Even after Peter’s life-changing restoration by Christ, he remained human. That means he was also not exempt from additional failures. One day, while Peter was praying on a roof in Joppa, God gave him a vision. Peter saw a sheet full of unclean animals being lowered from heaven and was told to eat them (see Acts 10). Horrified, he refused, and was rebuked, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” The vision repeated three times. God was communicating to him that the gospel was not only for the Jews but also for the Gentiles.
In today’s reading, Paul confronts Peter (here called Cephas) for failing to live out the gospel. What was Peter’s sin (vv. 11–13)? He’d gone to minister to the church in Antioch, which included Gentile believers. He shared a meal with them, which was against Jewish regulations about ceremonial purity but which showed obedience to his “sheet” vision from God. As Paul summed it up: “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28). When some envoys from the Jerusalem church arrived, Peter stopped having meal fellowship with Gentiles. They were legalists or at least unenlightened about God’s inclusion of the Gentiles in His plan. His fear of what these men might think was sadly influential and led others astray. In short, he failed the gospel.
Paul was compelled to confront him (vv. 14–15). Since the gospel is about justification by faith, not by law or works, Peter had made a sinful choice. We’re not told the rest of the story, but it seems safe to assume that Peter responded humbly and correctly, since their relationship remained healthy.
>> Aren’t you thankful that our God is a God of second chances? And of third, fourth, fifth . . . ! His grace never runs out. We should never take it for granted. That doesn’t mean we should keep sinning, but we can rejoice that our failures cannot stop His love!