Galatiansby Khan Hui Neon
The gospel is preached not by fine words alone. Consistent behaviour with the truth of the gospel is also required.
Things came to a head when Paul publicly rebuked Peter, whom most Bible scholars agree was the apostle the Judaizers considered the most esteemed. In relating this incident, Paul is giving additional evidence of his apostleship's independence.
Peter had no qualms about eating freely with Gentile believers in the church at Antioch (Galatians 2:11-12), despite the Jews' religious and historical tendency to avoid mixing with the non-circumcised. His presence at the table must have been a great encouragement to the Gentile believers. That is, until more Jews arrived from the Jerusalem church where James was the leader (v. 12). They were probably messengers sent from Jerusalem to Peter.
What was their message? One view is that they had come to warn Peter about the Jewish insurgency happening around that time. Jewish militants would deem anyone socialising with Gentiles and embracing their ways as a traitor. News spread fast. Being one of the Jerusalem church's esteemed pillars (v. 9), Peter's conduct might jeopardise the safety of the church.
If this view is taken, then the ″circumcision group″ (v. 12) whom Peter was afraid of could have been the militant Jews. There are other views, but at any rate, Peter drew back from fellowship with the Gentiles. The action of this revered apostle had great impact on the other Jewish believers who looked up to him. You can feel Paul's anguish when he writes, ″Even Barnabas was led astray″ (v. 13)-this happening so soon after their recent visit to Jerusalem (vv. 1-10).
Paul's decisive action in taking a respected leader like Peter to task publicly is noteworthy (v. 14). Many others may not have dared to. Or, they may have felt that it would harm unity among the teachers. How could anyone embarrass an important apostle like Peter? Paul's independence from the other apostles could not have been better expressed.
What did Paul disagree with? At the heart of the issue lay the very basis of the Christian faith. Peter might have acted out of concern for the work and safety of the Jerusalem church, but his action amounted to telling the Gentile Christians, ″We cannot have any social interaction with you unless you embrace Jewish practices.″ Paul might have been worried that the Gentiles would misconstrue Peter's actions as a call for them to embrace Jewish practices in order to maintain fellowship with Jewish believers. This could lead to the splitting of God's church into two groups and the perversion of the gospel.
We could be equally guilty of Peter's inconsistency and hypocrisy (vv. 13-14) today. We may make what seems to be a small compromise in order to please someone, or to avoid incurring their wrath. But if it affects the integrity of the gospel, we need to ask ourselves: On what basis do we make our decision-on God's eternal truth, or on our fear of man?
Do we compromise the integrity of the gospel in our words, actions, and decisions? What can we do to stop or prevent this from happening?
Paul confronted Peter publicly. Should we do likewise whenever we witness hypocrisy in others?