Good parents do the same thing. They teach their children to know how to decide what is right and wrong. Parents will not always be around the child to tell him what is right or wrong. Parents must implant the right values into their children so that they may grow up to be God fearing and independent people knowing the right and wrong.
Good Bible teachers tell their students that while Bible is true Word of God, not every verse is the command or the promise of God that they should follow. Bible is a historical book that accurately record the actions of people. Some actions were bad and served as warning to us. Some actions were good and served as examples for us to follow. Some are straight forward commands - 'Do' or 'Don't do that' and they are not for us to decide whether to follow or not. We don't decide whether they are really good or bad.
Now we come to the incidence recorded in Galatians 2:11-14 involving Paul and Peter. There are two teachings here.
- One, with regards to the truth of the gospel, is very clear - We are justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the Law. Jews and Gentiles are united in Christ. There should be no segregation.
- The other is the behavior of Paul towards Peter in exposing Peter's error. Should we follow Paul's example in the correction of others? On what basis?
At that point of time, Peter, James and John were the pillars(Gal 2:9) of the Jerusalem Church - the center and highest authority of Christianity then. Issues were to be brought back to Jerusalem Council for final decisions (Act 15:6). Paul was just a 'upstart' relative to Peter.
So Paul was actually correcting his senior. Can we say in the eye of God, in the defend of the truth, everyone is equal. We learn the 1st principle
- It is the truth and not the seniority that matters.
What was the error? Before the people came from James, Peter ate with the Gentiles but withdrew from them when they came. Peter's action influenced Barnabas and others creating a separation that should not be there in the 1st place. Their withdrawals implied a return to the Law is better.
How did Paul correct this? He opposed Peter to his face. He said to Peter before all Gal 2:14. The details, the emotions in Paul's words were not recorded for us to know. We can only infer from what Paul has said. It appeared to me to be very strong. If it was not loud, it must have been very firm. Here we can learn two more principles.
- Talk to the person involved directly.We should not talk to a third person about the person's sin. That is called gossiping. Jesus actually taught us how one should correct our brother in Mat 18:15-17. This is the key practice that we all should follow as it was given by Jesus explicitly.
- Error committed publicly or have public impact should inform the public. An error involving only the person should be done in private with the person. Mat 18:15.
Could the matter be better handled?
Could Paul meet Peter privately to discuss the matter? Or invite Barnabas to join and then issue a joint declaration on the matter? This will still satisfy the 3 principles highlighted above and achieve one thing more - Peter's endorsement. At present, we could only assume Peter's silence as admission of fault. Paul in Gal 6:1 said Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such a one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Did Paul in his eager defense of the truth has been a little bit strong on Peter at the moment? Or Paul in emphasizing the key points, left out the details? On the other hand, we have Jesus cleaning the temple with force Mar 11:15
My point is that we should carefully study the Bible in context and in an integrated matter, supporting any view with cross-references from other parts of the Bible.