The Right Hand of Fellowship
Galatians 2:7-10 describes the outcome of a meeting between two groups of Christians who were working in different locations with different cultures. Paul and his companions were teaching the Gentiles, while James and those with him were teaching the Jews. Both groups were teaching the gospel of Jesus; neither was changing the doctrine of God. The goal and message of both groups was the same, and they recognized God had united them together through their obedience to the truth. They enjoyed fellowship because both groups were doing what God instructed. The extension of the right hand of fellowship was the result of shared obedience to the truth.
God designed the church to enjoy fellowship with Him and each other. Jesus’ prayer for unity among believers in John 17:20-21 is immediately preceded by His prayer for the disciples to be sanctified in the truth, the Word of God. Jesus intentionally connected the two. Unity, or fellowship, is the natural result of obedience to the truth. Galatians 2 shows the fulfillment of this prayer as obedience to the truth produced unity between believers.
Unity is the consistent outcome of obedience to the truth. In Acts 2, when the first Christians were added together by God, they continued “devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching…” among other things. The unity of the first Christians was not due to their central location. Their unity was the predictable result of their devotion to the truth.
Galatians 2 reminds those who follow the truth to encourage one another in their obedience to the commands of God. Listen to the example set by these early Christian brethren:
“…seeing that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been to the circumcised…James and Cephas and John, who were reputed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, so that we might go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised.” (Gal. 2:7-9)
In those days, all who were speaking the truth to any people enjoyed fellowship with each other. Let us follow their example by encouraging all brethren who are speaking the truth of God to the people near them. Praise God for the preaching and teaching of the gospel in every place!