By Doug Bell
11 ¶ "But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned.
12 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.
13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy.
14 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?”
Cephas, as you know, is Simon Peter (John 1:42). The person who denied Jesus three times, but after being forgiven, preached a mighty sermon at Pentecost. One of three pillars of the church (Galatians 2:9). And The Apostle to the Jews (vs. 7, 8). This is the Man, the Apostle, that Paul took to task in our verses above. And why would he (Paul) take such a chance? Because it was the right thing to do.
First, notice that God has no preference to the titles of men. Vs. 6 "And from those who seemed to be influential (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)—those, I say, who seemed influential added nothing to me."
Secondly, Church discipline is commanded by Jesus! Matthew 18:15-20 (cp. Matt. 5:23-24). As these verses teach us, there is a prescribed way that discipline is to be done. And if the Church is wise, she will continue to adhear to it (But always remembering that 'reconciliation' is the desired objective. See: 1 Corinthians 5:1-5; and 2 Corinthians 2:5-11).
Thirdly, Peter was acting hypocritically. The word 'hypocrite' means a play-actor, "One who assumes a false appearance; one who feigns to be what he is not, or to feel or believe what he does not actually feel or believe; especially, a false pretender to virtue or piety." 1 (See: vs. 13)
Peter knew what was right (Galatians 3:28). But, when other Jews came, he fell back to his Jewish roots, to 'separate' himself from the Gentile brothers and sisters.
Fourthly, Peter was harming the "weaker" brother cp. 1 Corinthians 8:11 "And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died.12 Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ." (The job of 'stronger' brother is not to lower himself to the weaker level. But, through love, elevate the weaker brother to his!)
We must continually struggle for the 'good fight of faith,' Contending for the "One True Gospel of Jesus Christ!" Sometimes the fight may be outside the Church, but sometimes even in her.