“…and when James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised.” (Gal. 2:9)
Have you given much thought to recognizing grace in someone else? The grace of God was so strong on Paul that James, Peter, and John could tell it was there. This former destroyer of churches and Christians showed up in Jerusalem so different than the apostles expected. Something immediately caught their attention and that something was the grace that Paul had been given. Paul said he was the worst of sinners and felt unworthy for his forgiveness. He knew firsthand what it was like to be saved while he was still a sinner.
No doubt, Paul himself felt the grace every time he was reminded of his former life of opposition to God even though it had been an honest mistake on his part. He knew he wasn’t worthy of the death of Jesus or any part of the cross. He knew what saved him, what bought his redemption and he knew it was the gospel of grace. It showed. Paul showed grace.
Because of God’s grace, James, Peter, and John accepted Paul as their Christian brother. They knew all too well about his past but they understood that all men are sinners and Paul was saved just as they were. They were brothers, all of them sinners and all of them saved by the grace of God. This allowed a fellowship that was greater than past behavior or present differences. The apostles extended their hand to the newest apostle and welcomed him into their fellowship.
This is the model for all who are called by God to be his children. There is one body, Paul tells us, and that body is the result of a common grace extended to sinful man. When we meet a Paul or a Peter we should see the grace. We accept their present state of forgiveness regardless of what their past was like. People who were criminals, abusers, profaners and common sinners will come to Jesus and obey the gospel as preached by Paul and Peter and when they do we will accept them as brothers and sisters and extend the right hand of fellowship.
When we gather around the Lord’s Table for communion we understand that it is a supper of communion. First, it is a communion with Jesus and second, it is a communion with each other. We are all equal once we have received God’s grace. Sometimes we see division in churches because someone believes they have more grace than someone else. They may view themselves as better Christians and not wish to fellowship with those who aren’t as “good.” They fool themselves by thinking they can fellowship God and not each other.
Task for Today: Let your grace show. It’s all about Jesus and His work in you. All who have this grace are equal in God’s sight and you must offer them a true right hand of fellowship. Don’t get caught up in a clique or group that shuts others out of the fellowship. Don’t just seek those who are your social equal but those who are your saved equal. If Paul is right, no sinner worse than him will show up at your fellowship. If you would treat Paul as your saved equal then you can treat all in your fellowship exactly the same. Will you accept the challenge?