Now when Peter had come to Antioch [third largest city in the Roman Empire with a half million people] at this time , I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed [this shows us Paul’s Apostolic authority]; for before certain men came from James, he would eat [love/agape feast] with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew (Gk. Hupostello – In the imperfect tense meant gradually) and separated (Gk. Aphorizo – Complete and final separation) himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision.
Peter came to Antioch and, at first, he was enjoying
fellowship with his Gentile brothers disregarding the
old taboos. He shared the common meal with his
Gentile brothers. It was all cool and good to eat
together until some strictly Jewish Christians from
Jerusalem came across Peter in Antioch. Then,
Peter “withdrew” in the Greek it meant he
gradually pulled away from eating with the
Gentiles. Also, the word “separated” in the Greek
meant a final separation from eating with Gentile
Peter let them (Jewish believers) get to him and he
FEARED them. Knowing they did NOT approve
of a Jew EVER eating with a Gentile
(even if both are saved – hmm!)
Peer pressure (in the form of FEAR) got the best of
Peter, so to speak, folded under the pressure (fear).
THOUGHT: Do we let the “fear of man” influence us
in how we act or who we hang out with.
Proverbs 29:25 says, “The fear of man brings a snare.”
Peter knew Gentiles could be saved – Acts 10, and in
Acts 15:9 he stated that God had “…put no
difference between us (Jews) and them (Gentiles).”
So his behavior of no longer eating with Gentiles was
nothing short of being hypocritical.
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 (lit. walking straight) about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all [public rebuke, not private], "If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles [Peter no longer observed Jewish food regulations] and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews?
Paul could not allow Peter to do this. It was hypocritical
on Peter’s part, and because of Peter’s role (influence)
in the early church, his hypocritical actions could lead
Although Peter was a leader of the church, he was
acting like a hypocrite. He knew better, yet he was
driven by fear of what others would think.
Paul knew that he had to confront Peter before his
actions damaged the church.
Paul did not wait to correct Peter. It made no
difference to Paul that it was “one of the pillars”
of the church – Peter!
It was wrong, and that was all that mattered to him.
A famous name can never justify an infamous
action to the point that other Jews believers
followed Peter’s (poor) example, and
EVEN Barnabas was influenced. (v. 13)
THOUGHT: Today, we see many high-profile
ministers who are almost considered above
correction. The name of the minister or fame
of a Christian does not make them exempt from
living Christ-like. We need to stand for the
truth regardless of who it is that is promoting error.
With the acceptance of Christians being either
Jewish believers (plus keeping the law and traditions)
and also of Gentile believers being Christian
(but not required to keep the law and Jewish traditions),
resulted in two distinct classes of Christians
(Jew believer more looking down on Gentile believer)
in the church. Not a good thing. This is a real problem
Example: I see Jewish believers (original branch) acting
like they’re one up on Gentile believers (grafted into
the branch). I think it’s great to see Jewish believers,
but that doesn’t make them one up as believers
because they are Jewish. Also, people do this regarding
tongues or no tongues, water baptism sprinkled or
immersed, etc, etc. We will have varying views on
“non-essentials”areas, but we do need to stop making
these distinctions points of division, or acting like one is
a better Christian than another because of his
BOTTOM LINE WE ARE ALL SAVED BY GOD’S
GRACE – NO CREDIT TO YOU!
It could not be right that the Gentiles come to God
by grace and Jews come to him by the law. For Paul
there was only one reality - GRACE.
A church ceases to be Christians if it containsclass (or race) distinctions.
Three practical truths we learn from this passage are:
1. Great leaders can fall - May God help us to test every
message we hear by His Word, and help us from
exalting ANY human leader above measure.
2. God’s grace means no second-class Christians -
May we never distinguish in the body of Christ
those of different social status, race, or anything else.
3. Standing for the Gospel can be lonely – Paul stood
alone here. History shows many great Christian
leaders stood alone.
So, we conclude this week’s lesson
This coming weekend we will cover
Galatians 2:15-21 (conclude chapter 2).
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