Summary: The Jerusalem Council had convened & doctrinal clarity had been established, but that did not mean the issue of how a person is saved was over. Is salvation only through Christ or by Christ & the law? Knowing the right answer & acting on or practicing
THE MINISTRY OF CONFRONTATION
The Jerusalem Council had convened and doctrinal clarity had been established, but that did not mean the issue of how a person is saved was over. Is salvation only through Christ or by Christ and the law? Knowing the right answer and acting on or practicing the right thing in daily life does not always follow. Old man habits that are carried on into the Christian life don’t die on their own they must be put to death by the power of the Cross.
We can be tempted to compromise the truth when forceful people trumpet another cause. Compromise is an important element in getting along with others, but we should never compromise the truth of God’s Word. If we feel we need to change our Christianity to get along with our companions we may be following a dangerous lie. Paul made a stand for the truth opposing powerful people within the fledgling Church (CIT).
I. HELD ACCOUNTABLE, 11-13.
II. ESSENTIAL UNITY, 14.
III. JUSTIFICATION THROUGH JESUS ALONE, 15 -16.
Verse 11 tells us that we must stand up for living out the gospel truth against anyone, even leaders in the church. But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned.
There was no ancient city out side of Jerusalem as influential in the early Christian community as Antioch. It was in Antioch Syria that believers were first called Christians (Acts 11:26). It was the third largest city (over 500,000) of the Roman Empire after Rome and Alexandria. [See Word Biblical Com. Longenecker, pp 65-70 for detailed history.] The church in Antioch became the mission headquarters for Gentile Christians and Paul and Barnabas’ base for operation. It is likely Paul or Barnabas invited Peter to Antioch at the Jerusalem Council to join the Christian communities more closely together.
There is much about the situation that is unknown. We do not know why Peter visited Antioch or what he was doing there [did he visit occasionally, was it a stop over to somewhere else] but while there he committed an error so serious Paul felt obligated to oppose or resist him to his face which means directly and openly. Paul thought Peter’s action entirely inexcusable which is under stood by the clause, because he stood self-condemned. Paul recognized the issue, what was at stake and had the courage to speak up for the right application of biblical truth.
It is no light thing to rebuke a church leader so in verse 12 Paul begins explaining his action. 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.
When Peter came to Antioch he found Jewish and Gentile Christians regularly eating together in a meal (love feast) much like our pot-luck suppers, and he joined them. [The imperfect tense suggests Peter ate with Gentile believers repeatedly or habitually.] Now the mosaic law did not forbid eating with Gentiles. However Leviticus 11 sets forth dietary laws for Jews that might be including forbidden food present or the table at joint meals. He let go of the old taboos in the fellowship of the new faith and he shared in the common meal. Despite being an orthodox Jew Peter had learned at the home of Cornelius that what God makes clean is cleaned indeed. Had not Christ by His death on the cross fulfilled and therefore abolished the Old Testament dietary restrictions. The shadows had lost their reason for existing when their reality come into being. (Not to mention all the man-made regulations tacked on to these- see Hendriksen, NT Com. pp. 90-92).
Peter’s freedom in Christ was threatened by his fear of men-or by his need for their approval (Proverbs 29:25). When the upholders of the dietary & traditional law, [or maybe they were promoters of Jewish nationalism- Longenecker, pp 74] arrived from Jerusalem he compromised what he knew was right to gain the approval of the circumcised.
We need to BE ACCOUNTABLE to God by being accountable to godly Christians. The spiritual-sounding phrase “I am answerable only to God” may be a subtle excuse for not answering to anyone, including God!
Charles Colson, one of President Nixon’s closest aides during the Watergate coverup, became a Christian. In an article titled “The Problem of Power,” he wrote, “Christians need to hold one another accountable. Although I know intellectually how vulnerable I am to pride and power, I am the last one to know when I succumb to their seduction. That’s why spiritual lone rangers are so dangerous- and why we must depend on trusted brothers and sisters who love us enough to tell us the truth.”