NUGGETS OF WISDOM

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BELIEVING WHAT YOU CAN’T SEE

David recollected that as a young lad, with long unruly hair and a ruddy complexion, sleeping out in an open pasture under a starry sky after watching his father’s sheep all day long; how he would take his little harp and sing to the God above all gods. Looking up, he saw the sky as a huge tent with the sparkling stars as lights that lit up the night. He may have even tried to count them once or twice. But what really impressed him was that each night every star was in exactly the same place, not one of them was missing. He was so overcome with awe that he penned a hymn to the creator of that starry universe.

O my LORD Eternal and heavenly Master, Your awe-inspiring works mark You as a genius, as You display Your grandeur all over the heavens for all the world to see. For through these small and tiny dots of light You communicate as a way of countering those who don’t take You seriously; yes, You do this to silence the doubter and unbeliever. When I look up into the sky and see the galaxies Your hands created, the stars and the moon You put into orbit I ask, “What role do humans play in this vast universe; why do You care and fuss over them?” Then I realized, You created them a little short of being angels; endowing them with attributes of honor and dignity; making them the smartest and most influential creatures on earth; putting them in charge to being stewards of Your handiwork, even taking care of the animals, both domestic and wild, including the birds that fill the sky and the fish that fill the sea. O LORD Eternal and heavenly Master, Your awe-inspiring works mark You as a genius for all the world to see.” Psalm 8:1-9

Reflection: Back in the days of the hippy movement I sat in a coffee house in Stuttgart, Germany talking with a long-haired flower-child about God. The young man was respectful but adamant about his doubts concerning God’s existence because he couldn’t see Him or talk to Him. At that moment the Holy Spirit gave me an inspiration, so I pointed to a picture hanging on the wall beside our table and asked the young man if he believed that picture came into being due to an accidental collision of paint and paper. He laughed and said, “That’s ridiculous; that picture was painted by an artist.” I responded that I wasn’t convinced because I couldn’t see the artist in the picture; how did I know that maybe one day it just appeared on the wall by accident. The young fellow looked at me for a moment and then admitted that even though I couldn’t see the artist in the painting, I had to accept the fact that an artist painted the picture because it just makes sense. I told him that in the same way, one must exercise faith to believe an unseen talented artist created such a beautiful portrait, we can also believe an unseen God created the beauty of the universe. The magnificence of God’s creation shows His responsibility for man’s existence, and man’s responsibility to acknowledge God’s handiwork. The young man smiled somewhat embarrassingly as he bowed his head and said, “Okay, you got me on that one.” I asked him if we could have prayer for him to have faith, but he wasn’t sure. As he went away I asked the Holy Spirit to go with him and open his eyes to the truth.

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CALLED TO LIVE IN FREEDOM

9526a07d9f8686ec5667a96cad064ff6

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIAN CONGREGATIONS OF BELIEVERS

CHAPTER TWO (Lesson XXX)

In one of Plato’s dialogues, Protagoras and Socrates were debating the attributes of man and how man uses them to keep from getting worn out making decisions. Socrates asks Protagoras to be honest and tell him whether virtue is a trait made up of honesty, discipline, and transparency; or whether they were only synonyms for virtue. After discussing it for a long time, they agreed that much like our eyes, nose, ears, mouth all make up what we call our “face,” so honesty, discipline, and transparency are what composes what we call “virtue.”

This was typical thinking in Paul’s day, and he saw a similarity in the way Peter lost control over his sense of virtue by being inconsistent and hypocritical with Jewish and Gentile believers. So, Paul confronts him and asks how he expected to be accepted as a spiritual leader and model of Christian ethics in a congregation, which consists of both Jews and Gentiles if he discriminates against the Gentiles by making them conform to Jewish traditions in order to be accepted?  Paul is telling Peter, either you follow the Gospel you preach, or you are a hypocrite; how dare you say you worship the Anointed One when you do not copy His virtues and grow in His likeness?

I imagine when Paul walked over from where he and the Gentile Christians were eating and confronted Peter face-to-face, he didn’t do it in lecture style with everyone looking on, but looked straight into Peter’s eyes and spoke in measured tones, knowing that only those close-by would be able to hear what he was saying. According to Biblical scholars, Peter was about nine years older than Paul. It is also known that Peter was not as educated or intellectually sharp as Paul. At the time of this encounter, Peter might have been around fifty-two years of age. During his era that already made him an elder. So, what did it look like when a younger man, considered a rebel by many outside Jerusalem, got into the face of an older man who was a personal friend of Jesus, and scolded him? Whatever it may look like to others, it didn’t slow Paul down.

What wrongful act was it that Paul wanted Peter to give an explanation for why he did what he did? The translation we read may be somewhat unclear, but basically, Paul wanted to know why Peter, who seemed to be completely free from any bias or racial discrimination against Gentiles, now acts as though they are unsuitable to eat with because they never underwent the religious rite of circumcision. In the eyes of a pious Jew, this made them unqualified to sit with at the same table.

Jewish Christian writer Avi ben Mordechai gives an interesting interpretation of what Paul is saying here that concerns Jews and Gentiles. In fact, his translation reads as follow: “If you who are Judeans, you Arameans, live as Arameans and not as Judeans, why do you urge the Gentiles who joined themselves to Judah to live as Judeans?” He basis this on the fact the word “Jews” is a derivative of “Judeans.” Then his use of “Arameans” was meant to remind Peter and his cohorts that Jacob’s offspring are of Aramean origin because Jacob married Leah and Rachael, daughters of the Aramean Laban. He did this to point out that Judeans should then not be contemptuous of other Arameans since they both claimed the same forefathers.[1] In fact, Moses referred to Jacob as a “wandering Aramean.”[2] This was violating the truth of the Gospel as reported to them by Isaiah.[3] [4] So it seems somewhat ironic that the proud Jews who referred to Elohim as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, all of whom were not Judeans but Chaldeans and Arameans! Today, this would be like the children of immigrants refusing to work or eat with someone because they were an immigrant.

It is not in the text here, but a study of Jewish Law shows that only certain foods could be consumed and that certain acts of hand washing and using certain utensils were required. But even more important, they were not to touch anything considered unclean as this would make the person themselves unclean and then they would need to undergo certain cleansing rituals to be considered clean again.  And guess what, Gentiles were considered unclean!

So, Paul concludes, after seeing Peter’s actions, if the Gentiles want to eat with him, they must first be circumcised, go through the washing rituals, and eat only kosher foods. But what about the fact that they were just as saved and redeemed as Peter? Were they not fellow citizens of God’s kingdom and fellow members of God’s congregation? Peter may feel comfortable in following those rituals and laws when in the company of fellow Jews, but not when fellowshipping with the body of the Anointed One.

I hear Paul saying, “So Peter, does this mean that you and your cohorts are the ‘real’ Christians here, and I and my Gentile brethren are not? You mean to tell me that even though you were born and raised a Jew but threw off Jewish customs as meaningless under the Anointed One, you now turn around and forcefully impose those very same Jewish customs on these Gentile believers?” I imagine Peter’s hair standing up on the back of his neck as his red face now turns pale making his black beard look even darker.

When I served in the military back in the late 1950s, one of my best friends was an African-American from New York. We were sent for training from our base in Milwaukee, Wisconsin to a base in Fort Bliss, Texas. Along the way, the bus stopped for lunch in Oklahoma City. The small diner in the bus station wasn’t equipped to let all passengers eat at the same time, and since we were last off the bus and given only thirty minutes to eat, I suggested we walk up the street to get something to eat. We entered a nice-looking cafe, sat down in a booth and picked up the menu. The waitress kept walking by, and since we were in a hurry, I finally called her over. She looked scared to death when we began to order. Finally, she said in a quivering voice to me, “I’m sorry, but I cannot serve him out here,” pointing to my black friend; “he has to eat in the back.” I was livid! I told her we were both soldiers in the same army and if sent to war would fight together for her freedom. As she backed away with teary eyes, she apologized and said it wasn’t her idea, but the manager.

My friend told me that he understood and he’d go to the back. But I told him either we both ate together out front or both ate together in the back. So, we both got up and walked back to the kitchen area. Never in my life did I feel so embarrassed to be a member of the white race. After we finished and went up to pay, I let the cashier know how disgusted I felt when white people act this way. I totally disapprove of someone being best friends with a black man on a military base but not out in public. Today, we are still best friends.

2:15-16 Both you and I know we were born into believing Jewish families, not unbelieving Gentile families; we also know that a person is made right with God by faith in Jesus the Anointed One, not by obeying the religious rituals and regulations given by Moses. That’s why we both put our faith in Jesus the Messiah to make us right with God, not by obeying these religious rituals and regulations given by Moses. For no one will ever be made right with God by obeying such religious requirements.

Paul’s argument in favor of the Gentile converts being accepted as co-equals in the Body of the Anointed One by the Jewish converts is the heart of his defense for them. Who dares diminish the status of anyone “known to God” in light of their faith in the Anointed One[5] Why make them feel out of place just because they didn’t embrace all the Jewish rites, rituals, and ceremonies practiced by the converted Jews? Those were done to enhance the Jews identity as being right before God. But why should the Gentiles believers be forced to do the same when they already believed they were right before God by faith?[6] From the beginning of this letter, Paul calls on the Galatians to stop implementing these unnecessary rituals just to legitimize themselves before the Jews that they were genuine Christians.[7] In doing so, they would be putting up barriers on the course set by the Gospel of the Anointed One that they already successfully began to run.[8] [9]

So now Paul uses Peter to give a little history lesson. Although Paul does not say it here, he did treat the same subject in his letter to the Romans. That’s where he reminded them that the Jews glorified God while they lived among the Gentiles,[10] and then quoted David who said, “So I give thanks to you, Adonai, among the nations [Gentiles]; I sing praises to your name.”[11] That’s why even the Gentiles respected their faith and rejoiced with the Jews,[12] and then Paul quoted from the Song of Moses where Moses called on the Gentiles to rejoice with the Jews because God will punish those who fight against him.[13] Furthermore, Paul called on all the Gentiles to join the Jews in giving honor and thanks to the Lord,[14] just as they were invited to do in the Psalm of Praise.[15] And finally, Paul pointed out that one day the Anointed One will reign over both Jews and Gentiles,[16] and then quoted Isaiah who stated: “In that day the nations will turn to the One from the family of Jesse. He will be honored by the people as someone special to see. And His place of rest will be full of His shining-greatness.”[17]

So that led Paul to draw an obvious conclusion. Since he, Peter, and all the others came to realize that no one is justified before God as being right with Him based on their good works in obedience to the Law but only by faith in Jesus the Anointed One, and just as the Gentiles who possessed no Law to follow and did not involve themselves in any good works in order to find favor with God, were also justified as being right with God by their faith in Jesus the Anointed One as their Savior, how could Peter now be so foolish as to think that by following the Law when it came to Kosher foods was going to please God and cause the Gentiles to doubt their faith in the Anointed One because they ate whatever was placed before them?

After all, even Job, a believer before there was any Law asked how could any person be right and good before God on their own. If they were asked questions by God in order to justify their position as being right with Him, Job said they would not be able to answer even one out of a thousand arguing their case before Him. In fact, Job was convinced that nothing he suffered so far would be good enough to earn him forgiveness.[18] In other words, nothing mankind does will ever be accepted by God as a substitute for faith in His Son Jesus as the one and only true sacrifice for sin.

[1] Exodus 22:21

[2] Deuteronomy 26:5 – NIV

[3] Isaiah 11:12-13

[4] Avi ben Mordechai: On Galatians, op. cit., p. 21

[5] Galatians 4:8-9

[6] Ibid. 3:1-4:9, 21; 5:1-12; 6:12-13

[7] Ibid. 1:6-9; 3:1-5; 5:7-12

[8] Ibid. 5:7

[9] Mark A. Nanos: On Galatians, op. cit., p. 80

[10] Romans 15:9

[11] Psalm 18:49

[12] Romans 15:10

[13] Deuteronomy 32:43

[14] Romans 15:11

[15] Psalm 117:1

[16] Romans 15:12

[17] Isaiah 11:10

[18] Job 9:1-3, 29

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CALLED TO LIVE IN FREEDOM

9526a07d9f8686ec5667a96cad064ff6

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIAN CONGREGATIONS OF BELIEVERS

CHAPTER TWO (Lesson XXIX)

Anglican theologian and Bishop of Durham, England, J. B. Lightfoot takes Paul’s admonition that Peter was not walking upright as a reference to a “line of direction,” not the intended goal. Lightfoot also questions whether or not what Paul says here about his confrontation are verbatim or did he just summarize it for the sake of keeping it short? Lightfoot also notes that the Greek adjective hamartōlos (KJV “sinners”) that Paul uses next in verse fifteen and later in verse seventeen as part of this narrative, marks the language of one Jew speaking to another. Lightfoot also noticed that by the end of this chapter Paul’s thoughts and language drifted away from Peter and the confrontation in Antioch to the Judaizers in Galatia. No doubt, that’s because it was on Paul’s mind as he responded to what he saw Peter doing.[1]

Paul’s stand here for the truth is reminiscent of Luther’s stand not to recant at the risk of losing his life. This is also seen in the life of John Hooper (1495-1555), Anglican Bishop of Gloucester, a Protestant reformer who was sentenced to be burned at the stake by Queen Mary the First, because of his stand against the Roman Catholic Church. So, a gentleman from his parish was sent to try and talk him into recanting and save his life. He told Hooper, “Life is sweet, and death is bitter.” But Hooper replied, “The death to come is more bitter, and the life to come is sweeter. I am come to the end of this life and am willing to die because I will not deny the truth, I previously taught you.” When he was brought to the stake to be burned, a box with a pardon from Queen Mary in it was set before him. But the determined martyr cried out, “If you love my soul, throw the pardon away! Do you hear me, if you love my soul throw the pardon away![2]

Joseph Beet, one of England’s top theologians writing in the Methodist and Wesleyan tradition points out that it wasn’t only the Gentile Christians who were under pressure, but Gentiles in general. Since many Jews were wealthy merchants and owned many slaves, even they felt compelled to comply with being circumcised in order to obtain and even keep their positions. In fact, in one story about Roman statesman, Lawyer, and Philosopher Marcus Tullius Cicero who responded to the call for help from the Sicilians because of the plundering and extortion perpetrated by Gaius Verres, a Roman magistrate who was notorious for his misgovernment of Sicily, including extortion of local farmers and plundering of idol temples. So, Cicero decided to arrest him and put him on trial. In the process of calling witnesses, there was a freed slave named Cæcilius who the Sicilians wanted to call as a witness. Cicero was told that Cæcilius submitted to Jewish practices. Cicero asked somewhat bewilderingly, “What do Jews to do with swine?” This meant that Cæcilius was a Gentile to whom Jews paid little attention. But it also raised the question of why this Gentile practiced Jewish rites, rituals, and ceremonies?[3] While the question never got asked, it does suppose that Cæcilius did so in order to find favor with the Jews.

Beet’s point is that such persuasion by the Jewish majority was not a new thing. And once it took hold it was hard to get rid of. Another thing that Beet points out is that Peter’s previous conduct among the Gentiles was certainly in harmony with his convictions and, therefore, considered part of his normal lifestyle. So why all of a sudden was he acting abnormally? That was the whole point of Paul’s argument. In other words, “Peter, this is not like you! You don’t usually act this way? Why are you going back to what you used to be?” That’s all it took. Peter knew that Paul’s words were hurtful but true and it hit him very hard. And reading it now in the letter, the Galatians were also feeling its full force, in spite of their contrary action. As far as Paul was concerned, it was official. The Mosaic restrictions on food and drink for Christian believers were no longer binding.[4]

British Bible scholar Benjamin W. Bacon made the comment that there was no question of the Apostle Paul being charitable here, but there is a question of what principle was it based on. For a Christian Jew to eat with a Christian Gentile was either right or wrong. Which was it? In light of the Gospel, it was right, but if it’s based on who is or who is not present at the time, it’s wrong. It was downright embarrassing that a Gentile convert to Christianity was treated like a brother earlier, but now that some Jews arrived from Jerusalem, they are being treated as outcasts.[5] As Bacon put it, The whole point of Paul’s charge lies in the fact that it is a failure on Peter’s part not to stick with the fundamental spirit of the Jerusalem agreement of mutual non-interference. It would be hard to argue against this atrocious act on Peter’s part as nothing less than his clinging to his Jewish mode of life among Gentile believers in order to persuade them to adopt it as their own.[6]

Arno Gaebelein stated that when Peter refused to eat with the Gentiles he went back to the law and was thereby attempting to be justified by works; he was building the law again. But, previous to that, he abandoned the law as a means of justification before God and he believed in Jesus the Anointed One to be justified by faith before God, not by the works of the law. Peter knew that “by the works of the law no person is justified.” By building the system of the law again, which he gave up as unable to justify him, he made himself a transgressor, because he abandoned it in order to feel more comfortable with the delegation from Jerusalem. If Peter were to say that the Anointed One led him to do this – was the Anointed One then a minister of sin? In no way! In fact, it was the doctrine of the Anointed One that convicted him in giving up the Law; for in building it again and going back to it he acknowledged that he was wrong when he rejected it earlier as a means of justification. This is the argument of these verses.[7]

Cyril Emmet notes that Paul’s condemnation of Peter is based on the essential character of Christianity, not on any agreement made previously in Jerusalem by the Council. Peter’s prerogative included stating that it never crossed his mind to try and force the Gentiles to copy him by eating only kosher foods. It was a case of showing hospitality to the visiting Jewish delegation from the Apostle James. But this would prove to be a superficial argument. Paul envisioned the possible consequences on how the Gentiles viewed their place in the Antioch congregation while Peter looked at the possible repercussions from the Jewish contingent in the Jerusalem congregation. It contained all the possibilities of telling the Gentile believers in Antioch that they existed on a lower tier as member of the Body of the Anointed One. Paul went to great lengths to persuade Gentiles that they were equal in every way to any member of the Anointed One’s body, be they Jew or Gentile, and he wasn’t about to let Peter ruin that.[8]

Lutheran scholar Paul Kretzmann says quite a bit about this incident. But the crux of what he said was that Peter’s conduct was a public offence and scandal and may be particularly noticeable at the common meals associated with the celebration of the Holy Communion. Paul, therefore, with the Eighth Commandment in mind, did his duty without flinching: he spoke to Peter face-to-face, in the presence of those against whom he was sinning. Paul was concerned about the truth of the Gospel; for the conduct of Peter and the rest was casting reflections upon those whom God pronounced clean in the Anointed One. They would not be standing up for what they truly believed while going around in circles pretending that they are walking a straight line. It would be an attempt to evade an honest answer with an insincere plea of only doing what was the nice thing to do, all these are things which do not harmonize with the Christian love which the Gospel presupposes in a life of sanctification.

Paul’s rebuke, therefore, was short and to the point. Peter was a Jew, and thus it is natural for him to live as a Jew, to observe the customs and forms laid upon the Jews of old. But now he deliberately left this accustomed practice and lived after the manner of the Gentiles associated with the terms of absolute equality, which was perfectly right and proper for him to do, since he knew that no contamination would result. Now, however, that he withdrew in such a pretentious manner from this association, he was really exerting severe pressure on Gentile converts to adopt the Jewish mode of life, for they could not but conclude that, after all, the Jewish manner of living must be holier and better. Paul’s point was well taken, as Peter’s silence also admitted. It didn’t bother Paul that Peter lived after the customs and manners of the Gentiles and at times following Jewish customs. But he condemns Peter for withdrawing and separating himself, when the Jews came, from the foods brought by the Gentiles. By this withdrawal, he induced both Gentiles and Jews to believe that the heathen manner was not permitted while the Jewish was necessary, although he knew that both were free and permitted. This type of attitude and action could rightly identify Peter as no better than a cowardly hypocrite.[9]

Philip Ryken shares a similar story to what happened here in Antioch. He said this tragic example comes from the history of the Southern Presbyterian congregation prior to the Civil War. In those days it was customary for Presbyterian elders to give their parishioners tokens signifying that they were eligible to participate in the Lord’s Supper. Sadly, in some congregations, African slaves were not given the customary silver token, but one made of base metal. Nor did they allowed them to receive the sacrament until all the white congregation members were served. This was a divisive and prejudicial way of handling a sacrament that God intends to signify our union together in the Anointed One. Whether the elders believed the Gospel or not, their actions clearly denied it. What message is in this for us. What will people interpret from our actions and interactions with others? How well do our friendships, our dinner invitations, and our ministry partnerships demonstrate our commitment to the unity and community we enjoy in the Anointed One? Are our actions in step or out of step with the Gospel? Are we following in the footsteps of the Anointed One or starting our own path of righteousness?[10]

Modern Bible scholar Robert Gundry adds that it also makes Paul’s denunciation of Peter a criticism of those in Antioch who were led astray by his example and indirect criticism of the distorters of the Gospel who are leading astray the Galatians. Apparently, it was well-known that although Peter was circumcised as all Jewish male babies were, yet he wasn’t living in accordance with the rest of the Mosaic ceremonial law. So, Paul’s question, “How is it that you’re trying to force the Gentiles to Judaize?” points out his hypocrisy of and portrays his withdrawing himself from Gentile Christians, uncircumcised as they were, as an attempt to force Judaism on them, starting with circumcision, even though Peter himself wasn’t practicing Judaism. Examples like this carry great force, especially when they’re set by prominent leaders of the Church.[11]

[1] J. B. Lightfoot: On Galatians, op. cit., p. 241

[2] H. J. Foster: The Biblical Illustrator, op. cit., loc. cit., Vol. 48 (Kindle Locations 4503-4507).

[3] Plutarch’s Lives: Cicero, translated by Bernadette Perrin, Published by William Heinemann Ltd, London, 1919, Cicero, para. 7:3, p. 97

[4] Joseph Agar Beet: On Galatians, op. cit., pp. 47-48

[5] F. H. Farrar in The Biblical Illustrator, op. cit., loc. cit., Vol. 48 (Kindle Locations 4485-4486)

[6] Bacon, Benjamin W: On Galatians, op. cit., p. 66.

[7] Arno Gaebelein: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit.,

[8] Cyril W. Emmet: On Galatians, op. cit., pp. 19-21

[9] Paul E. Kretzmann: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit.,

[10] Ryken, Philip Graham. On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit., Kindle Locations 1076-1080

[11] Robert H. Gundry: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit., Kindle Locations 429-454

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CALLED TO LIVE IN FREEDOM

9526a07d9f8686ec5667a96cad064ff6

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIAN CONGREGATIONS OF BELIEVERS

CHAPTER TWO (Lesson XXVIII)

Catholic scholar Cornelius à Lapide points out that Paul uses the Greek verb orthopodeō, here in verse fourteen, which means to “walk in a straight line.” In other words, don’t turn to the right or to the left, stay on course. So, Paul is telling Peter that the road he is on is the straight and narrow way, so why is he violating his commitment by deviating from the path set out for him? The Gentiles are comfortable in partaking of different foods which shows that for him the Jewish kosher laws are dead. In fact, Lapide says, now that the Gospel is being preached those laws are not only dead but deadly. Didn’t Peter know that he was telling the Gentiles that they now must comply with Jewish laws and customs? Wasn’t this also a sly way of telling the Gentile believers that they were still heathens?[1]

English Bible scholar Matthew Henry feels that Paul’s actions and attitudes in Antioch involving Peter and the Jewish contingent sent by James from Jerusalem were repeated here by Paul as a message to the Galatians. When reading between the lines of Paul’s account of what passed between him and the other Apostles at Jerusalem, the Galatians could easily discern both the falseness of what his enemies in Jerusalem tried to imply against him and the Galatians’ own folly and weakness in departing from that Gospel he preached to them. But to give the greater importance to what he already said, and more fully to fortify them against the implications of the Judaizing teachers, he adds this incident that occurred between him and the Apostle Peter at Antioch, and what they should learn from it all.[2]

Lutheran Bible scholar Johann Bengel also notes Paul’s use of this Greek verb orthopodeō and says that it not only means to walk a straight line but also to walk with the body erect, which suggests certainty and purpose. This is opposed to walking crookedly as if lame, and Bengel says it could also discern that the person walking this way is straddling the line. In other words, you don’t know really what side they are on. In this case, did it mean that Peter sided with the Jews or with the Gentiles on the matter of what to eat and drink as a believer in the Anointed One? By straddling the line, it suggested that he was trying to be on both sides at the same time. So, Paul steps in and tells him that doesn’t work here. Either you are for the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth or you cannot be trusted.[3]

Methodist Bible scholar Joseph Benson speculates that what we see recorded here probably took place at the conclusion of some of their public worship meetings. On such occasions it was usual, after the reading of the Law and the prophets, to give the assembly words of instruction. Were this offence of Peter a private nature, undoubtedly, as duty required, Paul would confer with him privately and not bring it out into the open, at least in the first instance before a large group of worshipers. Since it all happened out in the open, causing many people to become deeply concerned, the method Paul used to address the issue was certainly most proper. And by openly admonishing Peter, he not only acted honestly but generously, for it would involve finding fault with him behind his back, without giving him an opportunity to vindicate himself. Perhaps, says Macknight, Peter in this, and in a former instance, may be allowed to show remorse providing an effective means to discourage any arrogant claims by any potential successors to the apostleship of harboring feelings of supremacy and infallibility.

British Methodist Bible scholar Adam Clarke also feels strongly about Paul’s right to condemn Peter’s hypocrisy.  For him, according to the true doctrine which states that the Anointed One is the fulfillment of the Law for justification to everyone that believes; and that they are under no obligation to observe circumcision and the other peculiar rites and ceremonies of the Law. This was a cutting statement, especially since it came from a former Pharisee who painstakingly did everything relative to the Law, and it required a miracle to convince him that the Gentiles were to be admitted into the Kingdom of God because they believed in the Anointed One only by faith. In addition to that, they became full members of the same congregation and fellow heirs of the same hope of timeless living. The consequence of Peter’s hypocrisy was that while he went in with the Gentiles and ate with them; namely. associated with them as he would with Jews, but now fearing what the visiting Jews would say, he withdrew from his fellowship with the Gentiles. So why was Peter compelling the non-Jews to take on Jewish ways? So, Paul says to Peter: “You once considered that they were not under such an obligation, and now thou act as if you did not consider the law in full force; but you are convinced that the contrary is the case, yet acted differently! This is hypocrisy.”[4]

Clarke also points to another factor that allows comparison to an ancient inscription found on a large Greek marble slate concerning an Olympian who was not born a citizen of Greece, yet he was considered an Olympian by virtue of his qualifications for entering the races. He relates this to many of the Jewish believers in Antioch who called themselves Jews even though they were not born in Judea, yet because they were born to Jewish parents, they were by nature Jewish. So why then, could not the non-Jews in the congregation be considered an equal part of the Christian family because of their new birth through Jesus the Anointed One, the son of Abraham, the son of David?

Scottish independent Bible scholar James Haldane raises the question that if our Lord commanded that when a fellow believer makes a mistake, we should inform him privately so it is just between us and them.[5] So why did Paul not stick to this precept? Why did he openly confront Peter so that now everyone knew about his hypocritical error? According to Haldane, it was because what Peter did was no secret, everybody saw what he did. Furthermore, the trespass was not against Paul, but against all the Gentiles believers present at the meal. Not only was Peter’s conduct improper and against what he practiced up until now, but it also put a stumbling-block in the path of the Gentile members of the congregation in Antioch. Why did he communicate to the Gentiles that even as a former Jew he accepted their freedom when it came to food and drink, and showed it by dining with them? But when the Jewish contingent from Jerusalem showed up, he took that freedom away. That’s what upset Paul more than anything.[6]

German Lutheran Bible scholar Heinrich Meyer comments on Paul’s charge that Peter was not walking uprightly. He also notes that this phrase is not used elsewhere in Scripture and accepts it as a figure of speech that applies to one’s walk according to ethical ideas. It applies to one’s moral – as a noun for a person’s standards of behavior or beliefs, not as moral – as adjective concerning the principles of right and wrong. Peter already understood the difference between right and wrong, but he seemed to be confused over what was right or wrong about his behavior toward the Gentiles.[7]

German Presbyterian Bible scholar Johann Lange sees Paul correction of Peter as an attempt to show the contradiction involved in his actions. How could Peter, who is a Jew was living as though he were Gentile, turn around and tell the Gentiles that they should start living like Jews? How ironic that the lifestyle which Peter forsook he now encourages the Gentiles to embrace! It is true, that Peter did not verbally command the Gentiles to take such action, but his actions was a much of a nonverbal command as if he openly said to do so. There is also no evidence that the delegation from James voiced such an opinion. This then might have caused Paul to redirect his admonition toward James, not Peter. Furthermore, Peter received no instructions from James to make such a change in his behavior. In other words, it was all Peter’s idea and, therefore, Peter’s fault. That’s why Paul confronted Peter and no one else.[8]

Scottish theologian John Eadie points out that the language Paul uses here to describe Peter’s sudden change of direction is that it didn’t start just yesterday, Peter walked this path for some time. The irony of all this is that being set free from the oppressive Jewish canon of numerous laws and multiple rites, rituals, and ceremonies are something God promised the Jews and something they longed for over the centuries. So why should Peter now carry not only that the unbearable yoke on himself but call the Gentiles to be yoked with him in following their rut to nowhere? Jesus called everyone who believed in Him to throw off the heavy yoke of rites, rituals, and ceremonies, and put on His lighter yoke of faith which was easy and light.[9] In Paul’s mind, Peter was no better than the Judaizers who swarmed into Galatia to try and convert the Gentiles there to take the yoke of Judaism on their shoulders as a way of giving them a greater guarantee of the salvation they received as a gift without it.[10]

Irish Bible scholar W. A. O’Conor notes that Paul observed this group of Jews who participated in the act of segregation as showing no interest or forethought in consciously promoting and maintaining the truth of the Gospel. The pure Gospel stands free from legal observances and distinctions. But it was Peter that Paul focused in on because being the senior member in this group, he certainly knew this, and showed it by living accordingly with the Gentiles. But when Jews came, he pretended to think otherwise, and thus endangered the truth of the Gospel with the Gentiles. He was acting like a hypocrite for his own popularity with the Jews, which harbored the potential of keeping the truth of the Gospel from the Gentiles. For this betrayal of the truth, Paul rebuked him openly. If this all happened in a private situation, Paul’s rebuke would be private.[11]

American Baptist theology professor Alvah Hovey contends that Paul held back on saying any more about this occasion seeing that six, or possibly seven, years passed since it occurred. That’s why he now presents it in condensed form. He was telling this to the Galatians, not as a way of bragging or showing himself to be a tough guy, but out of thankfulness to God for the grace which enabled him to speak them. Moreover, we are given every right to believe that the Holy Spirit provided the inspiration Paul needed in recalling this event. Paul’s direct appeal to Peter for him to take note of the inconsistency of his conduct could only be met in one of two ways. Let him confess that he did wrong by living as a Gentile, or confess that what he just did was wrong by not remaining consistent. Was he to take the second option it would simply be a case of good intentions gone bad. But if he confessed that he really didn’t believe in the liberty given to the Gentiles through God’s Word, that would be his approval and sanction of the Judaizing party’s efforts to compel the Gentile believers to live as Jews, for the sake of unity and peace. When Paul saw this, he knew if he didn’t do or said something immediately, the future of the Antioch congregation and the sanctity of the Gospel stood in grave jeopardy.[12]

[1] Cornelius à Lapide: On Galatians, op. cit., p. 248

[2] Matthew Henry: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit.,

[3] Johann Bengel: On Galatians, op. cit., pp. 579-580

[4] Adam Clarke: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit.

[5] Matthew 18:15

[6] James Haldane: On Galatians, op. cit., pp. 82-83

[7] Heinrich August Wilhelm Meyer, Epistle to the Galatians, Translated by G. H. Venables, Published by Funk and Wagnalls, New York, 1884, p. 80

[8] Lange, John Peter: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit., Vol. 8, (Kindle Location 3280-3348).

[9] Matthew 11:29

[10] John Eadie: On Galatians, op. cit., pp. 155-161

[11] O’Conor, W. A: On Galatians, op. cit., p. 31

[12] Hovey, A: On Galatians, op. cit., p. 32

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CALLED TO LIVE IN FREEDOM

9526a07d9f8686ec5667a96cad064ff6

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIAN CONGREGATIONS OF BELIEVERS

CHAPTER TWO (Lesson XXVII)

What confused the Gentile members the most was the fact that Peter associated with them as though he were a non-Jew himself, then, they felt betrayed that he suddenly turned back to his old Jewish ways.  In the face of those who came from James, Peter now appears to be a coward by not standing up for the same truth he preached to Cornelius and the thing for which God chided him in his vision on the rooftop of the Tanner’s house.[1] At that time Peter confessed to Cornelius and his household: “You understand that it is unlawful for a Jew to associate with or visit anyone who is not a Jew. But God showed me that I should not consider anyone unfit or say they are not pure.”[2] Lancaster sees a problem with what Peter said. He asks: “Was it unlawful?” He goes on to say that according to the Jewish law of the first century, Jews were not supposed to eat food, even kosher food prepared by a Gentile. The main reason was that Gentiles used food offered to idols, so they did not want to be accused of idolatry.

But when Peter visited Antioch, he saw how much things changed since his visit to Cornelius. Here Jewish and non-Jewish believers fellowshipped together without any restrictions. However, when the group from Jerusalem arrived, apparently they expressed their disapproval of such integration when it came to such things as eating together, because of the fear that the food the non-Jews brought, while it may not be part of any idol sacrifice, it may be of the kind that Jews were forbidden to eat, such as pork.  So, the entourage from James saw the opportunity to introduce the non-Jewish believers to kosher foods and the eating customs of Jews. If the non-Jews did not feel comfortable doing so, then the gracious Jewish believers would allow them to eat their food their way. In other words, Paul really needed no other reason to rebuke Peter than that he wanted to ensure that at the agape meal both the Jews and non-Jews could eat together in peace and not fear they were being discriminated against. And, since this delegation came from James, Peter decided to be a good host and eat with them.[3] I doubt if that was really the case, otherwise, a born and bred Jew like Paul would see it was as well.

Ambrosiaster concludes, no wonder Paul was so upset for what was being communicated to these non-Jewish believers who gave up all their heathen practices to become Christians and joined the spiritual family of Abraham, only to have their freedom taken away and in its place they were given something burdensome and ineffective as far as salvation was concerned.  He goes on to say that Paul shows by clear reasoning that the Galatians were being deceived into keeping laws by which no one is justified before God, even after those who were born as Jews abandoned the law and took refuge in the Anointed One as the true way to be justified. Paul says that no one is justified by the works of the law.  Whoever is justified will be justified by faith, just like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the other saints.[4]

Marius Victorinus, another early church writer, offers his insight by putting these words in Paul’s mouth: These Gentiles stayed true to the Gospel, accepting everything it says about how to live for God by faith, not by obedience to the Law as the Jews were doing. It was Peter and his fellow Jews who strayed from the Gospel, getting badly off-track on their way to reinterpreting Gospel. When Paul saw this, he immediately spoke to Peter in the presence of everyone, asking him why he as a Jew who lived side by side with Gentiles, now attempted to compel the Gentiles to Judaize? In Victorinus’ mind, Paul clearly understood that it was on account of Peter’s fearfulness that the Gentiles he befriended and preach to would be convinced that he was only pretending to be one of them. And Paul does not make such a charge so that Peter would be forced to say: “I was just pretending.”  What, then, does Paul charge him with? You’ve been living with Gentiles and are still living with Gentiles. But for you, it was merely a convenience so that you would be accepted by them as a friend and brother in the Anointed One. However, because of your pretense, many are deceived, therefore, you are guilty of hypocrisy. In fact, by your actions, you are compelling the Gentiles into being Judaized. Nevertheless, in saying this, Paul shows that he also understood Peter’s going along with the visiting Jews only by way of pretense, but he was none the less a hypocrite.[5]

When commenting on this incident, 9th Century Catholic theologian Haimo of Auxerre gives us a clue on the role of baptism during his days in church history. For him, when Paul says, if you, although though a Jew, he is referring to the fact that Peter was a Jew by birth and yet living like a Gentile. This does not mean Peter was worshiping idols, only that he did not believe one could be saved through circumcision but rather through baptism. Likewise, Gentiles were not being saved by circumcision but through baptism.[6] Perhaps, this idea of substituting water baptism to replace circumcision may have been developed earlier in the congregation in order to placate the Jews into believing that they were fulfilling the Law through baptism instead of circumcision in God’s eyes. But it does seem strange that none of Jesus’ disciples were baptized, only Jesus by John the Baptizer.[7]

But later on, during the Medieval period, Bruno the Carthusian offers another view on what Paul was really trying to accomplish by confronting Peter: For him, up to this point, it was enough for Paul to prove that he was not inferior to Peter and the others. Indeed, it was essential that he be their corrector. He emphasizes that no Christian believer should be compelled to adhere to the Law under any circumstances as a means of enhancing their salvation. That’s why he says that the Gentiles should by no means be forced to keep Jewish customs. Not only that, but those who are Jews by birth still follow Jewish manners and customs as part of their Christian faith, do so for no purpose. Therefore, Paul admits that he and other Jewish Christians were Jews by birth, born within the fold of Judaism, always attempting to keep the Law. That even though they were Jews they were still sinners by breaking Mosaic laws, whereas the Gentiles were sinners by breaking God’s laws. Bruno notes that Gentiles broke God’s laws by worshiping idols and practicing witchcraft. But didn’t the Jews do the same in the shadow of Mount Horeb in Sinai? So, in effect, when standing before, Jews and Gentiles were all alike as sinners.[8]

This same commentator goes on to point out that the Gentiles in their worship involved the flesh through offerings, sometimes human sacrifices and earned money through temple prostitution.  Meanwhile, the Jews also employed sacrifices, but only animal offerings, and earned money through rites and rituals involving purity.  So, bringing both sides together to accept Jesus as the One who fulfilled the need for all sacrifices, and that all these other things were no longer needed or effective, was a task to no doubt often brought sharp disagreements. This gave a reason for Medieval commentator Robert of Melun to opine that Paul made it clear that we are justified by faith and not by works of the Law. For those things that we firmly trust in by faith we also love with the same certainty, that is, people are surely justified by love. The works of the Law are brought about by fear and for the sake of temporal rewards. The precepts of the Law are capable of restraining only the hand, however, not the will; this means that exterior actions do not justify inward doubt. The Apostle, therefore, holds that these things are opposed to one another: namely, justification by the Law against justification by faith.[9]

Early church theologian Thomas Aquinas offers an interesting description of being a sinner. He says: “It is one thing to sin and another to be a sinner. For the first names an act, but the second a readiness or habit of sinning.” This is why the Scriptures are in the habit of calling the godless and those loaded down with the heavy burden of sin, sinners. No doubt, that is the reason why the Jews, therefore, being egotistical on account of having the Law, and as it were, restrained from sin by it, called the Gentiles worse sinners, living as they were without the Laws’ restraint and being prone to sin. When, therefore, the Apostle says that the Jews were not Gentiles sinners, he means they were the type of sinners found among Gentiles.[10] In other words, once a person is delivered from the bondage of sin, they are no longer referred to as sinners, but children of God. Do God’s children sometimes sin by being disobedient to His Word and His Will? Certainly, but John says: “If we say that we do not sin, we are fooling ourselves, and we are being untruthful. But if we confess that we sinned, God will forgive us. We can trust God to do this. He always does what is right. He will make us clean from all the wrong things we did.”[11]

Martin Luther makes an interesting comment here when he says that Paul was comparing the Law on earth with the Gospel in heaven. That way we call the righteousness of the Gospel heavenly, and the righteousness of the Law earthly. So, while Peter was obeying the earthly Law concerning food and drink, he was violating the heavenly Gospel of all things being pure unless they conflict with one’s conscience. So that raises the question, did Peter side with the James’ delegation because of his conscience, or was it a case of him showing bias for the Jewish contingent and contempt for the Gentile membership? Paul knew what it looked like to him and he confronted Peter about it. Luther goes on the suggest that Peter wasn’t really responding to any compunction of conscience, rather he decided to pretend to be Jewish on the matter of food and drink which was very hypocritical.[12]

Reformer Calvin sums up the Protestant view by pointing out that the truth of the Gospel is used here by Paul, in the same way, he used it before and is contrasted with those disguises by which Peter and others concealed its beauty. In such a case, the struggle which Paul maintained must unquestionably be a serious issue. They were perfectly in harmony with the Gospel. But since, putting all doctrine aside, Peter yielded too submissively to the Jews, he was, therefore, accused of being out of line. There are some who apologize for Peter on other grounds because by being the Apostle to the Jews he bound to be especially concerned about their salvation. However, they do admit that Paul did right in pleading the cause of the Gentiles. Still, it is foolish to defend what the Holy Spirit by the mouth of Paul already condemned. This is not something for ordinary people to figure out, it involves keeping the Gospel pure and holy.[13]  So Paul was not so much interested in putting down Peter, as he was in lifting up the Gospel.

But Calvin makes this point: When looking at Paul’s discipline of Peter at Antioch for siding with the Jews to the determent of the Gentiles, we must see the difference between disciplining a person in the pulpit and the people in the pew. We are told by Jesus as well as Paul himself that we must first try to discuss the matter in private.[14] But when it comes to those who do not take the first correction to heart and continue to show disobedience, then Paul says that they should be rebuked in the presence of all.[15] So this may be a clue as to why Paul chose to confront Peter in front of everyone. But at the same time, what Jesus said was not dealing with private sins, but open and public sins. That’s why we must understand what Paul mentions here in verse as a rebuke due to open sins for which Peter got scolded once before.[16] [17]

[1] Acts of the Apostles 10:9-16

[2] Ibid. 10:28

[3] D. Thomas Lancaster: On Galatians, op. cit., pp. 84-87

[4] Ambrosiaster, ibid.

[5] Marius Victorinus, op. cit., loc. cit.

[6] Haimo of Auxerre: The Letter to the Galatians (Medieval Bible Commentary series), op. cit., loc. cit.

[7] See John 4:1-2

[8] Bruno the Carthusian:  The Letter to the Galatians (Medieval Bible Commentary series), op. cit., loc. cit.

[9] Robert of Melun:  The Letter to the Galatians (Medieval Bible Commentary series), op. cit., loc. cit.

[10] Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on Galatians, loc. cit.

[11] 1 John 1:8-9

[12] Martin Luther: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 38

[13] John Calvin: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit.

[14] Matthew 18:11-15

[15] 1 Timothy 5:20

[16] Acts of the Apostles 10:11

[17] John Calvin: Institutes, op. cit., Vol. 4, Ch. 12, p. 1258

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CALLED TO LIVE IN FREEDOM

9526a07d9f8686ec5667a96cad064ff6

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIAN CONGREGATIONS OF BELIEVERS

CHAPTER TWO (Lesson XXVI)

David’s son Solomon must have listened closely because he too passed on similar principles: “For the Lord gives wisdom. His words contain much learning and understanding. He makes wise thoughts available for those who are right with Him. He is there when needed for those who live right. He watches over the highway of holiness and keeps those who walk on it safe from mishaps. They will understand what is right and good, and right from wrong, and always know what they should do.”[1] Solomon goes on to say that this will make people’s heart, soul, and thinking safer. It will not be easy for anyone to mislead such a person. As long as you stay on the right path you’ll walk with confidence. But if you try to take a shortcut, everyone will end up knowing about it.[2]

But Paul is careful to make sure that the Galatians understand that only the Gospel sets the standard of what is right and what is wrong; what is good and what is bad; what is permissible and what is not permissible. He told the Romans that the Anointed One helped him understand that everything in itself is innocent. But if a person thinks something is not innocent, then to them it is not permissible.[3] This is also why Paul warned Timothy to be aware of those who say “Don’t get married,” or “Don’t eat this or don’t eat that.” Everything is permissible to believers as long as it does not violate the Word of God. So be thankful and make use of whatever God makes available to us. However, if we do not find it in the Word of God and we wouldn’t feel comfortable praying and giving thanks to God over if before we use it or get involved, then it’s best to leave it alone.[4]

These principles are what motivated Paul to confront Peter when he decided to go back to his old way of thinking and separated himself from the Gentile believers in Antioch so he could eat with the Jewish members and the delegation from Jerusalem. Paul may have taken his rebuke of Peter right out of the Torah where it says that while you should not be impolite to someone from your own country, don’t say anything impolite to those in whose country you live just because they are not Jews.[5] In other words, Peter entertained no reason to be inhospitable to his fellow Jews visiting from Jerusalem, but don’t use them as an excuse to be discourteous to the Gentiles there in Antioch.

Not only that, but Paul hoped that Peter would take the words of King David and apply them to himself. When some of David’s subjects pointed out what he did wrong, he said, “Let those who are doing what God says is right admonish me and speak strong words to me in kindness. It is like oil on my head. I don’t want to pull my head away. I have too always been against those things that are done wrong and against those who do them.”[6] To put it another way, Paul was hoping that Peter would also see that what he did was wrong and accept Paul’s rebuke like oil on his head.

Solomon also offered advice on how a person ought to respond when reprimanded for doing what they know is wrong. For Solomon, receiving a stern rebuke from a friend while others are watching is far better than when they decide not to do it because they love you too much. That’s because any embarrassment caused by a friend’s reprimand is a sign that they will stick by you, while compliments from someone who really doesn’t like you is like garbage.[7] Besides, what Paul was doing to Peter is exactly the same thing he instructed Timothy to do.[8]

I’m sure Paul wondered if Peter remembered what he said to Roman Captain Cornelius when he was sent there by God to share the Gospel, “You know it is against our Law for a Jew to visit a person of another nation. But God showed me I should not say that any person is off-limits. That’s the reason I came as soon as you sent for me.[9] Later on, when Peter returned to Jerusalem after his visit to Cornelius’ household, he told the story to the congregation in Jerusalem. Especially the fact that after he preached the Gospel to them, they were all filled with the Holy Spirit just like the Apostles in the Upper Room on the day of Pentecost. That’s when Peter said he thanked God for giving new life to the people who are not Jews. This new life is being sorry for one’s sins and turning away from them toward God.[10]

So that’s what upset Paul when he saw how Peter seemed to forget all about this and turned his back on the Gentiles the way he did. Furthermore, in their meeting in Jerusalem earlier, Peter himself stood up and rebuked those in the assembly who insisted that converted Gentiles should follow Jewish laws and customs: Why do you test God by putting too heavy a load on the back of the Gentile believers when it proves to be too heavy for our fathers or for us to carry, Peter scolded them.[11] This is what led to the letter being written excusing them from such requirements. And now Peter seems to have complete memory loss of these things.

After reading verse fourteen, it seems that early church scholar Tertullian just can’t get Paul off his mind. So, he again refers to the heretic Marcion who accepted the Epistle of Paul to the Galatians wherein he rebukes other Apostles for “not walking uprightly according to the truth of the Gospel,” as well as accuses certain false apostles of perverting the Gospel of the Anointed One in Galatia. So Marcion seems to think that Paul employs this same technique he practiced in destroying the character of all other Apostles and their gospels in order to establish his own Gospel, thereby taking credit away from them. But then, even if he censures Peter and John and James, who were thought to be pillars in the congregation, it is for an obvious reason.

It hurt Paul to see them compromising in their attitudes toward other believers. And yet as Paul himself “became all things to all men,” that he might gain all, it was possible that Peter also might have adopted the same plan as Paul’s of practicing somewhat different from what he taught.[12] In Tertullian’s mind, he sees one hypocrite – Paul, accusing Peter of being a hypocrite just like himself. In that case, they should be friends as hypocrites!

Speaking of Tertullian’s dislike for the way Paul handled this situation, it might be to our advantage if we visit some of what church history says about Tertullian. He received something of a mixed reaction in many Christian circles. They recognized him as a significant thinker and a major contributor to the Doctrine of the Trinity. But in his later years, he became associated with a movement known as Montanism[13] and seems to have separated himself from the church. In a theological work by the Christian Roman philosopher Lactantius written between 303-311 AD, we read where he said that Septimius Tertullianus proved to be skilled in the literature of every kind; but not competent in to express himself eloquently, not being a polished speaker and mostly unknown. As a result, he did not make himself very well-known.[14]

Augustine of Hippo gives his reasoning by explaining that it proved necessary for Paul to say this to Peter in front of everyone so that by rebuking Peter’s everyone might see the error that Peter made. It would not be as useful to correct Peter in private for an error he made out in public. There was the danger of Peter telling others something he said, that he knew he didn’t say. Augustine then adds that out of wanting to be faithful and show love, Peter was entirely willing to accept this rebuke from a junior shepherd for the good of the Antioch congregation. Moreover, it was by being rebuked by Paul that Peter offered a more admirable and difficult example to imitate.

Augustine admits that it is easy to see what we want to correct in others, but it must not be done by censure and criticism. However, it is not so easy to see what ought to be corrected in ourselves and then be willing to be corrected even by ourselves, let alone by another. Here Augustine sees in Peter’s action a great example of humility, which is the most valuable Christian character because by humility love is preserved. For nothing violates love more quickly than unbiased prejudice.[15]

Chrysostom tries to decipher Paul’s question to Peter: “If you, being a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, why are you compelling the Gentiles to live like a Jew?”  As Chrysostom sees it, the Jews were the ones guilty of hypocrisy, not the Gentiles. It was the Jews who were carried away together with Peter, not the Gentiles. So why did Paul include the Gentiles here instead of concentrating his remarks on what Peter and the isolationist Jews were doing? And why does he accuse Peter alone, when the rest of the Jews were just as guilty as he was?

Chrysostom gives his own answer to this cryptic statement. As he sees it, Paul’s object was to remove any suspicion of bias from his rebuke. To blame Peter for observing the Law meant being censured by the Jews for his boldness towards their Apostolic Teacher. But by taking the side of the Gentiles Paul makes it easier to accept what he is saying so that the Gentiles are the ones who felt offended, not the Jews.[16]  In other words, by Paul speaking on behalf of the Gentiles and directing the fault toward Peter alone, it became a personal matter between the two instead of a group matter, pitting the visiting Jews against the Gentile members of the Antioch congregation.

Ambrosiaster, a fellow early church writer of that same period in church history adds another factor. He believes that Paul lashed out only at Peter because the others would get the message from the one who was their chief.[17]  This leaves no doubt concerning the error Peter made by segregating the non-Jewish members of the Antioch congregation from the Messianic Jews who came from Jerusalem.  Ambrosiaster goes on to note that Peter cut himself off from Gentiles with whom he lived like a Gentile, but he went even further and using his example as a way of persuading the Gentiles to Judaize themselves because he was so afraid of what the Jews back in Jerusalem would say. As a result, the Gentiles really didn’t know what the truth was. For this early church commentator, it was incredulous that by his actions Peter was strongly suggesting that these non-Jews adopt Jewish ways.

[1] Proverbs 2:6-9

[2] Ibid. 10:9

[3] Romans 14:14

[4] 1 Timothy 4:3-5

[5] Leviticus 19:17

[6] Psalm 141:5

[7] Proverbs 27:5-6

[8] 1 Timothy 5:20

[9] Acts of the Apostles 10:28

[10] Ibid. 11:18

[11] Ibid. 15:10

[12] Tertullian: Ante-Nicene Fathers, op. cit., Bk 4, Ch 3, p. 628

[13] Montanism was an ascetic Christian sect that put great emphasis on prophecy, founded in Phrygia by the priest Montanus in the middle of the 2nd century.

[14] Divine Institutes: Ch. 1

[15] Augustine’s Commentary on Galatians, loc. cit.

[16] Chrysostom, Homilies on Galatians, loc. cit.

[17] Ambrosiaster: Commentary on Galatians, loc. cit.

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POINTS TO PONDER

silhouette-man-top-mountain-sunset-conceptual-sce-scene-48015806

One of the most powerful tools of persuasion is when the speaker convinces the audience that they know what they are talking about. This is especially true of preachers who are assigned by the Spirit to expound on the Word of God.  We learn that when the chief of philosophers, Aristotle, was about to research some profound subject to establish his theory by proof, he always began his treatise with an acknowledgment of his resources, and requested the reader not to attribute the author’s conclusions based on presumption, vanity, pride, or arrogance. He did not want them to think that he was looking into things of which he had no prior knowledge, but rather, based on his zeal and his desire to discover and establish true doctrine as far as human intellect would permit.

That’s why the great Jewish philosopher, Maimonides, recommended that Rabbis in the same position as Aristotle, first begin with research in order to thoroughly refine their commitment to honesty and put aside their sense of superiority which is the offspring of their imagination. This should lead them to increase their knowledge of the true fundamentals of their message and adhere to the factors of interpretation and proof, and the ability to guard against misconceptions. They must, however, not decide any question with the first idea that comes to their mind, or pressure them in saying something they are not sure about. Real understanding comes when they wait with modesty and patience to take things one step at a time.

Now, if these principles were accepted back in 300 BC, and in 1200 AD, they certainly can be applied to us today, especially for those who attempt expository preaching of the Bible. That was what the Apostle Paul advised his young protégé, Timothy when he told him to remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you. You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.[1]

Likewise, the Apostle Peter instructed his disciples that there may be some who want to harm them if they are eager to do good. But even if they suffer for doing what is right, God will reward them for it. So, don’t worry or be afraid of their threats. Instead, they must worship Christ as Lord of their life. And if someone asks about their hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way, keeping their conscience clear.[2] Now, all this may take six hours of reading, study, research, and writing to produce a 40-minute sermon, but it will be like refined gold, and worth every second of time spent mining it from God’s Word.

[1] 2 Timothy 3:14-17

[2] 1 Peter3:13-15

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SERENDIPITY FOR SATURDAY

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LET’S NEVER FORGET

When I read this touching story, it immediately reminded me of how often we lose touch with others who may have done much more for us than they think. They may not have thought it was all that important to remind us of what it meant to them to be a part of our lives. I guess, they just didn’t want to look like they were begging us to praise them for being some kind of hero to us. I hope this story impacts you the way it did me.

Jack answered his ringing phone, it was his mother on the other end. “I just wanted to call and tell you Mr. Belser died last night, she said. The funeral is on Wednesday.” Memories flashed through Jack’s mind like an old newsreel as he sat quietly remembering his childhood days. “Jack, did you hear me?” his mother asked. “Oh! I’m sorry, Mom. Yes, I heard you. It’s been so long since I thought of him. I’m sorry, but I honestly thought he died years ago,” Jack said.

“Well, he didn’t forget you, Jack. Every time I saw him, he’d ask how you were doing. He’d think back to the many days you spent over on “his side of the fence,” as he put it, Mom told Jack. “I loved that old house he lived in,” Jack said. “You know, Jack, after your father died, Mr. Belser stepped in to make sure you had a man’s influence in your life,” his Mom reminded him. “Yes,” said Jack, “He’s the one who taught me carpentry, and I wouldn’t be in this business if it weren’t for him. He spent a lot of time teaching me things he thought were important. Thanks, Mom, I’ll be there for the funeral, Jack said. As busy as he was, he kept his word. Jack caught the next flight to his hometown. Mr. Belser’s funeral was small and uneventful. He had no children of his own, and most of his relatives had already passed away.

After the funeral, the night before he returned home, Jack and his Mom stopped by to see the old house next door one more time. Standing in the doorway, Jack paused for a moment. It was like crossing over into another dimension, a leap back through space and time. The house was exactly as he remembered. Every step held memories. Every picture, every piece of furniture…. Jack stopped suddenly… “What’s wrong, Jack?” his Mom asked. “The box is gone! Jack exclaimed. “What box?” Mom asked. “There was a small gold box that he kept locked on top of his desk. I must have asked him a thousand times what was inside. All he’d ever tell me was “the thing I value most,” Jack said. Now it was gone. Everything about the house was exactly how Jack remembered it, except for the box. He figured someone from the Belser family had taken it. “Now I’ll never know what was so valuable to him,” Jack said. “I’d better get some sleep. I have an early flight home, Mom.”

It had been about two weeks since Mr. Belser died. Returning home from work one day Jack discovered a note in his mailbox. “Signature required on a package. No one at home. Please stop by the main post office within the next three days,” the note read. Early the next day Jack retrieved the package. The small package was old-looking, as though it had been mailed a hundred years ago. The handwriting was difficult to read, but the return address caught his attention. “Mr. Harold Belser” it read. Jack took the package out to his car and ripped it open. There inside was the gold box and an envelope. Jack’s hands shook as he picked up the note and read what was inside.

Jack’s voice began to tremble as he read the note: “Upon my death, please forward this box and its contents to Jack Bennett. It’s the thing I valued most in my life.” A small key was taped to the letter. His heart racing, as tears filling his eyes, Jack carefully unlocked the box. There inside he found a beautiful gold pocket watch. Running his fingers slowly over the finely etched casing, he unlatched the cover. Inside he found these words engraved: “Jack, Thanks for your time! – Harold Belser.”

Now Jack finally understood, the thing Mr. Belser valued most was the time he spent with Jack. Jack held the watch for a few minutes, then called his office and cleared his appointments for the next two days. “Why?” Janet, his assistant asked. “I need some time to spend with my son,” he said. “Oh, by the way, Janet, thanks for your time!”

Just like Jack, some people forget that over two-thousand years ago, their greatest friend and hero died. They don’t visit the place where he was buried in because it’s too far away. They don’t read all the letters He sent them by way of his close friends Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. But in those letters, He made it clear, that being able to spend time with them was the whole reason He came, and died, and rose again to go and prepare a place where they could be with Him for eternity.

But before He departed, He left this message: “I was born for a purpose. I came to bring truth to the world. All who love the truth are my followers.[1]  Not only that, but He also said: “The greatest love a person can show is to die for a friend. You are my friend if you do what I tell you to do. I no longer call you servant, because a servant doesn’t know what their master is doing. But now I call you my friend.”[2] And by the way, He also left you a memento. He said He was giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my children.[3]

P.S. Don’t be sad that you didn’t make it to His funeral. Three days after He died, His Father brought Him back to everlasting life, and it is that everlasting life He wants so desperately to share with you. Why? Because He loves it when you spend your time with Him. – Dr. Robert R Seyda

[1] John 18:37

[2] Ibid. 15:13-15a

[3] Ibid. 13:34-35

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