February 22 I Saturday
“But when they arrived, [Peter] began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group.”
One day, while Peter was praying at Simon the Tanner’s house, he fell into a trance and received a vision from the Lord. Peter saw a great sheet descending upon the earth and in it were all kinds of animals, reptiles and birds of the air. The voice said, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat” but Peter responded, “Surely not, Lord!...I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.” But the voice rebuked Peter, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean” (Acts 10:13-15). While Peter was perplexed by the vision, he was invited to the home of Cornelius, who was not only a Gentile but also a Roman soldier. When Peter met Cornelius, he understood why the Lord gave him that vision, as he said, “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean” (Acts 10:28).
Peter was the first apostle to bring the gospel message to the Gentiles and from then on, he shared meals and fellowshipped with other Gentiles. Yet, Paul tells us, “For before certain men came from James, [Peter] used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group” (Galatians 2:12).
Peer pressure is real and it can be a strong force, even leading an apostle astray. When these brothers from the Jerusalem church arrived with James, they drew away from the Gentiles as they regarded their eating habits and customs as unclean. These brothers were still holding onto elements of the ceremonial laws, which are a complex series of regulations for worshippers to follow in order to be ceremonial clean. In fact, they believed people could only draw near to God if they followed those laws.
As Peter watched his brothers from Jerusalem draw away from the Gentiles, out of fear, he also drew away. How could he so easily slip into legalism? Peter was blood-bought, Spirit taught, filled with the Holy Spirit and was an instrument to take the gospel to the Gentiles.
In one sense, it is comforting to realize that apostles are still sinners and can fall into old habits. But as we reflect on our own journey with God, do we have absolute peace with Him because of what Christ did or are we falling into the trap of legalism as we try to earn our salvation?
May we recognize that we are saved by the complete work of Christ and the gospel message is for everyone.
Prayer: Dear Lord, thank You that Your gospel message is for everyone. I ask that You help me stay steadfast to You truth and not be swayed by the pressures of this world.