The Gospel and Behavior
In Galatians 2 Paul continues his defense of the gospel of Jesus Christ. In a very interesting exchange, he writes about a conflict that developed between himself, Peter and some of the other church leaders. Back in the book of Acts, Peter was the first person to take the gospel of Jesus to the Gentiles (non-Jewish people). There was quite a bit of racial prejudice between the Jews and the Gentiles. Many thought that God wasn’t even interested in providing salvation for the Gentiles. But the gospel was preached to them, they believed, and Paul became the primary missionary to the Gentiles, travelling from Gentile city to city planting churches. From verses 11-16 it appears that Peter, who himself was Jewish was willing to eat and “socialize” with Gentiles. But when certain Jewish people came, Peter changed his practice, separating himself from the Gentiles, and his behavior influenced the other Jewish Christians, even a leader like Barnabas. Paul then confronted Peter about his behavior but it’s interesting to me that Paul doesn’t write about how the situation was resolved. He doesn’t say that Peter apologized or actually changed his behavior, though I would guess that is what happened.
What Paul does is launch into a defense of the gospel which we’ll look at in more detail tomorrow. My emphasis today is that in Paul’s mind our behavior greatly influences the way others perceive the gospel of Jesus Christ. Peter’s actions seriously impacted the Gentiles’ ability and desire to believe the gospel. Peter’s refusal to eat with the Gentiles muddied the waters about the sufficiency of the grace of God to forgive sin and to justify everyone regardless of their works. I think the same thing happens today. Our behavior is incredibly important to the world that watches us. No one is perfect, not even Peter; or Paul for that matter. But until people truly understand the gospel of Jesus Christ, they will be easily turned off by the actions of those who claim to belong to Him. Please seek to live and be guided by the gospel of Jesus Christ.