Sessions with GalatiansFinding Freedom Through Christ The Church of Two Tables Galatians 2:11-14
Galatians 2:11-14 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood self-condemned; for until certain people came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But after they came, he drew back and kept himself separate for fear of the circumcision faction. And the other Jews joined him in this hypocrisy, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they were not acting consistently with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before all of them, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?”
Who’s Coming for Dinner? • Story of Booker T. Washington and Theodore Roosevelt • Sharing a meal with someone can be a deeply intimate experience. • We tend to dine with people we love—family, friends—and people we value and esteem—clients and colleagues. • Table fellowship communicates affirmation and acceptance. So Roosevelt’s dinner with Booker T. Washington was a sign of acceptance for the African Americans.
Dietary Restrictions • The practices of Judaism required by the Judaizers included strict dietary restrictions and regulations. • The Galatian people were urged to start a diet that prohibited them from eating certain foods, to prepare foods in certain ways, and to follow certain rules of personal hygiene before pulling up to the table. • The law did not specifically forbid the Judaizers from dining with Gentiles, but they didn’t take any chances. • They had the mentality that, “eating with one’s own people” was appropriate. • In essence they created two different groups of people—us and them.
Dining with Gentiles • After meeting Paul at the Jerusalem council, Cephas (Peter) made an extended visit to Antioch. • At the council Peter rejected the idea that Gentiles must follow the circumcision. • Peter dined with Gentiles to show his support for them as they made decisions of faith. • But, like Theodore Roosevelt, Peter began to feel pressure from some people—notably the “circumcision faction.”
Pushback from the “Circumcision Faction” • After receiving pushback from the “circumcision faction,” he ended his practice of dining with Gentiles. • At the Jerusalem council Peter rejected the circumcision requirement, but he didn’t make a decision about dining with Gentiles. • James’ crew believed that Jewish Christians had to maintain their distance from those of a different diet. • James had a “separate but equal” view of the church. Jews and Gentiles could belong to the same Christian fellowship, but they had to eat at separate tables.
Two-Table Theology • Needless to say Paul was appalled by the decision of Peter and the Jewish Christians to end table fellowship with the Gentiles. • Paul believed if Christ’s cross is enough to make people one in salvation, then the cross is enough to make them one at dinner. • The cross demolishes the barriers that separate Jews and Gentiles because those barriers belong to the “present evil age.” • In Christ there is no Jew nor Gentile but one people (3:28), called into being as witnesses to the new creation. • Maintaining two separate tables strengthens and furthers the present evil age.
The Gospel of One Table • Paul believed that when Jews and Gentiles shared one common table God’s new creation was on display. • In 2:11 Paul opposes Peter to his face. Paul sees Peter’s withdrawal from the Gentiles as a denial of the gospel. • By conviction Peter believed that Gentiles did not have to become Jews in order to be Christians, but his actions don’t support his convictions. • Paul believes that Peter’s withdrawal from the table says faith in Christ is not enough if the Gentiles want to join the people of God. • Paul speaks loudly and publicly because Peter is “not acting consistently with the truth of the gospel” (2:14).
Paul and Miss Amy • Rev. Vernon Tyson—Pastor at Jonesboro UMC in Sanford, NC in 1964 • Samuel Proctor—renowned African American pastor, educator, and President of NC A&T—invited to preach on Feb. 2, 1964. • Church Administrative Board—men and women of Jonesboro UMC—called an emergency meeting on the night of Feb. 1, 1964. • Miss Amy Womble—retired elementary school teacher who taught most of the men and women in the church
Jewish Leaders Giving In… • All the powers of the early church were arrayed against Paul, insisting on the status quo segregation at the table. • Representatives from James, leader of the Jerusalem church, clamped down on Jew-Gentile meal sharing. • Peter, certainly not known for bowing to the whims of others, gave in to the pressure and went with the crowd. • Even Barnabas, Paul’s trusted colleague in the Gentile mission, counseled patience and concluded the time was not right to go against the system. • Without realizing it, the church had given in to the present evil age.
Standing Alone • Despite everyone going against him, Paul believed that he had to stand up for the truth of the gospel. He had to give witness to the new creation. • Whenever Christians act inconsistently with the truth of the gospel, the truth of the gospel is at stake. • Paul doesn’t mention the outcome of his public stand, but the effectiveness of his rebuke is not the point. • What matters, for Paul and for us, is the consistency of his witness, a consistently that he prays God will use in persuading the Galatians away from the present evil age.
Thoughts and Questions • Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Sunday morning at 11:00 is the most segregated hour in America.” • What are some of the barriers that prevent people of differing backgrounds from eating together? • What are some examples of a two-table system at work in our community (Both today and in the past)?
Questions • Where is the new creation in view through the work of “one-table” Christians? • Who was/is the “Miss Amy” in our church? Who is the person that is consistently calling us to follow the truth of the gospel? • Can you be that person? What makes you uncomfortable about serving in that role?
Questions • At what point do we confront people publicly like Paul did? When is it more appropriate to handle these matters privately? • What type of peer pressure have you faced, in the past or the present, that has made it difficult to maintain the truth of the gospel? • How can we, the members of Cane Creek Baptist Church, be an example of the truth of the gospel today? • How can we create a place where everyone is welcome at the table?
Ash Wednesday Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain me in a willing spirit. Psalm 51:10-12