Sabbath School Lesson 2017 Quarter 3 Lesson 3 Thursday
The lesson asks what reasons did Paul give for confronting Peter publicly, and references Galatians 2:11-14:
11 When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. 12 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 Peter 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?
What was the issue?
That division would be introduced, based on a false artificial, imposed law, ritualistic criteria, rather than based on the actual condition of heart and mind.
Now, one thing we need to do is to look back at Acts, to the record of this meeting. They did Now, one thing we need to do is to look back at Acts, to the record of this meeting. They did mention a few more things, didn’t they, like abstaining from immorality, and from food offered to idols; though Paul didn’t follow that precisely, did he? “But then later, when Cephas came to Antioch I opposed him to his face.” Why is he mentioning that here?
Is he still underscoring the fact that he did not bow to anyone’s authority with respect to gospel? But that he felt so certain about the gospel that even when someone like Peter acted in a manner that was not consistent with the gospel, he would correct him, to his face and in public. I think he’s still on the same subject, because not until Galatians 3:1 does he really pick up his original question again.
“When Cephas came to Antioch I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he ate with the Gentiles; but when they came [from headquarters] he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party.”
Which seems to suggest that the folk at headquarters tended to lean that way. “And with him the rest of the Jews acted insincerely, so that even Barnabas was carried away by their insincerity.”
You see, after the vision of the sheets on the roof, Peter had learned something about the proper treatment of his fellow human beings, and he went and treated Cornelius as one should; and he began to enjoy the new freedom. He could eat with Gentiles without feeling guilty and contaminated. But when brethren came down from headquarters, he was scared, and he withdrew.
Paul suggested that Peter lacked the conviction about the gospel that he had himself. “But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel,” see, he mentions that. Circumcision, then, seems to be involved in the perversion of the gospel, doesn’t it? And what circumcision implies. “I said to Cephas before them all, ‘If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?’”And he goes on with that argument. But not to get too involved in that.
Did he do the right thing, correcting Peter to his face and in public? When an apostle does something isn’t it always right? When Bible writers do something, isn’t it always right? The one who wrote the Psalms, didn’t he always do the right thing?
So we can’t always be sure, can we, just because it’s recorded, that it’s right. Unless a voice comes from heaven and says, “Paul, Peter really deserved it. Well done.” This is what Paul did. And he felt Peter really deserved it. And I hope there were tears in his voice. But what is so wonderful is that Peter, later on, didn’t hold it against Paul.
You would think he might, but as I mentioned, when you come to Peter’s second letter he refers to ‘our dear brother Paul’, and so on. Now, does that sound like Peter in the beginning? When we get to the letters of Peter, the evidence that Peter was really changed is something to read! It evidently took a little time. But we cannot always assume, can we, that when a leader in the Bible, someone who is being specially used by God, does something, that it is necessarily done in the best possible way. Or what do you think? Is that hazardous to say?
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