“…for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision.”
for before certain men came from James,
This phase does not necessarily imply that these “certain men” came with James’ blessing. James declared himself clearly on the principle of Gentiles coming to Christ at the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:19).
“Therefore I judge that we should not trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God…” (Acts 15:19).
he [Peter] would eat with the Gentiles;
Before these men came from James, Peter had been in Antioch for a period. Peter established a pattern of regularly eating with the Gentiles (imperfect tense). The Lord taught Peter that what a man eats does not defile him (Mark 7:18,19). He also received direct revelation about Gentile acceptance in the plan of God (Acts 10:34). He was a participant at the Jerusalem Council that declared itself on this issue (Acts 15:8-11).
Clearly, Peter believed in grace for salvation and living the Christian life. He sat down with grace believers to eat fried chicken on paper plates. He developed a real liking for pork and chicken. Everything was lovely (except for the ants) until Peter saw a delegation coming from Jerusalem. He then separated himself from grace Christians unobtrusively as possible.
but when they [Judaizers] came, he withdrew
Peter did two things when the legalists came from Jerusalem: 1) withdrew and 2) separated himself. Peter rolled up his sail of grace and hid it from the Judaizers. The presence of the legalists made him so timid that he concealed his belief in grace. He held himself back from fully walking in grace.
Secular Greek used the term “withdrew” for a strategic military retreat. Peter refused to take an essential stand for the truth of the gospel of grace, so he strategically withdrew from the grace principle.
Truth always takes precedence over accommodation.
Whenever a Christian ceases to operate on the principle of grace because of some supposed fear of offending someone, he ceases to act on the truth. He gives in to the pressure of all-encompassing practicality. This would mean that the practical is more important than the truth.