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Paul Rebukes Peter in Antioch
Bible Passage Galatians 2:11-21
This content is part of a series Bright Morning Reflections, in topic 2023 & books Acts, Galatians.

Paul Rebukes Peter in Antioch

  • Rev. Bright Mawuena Nfodzo
Date preached February 10, 2023

11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly wrong.

12 Until some men arrived from James, he was in the habit of eating with the gentiles, but after those men came, he withdrew from the gentiles and would not associate with them any longer, because he was afraid of the circumcision party.

13 The other Jews also joined him in this hypocritical behavior, to the extent that even Barnabas was caught up in their hypocrisy.

14 But when I saw that they were not acting consistently with the truth of the gospel, I told Cephas in front of everyone, “Though you are a Jew, you have been living like a gentile and not like a Jew. So how can you insist that the gentiles must 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 doing what the Law requires, but rather by the faithfulness of Jesus the Messiah. We, too, have believed in the Messiah Jesus so that we might be justified by the faithfulness of the Messiah and not by doing what the Law requires, for no human being will be justified by doing what the Law requires.

17 Now if we, while trying to be justified by the Messiah, have been found to be sinners, does that mean that the Messiah is serving the interests of sin? Of course not!

18 For if I rebuild something that I tore down, I demonstrate that I am a wrongdoer.

19 For through the Law I died to the Law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with the Messiah.

20 I no longer live, but the Messiah lives in me, and the life that I am now living in this body I live by the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

21 I do not misapply God’s grace, for if righteousness comes about by doing what the Law requires, then the Messiah died for nothing.


Paul first visited Jerusalem about three years after he became a Christian (Gal. 1:18). He again returned to Jerusalem 14 years later. Though the Bible does not tell us everything that Paul did during those 14 years, Acts 13:1-3 describes how God sent Paul out from the city called Antioch; so from Antioch to Jerusalem.

This was when Paul was fully accepted as a messenger or Jesus Christ by the other Christian leaders. They originally doubted his call because he was not with the Christ, and worst of all, he persecuted the people of the Way.

Here in Jerusalem, they gave Paul a right hand of fellowship, which means that they promised to be official partners. This was a serious agreement. Now, being assured of the fellowship of the Jerusalem leaders, Paul and Barnabas returned back to Antioch (see Acts 12:25), from where they set out on their first missionary journey (see Acts 13:1-3). On returning to Antioch at the end of the journey, they came into conflict with a group of Judaisers who had come from Jerusalem. These men claimed to have the authority of James, and taught that Christians should keep the Jewish laws concerning food, circumcision and other matters. Their teaching was so persuasive that Peter, Barnabas and most of the Jews stopped eating with the Gentiles (Gal. 2: 11-13).

Peter was an important leader, so the Jewish Christians at Antioch copied his behaviour. Even Barnabas, who knew Paul well, did not oppose Peter. Paul described them all as cowards. They knew the truth that Jewish and Gentile Christians are equal. But Peter and the other Jewish Christians were not behaving in the right way. They were dividing the Jewish and Gentile Christians instead of uniting them.

Paul rebuked Peter publicly for his inconsistency (verse 14). This was because, at Antioch, Paul and other Jews ate with the Gentiles and never asked them to practice any Jewish laws to become Christians. So why should Peter change all of a sudden? I would have rebuked such hypocrisy too, but may be not publicly as Paul did. But on the other hand, the persuasive nature of the teaching of the people who arrived from James and the prevalence of their teaching made Paul to attack the hypocrisy publicly, once and for all.

Jews such as Paul and Peter were saved by faith in Christ, not by obedience to the law. The Jewish laws said that a Jew must not eat with Gentiles. But Jewish Christians are free from these Jewish laws. How useless, then, to go back to something that could not save them in the first place (verse 15-16). To put the argument another way: if Gentile Christians are wrong for not keeping the law, Jewish Christians must also be wrong for being justified apart from the law. And since Christ is the one who justifies them, He too must be wrong. Clearly, such a possibility is absurd (verse 17).

Rather, the real sin is to go back to keeping the law after being justified apart from the law (verse 18).
The law cannot bring life; it can only condemn to death all who have broken it. Christ took this punishment for sinners by His death on the cross. When sinners turn to Jesus Christ in faith they are removed from the law’s power (for the law can have no power over those who are now ‘dead’), and given new life, the life of Christ. Having been saved by faith without the law, they now live by faith without the law (verse 19-20).

The conclusion is that if sinners can be justified by law, Christ need not have died (verse 21).


🔷 Even staunch believers and Christian leaders can act wrongly just to impress the people they meet

🔷 We must never be cowards about the Word of God. We must tell people (even leaders) the truth and rebuke where necessary

🔷 Our salvation is not as a result of keeping laws and traditions but God’s grace as He declares as righteous

💥 Pray that you shall be able to preach only the truth
💥 Intercede for the people of Turkey and Syria, especially those still under the rubble

Christianity is not about keeping legal laws and traditions. It’s about having a faithful heart towards the Christ who accepts both Jews and Gentiles. It is about speaking the truth, acting the truth and living the truth about the Christ.

In series Bright Morning Reflections