Galatians 2:7-9 On the contrary, they saw that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles, just as Peter had been to the Jews. For God, who was at work in the ministry of Peter as an apostle to the Jews, was also at work in my ministry as an apostle to the Gentiles. James, Peter and John, those reputed to be 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 Jews.
In the Early Church, as an increasing number of Jewish people began to recognise that Jesus (Jeshua), whom their leaders had crucified, was in fact their Promised Messiah (Moshiach) whose life, death, and resurrection were a confirmation and fulfilment of so many of the prophecies in their Scriptures (our OT), so tensions began to arise over Gentile ‘sinners’ being included in the Gospel of Redemption in Christ. Although the Jewish Scriptures also contained strong pointers to the fact that God’s redeeming grace would include Gentiles (eg Genesis 12:2-3; Psalm 67:7; Isaiah 19:25; Hosea 3:23; etc), nevertheless it was culturally too threatening for Jewish people generally to accept that Gentiles could become part of God’s people without first becoming Jews!
By God’s amazing grace, the Apostle Paul, who himself was a true-blue-Jew through-and-through (cf his pedigree listed in Philippians 3:4-6), could acknowledge this inclusive reality and was commissioned by God specifically to take the Gospel to the Gentiles, as Ananias discovered: “But the Lord said to Ananias, ‘Go! This man [Saul/Paul] is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel” (Acts 9:15).
And, again by God’s grace, Paul and Barnabas, and Peter, James and John had the spiritual maturity to work out that it would be best if they accepted the cultural difficulties and distinguished between their different ministries, while at the same time accepting each other as partners in the general ministry of the Gospel by sharing the ’right hand of [genuinel] fellowship [partnership]’. We can learn from them today as we struggle with denominational issues. There are some important doctrinal practices (baptism being the most obvious) on which we can never agree), but if we are united on the key issues of the gospel and salvation, we should be making every effort, and taking every opportunity, to share the ’right hand of [genuinel] fellowship’ as true brothers and sisters in Christ.
– Bruce Christian