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. 13 And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation. 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.
- This passage demonstrates that no Christian is above rebuke. Peter was a leader among the disciples and was well-respected in the church, but he was not perfect. Paul confronts him for his duplicity.
- Paul demonstrates how we should confront other believers who are in error (vs. 11). We address them personally, to the point, and reveal their error—all the time recognizing that we could be in their shoes.
- Peter’s error was that he ate with the Gentiles while the Jews were not around, but avoided them when in the company of Jewish believers (vs. 12). He did this out of fear.
- Peter’s error influenced others and caused them to err (vs. 13).
- Paul’s problem with this was that it ran contrary to the gospel, which is to all mankind, including both Jews and Gentiles (vs. 14; Romans 1:16).
- “Jews by nature” (vs. 15) refers to Jews who were born Jews (not Gentile proselytes). “not sinners of the Gentiles” (vs. 15) refers to the fact that the Gentiles were without the Law of Moses and thus had little restraint on their sin; not that the Jews were without sin or were not sinners to the same extent.
- Verse 16 is actually the last part of the sentence began in verse 15. Given the context of verse 15, it means that the Jews, of all people, should recognize that the gospel renders all justification by the Law null and void. Faith in Jesus Christ is what justifies individuals.
- “By the faith of Jesus Christ” and “by the faith of Christ” (vs. 16) have a slightly different construction in the original Greek (in addition to the lack of the name “Jesus” in the second instance). The first is literally, “through the faith of Jesus Christ”. The second is literally, “from the faith of Christ” or “out of the faith of Christ”.
Ideas for Teaching/Preaching/Personal Study
- Compare and contrast the respective personalities and ministries of Peter and Paul. Is there something native to Peter that would make him more susceptible to the error he made?
- Read the accompanying passage in Acts 15:5-21 about this event. What additional information is provided? What was the result of Paul’s rebuke to Peter?
- Identify other instances where Christians can be duplicitous out of fear. For example, always praying before a meal at home, but not when eating out.
- How might verse 16 be used to confront someone who believes that they will go to heaven because of their good works?
- What do you think the significance is of the slightly different wording in verse 16 for “by the faith of … Christ” identified in the last dot point of the observations above?