NO LOOSE CANNONS
"Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem, this time with Barnabas. I took Titus along also. I went in response to a revelation and, meeting privately with those esteemed as leaders, I presented to them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. I wanted to be sure that I was not running and had not been running my race in vain..." Galatians 2:1, 2.
In Paul's autobiographical sketch, he was insistent that at no time did he get permission from the leaders of the Jerusalem church to preach to the Gentiles, and he also did not learn what to preach from them. He was God-ordained, God-instructed and God-commissioned to go to the Gentiles.
There was another reason why he was sent by revelation to Jerusalem. It was important that the leaders of the early church were in complete harmony with one another in what they taught and what they did, especially as there were many false teachers who were undermining the unity of the church. There were to be no loose cannons acting independently of the Body of Christ, inventing doctrines of their own and setting up splinter groups wherever they went.
Throughout his life as an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, Paul kept in touch with the church in Jerusalem and the church in Syrian Antioch, the two main centres of Christianity at the time. He and Barnabas functioned as leaders at Antioch for years before they were commissioned by the Holy Spirit through the leaders of the church there to go to the rest of the empire with the gospel (Acts 13).
Paul's brief visit to Jerusalem after his years in Arabia was just an introduction of the erstwhile persecutor to Peter to reassure him of Paul's authenticity in case Peter thought that he was an infiltrator with another agenda.
"...As for those who were held in high esteem - whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not show favouritism - they added nothing to my message. On the contrary, they recognised that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been to the circumcised. For God, who was at work in Peter as an apostle to the circumcised, was also at work in me as an apostle to the Gentiles." Galatians 2:6-8
Paul's visit to Jerusalem after his second missionary journey (Acts 18:22), achieved his purpose. The Jerusalem church leaders could have no doubts about him when they listened to his story. And what a story! He didn't major on his achievements as much as on the things he suffered for the sake of the gospel; beatings, imprisonment and even stoning at Lystra and being left for dead. No fake apostle would ever endure experiences like that for a lie.
He would also have told them of the miracles God did for him and his companions; like Peter, a miraculous release from jail in Philippi through an earthquake, and the even more miraculous conversion of the jailor and his entire family; deliverance of a demon-possessed girl which landed him and Silas in prison; his survival of the stoning episode; his escape from the murderous intentions of fanatical Jews time and again, all told one story - God was with him and working though him.
He would also have related to them the leading of the Holy Spirit - how he and Barnabas were chosen and commissioned by the church leaders in Antioch after a season of prayer and fasting; how he was blocked for going further into Asia Minor and redirected, through a dream, to move westwards into Macedonia. How he was directed towards the Gentiles because of the hostile attitude of his fellow Jews.
Paul had to learn to read his circumstances because this was mostly the way that the Spirit led him. There were times when the Lord Himself encouraged and reassured him by a personal visit when he was at the end of his tether. Throughout all his experiences, good and bad, Paul was learning how to walk with the Lord and to be led by the Spirit.
There could be no doubt in the minds of Peter and his fellow leaders that Paul was a genuine apostle; that the message he preached was the same message they preached and that he was a God-ordained apostle to the Gentiles. They were united in heart and gladly endorsed Paul's ministry.
"James, Cephas and John, those esteemed as pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognised the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the circumcised. All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along." Galatians 2:9, 10.
How much better it would have been for the witness of the church, had leaders down the ages followed the example of the apostles and worked hard to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There were and are too many loose cannons with agendas of their own, building their own kingdoms with teachings they invented instead of doing what Jesus commanded - "Follow me!"
Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.