Paul’s letter to the Galatians is one of the most important theological texts in history. He writes the letter to confront the Galatians for believing the legalistic lie that to follow Christ, they must also be circumcised. The letter is important because it clarifies that Christians are saved by faith rather than works of the law.
In the letter, Paul takes some time to tell his personal story. How he was blinded by Jesus on the road to Damascus and how he visited Peter in Jerusalem.
Then he mentions another visit to Jerusalem. Some fourteen years after the first. It was during this visit that Paul presented his gospel to the leaders of the church to make sure he had his theology straight.
After listening they agreed that Paul ought to continue working with gentile believers. If you are, like most Christians, a gentile, you can trace your faith back to this moment in history.
All of this is very good, of course. But take a look at the last part of Paul’s story:
“Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.” (Galatians 2:10, ESV)
Don’t miss what’s happening here.
Paul has just been officially given the task of taking the gospel to most of the known world, and the only clarification the leaders of the church give him is to “remember the poor.”
And if that’s not enough, Paul tells the apostles that remembering the poor is the “very thing” he was “eager to do.”
Double wow. (wow wow)
There is no way around it. From its earliest years, the Church has made remembering the poor a primary concern.
Now let’s go deeper.
What does it mean to remember the poor? There are a couple of possible interpretations:
- Remember to help the poor with food and money.
- Remember to teach the gospel to the poor.
Which one is Paul talking about?
Which one of these things would Paul be eager to do?
For starters, the first interpretation is clearly mandated throughout the entire bible. So, no matter what, God’s people are called to take care of the needs of the poor.
But I think Paul is eager for interpretation number two. He is eager to teach the gospel to the poor.
Here are two scriptures that support this view:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news [gospel] to the poor.” (Luke 4:18a, ESV)
This is a quote from Jesus, who is actually quoting a prophecy about himself. Part of his call as the Messiah was to preach the gospel to the poor.
“Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him?” (James 2:5, ESV)
Spiritually speaking, there is something special about the poor. They are chosen to be rich in faith.
I asked a homeless alcoholic woman if she realized God’s grace covered her.
She said, “Honey, I’m banking on it.”
That is a wealth of faith.
Paul was eager to remember the poor because they are quick to believe that Jesus is their only hope.