But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed.…
It is a good and a pleasant thing for brethren to dwell together in unity. But in a world like this such enjoyment cannot be universal or permanent. No Christian vigilance can prevent differences of opinion. They existed even among the apostles, and even upon fundamental truths. We may learn from this fact a twofold lesson.
1. When differences affect only the circumstantials of religion, however interesting, and in their place important, those matters which are in themselves of human origin and rest on human authority may be, the differences respecting them are calculated to teach us a lesson of charity (Romans 14:5, 6).
2. When they extend to the fundamental portions of revealed truth, they are equally calculated to teach us a lesson of fidelity (Galatians 1:8). The matter to which the text refers, considered in itself, might have been enumerated among those questions which teach charity; but, considered in its bearing upon the gospel, considered in the aspect which it gave to the gospel among the Gentiles, it compromised the freeness of the gospel, and marred the simplicity of God's message in Christ. And therefore St. Paul withstood the error of St. Peter "to the face, because he was to be blamed." Barnabas was carried away also with the dissimulation. St. Paul was left alone. It was a critical moment for the primitive Church. Who can estimate the amount of the disaster that would have followed had St. Paul fallen as St. Peter fell? Who can estimate the damage which would have been sustained had the gospel, from the very outset, been presented in a corrupt form? How could we now have traced its purity had St. Paul sunk with St. Peter? As far as man can judge, the world would then never have had the gospel in its simplicity with the clear authority of Scriptural truth. But, through the mercy and grace of God, St. Paul stood fast.
(H. McNeile, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed.