THE LAST DAYS OF JUDAH’S COMMONWEALTH
By John Thomas
First, then we shall treat of some things concerning Peter. And a very important consideration under this head is Paul’s testimony, that the Spirit wrought effectually in Peter to the Apostleship of the circumcision; and that the preaching of the Gospel to the Jews was committed to him and the other members of that apostleship, of whom he mentions John, and James the Lord’s brother (Gal. 2:7-9; 1:19). “James, Cephas, and John,” says he, “who seemed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship; that we should go to the Gentiles, and they unto the circumcision,” or the Jews.
From this time, doubtless, the Twelve Apostles confined their labours, principally, to their own nation in Judea; while Paul, Barnabas, Timothy, Titus, and so forth, ran to and fro among the idolaters of the nations. There was wisdom in this arrangement. The Jews resident in the Holy Land, had an intense disrelish for anything like fellowship with men of other nations. Even those of them who became christians very reluctantly admitted Gentile believers to equality with themselves. Many instances can be adduced of this: Nay, the old prejudice, of which we read in the New Testament, still exists. The Jews of our time always express themselves with more bitterness against Paul, than they do against Peter, though both were ring-leaders of the same obnoxious sect. They regard Peter as a more respectable citizen than Paul; because Paul taught that Jews and Gentiles were under one common condemnation, and obtained mercy in one and the same way; whereas Peter, although he believed the same thing, yet his operations being confined to circumcised persons (and there were many circumcised Gentiles in Judea) did not bear down upon their prejudices with the same force, having less to say and do with idolaters from the circumstances of the case.
The Apostleship of the Circumcision consisted of the Twelve Apostles. Peter was the Foreman, so to speak, of the jury, having been constituted such when the Lord and Master, the King of the Jews, committed to him “the keys of the Kingdom of the Heavens”; by which he was authorised to bind and loose upon the earth, with the assurance that it shall be ratified in “the heavens” to which the kingdom belongs.
Now, as Peter was specially sent to circumcised persons, though occasionally found among the uncircumcised, he would treat of things specially interesting to them. When speaking and writing to these children of the prophets and of the covenant made with Abraham, he treated of things concerning Israel; and referred them to what Moses and Samuel, and all the prophets had testified concerning sin, and righteousness, and judgment. This was the mission of the Apostleship of the Circumcision, when it should be “guided unto all the truth” by holy spirit from the Eternal Power, or Father. That coming, as on the day of Pentecost, Jesus said should “convince the world (kosmos) respecting sin, and respecting righteousness, and respecting judgment.” He then stated the ground upon which this should be done—“respecting sin, because they believe not on me; respecting righteousness, because I go away to my Father, and ye behold me no longer; and respecting judgment, because the ruling (ho archon—the ruling power) of this world (kosmos) has been condemned.” (John 16:7-11)
Our conclusion then, concerning Peter, as constituted of the Apostleship of the Jews, is, that holy spirit in him had specially to do in the matter of judgment with those calamities which were then soon to be poured out upon the ruling power of the then existing kosmos.