“But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned.” (Galatians 2:11)
We’ve all had a run-in with that one person who is untouchable. Perhaps it was on the job or on a sports team or at a family reunion. You had a disagreement with that one person, and you were clearly in the right. But nobody came to your rescue to defend you—or even support you. Why? Simply, the person you dared to question had reached “godfather” status. He was above criticism. Later on, you may ask some of those who witnessed the altercation why it was so. Privately, they may be more than willing to admit that “said godfather” was wrong. However, knowing “the respect” (and power) that the untouchable wields, they simply would not do so publicly. The risk was far too great.
This has often been the case in Christendom—and often with men who were noted heretics. Men like Kenneth Hagin, Kenneth Copeland or Benny Hinn have made some of the most outlandish, unbiblical, heretical statements in all of Christian history and yet go unchecked. These men have become “Christian celebrities” (using the word “Christian” very loosely). In their circles, they’ve reached “godfather status”. To question them means to be reprimanded at best—shunned, at worst. Any type of criticism (or evaluation) offered against them and their words, and you’ll be looking for another camp to be part of. In modern terms, you’ll find yourself cancelled.
And yet here—in this text—Paul confronts Peter publicly. Now, Peter was an apostle. He authored 2 New Testament books. He was schooled at Jesus’s feet. Peter followed Jesus daily throughout His public ministry “beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us” (Acts 1:22). The church is even said to be “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone” (Ephesians 2:20). But that didn’t concern Paul. Peter’s actions—his public actions in refusing to eat with Gentiles because of what the Jews might think—was “not in step with the truth of the gospel” (Galatians 2:14). Peter was not sinless—and he was not above error. In this instance, he was dead wrong. And Peter, though an apostle, was accountable to God and His Word. Because of that, it was not only acceptable, but proper for Paul to question his actions (and teachings) since they didn’t conform to the Biblical Gospel. Nobody is above correction. Nobody—not even a seasoned pastor—is above criticism.
How is it then that some men seem to get a free pass? How is it that if a sincere question is raised against the teachings of a “well-respected modern ‘father of the faith’”, rather than receiving an answer to the question, the one who asked it merely gets booted? The answer is quite simple. Tradition is generally far more important than what God’s Word actually has to say. And if a man says the “right things” often enough, he is frequently given a free pass for all the wrong things he has to say—even when those things are fringe Christianity at best (heresy at worst).
We must be better. God’s Word is the only standard of truth (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Nobody—not even an apostle—is above criticism. If you are in a movement that doesn’t allow sincere concerns about the “man of God” to be voiced, you are most likely in a cult. If you have leaders in your particular religious movement that are untouchable no matter what they say, you can be certain that you are in a cult. Run! Get out before you and your family are harmed. Find a church where the Bible is preached, the saints are discipled, and God is honored. It may be years before you realize the damage being done to your faith (and your family’s) at this present time. However, God’s Word doesn’t allow for such a high view of men—a view in which they are unquestionable. On the contrary, only God is unquestionable. Only God is beyond the possibility of error. And His truths are revealed in His Word. We must make sure it alone is our standard for truth—and not a mere man, no matter what credentials or pedigree he might bring to the table.
Todd Bryant is the Lead Elder at Sovereign Grace Baptist Church in Northport, AL. He has pastored there since 1998. For more more information on the church and links to audio sermons and apps for electronic devices, visit www.sovereigngrace.net