Dissimulation

Galatians 2:12-13. “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. And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation.”

It must have pained Paul to write these words.  After all, he had just come from the gathering in Jerusalem where Peter’s ministry to the Jews and his own to the Gentiles had been agreed upon; where the great truths of salvation by grace through faith were agreed upon by all, and where the Judaizers lost a lot of face. It had seemed as if there was peace and harmony among the brethren.

Paul and Barnabas journied on to Antioch and were ministering among the believers there, and preaching the gospel to those who had not heard.  Peter decided to visit them in Antioch, to see how the work was going. I am sure he was welcomed with open arms, and he enjoyed fellowship with all the believers. He ate with them, prayed with them, perhaps sang with them, and studied with them.

Until some legalists who did not understand grace showed up among them. Pharisaic Jews, perhaps believers, but they did not understand that the Law no longer needed to be observed as it had been before the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. He came as the fulfillment of the law. These men “of the circumcision” still believed that every letter of the law must be fulfilled in order for a person to attain salvation.

Peter must have decided he didn’t want to offend them.  Maybe he just didn’t want to be hassled by them. We don’t know what his thinking processes were; we only know that when these men appeared, Peter would no longer share food with the Gentiles. And also, much to Paul’s sorrow, Barnabas was influenced in the same way, sharing in Peter’s dissimulation and refusing to eat with the “unclean” Gentiles.

The word dissimulation simply means hypocrisy. Peter and Barnabas weren’t the only believing Jews who shied away from the Gentiles at this time.  The influence of the Judaizers was so strong that apparently several others followed suit and began to sit off by themselves during the meals.

Kind of reminds me of the cool kids in the lunchroom who were fine having an uncool kid sit with them until the King of Cool sauntered up to the table. He wouldn’t sit with the uncool, and took his tray to a different seat. Some of his cool buddies got up and went with him, leaving the uncool to finish lunch on their own.

Of course my example doesn’t carry the weight of what was going on in Antioch.  It’s just what it makes me think of. The issues here were far more important than who was popular and who wasn’t.  The gospel of Jesus Christ was that of salvation by grace, not by works. The Law no longer was the path to eternal life, because Jesus was the supreme sacrifice Whose blood not only covered sin, but cleansed us from sin. No works, not even the Old Testament law, are sufficient to take us to heaven.  “For by grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; It is the gift of God; Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph. 2:8-9).

This was not just a matter of social standing.  It was a matter of the most foundational doctrine of the faith, and Paul could not let it go without setting things straight.

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9 thoughts on “Dissimulation

  1. Anne

    Good evening! You’ve got me thinking, and I have all these Bible tabs open for this “virtual Bible study” 🙂 Here goes!
    Couple of questions or clarifications, if you have time:
    1. “Pharisaic Jews, perhaps believers, but they did not understand that the Law no longer needed to be observed as it had been before the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. He came as the fulfillment of the law. These men “of the circumcision” still believed that every letter of the law must be fulfilled in order for a person to attain salvation.”
    As far as “the Law no longer needed to be observed as it had been”. Is there a place where the Jews were told to not keep it? In Acts/NT, they weren’t criticized for continuing or desiring to keep the law (“Messianic Jews”), they were criticized for making it the means/test of salvation?
    As far as “Pharisaic Jews, perhaps believers”…if any in this bunch actually believed beyond their snobbery of heritage “that every letter of the law must be fulfilled…to attain salvation”, then they were not believers, right? Galatians 1? Or maybe I’m misunderstanding.
    2. “The Law no longer was the path to eternal life, because Jesus was the supreme sacrifice Whose blood not only covered sin, but cleansed us from sin. No works, not even the Old Testament law, are sufficient to take us to heaven.”
    Are you saying that the law was indeed at one time the “path to eternal life” and “sufficient to take” them to heaven, or that that is what some of them correctly believed or erroneously believed? (Trying to reconcile Romans 4 and throughout–faith was counted for righteousness before the law and during the law rather than keeping the law? Or?)
    I love your cool kids analogy! Even as Peter helped with the Acts 15 “essentials” for Gentiles (which did not include circumcision), he was peer pressured to regard the Gentiles weren’t “cool” enough because they weren’t Jews by nature or imitation enough. They used their heritage and their place in God’s divine plan like a name brand of clothing rather in humility to their place that in Christ there is no “Jew nor Gentile””… The pride gets us in trouble and mixed up every time (leading easily as you said to “far more important issues”) … leading to cliques and bullies and those left alone…usually ending up even these days with yes, dissimulation and/or “legalism” being a temptation from ALL”sides AND being bandied about and misused from ALL sides–including reverse legalism–“my lack of so many ‘rules’ shows my genuine faith” as an extreme reaction to legalism (and I’ll stop there with THAT soapbox 🙂
    Anyway, back to lurking. I have some Jewish friends, so I was working through the thoughts above, and hoped for your input.

  2. Anne, I nearly just had a major heart event! Somehow or the other, while I was writing a response, I lost your whole entire post. After franticly searching for it, I finally found it in my spam folder! I must have had a finger-slip and put it there all by myself, but I got it back. The problem is, now it’s 9:45 p.m. and I’m just too tired to respond the way I want to. Excellent questions, and you’ve gotten me thinking I need to spend some more time on the details in order to clarify my writing. I’ve tried so hard to keep my posts short and focused. Maybe that’s not the right approach here. Anyway, I will respond as I have time tomorrow, and thanks for keeping me on my toes!

  3. Ok, Anne. Question #1, in part: Is there a place that tells the Jews to stop keeping the law.

    I believe the most dramatic statement that the Law had been fulfilled was that at the moment of Jesus’ death, the veil in the temple between the main sanctuary and the holy of holies was split in two, from top to bottom. The veil was a thickly woven piece of work that would have taken some mighty hard work to rend from the bottom up, but it was rent in two from the top down. Apparently that event alone impressed a lot of the priests, because Acts 2 tells us that many of them turned to the New Way.

    Hebrews 11, our Hall of Faith chapter, states over and over again that it was “by faith” that the Old Testament saints were saved from sin. The Law was a schoolmaster; that is, one whose job it is to take the child to school. It showed us the way to faith, and to Christ. Once the Law was fulfilled, in Jesus Christ, it was no longer necessary to observe every jot and tittle.

    I gave those pharisaical Jews the possibility that they COULD have been believers because I’m not the One Who stands in judgment on such things. But this I do know: If they were depending on their works, their obedience to the Law, for their salvation, then no, they were not true believers.

    This issue was of utmost importance in the preaching and teaching of the gospel. Salvation, Paul says, is by grace alone. Jesus’ death and resurrection plus nothing. The controversy had to be addressed and clarified everywhere that it reared its ugly head. There is much more that can be said about this, and I want to give you some specific scripture. I will do that, and I will continue to reply to your questions. I love it that you asked 🙂

  4. Anne’s second question: Was the Law ever sufficient to take anyone to heaven?

    No. The Law practiced without faith was useless. God knew very well that no human being could possibly keep every point of the law, which is why He provided the system of sacrifice in the Old Testament. It kept people aware of their sin, and provided a way to stay in right relationship with God in spite of the propensity to sin. The Old Testament saints were saved by faith, not by their exactitude in keeping the Law.

    Here’s a really good article: http://coldcasechristianity.com/2013/how-were-old-testament-saints-saved/

  5. Anne

    LOL! “I nearly just had a major heart event!…in my spam folder…”
    And I about have one whenever I click “post comment” and then see how long my comment looks on the screen. Then I kinda sorta wish it away accidentally to your spam folder so as to not overly burden you 🙂 “Kinda sorta” because I’m too interested in your response to feel THAT guilty!

    Thank you for your response and clarifications. And I agree and understand. Your focused posts are great. My mind has just been very much on Jewish perspective as well as legalism so your post triggered further questions. As I piece it together on my first question then it seems that Christ
    freed from the law but did not condemn Jews for adhering to it as they were led as long as they did not get it confused into matters of salvation. Even the tithing of mint and cumin…He said “these things you ought to have done”…i.e. didn’t reprimand the Jews in Acts, etc. for adhering as they wished or were led according to tradition or conscience–just didn’t want them to adhere to that to the neglect of “weightier matters”. It’s an interesting read even at Wikipedia of the different kinds of Messianic Jews…quite the variety, maybe as various as Baptists 🙂 Bless our trying-to-figure-it-out hearts and giving each other space and trying to stay humble in the midst of it!
    Thank you for your link, too. Very good info.

    Salvation by grace alone, yes. The controversy will always rear its ugly head with some being accused of trying too hard or not enough–even with the simple but rich Gospel message…and getting sanctification mixed up with justification…legalism mixed up with issues of conscience…and…all of it used to get the church caught up in…yes, dissimulation 🙂 You are the brave one teaching through Galatians as the cycle continues!

    And now, in an effort to reduce the length of this comment over a couple of days, I now finally “refresh” this post and see you’ve added another link. I’ll go bide my time there for a bit. Thank you!

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