"But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. 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. And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation. 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 the Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews? We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, 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," Galatians 2:11-16.
There are a multitude of false teachers in this world today. They are stuck on themselves, and they think they are above all of us little people. They say things like, "Thou shalt not touch the Lord's anointed." If you question them, or call them out for what they really are, that is the same as touching them in the sense of harming them, and the result is that you will suffer God's wrath. When they think this way, they view themselves as being untouchable. They think they are the exception to the rule, and that the rules that apply to everyone else do not apply to them. As with the rest of the Scriptures, they exceedingly err. Lord willing, we will see through these verses that no one is above rebuke.
According to verses 11 and 12, Peter came to the church at Antioch. This is the church that Paul and Barnabas co-pastored. When Paul and company left the church counsel in Acts 15 they came back to Antioch. The church in Antioch was made up of Jews and Gentiles. At some point Peter visited Antioch. The believers in Antioch would have been excited upon the return of Paul and company, especially with the news that they did not have to abide by the law to be saved, or to stay saved. Truth always sets us free. The believers in Antioch were set free to worship our Lord and Saviour without trying to keep the heavy yoke of the law. Then Peter shows up. Can you imagine the excitement of the church at Antioch? This is Peter. He walked with Jesus during Christ's earthly ministry. He briefly walked on water. This would have been a special treat for the church. According to verse 12, Peter fellowshipped with all the believers while he was there. He ate with them. By doing this his actions were confirming the response Paul and company brought with them from Jerusalem. The middle wall of partition had been brought down, we are all one in Christ. The church was encouraged, and strengthened.
Our actions have an affect on the church, especially those who are in leadership roles. These actions are not just confined to the church house, but in everyday life. Our obedience to the Scriptures, and our faithfulness to our church, has an affect on our church family. According to verses 11-12, picture the church in sweet fellowship. There is great unity because of the right understanding of the Scriptures. It seems like everything is going great, and then certain people show up. These people that show up have an agenda, and it is not to glorify the Lord, or to edify the Lord's church. There desire is to bring people into bondage. Paul has already told us in verse 4-5 that they would not let these heretics teach or preach. So the congregation has an understanding to stay away from these heretics, and do not listen to their teachings. When these false teachers show up, they are expecting Peter to rebuke these heretics just like Paul did. But he didn't.
Peter withdrew and separated himself from the Gentiles. "Separated" in this verse means to set off by bounds; to set off apart, to separate. Peter separated himself from a certain type of people in the church. The crime of these people was that they were Gentiles. This did not bother Peter until the false teachers showed up. These same people that Peter had been fellowshipping with, he now shuns them. Can you imagine the heart break and confusion that came as a result of Peter's actions? There is now division in the church because of one person's actions. This division was so bad that even Barnabas was carried away with it. "Dissimulation" in verse 13 means hypocrisy. Peter, and those with him, were hypocrites. They were out of character. They were not being Christ-like.
When something like this happens, what is the correct response? The correct response is an open rebuke. I know we live in an age where people cannot handle being rebuked, especially in public. We are surrounded by mental wimps. But in order to be biblical, Paul had to openly rebuke Peter, and all those who joined Peter in this hypocrisy. "Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses. Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear," I Timothy 5:19-20. Peter was not above a rebuke. He embraced and yoked up with those who were against the true gospel. By doing this he smeared the gospel message, and caused division in the church. Peter earned this open rebuke.
One way or another all of us will earn a rebuke. How will we respond when that time comes? "It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise, than for a man to hear the song of fools," Ecclesiastes 7:5. "Open rebuke is better than secret love," Proverbs 27:5. "A wise son heareth his father's instruction: but a scorner heareth not rebuke," Proverbs 13:1. "Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him," Luke 17:3.
We can all line up with the Scriptures and say that Peter earned this rebuke. We can even say that we need to be bold like Paul and rebuke others when they mess up like Peter did. We want to be like Paul, but we are usually like Peter. We may not be embracing false teachers, but how often do we smear the gospel by our actions? This is a good reminder to be careful who we read behind, and if you are on social media, please be very careful of what you share. You may unknowingly be promoting a false teacher.
May the Lord help us to remain grounded in the Scriptures, lovingly rebuke one another, and receive a rebuke with a contrite heart. All for the glory of God.
Please send questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Soli Deo Gloria.