Chapter # 2 Paragraph # 1 Study # 10
May 8, 2011
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:
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 Nine: Jerusalem's Response. [The first eight parts: The "fourteen years"; The issue of "going up to Jerusalem"; Barnabas and Titus; The divine mandate; Paul's action; The key result; The false brethren; and Paul's response.]
- A. Jerusalem's Response.
- 1. This response is "from those who seemed to be something".
- 2. This response was: "to me they added nothing".
- 3. This response was: "they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship".
- a. This declaration is loaded on the front end with "clarifications". It is found at the end of 2:9, but its "prelude" begins in 2:7.
- b. Those "clarifications" line up along this path...
- 1) There was a "no additions" (see I.A.2. above) reality in which the "seemers" (those who "seemed" to be something special in the leadership in Jerusalem) did not insist upon, or (perhaps) even mention, any particulars that Paul was omitting, or (perhaps) down playing, in his proclamation of the Gospel among the nations. It is hard to see how this is not a critical blow to those who would "add" circumcision, or law-keeping, to the Gospel.
- 2) There is a "but (Greek's strongest adversative) on the other hand" reality that emphasizes the contrast between what might have been expected (some "addition" that would strengthen the apostle Paul's proclamation) and what actually happened (not only did they not "add", they "embraced").
- 3) There is a "when they saw the gospel was entrusted to me" reality that stands as a declaration that they came to clearly understand in a way, perhaps, that they had not before (after 16-17 years). [It is hard for me to understand how Paul could have been functioning for so long with Barnabas alongside and those in Jerusalem not knowing what he was preaching.]
- 4) There is a deliberate "the Gospel of the Uncircumcision" and "the Gospel of the Circumcision" reality.
- a) This is not, as some would have it, an admission that the Gospel is fundamentally altered by reason of the audience to whom it is preached. There is no such thing as "two" Gospels -- one for Jews and another one for non-Jews. The terminology is nothing more, or less, than a declaration that the God of the Gospel divided up the task of its proclamation. To Peter He gave the task of proclamation in the midst of Israel and to Paul He gave the task of proclamation in the midst of the nations. But the "message" at the heart of the proclamation is precisely the same across the board. It is indisputable that "faith" in the "message" will create its own distinctions because of the varied realities in the hearers (Jews will turn from their "dead works to serve the living God" -- Hebrews 9:14 -- and non-Jews will turn from their "idols to serve the living and true God -- 1 Thessalonians 1:9), but the faith-response is simply the way the Gospel addresses people in their own particular setting. It is no proof that there are actually two Gospels, one for Jews and another (different) one for non-Jews. It is actually this that caused the rift that created the need to go to Jerusalem "by revelation": the party of the circumcision disallowed a "different" Gospel for the nations and insisted that the essence of the message of grace included circumcision and determined "law-keeping". But what they required was a form of "faithresponse" from non-Jews that, actually, required something that was not required of Jews -- a "culture-shift" into "circumcision and law-keeping" that were merely cultural realities within Israel (Israel's circumcision and lawkeeping were not methods of serving God, they were merely cultural forms that actually meant nothing in respect to real service to God; a form of "lipservice" for "distant hearts" -- Isaiah 29:13 -- that meant that they were "of their father, the devil" -- John 8:44). Simultaneously Paul also disallowed a "different" Gospel for the nations but insisted that the Jews who insisted upon circumcision and determined law-keeping had the "Gospel" for the Jews wrong. Jews were not within the parameters of the single "Gospel" who did not understand that it was by grace and not human obedience.
- b) To use the fact that Paul used the phrases "the gospel of the uncircumcision" and "the gospel of the circumcision" to argue for two distinct gospels is an easily made hermeneutical error. That it is an error, however, is revealed in the next verse where Paul said an equivalent thing with his phrases "apostle of the circumcision" and "to me unto the nations". This does not argue that the essential elements of "apostleship" are different. Rather, it simply identifies the differences in "task". Already, in Galatians 1:8-9, Paul has denounced the notion that there are two legitimate gospels, and in his confrontation with Peter later in this chapter, he pointedly declared that Jews were not saved by their circumcision and law-keeping.
- 5) There is a deliberate "apostleship of the circumcision" and an "apostleship of the nations" reality.
- a) In Peter's argument in Acts 15, in support of Paul's contentions, he claims that it was God's choice that he (Peter) be the one to initially bring the Gospel to the nations (Acts 15:7). This was in spite of the fact that the bulk of his proclamation of that Gospel was for the Jews, and in spite of the fact that he was "the apostle of the circumcision" according to Paul's own terminology.
- b) But it is also an inescapable fact of revelation from Acts that it was not Peter who moved forward in the direction of taking the gospel into the nations. God used him to initiate that ministry, but not carry it forward. That task was assigned to Paul.