Have you ever known (or been) someone who was one way with one crowd and then another way in another crowd? None of us like to see that in other people, and we all tend to have a difficult time seeing that in ourselves.
For those of us who know Christ as Savior this hypocrisy can be more than just a social problem. This can be a spiritual problem as well. How do we deal with it in ourselves and in others when we see it?
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.
Paul was willing to confront the leader of the church in Jerusalem because of what he was doing. Paul was confronting Peter because of Peter’s fear of man. Peter was acting in a way that was consistent with his theology when no jews were around. He would “eat with the gentiles”, which meant he wouldn’t be worried about the Old Testament dietary laws when no jews were around. But when people who believed that you had to believe in Jesus and keep the law to be saved, the judaizers, came around, Peter feared what they would say and think and withdrew himself from the gentiles with whom he had spent time. Instead of confronting the bad theology of the judaizers he feared them and avoided the gentiles.
13 And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation.
The problem is that Peter, as a leader, was setting an example. I see two big problems that came from Peter’s behavior.
1. The church’s relationship with the gentiles. Can you imagine how the gentiles felt when they began to be avoided by the church leaders? Do you think that it could have created racial, social, and theological tension in their church? We don’t know how far it had gotten before this time, but if left unchecked it could have made a negative impact on the church.
2. The toleration of harmful theology. The behavior of the leaders of the church meant that they were tolerating a theology that said that Jesus’ death and ressurection is not enough for salvation.
So Paul had to say something…
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?
The only answer that Peter could give is, “Because I am more concerned about what these judaizer’s think.” Notice that it took a lack of fear of Peter on Paul’s part to confront Peter’s fear of the judaizers that was affecting the church and the gospel.
Now before we get to hard on Peter and the rest of the leaders there, have you and I ever behaved in a way that hindered the gospel?
- Have we ever been scared to tell someone about Jesus even when we knew we should?
- Have we ever failed to put time into our schedule to share the gospel with our church family?
- Have we ever failed to be open to new people in our church by focusing on the comfortable group of friends that we already know?
Think about this- Every person that comes into our life has steps that they need to take toward Jesus. When God puts them in our path it means that we have a stewardship of that opportunity. Often our response is like Peter’s response- fear. Fear will cause us to deny what we know to be true. When we give into the fear and fail to act we say something about the gospel that is not true. This affects both the saved and the unsaved around us.
Don’t give in to fear today in you or in others!