Questions About the Apostle Paul (Part 5 of 6). Bible Lesson. Bible Questions. Bible Contradictions?
I was recently asked to answer a series of questions about Paul. His claim to be an apostle, his authority as an apostle, his communication style (personality) and the supposed contradictions within the content of his messages are the reoccurring themes of the questions.
Compare Galatians 2:7 to Acts 15:7. Who was the one that was to spread the Gospel to the Gentiles?
Both Peter and Paul presented the Gospel to both Jewish and Gentile audiences throughout their careers.
. . . Peter got up and addressed them: “Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. – Acts 15:7 – 9 (New International Version)
In Acts chapters 10 and 11, God chose Peter to be the first apostle to proclaim the first Gospel message to the Gentiles. Paul was in attendance as Peter spoke the words of Acts 15. Barnabas and Paul spoke after Peter. . .
“The whole assembly became silent as they listened to Barnabas and Paul telling about the signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through them.” – Acts 15:12 (New International Version)
Recalling the events of Acts 15, Paul told the Galatians,
“As for those who were held in high esteem—whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not show favoritism—they added nothing to my message. On the contrary, they recognized that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been to the circumcised. For God, who was at work in Peter as an apostle to the circumcised, was also at work in me as an apostle to the Gentiles. James, Cephas and John, those esteemed as pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the circumcised. All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along.” – Galatians 2:6 – 10 (New International Version)
The widely respected leaders of the church in Jerusalem had nothing to add to Paul’s presentation of the gospel. Their reputation meant nothing to Paul. But for whatever it was worth, the leaders of the church in Jerusalem supported Paul. They understood that God had appointed and equipped Paul to preach to Gentiles just as He had appointed and equipped Peter to preach to Jews.
When James, Peter and John perceived the grace that God had given Paul to preach to the Gentiles, they accepted it as God’s work just as much as their commission to preach to the Jews was from God. They understood that they were all in fellowship, pursuing the work of Christ in different areas.
At the time of Saul’s (Paul’s) conversion, the Lord told Ananias. . .
“Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” – Acts 9:15, 16 (New International Version)
Surveying the book of Acts, we can readily see Peter’s ministry essentially localized in Palestine. Paul’s ministry extended to areas of Galatia, Macedonia and Italy. He even had plans to travel to Spain (Romans 15:28).
Why did Paul accuse Peter for “acting Jewish” around Jews and “acting Gentile” around Gentiles in Galatians 2:14, when Paul claims to do the same thing n 1 Corinthians 9:20 – 22?
“For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it.” – 1 Corinthians 9:19 – 23 (New American Standard Bible)
“But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision. The rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of all, “If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?” – Galatians 2:11 – 14 (New American Standard Bible)
Notice what was involved in Peter’s case:
- leading others astray
- not acting in line with the gospel
Paul went on to say that both he and Peter were Jews. And no one is justified before God by works of law but by faith in Christ (Galatians 2:15, 16). Peter should have known better.
Notice what was involved in Paul’s case:
- using circumstances and experiences to reach others with the gospel
- to be obedient to the gospel
- to share in the blessings of the gospel
People were (are) looking up to Peter and Paul because of their leadership positions as apostles. They both had to consider their freedoms in Christ, their rights as apostles and the example they set for others.
Why did Jesus say in Matthew 28:19, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” and then take it away from them in Galatians 2:7?
The Great Commission was not taken away from the other apostles. The book of Acts is centered around Peter and Paul. And it is also true that 15 of the 22 books after Acts was written by Paul or Peter. Some of the other apostles were only named once in the New Testament record.
But let us remember a significant fact – importance cannot be equated with visibility in the work of the kingdom. Servants of the Master can quietly obey the Lord and bring glory to His name.