I was reading Jesus’ prayer for believers the other day. Imagine Jesus praying for us! What a wonderful thing. The prayer went like this, “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me” (John 17:20-23).
His desire is that we all be one just as He and the Father are One. He wants there to be unity among those who become believers through the words and witness of the disciples. When I think of how much disunity there is among believers I cannot help but shake my head. It was happening in the early church. Some believers in Galatia were perverting the Gospel by intimating that faith in Christ alone was not enough. Paul addressed this in his letter to them. “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.
For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ” (Galatians 1:6-10).
The false teachers in Galatia were also trying to undermine Paul’s ministry by calling into question his apostleship and gospel message. “They declared that he had not been a disciple of Jesus, and had received no commission from him; yet he had presumed to teach doctrines directly opposed to those held by Peter, James, and the other apostles…Pau’s soul was stirred as he saw the evils that threatened speedily to destroy these churches. He immediately wrote to the Galatians, exposing their false theories, and with great severity rebuking those who had departed from the faith” (Ellen G. White, Sketches From the Life of Paul, pp. 188, 189).
Paul may not have been one of the originally called disciples but he was commissioned by Jesus Himself to share the Gospel with the Gentiles. As he pointed out in Galatians 2:7, “the gospel for the uncircumcised had been committed to me, as the gospel for the circumcised was to Peter.” He was carrying out the work Jesus had called him to do–bearing His name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel (Acts 9:15).
Today, Christians are turning away from the faith to heed false teachings as they did in Paul’s day. Some misinterpret Paul’s writings and end up believing that the righteous dead go straight to Heaven; that the people in Heaven will come with Jesus when He returns; that the moral law was nailed to the cross. And there are some Christians who share the sentiments of the false teachers who questioned Paul’s authority. There are Christians who don’t like Paul because they thing he’s sexist. Others accuse him of teachings that are contrary to Jesus’ teachings. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Paul is so strongly opposed to teaching any other Gospel truth that he calls a curse upon anyone, including himself who dares to do such a thing. He was a faithful follower of Christ. His words and actions demonstrated his passion for the same cause he once worked to destroy. Christ forgave him and chose to make him one of His servants. Paul testified, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). Since Christ lived in him, he could not help but teach the things of Christ. Paul lived and breathed the Gospel. He boldly preached it in faith and with the knowledge that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief” (1 Timothy 1:15).
As followers of Christ, we ought love one another as Christ loves us. We may have our differences but we should not challenge the authority of Scripture. The Bible teaches that Paul was chosen by Jesus to be a light to the Gentiles. Paul was preaching the Gospel of Christ. He did not teach anything that was contrary to the Word of God. We must not tear each other down but build each other up. We are to encourage each other. Jesus’ prayer is that we work together to bring the Gospel to the world. We must be the light of the world. The world must not see division among us but unity.
Let us purpose in our hearts to work as one body to preach one Gospel. As the psalmist points out, “Behold, how good and how pleasant [it is] for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1).