It appears I have taken almost a two week break from my study of Galatians. I have spent time tonight going back through the study so far and reminding myself again of the author (Paul), the recipients (the churches of Galatia), the major theme (the truth of the gospel that Paul will defend and clarify), and the various issues that we’ve been studying. Galatians is rich with theology and doctrine, which is perhaps why I find myself taking it slowly, too slowly, though, if I want to finish the project I began!
By clicking on the “Galatians” tag on any of these Galatians posts, you can see all of the ones in one place related to this series.
I pick up now with Galatians 2:11-14:
11 Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; 12 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. 13 And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy.
14 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?
Did you know that Peter, the disciple of Jesus and leading figure of the Bible, was accused by Paul of hypocrisy?
The passage today tells us that Paul withstood Peter to his face, that Peter was to be blamed, that Peter feared those of the circumcision, that Peter played the hypocrite, carrying others along with him, and that Peter was not straightforward about the truth of the gospel. Wow! And Paul is once again defending the truth of the gospel (as he did in Gal. 2:5).
We always think of Peter as the one who walked on the water, but started to sink, the one who pledged allegiance to Jesus, only to deny him three times, the one full of passion and zeal, but also with flaws. Yet Jesus always related so tenderly to him. Don’t you love that not one of us is perfect? And that the Bible uses its biggest figures to demonstrate that to us:
- Moses with his fear of speaking and challenges to what God was asking of him;
- Moses who struck the rock and lost entrance to the Promised Land;
- David who committed adultery and practically arranged for the death of Uriah, costing him a son;
- Saul who was chosen to be king, but disobeyed God, keeping the best of the animals he was told to kill, and being removed from leadership.
We could go on and on, and not just with one flaw, but with many. Anything else wouldn’t be the reality we are faced with living in a sinful world with sinful flesh. It’s these failures that show us our need for Jesus, that lead us to the cross, and that in Scripture bring us some of the greatest psalms of repentance. Think of Psalm 51.
What was Peter’s issue here? He had been eating with the Gentiles until along came a group of Jewish people, and then Peter separated himself from these Gentile believers. It was hypocrisy, making these Gentiles feel as though they lacked something necessary for salvation. It was not straightforward about the truth of the gospel. And Paul withstood Peter to his face about this because Paul always defended and explained the gospel, understanding that its truth must be guarded.
We know Peter understood this truth from his interaction with Cornelius in Acts 11. But we don’t always live out what we believe, do we? And it can be subtle (or not), and that is hypocrisy, saying one thing, doing another.
Peter was also afraid of man and their thoughts of him, not fearing God (something I just wrote about last week) and choosing to do what was right out of that awe of God and who He is. Isn’t it easy to want to live to please man or peers instead of God, such that even the truth of the gospel could be confused?
As you can see, I suppose there are many things we could take from this passage. One might be to pray for our leaders (like Peter) to stand – and for ourselves. One might be to recognize our similar challenges and to examine ourselves for areas where we need to repent. One might be to develop “iron sharpening iron” relationships like we see with Peter and Paul so that we challenge others and they challenge us in our faith.
The one I will leave us with today is the truth of the gospel message that saves us and can sanctify us each day. Jesus died on the cross for our sins that by faith in Him, not by any works we can do, we are justified (we will see that tomorrow in verse 16), made right with God, and forgiven. Simple truth, amazing grace, worth living and defending and telling others about. This gospel not only saves us, but in Christ’s power, we are able to stand each day, walk in the fear of God, and lead lives of joyful obedience. We look to Him in faith.
PRAYER: Thank you, Jesus, for dying for our sins on the cross and bearing our sins that we might be forgiven by faith in You. We would be condemned to death if You had not made a way for us to know You and have fellowship with You. Thank you! Thank you for truth we can know and on which we can stand. Help us not to live lives of hypocrisy, saying one thing but doing another. Give us wisdom to see where we do this, and faith to repent and live consistently with what we believe, fearing You. We love you, Lord. In Jesus’ name, Amen.