Chapter # 2 Paragraph # 2 Study # 5
Thesis: The major "difference" between Jews and Gentiles in the divine program consisted of God's promises to Abraham to make of him a great nation (Genesis 12:2) and to make him the father of many nations (Genesis 17:4-5).
Introduction: As we have looked into the problem that Paul saw with the unloving behavior of Cephas toward his gentile brothers in Christ, we have seen that it was a direct attack upon the truth of the Gospel as well as a major perversion of the primary methodology of the Gospel. As we saw last time, the undergirding truth of the Gospel is that God loves men even though they have pursued sin with their whole hearts and this love has produced a method of redemption that allows God to completely set aside all judicial consequences for sins committed by providing a Substitute Who bore the weight of all of those sins for all of mankind.
The problem that the behavior of Cephas brought to the table in regard to these realities is that he divorced the love of God from its unconditional roots, turning it into a conditional response to man's loyalty, and he substituted a performance based methodology for obtaining that love for the grace/faith provision God made in Christ. By so doing, he re-established the antagonism of men toward God and destroyed any hope of reconciliation.
How did he do this? What was his rationale? This evening we are going to look into the distinction that Paul allows between Jews and Gentiles in order to attempt to understand this.
July 10, 2011
- I. Paul's Response to Cephas Included a Concession to the Jewish Sense of a Special Identity.
- A. His words were, "We natural Jews".
- 1. The word "natural" is used multiple times by Paul to refer to the way things are in the physical universe when there is no monkeying with the processes of our physical world (Romans 2:27; 11:21; and Galatians 4:8).
- 2. At the root of his meaning is the genetic connection between "Jews" and their original progenitor (Abraham).
- a. This genetic connection is deliberately emphasized and clarified in the Old Testament by the phrase, "the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob" (Genesis 50:24; Exodus 3:6, 15, 16) because Abraham had others sons (Ishmael and the six sons of Ketura).
- b. At the heart of this focus was the promise of God to Abraham that He would make of him a great nation (Genesis 12:2).
- B. His words accepted the reality that God's choice of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and the nation He created from them made that nation a very special, exalted, and privileged entity.
- 1. In Romans 3:1 Paul reiterated this reality of special identity and privilege.
- 2. Moses said, in Deuteronomy 10:15, that God's choice exalted Israel above all nations, though he had already cautioned them about letting this produce pride in them (Deuteronomy 9:6).
- C. His words accept a special identity of exalted people (this is the heart of his argument in Galatians 2:16).
- II. Paul's Response to Cephas Included a Concession to the Jewish Attitude Toward the Gentiles.
- A. His words were "not of the nations, 'sinners' ".
- B. His words made a specific distinction between Jews and Gentiles: not 'sinners'.
- C. His words had a very specific meaning.
- 1. He was not in any way saying that the Jews were not "sinners" in the generic sense of the term.
- 2. There was a major distinction between Gentiles and Jews in regard to the issue of "sin".
- a. This distinction is rooted in the reason behind God's promise to Abraham to make of him a great nation (Genesis 12:2).
- 1. This reason was His summons to Abraham to leave his "kindred".
- 2. This reason was rooted in the significance of "kindred" (the soul's need for the experience of relational harmony).
- b. This distinction is rooted in the fact that it was Yahweh that made this promise to Abraham.
- 1. Yahweh is the God of the Jews.
- 2. The Gentiles claimed allegiances to other gods which Galatians 4:8 says are "by nature no gods".
- c. The specific sense of "sinners" in this context is the issue of the identity of the true God.
- D. The Jews knew, and Paul accepted, the fact that they were identified by their association with the only true God, in distinction from the Gentiles.
- III. Paul's Response to Cephas, However, Did Not Overlook God's "Other" Promise to Abraham.
- A. In Genesis 17:4 Moses recorded that God promised Abraham that he would be the father of many nations and that promise was the basis for the change of his name.
- B. In Romans 4:17 Paul argues that Abraham became the father of many nations by faith and in 4:10-13 he argues that "circumcision" did not affect the basic methodology: righteousness by faith.