Studies in Galatians – Wayne Barber/Part 6
By: Dr. Wayne Barber
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©2004|
|We are talking about Paul in defense of Paul, and this is part 2 of that. Over and over in chapter 1 Paul defends the gospel; over and over, because he is building a platform. Well, what we saw last time and we are seeing today is Paul defending Paul.|
Paul in Defense of Paul – Part 2
Well, would you turn with me today to Galatians 2. You are wondering, how is he going so fast? Well, this is narrative; narrative always flows quickly because it is story form. Paul is giving his testimony, and this is why we are able to cover so many verses. Today we are going to start in chapter 2. We are talking about Paul in defense of Paul, and this is part 2 of that. Over and over in chapter 1 Paul defends the gospel; over and over, because he is building a platform. Well, what we saw last time and we are seeing today is Paul defending Paul.
Now, he does not do that much. He does it in 2 Corinthians. It is just a rare thing for him to do it. However, he has been accused of plagiarizing his message from the apostles, and not only that, of masquerading as an apostle. And so he comes out of his corner. We saw last time his humiliation. Paul is so transparent, and that is what I love about him. You know, when you walk with God there is no reason not to be. You do not have to worry about what other people think. You need to worry about what God thinks. And when you know that He knows, why does it matter if everybody else knows? See, we are always protecting a reputation and it is so sad. Paul is not protecting anything. He is very transparent in his humiliation. He humbly shares what he used to be.
And he was one of the Judaizers that are plaguing the church there the Galatian believers, those churches in southern Galatia. He was one of them. And that is the whole point of this. He is trying to get across to them, “I have been there. I know who these people are. I know what they are saying. I used to be one of them.” The difference is the apostle Paul took it to a level they would never dare to take it. He did not try to deceive anybody. If you did not agree with him he put you to death. I mean, that is the way he lived. He took it far beyond the false teachers that are plaguing the southern Galatian churches.
It says in verse 13 and 14 of chapter 1, as we review, “For you have heard of my former manner of life in Judaism.” You’ve heard it; I told you. “How I used to persecute the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it; and I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries, among my countrymen, being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions.” You see, Paul took it far beyond these false teachers. He has been there. He has been one of them. He has done that. What they are trying to buy back into, he has been completely set free from. And that is his whole point.
Then Paul sets out to show that he did not receive the gospel message from any man. To accuse him of plagiarizing another man’s message is a false charge, and he wants to make sure they understand that. It was revealed to him by God Himself. He vindicates himself in verses 15 and following. Verses 15 and 16 he says, “But when God, who had set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me though His grace, was pleased to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood.”
What a beautiful two verses, and we could almost go back and preach on them again. God had a plan for Paul before Paul was ever born. And it was God, not man, that revealed His Son in Paul; that inward revelation of the resurrected Christ. And when he saw it he was changed forever. Paul did not seek after God. God sought after Paul.
Paul shows that he did not get his message from the apostles in verse 17. He says, “Nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went away to Arabia, and returned once more to Damascus.” He said, “I did not go get it from the apostles. How could I plagiarize their message? I did not get it from them.” In fact, he preached that message of the gospel that God had revealed to him for three years before he even decided to go to Jerusalem. And the reason he went to Jerusalem was just to meet Simon Peter while he was there. James dropped in. It says in verse 18, “Then three years later I went up to Jerusalem to become acquainted with Cephas.” That’s the Aramaic name for Simon Peter. “And stayed with him15 days.” His visit was not to get credibility. His visit was not to see that if his message was approved. He just went to see Peter.
What a beautiful picture. Simon Peter walked with Jesus and he, Paul did not have that experience and he wanted to know what it was like. And, you know, it is beautiful what God did. He sent James over while he was there. James was the Lord’s brother, grew up with Jesus. Here’s one who grew up with Him. Here’s another one who walked with Him. And that is the only reason he went to Jerusalem.
He says in verse 19, “But I did not see any other of the apostles except James, the Lord’s brother.” Evidently Paul had been accused of lying by somebody. See, that is the way to do it. You just try to discredit the messenger so that you can discredit the message. That is the way people work. If you do not understand that, look at the political system and what goes on in our newscast every day. Tear the man down and then somehow you can go against what he is saying. That is exactly what they did with Paul. They tried to tear him down. In light of it, they said he is a liar. In verse 20 Paul says, “Now in what I am writing to you, I assure you before God.” That means God is my witness. It is stronger than taking an oath there to assure his credibility. “I assure you before God that I am not in any way, shape or form lying.”
He says after his first visit to Jerusalem in verse 21, “Then I went into regions of Syria and Cilicia.” Now, why would he do that? He just continued preaching the gospel to the Gentiles, what God told him to do. And those were Gentile areas. Paul even documents that not even the Judean churches gave him the message. How could he even plagiarize the message from anybody? He did not hear it from man. He says in Galatians 1:22, “I was still unknown by sight to the churches of Judea which were in Christ; but only they kept hearing [now I love this. What a beautiful picture here], ‘He who once persecuted us is now preaching the faith which he once tried to destroy.’ And they were glorifying God because of me.” Paul did not receive the gospel from any man. God revealed it to him. He did not get it from the apostles. He did not get it from the Judean churches. On that Damascus road some marvelous things took place and beyond. And God revealed to him the message He wanted him to preach.
Well, today we are going to begin with a consultation he seeks with three of the apostles in Jerusalem. And then we are going to begin to look at the confrontation he has with Simon Peter. I hate to tell you, but we are not going to finish that one. We are just going to introduce it because it is going to take too much time. In verses 1-11 of chapter 2 Paul is going to take the message of grace, the message that he preaches to the Gentiles, and he is going to go to the apostles. Now listen carefully, he is not going for them to approve him. He is going to see if he approves of them. He is going to find out where they stand on the message of grace. It is not really Paul being tested here. It is going to be the message of grace and see where they are standing there in Jerusalem. He will not back down. Paul will not back down from the integrity of the message of grace.
Have you ever wondered why Simon Peter sometimes will back down, but Paul never would? Have you ever wondered about that? You see, Paul was so steeped in this message that God had to break him, blind him for three days and turn him inside out, and he was never one to go back. He said, “I will never go back to it.” Simon Peter, however, did not have quite that same experience. And you see the differences in the two.
I would rather have a legalist, I mean one that knows the law tdown to the very A’s and B’s of it. I would rather have one of them come to know Christ than I would somebody that just comes in, understands grace, and never understands the seriousness of sin and responsibility and what cleansing is all about and what the cross is all about. I would much rather have somebody who has been the other way and God had to completely turn him inside out and bring him here on the other side. Paul is not about to back down as you will see in the verses today.
Well we have seen his humiliation. We have seen his vindication. Now we are going to see his consultation with the apostles. Let me read the text for you; verses 1-10 of chapter 2. “Then after an interval of fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along also. It was because of a revelation that I went up; and I submitted to them the gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but I did so in private to those who were of reputation, for fear that I might be running, or had run in vain. But not even Titus, who was with me, though he was a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised. But it was because of the false brethren secretly brought in, who had sneaked in to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, in order to bring us into bondage. But we did not yield in subjection to them for even an hour, so that the truth of the gospel would remain with you. But from those who were of high reputation (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)—well, those who were of reputation contributed nothing to me. But on the contrary, seeing that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been to the circumcised (for He who effectually worked for Peter in his apostleship to the circumcised effectually worked for me also to the Gentiles), and recognizing the grace that had been given to me, James and Cephas and John, who were reputed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship so that we might go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. They only asked us to remember the poor—the very thing I also was eager to do.”
There was 14 years before Paul finally went before the apostles. Now he had been before Peter, but only to visit and, and met James at the same time. But he went for a consultation. He had been preaching the message of grace all this time, and you see, he did not seek their approval beforehand. He had been preaching it. And now he goes and seeks a consultation with these men.
Now there are five visits that we know for sure that Paul made to Jerusalem. This causes some confusion. The only reason I am bringing this up is if you are one of those who, who love to go to a commentary to check out and see if your preacher is right, you will find a divisive opinion on this. Let me show you where you are going to run into trouble. Five different visits he made to Jerusalem. Which one is he talking about. “After 14 years I went again to Jerusalem.” Which visit is he talking about?
The first visit he made was the one we just looked at in chapter 1:18-20 when he visited Peter and he met James. The second visit was to take money to people in Judea, the Christians in Judea who had suffered from a famine. Acts 11:28-30 tell us about that visit. It is not brought up in specifically in Galatia, but yet I think that is what he is talking about. It says, “One of them named Agabus” the prophets had come down, “stood up and began to indicate by the Spirit that there was great, there would certainly be a great famine all over the world.” This is Acts 11:28. “And this took place in the reign of Claudius. And in the proportion that any of the disciples had means, each of them determined to send a contribution for the relief of the brethren living in Judea. And this they did, sending it in charge of Barnabas and Saul to the elders.” That is his second visit to Jerusalem, to take that money that was taken up from the believers to help out those that are suffering from the famine in Judea. His third visit; this is where a lot of the complications come, was to attend the Jerusalem Council which is indicated in Acts 15:1-30. That is his third visit. His fourth visit was at the end of his second missionary journey, recorded in Acts 18:22. And his fifth and final visit to Jerusalem, which resulted in his Assyrian imprisonment, is in Acts 21:15-23, 35.
Now, here is the problem: many people are divided over two visits that he made to Jerusalem. Was it the famine visit I call it, or was it the third visit for the Jerusalem council? That is when they made up the decrees and sent them out to all the churches that talked about they were free from the law and from the bondage to the law. Well, my personal view on it—and this is why when you study you are going to say, well, my preacher is wrong, or maybe you might decide he is right; he is not inerrant either way we go—but my personal feeling is it is his famine visit. And I will tell you why. He mentions Peter, James and John. He does not say one word about James who is the head elder in Jerusalem and of that council. He is the one who made the final decision. And he does not say anything about the decrees which they came up with in that Jerusalem Council. And it just seems to me like that this is another visit on its own. Had to be that famine visit when he took the money in.
That is my personal view. Now if you disagree, that is alright. And you will say why did you waste my time? Well, you just have to understand, if you take it to that level there is a lot of discussion about which visit it was.
Verse 1, “Then after an interval of fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along also.” Now Galatians says he took Titus with him. Oh, this is ingenious. You talk about how God set this thing up. Paul and Barnabas were Jews. Where are they going? Jerusalem. Hey, man we are going to fit like a glove. I mean, we are with all home folks over here. Hey, Barnabas, how you doing? Hey, Paul, it is good to see you. But who is Titus? Titus is a Gentile redneck. He has nothing to do with the Jewish traditions, the promises, the covenants, or anything else, and they take Titus with them.
And, you see, Paul admits this was not his idea. This was not an afternoon committee meeting when they decided this would be a good thing to do. No, God said go to Jerusalem. God said take Titus. Look at verse 2: “It was because of a revelation that I went up.” In other words, he did not go on his own. God had revealed to him this is what I want you to do. The word for “revelation” is the word we have seen several times, apokalupsis. Apokalupsis simply means to uncover something, to reveal something. And in this particular context it reveals an instruction to do something. He did not have that idea himself. God gave him that idea and told him what to do. This had to have come from God. For what is going to happen next only God could have set this up, to take Titus with them was, was such an incredible plan.
Verse 2: “It was because of a revelation that I went up, and I submitted to them the gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but I did so in private to those who were of reputation, for fear that I might be running or had run, in vain.” Now, if I am correct and this is his famine visit, then what I see happening here is he just sees the opportunity and found Peter, James and John, and said “I want a private consultation with you. I want to talk to you a little bit. I want to submit to you the gospel which I preach, which by the way, has nothing to do with the law. It does not require circumcision. It does not require bowing down to the mosaic law.” He said I want to submit that. I am going to submit this to these three men. I want to see where they are.
Paul says, “But I did so in private to those who were of reputation.” Now this was wisdom only could have given him. He did not seek the whole group. He sought the big three, Peter, James and John. Now is it not funny, that he goes on later on to say, “God does not really show partiality,” but this is people. People single them out there, they are the big three. And we know it is Peter, James and John how? By verse 9. Drop down and look at verse 9. It’s clear. “And recognizing the grace that had been given to me, James,” and it names them, “and Cephas, Simon Peter and John, who were reputed to be pillars.” So we knew exactly who he went to talk to.
Now when Paul said at the last of the verse 2, “For fear that I might be running, or had run, in vain,” what does he mean by that? Does he mean that he might talk with them and feel like he has been a failure? Is that what he is saying? Absolutely not! Paul is totally convinced of his message and nothing will ever change him from preaching it. But what he is saying is if these three men, if they would for a second say that if you had to add law to grace, that that would cripple the message that was going out to the Gentiles. It would not stop him from preaching it, but it would cripple people from understanding it. And he said “I do not want to be running in vain. I want to find out if you guys are where you ought to be. You are over here in Jerusalem. Now where are you when it comes to the law and when it comes to grace?”
Titus, a Gentile, who had never been circumcised—which was the first initial rite of the physical sign of Abraham, he had never been circumcised—was the test case to see where these guys were. Now listen to me, this is critical moment in Christianity in the New Testament. If these three apostles would have said he needs to be circumcised, then Paul would have said, “Well, I need to pack up and go home. It is going to be even tougher now preaching the message that God has given to me.” But the beautiful thing is, they did not. Is it not awesome? They did not.
Verse 3 says, “But not even Titus, who was with me, though he was a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised.” Man, you have to see the thrill that is in his voice when he writes this. The word for compelled is anagkaios, and it means made to do something by force in order to set an example. It is interesting here. They did not make an example out of Titus. Here is a Greek, here is a Gentile. What is he doing over here in Jerusalem? And what are we doing here? They did not make him be circumcised, that Mosaic rite, they did not make him do that in order to be saved. They said, no sir, Jesus is enough. “But not even Titus, who was with me, though he was a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised.” What a powerful statement. What a powerful statement.
You know what? That even frees us today to get up and say, “Jesus is enough. You do not need law. Jesus is enough. He is sufficient to save you. He is sufficient to sanctify you. And no religious law is going to help you attain anything. He is your attainment. He is your spirituality. And it is basically what they affirmed. In verse 4 of chapter 2 it says, “But it was because of the false brethren secretly brought in, who had sneaked in to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, in order to bring up into bondage.
Now Paul’s victory did not come easily. Now the three men, Peter, James and John, he had no problem with them, but there were some others who found out about the meeting and came there. No doubt these were the Judaizers. They were secretly brought in. That is interesting. Someone must have found out about the meeting. They came in uninvited, party poopers. They came in to this secret private meeting just to throw in their two cents worth. These Judaizers chief slogan is found in Acts 15:1. Now remember this. It says “Some men came down from Judea and began teaching the brethren, ‘Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.’” That was their whole doctrine. “Christ is not enough, grace is not enough. You have to have an external sign, external mark on your body.” These Judaizers were very malicious people. And they were like spies going behind the enemy lines to find out what they were doing so they could go back and contradict it in a different way. In this case they infiltrated. The word means sneaked in alongside. They intruded without invitation into the apostle’s private conference.
When I was going to Romania under those years of communism I could always spot the communists that were there. They would always come to see what we were saying so that they could get in their little meetings and tear it down. And one fellow showed up almost every meeting I went to. He had little round, dark glasses, and this was at night in a room that wasn’t very well lit. I was thinking, what in the world is he doing wearing those little things, and sit there and just stared at me the whole time I would preach. That just made me preach stronger. I tell you what, I do not know what God did during those days. I have never had any more boldness than I had over, over in Romania in under the communistic times, but he was sitting right there. They would sneak in. They had to hear what was being said so that they could go back and get their information to where they can contradict it.
“But it was because of the false brethren secretly brought in, who had sneaked in to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, in order to bring us into bondage.” Now their goals were twofold. And Paul is very clear about it. One was to spy on the people, kataskopeo. The word skopeo is the word we get the word “scope” from. I have these little bitty binoculars I used when I would go hunting. And that is the idea, get in closer, get in closer. Magnify it even more.
They came in to spy out. Their intent was hostile as they purposed to observe the freedom that these believers had from the Mosaic Law and from a set of rules and regulations. So first of all it was to spy out the message.
By the way, from time to time we are going to have that right here in our church. You may be here this morning and I have a word for you. I just want you to know that we know who you are. You come in to find out what the believers are saying about grace so that you can go out and you can use what we say, twist it, as 2 Peter talks about, and then use it to contradict what we say. But we understand that you are here. That happens all the time. But they will be here.
But then secondly, the whole purpose was to make Christians slaves to the law. They wanted to bring believers back under bondage. And he says that. He says “in order to bring us into bondage.” They cannot take away our salvation, so they say. okay, since you cannot take away their salvation, let us get them while they are saved back up under law. Let us cripple them. Let us take away their joy. Let us put them back up under religious system so that they can lose all the joy of a relationship. Well, these were those folks and they came in to see whether or not Titus was going to be circumcised or not. And they really emphasized that he should be.
This is the contention that Paul went through. He just set up a private consultation, but here comes these uninvited people trying to make it look like they are trying to sway those three apostles to have him circumcised. Verse 5: “But we did not yield in subjection to them for even an hour, so that the truth of the gospel would remain with you.” Are you not glad the apostle Paul was who he was? I tell you, I love him. I just love studying his epistles. I love what God did in him. He would not budge. He would not budge because the truth of the gospel was at stake, and he understood the seriousness of this moment. Even though a private consultation, it was as important as the Jerusalem Council that happened later on.
Well, to impose circumcision upon Titus would have been to deny that salvation is by faith alone, by grace. It would be to completely deny that message. And it would have stated that faith in Jesus Christ is not enough. The fundamental truth of the gospel would have been at stake. It was at stake, and therefore Paul did not budge. You have people today to say you have to be baptized by water in order to be saved. You understand what I am saying. That is a physical act, and do you realize this is the proof text right here? If you add anything, an external act to the grace of Jesus Christ you have just detracted from His sufficiency and His deity and His ability to save us.
“But we did not yield,” verse 5, “in subjection to them for even an hour; so that the truth of the gospel would remain with you.” The apostles, Peter, James and John, affirmed Paul’s message. It says in verse 6,”But from those who were of high reputation.” And I love how Paul does this: “(What they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality).” I just love that. He is not enamored by who somebody is. “Well, those who were of reputation contributed nothing to me,” Which means they did not add one single thing to my message of grace that I was preaching to the Gentile world.
Verse 7: “But on the contrary, seeing that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been to the circumcised.” This gets exciting. The word “seeing” is horao. It means to come into a clear perception of something. It is used when something finally clears up and you see it without a shadow of a doubt. How many of you are teachers of some kind? Now, you know; you are just like I am. You cannot wait for that look on somebody’s face when it finally comes clear. I mean, one of those looks is good for the whole year. You will go back and teach the next year, and if you can just get one of them to see it. You are teaching for that, “I got it! I got it! Aha, I have it! It is clear! It has come clear to me! I see it!” That is exactly what he is talking about right here.
These apostles were not sure exactly what they were getting into in this private consultation with Paul and Barnabas and Titus. But now it has come clear to them, just as clear as a bell. And what is it that came clear? “Seeing that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised.” They saw it. That is the beautiful thing.
I want you to keep understanding what I am saying. God sent him up there. It was not to affirm him; it was really to test them; but God threw in this as an extra blessing. He got affirmed because they saw it. They saw it. They saw that he knew the gospel. They did not tell him the gospel. They knew that. They knew the Judean churches did not tell him. And they said, “Look at this, God has raised this man up to be an apostle to the Gentile world.” And they affirmed him. They affirmed him.
Boy, God spoke to me last night as I was preaching. I did not have anything in my mind of saying it, but you know what, many years back when I was younger in the ministry, I kept wanting people to affirm me. You know, some Baptist churches in the south they will have days when the congregation will come for a vote of affirmation to affirm the pastor. But, you know, as I have gotten older, it is dawning on me over and over again in Scripture you do not have to worry about ever somebody affirming you, God will affirm you. And when God affirms you, you are affirmed. And therefore, if you are living what you say and you are seeking to do what He told you to do, God will be your affirmation.
And that is exactly what happened to the apostle Paul. He did not have to be affirmed. He knew he was already affirmed in God’s eyes. But God affirmed him through the apostles. “But, on the contrary, seeing that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been to the circumcised.” They realized hey, we understand Simon Peter. We understand the commission God gave to him. But look at this, God has done the same thing with this man by the name of Paul. He has given him the ministry to the Gentiles. He knows the gospel and nobody taught it to him. It is exactly what we preach. That was a God thing.
In verse 8 it says, “(For He who effectually worked for Peter in his apostleship to the circumcised effectually worked for me also to the Gentiles.)” Totally a God thing. The word for “had worked effectively, the word “worked” is energema. Energema means to cause something to happen, and it points to the result. God caused it to happen that Peter would be assigned the ministry to the circumcised and He caused it to happen and they saw it. They saw it, that Paul was commissioned to the Gentile world.
Well, Galatians 2:9-11 says, “And recognizing the grace that had been given to me, James and Cephas and John, who were reputed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, so that we might go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised.” And then it says, “They only asked us to remember the poor—the very thing I was also eager to do.” So Paul’s consultation with these three, probably on his Jerusalem famine visit, paid off big time. In fact, it set the stage for what was going to happen in the Gentile world of which we are the benefit even today in America being believers. It turned out awesome for the cause of the gospel. Jesus is enough.
We have seen Paul’s humiliation, his vindication and his consultation. Now we come to that point that a lot have been waiting for, his confrontation. He is about to stand in the face of Simon Peter, Paul is. What is going on? I mean, it looked pretty congenial in verses 1-10. What in the world is going to happen now? Well, let me introduce it first of all. What happens next may really catch you by surprise. It is so interesting to me how some people have the power, the demeanor about them that makes us want to feel like we have got to do something.
Do you know anybody like that? Maybe it is in your family. See, grace works. This is not a passive message. Jesus was obedient to His Father unto death. And so therefore, He is going to be obedient in us. He is going to perfect that obedience in us, that willingness to do. We will become doers of the word. We will not go out and do it; we will become doers of the word if we are living under grace. The works will take care of themselves. But have you ever been walking in that freedom, just enjoying Jesus and, I mean, being responsible to the things that God has put in front of you? And somebody comes around, maybe it is in your family, maybe it is in your family. Do you have a mother or a father who was never pleased with you? You never can quite attain. But when you are around them, suddenly you lose all the joy of walking with Christ, suddenly you feel like you have got to go do something to prove yourself so that you can win from them something that you should have already had.
Does that ring a bell to anybody? When they come around you are more under a works mentality; when they leave you walk under grace. You see, it could be anywhere. It could be in a job. It could be somebody you work. Now I am not talking about responsibility in jobs and gifts and those callings. I am not talking about that. I am talking about the personality of somebody that is never pleased with anything you do. That is what I am talking about. And this makes you feel like you are an idiot, and you come home at night thinking, well, God, I am certain I can something more than this. But when they come around, when they come around it puts you up under that old guilt that you have got to go out and do something in order to attain something.
Well, of all people who should be exempt from this kind of thing, it would be Peter, Simon Peter. I mean, isn’t he the one who stood there and said, do whatever you have to do; we cannot shut up. We have got to talk about what we have seen and heard. Is he not the one who did that? Isn’t he the great guy that, after the Pentecost and the Spirit came to live within them, isn’t he the bold one? You know, something about Simon Peter I have related to from time to time, that is the only time he ever opened his mouth was to change feet. You are going to see a fickle individual here. He is very fickle. Of all people you would think Simon Peter would be the one never to cower to people like that. He did not in verses 1-10. He stood his ground.
You mean Simon Peter is guilty of this? That’s right. The very one you would think would not be is the very culprit. Verse 11: “But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned.” Boy, these are tough words here. You see, over in verses 1-10 they had been over in Jerusalem, remember. That is his hometown. Hey, Pete, how are you doing? Good, good to see you. Now he is over in Antioch. Antioch is Gentile territory; a little different. “But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face.” Now, why would Paul do that? He said, “because he stood condemned.” Now the word “opposed” is the word anthistemi. It means to stand. Anthi means against, and then istemi means to stand, to get right in his face. I mean, he got him right in the face, just stared at him right in the face. And the word “condemned” doesn’t mean he lost his salvation. It means he was guilty. He was guilty of something. And so Paul had to rebuke him.
Now what happened? You ever notice that Paul was very gentle when somebody did not understand grace, when a weaker brother came along? He was very gentle. In fact, the whole 14th chapter of Romans and goes into the 15th chapter and then chapters 8-10 of 1 Corinthians deals with the weaker brother. Paul is so gentle with them. He says, “Do not ever use your freedom under grace as a license to walk over your weaker brother.” And so he is very, he is very sensitive to the weaker brother. Later on in his ministry Paul had Timothy circumcised because of the effect it was going to have on those weaker brothers. He says in Acts 16:3, “Paul wanted this man to go with him; and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those parts, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.”
You say that is so inconsistent. He would not circumcise Titus and he turns right around and circumcised Timothy. No, no, no, no; it is not the same thing. Timothy’s mother was Jewish and his daddy was Greek. And he knew he was going into Jewish areas and a lot of these were believers and they would not have understood had he not been circumcised, so therefore that never became an issue that would come up in the conversation, debates that would be brought up. That is just divine discernment. Paul understood that. He was very tender to the weak. You have to understand that. However, to the strong, to those who understood grace he was a bear. Buddy, he would get right in your face. If you were a weaker brother he had all the time in the world. If you were a stronger brother he would get right in your face.
Verse 12: “For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision.” Now watch; Simon Peter who was comfortable around the Gentiles when he was by himself—now this is just a beautiful picture in my mind—he cowers now to the pressure of the Judaizers. But I love to see his comfort around the Gentiles before they came. He says, “For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles.”
Now, what comes up in my mind, because you understand my mind is a little quirky, but I get into a mental picture of what is going on here. And here he is coming over into Antioch. He sees his buddies. Peter was the one who had the vision of the foods that came down and he saw that anything is clean now. There is nothing unclean anymore. We are free from that law. And he would walk over to Ralph, would walk up and say, “Hey, Pete, come on over for dinner tonight.” He says, “What are you going to do?” “We are going to barbeque.” “Barbeque, son, I cannot wait to be there!” “What are you going to have?” And they said, “Pork.” Oh, you missed that. Good grief! Pork! And Simon Peter, who could not eat pork all those years because it was unclean, probably said back, “Make mine medium well, throw in some French fries or a big orange potato, and give me some salad with honey mustard dressing.” Wouldn’t that make you hungry? That is what he would probably say.
Well, he did that until they came. Oh, my! Who are the “they” in your life? Oh, do not get on Simon Peter. We are the same way aren’t we? All of a sudden you feel like you have got to do something in order to be pleasing to somebody else when they came. “He began to withdraw and hold himself aloof.” The word “withdraw,” hupostello, hupo is under, and stello means to place yourself. If this was a big table he would get down behind the table. And everybody would say where is Peter? I do not know. I do not find him anywhere. He is over there hiding. That is what he would do.
Peter would do that? Why would he do that? He did not want to be seen eating with the Gentiles. And then the word “hold himself aloof” is the word aphorizo. Aphorizo means he drew a line and said I am not fellowshipping with you. Ralph would walk up and say, “Pete are you coming over tonight. You were there last night.” “What? I do not even know who you are. Now you leave me alone and get away from me.” Why? Because they were there. That is amazing. How many times we can walk one day under grace, and, because they come around, we get right back into our works mentality.
To hold himself aloof. “Fearing the party of the circumcision.” You know why he feared them probably? It does not say. They are from Jerusalem. And remember, right after this, I believe, is when the Jerusalem council met, and they sent out a decree and said, “Look out, look out. There are people coming to church to church and they are saying, we are sending them. We are not sending them. You better watch them.” And sure enough, he “feared the party of the circumcision.” Why? Because they came from hometown, folks. They can hurt him when he goes back. They can hurt his reputation. They can do to him what they were doing to Paul, so Peter cowered down, chicken, cowered down, backed away. Peter gave into them. Do not point your finger at him. Any of us are susceptible, any of us are susceptible. If it can happen to Simon Peter it can happen to me in a minute. It has happened to me.
Well, what happened next? This is as far as I can go. I am out of time. But next week we are going to really get in the heat of the confrontation. And I will tell you, what Paul says gives us the foundation of the message of grace and what it is all about. And it will show you the difference in religion and in a relationship.
But what I want to leave you with today, who are the “they” in your life? Some of us are like yoyos. I call us mugwamps. You know what a mugwamp is? It is a bird that sets on a fence with his mug on one side and his wump on the other and just cannot make its mind which side it is going to get on. On Sunday mornings Oh, grace, grace, God’s grace. On Monday, we will work till Jesus comes, we will work. Will you make up your mind which side of the fence are you on?
You see, when they come around look out, they will put back up under a mentality that says you have got to do something in order to accomplish what only Christ can give to you. And that is what works we are talking about. We are not talking about the doing of Christianity. That is going to take care of itself. We are talking about works with a motivation of attaining righteousness. And some people will put you right back up under that mindset.
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Dr. Wayne Barber
Wayne has taught the message of “Living Grace” around the world. He is president, founder, and principal speaker of Living Grace Ministries and Senior Pastor of Woodland Park Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He learned to exegete Scripture by studying for 10 years with Spiros Zodhiates, one of the leading Greek scholars.