Summary: Part of a sermon series on Galatians
The story so far:
There has been a big argument brewing in the churches of Galatia about what the content of the Gospel is and whether or not Paul is teaching the right version. Some former Jews who have become Christians are saying he has it wrong and he is not teaching what Peter, James and John are teaching. In response Paul says he got the message from Jesus himself. The evidence for this? The total transformation of Paul’s life from one who killed and arrested Christians to a person who teaches the faith and helps bring thousands to Christ.
Paul’s opponents claim he has watered down the gospel by taking out the need to keep rituals like circumcision. Paul tells them that only faith in Jesus saves, nothing more and he meets with Peter, James and John who confirm his teaching and offer him friendship. This brings unity to the Church, but as we can see, that’s not the end of the argument for some and Paul feels the need to write this letter to the Christians in the churches of Galatia which are being particularly affected by these incorrect teachings. This was a tense time in the history of the church and during tense times it is easy to get things wrong and listen to the wrong people. Even Peter was prone to it and if he can be, so can we. But how do we guard against it?
The Conduct of Peter (V 11-13)
Just as Paul visited the HQ of the Jewish Christian church Peter visits the HQ of the Gentile Christian church in Antioch in Syria. It’s a big city and the place where followers of Jesus were first called Christians (Acts 11:26).
Paul notices that Peter is not mixing and eating with the Gentile Christians as he was before but is actually spending time with those who have tried to belittle Paul because he seems to be worried about what they will think of a Jewish Christian mixing with Gentile Christians. They think this because they still keep to the Law that the two should not mix, whereas Paul has already shown that the gospel is for everyone equally. As a result, other Jewish Christians followed Peter’s example and separated themselves also. We always have to be careful what we say, but even more careful about what we do. The unity Paul and Peter had created in Jerusalem was at risk again.
Why did Peter do this? The passage tells us: Fear! Paul uses the word hypocrisy which means play acting. It wasn’t that Peter didn’t believe that Jews and Gentiles were equal or that Christians could share the same food. After all Peter had been told by God himself that it was permissible to eat any food. So it wasn’t that he didn’t believe it, it was that fear drove him to live out his beliefs in the wrong way.
What are we afraid of which causes us to live out our faith in the wrong way? (Get tables to discuss and get one answer from each. Perhaps open some of these up). In a prison situation it could be:
• Fear of other faiths
• Fear of being seen to be weak
• Fear of losing friends
• Fear that your faith does not make sense