Hypocrisy, Honor, and Forgiveness


The Letter of Paul to the Galatians was written some time around A.D. 48. Within that letter, Paul wrote this:

But when Cephas (also known as Peter) came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 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. But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?” (Gal 2:11-14)

The First Letter of Peter was written approximately 15 years later, some time around A.D. 62-63. Within that letter, Peter wrote this:

Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. (1 Pet 2:12)

Peter was not a perfect model of consistency. At times, his daily walk had not been in step with the gospel. He had not always kept his own conduct among the Gentiles honorable.

And yet, he urges us as fellow sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh which wage war against our souls. He charges us to keep our own conduct among the Gentiles honorable. By what right? Who does this all-too-fallible man think he is? Why should I listen to him?

Nine verses later, Peter writes this:

For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. (1 Pet 2:21-23)

Peter’s example was not flawless. Fifteen years prior to writing his first letter, he was guilty of acting hypocritically toward the Gentiles. Others were led astray by his hypocrisy.

But God hadn’t given up on Peter because Peter hadn’t given up on Jesus.

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (1 Pet 2:24-25)

Peter wasn’t perfect, but he knew and trusted the One who was. By the wounds of Jesus, Peter was being healed of his hypocrisy. Because God’s Son was dishonored, Peter could walk in honor and encourage others to do the same. Peter knew exactly what it meant to “follow at a distance” (Mark 14:54) to the point of straying from the Shepherd of his soul. But Peter also knew what it was to be forgiven. And despite his many flaws, Peter continued to be useful to the Master.

Don’t allow the self-centered wanderings of your checkered past to overshadow the potential of a faith-filled walk with Jesus in the present. By his wounds you also can be healed.

Related Articles