The Ministries of Peter and Paul
Things That Differ in the Ministries of Peter and Paul
Traditional Christian teaching says the Apostles Peter and Paul preached the same message, just to different groups; Peter to the Jews (with one exception: Cornelius, in Acts 10), and Paul to the Gentiles. Galatians 2:7,8 is often sited as the corroborating passage of scripture for this position. The most popular Bible version today, the NIV, renders the passage thus:
As for those who seemed to be important– whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not judge by external appearance– those men added nothing to my message.
On the contrary, they saw that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles, just as Peter had been to the Jews.
For God, who was at work in the ministry of Peter as an apostle to the Jews, was also at work in my ministry as an apostle to the Gentiles. (NIV)*
It cannot be validly denied that these verses clearly say Peter and Paul preached the same gospel. But wait. Before we make this judgment, let’s look at the KJB rendering of the passage:
But of these who seemed to be somewhat, (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man’s person:) for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me:
But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter;
(For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:) (KJB)**
Just in case you failed to notice, in addition to the difference in the phrasing and the archaic words in the KJB, there is a difference in one little word, which completely changes what this verse says about the “one gospel” position. That change is in the preposition between the words “gospel” and “the” in verses 7 and 8. In the NIV it is “to,” but in the KJB it is “of.”
Anyone who got as far in school as a sixth grade English class understands the one, the NIV, clearly says there is only one gospel, but that the other, the KJB, just as clearly says there are two gospels.
Obviously, both cannot be right. Which one is it? For the answer, may we examine the scriptures.
The Ministry and Authority of the Apostle Peter
In Matthew 4:18, Peter is called to discipleship by the Lord Jesus. He is later numbered (in chapter 10) as one of the twelve disciples, and told to go (along with the others) “to… the lost sheep of the house of Israel, and…preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” In chapter 16, the Lord asks the question: “But whom say ye that I am?” Peter answers: Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” For answering this question correctly Peter obtains “the keys of the kingdom of heaven,” which confers upon him the power of binding and loosing.1
It is now clear that Peter is the chief spokesman of the twelve disciples. This is corroborated in Acts two, at the beginning of the twelve’s ministry to Israel in Jerusalem, when Peter is the one who delivers the message to repent (of the crime of crucifying the Messiah) and be baptized for the remission of sins. ((Acts 2:38)) He is also the one sent to the Gentile, Cornelius, in Acts 10. But, curiously, after he speaks briefly at the meeting with Paul in Acts 15, he relinquishes the leadership of the Jerusalem church to James, and is never heard from again in the Acts.2
Finally, Peter states, at the end of his second sermon in Acts 3, that everything (all the acts of the apostles) that was transpiring during this time was the fulfillment of prophecy1
The Ministry of the Apostle Paul
The apostle Paul first comes on the Biblical scene in Acts 7, as the zealous Pharisee, Saul, who is consenting unto the death of Stephen,2 “a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost.”3 Saul, in route to Damascus to arrest some disciples, has a confrontation with the ascended Lord from glory, who tells him (later on) that he would be sent to the Gentiles. 4 In Acts 13, Saul becomes Paul and gets the Holy Ghost5 goes to Antioch (in Pisidia), enters the synagogue of the Jews there, and preaches a sermon which ends with this declaration:
“Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins:
And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.”
This is the real beginning of Paul’s ministry of the preaching of what he called the “gospel of Christ.”6 From this point on, he is the dominant figure in the book of Acts.
Things That Differ Are Never The Same
In comparison, let’s look at the differences in Peter’s and Paul’s ministries.
1. Peter was called by the Lord as he appeared in a human body on the earth; Paul was called by the ascended, glorified Lord from heaven.
2. Peter was given the “gospel of the kingdom.“7 While he did take it to one Gentile, he was told to go only to Israel with it.8 Paul was given the “gospel of Christ.”9 While he did offer it to the Jews, he was told to take it “far hence unto the Gentiles.”3
3. Peter was given the keys of the kingdom, and with them the power to retain or remit sins; Paul, while he manifested all the signs of an apostle, received no such power.
4. Peter told Israel, at Jerusalem, to “repent and be baptized for the remission of sins… and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”4 Paul told a group of Jews and Gentiles at Antioch ( through Christ’s death and resurrection) “that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.”5 This effectively removed the keeping of the law from the salvation equation.
No such declaration was ever made by Peter, either in the Acts or his letters. In chapter one of his first letter to “the strangers” who had been “scattered throughout” the provinces of Asia Minor, Peter instructs them that “the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” would come at the end of a faithfully lived life, which matches the Lord’s requirement to Israel in the gospels of Matthew and Mark that they must “endure unto the end” to be saved.6 There is no such requirement of faithfulness/continuance7 in Paul’s gospel, but rather that one only trust (believe on) the Lord Jesus Christ (believing that he died for your sins), and thou shalt be saved,8 i.e., your sins are atoned for now, not at the end of your life of faith.9
5. Peter was told by the Lord in His earthly ministry, that his reward would be to sit on one of twelve thrones in an earthly kingdom, “judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”10 Paul, because he was counted “a blasphemer”,11 could not be a part of this particular kingdom.10 He was told that his destiny was a heavenly kingdom11
6. Peter was the pattern for believing, repentant Israel. Paul was the pattern for the first of “them that should hereafter believe on him (Christ, that he died for their sins) to life everlasting.”12
7. While Peter claimed his gospel was prophesied of in the old testament, Paul said his gospel was a mystery, not made known until it was revealed through him12
From all this we can readily see that it was the same Lord who gave Peter and Paul their marching orders, but in no way did he give them the same message to be delivered to their respective hearers. This, therefore, proves the King James rendering of Galatians 2:7,8 is the correct rendering.
Trusting In What The Word of God Says, Rather Than In What Men Say It Says
“Trust in the LORD with all thine heart, and lean not on thine own understanding; acknowledge him in all thy ways, and he shall direct thy paths. (Prov. 3:5,6)
How does one trust in the Lord? By believing what he said to you concerning “the gospel of your salvation”13:
“….how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures…believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.”14
And then, if you have trusted Christ as your Savior, to find your instructions as a member of His body, you are commanded to:
“Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”15
This does not mean, as the NIV erroneously renders it, “correctly handling” the word of truth. It means exactly what it says; to divide it. When Paul makes declarations like “according to my gospel“16, and “consider what I say and the Lord give thee understanding in all things,”17 and “If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord,”18 he must needs be saying that to divide the word means to separate what he says from what the other books of the New Testament say.
If you will do this, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, you will fulfill God’s desire that you “come unto the knowledge of the truth“19…and be “filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding.”20
Please feel free to re-print or publish this article. All Scripture quotes, unless otherwise noted, are taken from the King James Bible.
|1||i.e., the power to retain or remit sins (ref. John 20:23; Acts 5:1-10)|
|2||Roman Catholic tradition says Peter went from Jerusalem to Rome and established the Catholic Church, becoming the first Pope in AD 67 (ref. “The Catholic Instructor”, page 234). As it says, this is purely traditional, not scriptural, because there is nothing in the Biblical record that proves Peter ever left Palestine.|
|6||1 Peter 1:9-13; Matt. 24:13; Mk. 13:13|
|7||Ref. Acts 2:46|
|8||1 Cor. 15:1-4; Acts 16:31; Romans 10:9|
|11||1 Tim. 1:13|
|12||1 Tim. 1:16|
|14||1 Cor. 15:3,4; Acts 16:31|
|15||2 Tim. 2:15|
|17||2 Tim. 2:7|
|18||1 Cor. 14:37|
|19||1 Tim 2:4|