I can just envision Paul and Peter, if they were here today, ministering to their communities in very different ways. I can just see Peter, all dressed in a suit with shiny shoes, leading some beautiful hymns, with a well orchestrated service where nothing is done out of order. No rules broken. No traditions changed. Sitting only in pews. Singing only Hymns…yes, that’s how I see Peter. Absolutely he would be reaching the lost! Absolutely he would be preaching the truth, but Tradition only…PERIOD!
And then there’s Paul, probably in a pair of jeans, a little unshaven, maybe a tattoo or two hiding (or not) on his arm or chest. He would probably have a “rocking loud” worship band-worship that would go on and on. And rules would. be. broken. I can just imaging Paul topping most of the new non-traditional Pastors, with incredible “out of the box” ideas to bring in the lost. Very, very, very lost and broken people. But once they were in, Paul would reach them with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And REAL CHANGE would come forth…
Ok, so I’ve obviously taken a very large amount of “creative liberty” in summarizing these two men and their ministry, but take a look with me at Galatians 2…
Galatians chapter two paints a pretty interesting picture. Paul, who had recently come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ was “on fire” to share the Gospel. He had a tarnished past, he had a heart for the “pagans” who were blind to the things of God, and he had a fresh perspective of how to reach them. Nothing could stop him-nothing that is, except for the established church leaders, James and Peter. Now wait a minute! James and Peter? These men were also aflame to share the Gospel! These men also knew what it was to be persecuted for sharing God’s word, so why on earth would they be standing in Paul’s way?
Paul is clear in his stand, and he boldly stood up to them, “When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face…”(2:11) Paul was reaching the Gentiles, people who were not of the Jewish blood-line. God had extended his gift of grace and mercy on ALL people, and Paul was diligently working to reach them with the gospel of Christ. Romans 15:16 God called me…”to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles with the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God, so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.” Clearly, he did not just want to CONVERT them, but he wanted to CHANGE them with the power of the Holy Spirit.
But Paul came into deep criticism. Why, you ask? Well, Paul broke TRADITION. Circumcision,once required by the law, was now (thanks to Jesus sacrifice on the cross) only a tradition. Paul called out the leaders for this legalism, and he began to bring in very broken people. This was disturbing to the church establishment. Paul accused Peter, in Galatians 2:12, of not wanting to be seen with the Gentiles and new converts. Pretty harsh, but it’s definitely a reflection of Paul’s burning desire to reach those who were as broken and lost as he himself had once been.
So who was wrong? Who was right? Well, first we Have to admit that everyone involved in this interesting little “spat” loved God with all of their heart. They were ALL intending to give God only their best. They were ALL wanting to reach the lost. Eventually, the established church would begin to feel comfortable walking in this new-found grace. It would take a while. And perhaps Paul was a little harsh with these men who had faithfully walked beside Jesus for so long. Two persepectives-One goal. It would take a while to see it that way, and yes, personal growth and understanding would eventually follow. Paul was correct that they were cleansed by the blood of Jesus and not by their own actions of holding to what was, at this point, only a tradition. All of these brave men, preached the Gospel with no thought for their own safety or personal gain. History tells us that all of the men involved were eventually put to death for their faith.
So here we are today-still so many controversies over worship styles, still so many controversies over church methodology, still so many controversies over evangelistic tactics…but only ONE GOAL. So much can be learned from these two amazing men of God, Paul and Peter. And if you think about it, they are worshiping together now, in one place!
ONE goal, ONE truth, ONE amazing GOD, -that’s pretty much all that matters!