The Bible, in Galatians 2:11-13, records that Paul confronted Peter: “ Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision. And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy.”
There was no real controversy between Paul and Peter. For they were both in agreement, at least on the general principles, and thus on the decision that was given by the council in Jerusalem to release the Gentiles from getting “circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses…” (Acts 15:1-21).
Church leaders can certainly discuss issues for the benefit of their congregations. For the church today can never fulfill her mission of preaching the gospel to all the world until there is the same type of honesty and frankness that existed among apostolic leaders.
The Judaizers, who were pushing for the circumcision of the Gentiles, having lost their case, they refused to understand the reasons behind the council and were still pressuring for the segregation between the Jews and Gentiles. It seemed that Peter didn’t want to offend them which was why he separated himself.
Peter’s action in this passage (vs. 11–14) seems odd especially after his encounter with Cornelius (Acts 10:19 to 11:18), and after the decision of the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:7, 22, 29). For he was expected to do what he could at Antioch to help the unity in the church. He should have been ready to stand firmly in the position he originally had of fellow-shipping with the Gentile believers.
Peter’s silence after Paul confronted him reflected his admission of having been wrong. He saw his error and made no effort to justify or excuse himself. Such a response is in keeping with what might be expected of him after his great confession (John 21:15–17). And his reaction set him as a person with noble spiritual character.
In His service,
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