Sunday, 28 February 2016
But on the contrary, when they saw that the gospel for the uncircumcised had been committed to me, as the gospel for the circumcised was to Peter… Galatians 2:7
The words, “But on the contrary” are given to contrast his previous words of verse 6 which said, “…for those who seemed to be something added nothing to me.” There was nothing deficient in Paul’s gospel message, nor was there anything unsound or inappropriate. Instead, just as he noted, those in Jerusalem “added nothing to me.” His message was complete, sound, and in line with the truth of Jesus Christ. His commission was valid and there was no need to add anything to it for it to be complete.
Because of this he says, “…they (meaning the leaders in Jerusalem) saw that the gospel for the uncircumcised has been committed to me.” The light of what Christ was doing through Paul truly dawned on them at this time. It was already known that the Gentiles could be a part of the church. This was seen in the account of Cornelius’ conversion in Acts 10 & 11. And even more than this, it came through Peter’s evangelism rather than Paul’s.
There could be no disputing that what Paul was doing was both correct and in line with the purposes of God because of this occurrence between Peter and Cornelius. And yet, the focus of the evangelism of “the uncircumcision” belonged not to Peter, but to Paul. He was uniquely qualified to carry out this ministry and it had been committed to him. The fact that Paul is specifically noted as the Apostle to the Gentiles is recorded both implicitly and explicitly numerous times in the New Testament, but three specific references are found in Romans 11:13, 1 Timothy 2:7, and 2 Timothy 1:11. These, along with this note in Galatians 2:7 are sufficient evidence of the specificity of Paul’s ministry.
Continuing on, he next notes, “…as the gospel for the circumcised was to Peter.” What this means is that Peter was not only an apostle to the circumcised (meaning the Jews), but he is the main apostle to the Jews. The singling out of Peter in this way is used to show this, and it is well attested to in the structure and layout of the book of Acts. Acts 1-12 highlight Peter and his ministry to an exceptional degree. However, chapters 13-28 highlight Paul and his ministry in the same way. Everything that Peter accomplishes in his section of Acts is repeated in a marvelous way by Paul in his section.
Having said this, it does not mean that Peter’s ministry was solely one of evangelizing Jews (as was noted concerning Cornelius above), nor was Paul’s ministry solely one of evangelizing Gentiles. There was also not a different gospel transmitted by Peter than that of Paul. Rather, there is, as the Bible scholar Lightfoot notes, “…a distinction of sphere, and not a difference of type.” This is absolutely certain by Paul’s comments in Galatians as well as Peter’s comments in his second epistle –
“…and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation—as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, 16 as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.” 2 Peter 3:15, 16
Because of the sphere of influence which the Bible marks out between Peter and Paul, it cannot go without notice or mentioning that the Roman Catholic Church’s doctrine of Peter being the first Pope is simply nuts. The Bible clearly shows that Peter was the Apostle to the Jews. Paul is the Apostle to the Gentiles. As Peter’s message was to the Jews, then it would make as much sense as a baseball hoop for the Roman Catholic Church to claim its roots in the message of Peter.
There are many logical arguments for denying their claim concerning Peter, this being just one of them, but it is a convincing one. The structure of the book of Acts, the layout of the epistles in the New Testament, and the dispensational model of redemptive history, all show the truth that Peter’s message was intended for the early church, followed by a time when Paul’s letters would be church doctrine, and then Peter’s letters would again take on added significance after the rapture of the church.
Life application: Paul’s words are doctrine for the Gentile-led church age. All Scripture is God-breathed and all of it is useful for doctrine, reproof, learning about God, etc. However, not all of it applies in the same way at all times. Context is king in biblical interpretation and Paul’s letters are specifically designed for this dispensation of time.
Marvelous, O God! You are marvelous. You give us rain in its season. You provide us the day and the night so that we can work according to the seasons. You bring out the right weather at the right time so that the flowers bloom, the crops grow, and the animals know when to move and where to move. You give us our own seasons of life where our eyes can behold all things a bit differently as we change. Everything is so wonderfully perfect because of Your wisdom. Marvelous, O God! You are marvelous. Amen.