And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision. ~Galatians 2:9
The shaking of hands between two individuals is a socially-accepted recognition in almost all societies. The right hand indicates strength and favor. Shaking hands is a gesture of welcome and acceptance of another person. It is the symbol of a satisfying business agreement. It is a standard greeting among Christians. In a church setting, it is our way of saying, “Welcome, and I’m happy to see you.”
We see the affinity.
In Acts 15, Paul and Barnabas went to Jerusalem to testify of how God opened the door for them to preach the gospel to the Gentiles and how many of them got saved. James, Peter, and John extended the right hands of fellowship before, during, and after this meeting. There was an affinity among these men of God. Affinity means there was love, closeness, rapport, and agreement. These three pillars of the church took the lead in demonstrating to the church at Jerusalem that Paul and Barnabas were God’s servants doing His work, just as they were doing. The right hand of fellowship among God’s people demonstrates we are a welcoming and loving community of believers.
We see the approval.
The right hands of fellowship also represented the approval to continue to preach the gospel to the Gentiles. Doing God’s work requires a vision for things that can be done. Sometimes, the vision is bigger than the faith of those who are among us. Extending the right hands of fellowship indicated to Paul and Barnabas that James, Peter, and John were in full acceptance of reaching the Gentiles with the gospel. Their gesture to Paul and Barnabas told the church at Jerusalem that it was the right thing to do and that the gospel is for everyone to hear. In essence, it was a major sign of approval.
We see the advancement.
The right hands of fellowship signified the advancement of the gospel to Jew and Gentile alike. God advanced the endeavors of Paul greatly after this meeting. Paul embarked on his second and third missionary church-planting trips and saw many saved and thriving churches started. Thriving Baptist congregations made up of saved baptized Jews and Gentiles were going forward. It is a wonderful thing when God’s people are on the same page for the advancement of the gospel into the uttermost parts of the earth.
As God’s people, it is important that we extend the right hands of fellowship. First, we should do this as a standard greeting to all of God’s people at church. Second, we should do this with newly-saved and newly-baptized individuals in our church. Third, we should do this with the missionaries we support and with the pastor after we submit our Faith Promise pledges. Fourth, whenever we are led to take on a new endeavor or to exercise vision in our church, we should extend the right hand of fellowship in expressing our agreement and prayer.
Be friendly; be congenial; but, most importantly, be Christian! Exercise the right hands of fellowship!
Have a fellowship-filled God Morning!
Bible Reading Schedule: Exodus 4-6