“Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith” (Galatians 3:24).
Apostle Paul is one of the greatest preachers of the Holy Gospel, an unsurpassed worker of the Lord, a tireless missioner who spent the largest part of his life in multiple missionary journeys or dungeons, suffering from the persecutions of the world that did not want to accept Christ. Since he was the apostle of gentiles, we can say that Paul was a missionary apostle. After he preached for Hebrews in their synagogues, he always addressed with the Gospel to gentiles, despite the fact that he suffered and worried a lot because of his tribesmen who refused to accept the Messiah: “For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh” (Romans 9:3).
Apostle Paul was not one of the Twelve Apostles, neither he was a witness of Christ’s earthly life. For some time he even was a persecutor of Christ’s Church and was the last one from the apostles who was called by the Lord Himself for his apostolic ministry. That is why in all his letters and guidance and almost in every his address to Christian communities (even to those that had been established by himself) he had to prove his apostolic authority and state that he News, which he was preaching, was not just his own fabrication, but the universal teaching of the Church: “For our exhortation did not come from error or uncleanness, nor was it in deceit. But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts” (1 Thessalonians 2:3-4).
The main feature of his preaching was that he preached for the gentiles who had never known the Law of Moses. Paul insisted that one could be saved only through the faith in Jesus Christ but not through following the Law: “But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for “the just shall live by faith”” (Galatians 3:11). However, the former Hebrews among Christians confused the communities established by Apostle Paul and shook the faith of those young churches. That is why it was decided to gather in Jerusalem to solve that issue. Apostle Paul wrote in his Letter to Galatians that he together with Apostle Barnabas and Titus went to Jerusalem to meet with “the leaders” and tell them about his preaching among gentiles in order to dispel the dissatisfaction of the Christians of Jerusalem. So, “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. They desired only that we should remember the poor, the very thing which I also was eager to do” (Galatians 2:9-10). There was also an interesting fact about that meeting – a so-called “quarrel” between Apostles Peter and Paul that took place at the Apostolic Council when they both suggested not to complicate the gentiles’ path to Christ: “Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; 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” (Galatians 2:11-12).
We would keep thinking that such pillars of faith as Supreme Apostles Peter and Paul could oppose each other, if only St. John Chrysostom did not explain us in his works and homilies that the quarrel between them was just putative. Apostles Peter and Paul were in full conformity, peace and love with each other. What concerns Paul’s exposure of Peter, it had been discussed between the apostles in advance so that they could confront the so-called false brothers, “to whom we did not yield submission even for an hour, that the truth of the gospel might continue with you” (Galatians 2:5), as apostle Paul said. Once and forever, the Apostolic Council became the example for all the future councils conducted by the Church. The authority of Apostle Paul was proved as well as the significance of his preaching among gentiles. Due to the Apostolic Council, the Holy Church, which is universal by Its origin, could state Its mission one more time – to preach the Name of God for all the peoples and to gather them under the One Head and main Shepherd Jesus Christ.
What St. John Chrysostom says in his works:
«The Apostles, as I said before, permitted circumcision at Jerusalem, an abrupt severance from the law not being practicable; but when they come to Antioch, they no longer continued this observance, but lived indiscriminately with the believing Gentiles which thing Peter also was at that time doing. But when some came from Jerusalem who had heard the doctrine he delivered there, he no longer did so fearing to perplex them, but he changed his course, with two objects secretly in view, both to avoid offending those Jews, and to give Paul a reasonable pretext for rebuking him. For had he, having allowed circumcision when preaching at Jerusalem, changed his course at Antioch, his conduct would have appeared to those Jews to proceed from fear of Paul, and his disciples would have condemned his excess of pliancy. And this would have created no small offence; but in Paul, who was well acquainted with all the facts, his withdrawal would have raised no such suspicion, as knowing the intention with which he acted. Wherefore Paul rebukes, and Peter submits, that when the master is blamed, yet keeps silence, the disciples may more readily come over. Without this occurrence Paul’s xhortation would have had little effect, but the occasion hereby afforded of delivering a severe reproof, impressed Peter’s disciples with a more lively fear. Had Peter disputed Paul’s sentence, he might justly have been blamed as upsetting the plan, but now that the one reproves and the other keeps silence, the Jewish party are filled with serious alarm; and this is why he used Peter so severely. Observe too Paul’s careful choice of expressions, whereby he points out to the discerning, that he uses them in pursuance of the plan, (οἰκονομίας) and not from anger».
Reflections in the Holy Church tradition:
Let us come today and gather in chorus, and give an offering of the faithful! Let us exalt the Apostles Peter and Paul, the two vessels of grace! Let us worthily crown them with praises! For they bountifully spread the seed of the Word, giving all mankind its rich harvest. Filled with the grace of the Spirit, they were branches of the True Vine who tended the fruit that gladdens our hearts. Let us sing to them with unveiled faces and pure hearts: “Rejoice, guides of those without reason, who cared for those who gained wisdom! Rejoice, chosen friends of the Creator! Rejoice, stewards of bounty and foes of illusion!” Let us ever pray to them that they may intercede with their Creator and Master that He may grant peace to the world and great mercy to our souls! (The sticheron on the Litya, Tone 2)