Through the Bible with Les Feldick
LESSON 3 * PART 4 * BOOK 32
GALATIANS 1:15 – 2:9 – PART 2
Now to pick up where we left off in Galatians Chapter 2, and remember this little Book was written to clarify that we’re not under Law, but rather Grace, and never lose sight of that. It was written to Gentile congregations and so it is just as appropriate for you and I today Now we had just finished our comments on verse 5 in the last lesson, and remember the setting. The Church up in Antioch, which was up in Syria, has become predominately Gentile where Paul and Barnabas have now been laboring as well as moving out from Antioch into the Gentile world of Asia Minor and Greece. But everywhere they go their little congregations are constantly being subjected to the Judaisers who are trying to bring them under the Law of Moses. They are claiming that Paul’s converts cannot be saved unless they keep the Law of Moses, practice circumcision, and so forth.
So finally after many, many years this all comes to a head, and Paul and Barnabas, by the Lord’s own direction sends them up to Jerusalem to confront Peter and the hierarchy there. So this is what Paul is rehearsing in Galatians Chapter 2. Now we’re going to take just a moment here in Galatians and we’re going to go back and pick up Luke’s account of this same meeting in Acts Chapter 15. Now verse 6:
“But of these who seemed to be somewhat,…”
Now read that carefully, what does that tell you? What does that imply. Hey, they are not what they thought they were. Now I’m not being disrespectful of Peter and the eleven. No way. I’m going to be just as anxious to see Peter, James, and John and the rest of them as anybody else. But in the whole economy of things, here they have been promoting Christ as the Messiah of Israel, and His coming Kingship, and His Kingdom, but Israel is rejecting it. Now that wasn’t Peter’s fault. He had done all he could. He had preached his heart out all through those early Chapters of Acts. But Israel could not believe that anything good could come out of Nazareth. Well in God’s Divine purposes then as Israel kept slipping and slipping away in unbelief, then naturally Peter and the eleven and these Jewish leaders of Jerusalem were losing their clout. Because the whole system was falling through the cracks. But God isn’t going to be out of it, so as Israel is slipping in unbelief, rejecting all this, God has now turned to what people? Well the Gentiles. So as the Jews are going dow, the Gentiles are coming up, and this is Paul’s ministry. Looking at verse 6 again:
“But of these who seemed to be somewhat,…”
These had to be the Twelve and the elders of the congregation at Jerusalem, but they no longer had the power, rightfully, as God had entrusted to them. Let me show you what I’m talking about. Come with me to the Book of Acts Chapter 4, and again watch every word of this. Let’s begin with verse 32, and much the same thing has taken place in Chapter 2. Where they begin to have all things common, and they lived out of what I call the common kitty. Now this kitty is still operating in Chapter 4 which is probably a year or two later.
“And the multitude of them that believed (that is of these Jews now at Jerusalem) were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. (in other words they took all their wealth, whatever they had, and they brought it into a common kitty.) 33. And with great power (don’t miss that) gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all,. 34. Neither was there any among them that lacked:(remember there was thousands of these Jewish believers that were living out of this kitty.) for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, 35. And laid them down at the apostles’ feet:(because they were in control) and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need. (Remember they were waiting for Christ to come back and set up His Kingdom) 36. And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (same Barnabas that was in Galatians Chapter 2 with Paul) (which is being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus, 37. Having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.”
Even Barnabas, that good man who was probably coming up in the leadership, he, too, laid every penny of what he had gotten for his sold real-estate at the feet of the apostles. They were in control, they were the leadership. Now it’s these same apostles that Paul by inspiration of the Holy Spirit is led to say for our purposes:
“But of these who seemed to be somewhat, (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man’s person:) (so in God’s view Peter was no greater than anybody else.) for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me:”
Something else to remember is that when you see Scripture repeat something, as you see in this verse it being repeated for emphasis, He’s driving the point home that these men no longer had the preeminence of God’s dealing with the human race that they had enjoyed back in the earthly ministries and the early days of Acts. It was slipping away from them. And the reason Paul says at the end of verse 6 “that in conference added nothing to me,” was because they had no comprehension of these revelations that the apostle Paul had been receiving from the ascended Lord. They knew only Jesus in the flesh, they knew Jesus that 40 days in Acts after His resurrection of course, but they knew nothing of the ascended Lord. And Paul had received all of his from the ascended Lord in glory. Now one more verse and we’ve got to go back to Acts Chapter 15.
“But contrariwise, (or on the other hand) when they (the Twelve in particular) saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision (the Gentiles) was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision (Jew) was unto Peter;”
Now you know that because we saw that four lessons ago. Jesus chose the Twelve, and He commanded them in Matthew 10:5,6 not to go to a Gentile but go only to lost sheep of the house of Israel. So the Twelve were apostles of what people? Israel! You know I’ve said as long as I’ve been teaching that you can’t show me one record from scripture that these Twelve men ever had a ministry among the Gentiles. Now I won’t take away the fact that they may have visited with the Gentiles, as we know Peter went up to Antioch. But to actually have a ministry among the Gentiles there’s not a word of record of that in this Book. They were the apostles of Israel and the Jews, and they understood that. A lot of people today don’t understand that, but those Twelve men did.
So in verse 7 again, Paul says that the Twelve are now beginning to understand that as he was given the Gospel for the Gentiles (I Corinthians 15:1-4) it was from the same God, and the same kind of authority that they had received the Gospel of the circumcision or the Jews which was the Gospel of the Kingdom. Now come back to Acts 15 and we’ve mentioned before that this will be Luke’s account of the same thing we find in Galatians Chapter 2 which is Paul’s account in the first person. But now look what Luke writes in Acts Chapter 15. We’ve already looked at a few of the early verses in the chapter. But let’s jump in at verse 5 and review it.
“But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses. 6. And the apostles and elders came together for to consider this matter. 7. And when there had been (past tense) much disputing,…”
Now I don’t know how long this disputing went on, and again with no disrespect to our Jewish people, have you ever seen two or three Jews get into an argument? I tell you what, it’s interesting. I know we’ve had it happen in the hotel in Jerusalem, and even though we couldn’t understand a word they said, I know that the fur would have liked to have flown. Because they can really get after it, and I bet they did here also. There was much disputing, and they weren’t making any bones about what they believed. Now reading on:
“And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up,…”
Now I’d like to make a point of words. If he rose up he must have been seated. Now in the midst of all this disputing I have to think that these Jews weren’t just seated in a conference room, but they were nose to nose standing, and going at this tooth and toenail. And remember in Galatians Chapter 2, Paul said “that he would not give in for a minute.” Then all of a sudden Peter, who had been over there seated nonchalantly, just sort of taking it all in, and not all that interested, finally is nudged by the Holy Spirit, Who says, “Peter get up, come on speak up.” So that’s what happened.
“…Peter rose up and said unto them, `Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago (12 years) God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe.'”
What’s Peter referring to? Chapter 10 of Acts, the house of Cornelius. And you all remember that account. How that Peter and 6 other Jewish believers went up to the Gentile home of the Roman officer Cornelius. And while Peter hadn’t even finished preaching, hadn’t said a word yet about repenting and being baptized, what happened? The Holy Spirit came down and signified to those 7 Jews that those Gentiles had become believers. Without an invitation, without walking down an aisle, without repenting, without baptizing, all of a sudden Peter was just stopped in his tracks, and here these Gentiles are evidencing their salvation by faith, and faith alone.
It was not yet Paul’s Gospel, but rather only that Jesus was the Christ, but they had believed it, and the Holy Spirit came upon those Gentiles evidenced with tongues, which was a manifestation that the Holy Spirit had come upon them. And Peter had to just stop for moment he was flabbergasted, and as he was thinking, “Hey, this isn’t the right order of salvation. This isn’t the way it’s supposed to go. My goodness I should have been able to say, `Have you repented? I have to be able to baptize you, and then the Holy Spirit would come.'” But none of that happened. Some of you are looking at me with kind of a blank stare. It’s been a long time since we covered that so let’s look at it for a moment in Acts Chapter 10.
Now verse 43, and Peter is in the home of Cornelius. We don’t know how many Gentiles were there, it was a household so it couldn’t have been that many. It was probably his immediately family, and maybe some of his closest Roman officers, I don’t know, but anyhow Peter has now been preaching, and hasn’t said a word about the work of the Cross for salvation like Paul would have done, but all Peter could rehearse is that this Jesus of Nazareth who had appeared to the Nation of Israel, had been crucified, killed but had been raised from the dead and was alive. So Peter says:
“To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name (see, not through his finished work of the Cross. Peter as yet does not know Paul’s Gospel, but Peter does know that the name of Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah, the Son of God was the vehicle for salvation so he says) whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins. (he hasn’t said a word about repenting, he hasn’t said a word about baptizing. But look what happened.) 44. While Peter yet spake these words, (he’s still preaching and) the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. (why? They had become believers. They had believed what Peter was saying.) 45. And they of the circumcision (remember there were six Jews that went with Peter) which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost.”
Hey, if Gentiles had been saved for the past eight years since Pentecost why would they have been astonished? But Gentiles haven’t been saved. This is the very first instance, and it was an astonishing fact to them that Gentiles could be saved without adhering to the rituals of Judaism, and proselytizing. But here they simply believed and the Holy Spirit manifested their faith, and then Peter had to hurry up and try to get the horse back up in front of the cart so what does he say? “Oh, we’ve got to baptize them.” That sounds familiar also doesn’t it.
“Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?”
Now let’s go back because you always have to compare Scripture with Scripture or you won’t know what I’m driving at. Come back to Chapter 2, and verse 38. It’s obvious what it says, you don’t have to be a theologian, Anybody can understand what this verse says. Remember here Peter is speaking only to Jews.
“Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.” (then verse 38)
“Then Peter said unto them, (1) `Repent, and be (2) baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the (3) remission of sins, and ye shall receive the (4) gift of the Holy Ghost.'”
Now you don’t have to be a seminary professor to understand that. That was the criteria. They were to repent, they were to be baptized in water, they would receive forgiveness of sins, and then the Holy Spirit would come upon them. The four steps. Now come back to Chapter 10 for a moment, and see how that has been totally reversed when you get into the Gentile economy. Now remember this is just the first step of opening the door to Gentiles.
“While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word.”
Peter hadn’t said a word about repentance, he hadn’t said a word about baptism, and while he spoke, merely concerning Who Jesus was, and what had happened to Him they believed it and the Holy Spirit came upon as evidence of their faith. Without baptism, without repentance, what did they do? They just believed. And just believing is Paul Gospel, but this is merely the beginning of it. Now come back to Acts Chapter 15 and this is what Peter is making reference to.
“And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, `Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago…'”
How long ago? 12 years according to my reckoning. Now normally you would think that Peter and those six Jews saw what could happen if you would just approach Gentiles with the Gospel. They would have just gone out across the Roman empire. But they didn’t, but rather where did they go? Back to Jerusalem. And when they got there they got called on the carpet for going to the Gentiles in Acts 11:1-3.
“And the apostles, and brethren that were in Judaea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God. 2. And when Peter was come up to Jerusalem, they that were of the circumcision contended with him, 3. Saying, `Thou wentest in to men uncircumcised, and didst eat with them.'”
Then Peter had to calm them down by saying in effect, “God showed us that He was in it.” But then they all forgot about it. For 12 years there was not another mention of these Gentiles in the house of Cornelius being saved until now in Chapter 15. Here is where I like the Sovereign working of a Sovereign God. I maintain that yes, God wanted the house of Cornelius to be saved, but what was the bigger purpose? To come to Paul’s defense in this counsel in Jerusalem. If Peter would not have remembered what had happened at the house of Cornelius, they never would have let Paul go back to Antioch with freedom to preach his Gospel. They would plagued him every inch of the way. But they didn’t because Peter realized- “Hey, 12 years ago God showed me He could save Gentiles without going through all we demand.” Now look at it again in the text.
“And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, `Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, (that is Peter himself) that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe.'”
It doesn’t say to repent and be baptized. It says that they should believe. Now verse 8.
“And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, (to show Peter that God had done it.) giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; 9. And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. (Now Peter says in recollection, in realizing what God tried to show me-) 10. Now therefore why tempt (test) ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, (these believers up in Antioch) which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?”
That was the Law. That was a burden, see? Then in verse 11 Peter says, “Paul’s right!”
“But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.”
Now I’m going to make a comment, as we go back to Galatians Chapter 2. I’m sure that Peter forgot 90% of what he said in that verse in the years to come. Because he still could not give into the fact that Paul’s Gospel had now superseded his Gospel and position. And that’s why he writes in his little Epistle of II Peter:
II Peter 3:15-16a
“And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; 16. As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; (of salvation in verse 15) in which are some things hard to be understood,…”
I don’t think Peter ever fully understood Paul’s Gospel of Grace. Now let’s finish the lesson with verse 9 of Galatians Chapter 2.
“And when James, Cephas (Peter) 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, (Gentiles) and they unto the circumcision, (Jews).