Make Your Mark: Week 4 - Day 4
Jesus, open our minds and hearts to hear your word today. Allow us to know your presence and hear your voice and give us the courage to follow you.
Read Galatians 2:11-14 (NIV)
“11 When Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. 13 The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray. 14 When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?”
If you think drama in the church is a new thing, guess again. This piece on Paul and Peter at Antioch reads like a Facebook debate. Paul starts off in Peter’s face, then he drags James into it and before it’s over he’s calling out “the other Jews” and naming Barnabas as an innocent victim.
What’s going on here? The story is that Peter (also known as Cephas) came to Antioch and was freely dining with gentiles there as equals. It is supposed that these “men from James” informed Peter that his practice of eating with gentiles was creating problems for his home church in Jerusalem and their mission to the Jews. Peter felt pressure, or perhaps fear, and stopped dining with the gentiles, but in the process communicated that Jews and Gentiles are not equal but that Gentiles must become Jews to fully share in the gospel.
Now remember that it was Peter who had the vision of the sheet with all the animals in Acts 10 and the command from God to not call anything unclean that God has made clean. In this vision God directly told Peter that there is equality between Jews and Gentiles. Peter clearly knew better than to send a different message. Because of Peter’s actions, many Jews and even Barnabas, who had planted gentile churches with Paul, had been led astray to a gospel filled with Jewish law.
So as we read, Paul took Peter on and that’s where our discussion begins.
What do we see in this passage about how Paul addressed Peter? Well first, he addressed him to his face. Paul clearly had courage and conviction. Do you think there was some fear in play for Paul? He and Peter were friends and co-laborers (see Galatians 2:9) but Paul had a greater concern and that was the truth of the Gospel and his ministry to the gentiles. Consider what Paul didn’t do in the face of his fear and the prospect of hurting his friendship with Peter. He didn’t go talk to others. He didn’t beat around the bush. He went straight to Peter and told him the truth. Unfortunately we don’t have a recording of that full conversation, but I suspect Paul didn’t berate or insult Peter. I suspect his words were delivered with the love and respect that these men knew as friends.
What is your response when you see injustice in society? What is your response to wrong teaching in the church? Does it really bother you? Paul was passionate about preaching the Gospel to the gentiles, the Gospel of freedom in Christ. He was passionate when those same gentiles were led to believe another gospel.
Paul didn’t send a nasty email to the pastor. He didn’t start a discussion on Facebook. He didn’t tell all of his or Peter’s friends. As a friend of Peter’s, but more so a passionate preacher of the Gospel he went straight to Peter and addressed him. He addressed his error with love and respect. That’s the way it’s done, folks.
Jesus. we want to know you, but we are weak and are helpless to know you unless you reveal yourself to us. Give us the passion of Paul for your truth and grow in us the ability to confront with love and respect.