Chapter # 2 Paragraph # 1 Study # 13
Thesis: For Cephas and John to extend their right hands of fellowship to Paul made it impossible for opponents to claim that their "doctrine" was an accurate representation of the Gospel of the Church of Jesus Christ.
Introduction: It cannot be overstated that Paul's version of the Gospel of the Church of Jesus Christ is a message that completely eliminates any, and every, linkage between the Justice of God and the efforts of fallen human beings to establish themselves as "just". This is Paul's point in Galatians, chapter two, when he claims the support of James, Cephas, and John in the preaching of this Gospel to the non-Jewish world.
It was our goal in our last study to show that James, being the first listed by Paul as one who extended his right hand of fellowship, was not in any way opposed to Paul's explanation of the Gospel in spite of the way men have reacted to his own letter in the New Testament. In that letter he said, multiple times, that a man was "justified by works" and not by "faith" alone, but his focus was clearly upon the question of the nature of "faith" itself within a context of people making professions of believing things that did not affect their behavior. A "faith" that does not produce a commensurate response in the person "believing" is not biblical, or saving, faith. Therefore, no one is "justified" by such a faith and, alternatively, everyone who is "justified" is justified by a faith that "works". Thus, by extension, "justification" is by "works" when it is clearly understood that those "works" are simply the outworking of a legitimate "belief". The danger here is that people will often argue for required "works" that have nothing to do with the promise of God to justify him/her that believes. The Bible only defines one "work" that is directly tied to this promise; the "work" of ceasing to work. Hebrews 4 says that anyone who has really entered into the "rest" God provides in the Gospel has ceased to work. This would mean, then, that anyone who was still "doing works" in order to be "justified" was simply revealing that he/she was the object of James' letter and rebuke.
This evening, we are going to look into those others who also extended their "right hands of fellowship": Cephas and John.
May 29, 2011
- I. Cephas.
- A. In Galatians 2:7-8 Paul wrote of those who recognized the similarity between his apostleship and that of Peter.
- 1. In that segment of his argument, he clearly identified Peter as "Peter".
- 2. However, when he decided to argue that "Peter" had come down on his side of the hot debate, he changed the way he referred to him: he called him "Cephas".
- B. In our present text (2:9) Paul's reference to Peter as "Cephas" is interesting, as is the textual traditions behind our translations of this letter to the Galatians.
- 1. First, in regard to the textual traditions, there is a deliberate consistency in referring to Peter as "Peter" in the Authorized Version except in 2:9.
- 2. But, in this regard, there is a deliberate consistency in referring to Peter as "Cephas" in the NASB except in 2:7-8.
- 3. The issue raised by these variations in the traditions is this: since both of the traditions acknowledge a shift from "Cephas" to "Peter" or from "Peter" to "Cephas" (depending upon which tradition is in view), why?
- a. There is no room in a "jot and tittle" accuracy in the writings of the New Testament for the claim that Paul was simply varying the way he referred to Peter/Cephas for stylistic purposes.
- b. Thus, our question is this: what are the impacts of the words "Peter" and "Cephas" in Paul's references?
- c. To answer, we need to know certain facts.
- 1) In Paul's letters in the New Testament, his preference for "Cephas" dominates under certain conditions.
- a) According to the NASB, Paul never identified Peter as "Peter" except in Galatians 2:7-8 (the only times he referred to Peter outside of Galatians are found in 1 Corinthians 1:12; 3:22; 9:5; and 15:5).
- b) The reason is likely found in John 1:42 where Jesus alters Peter's name from "Simon" to "Cephas".
- i. This name change was deliberate on Jesus' part in order to declare what God was going to do in Simon's life.
- ii. Paul's use of "Cephas" typically revealed his respect for what God had done in Simon's life (in his Corinthian letter, "Cephas" was a solid leader of the Church because God had altered his nature).
- iii. Paul's references to "Cephas" all had to do with his leadership among the Jewish Christians.
- 2) In Paul's references to "Peter", the issue is his position as the God-ordained apostle to the circumcision and to address him in that capacity as "Peter" is completely unexpected as "Peter" is the non-Jewish translation of "Cephas".
- a) The impact of this use of "Peter" is this: "Peter" is recognized as the one to whom God had given the privilege/responsibility of promoting the Gospel among the Jews.
- b) Paul's use of "Peter" is completely out of character: no one else calls him "Cephas" except Paul and Paul never calls him "Peter" except in 2:7-8 (even Peter calls himself "Peter" in both of his New Testament letters).
- c) Thus we conclude that Paul was deliberately emphasizing that when "Peter" is identified as the God-ordained leader of the Jewish Church, he is "Peter" (not "Cephas" as we would naturally expect); but when he is identified as a supporter of the content of the Gentile-focused Gospel, he is "Cephas" (not "Peter" as we would expect). [Paul used the Gentile form of his name ("Peter" is a Greek word) when he emphasized his identity as the Jewish apostle and the Jewish form of his name ("Cephas" comes out of Hebrew roots) when he emphasized his identity as an apostolic supporter of the Gentile-focused Gospel -- completely the opposite of what we would expect.]
- d. Thus, we conclude that Paul is deliberately saying, "This high visibility 'Jew' extended his right hand of fellowship to establish the precise content of the Gospel for the sake of 'Gentiles'."
- 1) As we noted, Paul's use of James takes all of the doctrinal ammunition away from his (James') followers who are creating all of the problems.
- 2) Now, Paul's use of Cephas takes all of the support of the Jewish "Church" away from the false brethren (they can no longer say that "Jerusalem" supports their doctrine).
- II. John.
- A. As we have pointed out in the past, "John" is a word-name that was given by God to the angel who told Zacharias and Elizabeth what to name their son that means that there is coming a huge "T"heological focus-shift: Yahweh is gracious.
- B. That the eventual author of the fourth Gospel in the New Testament extended his right hand to Paul means that Paul's expression of the Gospel is the only form of the message that contains the proper Grace-focus, without which there is no salvation.