When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.
When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, "You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jews. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?
"We who are Jews by birth and not 'Gentile sinners' know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified." (NIV)
1. When Peter came to Antioch, why did he begin to withdraw from eating and otherwise fellowshipping with the Gentiles? Paul states that Peter "was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group." What was the circumcision group, and what do you think Peter feared?
2. Paul says "The other Jews joined him [Peter] in his hypocrisy, so that even Barnabas was led astray." Apparently the "other Jews" had previously withstood the pressure of the Judaizers. Why do you think Peter's influence was powerful enough to sway them, even Barnabas who was working and traveling with Paul, to begin to withdraw from the Gentile Christians and to promote the old Jewish customs?
3. When Paul saw that Peter and the others "were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel," he publicly confronted Peter with his hypocrisy. What was the "truth of the gospel" which Peter was ignoring?
4. Paul contrasts the lawless, sinful condition of the Gentiles with the Jews' birthright of the law. He goes on to point out, however, that even though they were born into the privileged condition of having the law, the Jews like the Gentiles had to be justified by faith in Christ. Why do you think the law became a point of confusion for both the Jews, who inherited the law, and the Gentiles, who had no history with it?
5. Why do you think the "circumcision group" was pressing Jewish customs onto the new Jewish and Gentile Christ followers?
6. In your new freedom and rest in Christ, are there any behaviors or traditions which you feel pressured to perform? What are they? Where does the pressure come from? Are there certain expectations you have for the other believers in your life? What do you expect, and from whom do you expect those things? Do you exert pressure on any of these people?
7. What person(s) or expectation(s) do you need to stop fighting or resisting and instead submit to the Lord? Is there anyone in your life with whom you need to take a firm stand for your freedom in Christ, trusting Jesus to free you from fear?
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