Introduction: How many times when you are trying to do something good
you find you have made a mistake? The good thing about making a
mistake is that you learn something – you hope! A better thing is to
learn from the mistakes of others. This week our study turns to
witnessing errors in the early church. Let’s jump into our study to
see if we can learn something from the mistakes of the early church

  1. Peter’s Error.

    1. Read Galatians 2:11-13. What had Peter been doing that he
      was no longer doing? (Eating with Gentiles.)

      1. Was it “OK” to eat with Gentiles or was that a
        problem? (Read Acts 10:27-29. This is part of the
        story of Cornelius and the vision of the sheet of
        unclean animals. This story shows that God explicitly
        showed Peter that it was proper to associate with
        Gentiles. Later, in Acts 11 we find Peter explaining
        to the leaders in Jerusalem why it was OK to eat
        ( Acts 11:3) with Gentiles.)

      2. What does Paul mean when he writes in Galatians 2:13
        “even Barnabas was led astray?”

    2. Read Galatians 2:14-16. As you read these verses, what is
      the problem? Forcing Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?
      Living like a Gentile when the people from the “home
      office” are not around? Practicing righteousness by works?

      1. What does Paul suggest that Peter should have done
        when the men from James arrived?

      2. What do you think Peter should have done?

      3. Let’s look at this realistically. Isn’t Peter trying
        to avoid giving offense to the people from the “home

        1. What is wrong with that?

    3. Paul is the one getting in Peter’s face about this. Let’s
      read 1 Corinthians 9:19-23. Couldn’t Peter say to Paul,
      “Get out of my face about this! I read your article
      “Flexibility in Witnessing” (otherwise known as 1
      Corinthians 9) and you wrote “to those under the law I
      became as one under the law.” I’m just following your
      advice! Would Peter be right? Is Paul a hypocrite too?
      Isn’t Peter following Paul’s advice in 1 Corinthians 9:20?

      1. Let’s assume your church has 27 “fundamental” beliefs
        – quite a number! Assume that you do not think that
        some of the 27 are so fundamental. Doesn’t it make
        sense to just keep your views to yourself? Isn’t
        keeping disputable matters to yourself a Christian
        principle according to Paul in Romans 14:22?

    4. What do you understand to be the principle here? How would
      you explain the proper “rule” to follow? What do you learn
      from Peter’s “mistake” for your witnessing today?(There
      are two principles that we need to try to keep untangled.
      First, we should be “flexible” and try not to give offense
      in “disputable” matters. Second, there comes a time when
      we need to stand up for matters of principle. The problem
      here was that Peter could not keep this situation “to
      himself” when the boys from the home office showed up for
      an inspection. What he was doing was going to offend

      1. Do you think Paul did the right thing by (Galatians
        2:11) opposing Peter “to his face?”

      2. Do you think Paul did the right thing by confronting
        Peter ( Galatians 11:14) “in front of them all”
        instead of going to him privately?

        1. Is that what you should do when you see mistakes
          in your church? Get in their face in front of

        2. Is that what you want people to do to you when
          you make a mistake?

        3. Perhaps when you see others making a mistake you
          should bring it to their attention right away in
          front of everyone, but when people see your
          mistakes they should follow Romans 14:22 and
          keep it to themselves? Or maybe they should
          follow Matthew 18:15 and just bring it privately
          to you? What do you think?

  2. Paul’s Error.

    1. We see that Paul is standing right up to stop Peter from
      trying to impose Jewish customs on Gentiles. Let’s read
      Acts 16:1-3. Why did Paul have Timothy circumcised?

      1. Was this any different than what Peter did when
        James’ men arrived?

      2. What is the controlling principle about circumcision?
        (Read Galatians 5:1-4, 6.)

      3. Is this another mistake? Is Paul, who says
        circumcision means nothing and is a denial of Christ,
        wrongly bending to peer pressure?

    2. Read Acts 21:18-24. Now Paul arrives to see James. Is this
      the same kind of problem that Peter faced – except now
      Paul has come to the “home office” instead of the home
      office coming to him?

      1. What do you think about the solution proposed by the
        home office? Look specifically at v.24 and tell me
        what you think about that suggestion?

      1. How did Paul handle this? (Read Acts 21:26.)

      2. Did this cure the problem? (Read Acts 21:27-31.)

    1. Did Paul have any basis on which to criticize Peter?

      1. Did both Peter and Paul make the same mistake or did
        they do the right thing by trying to do what was the
        most acceptable at the time? (I think they both made
        a mistake, but that the mistakes were different.
        Peter made the mistake of withdrawing from his
        gentile brothers in Christ to please others –
        contrary to what he really believed. Peter had to
        choose between pleasing two groups and he did not
        make the principled choice. Paul’s situation bothers
        me more than Peter’s because of the idea revealed in
        Acts 21:24 – that this would show “the reports about
        you” were untrue. In fact, the reports about Paul
        were not only true, they were a matter of great
        principle to him. It appears that Paul was not only
        willing to compromise principle, he was willing to be
        less than honest about it.)

  1. The Right Thing?

    1. Read Acts 6:1-3. This is a story we have studied in detail
      earlier this quarter so we will not read the entire thing.
      Do you think the Greek widows were really being slighted?

      1. Why didn’t the disciples just say, “We are honest
        men. We would not neglect anyone or discriminate
        against anyone. This is not true.”

      2. Why did they select others to solve the problem?

      3. Is this a lesson for us — that when someone
        criticizes a church program we just say, “What can we
        do to make it better?”

    2. Our lesson (Friday) suggests that arguing with the
      opposition never works. It only increases the opposition.
      The best thing to do is to concentrate on positive truths.
      Is that what happened with the problem with the Greek
      widows? Did the disciples concentrate on the positive
      side of things?

      1. What was Paul doing when he agreed to circumcise
        Timothy and to purify himself in Jerusalem? He did
        not argue, he just went along with the group
        suggestion. Is that the proper application of the
        suggestion in Friday’s lesson?

      2. What if the opposition is being illogical and
        ridiculous? Should you still refuse to argue? (This
        is tough for me. People who disagree with me ARE
        illogical! Seriously, I have come to realize that a
        large number of people do not hold opinions based on
        logic. They hold them based on emotion or prejudice.
        You cannot convince these people by logic – therefore
        argument is useless. By the same token, our
        position should be based on logical Bible study and
        the leading of the Holy Spirit. We should not, like
        Peter and Paul in the examples we studied, give up
        those positions because of peer pressure.)

    3. Read Matthew 4:1-4. Is Satan making an argument here?
      (Yes, that Jesus is not the Son of God.)

      1. Does Jesus argue with Satan? (No)

      2. How would you characterize Jesus’ response? (He
        points Satan to the Scriptures that deal with
        spirituality, not the Messianic prophecies.)

      3. While Jesus was not attempting to convert Satan, what
        lessons do we learn from this for our witnessing?

    4. Friend, we found this week that compromising principle in
      the face of peer pressure, argument and unnecessary
      confrontation are witnessing mistakes. We need to pray
      that God will give us wisdom and understanding in our
      witnessing to avoid these kinds of mistakes and know the
      right thing to do.

  2. Next week: Lesson 13: Post-witnessing Activities