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. [galatians 2:12-13]

there is so much to unpack in these two verses! that being said, the devotional for today and tomorrow will cover the same two verses

before we jump in, let’s unpack the context of these verses:

  • jews and gentiles were forbidden to eat with one another
  • peter is “he” who ate with the gentiles
  • peter knew that God did not require Christian gentiles to be circumcised (acts 10). yet, peter chose to not only disassociate himself with Christian gentiles, but to disregard them as well due to his fear of the Christian jews who enforced the Jesus+ policy (Jesus + circumcision = faith)
  • the circumcision party- the judaizers- claimed that the gentiles must adhere to strict jewish law. circumcision was a part of the abrahamic covenant between God and jewish males, but under the new covenant, circumcision switched from bodily circumcision to a figurative circumcision of the heart (expressed through baptism) that was to be lived out among all people (colossians 2:11)
  • the “circumcision party” paul refers to is those who came from the church in jerusalem that james, Jesus’s brother, helped lead. as for whether or not james intentionally sent the men or if the members came on behalf of james is still up for debate
  • antioch (where peter and barnabas were) to jerusalem (where the circumcision party came from) was about 300 miles. if you averaged 20 miles a day, the trip would take approximately 15 days. important to note: in this day, a 15-day trip was standard
  • barnabas was one of the first people to believe in paul’s genuine conversion. the two of them then went on to their first missionary journey together (acts 13:2-3). although paul and barnabas had their disagreements later on (acts 15:37-39), the two of them maintained a friendship that genuine and pleasant. hence why paul highlights barnabas’s hypocrisy- a man who once was like a mentor to paul is now adhering to false teaching

what is the big idea in this verse? fear causes separation. as for why peter was fearful of those from the church in jerusalem is not exactly clear, but it caused him to separate himself from the gentiles. barnabas probably feared those from the church in jerusalem to a degree, which then separates him from sound doctrine that he once preached

take the focus off of paul, peter, and barnabas for a minute. imagine if you were a gentile who received salvation and then the people who walked along with you turned their back on you and your people. how much damage that must’ve had on the gentile people who submitted to the leadership of peter and barnabas at the church in antioch! peter and barnabas were called to live as an example for jews and gentiles alike, yet their fear blinded them. it is not that peter or barnabas must be completely fearless of others, healthy fear exists. rather, when they turned from being carefree to careless is when they chose to make fear their God

peter, barnabas, and the rest of the jews are not unlike you and me. it is easy to read about people in the bible and see them more so as a character rather than a person with real strengths and weaknesses. if peter and barnabas are subject to fear, then so are you and me

how and where is your fear causing you to separate from God?


~ angela younger