Monday, August 1, 2011

Galatians 2: Paul and Peter at Antioch

Galatians 2; Peter and Paul
The Torah is not a monolithic albatross; it has different parts for different audiences. There are commandments just for women and just for men; ones that are only for priests (ceremonial), those that are cultural and those that are moral, applying to everyone. Obeying the commandments has never been associated with salvation in the Jewish mind. The fact that some looked at it that way has more to do with man’s pride than in the teaching of scripture. A proper interpretation of Galatians, as well as many other portions of Paul’s writings, depends on subtle differences in our understanding. It is as if we were uncovering a precious piece of pottery at an archaeological dig; we need to dust away the sand carefully and not use a jack hammer. Thomas Lancaster has looked into some of these key texts and has carefully removed the dust obstructing our view. 
In chapter 2, Paul confronts Peter at Antioch. You will recall that it was Peter, under the direction of God, who first went into Cornelius’s Gentile home to welcome new believers into the fellowship. He witnessed their salvation which was confirmed by miracles, and ate with them. This was a huge step that required God’s intervention in Acts 10. The church in Jerusalem reacted with shock and alarm as is told in Acts 11:3. “And when Peter came up to Jerusalem, those of the circumcision contended with him, saying, "You went in to uncircumcised men and ate with them!" What they ate was not mentioned; merely the act of being there was enough to raise their eyebrows in alarm. It is important to remember that even for Peter, when these Gentiles believed, he would have likely told them that their next step was to become Jews to complete their walk of faith. 
Paul’s revelation of the Gospel differed from Peter’s in that Paul contended the new Gentile believers should not become Jewish converts to complete their salvation. The following are some quotes from Thomas’s rephrasing of the text(shown in [brackets]: (pages 85-87 on Galatians 2:14)
“If you (Peter), though you are Jewish, have been, up until now, freely mixing with the Gentile believers, eating with them, fellowshipping and worshipping with them, unlike the common Jewish standard, i.e., you have been living ‘like a Gentile and not like a Jew,” how then can you now force the Gentiles to live like Jews?”
Galatians 2:15-18 “We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that [whether Jewish nor Gentile] a person is not justified by works of the law [i.e., conversion, circumcision, etc.] but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we [the Jewish believers] also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners [ by eating and fellowshipping with Gentiles], is Christ then a servant of sin? ]In other words, does becoming a believer mean we forsake Torah? Is eating and fellowshipping with Gentiles really a sin against Torah?] Certainly not! For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor.”
That is to say to Peter, “If you of all people, Peter, rebuild a sharp division between Jew and Gentile by removing yourself from table fellowship with Gentiles, you are rebuilding the barrier that you originally tore down. You yourself were the first of the apostles to tear that separation down. If now you are putting it back up, then you are admitting that you were wrong in the first place, and you are proving yourself to have been living in sin and transgression.”
How did Peter receive this rebuke? Several years later, at the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15, Peter offered an opinion, stating:
"Men [and] brethren, you know that a good while ago God chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe."
Acts 15:8-10:
"So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as [He did] to us, "and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. "Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? "But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they."
There is a term that is mentioned here that will resurface in the chapters ahead; it is “works of the Law” and its right understanding is crucial to making sense of the arguments that Paul will make. The following is a quote from pages 92-93.
“Likewise, in his book New Perspectives on Paul, James Dunn suggests that “works of the Law” should be understood more narrowly than just “deeds of Torah” in general. Dunn claims that when Paul spoke of “works of the law, he was speaking of “the Torah’s marks of Jewish identity.” In that case, Paul had no problem with the Torah itself as a standard of righteousness for God-fearing Gentile believers. Instead, he took issue with imposing onto Gentiles the “works of the Torah” that marked Jewish identity: primarily the food laws, circumcision, Sabbath, calendar, dietary laws, Levitical obligations, etc.
This sheds light onto another very similar passage in Romans 3: 20-31.(page 95)
“By [the commandments of Torah that define a person as Jewish] no human being will be [legally exonerated] in his sight; since through the [Torah] comes the knowledge of sin. But now the [legal exoneration] of God has been manifested apart form the [Torah], although the [Torah] and the Prophets bear witness to it - the righteousness of God through the [faithfulness of] Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction [between Jew and Gentile, in this regard]; for all have sinned and fall short if the glory of God, and are [legally exonerated] by his grace as a gift through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus... so that he might be just and the justifier [i.e., the one who legally exonerates] of the one who has [the faithfulness of] Jesus. Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of [Torah]? By [the commandments that identify a person as Jewish]? No, but by the [Torah] of faith.
For we hold that one is [legally exonerated] by faith apart from [the commandments that identify a person as Jewish]. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one - who will [legally exonerate] the [Jewish people] by faith and the [non-Jewish people] through faith. Do we then overthrow the [Torah] by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the [Torah]. 

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