“But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned.” (Gal. 2:11)
When Paul confronted Peter on Peter’s visit to Antioch it was in relation to the topic already under discussion which is probably why Paul included it here. The gospel as it relates to Jews and Gentiles and especially treatment of the Gentiles has been at the heart of Paul’s letter so far. In his mind, he had a clear understanding with the apostles which included Peter. This opposition to Peter came about because Paul observed Peter teaching one gospel and living another. Since there had been an agreement that there was one gospel and one body of believers Paul is astonished to find Peter giving in to Jewish brethren.
Centuries later we find the same sort of segregation among Christian groups of disciples. We currently have churches for different races and cultures. For some time these groups were seldom if ever blended in many areas of our country. I am not speaking of language differences here. Many other factors do separate us just as the Jews wanted separation from the Gentiles.
I grew up in an environment where black and white people could and did not worship in the same buildings. Just as the Jews felt superior to the Gentiles so many whites felt superior to the blacks. Even today we still have separate groups based on color or culture. What was needed in the majority of the last century and to some extent today is a face to face with the apostle Paul. Surely our actions cause us to stand condemned.
Peter quit eating with Gentiles because some of his Jewish brethren showed up. It was not what he taught and not what he believed but what he did. Paul said Peter stood condemned. We can admire Paul because he did not talk behind Peter’s back nor did he write letters and articles condemning Peter without any personal contact. Paul’s opposition to what he saw as wrong was done face to face.
Jesus encouraged face to face confrontations. When we have something against a brother Jesus tells us to go to the brother. No mention of telling friends or neighbors. No suggestion that we put it in church papers or articles for magazines. Check what He said in Matthew 18:15. There is a lot of fault finding and criticism going on in the brotherhood of Christ today but very little face to face. When preachers or elders of a church bring accusations against other preachers, elders or congregation without first going to those they accuse they stand condemned in their own failure to follow the teachings of Jesus.
Talking about others behind their back is a sin. Stirring up strife and discord is a sin as well. Every child of God should remember that love covers sin and hate exposes it. Gossiping, whether done by old ladies or men in the ministry is a sin.
Task for Today: Don’t participate in behind the back conversations. Don’t run others down or speak badly about others for who Christ has died. If you have ought against another, go see them face to face. Build rather than destroy today. Find a means of peace where strife exists today. Later in this book Paul gives good advice to you, “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness…bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Gal. 6:1, 2)