“Then after fourteen years, I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along with me. I went up because of a revelation and set before them (though privately before those who seemed influential) the gospel that I proclaim among the Gentiles, in order to make sure I was not running or had not run in vain. But even Titus, who was with me, was not forced to be circumcised, though he was a Greek. Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in—who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery— to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you. And from those who seemed to be influential (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)—those, I say, who seemed influential added nothing to me. On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel to the circumcised (for he who worked through Peter for his apostolic ministry to the circumcised worked also through me for mine to the Gentiles), and when James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.
But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?”
Paul shared his interaction with the church leaders in Jerusalem after years of ministry to the gentiles. He brought with him several proteges to show the results of his labor and evidence of God’s movement among non-Jewish believers.
Apparently, there was still a little work to do. Some from the old guard thought that in order for the gentiles to be good Christians, they first needed to be good Jews by following certain old covenant practices, such as circumcision. Paul even had to confront Peter (Cephas), the leader of the church for waffling on his treatment of gentile Christians as equals. When he was solely with the gentiles, he would share a meal with them without issue, but when accompanied by his Jewish peers, Peter separated himself from them. Paul saw that their conduct was not “in step with the truth of the gospel,” so for the sake of unity in the church, he confronted Peter on his hypocrisy and they resolved the issue.
While using the HEAR method (see below) consider the following questions:
- Are there those in the faith that you are tempted to view as beneath you because they hold different opinions on traditions and practices that might (or might not) be important to you?
- What are some preferences you might hold that are not “in step with the truth of the gospel?”
Highlight – what words or phrases jump out at you?
Explain – what does the passage mean?
Apply – how does the passage intersect with your life today?
Respond – how is God leading you to respond?
Today’s post is by Jon Price, Associate Pastor