From Jerusalem to Antioch
We have seen that the Lord Jesus Christ communicated the gospel directly to Paul. Was it the same gospel that the other apostles had received from the lips of the Lord? We will see the oneness of the gospel and Paul's experience with the apostles in Jerusalem. We will see the communication of the gospel and see that the church in Jerusalem approved Paul's gospel.
In Jerusalem with disciples:
Then fourteen years after I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with me also [Gal. 2:1].
It was a master stroke of Paul to take Titus with him. Titus was a young preacher and a Gentile. This, I believe, was the first great council in Jerusalem as recorded in Acts 15. The question to be settled was whether men are saved by the grace of God, or whether they should come in under the Mosaic Law. Paul had Titus there as exhibit number one. Titus had not been circumcised. Will he be forced to become circumcised? This was to become a very important matter.
You see, the Judaizers were going about saying that the church in Jerusalem held that all believers in Christ should be under the Mosaic Law. All of the men there at the Jerusalem church, which was an all-Jewish church, had certainly been under it. Many of them still went to the temple to worship. In fact, that must have been the Christian's meeting place. Paul and Barnabas came there to get the official word regarding law and grace.
And I went up by revelation, and communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to them which were of reputation, lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain [Gal. 2:2].
Paul recognized that if he were preaching a different gospel from what the other apostles were preaching, there was something radically wrong. Paul was willing to admit, "If I were preaching a different gospel, I would be wrong. I have run in vain. I have certainly been disillusioned and misinformed." So he goes to Jerusalem and communicates that gospel to the apostles there.
Interesting indeed is the fact that Paul submitted to the true church as his authority, and didn't just take his own visions and experiences as the final word. No doubt his encounters with the Lord were everything to him, but he also recognized that if it were truly of the Lord then surely the local church would be on the same page.
God also chose to use the local church as the gauge of what was scripture and what was not. Many other books were written, but the canon would only consist of what the church accepted thru the Lord's leading. The church is Christ's body, still on earth! Sure, there are many false churches that are way off, but that doesn't minimize the power in the true local church!
But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised: And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage [Gal. 2:3-4].
Out where Paul was preaching some had come into the church under false colors. Apparently they were not believers. They just came in to spy out the liberty which believers had in Christ. They found out that this young preacher, Titus, was a Greek and Paul had not compelled him to be circumcised. So what will the church at Jerusalem decide about him? Paul says, "Well, they didn't compel him to be circumcised. They didn't listen to the false brethren. If they had, we would be put right back under the bondage of the Mosaic Law rather than enjoying the freedom by the Spirit of God and the freedom of Christ."
To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you [Gal. 2:5].
Paul stood by his guns. These false brethren said, "This man Titus who is here meeting with the church (and it was practically all Jewish then) has not even been circumcised!" Paul says, "No, and he's not going to be circumcised. [I bet Titus appreciated that. Do it as a baby or don't do it at all!] He is as much a believer as any of you. He has been saved by faith apart from the Law. He is not about to follow any part of the Law for salvation." This is a tremendous stand that Paul is taking.
But of these who seemed to be somewhat, (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man's person:) for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me [Gal. 2:6].
Paul says, "We sat down with the apostles and communicated the gospel." They said, "Now, Brother Paul, we've been hearing these reports. Tell us what you preach." And Paul told them. Paul finds out that these apostles didn't have anything to add to what he was preaching. He was preaching the grace of God; they were preaching the grace of God. They find they are in full agreement. They all are preaching the same gospel. This is tremendous!
But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter [Gal. 2:7].
Let's understand that there were not two gospels in the sense of Peter's gospel and Paul's gospel. These men were in complete agreement. The gospel of the circumcision and the gospel of the uncircumcision refer to the groups the gospel was going to. The Gentiles were the group that Paul was speaking to. He was called to go to the Gentiles, the uncircumcised. Peter was called to go to his own Jewish brethren who were the circumcised.
(For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:) [Gal. 2:8].
The proof of the pudding, of course, is always in the eating. What results were they getting? When Peter preached the gospel, quite a few people were saved. When Paul preached the gospel, quite a few people were saved. They were both preaching the same gospel.
Now bringing this principle down to where we live, the real test of any Christian work is not promotion. The real test is the result it gets. God's people should be very sure that they are supporting a ministry that gets results. If it is not producing results, why in the world do you support it?
And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen [non Jews], and they unto the circumcision [Gal. 2:9].
The apostles accepted Paul's apostleship. "The right hands of fellowship" -- fellowship is the Greek koinonia, one of the great words of the gospel and the highest expression of a personal relationship. It means sharing the things of Christ.
Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do [Gal. 2:10].
Paul came back later with an offering for the poor saints in Jerusalem because that church had been persecuted and was in a sad condition. Because Paul himself before his conversion had led the persecution, he wanted to bring the gift for the Jerusalem church with his own hands.
This was social service. A thing that we in our circles are sometimes guilty of is a lack of real service in this area. James, in his very practical epistle, says, "If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone" (James 2:15-17). And the apostles there in Jerusalem said, "Now, Brother Paul, don't forget to help the poor folk." And Paul said, "That was the very thing I was eager to do."
In Antioch with Peter:
In this personal section of Paul's life we have seen his experience in Arabia with the Lord Jesus Christ, and his experience with the apostles in Jerusalem. Now we see Paul's experience in Antioch with Simon Peter -- I love this section.
The church in Antioch was largely a Gentile church, although it was a mixture of Jew and Gentile. We will not understand what happened there unless we consider how the early church operated. They had a love feast which was held in connection with the Lord's Supper. Paul has a great deal to say about this subject in 1 Corinthians. The early believers came together for a meal, a love feast, before they celebrated the Lord's Supper. When Gentiles were saved, a problem was raised. In the congregation were Jews who had never eaten anything which had been sacrificed to idols. The Gentiles had been idolaters, and they were accustomed to eating meat that had first been offered to idols. They also ate pork and other animals designated as unclean in the law of Moses. It made no difference to them because they had been reared that way.
What was going to be done to keep from offending the Jewish Christians? Well, in Antioch two tables were established. One was the kosher table; the other was the Gentile table. Paul ate at the Gentile table. Although he was a Jew, he ate with the Gentiles because he taught that whether you eat meat or you don't eat meat makes no difference -- meat will not commend you to God.
When Simon Peter came up to visit Paul in Antioch, it was a new experience for him because, although converted, he had never eaten anything unclean. Remember what Peter told the Lord on the roof in Joppa before he went to the home of Cornelius. He had a vision of heaven opening and a sheet being lowered in which were all kinds of unclean animals. "And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat. But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean. And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common" (Acts 10:13-15).
Peter had been a believer for some time when he came to visit Paul in Antioch, but he had still followed the Jewish eating pattern. When Peter came to the church, he found there a Gentile table and a kosher table.
Now notice Peter's reaction:
But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision [Gal. 2:11-12].
Now this is probably what happened. When the time came to eat, Simon Peter went over to the kosher table, while Paul went over to the Gentile table. Peter noticed that there was pork roast on the Gentile table. After dinner Peter joined Paul and they went outside for a little walk. Peter said, "I noticed that you ate at the Gentile table." "Yes," Paul said. "And I noticed that you ate pork tonight. Is it good? I never have tasted it." "Yes," Paul said, "it's delicious." Then Peter asked, "Do you think it would be all right if I ate over there?" And Paul said, "Well, it is my understanding that we are going to have some nice pork chops in the morning for breakfast. Why don't you try it?" So in the morning when he came to breakfast, he went over to the Gentile table, sat down gingerly and rather reluctantly took a pork chop. After he had tasted it, he said to Paul, "It is delicious, isn't it?" Paul said, "Yes. After all, under grace you can either eat it or not eat it. It makes no difference. Meat won't commend you to God." So Simon Peter said, "I'll be here tonight and I understand you are having ham tonight. I want to try that." So at dinner time he starts rushing for the Gentile table when he looks over and sees some of the elders from the Jerusalem church who had come to visit also. So Simon Peter went all the way around that Gentile table, went over to the kosher table, and sat down like a little whipped puppy. Paul saw him do that, and this is what happened:
And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation. But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews? [Gal. 2:13-14].
It was all right for Peter to eat at either table, kosher or Gentile. But after he had been eating at the Gentile table and for fear of the brethren from Jerusalem he goes back to the kosher table, he is saying by his action that the Gentile table is wrong and the kosher table is right.
Now these brethren from Jerusalem were austere legalists. And under grace that was their privilege. I have no objection to folk today who feel that they should not eat certain meats. But they are also to give me the liberty of eating what I choose to eat. Simon Peter momentarily turned from the liberty he had in Christ back to Judaism again.
The nature of Paul's rebuke shows, first of all, the inconsistency of lawkeeping. If it was right for Simon Peter to live as the Gentile believers lived, why should he desire the Gentiles to live as the Jews? That is what he was saying when he left the Gentile table for the kosher table. If Gentile living under grace apart from the Law wasn't good enough for Peter, was it bad for the Gentiles themselves? If Simon Peter was free to live outside the Law, was it not lawful for the Gentiles to do the same?
The bottom line is that we are free in Christ! Free from the law, oh happy condition! We are out from under that bondage and burden. But if we really believe in grace, we need to walk in it, and not ride the fence or try to have it both ways. We should do what we do before God in good conscience, not trying to please just those who are in the room. Obviously we don't want to offend or cause some to stumble, but we don't want to offend the God who paid the high price to remove our chains!
The gospel is as good in Antioch as Jerusalem, Gentiles are as worthy as Jews, and for this we can all be thankful!
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