Pastor David B. Curtis


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Introduction to 1 Peter

1 Peter 1:1

Delivered 02/25/24

Good morning, Bereans. Today we begin a new study of the epistles of Peter. This morning we’re going to just cover the first word, Peter. Peter was a very important and influential man in the early church.

Peter, an apostle of Yeshua the Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 1 Peter 1:1 ESV

The opening line of 1 Peter identifies it as a letter from "Peter, an apostle of Yeshua the Christ."  Peter is generally known in the Bible as Simon Peter, Simon being his birth name and Peter (or Cephas) the name Yeshua gave to him. Simon means "hearer," and Peter "rock." Andrew, Peter’s brother, introduced him to Yeshua. Because there is only one Peter who was an apostle and because there was only one Peter mentioned in the entire NT, we can be confident of the identity of the writer.

First Peter was largely undisputed in authorship or canonicity. Horne states: "The genuineness and canonical authority of the first Epistle of Peter have never been disputed." It appears to be twice referred to by Clement of Rome; it is twelve times distinctly quoted by Polycarp and is once cited in the Epistle of the churches of Vienne and Lyons. It was received by Theophilus, bishop of Antioch, and quoted by Papias, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, and Tertullian; and Eusebius informs us that it was universally acknowledged to be the production of Saint Peter in the fourth century, since which time its authenticity has never been questioned. MacKnight confirms: "…the authenticity of the first [letter of Peter] was never called in question; being universally acknowledged as Peter’s from the very beginning … Wherefore there can be no doubt that the first epistle of Peter was all along received as an inspired writing, by the whole Christian church."

Scholars did not question Peter's authorship until the nineteenth century, when destructive biblical criticism became popular. Here are some of the reasons given for questioning the Apostle Peter's authorship.

1. It is not listed in the Muratorian Fragment, which is a list of canonical books compiled in Rome between AD 180 and 200. In response to that the Muratorian Fragment is damaged and missing at least one line of text (cf. B. F. Westcott's A General Survey of the History of the Canon of the New Testament, 6th ed. p. 289).

2. The Greek is good, polished Koine Greek, which is surprising from an "uneducated" Galilean fisherman. But Peter was not uneducated.

Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Yeshua.  Acts 4:13 ESV

The Greek word which is here translated "uneducated" is agrammatos, which literally means "unlettered." It meant they were without technical training in the professional rabbinical schools of Hillel or Shammai. So, Peter was not uneducated but merely untrained in a recognized rabbinical school. Apparently, most Jews in Galilee were bilingual from birth. The other major issue in this discussion is Peter's use of a scribe. The wording of 1 Peter 5:12 suggests he may have used Silas.

By Silvanus, a faithful brother as I regard him, I have written briefly to you, exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it.  1 Peter 5:12 ESV

Aside from the four Gospels and the letters of Paul, the external evidence for 1 Peter is as strong, or stronger, than that for any New Testament book.

Peter the man.

Peter was a fisherman who was originally introduced to Yeshua by his brother Andrew, who had been a follower of John the Baptist. Yeshua then gave Peter the name of Cephas.

He brought him to Yeshua. Yeshua looked at him and said, "You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas" (which means Peter).  John 1:42 ESV

"Simon"—was a common Jewish name, probably derived from "Simeon." Yeshua said, "You shall be called Cephas"—"Cephas" is Aramaic, and means "Rock." "Peter" is the Greek translation of Cephas. As the record of Peter unfolds in the Gospels, he appears as anything but a rock; he was impulsive, volatile, and unreliable. Yet Yeshua named Peter in view of what he would become by the power of God, not what he then was. This is the only text in the Gospels that tells us how Peter got his name.

We have very little information in Scripture about Peter’s brother Andrew. One thing we do know is that he brought Peter to Christ. Andrew would never display the same leadership as Peter did nor would he do any remarkable deeds like him (e.g., walking on water). But he brought Peter to Yeshua, and Peter brought thousands of people to faith in Christ—3,000 on the Day of Pentecost alone. So, in that sense, Andrew was very influential in the cause of Christ.

Peter was not merely an apostle. There is a sense in which he was the leader of the apostolic group. There are four lists of the twelve disciples in Scripture: Matthew 10, Mark 3, Luke 6 and Acts 1. At the head of every list is always the name Peter because he was the leader of the twelve. There is no other consistent order beyond Peter.

In the gospel record, Peter stands out as the spokesman of the twelve. Why does Simon Peter always seem to speak for the twelve? Also, Peter was married.

Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas?  1 Corinthians 9:5 ESV
And when Yeshua entered Peter's house, he saw his mother-in-law lying sick with a fever. He touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she rose and began to serve him. Matthew 8:14-15 ESV

And being married, he was probably the oldest of the group, being around 20-25. John was the youngest of the twelve disciples (tradition says he was 8 to 10 years old). These disciples on average were probably about 15 years old. Now I don't know that I can definitively prove this, but let me show you a text that makes me lean this way.

When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax went up to Peter and said, "Does your teacher not pay the tax?" He said, "Yes." And when he came into the house, Yeshua spoke to him first, saying, "What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tax? From their sons or from others?" And when he said, "From others," Yeshua said to him, "Then the sons are free. However, not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth, you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for me and for yourself." Matthew 17:24-27 ESV

Why was this tax only paid for Yeshua and Peter? To answer this, we need to know who had to pay the tax. We find the answer in Exodus 30.

Each one who is numbered in the census shall give this: half a shekel according to the shekel of the sanctuary (the shekel is twenty gerahs), half a shekel as an offering to the LORD. Everyone who is numbered in the census, from twenty years old and upward, shall give the LORD's offering. Exodus 30:13-14 ESV

The rest of the disciples didn't need to pay this temple tax because they were under 20 years old. Make sense?

Peter’s name is mentioned in the gospels more than any other, except for the name of Yeshua. No one speaks in the gospels as often as Peter did, and Yeshua spoke more to Peter than to any other individual. The personality of Peter dominates the four gospels.

Peter was part of Yeshua’s inner circle and accompanied Him through much of His earthly ministry and, along with James and John, was present for many special events which the other apostles did not attend. These included the resurrection of the daughter of Jairus (Mark 5:37; Luke 8:51), the Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1ff; Mark 9:22ff; Luke 9:28ff), and Yeshua’s agony in the garden (Matthew 26:36-46; Mark 14:32-42.). 

What event in the life of Peter stands out to you? I think that one of them would have to be Peter’s great confession of Christ.

And Yeshua went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. And on the way he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that I am?"  Mark 8:27 ESV

Let me give you a little background here. Yeshua and the disciples leave Bethsaida and head toward Caesarea Philippi. Caesarea Philippi is about 25 miles due north from Bethsaida (and seventeen hundred feet uphill), and they probably followed closely the course of the Jordan river because one of whose origins began at a cave here. The town stood 1150 feet above sea level near the foot of the towering, snow-capped Mount Hermon.

What happened on Mt. Hermon? In the Book of Enoch, Mount Hermon is the place where the Watchers descended to Earth. They swear upon the mountain that they would take wives among the daughters of men and take mutual imprecation for their sin (Enoch 6).

Caesarea Philippi was a town of about 20,000. Nearby was a Temple of Augustus, built by Herod the Great, and an ancient shrine dedicated earlier to Baal and then to Pan. Next to the Temple of Augustus was the open-air shrine to Pan. Pan is the shepherds’ fertility god so they worshiped him outdoors. Augustus' temple was right in front of the cave and next to the cave was the shrine of Pan cut into the rock. In front of it was the open-air platform where Pan was worshiped. This was the world center of Pan worship. In a cleft cut out of the rock was the statue of Pan. Pan was depicted as a man with the horns, ears, and legs of a goat. During the religious ceremony, the priest and priestess of the Pan cult would copulate in front of the crowd of worshipers. Then came pandemonium where all the worshipers would have sex. So, there would be thousands of people having sex; male to female, male to male, female to female, and with goats. This was an evil area, and the Jews who loved God wouldn't go anywhere near this place. They called this place the "gates of hades" and the "rock of the gods," because all these pagan gods were on the face of the cliff.

I certainly can't prove it, but I think that Yeshua and the disciples were at the shrine of Pan when He asked them this question.  

And they told him, "John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets." And he asked them, "But who do you say that I am?" Peter answered him, "You are the Christ." Mark 8:28-29 ESV

The question has enormous stress placed on the word "you," which is difficult to bring out in English. Something like "What about you, who do you say I am?" The "you" is a plural pronoun. He asks this to the entire group of twelve disciples, "Who do you say that I am?"

"You are the Christ"—How did Peter come to such a clear, concise understanding of the Christ? Our Lord declared that it came by revelation, a term that implies an unveiling or disclosing of something that was before hidden. Matthew tells us.

And Yeshua answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.  Matthew 16:17 ESV

Peter is "blessed" because he's received a revelation given to Him directly from the Father who has disclosed to him a hidden spiritual truth that had subsequently radically transformed his life.

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock, I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.  Matthew 16:18 ESV

What is the rock upon which Christ will build His Church? Scholars have debated precisely what Yeshua means by rock. Protestants, following Augustine and Luther, have sometimes contended that the rock in this passage is only Yeshua himself. The Church is certainly built on Yeshua.

The Catholics believe that Yeshua was actually referring to Peter and saying that, upon him, He was going to build His Church.

"Peter," in the Greek, is the word "Petros," which is masculine and would be roughly the English equivalent of "Rocky." But "Rock" is "Petra," which is feminine and has the meaning of "large outcrop of rock."

As I mentioned, I believe that Yeshua and the disciples are standing near the shrine of Pan. They are close enough to see the debauchery that is going on. Looking at the shrine of Pan, which was called the "rock of the gods," Yeshua said, "Upon this rock I will build my church." Yeshua could have been pointing to the "rock of the gods" when He made this statement. "Rock" is the Greek word petra in the feminine gender, referring to a large outcrop of rock, similar to what the disciples might have been viewing at the moment. He is telling the disciples that their mission is going to be to leave their homes and godly communities and build His church in place of this paganism. He wants them to do something about this. They have the answer that people are looking for when they're down there with the goats.

As is typical of Peter, he goes from this great confession that Yeshua is the Christ to rebuking Christ for saying that he must suffer and die and be raised. Peter says, "Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you." To which Yeshua responded:

Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man."  Matthew 16:23 ESV

So, Peter goes from Hero to zero. This is amazing. This is Peter rebuking Christ. And he says, "God forbid it, Lord. This shall never happen to You." Peter becomes a tempter and he tempts Christ to evade the cross.

Let me say a word here about Yeshua calling Peter Satan. There are some within the preterist community that don’t believe the devil was a spiritual being. They believe it is just used as a human adversary as it is here. But let me just give you one verse that I believe refutes this view.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:10-12 ESV

In verse 11, Paul admonishes them to stand against the devil. Then he attests that they didn’t we wrestle with "flesh and blood." Paul is explaining to them that their struggle is not with humanity and mere human power. So, what is the struggle with? Paul says it is "against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places." We know what he is saying here. The question is what does he mean?

The word "rulers" and "authorities" are titles that are used of human and spiritual powers. But notice the rest of the verse: "against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places." "Cosmic powers" comes from the Greek kosmokrator, which, according to Strong’s Concordance, means "a world ruler, an epithet of Satan."

Thayer's concordance gives the meaning "lord of the world, prince of this age, the devil and his demons." This is its only use in the New Testament, but it is used of spiritual beings in the Testament of Solomon, a pseudepigraphal work attributed to Solomon. In the Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible, kosmokrator means "lord of the world, world ruler." It occurs in pagan literature as an epithet for gods, rulers, and heavenly bodies. Why would Paul use this word, used only here in the Bible, in contradiction to its meaning in other literature as spirit beings if he did not mean spirit beings?

Paul goes on to say, "against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places"—these forces are "spiritual." They are not human; they are in "heavenly places" (the spiritual realm, the place where Yahweh dwells). This is speaking about a battle with spiritual forces that are not flesh and blood.

I think that modern pseudoscience has caused many believers to question or outright deny the spiritual. To those of the ancient Near East, everything was spiritual; to us in the West nothing is. If someone believes in God and angels, why is it so hard to believe in Satan and demons?

What other events stand out in Peter’s life? Walking on the water?

And in the fourth watch of the night, he came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, "It is a ghost!" and they cried out in fear. Matthew 14:25-26 ESV

They are afraid because they assume Yeshua to be a spirit, probably a night spirit or a spirit of one drowned at sea (thought to be particularly dangerous). The sea was believed to have been the home of demons and ghosts. Remember when the pigs threw themselves over the cliffs into the water? They viewed this as the depiction of evil spirits returning to the place from which they had come.

In the Tanakh, the symbolism of water/sea is the image of evil and chaos, particularly in Isaiah. Yeshua's triumph over the sea represents His triumph over the forces of evil.

"The disciples saw him walking on the sea"the phrase "walking on water" is commonly used to express impossibilities. Even the ancient Egyptians used the emblem of two feet walking on the sea to express an impossible thing. But here is Yeshua doing the impossible. And not just a few yards, but over three miles out into a deep and turbulent sea. Some of the great Jewish prophets of the past had parted water so that others could walk through on dry ground—people like Moses and Joshua—but none had ever walked on top of water.

But immediately Yeshua spoke to them, saying, "Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid." And Peter answered him, "Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water." Matthew 14:27-28 ESV

The word "if" is a first-class conditional, "since it is you—command me":

He said, "Come." So, Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Yeshua. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, "Lord, save me." Yeshua immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?" Matthew 14:29-31 ESV

Let's give Peter some credit at this point—he actually got out of the boat! And he was doing well until he took his eyes off the Lord and focused on the storm. I love Peter's prayer, "Lord, save me." Peter's request is a present imperative, a command to keep on saving. The word "save" here is soteria which means "rescue or safety, salvation, health, or save." This word has several different meanings. Peter uses it here in its usual meaning of "save from danger." After Peter prays, how long does it take for the Lord to help him? Immediately!

So, Yeshua the God-Man, and Peter the man both walked on water. This is a miracle. The observable laws of nature declare that this shouldn't happen. But Yeshua did it! There's no other explanation than that this was an awesome miracle. So, Peter is the only man to have ever walked on water. That’s pretty amazing.

Peter was the one who insisted that Yeshua would not wash his feet; then he commanded Yeshua to wash his whole body! (John 13:16-20).

What other event do you think of when you think of Peter’s life?

Then Yeshua said to them, "You will all fall away because of me this night. For it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee." Peter answered him, "Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away." Yeshua said to him, "Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times." Peter said to him, "Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!" And all the disciples said the same. Matthew 26:31-35 ESV

Peter had declared, in effect, that he loved Yeshua more than the other disciples did. He had claimed a higher level of devotion than the rest. This reminds me of what Paul said:

Therefore, let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.  1 Corinthians 10:12 ESV

We all do well to realize that apart from the grace of God, we are all capable of sin or failure. The following command in Romans is to all believers.

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.  Romans 12:3 ESV

So, Peter thought more of himself than he should have. Peter is also saying, "You're wrong, Yeshua. You might me God, but you're wrong." Notice what Jesus asked him:

But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter replied, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."  Matthew 16:15-16 ESV

Does that make sense to you? Peter says, "You are the Christ" and then he says, "You're wrong, I won't stumble or deny you." Was Peter thinking more highly of himself than he should have? Yes!

Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. And a servant girl came up to him and said, "You also were with Yeshua the Galilean." But he denied it before them all, saying, "I do not know what you mean." And when he went out to the entrance, another servant girl saw him, and she said to the bystanders, "This man was with Yeshua of Nazareth." And again, he denied it with an oath: "I do not know the man. After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, "Certainly you too are one of them, for your accent betrays you." Then he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, "I do not know the man." And immediately the rooster crowed. And Peter remembered the saying of Yeshua, "Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times." And he went out and wept bitterly. Matthew 26:69-75 ESV

Peter is obviously in fear of his life so he denies knowing Yeshua.  Peter’s denial is defiantly wrong here but keep in mind that he was the only one really hanging around. The rest were long gone.

After the Jeshua’s resurrection, he meets with Peter.

When they had finished breakfast, Yeshua said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." He said to him, "Feed my lambs." He said to him a second time, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." He said to him, "Tend my sheep." He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, "Do you love me?" and he said to him, "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you." Yeshua said to him, "Feed my sheep. Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go." (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, "Follow me." John 21:15-19 ESV

In this text, three times Yeshua says "Feed my lambs, tend my sheep, feed my sheep." One of those times, the middle time, He uses poimino (to shepherd). But the first and third time, He uses the word "bosco" and not "poimino." The verb bosco is used both literally and figuratively for feeding animals, providing nourishment, while the verb poimino includes shepherding duties toward the flock such as guiding, guarding, and ruling, whether literally or figuratively. A quote from the Jewish historian, Philo, employs both verbs, "Those who feed (bosco) supply nourishment…but those who tend (poimino) have the power of rulers and governors."(Philo, Quod Deterius Potiori Insidiari Soleat, viii #25).

So, from what Yeshua says to Peter, we see that the primary responsibility of the shepherd is to feed the flock, in other words, to teach them the Scriptures. This refers to the church leaders (e.g.., "elder, overseer, or pastor") whose primary responsibility is to teach the Word of God. This is what Yeshua called Peter to do, this is what Paul did, and this is what Paul called the Ephesian elders to do—feed the flock of God.

So, the Lord is reinstating Peter and telling him to shepherd the flock of God by feeding them the Word of God. Where are Yeshua and Peter sitting during this exchange? They are sitting at a charcoal fire. What was the only other time that this Gospel mentions Peter near a charcoal fire? After Yeshua's arrest, Peter denied Yeshua three times as he was standing near a charcoal fire. Now he has the opportunity to undo that wrong by expressing three times his love and devotion to Yeshua. These are the only two times that a charcoal fire is mentioned in the New Testament.

Three times Peter had denied Yeshua; three times Peter now affirms his love for his Lord, and three times Yeshua commissions Peter to care for the flock of God. A triple repetition oath is a common Semitic practice.

The Book of Acts records Peter's fearless preaching and witness before the same Jewish court that condemned Yeshua. There are other actions as well that testify to the strength and force of his commitment to the New Covenant Church. Peter's letters to the Church in 1 and 2 Peter also demonstrate that Peter more than rose to the level of self-sacrificing love and fulfilled Yeshua's calling because, like the Good Shepherd, he would lay down his life for the sheep. That is why the Lord moves from verses 15-17 to verses 18 and 19. Peter had assured his Lord that he was willing to die for Him (Matthew 26:35), and so he will.

"Follow me"—this is a present imperative in the Greek text, meaning "Keep on following Me." The first time Yeshua called to Peter to "follow me" was after the huge catch of fish on the Sea of Galilee three years earlier. Now He uses the same words again, but this time there is a double meaning to the command "Follow me." Peter will indeed "follow" Yeshua and spread the Gospel message across the known world, but he will also follow Yeshua, not only in imitation of His life, but also in His death.

As we leave the gospels and move into the book of Acts, we see that Peter had become a leader of the church, the main figure in the first twelve chapters of Acts. He was the one who moved in Acts 1:15 to find a replacement for Judas. Like all the apostles, at Pentecost he received the power of the Holy Spirit to directly guide him in his teaching and to empower him to do miracles. He became the spokesman of the church on Pentecost. It was He in Acts 2:14 who preached that powerful sermon and brought about the conversion of three thousand souls. It was Peter and John who healed the lame man in Acts 3:1 to 11. It was he who defied the Sanhedrin in Acts 4.

And when they had set them in the midst, they inquired, "By what power or by what name did you do this?" Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, "Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Yeshua the Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. This Yeshua is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Yeshua. Acts 4:7-13 ESV

The Jewish leaders command them to quit preaching Yeshua.

So, they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Yeshua. But Peter and John answered them, Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard." Acts 4:18-20 ESV

Peter is not saying, I don’t know the man now. He boldly challenges them telling them he is going to keep preaching. Then the disciples leave them and join with the believers in a prayer meeting asking for safety and protection? No, boldness!

And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, Acts 4:29 ESV

Wow, this seems like a different Peter.

In Acts 5, Peter confronted the hypocrisy of Ananias and Sapphira before God killed them in front of the church. Peter confronted Simon in Acts 8. Then he healed Aeneas and raised Dorcas from the dead, Acts 9. Peter took the gospel to the Gentiles, namely Cornelius (Acts 10 and 11). So, Peter was the first one to preach the gospel to the Jews and he is the first one to preach the gospel to the Gentiles.  It was Peter who provided resource material to Mark as he wrote his gospel. And it was he who wrote these two epistles which we are about to study. Peter was an amazing man of God who served the Lord until his death.

Can you think of one more post-Pentecost event that stands out in the life of Peter?

This event stands out to me because since Pentecost Peter has been such a force for godliness and righteousness and then we have Antioch where Peter becomes a hypocrite.

Antioch in Syria was Paul and Barnabas's base of operations. Antioch, during Paul's day, was the third largest city in the Roman Empire with more than 500,000 citizens. It was the capital city of the Roman province of Syria and was called the "Rome of the East" by many of the Roman Emperors. The city was largely non-Jewish, although there were about 65,000 Jews who called Antioch home during Paul's day. The majority of the people spoke Greek and not Hebrew as people did in Jerusalem. Gentiles were the driving force of the city in every arena of life while the Jews were just tolerated for the most part.

The Christian church in Antioch was thriving during Paul's day. Barnabas, Paul's closest friend, was the first pastor of the flock in Antioch after the Gospel had spread beyond Jerusalem following the persecution of Stephen.

Paul and Barnabas had taught the Word of God and watched the church grow beyond anything they could have ever imagined. Word must have gotten out because Peter decided to take a trip to Antioch to see what was happening. Paul reveals his opposition to Cephas (Peter) in Galatians 2.

But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned.  Galatians 2:11 ESV

Paul stated: "I opposed him to his face." "Opposed" is from the Greek word anthistemi, which carries the meaning of "hindering or forbidding." This is an act of incredible courage. Paul stood face-to-face with Peter and rebuked him in front of everyone.

Considering who Peter was, this took a lot of guts. Remember, it was Peter who walked on water, Peter who was personally called by Yeshua, and Peter who saw Yeshua raise Lazarus from the dead. Also, Peter was the first apostle to publicly preach the gospel after the resurrection of Yeshua which resulted in the adding of three thousand to the church in one day. He was the first to have the Holy Spirit work through him in miraculous ways.

Peter was a heavyweight in the church, and people loved him, admired him, and respected him for his work in the church and among the Jews of his day. It's no coincidence that the Roman Catholic church places Peter on the pedestal. Though they are entirely wrong about declaring him to be the first Vicar (pope) of Christ on earth, it shows us that early on Peter was held in high esteem.

And yet, Paul has no problem in confronting this beloved apostle and rebuking him to his face for what would be a denial of the true gospel. This is what Paul means when he says at the end of verse 11, "…because he stood condemned."

The NIV says, "because he was clearly in the wrong." This is a very weak interpretation of what our text actually says. The KJV and NKJV puts it: "to be blamed." The Greek word is kataginosko, and it could literally be translated "condemned." And so, the NASB and ESV correctly translates this as "he stood condemned." What he means to say is that just as a criminal is found guilty of a crime and has been proven to be wrong in a court of law, Peter has been found guilty of a wrong which can be proved. What Peter was doing was to be condemned as being out of accord with the Word of God, and there were to be consequences—in this case, a rebuke to set the matter straight.

Now, in the next verse of our text, Paul explains the nature of the wrong.

For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came, he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party.  Galatians 2:12 ESV

Here's what's going on: In Antioch's fully integrated congregation of Christian Jews and Gentiles, Peter had regularly followed the custom of eating with Gentile Christians. Undoubtedly, his presence at table fellowshipping with Gentile Christians was taken as an official stamp of approval on the union and equality of Jews and Gentiles in the church. We can imagine that the Gentile believers in the church were especially encouraged by Peter's wholehearted acceptance of them.

But the idea of Peter’s eating with these Gentiles was not accepted by a lot of Jews. The common Jew was brought up believing that the law spoke very clearly on the issue of what was considered clean and unclean food. In other words, this was a moral issue for them.

So, here's the problem: Every Jew knew that to deviate from such dietary laws made them feel guilty of being out of favor with God. Remember that even the Peter would never have considered eating unclean meals with Gentiles. The classic case regarding this is recorded in Acts when a Roman Centurion by the name of Cornelius was given a message by an angel from God to call for Simon Peter to come to his house to share the gospel with Cornelius and his family. Shortly before this, the Lord was giving Peter a vision of the sheet filled with animals.

Peter couldn't believe it! There was pork loin, BBQ, rabbit, shrimp cocktail, alligator steaks, and camel sausage in the big sheet that was let down for him to feast upon. Peter said, "No!" but God said, "I have cleansed it, it is no longer unholy, eat." God was preparing Peter for his trip to Antioch so that Peter would know that it's not what we eat, but Who we trust that makes us right with God!

Our text in Galatians says: "…he used to eat with the Gentiles" - the imperfect tense of the Greek verb indicates that Pater's eating with the Gentiles was continuous, that is, habitual and regular over some period of time. Then something happened that changed Peter's eating habits. Our text says: "…prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles."

So, Peter is in Antioch having a good time eating Lobster and ham until some Jewish believers from James show up. Then, because of fear of these men, Peter quits eating with the Gentiles and begins to eat only what the Jewish law allowed him to.

Peter feared this group. Why? We don't exactly know, but we can speculate that he was concerned about what those Jew would think of him and about what they might tell James when they got back to Jerusalem? Would he be ruined back at the office? All of these thoughts may have run through Peter's mind, and he slowly pushed his plate away from in front of him. Peter lost his smile. Peter lost his joy. Peter lost his liberty. He turned his back on his new friends.

It is a sorry spectacle to see the bold apostle give up his freedom in order to placate these men. Consider Proverbs 29.

The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is safe.  Proverbs 29:25 ESV

Peter feared these men, so he compromised his convictions, even though he knew it was wrong. God had personally shown Peter that it was all right to eat with Gentiles. But his fear of men weakened his faith in God. And worst of all, his bad example caused the other Jewish Christians to follow his example.

And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy.  Galatians 2:13 ESV

We often hear that Peter was a different man after Pentecost, but we see here that Peter still struggled with the same weaknesses. This story in Peter’s life gives me hope. No one is perfect. We are all a lot like Peter, aren't we? When was the last time fear tainted your faith? When was the last time fear caused you to shrink away from what was right so that you could avoid discomfort? When was the last time fear led you to push away people that God had led into your life? Discomfort, distress, fear, and embarrassment will always leave us looking back with remorse and regret.

It's the unanimous tradition, by the way, of the early church, that Peter was martyred just as Christ predicted in John 21. Tradition says, according to Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History, that the cruelty was intensified because his wife was crucified first and he had to stand there and watch his wife’s death. He encouraged her with the words, "Remember the Lord." And when it came time for him to be crucified, he pleaded not to be crucified like his Lord, but rather to be turned upside down because he was not worthy to die as his Lord had died. And his testimony was so profound that tradition says his jailer believed in Christ.

This great and godly man is the author of the epistles that bear his name. Try to keep in mind what we have seen today as we go through this epistle.

Continue the Series

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