Explaining Paul (Part 4)

I’m continuing on, starting with Question 11.

11.  If Paul’s claim in Galatians 2:16 is true, that we are saved by faith only, then why does James refute this in James 2:14-26 calling the author of this doctrine “o vain man” in v.20?

This is probably the most misunderstood thing about Paul.

Entire religions and doctrines have sprung up around something that Paul did not ever believe.  I’m talking about “Faith Only” doctrine.  Paul did not believe that at all.  You mention Galatians 2:16.  Nowhere in the that verse did Paul say we are justified by faith only.  He only says that we are NOT justified by the works of the law, but rather by our faith in Christ.  Now, I know that people will say “But, when he says we are justified by our faith in Christ, he means faith only.”  I say “Hogwash”.  These people don’t understand faith.

Faith is not just believing in Christ and calling it good, rather it is a faith that leads to obedience.  Look one more verse down at 17.  He says we must “seek to be justified by Christ.”  This is obedience.

The message here is clear.  Salvation comes by trusting in and obeying Jesus.  Let’s keep reading over in chapter 3:26-27 – “For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.  For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”  Paul shows here that he completely understand that obedience is required.  Paul is saying that we must have faith because we can’t do enough good works to justify ourselves.

God requires a perfect record of obedience.  We simply can’t do that no matter how hard we try.  So, we must have faith that the blood of Christ will cover us.  James’ lesson is that if we are not doing our best to do good works, then we are not being obedient.  And, since God requires obedience, we are failing.  There is no contradiction here.

Paul is teaching that you cannot be saved by works alone.  James is teaching that you cannot be saved by faith alone.  Together, they are teaching that it takes faith and works (obedience) to be saved.

12.  If eating meat sacrificed to idols is okay as long as your “weaker brother” is not around as described in 1st Corinthians 8, then why is this practice later described as being hated by Jesus as the “doctrine of Balaam” in Revelation 2:14? Why does Rev 2:20 condemn it when Paul says it’s okay if nobody knows about it?

Here Paul was not saying that eating of meat offered to idols was acceptable.  Quite the opposite.

He was answering the thought by some in the Corinthian church that since there is only one God and idols are really non-existent, that it was fine to eat meat offered to them.  In vv. 4-6 he lets that argument stand for the moment.

However, starting in v. 7 he begins to explain in another way though.  In v. 8, he explains that it is not the food that matters.  Christ also taught this Matthew 15.  Paul then goes on to say that if we do something that we think is acceptable, but it causes our brother to stumble, we have been wrong.  He then completes the argument by saying “Therefore, if food makes by brother stumble, I will NEVER eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.”

In others words, Paul didn’t meet their faulty argument head-on and argue with them, he told them why they shouldn’t do as they were thinking.  The lines up exactly with Rev. 2:14 which says that some of the folks are Pergamum had gone ahead and thrown out the stumbling block that Paul told them they should not throw out.

13.  Why did Paul tell the Corinthians idol meat was okay when the New Testament Church council at Jerusalem had specifically listed this as a forbidden practice to New Testament believers in Acts 15:29?

See previous answer.

14.  When Paul recounted the council at Jerusalem to the Galatians (Gal 2:10), why did Paul ignore the four commands of the Jerusalem council in Acts 15:20 them instead they were only commanded to “remember the poor”?

Why do the gospels not contain exactly the same stories and order of events?  Paul does not give his biography to the Galatians for the purpose of comparing it with Acts.  Luke did not write Acts to compare with Paul’s autobiography.

Paul wrote his biography to establish his apostolic authority and to establish that we are saved by grace through faithful obedience.

Furthermore, the mandate to “remember the poor” was a mandate given to Paul.  The other four mandates were mandates given to the Gentiles who turn to God.  A letter was written and taken to those people (Acts 15:22-31).  In Galatians Paul was recounting the things that had happened to him and he mentions the mandate that was given to him.  He is mentioning this to the Galatians because they are some of the poor that he is to remember and to help raise money for.

15.  If Paul appeared in Jerusalem in Acts 9:26 after his conversion, then why does he tell the Galatians in 1:18 that he waited three years to go? Why does he assure us in v.20 he is not lying?

Galatians 1:18 is talking about 3 years from his departure from Jerusalem to Damascus, not after his return to Arabia.  This lines up with “when many days had passed” in Acts 9:23.  A further note about Paul telling us he is not lying. Jesus did that all the time. Jesus used “I tell you the truth” and “verily, verily” which means “truly, truly.” Why is the author of these questions not condemning Jesus as a liar based on this same criteria?

16.  If the “other gospel” Paul speaks of in Galatians 1:6 was not the very one taught by Peter, James and John, then why does Paul attack the character of these three men in Galatians 2 calling them “those who seemed to be pillars.”?

Bad translation into English.

Paul is not attacking those men here.  The Greek word here is “doko” which has several meanings.  It can mean “show”, “to think”, “seem”, “be accounted”, “be of reputation”…  Other translations say things like “were reputed to be pillars”, “esteemed to be pillars”, etc.  In other words, Paul was saying that he sought out those men who had a reputation as the pillars of the church.  He goes on to say that they gave him “the right hand of fellowship”.  If Paul thought these men were wrong, wouldn’t he reject their fellowship?  Furthermore, would he accept their mandate in the next verse to “remember the poor” and would he work at it diligently as he said he did?  No.  He regarded these men very highly.

The other gospel mentioned in 1:6 is not the gospel of the men mentioned in chapter 2.  Paul and the men mentioned in chapter 2 all taught the same gospel.

17.  Why did Paul accuse Peter “before them all” when Jesus said in Matthew 18:15-17 to first confront a brother privately, then with two witnesses before going public?

This is the best question so far, and I’m fairly certain that you won’t accept my answer, but here goes.  I could answer this by saying that when Jesus gave that command he was talking about a private sin between you and your brother, but this kind of answer would be a trick of wording and would only be designed to “win” the argument.

Another argument I could use is that Peter is an elder in the church as he states in 1 Peter 5:1.  As an elder, his mistake would fall into the category mentioned in 1 Timothy 5:19-20 that says “Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses.  As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest of may stand in fear.”  However, Paul didn’t go to Peter with just two or three others and tell him his fault.

Yet another argument is that since Peter had sinned in the presence of the entire church, the sin was already in the open.  He hadn’t sinned just against Paul, but against everyone there.  And since the sin was already in the open, Paul corrected it in the open.  This is plausible, but I don’t think this is the case either.

My answer will be much harder for you to accept.  This entire exchange that you and I are having is about whether Paul is an apostle or not.  You believe he is not.  However, I believe that he is, and as an apostle he was guided directly by God through the Holy Spirit.  It was the Holy Spirit who guided him to act this way in this instance.

Furthermore, Paul wasn’t the only one who had done something like this.  Jesus didn’t take the moneychangers to the side and tell them their sin in private.  Peter didn’t take Simon to the side and tell him his sin in private (Acts 8), but rebuked him immediately in front of all who where there saying “May your silver perish with you”.  This is a very strong rebuke.  So, sometimes the Spirit worked through apostles to immediately rebuke people.  If Paul is to be named a false teacher because of this, then Peter is as well.

18.  Why did Paul criticize Peter for being Jewish around the Jews and Gentile around the Gentiles in Galatians 2:14 when this is precisely what Paul says he himself practices in 1st Corinthians 9:20-22?

This is another misunderstanding of what Paul was talking about here.  Paul was not criticizing Peter for fitting in (as Paul himself practices in 1 Corinthians 9:20-22), but rather for being a hypocrite.  Paul’s question in verse 14 could be stated better this way: “Peter, you are a Jew, but you have been shown that Gentiles are acceptable.  You have lived among them and have taught them that Christ accepts them the way they are.  But now, by the actions you have taken since the Jews came in, you have confused the Gentiles present and have led some of those present, including Barnabas, astray by making them think that they must keep the Jewish law.”

In other words, Peter did a very two-faced thing here.  This is not the same thing that Paul is talking about in 1 Corinthians 9:20-22.  There Paul is talking about relating or empathizing with those he is trying to teach in so much as it did not violate the law of Christ.  We should do the same.  Let me give you an example.

If I had a group of friends that I was trying to teach and they really loved hockey, I would learn a few things about hockey.  I would probably watch some games, learn the rules, learn the culture that surrounds being a hockey fan.  I would probably go with my friends to some hockey games.  This is the kind of thing that Paul says to do in 1 Corinthians.

If, however, while at a hockey game with my friends, I saw some other friends who were already Christians and I shunned them, I would be a hypocrite.  Would I not?

This is exactly what Peter did because he was afraid.  And that is what Paul called him down for.

19.  If the gospel of the circumcision was committed to Paul and the gospel of the Jews to Peter as Paul claims in Galatians 2:7, then why does Peter claim just the opposite in Acts 15:7?

Paul is simply denoting a separation of responsibilities here.  When Jesus spoke to Ananias he told Ananias, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.”  Jesus chose Paul to be the messenger to the Gentiles.  However, that does not mean that others could not teach the Gentiles nor that Paul could not teach the Jews.  Peter was indeed the first to teach a Gentile and it was by his mouth that Gentiles (Cornelius) would hear the Word, but what had the twelve done up to that point?  They had primarily been teaching to Jews.

As a matter of fact, the Jewish Christians were pretty much poised to take over the church (Acts 15:1).  Here we see there are Jewish Christians telling people that you must be circumcised according to the custom of Moses or you cannot be saved.  Paul debated with them and was eventually sent to Jerusalem to ask the apostles and elders the question.  Even when they got there, there were some there that believed you must be circumcised according to the custom of Moses (v. 5).  Only by Peter stepping up and corroborating Paul’s argument by reminding everyone of his vision and experience was the matter resolved and Gentiles accepted as they should have been.  Thank God for this!  Without this happening, I may have no hope, because I wasn’t circumcised according to the custom of Moses (8th day).

So, Paul’s area of work was primarily Gentiles, but he still went to synagogues and taught to Jews.  Peter was primarily entrusted to teach to the Jews (as was the entire 12), but in some cases still taught to Gentiles.  All in all, they were all doing the overall work that Jesus entrusted to them.  “Go into the world and teach the gospel to every creature.”

20.  Why does Paul, now 17 years into his ministry fear in Galatians 2:3 that he “had run in vain”?

Here Paul was not questioning his own salvation, but simply recognizing that if The Twelve had repudiated the gospel that Paul was teaching, then, in a sense, his whole life’s work would have been nullified.  However, The Twelve DID NOT repudiate Paul’s work but accepted him.  He was backed up by Peter, and the final agreement was that Paul was teaching the same gospel as The Twelve.

21.  If obeying the law is bondage as Paul claims in Galatians 4:9, then why did Jesus tell the man in Mark 10:17 that he must “obey the commandments” to “have eternal life”? Was Jesus trying to bring that man into bondage?

No, Jesus was not trying to bring that man into bondage.  The man was already under bondage to the law, and Jesus had not yet delivered him from that bondage.  Jesus had not completed his work and fulfilled the law (Matthew 5:17).  So, the man he was talking to was still bound by the law of Moses.  Another way to say this is that the man was in bondage to the law of Moses.  It is interesting to note that Jesus was also bound by the law of Moses or was in bondage to the law of Moses.  The word “bondage” in English has a bad connotation.  But, bondage isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  I am in bondage to the law of Christ.  And I love that bondage.  I am a slave to Christ, and I love that slavery, because my Master is so good.

What Paul is asking is “Once you have become a slave to Christ, why would you want to go back and be a slave to the law of Moses again?”  I ask the same question…why would a person, once he has been freed from the law of Moses and had “his ear pierced” by Christ want to go any other way?  Peter even asked the same question in a different way in Acts 15:10.

Another thing to note, is that even though Jesus had not yet freed the man from the bondage of the law of Moses, He still told the man to follow Him (Mark 10:21).  He knew that His work would be complete at some point and that the man would need to follow Him.


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