Peter was an established leader in this new movement. He had walked with Jesus. He preached a sermon and 3000 people were converted to Christ. He was the first to introduce the Gospel to the Gentiles. Peter carried so much power and authority that his shadow healed as he walked the streets. Peter was the Man!
I wonder how awkward it was for Paul, a former persecutor of the church, a fairly new convert, to confront publicly this respected and admired leader.
Peter behaved hypocritically. He behaved contrary to the revelation Christ had given him. It was Christ who spoke to him three times and said, “What God has made clean, do not call impure. (Acts 10:15)” Peter defended this truth.
But now, due to peer pressure and the fear of man, Peter runs back to the law and refuses to eat with his Gentile friends.
Paul confronts Peter. Because of Peter’s influence, his actions caused others to behave like a hypocrite. Peter led others back to the law and Paul had to say something.
There are so many lessons in this story. But here are three I think God is highlighting today.
1. Great and powerful Christian leaders who have performed miracles and heard the voice of the Lord are not perfect. They are fallible. Everything they do and say are not necessarily from God. Notice, Peter’s actions caused other great men, like Barnabus, to follow and condone this hypocrisy (Galatians 2:13). Paul showed up and found many in error because of Peter.
That does not detract from Peter’s calling or his purpose. But in this case, Peter was wrong. We must understand, just because someone has a thriving ministry, has performed many miracles, hears the voice of the Lord does not make them 100% accurate. We cannot ignore our inner Spirit and follow blindly. Just because the majority of prophetic voices declare a thing, doesn’t make it true. (Jeremiah 29:8&9)
2. Law is a seductive mistress. Although Peter had experienced grace, had a revelation of God’s grace, had preached God’s grace, he quickly fell back into law. Law adds requirements to the Gospel. Law separates. Law judges according to performance.
We are New Testament Christians. It is tempting to convince and persuade others using fear and the law. But the Bible says it is God’s goodness that leads others to repentance. It is grace that teaches us to say no to ungodliness. Don’t allow anyone, including Christian leaders, to lead you back to law-like behavior.
3. Sometimes you have to go against the grain. It would have been easy for Paul to think he was wrong. After all, he was the new kid on the block. It would have been easy for him to be quiet. But God had given this former Pharisee, a great heart for the Gentiles. So when Paul noticed the injustice being perpetrated by God’s people, he had to speak up. He had to confront. He had to risk loosing credibility. He had to risk losing friends for the sake of truth. Paul confronted.
From this experience, Paul would pen a great truth that has brought comfort to women, minorities, the disenfranchised, and the poor to this very day. Paul’s take away from this confrontation was this:
“And we no longer see each other in our former state—Jew or non-Jew, rich or poor, male or female—because we’re all one through our union with Jesus Christ with no distinction between us.”
Galatians 3:28 TPT
Where is God calling you to go against the grain?