Thursday, May 05, 2022

Peter and Paul

A common idea amongst Christians is that Peter was the apostle to the Jews and Paul the apostle to the Gentiles. This idea is given some credibility by Pauls’s account in Galatians of his encounter with the men in Jerusalem who were esteemed as something by the people, although Paul was not particularly impressed. Paul notes that they recognised that Paul had been "entrusted to take the uncircumcised to the Gentiles, just as Peter has taken it to the circumcised".

He who worked effectively in Peter for the apostleship to the circumcised also worked effectively in me toward the Gentiles (Gal 2:8).
We should be careful about reading too much into this passage. Paul only says that the Holy Spirit was working within him and Peter when they were sent out as apostles, he to the Gentiles and Peter to the Jews. Anything more than this is a human construction. Paul does not call himself the Apostle to the Gentiles. He does not acknowledge that Peter was the Apostle to the Jews.

There are several problems with the idea that Paul was the Apostle to the Gentiles and Peter was the apostle to the Jews.

  • This idea assumes that God works through a couple of big men, whereas the NT plan is for the Holy Spirit to work through thousands of people. The word apostle is used far more in the New Testament as a verb than a noun, although most English translations do not reflect this. For example, Luke 10:1 describes Jesus appointing “seventy-two others, and apostled them in pairs ahead of Him".

    The role of an apostle was not limited to an elite group. Jesus’ strategy was based on groups of people being sent out (apostled) to the world. He needs millions of apostles taking the gospel into the world to bring in the Kingdom of God.

  • Jesus had told his apostles clearly that they should start in Jerusalem and then go out into all the world (Acts 1:8; Mat 28:10). His apostles should go to the Jews first and then go to the Gentiles.

    Paul was never exclusively an apostle to the Gentiles. He followed Jesus’ instructions and in each new city went to the Jews first. Only when they rejected his approach did he go to the Gentiles.

    Peter’s approach was similar, although he was sometimes reluctant to go to the Gentiles. When the Holy Spirit tried to get Peter to go to the Gentiles in Caesarea (Acts 10) he dug in his toes, but he eventually went He never limited his ministry to just to the Jews.

Peter and Paul both operated as apostles, along with numerous others. They both operated amongst Jews and Gentiles. The idea that they had separate spheres of authority, one as the apostle to the Jews and the other as the apostle to the Gentiles is not true.

What is true is that in the beginning, many newer Christians hang around in Jerusalem where the Holy Spirit has been poured out and the Peter and John were based. They should have been taking the gospel back to the places that they had come from. God eventually sent persecution to get them moving in the way he needed.

See Governmental Apostles.

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