Commentary on "The Unity of the Gospel"
Day 2: Sunday, October 9, 2011 - The Importance of Unity
The second day’s study brings to the front another accusation brought against Paul's gospel, that it was different from the one preached by the other apostles. The author limits himself to the two verses which describe Paul's defense, recounting his visit to Jerusalem to get the apostles’ approval for the gospel he preached to the Gentiles. He highlights Paul's willingness to engage in a long journey to Jerusalem in obedience to the Holy Spirit, even though no apostles summoned him, because he valued the support and encouragement of the apostles. He wanted to preserve the unity of the apostles because a division between his mission and the Jerusalem church’s mission would be disastrous.
There are some strange ideas that the author deduces from the account. If no apostle summoned Paul, where is the proof that there was a danger to the unity of the apostolic circle? Yes, there were people whom Paul calls false brothers who were trying to restrict the liberty of the gentile Christians, but where is the proof that the apostles themselves questioned Paul's gospel? It would be expected that, if such questions truly existed, the apostles would have made an attempt to summon Paul for preaching another gospel.
It's important to understand that the issue at stake was the gospel, the subject of first importance, and the fact that the apostles had been allowing Paul to preach without raising a finger of protest speaks volumes about their approval. Paul came at the Holy Spirit’s instruction in order to defend the gospel to a church that had begun to be beguiled by Judaizers.
Paul does not go into details regarding what he confessed privately with the apostles. Obviously the apostles knew at least in some good part the gospel Paul preached, because many years passed before the visit mentioned in Galatians 2:1,2. What Paul told them about the gospel he preached contained perhaps some details that they didn't know, but the subject was not entirely unknown. The apostles only extended their approval to Paul's gospel and mission, an approval that Paul already enjoyed until the meeting.
From the lesson's perspective, the impression is given that until his visit to Jerusalem, Paul's mission to the gentiles established a community of believers with their peculiar gospel, and only Paul's private meeting with apostles resulted in a political decision making his gospel to the gentiles official and orthodox. Before that moment, it is implied, Paul's enterprise had a big question mark over it.
The Adventist author failed to provide solid proof that the unity of the apostolic circle was in jeopardy. The credibility Paul enjoyed in the apostolic circle didn't fluctuate up and down; it had only an upward trajectory. The unity between apostles was more solid than the author thinks it was, because the author’s views tend toward a popular historico-critical view which postulates multiple Christianities emerging after Jesus' death. This tendency will receive due attention in the next days.
Copyright 2011 BibleStudiesForAdventists.com. All rights reserved. Revised October 6, 2011. This website is published by Life Assurance Ministries, Glendale, Arizona, USA, the publisher of Proclamation! Magazine. Contact email: BibleStudiesForAdventists@gmail.com.
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