There is a great bewilderment in the world today about all of the religions. One of the most frequently asked questions of Christian leaders is, “Why are there so many religions?” and “How do we know which one is right?” They are receiving mixed signals from the religious community, for example, “There are many roads to heaven, it doesn't matter which one you choose.” “Just follow the golden rule.” “Keep the Ten Commandments.” “You have to keep an open mind about religion.” “It doesn't really matter what you believe as long as you are sincere.” “As long as you do the best you can you're okay.”
“Our generation is exposed to more religious ideas than any other people of history. Religious broadcasting and the print media bombard people with all kinds of deviant teaching that claim to be truth. In the area where I live (Southern California), for example, we are assaulted with everything from a vulgar, cigar chomping television preacher whose messages are peppered with profanity, to huge billboards declaring, “Islam is truth.” The undiscerning person has no means of determining what is truth, and many are baffled by the variety.” –John MacArthur, Reckless Faith. (adapted by the author)
In today's world, it's not politically correct to put more value on your religious beliefs than on others, and to claim that yours is the true religion, and others are false. We Evangelicals believe the Bible is God's final, inerrant, and authoritative word, and the only message that can save a lost, dying world…if we don't tell people that someone is wrong, who is going to tell them?
“The church can't stand behind multiple points of view and be legitimate. If the Gospel is true, everything else is a lie. If Christ alone saves, those who do not believe in Him are doomed. The church can't lead sinners to salvation if it presents one road as being as good as another. Yet we hear this inclusivism all the time from so-called Christians…The Gospel is exclusive. Jesus is the only way. The gate is that narrow.” –ibid
We live in a world where postmodernism has gradually moved to replace modernism in its emphasis on human reason. Neopaganism has become the major contender with Christianity for the heart of Western civilization, its characteristics include:
•A denial of the personal attributes of God and of Christ.
•Claiming a legitimacy to worship the created order [Pantheism, Romans 1].
•Laying claim to dogmatic tolerance. (We are to be tolerant of them, but they refuse to tolerate us).
•Seeking to intensify the life of a person rather than transform it. (You can pull yourself up by your own bootstraps).
•Offering no definite, well-grounded hope for the future.
•Seeking to reestablish the place of Eros in the life. (Hedonism).
•Militant opposition to Christianity or anyone claiming to know absolute truth.
•Denial of a personal salvation.
We categorically reject any and all teaching that teaches there are many ways to reach God and heaven. Are we that narrow? I heard about a preacher once who was so narrow that a gnat could sit on the bridge of his nose and kick him in both eyes. Yes, we are that narrow, but not any more narrow than God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit or the word of God.
It takes discernment, meaning, “discrimination, perception, insight, acumen. The power to see what is not evident to the average mind.” Discernment stresses the power to distinguish and select what is true and appropriate. It implies a searching mind that goes beyond what is obvious or superficial. It is the depth of insight that goes beyond the obvious with keen practical judgment.
Are we discerning enough to confront error? Do we have the intestinal fortitude to stand for the truth of the gospel? Discernment, causes us to test all things, to examine everything carefully. Discernment is as essential to the Christian life as prayer and thanksgiving.
Pastors and teachers have a unique responsibility when handling truth. And it is not just the pastor-teacher's responsibility to be discerning, it is every believer's duty! Judge everything, test everything, examine everything very carefully. “My dear friends, don’t believe everything you hear. Carefully weigh and examine what people tell you. Not everyone who talks about God comes from God. There are a lot of lying preachers loose in the world” (1 John 4:1 MSG).
Paul, who loved unity and wrote many of the New Testament passages about unity, nevertheless, he confronts error, even in one who is an important “pillar’ of the church. In Proverbs 9:8, Solomon says, “Reprove a wise man and he will love you.” Even wise men need correction but it takes courage to do that, to reprove, correct a person. It takes a man like John Knox, the great Scottish reformer of whom it was said he never feared the face of man. Mary, Queen of Scots said, “I fear the prayers of John Knox more than all the armies of England.”
Verse 11: “Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed.” (Literally, “Because he was clearly in the wrong”).
“I withstood,” in Greek is anthistemi, meaning, stand or set against. To set one's self against. This word gives us a vivid picture of this apostolic confrontation. This verb was used in secular Greek to describe an army in battle going against the enemy, thus depicting a face-to-face battle. So antihistemi pictures Paul vigorously opposing error, resisting the temptation to compromise, instead exhibiting a willingness to stand face-to-face against Peter, not giving ground on the truth of the Gospel!
“It must have been very painful to Paul’s feelings to come into conflict with Peter, whom he greatly esteemed; but yet, for the truth’s sake, he knew no persons, and he had to withstand even a beloved brother when he saw that he was likely to pervert the simplicity of the gospel, and rob the Gentiles of their Christian liberty.” –Spurgeon
God’s word doesn’t hide any blemishes. Peter had, in fact joined the Judaizers in their erroneous teaching, especially salvation by grace alone. Peter knew better, but for fear of the Jews he bowed to their pressure.
“…he was to be blamed.” Two Geek verbs are used here: kataginosko and eimi. together literally meaning, “he was condemned.”
Verse 12: “…for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision.”
When these “certain men” came…Paul did not call them brethren, they intimidated Peter.
“Certain men came from James." Hmmm - James who? James representing the church at Jerusalem; James is kind of the leader. Now here came the Judaizers, always dogging Paul's steps and always saying ‘We're from Jerusalem! We're from James!’ Of course, if you read Acts 15:24, James doesn't claim them. They may have represented their own view of the church at Jerusalem, but they were liars, they were not the true church…But it seems unlikely to me that James would look up at Antioch and he would see the Antioch fellowship beautiful in unity and he would send a bunch of Judaizers up there just to make a mess out of it. That makes no sense. James was a godly man, and James isn't going to create chaos where there’s harmony. He's not going to create discord where there is unity. So from my standpoint, it can't be that certain men came, authored and given authority by James, but rather that they came claiming to have been sent by James but in fact were Judaizers.” –Mac Arthur
When Peter first came to Antioch, he had the habit of eating meals with his Gentile brothers in Christ. He did not feel contaminated or defiled by these Gentiles because at that time he was operating under a clear understanding of the gospel of grace. He knew Jews and Gentiles were one in Christ.
“Yet now Peter refused to eat with Gentile believers. When a Jew refused to eat with a Gentile, he did this in obedience to Jewish rituals. Peter had already learned that obedience to these rituals (such as keeping kosher) was not essential for salvation, for either Jews or Gentiles (Acts 10 and 11). Peter had stopped keeping these Jewish rituals for himself, but now he acted as if he did keep them, so as to accommodate the legalism of the certain men from James. Peter no longer kept a strict observance of the Law of Moses for himself, but by his actions, he implied that Gentiles believers must keep the law—when he himself did not.” –Guzik
“Their withdrawal from table-fellowship with Gentile believers was not prompted by any theological principle, but by craven fear of a small pressure group … He still believed the gospel, but he failed to practice it.” –Stott
“No man’s standing is so secure that he may not fall. If Peter fell, I may fall. If he rose again, I may rise again. We have the same gifts that they had, the same Christ, the same baptism and the same Gospel, the same forgiveness of sins.” –Martin Luther)
We can apply this to many different situations. We may do certain things because of pressure but this is always wrong. Let’s ask ourselves, “Can this happen to me that in a similar situation I would act like Peter would?
Verse 13: “And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy.”
Peter influenced others to follow his lead into error. Even faithful Barnabus was carried away by Peter’s hypocrisy. This show that no one is exempt from being influenced by powerful leaders, all of us are potential victims of those who deceive and diminish or witness for Christ.
1. Even gifted ministers can commit serious transgressions, being guilty of the sins they once preached against.
2. Faithfulness involves more than just adhering to right doctrine, without right behavior it becomes hypocrisy.
3. Truth is more important than outward unity, “Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?” (Amos 3:3)
4. Situation ethics is ungodly ethics! God’s word, not some human situation determines what is right or wrong.
5, Error is not to be ignored, regardless of the consequences opposition may bring. When falsehood effects the heart of the gospel message, opposition is even more important.
Verses 14a: “But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel…”
“Straightforward” is from the Greek word meaning, to walk straight, free from evasiveness or obscurity synonyms, honest, frank, candid, open, truthful, sincere, on the level, forthright, unambiguous, and upfront. They did not walk with a straight step - they did not maintain a firm footing. They were not walking in truth “Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take” (Proverbs 3:6). “Mark out a straight path for your feet; stay on the safe path. Don’t get sidetracked…” (Proverbs 4:26,27). “…make straight paths for your feet…” (Hebrews 12:12). “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth” (3 John 1:4).
“You didn't walk with straight feet. In other words, here is the truth. You didn't walk a straight course. You didn’t walk an unwavering, sincere course in conduct according to truth. ....” –MacArthur
Verse 14b: “I said to Peter before them all…”
Apparently Peter’s change in his belief system from grace to legalism was known to all. Public sin must of necessity be publicly exposed. Paul was not trying to humiliate Peter, as he was an prominent, influential leader, but he had to be corrected. His error had caused others to stumble. Paul had to uphold the integrity of the gospel.
Jewish custom demanded that a rebuke or correction be done in private, but Peter’s offense was so egregious that it was necessary for Paul had to rebuke him before them all. Paul probably rebuked Peter publicly because Peter’s behavior had influenced many other people. “Those who are sinning rebuke in the presence of all, that the rest also may fear” (1 Timothy 5:20).
“Many churches have had great trouble because sin in the leadership was not forthrightly dealt with. It’s important that everyone understand that leadership in the church does not shield one from accountability, it makes one even more accountable.”– enduringword.com
“When error is confronted, the pastor then also has the opportunity to teach truth. The reason so many people are led astray is because of a lack of doctrinal teaching. Refusing to confront error promotes doctrinal ignorance. Addressing error is also a pursuit of a better and clearer understanding of the truth.” journeypastorsblog.blogspot.com
“…holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict” (Titus 1:9).
Doctrinal error is not just dangerous, if not dealt with biblically it can be contagious. If you as God’s pulpit representative are completely committed to God’s truth, you will confront error.
Verse 14c,15: “’If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews?’ We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles…”
Paul is saying, “If you, born and bred a Jew, have discarded Jewish customs, why would you impose them on Gentiles.” In other words by Peter's actions of withdrawing from eating with the Gentiles, he was in effect putting them under pressure to follow in his erroneous path.
Even with clear evidence from scripture that man is hopelessly lost in sin and unable to correct his lost condition, people still insist on vainly trying to save themselves by their good works, or by keeping the law, hoping to justify themselves before God. God says, “…all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
We’re not believers because we keep the Mosaic law, a new era has dawned, Jesus has come! And it is faith in this Jesus of Nazareth that makes us members of God’s family.
I have heard people through the years say, “If I were to accept Christ, my grandmother would roll over in her grave.” The world is filled with people who hold to the traditions of Catholicism, liberal Protestantism, Mormonism, Jewish, Pharisee-ism, et al, none of which can justify or make righteous! Many people know about God, but few have had a life-changing encounter with Him. Few have a personal relationship with the true God.
How does a person have that life-changing experience? (5 principles)
Principle #1: God loves you and offers an incredible plan for your life. All throughout the Bible there is passage after passage that talks about how much God loves you. The greatest example of this was when He sent His only Son into the world to die for your sins. But even today, He watches over you and pursues you to have a relationship with you. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
Principle #2: Man is sinful and separated from God. It is so common in today’s culture to believe that there are many paths to God. There are so many religions, each with very nice, good people in them. There are also so many good people that it can seem natural to assume that each of these “good” people or their religious affiliation have a lock on heaven because they have done so many wonderful things. But the truth is that all of us have blown it…“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). It only takes one sin to separate us from our God, because He is perfect. The Bible says, And “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). As you can imagine, this creates a huge problem, through sin, we are separated from God and therefore cannot get to God on our own, for where He is, there can be no sin. But just when it appears that all is lost, principle #3 kicks in:
Principle #3: Jesus Christ is God’s only provision for man’s sin. Now I know that sounds too simple. But then again, we are not God. It was God who chose to provide a “sacrifice” for our sins, His own son Jesus. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Now here’s the incredible part, it was His death that paid for your sins and mine, all the ones we have committed as well as any we will commit in the future. There had to be a blood sacrifice, and Jesus willfully gave His life for you and me. But the most incredible thing to know is that three days after He died, He rose from the dead. This is not just religious mumbo-jumbo, this is historical fact. And because He rose from the dead, He now sits at the right hand of God making intercession (carrying messages for us and speaking to God on our behalf) for us. “Christ died for our sins…He was buried…He was raised on the third day, according to the scriptures…He appeared to Peter, then to the twelve (disciples). After that He appeared to more than five hundred others…” (I Corinthians 15:3-6).
Principle #4: Jesus is the only way to God. This is the hardest one for many people to believe. There are no other “paths” to God or “ways” of salvation. While this “many paths to God” theory is popular in the minds of many and even some modern-day churches, it is a lie designed to keep people from the truth of Jesus Christ. “Jesus said, I am THE WAY, (so there is no other way) THE TRUTH, (so there is no other truth) and THE LIFE; (so there is no other life) no one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6). This is why it is so important that you understand that to simply be a good person, believe in God, and do your best to serve Him is not what it means to be a Christian. It is impossible to be a God follower without accepting God’s son Jesus. Jesus is the way…the only way to salvation for mankind. It was Jesus who died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins, and it is Jesus that we must accept and come in to a right relationship with if we are to be called by His name…”Christians,” which means “followers of Christ”.
Principle #5: You must receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. “But to as many who received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name” (John 1:12). “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Each person must individually receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Written below is a very simple prayer for salvation. It may be very similar to a prayer you have already prayed, but for some of you, this is your actual time of decision. If you have already prayed this prayer and know you are a Christian, then just read it over once and pray for those that may be praying this prayer for the first time. But if this is your moment of salvation, then simply stop right where you are at this moment, and pray this prayer to the Lord. He is waiting with great anticipation. Only pray these words if they truly represent the desire of your heart and your decision to follow Christ:
Dear Lord God, I need You in my life. I acknowledge that I have sinned and I come to You right now confessing my sin, and asking for your forgiveness. Thank You for dying on the cross for my sins. I believe You are the Son of God and that You died for me, and rose from the dead and are alive today. I open the door of my heart and receive You as my Savior and Lord. Thank You for forgiving my sins and giving me eternal life. Please take control of my life from here forward and make me the kind of person you want me to be. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.
If you prayed that prayer, please let us know at godsword4you. You may e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Unless otherwise noted, the New King James Version of the Bible was used. Also The New Living Translation (NLT); The New American Standard Bible (NASB); The Message (MSG); The New Century Version (NCV); The Amplified Bible (AMP); The King James Version (KJV), The New Life Version (NLV); English Standard Version (ESV); J.B. Phillips New Testament; Easy to Read Version (ERV); Common English bible (CEB); NET Bible (NET) and The Living Bible (TLB). Contemporary English Version (CEV).