As for those who seemed to be important–whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not judge by external appearance–those men added nothing to my message. 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. (Galatians 2:6-8 NIV)
I like it when scripture gives testimony to scripture. I will explain what I mean in a moment.
It is worth noting, in our passage today, that Peter was actually the one who officially broke the gospel ice with the Gentiles. Though Paul was called as a special minister to the Gentiles, Peter was chosen by God to witness the flow of Christ’s grace into the life of Cornelius (Acts 10-11). He reported the conversion of this important Gentile to leaders in Jerusalem, thereby validating the presence of a new people group in the church.
Yet, at the heart level, it is safe to say Peter was not, nor did he feel called as a special minister to the Gentiles. If anything, throughout his ministry he was conflicted in the matter (as we will see a little later in Galatians 2). Paul, however, gave his life to the cause.
Now onto my comment about scripture: The matter of circumcision, and the outward appearance of self-righteous acts, led Paul to evoke a theological principle: “God does not judge eternal appearance.” But this was nothing new.
In the Old Testament, when Samuel visited with Jesse to test his sons as possible candidates for a future king, the subject of outward appearance was raised. The first of Jesse’s oldest sons, Eliab, must have looked like king material, for when Samuel saw him he thought to himself, “Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here!” That’s when the Lord said, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).
This event, and the teaching that emerged from it, became a principle that stuck in the Jewish mind. This doesn’t mean it is wrong to have human criteria for leadership. We shouldn’t ask people to do things for which they aren’t equipped, or prepared. On the other hand, we should never count people out, or be surprised when, in God’s time, he develops them into people that surprise us.
This principle is also important in its reverse application. In other words, we should be careful not to assume someone who looks capable at first glance, is the person God needs. Looks really can be deceiving, and more than one good looking and talented individual has been derailed by a character flaw.
So, when Paul suggested one’s spiritual life should not be judged by outward appearance, he was referencing the whole Jesse’s son event. By the way, if you are not aware, this is where David, the least likely of all of Jesse’s sons, was chosen. Paul was writing scripture, and in the process giving testimony to scripture. Just out of curiosity, can you think of any other examples of this phenomenon?
Dear God, thank You for these small reinforcements of Biblical truth. In Jesus’ name, Amen.