Thursday, June 7, 2012

Two separate ministries

I have just come to understand that the agreement in Galatians 2 between Peter, James and John was that they would confine their ministry to the Circumcision (the believing remnant of Israel, the little flock) thus annulling the ‘great commission’ because Paul was telling them that God’s plan had changed and that he was now the Apostle to all without distinction; both Jew and Gentile, the uncircumcised in heart (Acts 7:51, Romans 11:32) – the lost.

So what was the ministry of Peter James and John and to the Circumcision?  They were already believers in the little flock (saved by believing the Gospel of the Kingdom) and could not proselytize with the Kingdom message because that would compromise Paul’s apostleship.  I also understand that there were others in the little flock who helped Paul (Barnabas, John, Mark, etc.) but Peter, James and John did not in accordance to their agreement in Galatians 2.  Was this because they were given leadership and authority in the Kingdom program and could not abandon that to help Paul?

This is one of the best questions I have seen and I appreciate that you asked it.

Remember that Paul wrote Galatians very early in his ministry.  The job of Peter, James and John was to let the circumcision believers know that there had been a delay in their (Kingdom) program.  Quite frankly there wasn’t much for them to do except to share with the believers in the little flock that God was now doing something else.  Once Peter, James and John learned this information they were to communicate it to the other disciples (the members of the little flock) to minister to them.

When Paul wrote the book of Galatians, no one, not even Paul himself, knew that the dispensation of grace would last 2,000 years.  They had no clue.  If you want to understand their mindset, they were thinking just like Paul that God was going to do something among the Gentiles to call out a people for his name, and then Christ would return and rebuild the house of David.

Acts 15:13-17
And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me:  Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name.  And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written,  After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up:  That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things.

They were just waiting for God to do that.  That is basically the ministry of Peter, James and John, as well as explaining to the circumcision believers what God was doing through Paul. 

But Peter, James and John also have a future ministry.  The books of Hebrews through Revelation that come after Paul’s epistles in scripture are future.  They will be in effect after the rapture of the church the Body of Christ when God is finished with the program of grace (i.e., the mystery, the dispensation of grace) and he will begin again his prophetic clock for the nation of Israel on the earth.  Peter, James and John have a written ministry in their epistles for the future (ages to come).  God had them write these epistles to the future little flock.

So they have a two-part ministry.  They had their ministry to the circumcision believers – the little flock.  This is important:  all those members of the little flock had eternal life once Paul was saved; but before then they did not have eternal life as a present position like we do which is only by God’s grace.  When the dispensation of grace began the moment Paul was saved (Acts 9:3-6), all the members of the little flock (of Israel) who believed on Jesus as their Messiah were given eternal life.

Romans 11:5, 7
Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of graceWhat then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded.

So what was the ministry of Peter, James and John to the circumcision?  Great question!  During that time (contemporary with Paul) their ministry was to explain to the little flock that God was not done with them (just read Acts 15 and you’ll see it), and that once God was done with these gentiles that God was dealing with through Paul, God would return and raise up the Kingdom for Israel; He would build up the house of David.  They were teaching them that God changed the program and that he was not offering the Kingdom to Israel at that moment; but he was doing something different among the heathen (the lost – both Jew and Gentile).

So basically they were just waiting.  They were assuring the little flock that they were saved and that they could rest from their works.  They are sealed because God was now dealing with humanity through grace.  And because they believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, they were given eternal life as a present position (as does the Body of Christ) when Paul was saved by grace and no works. 

God is not done with Israel’s program; he put it on hold while he deals with the gentiles and the Body of Christ.  They are not in the Body of Christ; only Paul, Gentiles, and Jews who believed after him are in the Body.

1 Timothy 1:16 
Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.

They were ministering to one to another and encouraging one another.  Many of them were helping the Apostle Paul!  Peter, James and John would encourage the little flock to wait patiently on the Lord to finish his program with the gentiles and to help the Apostle Paul get out the message of grace.  They will receive their promised Kingdom.

2 Peter 3:15-16
And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.

This was hard for Jews to understand, but it was about salvation and the wisdom that God gave Paul called the Mystery.  Those Jews would learn from Peter, James and John that: 
  • God had changed the program and was doing something with the Gentiles through Paul. 
  • God is not finished with the little flock and Israel.  He hasn’t forgotten them; he will give them their Kingdom when he has finished with Paul and the Gentiles. 
  • Listen to Paul.  Paul was bringing them to a further knowledge of these things.  They were to learn about the grace of God, although they were not included in the Dispensation of Grace.  (We learn about the Prophetic program as well.)

Romans 15:4
For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.

We learn through Israel’s program and study and teach from their books although they don’t pertain to us.  They had to learn Paul’s doctrine even though it didn’t pertain to them so that they would be informed about what God was doing.  They understood it didn’t pertain to them as little flock Kingdom saints, but they were to know what God was doing among the gentiles.


You also wrote that they were already Kingdom believers but they could not proselytize with the Kingdom Message.  That’s right.  But they could teach the Kingdom message by saying that God was not offering the Kingdom right now, but he was offering salvation through his grace.  So they would share that God was doing something different through Paul’s gospel.  They could share that.  If they had been sharing the Kingdom gospel, that would have compromised Paul’s apostleship so they stopped doing it; instead they sent people to Paul.

Acts 11:25-26
Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul:  And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.

Until Acts 15 they were still preaching the Kingdom message.  Jews who were being saved because they had heard about Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection

1 Corinthians 15:11
Therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed.

Anyone after Paul who believed in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ for their sins, whether it was preached by Peter as we see in Acts 10…

Acts 10:39-43
And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree:
Him God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly; Not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead.  And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead.
To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.

…or Paul, they were saved and Peter, James and John would tell them that they needed to understand Paul’s ministry and what God was doing through him.

Peter, James and John were not used by God to help propagate Paul’s message.  Remember that in Galatians 2, Peter was in Antioch and he did understand the Gospel of Grace.  It may not be recorded in the book of Acts per se, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Peter, James and John did not help Paul.  Their agreement confined their ministry and gospel preaching to the people who were already saved by believing the Gospel of the Kingdom.

Remember that the gospel is not confined to ‘how you get saved’; it includes doctrine as well.  Paul calls it my gospel – it is his doctrine.

Romans 2:16; 16:25
In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.

Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began,

2 Timothy 2:8
Remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead according to my gospel:

So they confined their Kingdom doctrine to the little flock; but that didn’t mean that they didn’t let other people know about Paul’s gospel and message.  They updated their people in Paul’s message and let them know that this is what God is doing today as Peter did in 2 Peter. Remember that after the Jerusalem council Peter was in Antioch among the Gentile believers.

Galatians 2:11-12
But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed.  For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision.

There is no record of Peter, James and John actually travelling with Paul, but obviously Peter is there in Antioch.  By eating with the Gentiles, he is helping Paul.  He is helping the Gentile believers understand that even he, the head apostle of the little flock, can now eat with Gentiles, even though he said that he couldn’t back in Acts 10.  So by sitting there in Antioch eating with the Gentiles, Peter is helping Paul’s ministry by demonstrating that there is no distinction; there is no longer a difference between Jew and Gentile.  He is telling them that before he couldn’t eat with you but now he can based on the grace message given to Paul.

Even though it is true that Peter, James and John were given leadership and authority in the Kingdom program, it didn’t mean that they couldn’t help Paul.  By helping Paul, they weren’t abandoning their leadership.

1 Corinthians 1:12
Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas [Peter]; and I of Christ.

The Jews and Gentiles in the Body of Christ and the Jews in the little flock all knew that Peter was a head apostle.  Once Peter understood that God had changed the program, God would have had no problem with encouraging Peter to tell others that Paul was now ‘his man.’  Just like when we as Pauline grace believers read the gospels and exalt Peter’s office as head apostle (Matt. 16, 17) and acknowledge his authority with Israel, God would have no problem with Peter exalting Paul’s apostleship; and that is exactly what he did in 2 Peter 3:15-16.  Peter was exalting Paul and helping his ministry to the little flock.

Again, there is no record that Peter was actually out there ministering with Paul like Barnabas was; but according to Galatians 2, there was a time when Peter and Paul were together after the agreement, and by eating with these gentiles Peter was helping Paul.

Hopefully this helps!


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