Paul brought the gospel to the gentiles for 14 years. He was a tent maker, so he didn’t become a great evangelist and make great money at it, wearing the latest robes, walking through the town square letting people pay tribute. He had a pattern. He went into a town, talked to the Jews, if they rejected the message of Christ, he went to the gentiles.
For 14 years, he went from town to town preaching the gospel. Barnabas was his constant companion. Along the way, Titus joined him. We know from Acts that he made friends in many of the towns, people valued his ministry and were willing to listen to his direction as he sent them letters from other parts of the Mediterranean world.
But then an issue arose. Probably at first, there were some detractors, but the issue became large enough that it began to interfere with Paul’s ministry. People began saying that Paul’s approach to the gospel was wrong. These men were very serious. They felt that one had to follow Jewish custom in order to partake of the grace offered by Jesus. The tension caused by this group reached such a pitch that you can hear the juices churning in Paul’s stomach as he describes them to the Galatians:
“This matter arose, because some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves. We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might remain with you.” (2:4-5)
I think it is interesting that Paul didn’t call them “warmongers” or “tools of the enemy” or something. He called them “ones who ostensibly know Christ but don’t have Christian knowledge or piety” (false brothers). Paul treated them as people who were ignorant and questioned their witness, but he didn’t take their arguments lightly as we will see.
With the pressure on, and stomach juices churning, Paul finally decided to do something about it. So today, we get to learn from his example.
What to do when people say you are wrong:
- Be humble. Paul was willing to be wrong.
- Find the most reputable authorities that you can and get their input. Paul went to Peter, James and John. He presented his entire message to them and asked for their review. Paul told the Galatians that it wasn’t because they were important, but because they knew God best.
- Be willing to accept the review findings.
- Let the end be the end. You will always have opponents. Don’t let them get in your head. If you have good people walking with you, keeping you on track, AND you stay in humble acceptance of their reviews, then you need to stay focused on doing what God has called you to do.