Daily Reform, Day 108
Galatians 2:14 & Proverbs 27:2-6
From the Reformer
Peter did not say so, but his example said quite plainly that the observance of the Law must be added to faith in Christ, if men are to be saved. From Peter’s example the Gentiles could not help but draw the conclusion that the Law was necessary unto salvation. If this error had been permitted to pass unchallenged, Christ would have lost out altogether.
The controversy involved the preservation of pure doctrine. In such a controversy Paul did not mind if anybody took offense.
—Martin Luther, Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians
Pulling It Together
Our present verse under consideration (Gal 2:14) contains a word that is only found here in the New Testament. Orthopodeo, translated as “in step,” “straightforward,” and “walk uprightly,” is easily deduced by breaking down the Greek word. Orthos means “straight,” right,” “true,” or “correct.” Podeo means “to walk.” Although the term may refer to one’s attitude, Paul almost certainly refers to behavior and not simply attitude.
Peter had walked crookedly, wrongly. He had been associating with Gentile Christians until the legalists showed up in Antioch. At that point, he literally walked away from the Gentiles and sided with the legalists. (Gal 2:12) This was an action that was no doubt noticed by the Gentiles, and Paul had to openly address Peter’s public behavior. He had to do so because Peter was such a public figure himself; his behavior had a big impact on the church in Antioch. If Peter agreed with the legalists, then they must be right about circumcision and their claims that righteousness comes through both faith and law-keeping.
To Peter’s credit, he seems to have received Paul’s open rebuke for what it was: godly correction for the good of the church. Paul’s words must have stung Peter but a true friend will seemingly hurt you if he is truly a loyal friend. Paul may have secretly cared for his fellow apostle but of what use to Peter was that love if it was kept hidden? Open rebuke was the better and even more loving course of action.
To Paul’s credit, it did not matter if Peter did take offense. What was at stake was an offense to the gospel. That always needs direct address regardless of a person’s feelings. One may wish to withhold the gospel from someone for fear of offending him. Or if he is a believer, one may not want to hurt his feelings. There is much to be said for not hurting feelings but when the truth of the gospel is at stake, feelings must take a back seat. Feelings must respond to the truth of the gospel; truth must never be construed from feelings. Otherwise, entire churches will end up walking wrongly by being out of step with the truth of the gospel.
© Mark E. Ryman, Daily Reform: Devotions with the Reformers