When Bacon Lost to Bullies

  • By Pastor Boffey
  • on Friday, February 5, 2016
Galatians 2:11-14 (11) But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. (12) 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. (13) And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation. (14) 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 Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews? The churches of Galatia (GAL 1:2) had been zealously affected (GAL 4:18) away from Paul and the true gospel of salvation by grace “...unto another gospel” (GAL 1:6), a perverted gospel (GAL 1:7) of grace plus works, an impossible synthesis (ROM 11:5-6). Those who taught this heresy were Jewish quasi-Christians who especially advanced the idea that circumcision was necessary for the Gentile believers to be saved. As part of his effort to save the Galatians from that heresy, Paul here (our text) related an obvious example of his strong stance for the gospel of grace which demanded that he publicly oppose a notable apostle, Peter. The true gospel puts no difference between saved Jews and saved Gentiles. This fallible Peter is no doubt the apostle whom Catholicism claims as the first pope, and infallible. Some Catholic apologists over the years have tried to evade this issue by claiming that this Peter was a different Peter. That it was indeed the apostle Peter can be determined simply from the context (GAL 2:7-10) which speaks of the time when Paul went to Jerusalem about the issue of Gentile circumcision and the apostle Peter there was a chief speaker (ACT 15:5-11). As there might be those who would preach another Jesus (2CO 11:4) because the true One did not conform to their presuppositions, there have been some who have for the same reason preached another Peter. Peter's “...fearing them which were of the circumcision” (GAL 2:12) was a sad contrast to his boldness for the truth at the home of Cornelius, the first uncircumcised Gentile Christian. There, by the Spirit's direction, he cast aside his life-long avoidance of uncircumcised men (ACT 10:28), preached Jesus to them in their home and baptized them in the presence “...of the circumcision...” (ACT 10:44-48). After that, Peter unashamedly related their conversion to the apostles and brethren in Judea even though “...they that were of the circumcision contended with him...” (ACT 11:1-4). Later, he argued strongly against the need to bind circumcision and Moses' Law upon the Gentile Christians, doing so in the presence of the circumcision, even those “...of the sect of the Pharisees...” (ACT 15:5-11), the Jewish quasi-Christians who were the source of the heresy's spread. Paul called them false brethren (GAL 2:4). Peter's remarkable failure at Antioch should remind us, “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (1CO 10:12) and, “The fear of man bringeth a snare...” (PRO 29:25). Of all the Jewish believers to suddenly refrain from eating with Gentiles, it was especially notable that Peter should do so, the man who first boldly and gladly “...didst eat with them” (ACT 11:3). In a moment of weakness, under pressure from the scrutiny of peers, he folded. These colors he had shown earlier when, knowing that Jesus was the Christ the Son of God (MAT 16:16) and boldly affirming his allegiance to Him even unto death (MAT 26:33-35), he denied Him under pressure (MAT 26:69-75). The snare into which Peter had stepped (per PRO 29:25) was strong enough to snare other Jewish believers at Antioch, including Barnabas (GAL 2:13) who was Paul's fellow apostle (ACT 14:14) and longtime co-evangelist. How quickly does a little leaven spread to corrupt (c/w GAL 5:9), especially when the error begins with esteemed leadership. Solomon spoke of “...an error which proceedeth from the ruler” (ECC 10:5). Aaron's folly at Mt. Sinai in facilitating Israel's lusts and idolatry caused a charge that he “...had made them naked unto their shame...” (EXO 32:25). Pastors should rather be good examples “...of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1TI 4:12). The incident at Antioch (our text) seems to have occurred shortly after that great Jerusalem church council in which Peter had spoken with bold clarity against the doctrine of the quasi-Christian Pharisees. When the false teachers had first come to Antioch, both “...Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them...” (ACT 15:1-2) but it seems that the false teachers came back around after the Jerusalem church council, corrupting Peter and Barnabas. Let not the power of peer pressure escape us here: not even the aroma and taste of bacon which Peter might have been enjoying with the Gentiles in good conscience (for God had showed him that swine's flesh was now acceptable, DEU 14:8 c/w ACT 10:9-16) kept Peter from withdrawing from them. Now, that's power. Paul's reproof was spoken “...unto Peter before them all...” (GAL 2:14), which would have included Barnabas. Barnabas would have felt some of the sting. It is only conjecture but one could justifiably wonder if the relationship between Paul and Barnabas was already a little raw before they split up over the matter of Barnabas' sympathy towards the derelict John Mark (ACT 15:36-41). We read no more of Barnabas' labors after that but to Peter's credit, he did not shy away from praising the man who had publicly reproved him: (2 Peter 3:15) And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; (2 Peter 3:16) As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction. And so: (Proverbs 28:23) He that rebuketh a man afterwards shall find more favour than he that flattereth with the tongue. Maybe sometime later Peter and Paul got together on a Saturday morning, fried up some bacon from Liberty Meat Company and enjoyed it with some lovely smoked oysters (since LEV 11:10-12 no longer applied either), reminiscing about the whole incident at Antioch. Maybe. (Let the reader be advised: Scripture says nothing about apostles eating bacon. The bacon bits were merely added for flavor)

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