Chapter # 2 Paragraph # 1 Study # 6
April 10, 2011
5 To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.
6 But of these who seemed to be somewhat, (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man's person:) for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me:
7 But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter;
8 (For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:)
9 And when James, Cephas, 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, and they unto the circumcision.
10 Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do.
1901 ASV Translation:
5 to whom we gave place in the way of subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.
6 But from those who were reputed to be somewhat (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth not man's person)-they, I say, who were of repute imparted nothing to me:
7 but contrariwise, when they saw that I had been intrusted with the gospel of the uncircumcision, even as Peter with the gospel of the circumcision
8 (for he that wrought for Peter unto the apostleship of the circumcision wrought for me also unto the Gentiles);
9 and when they perceived the grace that was given unto me, James and Cephas and John, they who were reputed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship, that we should go unto the Gentiles, and they unto the circumcision;
10 only they would that we should remember the poor; which very thing I was also zealous to do.
- I. Paul's Confrontational Clarification of the Gospel in Jerusalem, Part Eight: Paul's Response. [The first seven parts: The "fourteen years"; The issue of "going up to Jerusalem"; Barnabas and Titus; The divine mandate; Paul's action; The key result; and The false brethren.]
- A. Paul's Response.
- 1. His response is couched in terms not often found in the New Testament.
- a. The word translated "gave place" is only found here.
- b. The words translated "by subjection" are only found in four contexts of the New Testament.
- 2. His response was, in effect, "we didn't budge an inch".
- a. The issue of refusing to "submit" is serious business in that "compromise" is a very highly valued practice in our current world. However, the "compromise" of the truth is invariably the permission for Death to get a foothold. This is the basic method of the adversary: do whatever is necessary to get a foot in the door.
- b. The matter at stake is clearly identified: the on-going presence of the truth of the Gospel. However, the "clarity" is a compromised issue: Which of the individual truths of the Gospel does Paul have in mind? Men have debated for a long time over what essential "Gospel" truth actually is. The historic Liberal/Fundamentalist controversy in the USA in the early part of the twentieth century was just that: an attempt to identify "the fundamentals of the faith" apart from which one would not be "justified" by God. The problem here is not hard to identify: the Truth is integrally connected so that no "truth" stands alone or makes only a limited contribution to the whole. In other words all truths have an impact on the "Truth" and any denial of any particular is an attack upon the whole. In Paul's situation, the focus was upon one element within a larger segment. That one element is the conflict between the methodologies of "grace" and "law". The larger segment is the methodology of the Gospel. But, as methodology, the segment is not the whole picture. The Gospel stands, or falls, on many individual particulars. Any attack upon any "truth" is an attack upon "Truth" and any successful attack on any part signals the destruction of the whole. "Jot and tittle accuracy" is successfully shot down by any illegitimate "jot" or "tittle" (Matthew 5:18).
- 3. The "problem": no individual, or group, has a comprehensive grasp of the Truth so that any "refusal to budge" tends in the direction of the establishment of a false system because the refusal to budge forces alignment or rejection with no middle ground.
- a. At what point does a serious believer "give way", and at what point does he refuse to yield? One of the more popular bits of "advice" given to those dealing with others is "pick your battles". The assumption behind that is that the one doing the "picking" has the wisdom to know which compromises will do the least damage. That is an assumption that has rarely, if ever, been justified.
- 1) The problems are both many and enormous.
- a) At any time that the situation involves more than a single believer in relationship with God in His Light, the ability to operate "biblically" is circumscribed. Not only do no believers ever operate "biblically" across the board (God only requires a clear conscience, not a clear understanding of an omniscience-based theology), no two believers "walk in the same Light" if by "Light" we mean a clear grasp of the biblical mandate and methods. Every individual grows into the "Light" at his/her own individual pace and no two individuals have the same understanding of anything.
- b) As soon as any believer's participation is with multiple others, the ability to operate "biblically" is reduced in direct proportion to the numbers involved.
- c) At any time that a believer's commitment to a "mandate" transcends his/her personal "knowledge/conscience" reality, the ability to operate biblically is lost.
- d) The biblical admonition to be "longsuffering" runs smack into its admonition to "stand against evil". The problem is that those who lack understanding are generally more "committed" to their agenda and methods so that any who would "work with them" will have to yield their own agenda and methods.
- e) Every group of people who have agreed to work together has an unbiblical agenda and accepts unbiblical methods in the pursuit of it. This runs from the fact that no two people will ever agree at the heart of every situation they face and the lack of agreement forces one of two things: separation, or compromise. Further, the larger the group the more compromises that will be made. This is inescapable and calls for a greater grasp of the fact that "grace" must be at the root of each believer's understanding. God's will gets done for one reason: His omniscience and wisdom are both infinite so that He can get done what needs doing with, or without, human understanding or cooperation.
- 2) The solutions seldom fit a legitimate biblical mandate.
- a) Because men are desperate to be seen as "legitimate", they will always do what they think is necessary to promote their legitimacy. This, for those in the "biblical" camp, will invariably involve the twisting of Scripture so that both the "agenda" and the "methods" have "Scriptural backing" in the view of those involved.
- b) There is only one real "biblical mandate": Acts 24:16. [Note that it is at this point that I bring on my own "Scriptural backing". However, I do challenge anyone to show how one can be "biblical" in mandate or method who does not view Paul's "constant exercise" as more fundamental than anything else he seeks to pursue.] The difficulty here is that as soon as one becomes aware that he/she is "out of line", a "conscience void of offence toward God" will automatically compel an "adjustment" that will invariably create tensions with those whose consciences do not accept the premise that caused the person to recognize that he/she is "out of line". Once this occurs, the conflict between "conscience" and "unity" rises to storm level. There is a reason that Paul, at the end of his ministry in this world, claimed that "all have forsaken me". A clear conscience will often lead straight to this result.
- c) The two most typical approaches of men are: 1) maintain conscience at the cost of "unity" and the ability to pursue the agenda by a method that caused the crisis of conscience in the first place (thus tending in the direction of creating and maintaining a Noah-mentality -- "I alone am correct"); or 2) sacrifice conscience at the cost of personal openness to God in order to maintain "unity" and the ability to continue to pursue the agenda by the method(s) (thus creating and maintaining a harlot-mentality -- "many lovers need satisfaction in order for me to be prosperous"). Since neither of these typical approaches are legitimate, any who would live in a clear-conscience situation face a significantly difficult condition.
- b. There are no hard and fast answers, and, for this reason, the gradual dominance of the mystery of iniquity is inevitable. This raises these questions: is there any point to standing fast on any "truth"? When is "truth" Truth?
- 4. Toward a "solution"...
- a. "Precision" is demonstrably "edgy" at the edges, but "accuracy" is also demonstrably achievable at the center/core (even a piece of metal abandoned to the processes of decay will rust more aggressively at the outer edges than it will at the center).
- b. Though there will always be the question as to what is "edge" stuff and what is "core" stuff (is the timing of the "Rapture" as crucial as the "deity" of Christ?), the reality is that the "what is edgy and what is core?" issue is like the rest of the reality of edges and centers -- some things are accurately identified (the identity of the Christ is far more central than the question of whether a woman can legitimately lead the worship team in church).
- c. The biblical position on the restraint of the mystery of iniquity and the inevitable destruction of the world as we know it is that those issues are deliberately kept in God's hands and not ours. This means that we are to "pray without ceasing" about the decisions we face, but we are not to belabor the issue of consequences: it is not our job to bring in the Kingdom.
- d. It was Paul's "job" to press the issue of the methodology of salvation because that is, without dispute, a most "central" issue with all manner of horrendous consequences attached to "getting it wrong". He claimed that the issue of his unyielding stance was "keeping the Gospel present to you". What he meant was that the Gospel was being attacked at the point of methodology in the specific arena of "the resolution of human sin and Divine Justice". Is there any act that a son of Adam can do to compensate for any sin which a son of Adam has already done? Paul's answer is a resounding "No" for one cause: man's sin against God is an action taken out of "death" and there is no "law" that can bring "life" (Galatians 3:21). Man's basic problem is not his "sins"; it is, rather, what causes them: an existence surrounded, circumscribed by, and infused with, death. As long as man is "dead", it is impossible for him to do "good".