Hello everybody, and welcome in to episode 81 of the Bible 2021 podcast. We are reading Galatians 2 today and our focus is on the downside of being nice and how there should be no separation in Jesus’ church. We are a daily 10 minute podcast, where we will dig in to the truth of the Word of God by reading one Bible chapter a day and discussing it. Welcome to new listeners in . Thanks for listening! Our goal is to encourage DAILY Bible reading, so you can jump in at any time and join with us. We want to invite as many people as possible to join us in daily Bible reading, so help spread the word and share the podcast Don’t forget about our web-page, Bible2021.com – contact page, show notes, transcript and more– Click here for our Bible 2021 reading plan
Something interesting happens in Galatians 2. Cephas/Peter and Barnabas are done in by peer pressure from Jewish believers, who have been taught to disassociate with Gentiles. This leads them to shun a group of Gentile believers – contrary to God’s calling – and Paul sort of calls them out for it. One note: That Paul calls Peter ‘Cephas,’ is not a deal at all. Cephas is Aramaic for ‘Stone,’ and Peter/Petros is Greek for ‘stone.’ This is not a slight in the least, just another example of Jewish people of this age having a Greek name and an Aramaic or Hebrew name, like Saul/Paul.
Anyway, both Peter and Barnabas withdraw from Gentile believers (whom they were previously buddy-buddy with) because Jewish believers from the circumcision party came to Antioch, and those Jewish believers still believed in separation of Jews and Gentiles. Peter knew that this was NOT God’s will from his experience and direct revelation from God in Acts 10, but because of fear of the circumcision party, He and Barnabas backed away from the Gentile believers, thus likely reinforcing this ungodly separation in the church. Listen to Ephesians 2, where Paul – under the inspiration and direction of the Holy Spirit, discusses how the church is to be a united group of Jewish and Gentile believers with no hostility and no walls between the two. Not a collection of two groups brought together, but a family of ONE.
12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. Ephesians 2:12-21
What this Scripture, and many others like it, mean is that the church is to be ONE, and to act like ONE. There should be no favoritism or division or separation, and some early believers – the first century Jewish circumcision party – were saved, but they believed erroneously on this issue.
Ultimately, it would seem that the church came together on this issue. So Barnabas and Cephas were wrong here to separate from the Gentiles to appease these members of the circumcision party. That said, I should say that ,In terms of the separation between Paul and Barnabas in Acts 15, I’m team Barnabas – I believe Barnabas was probably ever so slightly more correct than Paul…but that said, I have more of a Barnabas kind of personality than a Paul personality, and there is a downside to that kind of personality. Consider this wisdom from John Piper, and let it remind you how much we need each other.
“Sons of encouragement” are vulnerable to minimizing the importance of truth for the sake of relationships.
In other words, their very strength—the inclination to stand up for people—this very strength can lead to weakness. I think this is what happened in Galatians 2. Why did Paul not get sucked into the hypocrisy while Barnabas did, when Barnabas was the older, more experienced Christian? I suspect it was because Paul did not feel the same emotional empathy with the Jews who came from Jerusalem that Barnabas did. Paul didn’t feel the same tug that Barnabas must have felt from the Jerusalem brothers.
Paul’s orientation to the ministry was so gospel-centered that the emotions and opinions of other people did not have the same importance to him that they did for Barnabas. Listen to how Paul talks in Galatians 1:8, 10,
Even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we preached to you, let him be accursed … Am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still pleasing men, I should not be a servant of Christ.
This kind of disposition probably did not make Paul the same “son of encouragement” that Barnabas was. But it did keep the gospel pure for another hundred generations of Gentile believers. And Barnabas, with all his warmth and patience with people, was sucked into an error that compromised the truth of the gospel. Every strength is vulnerable to its corresponding weakness.
John Piper, Sermons from John Piper (1980–1989) (Minneapolis, MN: Desiring God, 2007).
On the spectrum between truth and love – it would seem that there are some people in the church, like Paul, who tend to be ‘truth’ people – standing valiantly for the truth of God’s Word and opposing any attempt to distort it or water it down. We need such people desperately in an age of compromise and false teaching. A downside, of course, is that ‘truth’ people can sometimes lack in kindness, gentleness, tact and warmth…but we still need them! Similarly, there are people who tend to be ‘love’ people – they are constantly encouraging, seeking to serve, seeking to help and they emphasize kindness and gentleness and grace. And sometimes in emphasizing those things, they can let other things slip in the name of avoiding controversy, or not wanting to be harsh. In an age of brutality and constant criticism, we desperately need ‘love’ people. Paul sums it up best in Ephesians 4:15
15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,
Let’s be truth speakers in love, and love acters who embrace truth.
End of the Show: Bible memory verse for March: Hebrews 7:25 “Therefore, [Jesus] is able to save completely those who come to God through him, since he always lives to intercede for them.”
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