Friday 22 March 2019

Bible Book:

When James and Cephas and John recognised the grace that had been given to me, they gave to Barnabas and me the right hand of fellowship. (v. 9)

Galatians 2:1-14 Friday 22 March 2019

Psalm: Psalm 102:12-28


Here Paul recounts two incidents much later in his ministry, in Jerusalem and Antioch. In Jerusalem:
a) Peter, James and John affirmed Paul’s standing as an apostle commissioned by Jesus Christ, authentically proclaiming to Gentiles the unconditional mercy and love of God for everyone, Jew and Gentile alike, that was revealed in Jesus Christ.
b) James, John and Paul affirmed Peter’s same standing, authentically proclaiming to Jews the same vision of God’s grace.
c) Thus, all four leaders declared that God had commissioned two complementary channels for a single mission, led by Peter and Paul to Jews and Gentiles respectively. Peter and Paul preached the same Jesus and the same God; and both “remembered the poor” (v. 10).

In Antioch, however, an irreconcilable conflict emerged about the social implications of the one Gospel of God.

Paul was uncompromising in his conviction that the Church must welcome Jews and Gentiles together, into a single fellowship, without conditions. (The circumcision of Jewish members was irrelevant to Church life.)

James was uncompromising in his conviction that the mark of circumcision, and all that went with it (including the social separation of Jews and Gentiles), was a divine commandment with abiding authority. Therefore, in each place where there were Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians, there must be two separate communities. They may share the same Gospel, but they must develop in separation from each other, so that the discipline of Jews refusing table fellowship with Gentiles was maintained. Only if a Gentile Christian was circumcised could they join the Jewish-Christian community.

Peter and Barnabas were waverers, to Paul’s annoyance. Peter instinctively shared fully in the life of a Pauline congregation in Antioch; until, that is, hard-line emissaries from James arrived. They insisted Peter must withdraw from socialising with Gentiles. Peter was fearful of James’s increasing power in the Jerusalem church, and its threat to his own position if he did not comply. Peter surrendered to James’s demand. Only for Paul to add to Peter’s discomfort by confronting him publicly with the charge of hypocrisy (v. 14).


To Ponder:

  • In the modern Church some themes are non-negotiable, anti-racism, for example, while others allow freedom of conscience, eg pacifism and just war. What are your ‘absolutes’ as a Christian, and why? And how do you relate to Christians who differ from you?
  • Paul’s view of the Church eventually won the day against James’. So why do we persist with ‘separate development’ along denominational lines?
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