“Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed…”
With this verse, the location changes from Jerusalem to Antioch of Syria. Paul continues in this section to prove the validity and independence of his apostleship by telling how he rebuked Peter in Antioch. Paul’s message of grace is independent from the church in general and the apostles in particular.
Now when Peter had come to Antioch,
Antioch was the capital of Syria situated on the river Orontes and founded by Seleucus Nicanor in 300 B.C. Seleucus named the city after his father Antiochus. Many Jews lived in this city. The followers of Christ were first called Christians there. Antioch was the largest city in Syria. Paul ministered there (Acts 13:1; 14:26; 15:22ff; 18:22). Peter came to Paul’s stomping grounds.
I withstood him to his face,
Paul “withstood” Peter to the “face.” The word “withstood” means to set against. Peter made an attack on the grace principle by withdrawing from grace believers and aligning himself with legalistic believers (2:12-21). Paul opposed Peter’s legalism. Peter’s concession to legalism endangered the essence of the gospel so Paul confronted him face to face. The two apostles came to a head-on collision.
It is not enough to believe in the principle of grace; but we must also practice the principle of grace.
Legalism stifles the dynamics of any church. Many Christians grow up in legalistic homes. From early childhood, they learn certain things are taboo and they have difficulty separating these beliefs from true Christianity. As a result, they never learn how to walk in the Spirit or serve the Lord with grace. As Paul stood against legalism, so must we. Are you willing to take a stand for grace?