Constant in the fear of God, immovable in faith,
upon whom, as upon Peter, the church is built,
whose apostleship is from God,
and against whom the gates of hell do not prevail.
- Sechnaill, Audite Omnes Amantes, Irish, 5th century
…and when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that had been given to me, they gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship…
- Galatians 2.9
My reading of Galatians 2 is always arrested by that “seemed to be pillars” comment. Every time I come upon it, I pause to reflect on Paul’s observation.
Paul noted among the leaders of the church in Jerusalem three who seemed to be pillars – supports and stays of the congregation as a whole. He was not impressed by titles or positions. There were plenty of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and elders in this church when Paul showed up. He acknowledged them all, but he was looking to come under the oversight and accountability of those who were truly upholding the Body of Christ by their lives and ministries, for he knew his own ministry would amount to nothing if it was not supported by the pillars of the Church.
James, Peter, and John were pillars precisely because of the quality of their lives and the clarity of their teaching. They had withstood the trials of persecution and remained faithful in their calling as shepherds. Paul recognized them as pillars long before any of them extended their ministries beyond Jerusalem, or before they wrote anything that would be cherished by churches throughout the Roman world. The Spirit of God confirmed Paul’s observation by inspiring their writings for incorporation into the New Testament, and for the benefit of the Church in every age, of which they remain pillars today.
Sechnaill said that Patrick was just such a person, a pillar of the faith on which the church in Ireland was built. Patrick feared God. He was immovable in his faith, unfailing in duty, and always on the advance against the enemy of our souls. He was devoted to God’s calling and persisted in it throughout the course of his adult life.
Patrick knew God had called him to Ireland, and he did not allow anything to stand in the way of fulfilling his apostleship. His character and message were consistently Biblical. His vision and calling were clear, and he remained faithful to them, even through a wide range of trials. He invited any who knew him to bring charges against him for any moral or spiritual failure, promising to make amends. None responded.
Patrick was a pillar of the Irish church, like James, Peter, and John were of the church in Jerusalem. God mightily used Patrick, just as he had used Paul and those other pillars four centuries before. The old pagan cult of Celtic Ireland crumbled and disappeared under the relentless onslaught of Patrick’s example and ministry, leading to a revival that lasted nearly four centuries, reaching beyond Ireland to Scotland and Europe.
Paul, I think, would have looked at Patrick, and concluded, “He seemed to be a pillar.”
Where are the pillars of the Church today? Where are the leaders with the kind of vision, courage, conviction, boldness, single-mindedness, and character that inspires the rest of us to step up in our walk with and work for the Lord? For whom are you a pillar, helping to uphold their faith and to build a strong and consistent walk with the Lord?
James, Peter, John, Paul, and Patrick were pillars of the Church because they stood firm for Christ, and pointed beyond themselves, upward to Jesus. They were strong and reliable in their place and time, both in doctrine and life. And they provided a platform on which others were encouraged to grow and build.
What about us? You and me? Are we consistently standing up, reaching up, and pointing others to Jesus? Are we rock solid in our character and beliefs, firmly grounded in Scripture and relying on the power of God’s Spirit? Do we lift others up, encourage them in Jesus, make way for them to rise above us in good works of love? Are we laying a foundation for future generations to continue the ongoing work of Christ and His Kingdom?
Will the generation that succeeds us in the faith look back at us and say that we “seemed to be pillars”?
Fear God. Stand firm in the faith. Fulfill your calling. Be a terror to the devil.
Be a pillar.
1. Today, who needs you to be a pillar of faith for them? How will you fulfill that role?
2. Who are the pillars you lean upon in your walk with and work for the Lord? Be sure to thank them today, and to give God praise for each one.
Psalm 40.1-8 (Dix: For the Beauty of the Earth)
I waited patiently for God; He inclined and heard my cry,
lifted me up above the sod, set me on a Rock on high!
New songs in my mouth He gave; may He through me many save.
Blessed are all who trust in You, turning both from lies and pride.
Countless wonders, Lord, You do, and Your thoughts with us abide.
Lord, Your worth who can declare? None with You can e’er compare.
Off’rings You do not require – open now my ears, O Lord!
What from me do You desire? Firm delight to do Your Word.
Take my life in ev’ry part; write Your Law upon my heart.
Lord, make me a pillar for others today as I…
Look to Jesus
Jesus Christ, exalted in glory, is our Pillar; and He is working for us every day. Our challenge is to keep focused on Him. Our newest book, What in Heaven is Jesus Doing on Earth?, can help you in this discipline. Order your copy by clicking here.
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T. M. Moore
All Psalms for singing from The Ailbe Psalter. Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 Carey, p. 152.