Friday, November 21, 2014

Hypocrisy And Dissimulation: More Abuse of Pastoral Authority

I posted a lengthy item Titled Church Leaders: The Abuse of Power and Authority that I want to reemphasize here and expand one very important point on that subject.

“Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I (Paul) withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision. And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy.

But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, “If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews? We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.” (Galatians 2:11-15)

Here in this text, we find Paul publicly rebuking Peter for two actions—his HYPOCRISY and DISSIMULATION. Even though these two words are very similar and sometimes translated as the same word, they are not synonyms. So what exactly was the problem?

Peter, who was a Jew, lived like a Gentile but then he attempted to compel the Gentiles to live as Jews. That is hypocrisy. It is the act of insisting that people live or act in one way when, in fact, you walk contrary to your talk. Most people understand that.

But the word, “dissimulation” seems to be more sinister and sometimes even difficult to identify. And, frankly, it is appropriately applicable to church leaders who abuse their positions or authority in order to manipulate people to protect their own interests or accomplish their own agendas. It means to pretend to act from one motive when, in fact, an action is really inspired by another motive.

Although bad enough on its face, Peter attempted to disguise and justify his hypocrisy by pretending that his motive was loyalty to the Law of Moses whereas really, it was fear of the Judaisers. And what is worse is that Peter was an apostle of Christ. Peter represented the pastoral leadership of the early Church of God. He had apostolic authority as one who spoke the Word of God. God expected that His church would listen and submit to His apostle’s authority. Peter abused that authority when he demanded allegiance to his words rather than God’s Word.

So how does this passage translate into relevance for the contemporary church? The issue then (and now) as it applies to the church is about the authority and direction of pastoral leadership. It is the act of church leaders not being "straightforward with the truth;" It is pretending to have “spiritual” or “biblical” or "pious" justification for their actions when the truth is, they are acting out of fear, preferences or feelings. That is an abuse of authority and a sinful act of DISSIMULATION.

And Paul says about that, "I withstood him to his face," and then he rebuked him ..."before them all." This had become a public matter resulting in many of the congregation, including Barnabus, being carried away with Peter's sin and so Paul exposed it publicly for the good of the church and for the glory and reputation of God.


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