Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Paul Novel 4.5: Peter in Antioch

continued from last week
For Paul it was a great victory. The leaders of Jerusalem had accepted his mission to the Gentiles. They agreed that Titus would be saved even if he did not fully convert to Judaism. For Paul it was a green light to go forward full steam with the mission. He could tell anyone that opposed them that they had the approval of the pillars.

For James it was a great worry. It was one thing for the Gentiles not to keep the Law, but what if Jews began to think that they did not need to keep the Law? It was a slippery slope he greatly feared. In Paul he saw someone who had over-reacted to his past. To James, Paul was in danger of swinging from one extreme to the other, from caring too much about the Law to not caring hardly at all for it.

When Barnabas and Paul returned to Antioch with Titus, it was a time of great fellowship. Paul began to spend time in the marketplace of Antioch sharing the good news to any Gentile who would listen. Where Gentile conversions before had only happened by chance, Paul was now very intentional about sharing the good news with them, and the more Gentile believers there were, the more the gospel spread to non-Jews.

Within just a couple weeks of Paul's return to Antioch, Peter arrived from Jerusalem. At first Paul was suspicious. "He has come to spy on us," Paul remarked privately to Barnabas. And although Barnabas had announced to the churches of Antioch what James had decided in Jerusalem, there were still a number who balked at full Gentile fellowship with the Jewish believers.

There was one house church in particular that was very opposed to the increasing number of Gentiles in the community. They certainly would not admit any Gentiles into their house fellowship unless they were serious enough about God to convert fully and be circumcised.

"I bet they eat pork," they would gossip. "Even when they eat lamb or goat," they would say, "I bet they don't drain the blood first." "And you know how sexually immoral Gentiles are." "I wouldn't be surprised if Titus visits prostitutes like all the other Gentiles."

Paul was pleased to see that Peter didn't give much time to these voices. For the first week or so that Peter was in the city, he went with Paul and observed the love feast at the home of Titus and the church that met in his father's house. Paul was pleasantly surprised. He could see that these debates were really of little interest to Peter himself...

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