PARTNERS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT: PART LXXXV
Living in dispersion, away from the homeland, was a new experience for Peter’s flock, and for Peter himself. On January 19th, 1945 the Russian army drove us from our home. We fled with the people we knew across Poland and half of Germany, where we settled briefly for my brother to be born. We came by horses and a wagon; and we earned our living by helping out plowing the fields. One horse went lame and I had to use a cow with a horse to plow. I was fifteen years old, alone in the field and crying my heart out; for, I was among people whose language I spoke, but whose behavior, customs, and expressions were completely unfamiliar to me. I longed to be back with my friends in my homeland, but that was never to be. Peter’s people were also forever banned from their beloved land. I was allowed to adopt and assimilate into the places we were driven, but Peter’s people were not. To remain faithful to their God, they had to continue practicing their tradition, which clashed with the cultures in which they were coerced to live.
PETER DID HAVE THE HEART OF A PASTOR AND HE HAD TWO EPISTLES WRITTEN TO ASSIST HIS PEOPLE IN THE WORLD
Peter, himself, was not a scribe, but he had friends like Silvanus or Silas, and John Mark who were Ivy league men. And so were Luke, Matthew Levi, the writer of the Gospel of John, and Saul who became Paul, with their knowledge of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) and who appeared to have sat at the feet of Gamaliel. Even the Second Letter of Peter, with Greek not up to par, had a scribe with a substantial knowledge about the Hebrew Bible. When I was in seminary, I too was not thinking in English, and to be fair with me, one teacher came and asked whether I meant what he thought I meant and therefore he gave me an A. Let us not dismiss good thoughts because it is not presented in the best language available. One thing is undeniable, that the apostles were not literary men, and they had to depend on the scribes, who were versed in thinking and writing.
The literary people, who put the New Testament in writing did not appear overnight. It took Jesus thirty years before the Holy Spirit called Him to begin His Ministry (Luke 3:23; 4:1). And Jesus was in training at the age of twelve (Luke 2:42), when his parents went up to Jerusalem every year (Luke 2:41). Paul, who was educated by Gamaliel (Acts 22:3), proclaimed that Jesus was the Christ instantly (Acts 9:20). Then, Paul spent fourteen years studying before Barnabas was sent to bring Paul to Antioch to teach (Galatians 2:14; Acts 11:25). And even then, it was not Paul who wrote to the Churches first, but it was an educated Gentile Luke, who somehow became familiar with the Hebrew scrolls of Scripture and the he wrote about Jesus, Peter, Paul, Barnabas, Pentecost and the spreading of the Gospel in the Gentile world. For his most important work, Paul too used a scribe named Tertius (Romans 16:22). I, too, can testify to the patience of the Holy Spirit in my life, who let me grow in my learning to understand the intricate ministry and nature of Christ our Lord. When I completed seminary, I was at a loss. Then, I attended another seminary to teach myself and other pastors. And then, I spent ten more years in four more seminaries, which then led me to write. Now, that I am pushing ninety years, I am still learning to apprehend, only bits of the inconceivable mystery of the “Handiwork of God” (Psalm 104:24). The work of redemption is far too important to trust it to novices (I Timothy 3:6). God the Father trusted “our Salvation” only to Jesus, His Son (John 14:6; Acts 4:12), and so must we (John 10:7-18). Peter has left us a note whom he trusted with his work, and to whom was he writing?
By Silvanus, a faithful brother as I regard him, I have written briefly to you, exhorting and declaring that this is the true face of God; stand fast in it. So who is in Babylon, who is likewise chosen, sends you greetings; and so does my son mark. Greet one another with a kiss of love. Peace to all of you that are in Christ (I Peter 5:12-14).
Peter, and an apostle of Jesus Christ. To the xiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galacia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, chosen and destined by God the Father and sanctified by the Spirit for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you ( I Peter 1:1-2).
PASTOR PETER’S COMMISSIOn BECAME THAt OF AN ENABLER
Jesus had handed over “His small flock” for pastoral care to Peter (John 21:15-18). Then, Peter and the other disciples were to wait for the Holy Spirit and go into the world and make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20). Only, Jesus did not tell Peter how he would get out of Jerusalem, when the Holy Spirit would add thousands of members to his small fock, and that he would become the main subject being blamed for representing “the Man Jesus” whom they had crucified. Spending time in and out of Jail, being threatened by the Jewish leaders, the crowd that stone Stephen, and then Herod who began to kill the apostles, and three persecutions drove Peter out of Jerusalem and scattered his Jewish flock of Christians all over the Roman empire (Acts 8:1; 11:19; 13:50). During this time, the dispersed had spread the gospel and Peter was sent to encourage and strengthen the brethren as Cnrist had requested (Luke 22:32). Peter went to Samaria, Lydda, Joppa, Caesarea, and Antioch in Syria. He was present at the first Council in Jerusalem, defending his Gentile encounter with Cornelius. From then on Peter was heard off from Corinth and Rome, which he camouflaged as Babylon (I Peter 5:13). His work was similar to the preachers on horseback during the pioneer days in America, and the minister who married my parents ninety one years ago, who served many small and independent congregations in Poland and in the Ukraine. Our persecutors were not the state politicians but the members of the Russian Orthodox Church, the Roman Catholic Church, and the Lutheran Church. The Lutherans were the meanest to me and took pleasure in humiliating and embarrassing me, because my folks were no longer registered Lutherans, and attended a free congregation that had no church building. The Jews, in our area, were allowed to have synagogues, licensed by the government. Jews had synagogues before they were dispersed and that is where Jesus, Peter, and Paul would visit first to preach the Gospel. The separation between Jews and Gentiles was finalized at the Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15.
WHAT BECAME OF PETER AFTER THE COUNCIL HELD BY THE JEWS IN JERUSALEM?
To begin with, the problem was created by Peter and Paul. Peter held to the conviction that the Gentile converts should be circumcised and adhere to Jewish rituals. Paul who had been driven out of synagogues and accepted by Gentiles, saw no need to force circumcision and the Jewish laws on the Gentiles. Yet, to please the Jews, he too had Timothy circumcised (Acts 16:3). When Paul, as the Gentile Apostle entered the gospel field, there were three pillars who directed the direction the movement of Jesus was togo. These were Peter, James’ brother of Jesus, and John Zebedee (Galatians 2:9). These three endorsed circumcision and the laws of the fathers or their traditions. Now, Jesus had specifically rejected these traditions and rituals (Mark 7:1-23). The Gentiles saw no merit or need in circumcisions. And the Jewish observances that did nothing for their souls or spirits. Paul, through the leading of the Holy Spirit, accepted and defended the Gentile way of salvation. Peter would still have to be taught what God accepts and rejects. When he showed up in Antioch, he hung out with the circumcised and neglected the uncircumcised christians. That was when Paul became upset with Peter and reprimanded him (Galatians 2:11-21). In Corinth, the Peter contingent had impacted a fourth of Paul’s members and caused dissensions. Paul had to write four letters to the Corinthians, two letters they disposed, before the issue as to who was Lord, was corrected.
I appeal to you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and that there be no dissensions among you, but that you be united in the same mnd and the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brethren. What I mean is that each one of you says, “I belong to Paul,” or “I belong to Apollos.” or “I belong to Cephas,” or “I belong to Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I am thankful that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius; lest any one should say that you were baptized in my name. (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any one else). For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power (I Corinthians 1:10-17).
But I, brethren, could not address you as spiritual men, but as men of the flesh, as babes in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food; for you were not ready for it; and even yet you are not ready, for you still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving like ordinary men? For when one says “I belong to Paul,” and another, “I belong to Apollos,” are you not merely men?
What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are equal, and each shall receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building (I Corinthians 3:1-11).
PAUL SAVED CHRISTIANITY FROM JUDAISM
It was a much closer call than we can imagine that if Peter, James, and John Zebedee had their way, we would all be circumcised and practicing the rituals of the Jwish tradition. The fight Paul had with Peter in Antioch and in Corinth was after the Holy Spirit had instructed Peter to accept Cornelius, and after the Council agreed not to force Judaism on the Gentiles. At this time, the Gospels were not written, and Paul was the only one who stood up for Jesus as the real founder of the Church and his friend Luke contributed to Paul’s knowledge of Jesus. Paul took the church back to Jesus. He was very adamant to the Galatians, the Corinthians, and to the Colossians.
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and turning to a different gospel—not that there is another gospel, but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, If any one is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed (Galatians 1:6-9).
When I came to you, brethren, I did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God in lofty words or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in much fear and trembling; and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in wisdom of men but in the power of God (I Corinthians 2:1-5).
“He (Christ) is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation; for in Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the first-born from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fulness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven making peace by the blood of his cross (Colossians 1:15-20).
PAUL AND THE FOUR GOSPELS
Paul preceded the Gospels the way we have them in writing. His friend Luke, who may have been know to some as Lucius, who too was from Tarsus like Paul, and they were already together in Antioch Syria (Acts 13:1), and while Paul and Tertius wrote to the Romans (Romans 16:21-22). Tarsus was a place of learning and medical training. Paul owed his standing in the church to Barnabas (Acts 11:25-26), who was a cousin to John Mark (Collossians 4:10), and John Mark was like a son to Peter (I Peter 5:13). There was also Silvanus or Silas who was a friend of Paul and Peter (Acts 15:40; I Peter 5:12). Paul claimed that he had direct revelation from the Lord (Galations 1:12; 2:2), but his dependance on his fellow laborers ought not be dismissed. Luke admitted his dependance on witnesses and he was with the best (Luke 1:1-4).