Tuesday, January 12, 2016


The Pharisees, who had converted to Christianity and were of Jewish origin, argued that the Mosaic Law should be maintained (the Jewish law was a compendium of legal regulations that should not be confused with the Ten Commandments of God’s law, which summarize natural law). The Council of Jerusalem, headed by Saint Peter, determines that all gentiles converted to Christianity should not embrace the prescriptions of the Mosaic Law (however, they do have to adhere to the Commandments of God’s law, as these are of a natural law and were given by God Himself).

The aforementioned can be read in the Acts of the Apostles, chapter 15: “And some coming down from Judea, taught the brethren: That except you be circumcised after the manner of Moses, you cannot be saved.” That is why the Council of Jerusalem took place. “But there arose some of the sect of the Pharisees that believed, saying: They must be circumcised, and be commanded to observe the law of Moses.” But Saint Peter refutes this opinion and determines the opposite with these words: “But by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, we believe to be saved, in like manner as they also.” In the same sense, James added: “I judge that they, who from among the Gentiles are converted to God, are not to be disquieted.”

As can be noted, the Council of Jerusalem defines that salvation comes from faith in Jesus Christ and not from the practice of the Jewish law that, as we have said earlier, should not be confused with God’s law established in the Ten Commandments, which must be observed to attain eternal salvation, for the Bible itself teaches that “Faith without work is dead” (James, chapter 2) (see note 1). Therefore, good deeds, in accordance with the natural law and summarized by divine revelation in the Ten Commandments, are necessary for Faith to be alive, and thus with the combination of faith and good deeds we can attain eternal salvation. However, the prescriptions of the Jewish Law are not necessary for salvation, as the Pharisees who had converted to Christianity erroneously argued. The first Council of the Church takes a stand against their opinion.

In the same vein of the Council of Jerusalem, Saint Paul says: “For I, through the law, am dead to the law, that I may live to God.” (Ga. 2:19). The Jewish law is a PREPARATION that leads to Jesus Christ, who is the end of the law. Thanks to that same law, we were freed from it by the death of Christ: His merits are applied to us by the Grace, as if we were nailed to the cross with Him and dead to that Jewish law.

Some time later, in Antioch, Saint Peter agrees, only IN PRACTICE, and maybe due to human prudence and in good faith, with the Judaizers (that is to say, those who advocated for keeping the Jewish law). This action contradicted what had been established by the Council of Jerusalem. In practice, he proceeded against the doctrine defined by the Church (included Saint Peter as a Pope).

As doctrine prevails over practice, Saint Paul, who was Saint Peter’s subordinate, withstood him to the face for not following the way and truth of the Gospel. Saint Peter admitted his mistake and agreed with Saint Paul, acting with great humility and accepting that an inferior could not only depart from an erred action of his superior but even rebuke him; that is to refute his error out of love for the truth of the Gospel.

Let us quote the most important things of this event, narrated by Saint Paul himself:
“But when Cephas (Saint Peter) was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. For before that some came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them who were of the circumcision. And to his dissimulation the rest of the Jews consented, so that Barnabas also was led by them into that dissimulation. But when I saw that they walked not uprightly unto the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all: If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of the Gentiles, and not as the Jews do, how dost thou compel the Gentiles to live as do the Jews? We by nature are Jews, and not of the Gentiles sinners. But knowing that man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ; we also believe in Christ Jesus, that we may be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: because by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.” (Ga. 2: 11-16)

Saint Paul reminds to Saint Peter that Christians are justified by faith in Jesus Christ and not by acting in accordance with the prescriptions of the Jewish law, as defined by the Council of Jerusalem. It is evident that Saint Paul is talking about the Jewish law (and not about the Ten Commandments). The latter is withheld by some conniving Protestants, who also suppress Saint James’ biblical passage about the necessity of both, good works and faith to be saved, and not only of faith, as it is proposed by the Protestant heresy, which also dishonestly quotes the previous text as though it referred to the Ten Commandments. In this manner, they deceive by suppressing the texts that do not suit them, and interpreting the other ones outside of their historical context. That is why the incident in Antioch must be necessarily related to what was defined by the Council of Jerusalem. What Saint Paul demands is the observance of the doctrine as defined in the mentioned Council.

About this incident, Saint Thomas points out that Saint Paul’s confrontation was in regard to THE EXERCISE and not the authority of the power, and that Saint Peter was reprehensible due to his dissimulation and disordered fear, which led him to abandon the truth and follow the deceit of the faithful. He does not consider the cause of the rebuke to be something minor, but rather fair and convenient. If this had not been done, the knowledge of the truth of the Gospel would have been in danger, and had Gentiles been forced to keep the legal precepts of the Jewish law, this truth would have perished. Saint Thomas also notes that Saint Peter’s dissimulation constituted a danger to everyone and, for that reason, it was convenient for Saint Paul’s rebuke to be public and manifest.

For his part, Saint Augustine observes in his letter to Saint Jerome (letter LXXXII-CXVI-22) the following: “Paul, therefore, as a faithful steward doubtless is to be regarded as approving his fidelity in his writings; for he was a steward of truth, not of falsehood. Therefore, he wrote the truth when he wrote that he had seen Peter walking not uprightly, according to the truth of the gospel, and that he had withstood him to the face because he was compelling the Gentiles to live as the Jews did. And Peter himself received, with the holy and loving humility which became him, the rebuke which Paul, in the interests of truth, and with the boldness of love, administered. Therein Peter left to those that came after him an example, that, if at any time they deviated from the right path, they should not think it beneath them to accept correction from those who were their juniors,— an example more rare, and requiring greater piety, than that which Paul's conduct on the same occasion left us, that those who are younger should have courage even to withstand their seniors if the defense of evangelical truth required it, yet in such a way as to preserve unbroken brotherly love. For while it is better for one to succeed in perfectly keeping the right path, it is a thing much more worthy of admiration and praise to receive admonition meekly, than to admonish a transgressor boldly. On that occasion, therefore, Paul was to be praised for upright courage, Peter was to be praised for holy humility.”

Let us not forget that whenever a Pope, complying with all the requirements necessary, defines a doctrine regarding faith or morals, is indeed infallible. That is why pastoral matters are not infallible, but doctrines that have been defined by the Catholic Church are. If the former contradicts the latter, it should not be followed, as defined doctrine must always prevail.

Doctrine Prevails Over Practice

The main teaching about the incident in Antioch is the following: a doctrine that has been defined (which is the infallible and revealed truth) always prevails over acting against it, even if this was carried out by the most important person of the Church. The doctrine is superior to the practice.

Finally, let us not forget that Saint Paul (inferior to the Pope) confronts Saint Peter (first Pope), but always with due respect and as a SUBORDINATE. The fact that Saint Paul was right did not entitle him to confront without respect the head of the Church. He does it publicly and face to face because Saint Peter’s error was public, but always with respect and acting as his SUBJECT. Moreover, Saint Paul’s rebuke was not to defend a personal opinion of his, but in defense of the truth of the Gospel. In this way, Saint Paul’s example sets a precedent and is always worth following in similar cases.

Written by Oscar Méndez Casanueva

Note 1:
The Word of God teaches that: “FAITH without WORK is dead” (James, chapter 2), and asserts that the devils, that are eternally condemned, “believe and tremble”, for Faith is not enough to be saved, both are necessary; faith and good works are essential for salvation.

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Source of information: Blog CATOLICIDAD http://www.catolicidad.com/2009/07/la-reprension-de-san-pablo-al-primer_10.html Translated from Spanish by: Fabiola Lozano.