by Jonathan Bailey
“11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision. 13 The rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of all, “If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?”
If there is one thing the book or Proverbs has taught me it is this, “Love reproof.” Reproof means admonishment, reprimand or rebuke. Be the kind of person who is willing and ready to receive reproofs. Why? Because we are so saturated with sin. We really need to know and embrace that fact. Much like an alcoholic needs to embrace the fact that he is an alcoholic. In fact it is imperative that he never forgets that one fact, but carries it with him his entire life. I think that is why in AA meetings that is the first thing members say.
“Hello my name is Jon and I am a ‘sin-oholic.’
That is why we need reproof! Because we are constantly in need of correction and realignment on the Jesus Way. And this is precisely what happens to Peter in Galatians 2.11-14.
Peter’s nickname shouldn’t be rock; it should be rebuke. He is always getting into situations where someone has to come and correct him. In fact, he actually got rebuked for rebuking Jesus! Peter rebuking Jesus!
So what is going on in Galatia? Peter is visiting and is enjoying freedom in Jesus by eating and drinking whatever his companions (Gentiles) are consuming. Then we have some of the Jewish disciples from James show up. Peter starts to get a little nervous because these Jewish disciples are still practicing the Mosaic Law with all of it’s rituals and practices, which included not eating certain kinds of meats and other things that I am not exactly sure of.
So, Peter backs off and goes back to his Jewish/Mosaic practices for security. He was afraid, verse 12 says. This is the same guy who tried to kill a temple guard in the garden with Jesus, and he’s scared of a couple Jewish disciples. This is what religion and law will do to you. It neglects the essential truth of freedom. And keeps us in a state of fear. Trying to earn or achieve something by our own will power. Dallas Willard says, “Will power is never enough” and I agree with him. This why the truth of the gospel was in jeopardy, and this is why Paul reproofs or rebukes Peter to his face.
Paul basically says, “you are perverting the truth of the gospel. Why are you going back and forth? Why are you looking to the Law again for security? Why are you a hypocrite? Now that’s a strong rebuke, but an essential one for Peter and it becomes very helpful for us. Because we are front and center at this story. We get to see it unfold. Now it is much easier to understand what Paul is talking about in the next 7 verses because we have a living example of what not to do. We have so much to learn from Peter. And Paul for that matter.