Word@Work, Let God's Word energise your working day!

Gospel Challenge

Galatians 2:11-13 
When Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray. (NIVUK)

Peter and Paul were brothers in Christ and friends.  They supported each other and encouraged one another’s ministry (Galatians 2:7-9).  However, when Peter (‘Cephas’ in Greek) came to the missionary base in Antioch in Syria, He was so absorbed with his ministry to the Jews that he did not want to be seen with Gentiles.  

Paul saw that Peter was at risk of undermining the gospel because of a wrong fear.  Some Jewish believers thought that, in order to be fully accepted by God, the old Jewish rule of circumcision still had to be kept.  They insisted that Gentiles must be circumcised; otherwise they could not be proper Christians (Acts 15:1-11).  Initially, Peter taught that Christ had fulfilled all of the law and that those rules were now obsolete.  But when important Jewish believers came to Antioch from Jerusalem, they pressurised Peter into staying away from uncircumcised Gentiles.
Peter was afraid that he would lose his good reputation among Jewish-born Christians.  So he placated the visitors and local Jewish people by not eating with Gentiles because they were not ceremonially clean.  But Paul knew that this was wrong and divisive.  Because of Peter’s reputation, his wrong behaviour infected even senior leaders like Barnabas.  So Paul took the unusual step of rebuking Peter.  The integrity of the gospel and the honour of Jesus Christ were far more important than Peter’s desire to be accepted by his fellow countrymen, or his wrong idea that more Jews would be converted if he dissociated from Gentiles – even though God had already shown him that was wrong (Acts 11:1-18).
‘Fear of what people may think’ is a terrible disease.  Peter showed it spectacularly when he denied Jesus before His crucifixion (Matthew 26:69-75).  But it was still in his nature.  Perhaps even his blustering, larger-than-life personality was a mask for his inner insecurity.  ‘Wanting to be liked’ leads many astray and has often caused believers to change the gospel to something which does not have God’s blessing and cannot save.  Controversy is not nice and personal challenge feels offensive.  But what matters more: protecting the purity of the gospel, through which people can be saved for eternity, or being liked and accepted during your lifetime?  We would like to have both, but often that is not possible.  Which do you choose?

Heavenly Father. Thank You that all who have responded to the gospel are equal in Your sight. I am sorry when I have considered myself to be higher or lower than others, because of what I do. Thank You for saving me by Your grace, and for assuring me in Your Word that I cannot earn Your favour in any way, whatever I do. I am sorry that sometimes I am afraid of what people might think about me. Please deliver me from that fear so that I may stay true to Jesus and the gospel, and not be in danger of dragging others away from the truth. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Bible Book: 

© Dr Paul Adams