Passing from the Jerusalem conference, Paul next mentions the strife which Peter and he had at Antioch. Peter had come down to see the work of God among the Gentiles. In his large-heartedness he had not only approved of it and rejoiced in it, but, laying aside all his Jewish prejudices, he had taken his seat at the table of the Gentiles, and had eaten whatever was placed before him. But certain "false brethren" having come round, and having urged the imperative necessity of ceremony, he yielded to his fears, withdrew from Gentile society, and lived in quarantine with the Judaizers. It would appear also that Barnabas was entrapped into similar vacillation; so that there was nothing for it but for Paul to stand up like a man and denounce Peter for his weakness. In doing so he was contending for the truth of the gospel. Let us look into the subject a little more closely.
I. CONSIDER PETER'S LIFE OF LIBERTY. (Ver. 12.) It was only right, and what we should expect, for Peter to throw aside his Jewish narrowness, the punctiliousness about meats and drinks, and to go in for brotherhood with the Gentiles at their feasts. Here we have the noble and big-hearted apostle acting upon his own better impulses. It is such liberty the gospel fosters. It is the foe of that narrowness which so often keeps men from uniting. It is the foe of that little-mindedness which keeps so many in estrangement. We cannot be broader in our sympathies or freer in our life than the gospel makes us. It can be easily shown that the so-called liberties beyond its sphere are real bondages.
II. CONSIDER PETER'S RETURN TO BONDAGE. (Vers. 12, 13.) When the Judaizers came down from Jerusalem, they were so positive about the necessity of the Jewish ceremonies and scrupulosities, as to put pressure upon the apostle; so that, taking counsel of his fears, he deliberately withdrew from Gentile society and shut himself up with the Jews. This was a sore fall. And so astute were these brethren in their dissimulation that Barnabas was also led away. It is well to see clearly how bondage sets in immediately on our abandoning principle and acting on the pressure of our fears. Men fancy that, when called upon to act on principle, they are forfeiting their liberty; but the truth is all the other way. The free are those who act upon the dictates of truth; the slaves are those who have surrendered principle because of pressure.
III. CONSIDER PAUL'S NOBLE REPRIMAND OF PETER. (Ver. 14.) It must have been a trial for Paul to take his stand against his senior both in years and in the apostolate. He must have appreciated the delicacy of his position in standing up against the conduct of the apostle of the circumcision. But he felt constrained to rebuke his brother as by his vacillating conduct traitorous to truth. And in no way can we testify so powerfully to truth as when we take the field, however reluctantly, against those we respect, and who are deservedly popular, but who have somehow erred in judgment upon some point of importance. It requires courage and firmness; but it always has its reward in the extension of truth and of God's kingdom.
IV. PAUL SHOWS THAT THE QUESTION OF JUSTIFICATION WAS REALLY INVOLVED IN PETER'S CONDUCT. (Vers. 15-17.) Peter had very properly, though a Jew, lived after the manner of Gentiles, and so manifested his Christian liberty. Why, asks Paul, does he now turn round and require Gentiles to live like Jews? Is it to be thus insinuated that ceremonies save men's souls? Is not this the vilest bondage? Is not the gospel, on the contrary, the embodiment of the truth that a man is not justified by the works of the Law, but by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ? If Jewish ceremonies are still necessary to justification, then the work of Jesus Christ, in which we are asked to trust, cannot be complete. Such ceremonialism is thus seen to be in conflict with the gospel of justification by faith alone. To tell men that ceremonies must save them is to turn them away from Christ as the object of trust to rites and ceremonies as the object. Am I to believe in the power of baptism and of the sacraments as administered by certain persons in order to salvation? or am I to trust my Saviour? The two methods of salvation are totally distinct, and it is fatal to confound them. The meaning of all such ceremonialism is to put souls upon a false track, so far as salvation is concerned. It is to translate man's justification from the true foundation in Christ's work to the rotten foundation of self-righteousness. Against this we must ever wage persistent war.
V. PAUL CONSEQUENTLY INSISTS ON THE SINFULNESS OF THE LEGAL SPIRIT. (Ver. 18.) For what we destroy in accepting the gospel is all trust in ceremonies as grounds of salvation. The works of the Law are seen to be no ground of trust for justification and salvation. If, then, after having destroyed the self-righteous and legal spirit, and fled for refuge to Jesus as our Hope, we turn round like Peter to rebuild the edifice of self-righteousness and legalism, we are simply making ourselves transgressors. We are forfeiting our liberty and piling up fresh sin. Hence it is of the utmost moment that we should clearly and constantly recognize the sinfulness of the legal spirit. It robs Jesus of his rightful position as Saviour of mankind. It casts away the gospel and goes back for salvation to the Law, which can only condemn us; it makes the sacrifice of Jesus vain and only increases sin. Against all legalism, consequently, we must wage incessant war. Nothing is so derogatory to Jesus or destructive of men's souls. It is another gospel, but an utterly fallacious one. Unless Jesus has the whole credit of salvation, he will not be our Saviour. He must be all or nothing. "Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ." - R.M.E.
I withstood him to the face. I.
CHARACTER IS GROWTH. The most zealous is not always the most steadfast. Fires slumber within which circumstances may fan into a terrible flame. We bring our evil tendencies with us into the Kingdom of God to be gradually curbed, restrained, overcome by higher and Divine tendencies. Let every man keep sentinel over himself; let him beware of old sins; let him guard his soul by prayer against attacks on his weak points; let him cast aside every weight if he would run the true race, whose goal is perfection.
II. FEAR OF MAN DETERIORATES THE CHARACTER. How many barter their birthright for the world's empty applause! A little courage would save them a world of shame; a decisive step or a bold word would put to silence their adversaries; but they dare not make a stand, and so their independence is lost and their character lowered.
III. OBSERVE THE INFLUENCE OF CHARACTER ON OTHERS. Peter did not sin alone. The other Jews dissembled, and even Barnabas was led away. So it is always. Evil companionships and examples corrupt good characters.
IV. BEAR IN MIND THE SUPREME NECESSITY OF HONESTY. The truth must at all hazards be defended, faithfully, courteously, lovingly.
V. PAUL'S APPEAL WAS SUCCESSFUL. Truth always prevails in the end. A little firmness at the right time, and in the right way, may save a brother's soul.
VI. THIS WAS NO MERE PERSONAL DISPUTE, BUT INVOLVED VITAL ISSUES. The antagenism was between law on the one hand and grace on the other.
One of the most remarkable events in sacred history. Tradition tells us St. Paul was a man of small stature, bearing the marked features of the Jew, yet not without some of the finer lines indicative of Greek thought. His head bald, his beard long and thin; a bright gray eye, overhung by somewhat contracted eyebrows; whilst a cheerful and winning expression of countenance invited the approach and inspired the confidence of strangers. St. Peter is represented as a man of larger form and stronger build, with dark eye, pale and sallow complexion, and short hair curled black and thick round his temples. At the meeting here mentioned Judaism and Christianity were brought face to face. In vers. 14-16 we have the case of Gospel versus Law.
I. THE CONDUCT OF ST. PETER ON THIS OCCASION MAY BE REGARDED AS —
1. An example of temptation arising from the fear of man. Peter was by nature timid; prompt to act, yet apt to vacillate; afraid of opposition.
2. An instance of an apostle's departure from the straight path of gospel truth, and of the ease with which such departure may take place. No divergence from God's truth, however slight, is unimportant. We never know what (to all appearance) the slightest error may result in. Our only safety lies in holding fast the whole truth.
3. Not inconsistent with his integrity as a Christian, or with his inspiration as a writer. His writings were under the direction of the Holy Spirit. He nobly redeemed this error by a faithful and consistent after-life.
II. THE CONDUCT OF ST. PAUL WAS —
1. An example of moral courage in administering reproof. No easy thing, at any time, to rebuke a friend. It is painful to oppose one whom we love, or whose good opinion we value.
2. A noble vindication of gospel truth.
The conduct of Peter is not easy to understand. Already, at the council or concordat of the apostles, he had agreed to impose no burdens on the Gentile Christians; and, at a much earlier period in the history of the apostles, he had not only been charged with going in unto men uncircumcised and eating with them, but had taught others that they were to "call nothing common or unclean." And now, not of his own free will, but under the influence of certain who came from Jerusalem, from a fear of the very same charge, "Thou wentest in unto men uncircumcised and eatest with them," he held back, and seemed to view his Christian brethren with the feelings with which he would have regarded men who sat at meat in an idol's temple. It is remarkable, and may be considered as a proof of the truth of the history, that this conduct, however unintelligible, is in keeping with Peter's character. We recognize in it the lineaments of him who confessed Christ first, and first denied Him; who began by refusing that Christ should wash his feet, and then said, "Not my feet only, but my hands and my head;" who cut off the ear of the servant of the high priest when they came to take Jesus, and then forsook Him and fled. Boldness and timidity — first boldness, then timidity — were the characteristics of his nature. It was natural for such a one, though no longer strictly a Jew himself, to desire that others should conform to the prejudices of Jews; such conduct agreed with the bent of his own mind, though he formally disowned it. There is, we may observe, in many men a sort of tenderness to what they once were themselves; as there is another class of men who learn a lesson, but only to apply it under given circumstances. Something of this kind there may have been in St. Peter; a narrowness of perception, or secret sympathy with the Judaizing converts, which prevented his seeing the wider truth which presented itself to St. Paul. At any rate, his was a disposition on which ancient habits and feelings were ever liable to return; whose heart could scarcely avoid lingering around the weak and beggarly elements of the law; on whom in age the lessons of youth were too prone to come back, "carrying him whither he would not." The charge which St. Paul brings against him was, inconsistency with himself; he was half a Gentile, and wanted to make the Gentiles altogether Jews.
What a constraining power there is in the example of eminent persons. He is said to compel, in Scripture, not only who doth violently force, but who, being of authority, doth provoke by his example.
()The errors of those that do rule become rulers of error. Men sin through a kind of authority, through the sins of those who are in authority.
Such as sin openly must be reproved openly. No bands of friendship must keep the ministers of God from reproving sin. A notorious fault must be reproved with much boldness and resolution. If such as are eminent in the Church fall, they fall not alone; many fall with them.
How many rejoice at Paul's defence of the liberty of the gospel against Peter's weakness, who themselves will not receive rebuke as Peter did — nay, are very popes at heart. For there are popes in pews as well as in pulpits, besides the pope who openly claims to be such; Christian liberty suffers from them all.
It is a good and a pleasant thing for brethren to dwell together in unity. But in a world like this such enjoyment cannot be universal or permanent. No Christian vigilance can prevent differences of opinion. They existed even among the apostles, and even upon fundamental truths. We may learn from this fact a twofold lesson.
1. When differences affect only the circumstantials of religion, however interesting, and in their place important, those matters which are in themselves of human origin and rest on human authority may be, the differences respecting them are calculated to teach us a lesson of charity (Romans 14:5, 6).
2. When they extend to the fundamental portions of revealed truth, they are equally calculated to teach us a lesson of fidelity (Galatians 1:8). The matter to which the text refers, considered in itself, might have been enumerated among those questions which teach charity; but, considered in its bearing upon the gospel, considered in the aspect which it gave to the gospel among the Gentiles, it compromised the freeness of the gospel, and marred the simplicity of God's message in Christ. And therefore St. Paul withstood the error of St. Peter "to the face, because he was to be blamed." Barnabas was carried away also with the dissimulation. St. Paul was left alone. It was a critical moment for the primitive Church. Who can estimate the amount of the disaster that would have followed had St. Paul fallen as St. Peter fell? Who can estimate the damage which would have been sustained had the gospel, from the very outset, been presented in a corrupt form? How could we now have traced its purity had St. Paul sunk with St. Peter? As far as man can judge, the world would then never have had the gospel in its simplicity with the clear authority of Scriptural truth. But, through the mercy and grace of God, St. Paul stood fast.
A gentleman of the Perfectionist school of thought called to see an old Christian of his neighbour. hood, and began enlarging upon that interesting topic. "Can you point to a single perfect man or woman in the Bible?" inquired the aged saint. "Yes," readily answered the other; "turn to Luke 1:6
, you will there read of two — Elizabeth and Zacharias walked 'in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord, blameless.'" "Then you consider yourself a believer like Zacharias?" "Certainly I do," said the visitor. "Ah," replied the old man, "I thought you might be; and we read a few verses further on that he was struck dumb for his unbelief."
It is said that in the earlier part of Robert Hall's ministry, he was impetuous and sometimes overbearing in argument; but if he lost his temper he was deeply humbled, and would often acknowledge himself to blame. On one of these occasions, when a discussion had become warm, and he had evinced unusual agitation, he suddenly closed the debate, quitted his seat, and, retiring to a remote part of the room, was overheard to ejaculate, with deep feeling, "Lamb of God, Lamb of God, calm my perturbed spirit!"
Burgomeister Guericke constructed a gigantic barometer with a tube thirty feet in height, part of which projected above the roof of his house at Magdeburg. The index was the figure of a man, who, in fair weather, was seen standing full size above the roof; but, when. a storm was brewing, he cautiously withdrew for security and shelter. Antitype of religionists and politicians I When the sun shines brightly, and the breezes scarcely breathe across the landscape, how erect and bold they look! But let the clouds gather, and the thunders mutter, and what a drawing-in of diminished heads! O rare, satirical Burgomeister! you must have had an alderman's experience.
WHAT IS REPROOF.
1. An act of charity and mercy, not of pride and vain-glory (2 Thessalonians 3:15; James 3:17.
2. Using fit discourse, not chastisement, and, in general, from God's Word (Colossians 3:16).
3. Having as its end not our brother's shame, but his reclamation from sin to duty (Galatians 6:1).
II. The KIND of reproof it is our duty to give.
1. Authoritative. By way of office (2 Timothy 4:2).
2. In the way of general duty, which lieth on all men (1 Thessalonians 5:14).
III. The MANNER in which to discharge this duty.
1. Faithfully (Titus 1:13).
2. With lenity and Christian meekness (Galatians 6:1).
3. Prudently. Well weighing all the circumstances of person, time, place, occasion, provocation, that all things may be proportioned to the design (Proverbs 25:12).
IV. The ARGUMENTS which enforce this duty.
1. The law of nature, which teaches us to love our neighbour.
2. The law of God (Proverbs 25:8-10; Matthew 18:15; 1 Thessalonians 3:15; 5:14; Jude 1:22, 23).
3. Giving reproof is commended (Proverbs 24:25; James 5:19, 20), and taking reproof (Proverbs 13:18; Proverbs 15:31, 32; Ecclesiastes 7:5).
4. The maintenance of society and the improvements of human relations depend upon it.
V. WHEN AND TO WHAT this duty binds.
1. Not unless the fault is certainly known; not, therefore, on mere suspicion (1 Corinthians 13:5), uncertain hearsay (Isaiah 11:3), flying reports, or slander.
2. Not if our brother has repented.
3. Not if a good result is unlikely, and a bad result probable (Matthew 7:6).In conclusion:
1. If we are to reprove others, let us take care that we are blameless (Matthew 6:3-5; Romans 3:21).
2. If others are bound to reprove, we are bound to take reproof.
Though St. Paul's narrative stops short of the last scene in this drama, it would not be rash to conclude that it ended as that other had ended, that the revulsion of feeling was as sudden and complete, and that again he went out and wept bitterly, having denied his Lord in the person of these Gentile converts.
Nothing can be more false and delusive than to imagine that the first teachers were men whose harmony of opinion and action was complete, who had neither debate, difference, or quarrel. They were not unconscious mouthpieces of a supernatural inspiration, automata of some uncontrollable enthusiasm, unanimous machines, but men of like passions with ourselves, men with characters, impulses, affections, fears, dislikes — men human in the mistakes they made and in the truths they embraced and enunciated. It is sheer superstition to treat them as more than men, as other than men, however highly we may esteem them and their work. If we make them unreal and transcendental personages we do them a great injustice, and ourselves a certain mischief, because all free inquiry into their motives and feelings is suspected as a challenge of their authority, and every other form of commentary becomes mere verbiage around a foregone conclusion. They ace not stars fixed round the great central Light, and differing only in glory and goodness from Him who is the centre of their system; but they have what light they possess from reflection, and feel themselves immeasurably distant from the Power which illumines them.
The Bible is of great worth for its natural, fresh, and honest expressions of human thought and feeling. The faith, hope, love, reverence, wonder; the doubts, sorrows, fears, temptations, and sins of the writers are recorded for our instruction, as well as the Divine doctrine they teach. In this spiritual portrait gallery we behold the work of truthful artists. No vanity, no pride, no desire to deceive, prevented them from pourtraying themselves just as they appeared. We value the Scriptures because their truths make us wise unto salvation; but we value them also as a record of what the good and wise thought and felt during their life-struggle on this earth. The Bible is not only a revelation of God, but also a revelation of man — the most Divine and the most human book ever written.
There are MSS. which are called palimpsests — MSS, written over again. The original inscription, which was fair and full of Divine wisdom, has been defaced, and in its place may now be seen letters and words and sentences in contrast to what was contained before. And so the character of men — these great men, men born of the Spirit — over their better natures you may see scratched in ugly scrawls, obvious imperfections and failures. But, thank God, Divine grace, through discipline of various kinds, rubs out the evil and brings back the good, and causes the soul at last to reveal again most distinctly what had been only dimmed and not destroyed, even as there has been discovered a method by which the palimpsests can be made to exhibit once more what seemed for ever spoiled.
There cannot more worthy improvement of friendship than in a fervent opposition to the sins of those whom we love.
Years after this encounter Peter took his revenge. Having to write to the strangers scattered through "Galatia," who through a celebrated Epistle knew of his humiliation, what does he do? Vindicate himself? State the other side? No; he calls his reprover a brother beloved, and testifies that in all his Epistles he wrote according to the wisdom given him of God.
The act of which he was guilty was dissimulation; it was not what he believed to be right, but an expediency adopted in a moment of weakness. It is described —
I. AS A VIOLATION OF HIS CONVICTIONS. He had commenced upon equal terms with Gentile believers, and he bad done this according to the express will of God revealed to him (Acts 10:28). These convictions had been further deepened by what had taken place in Jerusalem during Paul's visit to that city.
II. THIS DISSIMULATION WAS PROMPTED BY A VERY UNWORTHY MOTIVE. Peter feared them which were of the circumcision. Many have made shipwreck of faith upon this same rock. How often have men been ashamed to confess Christ, or to acknowledge their connection with His people for fear of man.
III. THIS DISSIMULATION WAS AN EVIL EXAMPLE, SOON COPIED BY OTHERS — "And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation." Peter's sin was followed by the sin of others. One of the greatest mysteries of our life is that so much of our happiness or misery appears to depend upon others. "As it sometimes happens on the snow slopes of the Alps, that one man's slip will involve the overthrow and destruction of all his fellow-travellers, so is it with us in the moral and spiritual life. Peter drags Barnabas and the rest of the Jews with him; and in our day men too often exercise the same fatal spell on those within the region of their influence." Lessons:
1. Honesty of belief, purpose, and work should be one of the chief laws of Christian life. This should apply to every kind of secular business, and to religion.
"This above all; to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day.
Thou canst not then be false to any man."
2. God can preserve the truth by the few as well as by the many. Whatever may be the character of human conduct, God does not allow his purpose to fail. At Antioch Paul alone was faithful (of the Jewish believers), but the truth triumphed notwithstanding.
When Frederick the First, the half-mad king of Prussia, was so enraged against his son that he announced his intention of condemning him to death, even though the Emperor remonstrated, in his fury exclaiming — "Then I will hold my own court on him at Konigsberg, which is outside of the Empire, where no one can control me!" But a fearless courtier spoke out — "Only God, your majesty, will be over you there to call you to task for shedding your son's blood!"
Now, before we go farther, we may learn the following lessons from this personal contention between Paul and Peter: In the first place, before we withstand a brother, let us be quite sure that he is to be blamed, and that the occasion warrants our protest. Paul would not have cared to interfere, with Peter in any trivial matter; nor would he have felt constrained to move in the ease but for the handle which would be made of his peculiar vacillation just at that time. No one had a fuller comprehension of what Christian liberty involved than had Paul; and no one was more jealous of its infringement. If, therefore, he had not seen that the fundamental principle of the gospel was at stake, he would not have said a word. The thing which Peter had done was in itself indifferent; but by doing it just then, at the appearance of the Judaizers, he had compromised that truth which was dearer to Paul than friendship, or even than life, and therefore he could not be silent. Now, let us learn from this example to withstand a brother only when we are thus constrained to do so by our allegiance to the truth of the gospel. If in any respect we cannot approve his conduct, while yet it may be explained in perfect harmony with his loyalty to Christ, let us give him the benefit of the explanation, and be silent. But if his procedure is such as seriously to compromise the purity of the Church or the truth of the gospel, then let us withstand him. Nothing is more contemptible than to be always putting ourselves on the opposition benches; objecting to everything that is proposed by some particular brother, and going to a church meeting with the motive of the Scotchman for appearing in the debating society — "jist to contradic a wee." But on the other hand, nothing ought to be dearer to a Christian than "the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which is committed to his trust." Again, we may learn not to be deterred from opposing wrong by the position of him who has committed it. Peter was an apostle. He was, in fact, one of the greatest pillars of the early Church; but Paul was not prevented by any such considerations as these from protesting against his injudicious and unseemly vacillation. On the contrary, the very prominence of Peter made it all the more important that his inconsistency should be promptly and publicly dealt with. Had he been an ordinary member of the Church, moving only in private circles, Paul might have been disposed to pass his conduct by with a mild remonstrance. It was not, therefore, because he loved Peter less, but because he loved the truth more, that he uttered this glowing and uncompromising admonition. But the same principles hold still; error or evil is dangerous in any man, but it is far more so in a leader of the people or a minister of the gospel than in others. Great eminence may command our respect, but the truth is before all things else; and nothing whatever should be allowed by us to excuse treason to that. Once more we may learn from Paul's conduct here that when we withstand a brother, it should be to his face. He did not go hither and thither among the elders, speaking against Peter and complaining of his course, while at the same time he kept unbroken silence concerning it to Peter himself. Let us say nothing in his absence that we would not utter in his presence; and if we have not the courage to speak to him, let us at least have the grace to be silent about him. From the conduct of Peter here, however, we may learn the no less valuable lesson that when we are thus withstood we should take it meekly, and, if we are in the wrong, should frankly own our error, and retrace our steps as rapidly as possible. We cannot doubt, therefore, that he accepted Paul's rebuke in the spirit of meekness. Now in all this there was a magnanimity which is worthy of all praise. So far as appears, he did not become excited, and exclaim against Paul for presuming to think that he could be wrong, but he did a more difficult and a more manly thing: he acknowledged his fault. Now here was a great triumph of grace. It may seem a paradox to say it; but there are few things which test a man's real Christianity more than reproof for that which is actually blameworthy. It is comparatively easy to guard against giving offence; but it is exceeding hard to keep from taking offence in such circumstances, and to say with the Psalmist, "Let the righteous smite me; it shall be a kindness: and let him reprove me; it shall be an excellent oil, which shall not break my head." We all assent to Solomon's proverb, "Open rebuke is better than secret love." We cry out against the modern dogma of papal infallibility, but we have all too much belief in that of our own infallibility; for our tempers are roused, and our hearts are estranged by any exposure of our error or inconsistency. How many personal alienations and ecclesiastical schisms might have been prevented, if there had been on the one side the honest frankness of Paul, and on the other the manly meekness of Peter, as these come out in this transaction! If I had my choice, I would rather see a controversy spring up in a Church about some great central doctrine than about some question of paltry detail of arrangement or of pitiful personality; for there would be less likelihood in the one case than in the other of an angry and acrimonious debate. "Little sticks kindle great fires." The flame that would die out before it could set fire to a log will easily ignite a chip, and that may have strength enough to kindle a faggot that will at length set the log in a blaze. Take care, therefore, especially in little things, lest temper should explode, and make a painful separation between you and your friend. Admirably has the poet said:
"Alas! how light a cause may move
Dissension between those that love."
The grace of God, which raises men's hearts by degrees into conformity with the Divine image, does not suddenly destroy the old nature. St. Peter is still the same impulsive man who could now confess the Christ, and now, when troubles came, deny Him; who could follow Him bravely into danger, yet be overcome by the gossiping remark of a girl that met him by chance. We must not try this ease by the standard of Anglo-Saxon consistency. We sometimes perhaps run the risk of purchasing too dearly the favourite virtue, at the price of zeal and ardour. We are not naturally indulgent towards that impulsive nature which the great apostle, more Jewish in this than the Jews, derived from his race. Anxious to please, and to be in sympathy with those about him, he rejoiced at first in the Gentile freedom, until those came about him who were full of prejudice for their venerable law, its severe conditions of communion, its austere separation. Let us neither praise nor blame — let us only say grace has not yet wrought her perfect work in this apostle's heart. Nor has the other great apostle yet learned all that the school of grace can teach him. Face to face, before the whole Church, he rebukes and humbles a brother whom Christ had honoured, who had laboured much, and turned many from darkness to light. He quotes it as a proof of his independence amongst the apostles, not without complacency. All this is consistent with this bold and resolute nature, which marched straight to its objects, and refused to swerve either out of respect of persons or out of fear. His steadfast resolution, that Christ should be all in all, came from above; his manner of compassing it bears clear marks of his old nature. That blessed change under the power of grace can be perhaps more fully studied in St. Paul's career than anywhere else in the Church history. The strong, loving, fierce, harsh nature — you see the faults transformed to virtues, the angles rounded off, the strong will made obedient to the bit and bridle of love; and yet it is the same man still. You recognize the old features of the portrait, but it is transfigured by preternatural light. Again we will not praise or blame; we will rather recognize the power of the mighty Spirit of God which could use for His purposes the timid impulse of one man and the impatient zeal of another, for building up the house of God; and at the same time could take in hand the timid and the impatient natures alike, and give courage to the one and softening to the other, thus building at one time the great house of God and carving delicately each living stone of which the house is compacted. It is very common for us to look up out of our welter of troubles, our sects, and schisms, and disputations, and to see far back in the first ages nothing but peace; a united Church, offering its harmonious, universal praise; a well-drilled army, marching in obedience to a single will, a code of faith which always, everywhere, all the faithful heard, and, without questioning, believed. But, as the student draws near, the object grows more distinct, the mists disperse, the shadows separate and fall into their places; and the rose-flush of the dawn ceases to conceal the true colours of that primaeval region. Then we come to see something very different from our preconceptions, and learn — what is indeed gladness to learn — that upon the whole, in the old time as in the new, the Holy Spirit sent of the Lord has wrought in the Church in the same manner. He was a Spirit of light and life and comfort to the souls of men; but then, as now, the men were enlightened, not transformed. And the glory of God's great work lay in this — not that the powers, wishes, and passions of the actors were petrified into a lifeless uniformity, and the superseding life from heaven took their place; but rather that, using as His instruments men so weak and perverse, He built with them the Church of God. To me, I do confess, it is a comfort to know that the Church in the first age grew by the same principles as it grows by in the nineteenth; that the very divisions amongst us have their counterparts in the age of the apostles, and that our disputes, like them, may be but permitted struggles and aberrations of us who are acting out God's great commands, and that all the while He is making perfect the circle of His purpose and accomplishing His kingdom. The Church has grown, as all things seem to grow, by the life within her striving to perfect itself amidst opposing forces. So grows the acorn, pushing its weak shoot through hard ground, and its strength and dignity are not less that once the swinish jaws narrowly missed devouring the heart, and the swinish foot did actually trample it into the clay. So grew the liberties of the English people: are they less dear to us because they have been threatened, and at times, eclipsed in the past? So grow the mind and spirit of a man, passing through trials and efforts, even through falls, to the ripeness of a resolute, tolerant, patient, helpful age. So grew the Church of Christ; and her life is not less real, less secure, if she has passed sometimes through fears and fightings, and the deep waters of the proud have seemed to go even over her life. At one time has had to stand against a world; at another, a imperils the Church by making it the supreme kingdom amongst the earthly kingdoms. Worldly motives are said to have tainted the Reformation of religion in this country: and it is true. So much the greater is our reason for blessing God: that the sweet honeycomb has come from the lion's carcase; that amidst the strife and selfishness of kings, and the ignorance of peoples, the truth passed safely. So even now the Church is growing, and God dwelling in her gives the increase. We seem in deadly peril. There is unbelief on one side, and on the other that deadening system which would hand over the conscience to the priest, and the priest to a mediaeval theology, hostile to knowledge and incapable of change. "The waves of the sea are mighty and rage horribly, but yet the Lord that dwelleth on high is mightier." Yet there is one more lesson which the study of the past might bring us. By the vehemence of past disputes — nay, by the bitter hatred that they have brought in, one might think that men had lost faith in the power of the Holy Ghost to keep safe the ark of God upon the stormy waters. To "withstand to the face" has been the common remedy for emergencies. It may be permitted us reverently to doubt whether the pulse of Divine life in the Church has been hastened by one beat by the violence of the zealous, who have thought well to be angry for the cause of God. Through strife, but not by strife, the Church has passed upon her way. Struggle and conflict, and even partial failure, should not convince us that God has left us: they are the heritage of the Church from the beginning.
Just — because he was guilty of dissimulation — misled others — acted in opposition to the spirit and doctrine of Christ (vers. 11-14).
II. Fearless. — without respect of Peter's age and position — without fear of others; the offence was public, therefore the rebuke was administered before all (ver. 14); otherwise our Lord's rule is imperative (Matthew 18:15-17).
III. Pointed — "thou," a transgressor of thine own law — enlightened and accepted in Christ (vers. 14, 15).
IV. Faithful — Paul indicates the greatness of the offence as a violation of Christian uprightness (ver. 14) — of fidelity to Christ, inasmuch as it was a practical denial of Him and made Him the minister of sin (vers. 17, 18) — of Christian doctrine (vers. 19, 20) — of God's grace (ver. 21).
His fault — dissimulation — reprehensible in any, much more in the apostle Peter (Acts 10:28
II. The occasion of it — fear of man — which ensnares even the best.
III. The effect of it — it misled others — even Barnabas.
IV. Its gravity — it was dishonest — unchristian.
V. Its reproof — dictated by love to Christ — manly and open.
, Syrian Antioch
TopicsAccustomed, Afraid, Aloof, Arrived, Ate, Belonged, Circumcision, Draw, Drew, Eat, Eating, Fear, Fearing, Gentiles, Group, Hold, James, Nations, Party, Persons, Prior, Separate, Separated, Separating, Withdraw, Withdrawing, Withdrew
Outline1. He shows when he went up again to Jerusalem, and for what purpose;3. and that Titus was not circumcised;11. and that he resisted Peter, and told him the reason;14. why he and others, being Jews, believe in Christ to be justified by faith, and not by works;20. and that they live not in sin, who are so justified.
Dictionary of Bible ThemesGalatians 2:12
8325 purity, nature of
5114 Peter, apostle
5293 defence, human
7759 preachers, qualifications
5010 conscience, matters of
7336 circumcision, spiritual
7512 Gentiles, in NT
LibraryFebruary 10. "I am Crucified with Christ; Nevertheless I Live" (Gal. Ii. 20).
"I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live" (Gal. ii. 20). Christ life is in harmony with our nature. A lady asked me the other day--a thoughtful, intelligent woman who was not a Christian, but who had the deepest hunger for that which is right: "How can this be so, and we not lose our individuality! This will destroy our personality, and it violates our responsibility as individuals." I said: "Dear sister, your personality is only half without Christ. Christ was made for you, and you were …
Rev. A. B. Simpson—Days of Heaven Upon Earth
September 25. "The Faith of the Son of God" (Gal. Ii. 20).
"The faith of the Son of God" (Gal. ii. 20). Let us learn the secret even of our faith. It is the faith of Christ, springing in our heart and trusting in our trials. So shall we always sing, "The life that I now live I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." Thus looking off unto Jesus, "the Author and Finisher of our faith," we shall find that instead of struggling to reach the promises of God, we shall lie down upon them in blessed repose and be borne up by them …
Rev. A. B. Simpson—Days of Heaven Upon Earth
December 18. "The Faith of the Son of God" (Gal. Ii. 20).
"The faith of the Son of God" (Gal. ii. 20). Faith is hindered most of all by what we call "our faith," and fruitless struggles to work out a faith which is but a make-believe and a desperate trying to trust God, which must ever come short of His vast and glorious promises. The truth is that the only faith that is equal to the stupendous promises of God and the measureless needs of our life, is "the faith of God" Himself, the very trust which He will breathe into the heart which intelligently expects …
Rev. A. B. Simpson—Days of Heaven Upon Earth
From Centre to Circumference
'The life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.'--GAL. ii. 20. We have a bundle of paradoxes in this verse. First, 'I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live.' The Christian life is a dying life. If we are in any real sense joined to Christ, the power of His death makes us dead to self and sin and the world. In that region, as in the physical, death is the gate of life; and, inasmuch as what we die to in Christ is itself …
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture
The Duty of Remembering the Poor
POVERTY is no virtue; wealth is no sin. On the other hand, wealth is not morally good, and poverty is not morally evil. A man may be a good man and a rich man; it is quite certain that very frequently good men are poor men. Virtue is a plant which depends not upon the atmosphere which surrounds it, but upon the hand which waters it, and upon the grace which sustains it. We draw no support for grace from our circumstances whether they be good or evil. Our circumstances may sometimes militate against …
Charles Haddon Spurgeon—Spurgeon's Sermons Volume 2: 1856
"And if Christ be in You, the Body is Dead Because Sin,"
Rom. viii. 10.--"And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because sin," &c. This is the high excellence of the Christian religion, that it contains the most absolute precepts for a holy life, and the greatest comforts in death, for from these two the truth and excellency of religion is to be measured, if it have the highest and perfectest rule of walking, and the chiefest comfort withal. Now, the perfection of Christianity you saw in the rule, how spiritual it is, how reasonable, how divine, how …
Hugh Binning—The Works of the Rev. Hugh Binning
Nor have I Undertaken that in the Present Discourse...
25. Nor have I undertaken that in the present discourse, as it more pertains to thee, who hast laid open the hiding-places of the Priscillianists, so far as relates to their false and perverse dogmas; that they may not seem to have been in such sort investigated as if they were meet to be taught, not to be argued against. Make it therefore more thy work that they be beaten down and laid low, as thou hast made it, that they should be betrayed and laid open; lest while we wish to get at the discovery …
St. Augustine—Against Lying
Or are we Indeed to Believe that it is for any Other Reason...
41. Or are we indeed to believe that it is for any other reason, that God suffers to be mixed up with the number of your profession, many, both men and women, about to fall, than that by the fall of these your fear may be increased, whereby to repress pride; which God so hates, as that against this one thing The Highest humbled Himself? Unless haply, in truth, thou shalt therefore fear less, and be more puffed up, so as to love little Him, Who hath loved thee so much, as to give up Himself for thee, …
St. Augustine—Of Holy Virginity.
Thus the Spirit of Man, Cleaving unto the Spirit of God...
29. Thus the spirit of man, cleaving unto the Spirit of God, lusts against the flesh, that is, against itself: but for itself, in order that those motions, whether in the flesh or in the soul, after man, not after God, which as yet exist through the sickness man hath gotten, may be restrained by continence, that so health may be gotten; and man, not living after man, may now be able to say, "But I live, now not I, but there liveth in me Christ."  For where not I, there more happily I: and, …
St. Augustine—On Continence
So Great Blindness, Moreover, Hath Occupied Men's Minds...
43. So great blindness, moreover, hath occupied men's minds, that to them it is too little if we pronounce some lies not to be sins; but they must needs pronounce it to be sin in some things if we refuse to lie: and to such a pass have they been brought by defending lying, that even that first kind which is of all the most abominably wicked they pronounce to have been used by the Apostle Paul. For in the Epistle to the Galatians, written as it was, like the rest, for doctrine of religion and piety, …
St. Augustine—On Lying
Neither do they Confess that they are Awed by those Citations from the Old...
7. Neither do they confess that they are awed by those citations from the Old Testament which are alleged as examples of lies: for there, every incident may possibly be taken figuratively, although it really did take place: and when a thing is either done or said figuratively, it is no lie. For every utterance is to be referred to that which it utters. But when any thing is either done or said figuratively, it utters that which it signifies to those for whose understanding it was put forth. Whence …
St. Augustine—On Lying
Introduction to Apologia De Fuga.
The date of this Defence of his Flight must be placed early enough to fall within the lifetime, or very close to the death (§1. n. 1), of Leontius of Antioch, and late enough to satisfy the references (§6) to the events at the end of May 357 (see notes there), and to the lapse of Hosius, the exact date of which again depends upon that of the Sirmian Council of 357, which, if held the presence of Constantius, must have fallen as late as August (Gwatk. Stud. 157, n. 3). Athanasius not only …
Athanasius—Select Works and Letters or Athanasius
The Main Current of the Reformation
I One of the greatest tragedies in Christian history is the division of forces which occurred in the Reformation movements of the sixteenth century. Division of forces in the supreme spiritual undertakings of the race is of course confined to no one century and to no one movement; it is a very ancient tragedy. But the tragedy of division is often relieved by the fact that through the differentiation of opposing parties a vigorous emphasis is placed upon aspects of truth which might otherwise have …
Rufus M. Jones—Spiritual Reformers in the 16th and 17th Centuries
Whether God Became Incarnate in Order to Take Away Actual Sin, Rather than to Take Away Original Sin?
Objection 1: It would seem that God became incarnate as a remedy for actual sins rather than for original sin. For the more grievous the sin, the more it runs counter to man's salvation, for which God became incarnate. But actual sin is more grievous than original sin; for the lightest punishment is due to original sin, as Augustine says (Contra Julian. v, 11). Therefore the Incarnation of Christ is chiefly directed to taking away actual sins. Objection 2: Further, pain of sense is not due to original …
Saint Thomas Aquinas—Summa Theologica
Bread and Wine Cont.
(4) We have yet to ask the great question, what is the specific blessing expressed by the elements, and therefore surely given to the faithful by the sacrament. Too many are content to think vaguely of Divine help, given us for the merit of the death of Christ. But bread and wine do not express an indefinite Divine help, they express the body and blood of Christ, they have to do with His Humanity. We must beware, indeed, of limiting the notion overmuch. At the Supper He said not "My flesh," but "My …
G. A. Chadwick—The Gospel of St. Mark
The Great Debt She Owed to Our Lord for his Mercy to Her. She Takes St. Joseph for Her Patron.
1. After those four days, during which I was insensible, so great was my distress, that our Lord alone knoweth the intolerable sufferings I endured. My tongue was bitten to pieces; there was a choking in my throat because I had taken nothing, and because of my weakness, so that I could not swallow even a drop of water; all my bones seemed to be out of joint, and the disorder of my head was extreme. I was bent together like a coil of ropes--for to this was I brought by the torture of those days--unable …
Teresa of Avila—The Life of St. Teresa of Jesus
Relation ii. To one of Her Confessors, from the House of Dona Luisa De La Cerda, in 1562.
Jesus. I think it is more than a year since this was written; God has all this time protected me with His hand, so that I have not become worse; on the contrary, I see a great change for the better in all I have to say: may He be praised for it all! 1. The visions and revelations have not ceased, but they are of a much higher kind. Our Lord has taught me a way of prayer, wherein I find myself far more advanced, more detached from the things of this life, more courageous, and more free.  I fall …
Teresa of Avila—The Life of St. Teresa of Jesus
Estimate of the Scope and Value of Jerome's Writings.
General. The writings of Jerome must be estimated not merely by their intrinsic merits, but by his historical position and influence. It has already been pointed out that he stands at the close of the old Græco-Roman civilisation: the last Roman poet of any repute, Claudian, and the last Roman historian, Ammianus Marcellinus, died before him. Augustin survived him, but the other great Fathers, both in the East and in the West, had passed away before him. The sack of Rome by Alaric (410) and …
St. Jerome—The Principal Works of St. Jerome
The Commentary is in three books, with full Prefaces. Book I., Ch. i. 1-iii. 9. Addressed to Paula and Eustochium, a.d. 387. The Preface to this book begins with a striking description of the noble Roman lady Albina, which is as follows: Only a few days have elapsed since, having finished my exposition of the Epistle of Paul to Philemon, I had passed to Galatians, turning my course backwards and passing over many intervening subjects. But all at once letters unexpectedly arrived from Rome with the …
St. Jerome—The Principal Works of St. Jerome
Twentieth Day. Holiness and Liberty.
Being made free from sin, ye became servants of righteousness: now present your members as servants of righteousness unto sanctification. Now being made free from sin, and become servants unto God, ye have your fruit unto sanctification, and the end eternal life.'--Rom. vi. 18, 19, 22. 'Our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus.'--Gal. ii. 4. 'With freedom did Christ set us free: stand fast therefore, and be not entangled again in a yoke of bondage.'--Gal. v. 1. There is no possession more …
Andrew Murray—Holy in Christ
Charity and Rebuke.
And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.--1 COR. xiii. 13. The second main point of difference between a true and a false Charity, we want to remark, is, Divine Charity is not only consistent with, but it very often necessitates, reproof and rebuke by its possessor. It renders it incumbent on those who possess it to reprove and rebuke whatever is evil--whatever does not tend to the highest interests of its object. This Charity conforms in this, as …
Second Great Group of Parables.
(Probably in Peræa.) Subdivision A. Introduction. ^C Luke XV. 1, 2. ^c 1 Now all the publicans and sinners were drawing hear unto him to hear. 2 And both the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them. [For publicans see p. 76, and for eating with them see p. 349. The Pharisees classed as "sinners" all who failed to observe the traditions of the elders, and especially their traditional rules of purification. It was not so much the wickedness of …
J. W. McGarvey—The Four-Fold Gospel
The Critical Reconstruction of the History of the Apostolic Age.
"Die Botschaft hör' ich wohl, allein mir fehlt der Glaube." (Goethe.) Never before in the history of the church has the origin of Christianity, with its original documents, been so thoroughly examined from standpoints entirely opposite as in the present generation. It has engaged the time and energy of many of the ablest scholars and critics. Such is the importance and the power of that little book which "contains the wisdom of the whole world," that it demands ever new investigation and sets …
Philip Schaff—History of the Christian Church, Volume I
This Question I Should Briefly Solve, if I Should Say...
24. This question I should briefly solve, if I should say, because I should also justly say, that we must believe the Apostle. For he himself knew why in the Churches of the Gentiles it was not meet that a venal Gospel were carried about; not finding fault with his fellow-apostles, but distinguishing his own ministry; because they, without doubt by admonition of the Holy Ghost, had so distributed among them the provinces of evangelizing, that Paul and Barnabas should go unto the Gentiles, and they …
St. Augustine—Of the Work of Monks.
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