One would think that Peter had gotten the point of God’s acceptance of people from any and every group on equal terms with Jews, but old thinking and patterns of behavior sometimes take a while to change. This was evident when Peter came to Antioch, where Paul had been ministering to a mixed congregation of Jews and Gentiles:
But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 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. And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews? (Gal. 2:11–14)
This sobering story challenges us today to examine ourselves and see if we are harboring prejudice against people of any ethnic group and are behaving hypocritically by not warmly embracing them as fellow heirs of the grace of God through faith in Christ alone.
Paul was very clear about how the work of Jesus the Messiah destroyed the wall of separation between Jews and Gentiles. Writing to the Gentile church in Ephesus, he said,
But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. (Eph. 2:13–18)
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