September 21, 2013

The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Galatians

Tom Lowe

II. Personal: Defense of Paul’s Apostleship (1:11–2:21)

II.B: Independent of Jerusalem Apostles (1:13-2.21)

II.B.4: Illustrated by Paul’s Rebuke of Peter (2.11-2.21)

Chapter II.B.4.a: Peter’s Hypocrisy (2.11-13)

Galatians 2.11-13 (KJV)

11 But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. 

12 For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. 

13 And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation.


 11 But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed.    

But when Peter was come to Antioch, 

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.” 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.

The situation that existed in Antioch is described in Acts 11.19, 20: “Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only. And some of them were men of Cyprus and Cyrene, which, when they were come to Antioch, spake unto the Grecians, preaching the Lord Jesus.” From this point the historical record, which is the Acts of the Apostles, takes a new direction. Up till now, the history recorded chiefly the preaching of the gospel to the Jews. From this point the history records the efforts made to convert the Gentiles. It begins with the work done in the important city of Antioch by the apostle Paul: “Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul: And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch” (Acts 11.25, 26). There were two cities with this name, one situated in Pisidia in Asia Minor (see Acts 13:14); the other, referred to here, was situated on the Orontes River, and was the capital of Syria for many years. It was built by Seleucus Nicanor, and was called Antioch in honor of his father Antiochus. It was founded in 301 B.C., and for a long time it was the most powerful city in the East, and was inferior only to Seleucia and Alexandria. It was famous for the fact that the right of citizenship was conferred by Seleucus on the Jews as well as the Greeks and Macedonians, so that here they had the privilege of worshipping in their own way without persecution. The Christians there would probably be regarded merely as a sect of Jews, and would be allowed to celebrate their worship without any outside interference. The early Christians may have regarded this city as particularly important, because here they could find refuge from persecution, and worship God without being mistreated. This city was honored as a Roman colony, a metropolis, and an asylum. It was large; was adorned with fine fountains; and was a city of great lavishness. Through the first two centuries of the Christian era it was what Constantinople became afterward, 'the Gate of the East.' "If any city in the first century was worthy to be called the Pagan Queen and Metropolis of the East, that city was Antioch. The gospel was preached there, but only to the Jews. But when Paul arrived that changed, because he preached the gospel to the Gentiles of that city, and the Lord blessed his ministry with many souls coming to Christ.

The reason for which Paul makes this statement—“But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed”—is evident. It is to show that he regarded himself on the same level with the chief apostles, and that he did not think he was inferior to any of them. Peter was the oldest, and probably the most respected apostle. Yet Paul says that he did not hesitate to oppose him in a case where Peter was obviously wrong, and in this way showed that he was an apostle of the same standing as the others. Besides, what he said to Peter on that occasion was exactly relevant to the point of the argument which he was having with the Galatians, and he therefore introduces it in Galatians 2:14-21 to show that he had held the same doctrine all along, and that he had defended it in the presence of Peter, and in a case where Peter did not have a reply. The time of this journey of Peter to Antioch cannot be established; nor the occasion on which it occurred. I think it is evident that it was after this visit by Paul to Jerusalem, and the occasion may have been to inspect the condition of the church at Antioch, and to resolve any differences of opinion which may have existed there. But everything in regard to this is mere conjecture; and it is of little importance to know when it occurred.

I withstood him to the face, 

“I withstood him to the face” suggests that he openly opposed him, and criticized him. Paul showed that he was equal with Peter in his apostolic authority and dignity. The case before us is an example of proper public rebuke; and every circumstance in it is worthy of special attention, since it furnishes an important illustration of the manner in which such rebuke should be conducted. The first thing to be noted is, that it was done openly, and with candor. It was addressed to the offender himself. Paul did not go to others and whisper his suspicions; he did not seek to undermine the influence and authority of another by slander; he did not malign him and then justify himself on the ground that what he had said was true: he went to him at once, and he frankly stated his views and rebuked him in a case where he was obviously wrong. This was a case so public and well known that Paul made his remarks before the church—“But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?” (Galatians 2:14)—because the church was interested in it, and because the conduct of Peter led the church into error.

because he was to be blamed. 

The word rendered “blamed” may either mean because he had incurred blame, or because he deserved blame. The essential idea is, that he had done wrong, and that he was by his conduct doing harm to the cause of Christian religion.

12 For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. 

13 And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation.

Now this is probably what happened. When the time came to eat, Simon Peter went over to the kosher table, while Paul went over to the gentile table. Peter noticed that there was pork roast on the gentile table. After dinner Peter joined Paul and they went outside for a little walk. Peter said, “I noticed that you ate at the gentile table.” “Yes,” Paul said, “And I noticed that you ate pork tonight. Is it good? I never have tasted it.” “Yes,” Paul said, “it’s delicious.” Then Peter asked, “Do you think it would be alright if I ate over there?” And Paul said, “Well, it is my understanding that we are going to have some nice pork chops in the morning for breakfast. Why don’t you try it?” So, in the morning when he came to breakfast, he went over to the gentile table, sat down gingerly, and rather reluctantly took a pork chop. After he tasted it, he said to Paul, “It’s delicious, isn’t it!” Paul said, “Yes. After all, under grace you can eat it or not eat it. It makes no difference. Meat won’t commend you to God.” So, Simon Peter said, “I’ll be here tonight and I understand you are having ham tonight. I want to try that.” So, at dinner time he starts rushing for the gentile table when he looks over and sees some of the elders from the Jerusalem Church who had come to visit also. So Simon Peter went all around the gentile table, went over to the kosher table, and sat down like a little whipped puppy. Some of the Jewish Christians there, including Barnabas had followed Paul’s and Peter’s example and were planning on having ham for dinner too, but when they observed Peter circumvent the gentile table and go to the kosher table instead, they were confused, but decided to eat with him at the kosher table.

It was alright for Peter to eat from either table, Kosher or gentile, but after he had been eating at the gentile table, but then, out of fear of the brethren from Jerusalem, he goes back to the kosher table, he is saying by his actions that the gentile table is wrong, and that the kosher table is right.

To “eat with the Gentiles” meant to accept them, to put Jews and Gentiles on the same level, like one family in Christ. Raised as an orthodox Jew, Peter had a difficult time learning this lesson. Jesus had taught it while with Peter before the Crucifixion (See Matthew 15). The Holy Spirit had reemphasized it, when He sent Peter to the home of Cornelius, the Roman Centurion (Acts 10). Furthermore, the truth had been accepted and approved by the conference of leaders at Jerusalem (Acts 15). Peter had been one of the key witnesses at that time.

Peter’s freedom is threatened by Peter’s fear. The elders from the Jerusalem Church who had come to visit, were associates of James (James was a strict Jew, even though he was a Christian believer.) Paul does not suggest that James sent these men to investigate Peter, or even that they were leaders or officials of the Jerusalem Church. No doubt they belonged to the “circumcision party” (Acts 15.1, 5) and wanted to lead the Antioch Christians into religious legalism.

After his experience with Cornelius, Peter had been “called upon the carpet” and had ably defended himself (Acts 11). But now he became afraid. Peter had not been afraid to obey the Spirit when He sent him to Cornelius, nor was he afraid to give his witness at the Jerusalem Conference. But now with the arrival of some members of “the opposition,” Peter lost his confidence. “The fear of man bringeth a snare” (Proverbs 29.25).

How do we account for this fear? For one thing we know Peter was am impulsive man. He could show amazing faith and courage one minute and fail completely the next. He walked on water to go to Jesus, but then became frightened and began to sink. He boasted in the Upper Room that he would be willing to die with Jesus, and then denied his Lord three times. Peter in the Book of Acts is certainly more consistent than in the four Gospels, but was not perfect—nor are we! Peter’s fear led to Peter’s fall. He ceased to enjoy the “love fest” with the Gentile believers and separated himself from them.

There are two tragedies to Peter’s fall. First it made him a hypocrite (which is the meaning of the word dissembled). Peter pretended his actions were motivated by faithfulness, but they were really motivated by fear. How easy it is to use “Bible doctrine” to cover up our disobedience. 

The other tragedy is that Peter led others astray with him. Even Barnabas was involved. Barnabas had been one of the spiritual leaders of the church in Antioch (Acts 11.19-26), so his disobedience would have a tremendous influence on the others in the fellowship.

Suppose Peter and Barnabas had won the day and led the church into legalism. What might the results have been? Would Antioch have continued to be the great missionary church that sent out Paul and Barnabas? (Acts 13) Would they, instead, have sent out the “missionaries” of the circumcision party and either captured or divided the churches Paul had already founded? You can see that the problem was not a matter of personality or party; it was a question of the “truth of the Gospel.” And Paul was ready to fight for it.

This very interesting story continues in the next chapters; verses 14, and 15-21.


Make a Free Website with Yola.