Antioch in the 21st Century


I was daydreaming the other day about how people today might respond to the Apostle Paul for how he handled the situation at Antioch (described in Galatians 2) where he confronted Peter and Barnabas for turning away from table fellowship with the Gentiles. Remember, I said I was daydreaming.

I am pretty sure the “I am of Matthew” crowd would have severely chastised him for not confronting his brothers privately before making a public fuss about things. And it’s doubtful that they would have chastised him privately.

The folks from Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show would no doubt have complained that Paul’s actions were unloving and that instead of making a public spectacle, the loving thing to do would have been to cover this mistake by Peter and Barnabas.

Members of The Coalition of the Inside Scoop probably would agree with Paul’s concerns, but scold him for not allowing behind the scenes conversations to work things out so as to maximize the greatest good for unity and truth. Public challenges, in their mind, are for very rare situations and those are best identified by the executive council.

Those who drive cars with fine Corinthian leather seats would be sure to accuse Paul of personal ambition since they are sure they know the motives of his heart even better than Paul does.

The sons of Apollo Creed would focus on the fact that Peter and Barnabas did not change their message, finding fault with Paul that he would put so much stock in their actions. “Paul, if you start making actions a test of gospel faithfulness then it will destroy Christian unity. Their doctrinal statement is right. End of story.”

The Freundschaft Uber Alles crowd would be devastated by Paul’s betrayal of his mentor, friend, and co-worker Barnabas. “How can you stab Barnabas in the back like that? Have you forgotten that he took you under his wing when nobody else would come near you? Is that the way you repay someone who risked his life for and with you? You might be right, but that’s not how you deal with friends.”

The Nice Guys of Nuance ad Nauseum would take fault with Paul’s quick and dogmatic decisiveness. “Are you sure why Peter and Barnabas backed away? Is it possible that there was more at stake than encroaching legalism? Maybe Peter was worried about the fallout for the church back in Jerusalem? Maybe there was some uncertainty about how a believing Jew should handle the food laws? Maybe…maybe…maybe…”

Of course, the Never Quite Far Enough gang would accuse Paul of being a little soft because he didn’t break completely from Barnabas over this issue. “Yeah, he made the right call and said the right things, but he still kept working with those compromisers.”

It would take years to come out, but the Critics Who Cry “You Too!” would have jumped all over Paul down the road when he paid the expenses for some guys who shaved their heads as part of a vow, then went to the temple with them. That their criticism doesn’t refute Paul’s point with Peter and Barnabas doesn’t matter; crying “you too” just feels so good.

End of daydreaming.

Fully awake ruminations. I know that Paul was an Apostle and we are not (unless I have some Sovereign Grace readers), but were his actions at Antioch so apostolic that they serve no exemplary purpose for us? Is it not true that both creed and conduct must be square with the gospel, especially for those who serve as leaders among God’s people? Is it not true that standing for the gospel requires challenging departures from the gospel whether in creed or conduct? Is it not true that the gospel is more important than friendships? Is it not true that some folks will equivocate and redefine and nuance discussions so finely that almost nothing would merit the rebuke which Paul issued?

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