Galatians 2:11-14

Sermon preached on November 21, 2010 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2010. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

Those of you who are Facebook, I hope you have K. as a Friend. I love K.'s posts. She has some of the best statuses. For example, on Thursday she must have had a really bad day on the road, with other drivers. On her Facebook page she wrote,

K.'s Rules of the Road:1. Riding my bumper at 60mph does not, in fact, make me want to drive faster. It does, however, make me want to drive slower on a solid line. 2. The Price Chopper parking lot is not a race track, nor the perfect runway for a rousing game of chicken.3. Green means GO! If you are colorblind, it's the one at the top!

A few minutes later there was a correction on her page. It said,

"lol I was just informed the green light is on the oops."

Did you ever think that you were right about something and later found out that you were wrong? I hate it when that happens to me. I remember I was a late teen before I learned that I was wrong about the name of my home church. I thought we went to "Westminister Church". The word 'minister' is related to a church and I thought that it was combined with "West" to create "Westminister". I don't know how it happened, whether I was writing it one day or whatever, and Marg corrected me and told me that it didn't have two 'i's in it, that it was Westminster. I told her that she was wrong. But sure enough, she showed me something that proved that she was right. I could hardly believe it. All those years I had been totally wrong.

Other times, you know what's right, but you don't act on it. I remember when I was in seventh or eighth grade we had a test one day. I finished the test and when I did I just sat back with my exam on my desk because we weren't allowed to leave or hand it in until the time was up. Very soon after I finished I noticed that my friend Roy, who was sitting in the next aisle, was leaning over looking at my exam paper. Roy was a really nice guy. He was three or four years older than me because he had failed some grades. Back then they actually kept you back if you didn't know the work. So Roy was this big guy in our class. What was really exciting about Roy was that he had his driver's license. He was sixteen and had an truck that he drove around and would give us rides in. When I saw Roy looking at my paper I knew that I should move it over so he couldn't see it. But I didn't. A minute or so later, after he had copied my answer on the first page, he motioned for me to open it up so that he could see more answers. Again, I knew that I shouldn't, but I didn't want to displease Roy, so I opened it up so he could see the next page.

(Oh, yeah. We got caught. I still remember the verbal tongue lashing I got from my teacher. She thought I was one of her 'good students' and was angry with me for letting Roy drag me down. Did she ever give me a piece of her mind.)

We have the exact some thing in our text. Peter knew better than to separate himself from the Gentiles when they were eating, but he did it anyway. He didn't act according to what he knew was true. This text has great lessons for us.

The main lesson here is that

you need to be constantly evaluating your beliefs and your behavior to see if it is in conformity with the gospel.

You could be wrong about a certain belief that you have. You could be wrong about certain of your behaviors. Peter was wrong about one of his practices.

One of the key phrases in our text is verse 14. Paul wrote,

"When I saw that they were
not acting in line
with the truth of the gospel…"

The truth of the gospel is the measure by which we are to judge everything–both our beliefs, our practices, as well as the beliefs and practices of others. That's how Paul knew that Peter was wrong in what he was doing. Peter was not acting in accordance with the truth of the gospel. Before certain men from James came he used to eat with the Gentiles, but when they came he withdrew and stopped eating with the Gentiles.

There are several things in our text that show us that we need to be constantly evaluating our lives with the truth of the gospel.

The first is the fact that

so many illustrious Christians were infected by this error.

We sometimes think that there's safety in numbers. If a lot of people believe or do something, we accept it without evaluating it critically. We might do the same thing when someone great adopts a certain position.

I remember when I was a kid curved hockey sticks became all the rage. Some of our favorite players in the National Hockey League started using them. I think Stan Mikita of the Chicago Black Hawks was the first. Because our role models in the big leagues were using curved sticks, we all started using them. No one wanted a straight stick anymore. We had to have curved ones because our heroes were using them. It didn't matter that we were young and inexperienced and couldn't handle the puck nearly as well with a curved stick. We had the attitude, if it's good enough for Stan Mikita and Bobby Hull, it's good enough for me.

I'm sure that many of the Jewish Christians at Antioch took their cue from Peter. If Peter, an apostle, stopped eating with the Gentiles, then it must be the right thing to do. End of discussion.

Make sure that you don't make that mistake. You are not to base your practice on what some illustrious Christian does, but on what the truth of the gospel says.

It's amazing that Peter fell in this way. How could he do this? After all, he was the one that had the vision from God in Acts 10 and was sent by God to Cornelius. In his vision, Peter was the heavens opened and something like a great sheet descending, being let down by its four corners. In it were all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles of the earth and birds of the air. These were animals which the Jews were not allowed to eat. But then Peter heard a voice from heaven saying, (Acts 10:13)

"Get up, Peter. Kill and eat."

But Peter said,

"Surely not, Lord!
I have never eaten
anything impure or unclean."

But the voice from heaven said,

"Do not call anything impure
that God has made clean."

Through that vision God was preparing Peter to take the gospel to the Gentiles. While he was thinking about the vision the Holy Spirit told him that three men were downstairs looking for him and that he was to go with them, because He has sent them. They were from Cornelius. The next day Peter went to Cornelius. When he arrived he told Cornelius that it was against the Jewish law for him to associate with a Gentile or visit with him, but God had showed him that he should not call any man impure or unclean. After Cornelius told him how an angel from God appeared to him and told him to send for Peter. When Peter heard that he delivered a great message about how God has brought in the Gentiles. He said, (Acts 10:34–35)

"I now realize how true it is
that God does not show favoritism
but accepts men from every nation
who fear him and do what is right."

He then told them about Jesus and while he was speaking, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The Jews were astonished but Peter ordered them to be baptized. He then stayed with them several days. When news of it spread, Peter went up to Jerusalem to defend his actions. He told them everything that had happened and said, (Acts 11:17)

"So if God gave them the same gift
as he gave us,
who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ,
who was I to think
that I could oppose God?"

In light of that, who would have thought that Peter would fall into the error of separating himself from the Gentile Christians? I could see anyone else falling into that error—but not Peter. He was the one who God used to bring the great truth to the church—that the Gentiles were to be brought into the church as fellow believers. How could he do such a 180 degree turn? How could he go back on the doctrine that the Holy Spirit had so clearly showed to him? I'm at a loss to explain it.

This shows us an important lesson. It shows how

there can be a great difference between what you believe and what you practice.

Peter knew that Gentile Christians were one with Jewish Christians. He knew that the middle wall of partition had been broken down. He knew that he should be eating with the Gentiles. Philip Ryken writes, (Galatians, p. 54)

"In Judaism table-fellowship means fellowship before God, for the eating of a piece of broken bread by everyone who shares in the meal brings out the fact that they have a share in the blessing which the master of the house has spoken over the unbroken bread."

So by refusing to eat with the Gentiles, Peter was, in effect, saying that they did not share in the blessings of salvation. Peter's head said one thing, his doctrine said one thing—but his practice was totally inconsistent with it.

This is something that we Christians need to guard against because it's a very great danger.

We need to live our theology.

Yet it's amazing that sometimes our lives, how we live—does not reflect what we know.

Correct theology, correct knowledge of God is to make you a better person. Donald Macleod writes, (Shared Life, p. 50)

"God has not given us the great doctrines merely for our intellectual amusement. He has given them so that they will make a difference to the way we live. Biblical belief should lead to biblical practice."

It has always amazed me how Reformed Christians, who know the most about biblical theology, who get so many doctrines right—have a reputation for being cold, uncaring and inhospitable. We have a reputation for not being enthusiastic about evangelism and church growth. Other denominations, who have much of their theology wrong—they far exceed us in good works and missionary zeal How can that be?

Christians, live your theology. If you know that you're supposed to love each other as Jesus loved you—do it. If you know you're supposed to be hospitable—be hospitable. If you know that you're supposed to keep a guard on your tongue and only say what is helpful for others, to build them up according to their needs—then do it. If you know that you're supposed to pray without ceasing, then do it. Live your theology. Put it into practice. Head knowledge, if not applied to your life—is, as it is described here, hypocrisy.

But getting back to our main point. It wasn't just Peter who was led astray. We read that
Barnabas was led astray by the hypocrisy of the Jews and Peter. Barnabas. His real name was Joseph (Acts 4:36) but the disciples gave him the nickname Barnabas, which means, 'Son of Encouragement' or 'Son of Exhortation'. He as an encourager. He was drawn to people who needed encouragement. When Paul arrived in Jerusalem for the first time following his conversion, the Christians there were reluctant to welcome him. They thought it was a trap. It was Barnabas who risked his life, went to Paul and helped him. Barnabas convinced the others that Paul was a true disciple.

Later Barnabas was a great help to John Mark in helping him be a great Christian evangelist. It was Barnabas who encouraged Mark to go with him and Paul to Antioch. John Mark later joined them on their first missionary journey. But he decided to return home before it was over. Later, Barnabas wanted John Mark to join them for another missionary journey. Paul would have none of it and Paul and Barnabas parted ways because of it. But later they were reconciled and I somehow suspect that Barnabas had a hand in bringing them back together.

But what's interesting in this instance is that Barnabas didn't help heal the breach between the Jewish and Gentile Christians. He should have exhorted the Jewish and Gentile Christians to remain one and to exhibit their unity. But Barnabas, the Son of Exhortation didn't do that. He didn't use the great spiritual gift he had. In this instance he let it lie dormant. He was carried away by the hypocrisy of Peter and the other Jews.

The lesson for us here is that

you need to make sure that you use your spiritual gift.

The church is the place where people are to use their spiritual gifts. Christians, don't let anyone or any situation stop you from using your spiritual gift. The reason God has given you your gift is that you can serve the church.

When you see a need in the church that you can meet, recognize that God has put you in that place to meet that need. Of course, things need to be done in the right way. Of course we need to respect the leadership that God has placed in the church. But the basic truth is that Christians are to use their spiritual gifts in the church. They are to be encouraged to and they are to do so.

Let's apply this to church growth. I'm sure we can do a much better job in fostering an environment where each and every Christian can use his spiritual gift. We want things to be done and done well. But does that mean that we don't recognize that every Christian has been gifted by Christ and has a valuable contribution to make to the church? According to Ephesians 4:15–16, the church, the body of Christ, is to grow up into Him who is the Head, that is Christ.

"From him the whole body,
joined and held together
by every supporting ligament,
grows and builds itself up in love,
as each part does its work."

Each Christian has a part in this great task. We need to foster and excellent environment for Christians to use their spiritual gifts.

And for you, if you see a need you can meet, meet it. Use your gift to build up the church. Don't let anything stop you. Jesus gave you a gift for you to use.

Another thing in our text that shows us that we are to be constantly evaluating our beliefs and our behavior to see if it is in conformity with the gospel is the fact that

the error these Christians fell into was one of the most fundamental of the faith—that of Christian unity.

Peter, Barnabas and the other Jewish Christians sinned against Christian unity. We wonder how they could get something so fundamental so wrong. They were not wrong on some peripheral item, some small doctrine—they were wrong on one of the most basic Christian doctrines—Christian unity.

As Paul would write in Galatians 3:26–29

"You are all sons of God
through faith in Christ Jesus,
for all of you who were baptized
into Christ have clothed
yourselves with Christ.
There is neither Jew nor Greek,
slave nor free,
male nor female,
for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
If you belong to Christ,
then you are Abraham's seed,
and heirs according to the promise."

Or as Paul wrote in Ephesians 2 how the Gentiles have been brought into God's family. Paul wrote, (Ephesians 2:14–19)

"For he himself is our peace,
who has made the two one
and has destroyed the barrier,
the dividing wall of hostility,
by abolishing in his flesh the law
with its commandments and regulations.
His purpose was to create in himself
one new man out of the two,
thus making peace,
and in this one body to reconcile
both of them to God through the cross,
by which he put to death their hostility.
He came and preached peace to you
who were far away and peace
to those who were near.
For through him we both have access
to the Father by one Spirit.
Consequently, you are no longer
foreigners and aliens,
but fellow citizens with God's people
and members of God's household,"

The point here is that we can be wrong on the most important of issues. This shows us

how much each of us needs God's grace.

If Peter, Barnabas and all the Jewish Christians at Antioch fell into this great sin—this shows us that we need to be praying that God would keep us from such error, we need to be praying that God would help us to live according to the truth of His Word.

Lastly, for those of you who are not Christians, what you should understand from this is that

you're wrong about a lot of things.

You're wrong in not going to Jesus for salvation. You're wrong in not seeing His glory.

Such errors put your soul in deadly peril. Go to Jesus now. Find life in Him.