A Good Teacher - Illustrated by Paul & Peter

A teacher is not a person that just impart knowledge to his students. He teaches them how to think for themselves. He doesn't just tell them the conclusions but show them how he arrives at the conclusions. He doesn't tell them his only view but also the views of others so that his students can see from multiple viewpoints and find the supporting evidences for a particular view that they hold.

Good parents do the same thing. They teach their children to know how to decide what is right and wrong. Parents will not always be around the child to tell him what is right or wrong. Parents must implant the right values into their children so that they may grow up to be God fearing and independent people knowing the right and wrong.

Good Bible teachers tell their students that while Bible is true Word of God, not every verse is the command or the promise of God that they should follow. Bible is a historical book that accurately record the actions of people. Some actions  were bad and served as warning to us. Some actions were good and served as examples for us to follow. Some are straight forward commands - 'Do' or 'Don't do that' and they are not for us to decide whether to follow or not. We don't decide whether they are really good or bad.

Now we come to the incidence recorded in Galatians 2:11-14 involving Paul and Peter. There are two teachings here.
  1. One, with regards to the truth of the gospel, is very clear - We are justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the Law. Jews and Gentiles are united in Christ. There should be no segregation. 
  2. The other is the behavior of Paul towards Peter in exposing Peter's error. Should we follow Paul's example in the correction of others? On what basis?
How Should One Correct A Senior in Christ?
At that point of time, Peter, James and John were the pillars(Gal 2:9) of the Jerusalem Church - the center and highest authority of Christianity then. Issues were to be brought back to Jerusalem Council for final decisions (Act 15:6). Paul was just a 'upstart' relative to Peter. 
So Paul was actually correcting his senior. Can we say in the eye of God, in the defend of the truth, everyone is equal. We learn the 1st principle
  1. It is the truth and not the seniority that matters.

    What was the error? Before the people came from James, Peter ate with the Gentiles but withdrew from them when they came. Peter's action influenced Barnabas and others creating a separation that should not be there in the 1st place. Their withdrawals implied a return to the Law is better.

    How did Paul correct this? He opposed Peter to his face. He said to Peter before all Gal 2:14. The details, the emotions in Paul's words were not recorded for us to know. We can only infer from what Paul has said. It appeared to me to be very strong. If it was not loud, it must have been very firm. Here we can learn two more principles.
  2. Talk to the person involved directly.We should not talk to a third person about the person's sin. That is called gossiping. Jesus actually taught us how one should correct our brother in Mat 18:15-17. This is the key practice that we all should follow as it was given by Jesus explicitly.

  3. Error committed publicly or have public impact should inform the public. An error involving only the person should be done in private with the person. Mat 18:15.
Did Paul do the right thing by recording Peter's error in this letter that got canonized into the Bible and so all through history we know of Peter's error? May be this is an important 'negative illustration' that we should know. There are no record of Peter's response to this incidence and we don't know how Peter felt. But Peter in 2 Pet 3:15-16 acknowledged Paul's God given wisdom.

Could the matter be better handled?
Could Paul meet Peter privately to discuss the matter? Or invite Barnabas to join and then issue a joint declaration on the matter? This will still satisfy the 3 principles highlighted above and achieve one thing more - Peter's endorsement. At present, we could only assume Peter's silence as admission of fault. Paul in Gal 6:1 said  Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such a one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Did Paul in his eager defense of the truth has been a little bit strong on Peter at the moment? Or Paul in emphasizing the key points, left out the details? On the other hand, we have Jesus cleaning the temple with force Mar 11:15

My point is that we should carefully study the Bible in context and in an integrated matter, supporting any view with cross-references from other parts of the Bible.


Priorities & Living the Meaningful Life

In the business of life, we often forget what are the truly valuable things in life. The world want us to put 3G of Gold(Money, Wealth, Possession - lust of flesh/eye), Glory(Popularity, Reputation, Position - pride of life), and Girls(Beauty, Attractiveness - lust of eye/flesh) as our priorities. We are some what corrupted by the world too when we get upset with God because our business was not doing as well as before, or we are missed in the promotion, or some thing not going our way. As we put them first, God becomes our means to obtain the 3Gs. It is good to take time to reflect on the real valuable things in our life and adjust our life accordingly.

1. Time - Go for Eternal Value rather than Temporal 
We first recognize that this life on earth is a short one. It is temporary. Temporary means it will go away. Opportunities will be missed and opportunities will come. Are will investing on things that last,  things of eternal values? Jesus tells us to store up treasures in heaven Mat 6:20. What are these treasures?

2 Foundation is God
The greatest thing is to know the Creator God revealed through Jesus Christ. It answers the basic questions and purpose of our existence and our destination. Most believers know this. But knowing God is not a one-off event. It is a eternal relationship of knowing and interacting and sharing of joy and pains and comfort and desires and .... 

Someone say the most valuable thing of life is that we can get to know God. It is not just about quiet time. It is about bringing God into our daily living- running the chores, 'stressing' out in work, serving of customers, socializing with friends. Thanks God for His presence whether you feel like He is there or not. He says He is always with you no matter what. Enjoy God in the midst of disappointments. Trust Him. These things happen to bring us to higher plane - painful though at this time. At least thank God we are still breathing and healthy. Focus on the future and the promises of God and see how your spirit can be lifted. Faith comes not by trying to believe but by reading the Bible and quietly hearing God speaking to you.

3 Relationship & Roles - From Self-Centric to Others-Centric.
We exists with God and with others. We comes first as a child with parents. We have brothers and sisters. Then we get marry and become husband or wife. Then we have children of our own and we become parents. But we will, till death do us apart, be husband or wife to someone. In the midst of all these relationships, be thankful that we have good relationships with them. We have no sour or bitterness in our lives. If we have any bitterness, be thankful that bitterness is something we can handle. It does not depend on anyone else but ourselves. We can decide and choose to forgive and live without bitterness.

Rom 12:18  If possible, so far as it depends on you, live in peace with all people.
We can't control and be responsible for others will. So live in peace with yourself and forgive others.

For those who don't have children, parents or friends, we can decide to adopt. We don't need to go through the legal process for adoptions. We adopt them through the way we treat them. We be nice to our 'adopted' parents  - we are not restricted to 2 or 4, we can have more according to our ability. We can adopt children as well. We don't need their approval too. We extend our love. We of course need to use wisdom in the way we treat others. Love is not forcing people to accept our love or insist on them doing things to our liking because we love them. Love is giving spaces and options for people to receive or reject. Be not upset when your love is not appreciated or even rejected. True love is unconditional.

Don't focus on what you don't have but focus on what you can do to make a difference in the life of others.

4 Wealth & Money
Wealth is a strange thing. Pursuing the right things in serving others will bring them to you. Chasing them alone will give you short-term success but long term liability. Watch out for the saying that money is a good servant but a terrible master. True wealth is not measured by amount we accumulated but in our giving them away to create influence and impact. At the bema judgement seat of awards ceremony, you will be rewarded according to how much and how you spent your wealth. The accumulated wealth not used become a bad testimony of our self-centric life. In the parable of the dishonest steward, the moral of the story is to using wealth for relationship -invest in people - relationship is more important than possessions.

Conclusions - The Valuables in Life
Be thankful of knowing a true and good God, having good relationships within and without, a healthy, adequate and comfortable life, ability to influence others for good, and so forth.... See, God is with you all the while and making sure we grow up to be a better person.

Lim Liat (c) updated 2 April 2013


Grace - Wrong Definition leading to Shameful Behavior

We have covered the biblical defintions of grace in past postings:
There have been much debates and even accusations about the grace-based preachings and churches that preach the message. The main issue is actually the wrong definition of grace.
Grace defined as "unmerited favor" or "receiving the blessings that we do not deserved". Mercy as "not getting the punishment that we deserved". They sound very good and as if full of depth but they are biblical wrong and misleading.

Grace defined above creates a bunch of lazy bums Christians wanting wealth and promotion without working for them. Of course they will not get them without hard work. So they take short-cut, exploit loop holes in systems, steps over others, and even take from others to get them and then they say it is God's favors and blessing. It is no wonder why they being criticized and condemned.

The Biblical definition of Grace is God's empowerment to do the things that God want and resulting in bringing glory to God. We do not need any grace when we don't want to do anything. We need grace to reach up the standards that God has set for us to show others. If it is a mediocre standard that anyone can achieve, we don't need grace. Our work should be so differentiated from others that show forth the salt and light and reveal the glory of God through us. To do that, we need to ask for grace.

Paul in Eph 2:8-9 stating that "we are saved by grace through faith" quickly followed it with v10 "we are created in Christ for good works which God had ordained and we should walk in them." James 2:17 emphasized that "faith without work is dead and valueless". Jesus said in Mat 5:16  Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

We are saved to glorify God with good works. Let's ask for the grace to enable us to do God glorifying works revealing the salt and light of the Christ in us.