Wednesday, 5 April 2023
Paul and Barnabas also remained in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also. Acts 15:35
The previous verse contained the disputed words, “However, it seemed good to Silas to remain there.” Whether that verse is original or not, the words now are without dispute, but the translation of the conjunction will depend on how one views the matter. If those words are accepted as original, the words of this verse will say something like, “Paul and Barnabas also remained in Antioch.” If they are not accepted, then translators will say something like, “Paul and Barnabas, however, remained in Antioch.”
The conjunction can be rendered either way depending on the context. Whichever is correct, Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch after the matter of the Judaizers was settled. However, with it settled, Luke now returns to placing Paul’s name first – Paul and Barnabas. Together, they remained in Antioch “teaching and preaching the word of the Lord.”
As elsewhere, the word translated as “preaching,” euaggelizó, signifies to proclaim the good news. It is less a formal sermon and focuses more on evangelizing. They continued sharing the gospel which is the word of the Lord for salvation. Along with them, it also says, “with many others also.”
The meaning is that the church was filled with people who were willing to go out and tell others the good news about Jesus. With the approval by the council that Gentiles did not need to adhere to the Law of Moses after coming to Christ, the church was able to go forth and evangelize the gospel in the purity with which it was originally intended, meaning salvation by grace through faith in the full, finished, final, and forever work of Christ Jesus.
The idea comes through a bit more clearly when it is translated in the same order as the Greek –
“And Paul and Barnabas continued in Antioch, teaching and proclaiming good news -- with many others also -- the word of the Lord.” (YLT).
In this translation by Young’s, one can see that he punted on the conjunction, translating it as “and.” In doing this, it allows for either option concerning the previous verse being genuine or not. He also, rightly, offsets the words “with many others also” giving a greater force to them. The church was highly evangelistic.
The reason for this being so important to highlight is because this may have been the time when the sad events of Galatians 2 took place –
“Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; 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. 13 And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy.
14 But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, ‘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?’” Galatians 2:11-14
Others disagree and say this cannot be the time when these events took place, instead placing them in Acts 18:22. This is less likely because Paul says that Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy. However, Paul and Barnabas are never mentioned as being together again after Acts 15. Further, this probably did not occur as is supposed by the Pulpit Commentary, which says –
“But it is quite inconceivable that Peter, with all the influence of the Jerusalem Cornell fresh upon him, and after the part he himself took in it, and when his own emissaries, Silas and Judas, had just left Antioch, should act the part there ascribed to him. Nor is it within the region of probability that, so soon after the council, any should have come ‘from James’ to unsay what James had said and written at the council. We may with much confidence place Peter's visit to Antioch before the council.” Pulpit Commentary
The reason this view is unlikely is that Paul says in Galatians 2:9 –
“...and when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that had been given to me, they gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised.”
The only record of Paul and Barnabas being together in Jerusalem before the council in Acts 15 is in Acts 11 & 12 at a time when this issue had not yet come to light. The point of the council was to determine the acceptability of the message that Paul and Barnabas had proclaimed to the Gentiles. That was decided, as indicated in Galatians 2:9, at the council.
And more, the conversion of the Gentiles only began to occur after Paul and Barnabas were called by the Holy Spirit to their first missionary journey in Acts 13:2. Therefore, it is most probable that Peter’s great failings, along with those of Barnabas, occurred at this point in Acts 15, shortly after the council had taken place.
Peter came to Antioch, realized the freedom that came from faith in Christ, ate with Gentiles, probably enjoying pork chops, bacon, and ham for the first time in his life, and then withdrew from this fellowship because he was unsure if the Jews who came from James would accept his move so far away from the restrictions of the Law of Moses.
Life application: If the timeline suggested here is correct, and the words of Galatians 2 fully support that it is, it shows how quickly we can backpedal from the truth and soundness of proper doctrine when faced with a little bit of external pressure.
Peter had spoken boldly in the council of Acts 15 concerning Gentile conversion and their not needing to adhere to the Law of Moses. This, by default, meant that the law was set aside in Christ. And yet, he peevishly backtracked from this fundamental truth when it personally affected his appearance before those who may condemn his departure from the customs of the Jewish people.
If this can happen to Peter so quickly, it can happen to any of us if we allow our guard to come down. Stand firm on the freedom of the gospel, do not allow anyone to bring you under the yoke of the law or of legalism. There is freedom in Christ and we must proclaim it as such.
Thank You, O God, for the freedom we possess in Christ. May we never fail to speak out just what Your word proclaims. Help us in this because it is so easy for us to get distracted or to not want to deal with conflict that may arise over one issue or another. Help us to stay on the right and sound path at all times. We pray this so that You will be glorified through our conduct. Amen.