The CLASH—Paul vs. Peter!

SERMON: The CLASH—Paul vs. Peter!

TEXT: Galatians 2:11-21 - 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?"

15 We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners;

16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.

17 But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not!

18 For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor.

19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God.

20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.

Introduction: The clash between Paul and Peter, the two most influential leaders in the early Church, is one of the most dramatic confrontations in the Bible. It took place at the church in Antioch, which was the first predominately Gentile congregation. Peter decided to visit the brethren in Antioch despite the prejudice many Jews felt toward Gentiles Christians. Thus, Peter was in Antioch eating and having fellowship with the Gentiles until something took place that resulted in an intense confrontation (vs.11 & 14). Paul described why he rebuked Peter in front of the entire Church. Why did this happen?

The CAUSE of the Clash (v.12). Peter fellowshipped the Gentiles until some brethren from Jerusalem came to visit. These men were Christians, but prejudiced against Gentiles—even Gentiles who had become Christians. When these men arrived, Peter quit eating and fellowshipping the Gentiles. NOTE: The word translated "withdrew" means, "a strategic military move." Peter was more concerned with pleasing the men from Jerusalem, even though he knew how Gentile Christians should be treated. This issue had been settled years earlier, with Peter's help, at the Jerusalem Council, as recorded in Acts 15:5-9 (5 But some believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees rose up and said, "It is necessary to circumcise them and to order them to keep the law of Moses."

6 The apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider this matter.

7 And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, "Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe.

8 And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us,

9 and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith.)

Peter gave in to the pressure of a few narrow-minded Jewish Christians and returned to his old ways. Paul confronted him about it, because he saw a Biblical principle at stake. Paul wasn't trying to attach or hurt Peter, he was trying to help his brother.

The CONSEQUENCES of the Clash (v.13). Peter's actions resulted in two negative things happening in the Church at Antioch:

The Unity of the Church was threatened. Peter knew and believed the principle taught in Galatians 3:28 (There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus), even though his actions were dividing the church: Jews on one side and Gentiles on the other.

Other people being led astray. Barnabas was intimidated into treating the Gentile brethren with a disrespect they did not deserve. Peter was one of the most respected leaders in the early church, but when he got off track others followed his bad example.

3. The CONCLUSION of the Clash (vs.14 & 20). Paul told Peter—You don't find salvation by following Jewish traditions; why are you saying Gentiles should have to? In vs.15-19, Paul repeats and restates this idea several times. In vs.20, Paul summarizes it all into one classic verse. I.e., Salvation doesn't come as a result of following traditions. Salvation comes through faith, trust and obedience to Jesus Christ. Thus, Christian living is living-like-Christ. Peter had turned away from this and even led others to do the same. Peter's influence was negative, while Paul's was positive and helped resolve a conflict that could have deteriorated into a church split.

Conclusion: It's easy to criticize Peter for what he did, but we need to examine our own lives. We must live so God can use us as a positive influence.