In Galatians 2:14 we see Paul, recapping his aggressive challenge of Peter’s actions; over an event that may have happened 18 years prior.
But when I saw that they were not behaving consistently with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of them all, “If you, although you are a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you try to force the Gentiles to live like Jews?” Galatians 2:14 NET.
It may be a translation issue, but the manner in which this is stated is an aspect of what I saw as directed confusion.
Let me explain. “But when I saw that (those gathered with Peter) were not behaving consistently with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of them all,” The allusion is that Paul had been there with Peter and witnessed the hypocrisy. We have nothing to substantiate that assertion; therefore it is an unprovable conclusion. I could also infer from this, that Paul is seeing the affects of Peter’s hypocrisy show up in Antioch.
Biblically, we are only shown two interactions between Paul and Peter. One at the end of the first three years of Paul’s preaching. You can find this in Galatians 1:18 where it says, I stayed with Peter for fifteen days to become acquainted with him.
The second interaction comes years later after Paul has endured much at the hands of Jews who believed much like Saul did, and at the hands of Gentiles, the Jews were able to rally against Paul. Take a moment of your time to read 2 Corinthians 11:23-28, where these abuses are detailed by Paul.
With that in mind, where can we find Paul, having enough contact with Peter to witness such hypocrisy?
One of the things to consider, is that we are not given the time frame surrounding his visit to Antioch, and, it may have been that he was there long enough to enjoy the freedoms of grace before others, of the Jerusalem community that still held to Mosaic law, came to visit the Antioch church and Peter as well. This would explain many things. It could easily have worked this way. But we do have some solid evidence in Acts 11: 1-3. What we see here is directly related to Peter’s interactions with Cornelius and his family. Perhaps we will have to ask God for an answer to this question when we see Him in the eternal kingdom.
A commentary or two, tells us that this may not be the Peter we understand to be the Apostle. “When Peter was come to Antioch – There has been a controversy whether Πετρος, Peter, here should not be read Κηφας, Kephas; and whether this Kephas was not a different person from Peter the apostle. This controversy has lasted more than 1500 years, and is not yet settled.” [Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible; Adam Clarke, LL.D., F.S.A., (1715-1832); Published in 1810-1826; public domain.]
Since I am not a grammarian, and the things we read are not so black and white, I then have to fight my way through the language and context to sort out what has happened. And, good or bad, you have been a part of that process over the last few years. I feel very confident that all this came out of Peter’s interaction with Cornelius, many years before this letter was written, and I shared that with you previously.
What Paul said to Peter also impacts me, as occasionally someone shares something with me, that causes my religious hairs to stand up. In moments like this, I am reminded, that I have done those very things and I need to back off the judgmental attitude. Knowing that I too operate in an ever-present outpouring of mercy and grace how can I try to force somebody to live like a religious zealot when I could not do it myself! (I changed the wording a bit, so it applied more effectively to me.)
You cannot just attack someone, as Paul did, without giving them some definition of how we are supposed to act and who we are. Without a doubt, a statement like this evokes an excess of questions.
Who then are we, as followers of Christ, and how are we supposed to act?
Ultimately, we look to Jesus as our example, but then he was not provoked by internal brokenness as we are; so living like Jesus doesn’t often seem like an achievable goal.
What then is the definitive pattern for us?
It all boils down to the letters we find in the New Testament; letters that describe who we are and how we should act, such as walking in love – something that I failed at recently.
If, or since, we are in Him, then these attributes are who the Father considers us to be, even when we don’t look or feel like it. In this example, I am pulling excerpts from Ephesians 1:3-15.
- Blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms in Christ.
Chosen in Him.
Holy and unblemished in His sight.
We have redemption through His blood.
Through that same blood, we have forgiveness of our trespasses (sins = merely missing the bulls-eye on the target of life.)
We are God’s possession.
All this was done so that we would be to the praise of His glory.
Many, will find this a very self-serving statement. And yet, for me, it is filled with joy and freedom. Freedom because I don’t just feel trapped by this life, I am trapped; trapped in a world of stress and destruction. In Christ, I find acceptance, mental peace, and a hope no one has ever been able to give me.
In the process of believing, we were set aside and protected in our spirit by the Father, until He could redeem His own – (This is the theme of the Revelation and a recurring theme throughout many books of the Bible.)
Why would I say, you are protected in your spirit, and not mention your flesh?
Because Jesus himself told us, that in this world we would have tribulation. Tribulation includes stress, pain, beheadings, and other common and daily events. Sorry, there is no escaping those things; and, there is no denying that most of them will come at the hands of others; many under the guise of “religion.”
As I read those attributes that scripture assigns to me, I get a sense of nobility, as though I had been knighted at some royal gathering of the Kings court.
Lacking all the pretense of nobility, then how am I to act?
As one set aside for the conveyance of the Kings needs, with the understanding that this King loves and cares for those under His charge. If my scenario was real, then what would become of one who refused the orders of the king?
In the natural world you would, at the minimum, be demoted; at worst, killed. Fortunately, for those who are His own, God does not operate that way. First, we seem to forget daily, that our sins are forgiven and as scripture puts it, cast as far as the East is from the West. That by the way, is an unlikely and infinite number.
Are you then punished for disobedience?
His patience with us never runs out. Here again, the religious, natural mind cannot think of anything but punishment. I suppose they do that out of some twisted sense of justice.
What happens then to the person who refuses to listen to God?
Their mind becomes clouded. Thinking that God is now humiliated by the mention of their name, they create a separation in their mind and turn their backs on God, not the other way around; and that is what most of us do.
An obvious factor, and hopefully you picked up on it, is that while God so loved the world; becoming one of His own through adoption, requires that you accept that He is a benevolent Father. And, that He gave His only Son to die a bloody and violent death for the specific purpose of redeeming us back to the Father (In case you find this a cruel choice, then remember that the Son, willingly gave His life for us.) Don’t believe that? Then read it from Jesus’ lips.
Paul, having gained Peter’s attention, says, to Peter and those listening,
“We are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners, yet we know that no one is justified by the works of the law but by the faithfulness of Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by the faithfulness of Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.” Galatians 2:15-16 NET.
But this statement, “we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by the faithfulness of Christ,” indicates that Paul had caught on to something that would change everything, including the narrow, prejudiced world in which he had been raised. This message of grace, was, without a doubt, for all. It was no longer just another Jewish thing or religion; this was God exploding upon the world with the life of Christ. And it was all done with the purpose of getting His entire family back; a family, which now happened to include adopted Gentiles.
What did Paul say?
“ we have come to believe in Christ Jesus,”
And so have I. If you consider yourself a follower of the risen Christ; the Son of the living God, then so have you.
They were taught to do anything but accept and believe in the “son of Mary” as the Messiah. What we do not have clear is that the hatred, name-calling, and bigotry ran deep and was present throughout Jesus life. A possible example could come from –
John 8:39 NASB They answered and said to Him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus *said to them, “If you are Abraham’s children, do the deeds of Abraham.
There would be only one reason to make a retort like this, and that’s because Jesus, according to them, could not prove who His Father was. This takes us back to Mary. A woman with a backbone of steel, who operated under the endorsement of an angelic messenger. And when Jesus was about to be born. Joseph, who has come to his hometown, where all the relatives are, is not given the grace of a place to stay. He finally has to beg for the use of a small stable area. Prejudice, rejection, and bitter feelings? You bet there were, and Jesus dealt with it all His life.
“ so that we may be justified”
Justified is the Greek word dikaioō and means to render, show, or regard as innocent.
This idea of making things right is precisely what Jesus did on the cross for us. Think about this; Christ dies all those years ago, with the express purpose of giving salvation to all. Nothing or no one was is being held back from that salvation, as all the benefits involved in this redemption are freely given to all who accept this grace and freedom.
Ah, but then I was born, and I have done everything wrong.
Sure, I received His grace; but sinning, I do that every day. The catch is, that forgiveness was granted to me, without regret, over two thousand years ago. I, nor you, will ever be judged for sin, and yes, this is contrary to what many teach; and, I will be condemned for saying it. But, like Paul, I don’t answer to the critics, as they speak in opposition to the Word of God. Besides that, they are not the judges, no matter what they say. What people will be judged for is, what did you do with Jesus the risen Messiah. That’s it. In my case, I accepted Him. What did you do with Him?