Paul here once more proved his Apostleship. Paul tells us how he rebuked Peter in Antioch. This event tells us that his message of grace is independent from the church in general and the apostles in particular.
Illustration 1: Trusting in Activity
The essence of legalism is trusting in the religious activity rather than trusting in God. It is putting our confidence in a practice rather than in a Person. And without fail this will lead us to love the practice more than the Person.
Jack Deer, Surprised by the Power of the Spirit, p. 151
I. Peter in Antioch (Gal. 2:10)
A. Antioch- Antioch was the capital of Syria situated on the river Orontes and founded by Seleucus Nicanor in 300 BC. Seleucus named the city after his father Antiochus. Many Jews lived in this city. Antioch together with Jerusalem, is the greatest center of the early Christian church. Located on the northeast corner of the Mediterranean Sea, about 20 miles inland, it was the third largest city in the Roman empire. Here the followers of Christ were first called Christian (Acts 11:20-26), and here Paul began his ministry to the Gentile world (Acts 13:1-4).
B. When Paul visited Jerusalem, Peter (and others) gave him “the right hand of fellowship”; but when Peter visited Antioch, Paul opposed him to his face. The time of Peter’s trip to Antioch is not known. There is no reference to it in the Book of Acts, but perhaps the visit occurred soon after Paul, Barnabas, and Titus returned to Antioch from Jerusalem. At any rate Peter’s conduct in Antioch produced a tense face-to-face confrontation between two Christian leaders. Paul felt compelled to rebuke and condemn Peter for his actions, thus defending the gospel and demonstrating again his own independence and equality as an apostle.
II. The Event (Gal. 2:12)
A. Paul “withstood” Peter to the “face.” The word “withstood” means to set against.
B. On arrival at Antioch, Peter found Jewish and Gentile Christians fellowshipping together at mealtimes without regard to Jewish dietary laws. Because of the vision Peter had received at the house of Simon the tanner (Acts 10:9-15,28), he felt free to eat with the Gentiles, and did so on a regular basis. This was a beautiful demonstration of the unity of Jew and Gentile in Christ.
C. Certain men who came from Jerusalem particularly from the other Pillar of the church there specifically James caused Peter mental instability. Probably these are legalist. Peter was influenced by their presence. He did two things: 1) He withdrew and 2) separated himself from the Gentiles. The verb tenses indicate a gradual withdrawal. By such actions Peter in effect was teaching that there were two bodies of Christ, Jewish and Gentile. And that was heresy.
D. Why did Peter create this breach? Not because of any change in theology, but simply out of fear. He feared those “of the circumcision.” His fear was not that of physical pain; it was a fear of rejection. He was afraid of losing acceptance with people he
deemed had status in Jerusalem. Peter was a leader whether he led in the right direction or the wrong direction.
Illustration 2: No Apology
Hugh Lattimer once preached before King Henry VIII. Henry was greatly displeased by the boldness in the sermon and ordered Lattimer to preach again on the following Sunday and apologize for the offence he had given.
The next Sunday, after reading his text, he thus began his sermon: “Hugh Lattimer, dost thou know before whom thou are this day to speak? To the high and mighty monarch, the king’s most excellent majesty, who can take away thy life, if thou offendest. Therefore, take heed that thou speakest not a word that may displease. But then consider well, Hugh, dost thou not know from whence thou comest—upon Whose message thou are sent? Even by the great and mighty God, Who is all-present and Who beholdeth all thy ways and Who is able to cast thy soul into hell! Therefore, take care that thou deliverest thy message faithfully.”
He then preached the same sermon he had preached the preceding Sunday—and with considerably more energy.
Evangelism, A Biblical Approach, M. Cocoris, Moody, 1984, p. 126
III. The Consequences (Gal. 2:13)
A. They played the hypocrite. A hypocrite is a pretender; a false professor; insincerity. The Greek word hypokrites referred to a play actor who wore a mask to represent an identity other than his own
B. The “rest of the Jews” are Jewish believers. When Peter went astray, other Jewish believers went with him.
C. Even Barnabas was involved. Barnabas had been one of the spiritual leaders of the church in Antioch (Acts 11:19-26). Barnabas was a colleague in ministry and close friend of Paul. Barnabas was there for Paul when few others would trust him (Acts 9:27). Paul left as a murderer and came back as a missionary. Who would believe this? Barnabas believed Paul even though everyone around did not believe him. Everyone was skeptical but Barnabas took him in (Acts 11:19f). Barnabas was a good man, a man of faith (Acts 15:25). He introduced Paul into the ministry the Word at Antioch. Both Paul and Barnabas preached the gospel of grace together. Barnabas’ disobedience may have created a tremendous influence on the others in the fellowship
Illustration 3: Adolph Hitler
He made free use of Christian vocabulary. He talked about the blessing of the Almighty and the Christian confessions which would become the pillars of the new government. He assumed the earnestness of a man weighed down by historic responsibility. He handed out pious stories to the press, especially to the church papers. He showed his tattered Bible and declared that he drew the strength for his great work from it as scores of pious people welcomed him as a man sent from God. Indeed, Adolf Hitler was a master of outward religiosity—with no inward reality!
Today in the Word, June 3, 1989
IV. The Public Rebuke and Result (Gal. 2:14)
A. A public sin requires a public rebuke.” If Peter could not live to the perfect demands of the law of Moses (Acts 15:10), why try to put such a yoke on the Gentile Christians? Paul charges Peter with trying to compel the Gentiles to live like Jews, to Judaize the Gentile Christians, the very point at issue in the Jerusalem Conference when Peter so loyally supported Paul. It was a bold thrust that allowed no reply.
B. Paul’s equality with Peter demonstrated – Gal. 2:11,14. Paul had the authority to withstand him to his face. Paul had the authority to charge him with hypocrisy before all. Paul won Peter back and Barnabas also, as shown by 2 Peter 3:15.
C. Paul and Barnabas remained friends, though they soon separated over John Mark (Acts 15:39-41; I Cor 9:6).
D. Peter’s respect for Paul did not changed 2 Pet. 3:15-16. Peter later described Paul as “our beloved brother Paul”. Peter acknowledged the wisdom given to Paul. Peter recognized Paul’s epistles as “Scriptures”.
Paul showed his courage by rebuking a leader who is going astray and standing for what is right. He showed his love for his fellow workers to the Lord by winning them back. Will you be courageous and loving also like Paul? You should for Christ’s sake