Did Peter know he was wrong?
One Sabbath School class was discussing the life of Peter. Emphasis was given to Peter before conversion and after conversion. Before conversion, although Peter was boisterous and short tempered, he denied the Lord. After conversion Peter was the opposite. After this, they briefly discussed Paul confronting Peter about his prejudice behavior as recorded in Galatians 1. The teacher then asked the class, "With which Peter do you indentify: the one before conversion or the one after conversion?" There was murmuring in the class. Tony, who was sitting in the back raised his hand and said, "I identify with Peter." The teacher and some of the students turned around and asked him to clarify, "which Peter, the one before conversion or the one after?" The student referring to the event of Paul confronting Peter, answered, "I identify with Peter in that even though he knew that crowd is wrong, I see myself following them." The class hushed for a few seconds, and then there was murmuring again. Tony looked around and saw people nodding. The teacher sighed, but did not speak. A sister in front of Tony smiled and nodded at him. Another sister, walking down the aisle, smiled and touched his arm. It seemed that many agreed with him. They saw themselves drifting the wrong way knowingly. Now, just because many people do this does not make it right?
Paul found that this was wrong, which is why he confronted Peter. Did Peter know He was wrong? He should have. Peter was present at the Jerusalem Council when it was declared that circumcision was not necessary to salvation and therefore not to be made an issue (Acts 15:1-24). He had encountered this situation before when God had clearly revealed to him that he was not to consider any one class of people as "common or unclean" (Acts 10:28). He had even declared that he understood "that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him" (Acts 10:34, 35). Clear testimony had been borne by the Holy Spirit, the other apostles, and the corporate church body that there was to be no distinction between Jew and Gentile, and that righteousness is by faith alone in Christ Jesus. In light of all this, Peter and others withdrew themselves from the uncircumcised Gentile believers. This discrimination was in effect saying, "Except ye be circumcised... ye cannot be saved" (Acts 15:1). This action on the part of Peter and the others was not only a denial of the gospel, but it was a virtual denial of Christ. So, we can conclude that Peter knew better. But, he allowed himself to be carried away by the influence of the other Jews, "fearing them which were of the circumcision" (Galatians 2:12). Peter's attitude grieved God. Ellen White says,
"Even the best of men, if left to themselves, will make grave blunders. The more responsibilities placed upon the human agent, the higher his position to dictate and control, the more mischief he is sure to do in perverting minds and hearts if he does not carefully follow the way of the Lord. At Antioch Peter failed in the principles of integrity. Paul had to withstand his subverting influence face to face. This is recorded that others may profit by it, and that the lesson may be a solemn warning to the men in high places, that they may not fail in integrity, but keep close to principle."—Ellen G. White Comments, The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6, p. 1108.
As Ellen White said, this incident should be a solemn warning to us. We too can fail in integrity and violate the principles laid out by the Gospel. Even so, Peter should still be an example to us in that he was humble. The fact that Peter died a martyr for Christ tells us that Peter repented. In that sense we should be like Peter after conversion.