Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Plain Truth About Peter's Hypocrisy

As an Armstrongist, I heard often about Galatians 2: 11, where Paul confronted Peter to his face. Sadly, I never heard an in-depth explanation of the rest of the chapter. Why did that confrontation occur? What was Paul's objection with Peter's actions precisely? How was Christ a minister of sin? And verse 21... that might as well not even have existed!
Sure, some things were explained away using the Fred Coulter patented "'the works of the law' versus 'works of law'" mind-trick. Word games!
I would like to take a closer look at these things, because in Paul's objections I see some incredibly forceful objections to the teachings of Herbert W Armstrong that I had never noticed before. I think it's worth going over.

(GAL. 2:11) Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed;

The line, as I heard it, was that Peter was snubbing the Gentile Christians - treating them no longer as equals - and the Jews with whom Peter was associating were obsessing over Talmudic cleanliness rituals.

I want you to notice something here -- it does not say that Paul is accusing Peter simply of belittling the Gentiles and elevating the Jews, as I was taught. The details of the Armstrong interpretation are inaccurate and wholly insufficient.

Peter once ate with the Gentiles, but withdrew when certain Jews "of the circumcision" arrived. Was Peter looking down on the Gentiles? Yes. But that is not by any means all that it means. It says he, "played the hypocrite" (v. 13).
In other words, Peter was putting on a "false face," which is to say he was not practicing what he preached. To put it bluntly, Paul got after Peter for changing his act one way at one time, and another way at another time. But once we get into the gritty details of this hypocrisy, we will see that it was not about treating one group as valuable and another as valueless.

Let's answer an obvious question: who were "those who were of the circumcision"?

First, they are a group of Christians (they had accepted Christ to some degree) about whom Paul has much negative to say. In Colossians 4: 10-11, Paul notes only three men out of the whole group who are "of the circumcision" who are of any help to him. That is about the total of Paul's positive remarks about this group.
In Philippians 3: 2, Paul refers to their circumcision as "mutilation," and warns us to beware of it. In Titus 1: 10-14, Paul complains that those of the circumcision are especially prone to teaching things they ought not to teach, and ruining the faith of many. How did they do this? What did they teach?
Throughout his writings, Paul shows that these men boast in their having been physically circumcised, which prompted Paul to show how his own physical pedigree is far superior (PHP. 3: 4-6). Their confidence in their own flesh over Christ's victory on the cross is their failure. In Romans 2: 28-29, Paul remarks that physical circumcision is devoid of value, but spiritual circumcision of the heart alone has value.
The flip-side of this coin is how they treat anyone who is not circumcised (meaning all Gentiles, but not only Gentiles) as if they are not Christian. In fact, in Galatians 5: 11, Paul remarks that "those of the circumcision" were literally persecuting him for not going along with them. But Paul was circumcised. Was circumcision the whole deal, then? What else did they teach the Gentiles to do?
They taught that, “It is necessary to circumcise [the Gentiles], and to command them to keep the law of Moses" (ACT. 15: 5, 24). I am often told by well-intentioned Armstrongists that the issue was solely one of physical circumcision. Unfortunately for them, it was not just circumcision, but circumcision and law-keeping! This is inescapable.
However, especially in Romans 2: 27 and Galatians 6: 13, Paul shows that even though this is what they taught, it was not what they practiced (remember Peter's hypocrisy - this is the same thing). They taught the law, but didn't keep the law. Paul reiterates in Galatians 5: 3 that if one chooses to be circumcised and keep the law, this one is indebted to keep the whole law! All 613 of them. James 2: 10 agrees with Paul on this. Yet these ones "of the circumcision" were not by any means keeping the whole law.
They had put their faith in the physical circumcision and their own works, and failed in their own standard, and were leading many others down the same path to false pride and frustrated failure, to the point that in Galatians 5: 2-4 Paul declared the death and resurrection of Christ had no value whatsoever down this path - they had all fallen from grace. What they were teaching was the opposite of the Gospel of the grace of God (ACT. 20: 24), which Paul makes abundantly clear in Galatians 1: 6-9 was a false Gospel and deserving of the most powerful condemnation possible. Paul found their conduct so distasteful and destructive, that in Galatians 5: 12 Paul wished these men would go the rest of the way and emasculate themselves! 

So that is "those who were of the circumcision" with whom Paul is dealing in Galatia, and this is their error with which Peter and the rest were flirting.

Peter was not being "straightforward about the truth of the gospel" (GAL. 2: 14), and was compromising with a false gospel, one that would actively negate the sacrifice of Christ. So you can see that this is no mere case of looking down on the Gentiles. No wonder Paul withstood him to his face. He did Peter a massive favor!

So back to Paul's statement to Peter.

Peter was at one time eating with - and living like - the Gentiles, until these "of the circumcision" came along with their false gospel of mixing grace with law-keeping. Peter, having been circumcised since he was 8 days old, then took off the truth of the Gospel and put on a different garment, lapsing back into old habits, and now hypocritically pretended to be keeping the laws of Moses. For Peter, a circumcised Jew, circumcision was a foregone conclusion. That obviously wasn't what this was about. His hypocrisy was law-keeping. More accurately, his hypocrisy was living outside of the law with one group (the Gentiles), then pretending to live in it with another group (those of the circumcision) when pressure was brought to bear.

The real mystery to me is that this isn't the first time Peter had dealt with this. In Acts 11: 1-3, immediately after the calling of the first Gentile, Cornelius, Peter encountered the opposition of the circumcision.

(ACT. 11: 1-3) 1 Now the apostles and brethren who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God. 2 And when Peter came up to Jerusalem, those of the circumcision contended with him, 3 saying, “You went in to uncircumcised men and ate with them!”

Peter went in among the Gentiles and ate with them! Clean or unclean, it doesn't matter. According to the Jewish understanding, the whole house and all that was in it was defiled.
Until this time, Peter himself agreed that what he did was unlawful.

(ACT. 10: 28-29) 28 Then he said to [Cornelius and his family], “You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean. 29 Therefore I came without objection as soon as I was sent for....

This isn't just a tradition Peter is talking about, as any Armstrongist minister will make this out to be. This is genuine Old Covenant law. There were a series of laws to keep the Jews separate from the Gentiles: meats laws, marriage laws, circumcision laws, and etc. So we are not talking Talmud here.
It took a miracle from God, the Sheet Vision, for Peter to be convinced that God had removed any and every separation between faithful Jew and Gentile - a point Paul makes so succinctly in Galatians 3: 28 as well as Colossians 3: 11. So Peter went in and ate with them.
Those of the circumcision were not so convinced, and accused Peter of violating the law. Truth be told, Peter had violated the Old Covenant law by what he did! 

Someone schooled in the teachings of Herbert Armstrong would miss this entirely by assuming that Peter went in among the Gentiles and ate "clean" Jewish food with them. This is not what Paul was (rightfully) accusing Peter of. Peter was living his whole life "in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews" (GAL. 2: 14). As difficult as this may be for an Armstrongist to accept, Peter had clearly abandoned the Old Covenant food laws. He was disregarding the laws of Moses! He was not mixing grace with law. Then, after that point, he turned 180 degrees in the opposite direction, back to the Old Covenant, and started to compel the Gentiles to be circumcised and keep the law. This prompted Paul to ask "and why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews?" (GAL. 2: 14).
This was Peter's hypocrisy plain and succinct! But it was not Peter's alone; clearly this also applied to Barnabas, and to anyone else who may have acted similarly.

The miracle God showed Peter in Acts 10 convinced Peter (it would appear temporarily convinced) that God had completely changed the order of things in the New Covenant. This was something those of the circumcision could not abide. They demanded the New Covenant was merely a slightly-modified continuation of the Old Covenant. They demanded the Old Covenant laws must be kept (even though they were not truly keeping the law). This very issue was dealt with by the Jerusalem conference in Acts 15.

Note here that, plainly, James confessed to having nothing to do with what the circumcision group were up to. "Since we have heard that some who went out from us have troubled you with words, unsettling your souls, saying, 'You must be circumcised and keep the law' — to whom we gave no such commandment" (ACT. 15: 24). Even though both Acts 15: 24 and Galatians 2: 12 suggest that this group were going around claiming to be from James, they were not from James. Thus we must conclude that Paul's statement that these men came from James was merely tongue-in-cheek; a mockery of the claims of the group.

The conclusion of the Holy Spirit (ACT. 15: 28) and the council was that the Gentiles were not to be compelled to be circumcised and keep the law. There is no arguing around this. There is no wiggle room. Yet, boldly and unrestrained, the group of the circumcision marched onward with their message.
With enough time and pressure even the timeless rocks of the earth will succumb and change their nature, it seems an Apostle of Peter's stature was no exception. Good thing for Peter that Paul, with the support of his close friends, "did not yield submission even for an hour" (GAL. 2: 5). 
Now, if this group of the circumcision could bring to bear sufficient pressure that "even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy" (GAL. 2: 13), how on earth could the Galatians escape? Paul had to bring out every possible tool in his arsenal to correct the Galatians. Notice that he has nothing good to say about them at the start of his epistle. This was a weighty and critically important task indeed!

Now, only after having gone over and over the material we just reviewed, can we move forward in this section of Galatians.

Notice how I emphasized that Peter et al had been living "in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews" (v. 14). Keep in mind that this is Paul, an ethnic Jew, speaking with Peter, an ethnic Jew, and appealing to Peter as the Jew Peter was now claiming to be once again. When Paul says, "in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews," he is making a statement very much in regards to the Old Covenant law. For emphasis, Paul even contrasts that with this statement "and not sinners of the Gentiles [nations]" (v. 14). Paul is referring to the centuries of experience the Jews had with God, and how God had made the Old Covenant with them, and gave them the priesthood and the laws - which the other nations did not have (EPH. 2: 12), and were thus given over to idolatry and otherwise lawless living. So, Paul is referring to the Old Covenant laws. Paul then goes on in verse 16 to make it abundantly clear that the law, which this circumcision group was promoting so heavily, can never in any way justify even the Jews to whom it was given. Only faith in Christ can justify us from sin. There is no mixing of grace and law. It is by faith from first to last (ROM. 1: 17).
So keep everything you've read to this point in the forefront of your mind, because this next sentence is key. Paul is about to turn Peter's new outlook on its ear.
Pay attention now...

(ACT. 2: 17) "But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is Christ therefore a minister of sin? Certainly not!"

Peter and Paul and Barnabas and all of the Apostles - and indeed all who had come to Christ - had come to grace and were justified by faith in Christ. That is not to say faith AND law. NO! Law does not factor in! By miracle and by council and by the Holy Spirit they each accepted that the Old Covenant was gone and the Gentiles were brought in equally with the Jews. All were convinced that there is no longer any distinction for the faithful. All were one body in Christ (ROM. 12: 4-5). All were justified in Christ by faith alone apart from the law (ROM. 10: 4).
Thus all were living "in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews" - not just Peter! It was all of them!

Stay with me now...
But, if the truth of the matter was that they had all been so very wrong this whole time, and the law was required of them this whole time and the circumcision group was right this whole time, as Peter was now saying, then that makes them all flat guilty of violating the Covenant and preaching a false Gospel! Peter was saying they had the law, then died to the law, then found later that they needed the law after all. Unfortunately, that would mean they were disqualified because of their gross neglect - the lawless example of these Apostles who had been supposedly sent by Christ had made Christ himself a minister of sin! God forbid!


Once again, Paul turns Peter on his ear:

(GAL. 2: 18) "For if I build again those things which I destroyed [reliance on the Old Covenant law], I make myself a transgressor [of that law]"

Peter lived in grace apart from the law. If he builds the law up again, he is now more guilty than ever before!

To prove that this is not the case, Paul finished off with this resounding correction of Peter's new-found "truth":

(GAL. 2: 19-21) 19 For I through the law died to the law that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.”

If Peter was right, and the Old Covenant law is required in the New Covenant, as the circumcision group claimed, then Christ died IN VAIN! Peter began in faith, and now vainly wanted to finish with law. Now, Paul's statements in the next chapter become clear:

(GAL. 3: 1-4) 1 O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified? 2 This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh? 4 Have you suffered so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain?

Peter was clearly wrong! And it was of utmost importance that Paul make this abundantly, inescapably clear to the Gentiles in Galatia who were being carried off by such a heinous example of error.

Now, let's turn our attention forward.

According to the teachings of Herbert W Armstrong, the Gospel, and therefore "the truth of the Gospel" (GAL. 2: 14), is that only a select few would keep the Sabbath and various other Old Covenant laws in order to qualify in this age to be in the 144,000 of Revelation (see Rev. 14: 1) when Christ returns to establish the "coming Kingdom of God" on earth, into which all nations would be called. That is the Gospel that Herbert W Armstrong taught. That is a Gospel of "works of law." That is the same message (sans circumcision) that the cursed group of mutilators taught. That is the same thing that carried away Peter and Barnabas into error. That is one and the very same thing that Paul was desperately fighting against in Galatia! Just like then, the law is preached but not kept. And it is every bit a false gospel today as it was then!

The Armstrongist ministers will play word games (eg. "works of law" versus "the works of the law"), rearrange sections of the Bible (eg. you need the Old Covenant to explain the New), play "blame the translator," redefine words (eg. "works" in James means "law"), practice proof texting, twist and contort scripture and logic and reason (eg. "A man is not justified by the law except through faith in Jesus Christ" [a quote from Harold Smith of the Church fo God Fellowship]), attempt to resurrect the Old Covenant bit by bit (eg. "We are modern Levites"), teach another gospel (eg. "Only those who keep the law will be saved"), and even blatantly contradict the very inspired word of God (eg. claiming that righteousness is keeping the law; but GAL. 2: 21 right there says "for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain") - all to take this very thing that Paul is pleading with Peter about, and completely undo it!
And through it all, they still do not keep the law that they preach! Everything is precisely as it was with the circumcision group that persecuted Paul!

Paul deftly shows that this viewpoint simply cannot be true. Christ is not a minister of sin. The Apostles accepted justification by faith alone, and left the Old Law where it belonged - in the past.

(GAL. 3: 10-14) 10 For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them."  11 But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for “the just shall live by faith.” 12 Yet the law is not of faith, but “the man who does them shall live by them.” 13 Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”), 14 that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

If, after this, you preach the law, you are again obliging yourself to keep it. If you don't keep it all - all 613, perfectly and without interruption in that perfection - then you are once again cursed and Christ's sacrifice is made void for you! Indeed the whole point of the Old Covenant period was to prove that you cannot keep it. A curse is inevitable. If it were possible to be righteous in the law, then Christ died in vain! God forbid!!

Beware of the error of the Galatians!!

(MAT. 24: 24) For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.

They almost got Peter.... if it weren't for God's love through his beloved brother Paul (2 PET. 3: 15) they would have. Paul wasn't berating Peter, he was saving Peter's life.

Deeply loved by God, you who are in Armtrongism, I desperately plead with you to pray about this. If any of this rings true to you, run, don't walk, out that door. RUN, don't walk, into the arms of Jesus Christ who will completely and lastingly justify all who come to Him in faith alone, apart from the law. Run, don't walk, into the New Covenant.
The alternative, which even seemed right to some of the Apostles, is horrendous.

It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourself, it is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom. ; )
Acts 17:11


xHWA said...

To add a log to this fire..

It is taught in Armstrongism that we die to the law with Christ, and Christ now lives in us and it is Him who keeps the law in us by His Spirit.
But they still break the law! It's not just that they mess up from time to time and violate the law (which doesn't make anything any better), it's that they don't even attempt to keep most of the law!
So, how can it be that Christ in them is not only messing up, but not even attempting to keep the law??
Indeed, Christ is a minister of sin in that system!

What is overlooked is that when a person dies, they are dead to all covenants, and that is according to the law. So how can anyone claim that we die to the law, and then are even MORE bound to the old covenants? It cannot be done!

They also teach that Paul is complaining to Peter about his keeping the Talmud traditions.
So, let me get this straight - Paul gets into Peter's face for keeping the traditions, then goes on to mention how he died with Christ and law cannot save anyone, but now we're even more bound to the law than before, but it's Jesus that lives in us and keeps the law for us. ... ???

That makes no rational sense whatsoever!
No wonder why we always mentioned how hard Paul was to understand. Of course he is! When you're butchering what he's saying in order to completely UNDO his point!

Steve said...

To take this just one step further...the letter to the Galations does not end there. Armstrong "ministers" always ADDED the word in the phrase, under the "PENALTY" of the Law, in order to justify their Law-keeping. Paul then goes on to explain that keeping days(sabbaths and "holydays", new moons, etc(Gal. 4:10) is also a part of being under the Law(Gal. 4:21). The Greek word for observe is "paratero", which means, "scrupulously observe, or watch". Armstrongites still do that today, watching the sun go down on the sabbath, but not so much with the "holydays" because their "ministers" continue to give them the printed dates according to the Jewish calendar.

xHWA said...

In exactly the same way that it wasn't Peter alone who was going astray abandoning grace for this hypocritical legalism, but Barnabas and others went too - it wasn't only HWA that was carried off into hypocritical legalism, but other systems go too.

Adventism for one, and all who come out of her (Jehovah's Witnesses, the many CoGs, David Koresh and the Branch Davidians, etc).

And not just Adventism, but other unrelated people, like Mr. Richard Rives, Wyatt Archaeological Research leader cum YouTube-vangelist, who is deeply involved in commandmentkeepers.com, and who appears often on WorldNetDaily, is racing down this path to error.

He's gonna try and hook you with fear. "Many who take up Jesus' name are in for a rude awakening," and such statements. (I got that quote from the tag-line on WorldNetDaily.com below Richard Rives' latest false-gospel offering "You Call Yourself A Christian?".) This applies to them, too, don't you know. "Perfect love casts out fear" says John (I JON. 4: 8), so why are these men using fear to reel you in to their error like so much fish?

Don't fall for it like Peter did! Beware the error of the Galatians!

xHWA said...

I completely agree with you, Steve.

In fact I'm glad that you mentioned that they "always ADDED the word in the phrase, under the 'PENALTY' of the Law".
I was thinking about that while I was writing this, because that addition is a main feature in how they explain away Paul's whole point.
They'll strain at a gnat of whether or not the word "the" should be in the phrase "the works of the law" in order to turn right around and swallow the camel of adding "penalty" where it has no business being.

Fabulous observation, Steve! Thanks for sharing that!

Bill said...

There is an absurdity attached to claiming that being under the law means to be under the penalty of the law, seeing as Jesus was born under the law, which would mean He was under the penalty of the law from birth.

And, when I pointed this out to one Armstrongite, he agreed and said that is what Jesus was born for; to be under the penalty for all mankind!!!

How's that for twisted logic?

But wait, there's more!

"You are required to keep the law, but are no longer under its penalty of death for transgressing... unless you abandon the law, at which time you are sinning willfully, and therefore subject to the penalty."

I think we used to call this condition "grace" where you kept the law, albeit imperfectly, which, if you stop and think about it, is not keeping the law at all. It's really everyone giving lip service to the law; pretending to keep the law, while all the time never keeping the law.

I think we should pull our resources and purchase strait jackets for these people. I'm going nuts just thinking about how it works now, even after getting off that merry-go-round.

xHWA said...

Absurd, twisted... complete agreement with you, Bill.

OrthodoxApologia92 said...

I think what St. Peter and St. Paul had was an argument about RITUAL PURITY in accordance with the Torah. It had nothing to do with man-made traditions of the Talmud. Most of the Apostles were karaite Jews and would have shunned anything outside of Scripture. This includes the so-called "truth" that Nimrod was married. Holy Writ says nothing regarding Nimrod having a wife and child. That is utter %@!!$#!& and is adding to Holy Writ. Rather, the Armstrongites themselves practice what they accuse St. Peter of doing! St. Peter wasn't wrong on matters of morality but on ritual purity. The New Covenant has a valid priesthood, why do you want to return to the shadow? Observing the Pascha along with Jews would be to follow what is outdated hence we celebrate Christ's resurrection after the Passover is finished. We are not to bring Old Testament holydays into the church as such is forbidden in the New Covenant. Judaism almost met its end in AD 70

xHWA said...

I could agree that this mainly involved ritual purity.

One of the problems with that is Armstrongism teaches foods laws and some other purity laws to be moral laws and not ritual purity at all.

Herbert Armstrong began his ministry in the COG7 teaching that food laws were merely a health issue and not a moral sin issue (even though the Bible never says the foods laws are health-related, rather it shows quite clearly they were sacrifice-related). Armstrong argued with the COG7 leadership about this and many of them came to agree with him.
Once he formed his own church his opinion changed quickly, and Armstrongism has taught foods laws to be moral and eternal laws binding on all peoples as well as health laws.