Fifteen Days in a Friendship of Grace
“Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus. Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days.” (Gal_1:17-18)
“I remember well when I first learned this wonderful truth about God’s Grace,” Peter began. “And strange as it may seem, I didn’t learn it from Jesus. There were many things Jesus did not say to us. It was because, as He put it, we “were not able to bear it now.” (Joh_16:12-13). He was right.
When I think back over all the times I argued with Him about this or that, it amazes me that He ever told me anything at all! Don’t laugh; for the same is true for you. Right?
And here’s a question for you. Are you willing to let someone who comes along after you show you something that you don’t yet know?
We don’t know everything, and that’s why its best to always be teachable. And don’t be surprised who the “teacher” might be! I mean, if God would use a jackass to speak to stupid Balaam, whose to say what He might use to speak to you!
Laughter erupted in our group as everybody pointed at me. “I’m sure that’s not what he meant,” I said. We all had a good laugh then.
“Then, who was it that taught you about God’s grace?” we asked.
“The apostle Paul, of course!” Peter said. “He knew more about it than all the rest of us put together.”
“You can only imagine how astonished we all were when we first heard the reports of Paul’s conversion. Frankly, we didn’t believe it.
The man was monstrous and unmerciful; breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord. He made havoc of the church, entering into every house and hauling away men and women, putting them in prison. Indeed, some he even put to death.
“So, yes, we found his conversion to be a bit of a stretch. But clearly we underestimated the power of the Lord.
“Paul was indeed a new creation in Christ, old things had passed away and all things were becoming new. He came a stayed with me for about two weeks and we talked at great length about many things. And one thing towered above all others in Paul’s mind – it was the Grace of God.
“His understanding of grace was different than what we had been taught from our childhood. We had viewed grace as God’s favor, given in kindness to the undeserving. But this was not the message Paul brought to me.
“Grace is the power of Christ working in me and through me,” he said with such passion and conviction, one could hardly resist him. “I got this directly from the Lord Jesus Himself,” he would add; underscoring his resolve in making sure I understood it.
Paul was not only convincing; he was right.
“I myself had indeed experienced the grace of God on many occasions, but did not fully understand it at the time. I just knew that the power of the Lord was surging in me and through me in ways that left me amazed with what happened. Think about it – my shadow healed a man! I guess you could say I took the heat off of him. Yet, it wasn’t me; it was the grace of God in me.
Or how about the day John and I walked into the Temple and saw a man begging alms. “Alms?” I asked, “How about a pair of legs?” And it happened! He jumped up and started dancing and shouting; got us thrown out of the Temple and arrested by the Council. Nevertheless – about five thousand more turned to follow the Lord because of it.
“Fishers of men,” Jesus said. “Fishers of men.”
Yes, I had experienced the Lord’s power many times; but those fifteen days with Paul helped me to understand more fully that it was the grace of God in me – and through me. It was the power of Christ helping me do His will.
Paul and I became fast friends. Our visit together also showed me that, while Paul was an apostle to the Gentiles, and I to the Jews – we both were life-long friends on one mission: Proclaiming to all the Gospel of God’s Grace!