifixion, he was met with the fearful challenge of being recognized as “one of them” rather than “one of us”, that is, one of Christ’s followers rather than one of His crucifiers. When he was alone with the Gentiles his challenge was to not be discovered as “one of them” rather than “one of us”, that is, a Judaizer instead of a free man in Christ. When James and his Judaizers came, he now had the same challenge of being seen as “one of them” instead of “one of us”, that is, he didn’t want these Judaizers to mistake him for freed from the Law. It is simple to see Peter’s criteria for success: look like the whoever in control of the situation.
-----It is when you allow God to be a part of every one of your situations that all of your criteria for defining success begin to align with the truth. It makes the challenges of some situations quite difficult. When Stephen was assaulted by the mob of self righteous Jews, he spoke the truth to them about who he was and why he was that. They stoned him to death. Still, he successfully met the challenge.
-----The right hand of fellowship is sweet. Being assured an eternal life is comforting. But God’s nearness is the gravy topping those potatoes and beef with true blessing. “The LORD is near to all who call upon him, to all who call upon him in truth. He fulfils the desire of all who fear him, he also hears their cry, and saves them.” (Ps 145:18-19) God always kept in your mind as being part of every situation becomes “the one” whom you want to look like, for He is the One who is most in control, even if the other one in your situation is an insane Muslim with a sword against your neck, a spouse bidding you to cheat a neighbor, or a culture insanely clamoring to worship a political party.

Love you all,
Steve Corey

Linda said...

You have a lovely blog.

Gail Marvel said...

Thanks Linda. Feel free to contribute your thoughts.