Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Cephasand stayed with him fifteen days. I saw none of the other apostles — only James, the Lord’s brother. I assure you before God that what I am writing you is no lie. Galatians 1:18-20 (NIV).
In our time, if you or I want to establish credentials, we write resumes, or we accumulate “letters” by our names (meaning the abbreviations for degrees, certifications, and such). We gather lists of references, and we keep track of places we’ve worked, things we know how to do, and people we might know (who could vouch for us). Credentials quickly tell others who we are.
In Paul’s time, he could only establish himself by proving he knew the church leaders. So he says he says he stayed two weeks with Peter (Cephas) in Jerusalem, where Peter was based. And Paul says he met Jesus’ half-brother, James. This established Paul’s credentials. Knowing that Saul/Paul had tried to murder most of the early church leaders, it was important that he should demonstrate how Jesus’ closest friends accepted him as a believer. Not only, but it was possible that some of those who would eventually read Paul’s letter might also personally know the other apostles and could verify Paul’s account.
There’s something old fashioned and satisfying about a system like that. I’ve worked in healthcare systems for over twenty years now, and I’m at the point of my career where I know middle and senior-level folks all over the country. Our trade is a small community, so it isn’t difficult to get to know a wide range of people if you just take the time. It means that, in a new place or project, they or I can quickly establish credibility with new people, in part, through our connections.
It isn’t about name-dropping; any fool can do that (and anybody can easily see through a fool’s motivation). Instead, it’s about establishing trust, forming baselines, and finding common ground. Paul, Peter, and James would understand that, only they understood that the highest, best reason for doing so was to open communications with other people so others could learn about Jesus.
And, if you think about it, that’s still our highest, best motivation. I mean, the God of the universe (in person, Jesus the Christ), knew each of us from before we were born. That means He also knows every minute of our lives, including when we’re in unfamiliar territory. He’s there with us, taking active interest in who we become, what we do, what we say. He does it so that, like in Paul’s time, others might come to know Him through us.
For further reading: Matthew 13:55, Acts 9:22-23, Acts 15:13, Romans 1:9, Romans 9:1, Galatians 1:21
Lord Jesus, help someone know You through me today.
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