But when Cephas [Peter] came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?” (Galatians 2:11-14 ESV)
What’s it all about?
Peter had succumbed to the pressure of those who were adding religious rituals to the grace of God. His behavior was in direct conflict with the gospel that he had both preached and affirmed in Paul’s ministry. By confronting Peter’s hypocrisy, Paul demonstrated that the gospel is not merely one man’s opinion but has universal authority. There is only ONE gospel for all people at all times in all places!
First, we must not allow peer pressure or social norms to cause us to compromise our beliefs. Second, we must strive to orient our lives according to the gospel. Third, we must remove from our lives attitudes and activities that contradict the gospel. Finally, we must be willing to confront (with patience and love) fellow Christians who are compromising the gospel.
Questions from the Text:
1. How was Peter’s conduct hypocritical and counterproductive (2:11-13)?
2. What were the consequences of Peter’s actions (2:13)?
3. On what basis did Paul confront Peter (2:14)?
Now what? First, we need to identify the areas of our lives (i.e., conduct or speech) that in conflict with the gospel. Second, we must repent of any way in which we have compromised the gospel. Finally, we must submit ourselves to the authority of God’s Word and humbly receive correction from other believers.
Small Group Questions
Scripture: Matthew 18:15-17; 1 Timothy 5:17-21; Proverbs 9:8-9; Galatians 6:1-2
1. What are the steps prescribed by Jesus for handling sin in the church?
2. Is Christian discipleship that includes confronting and correcting error an important element of a healthy church? Why or why not?
3. Why is it important to confront hypocrisy?
4. What are some the effects of sinful attitudes and behaviors that are not confronted in the church?
5. Why is it important to submit ourselves to the correction of other believers?