Last time we looked at how Paul was disappointed with Peter because he acted like a hypocrite. Peter had been eating with gentiles and then when some important Jews came to visit, Peter ditched the gentiles. Paul is going to explain the problem with this issue today.
Do we live what we believe?
14 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?
15 We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles,
16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.
Paul starts off by saying that Peter and the other saved Jews were not acting according to the truth of the Gospel. In other words by not eating with the gentiles and excluding them from fellowship they were saying that they weren’t saved. Peter and the others were ignorning the truth of the Gospel, and adding to the gospel or taking away from it. This wasn’t a matter of bad table manners but instead a matter of truth and what is right. If the gentiles needed to follow the Jews in circumcision or diet in order to be saved, then this isn’t the Gospel of Christ.
So what does Paul do about it? He confronts Peter to his face and asks a simple question. Peter if you are a Jew and live like gentiles, and not like a Jew (when no one is looking), then why are you compelling the gentiles to live like Jews?
This must have been hard for Paul to do. After all Peter was a pillar of the faith. These Jews were of some stature. But Paul had to do it. What Peter was doing was public and it was ultimately going to hurt the true message of Jesus Christ. Sometimes telling people the truth isn’t easy. Sometimes telling people they are hurting the church and the message of Christ isn’t easy, but it must be done.
Paul said to Peter, Peter we are Jews and we know the truth. The truth is that we aren’t justified by the law, but instead we are justified by faith in Jesus Christ. Paul goes on to say that no person is justified by the law. No man is justified before God based on what that man did. Paul is not telling Peter anything that he doesn’t already know. The problem is that Peter is not living what he knows in front of others. Peter knows that what Jesus did for us on the cross is the only way we could be justified. Hopefully you know this as well.
What Peter and Barnabas were doing is not living the truth but instead caving in to what others wanted them to do or they were ashamed to live their beliefs. I would say that we have that same problem from time to time. Sometimes we don’t act the way we should before others and when we don’t we deny the truth. For example if you say you that you believe God created everything on earth in 6 literal days, yet you deny this with your friends or are afraid to let others know what you believe, then in reality you are denying the truth.
Sometimes we even deny in many ways that we know Jesus. Peter did this when Jesus was on trial the day he was crucified. He denied knowing Jesus. We deny Jesus if we say to our friends there is more than one way to get to heaven. We deny Jesus if we say that there isn’t a literal hell. We deny Jesus when we say that a sinful lifestyle is okay. We deny Jesus when we are afraid to give God thanks for our food in front of others.
It is easy to say you believe something. It is much harder to live it.
I think Peter struggled like we do, and maybe we need a Paul in our life to say STOP. We need to be reminded that too much is on the line. Truth is important in a world that is lost.