In the span of a few short verses the apostle Paul lays out his complaint against Peter—the man had compromised the gospel by refusing to eat with Gentiles. The gospel was of primary importance to Paul, to the extent that he was willing to risk alienating his friend Peter by bringing public shame to him. I think these few verses have a lot to say to Christians today, particularly as we spar with one another in the digital world.

First, we see that Paul was primarily concerned with the gospel. Peter had acted hypocritically by refusing to eat with Gentiles. That is, he would not share a meal with people who had been made right with God through Christ because eating with those people would make him “unclean” by the Jewish standards of his day. Peter’s actions indicated that these people, for whom Christ had died, remained in their sin. Thus, Peter was denying the power of the gospel to save all sinners, including those who were once outside the covenant community. He behaving as Jonah had behaved so many centuries earlier when he longed to die rather than see God forgive Gentiles. Woe to us today if we follow Peter’s example in choosing to disassociate from people for whom Christ died!

Russ Meek

Associate Professor of Old Testament at William Tennent School of Theology