and when james and cephas and john, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to barnabas and me, that we should go to the gentiles and they to the circumcised. [galatians 2:9]
they recognized the grace that was given to me
the apostles would not recognize and partner with paul until they perceived—not that he had skill, eloquence, passion, or flawless doctrine—that paul had received grace, the grace of God. how do you decide whether or not to trust someone? how do you discern if you can labor with someone in an equal yoke? God’s grace is perhaps the best indicator of a true believer. people can say the right words, speak with passion, and know a lot about the scriptures without being saved by grace. “man looks at outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.” (1 samuel 16:7) if we look to outward things, things of the flesh, to discern if someone can be trusted, we will often be led astray.
the marks of grace
how then can we discern if someone has received God’s grace? the truth is, we cannot know for sure. but scripture is on our side! the fruits of the Spirit are “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (galatians 5:22-23) those who have received God’s grace will be growing in these traits. beware of judging and discerning people based on anything else! the flesh will influence us to make other things more important than these—such as eloquence, boldness, intelligence, energy, or vivacity—but trust rather the scriptural marks! God cares more about the heart than He does about gifting, and we should too!
Lord, grow us in Your grace, grace that forms us into humble servants bearing the fruit of the Spirit. and as You do, teach us to recognize those same fruits in others, so that we can encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ as they grow, exhort them to value the fruits of the Spirit over fleshly fruit, and discern who we can yoke ourselves with as we labor to bring Your kingdom to those around us.
~ stephen hall