The book “Songs of the Deliverer” tells the story of Christ re-imagined in modern day. The book is a work of fiction but the stories and characters are based on the New Testament. These Reflections are written to highlight the Biblical pericopes featured in the second book of the series, Faith Wins, to be published in 2016.
Referenced in Chapter 8
We know Jesus Christ today from the testimony of the apostles who walked with him. Their witness is our inheritance which we are to pass to future generations so they may come to believe in Christ as the Word of God. While the work of the apostles lives on in the written word, there were two men who preached publicly about faith in Christ: These men were Peter and Paul. Through their evangelization, the Church of Christ was built and grew. They lived and ultimately gave their lives in dedicated service to Jesus. Without their courage and conviction, the Christian religion may be very different, if it existed at all.
Peter and Paul were leaders of the Church, though in different ways. Peter was one of the closest people to Jesus, joining him early on in Jesus’ ministry as one of the first apostles and staying with him until the day of the crucifixion. Paul, on the other hand, did not know Jesus in his lifetime, but came to be an apostle through a revelation of Christ while on the road to Damascus. In fact, Paul had been a vigorous oppressor of Christians, persecuting them at every opportunity. He even acknowledged being complicit in the stoning death of the apostle, Stephen.
According to the Bible, while Peter and Paul were knowledgeable about each other, they appeared to have limited personal contact. In his letter to the Galatians, Paul writes:
“After three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Cephas (Peter) and stayed with him fifteen days.” (Galatians 1:18)
Then, Paul writes that fourteen years later, he attended a council meeting of the elders that included Peter. And how did that meeting go? Not well, it seems:
“When Cephas (Peter) came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face.” (Galatians 2:11)
The issue that caused conflict between Peter and Paul was the distinction between pronouncing the gospel to the people of the Jewish community (often referred to in the Bible as the “circumcised”) and the Gentiles, which were essentially everyone else. Many of the elders in the Jewish community insisted that the Gentiles adhere to Jewish customs if they were to follow the gospel of Christ.
But Peter would come to realize that Jesus was for all people of every nation. On a visit with some friends, he said:
“I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism, but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.” (Acts of the Apostles 10:34)
After Peter said those words, “the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message.” (Acts 10:44)
Guided by the Spirit, Peter addressed the leaders at their council meeting:
“Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.” (Acts 15: 7 – 11)
The elders accepted Peter’s declaration and from then on the Word of Christ was to be shared with everyone. Paul, vindicated as an apostle of Christ and a messenger of the truth, was commissioned to travel the known world on missionary journeys pronouncing the gospel. Separately, but joined by faith, Peter and Paul lead the people to Christ.
After his encounter with Peter, Paul pronounced the faith that would guide him until death:
“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. (Galatians 2:20)
This is the encounter that guides us: Christ lives in us and we with him.
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