Didn’t we just discuss how a church ought to conduct itself, how brothers and sisters ought to address possible differences in love? And now what do we have here but Paul acting unlovingly? Or was he? Why didn’t Paul take Peter (Cephas) aside privately? Why embarrass him in front of everyone? That doesn’t sound very nice, does it?
In truth, Paul did the most loving thing he could do by acting in such a way. Public sin requires public correction. Had he taken Peter aside, and had Peter repented privately, Peter would have benefitted, but those he had misled would have remained in error and the church would have remained segregated, Jew and Gentile, Gentile the second-rate member. The fact was that Peter was a prominent figure in the church, an apostle of Christ, and so his words and actions carried special import and influence, whether intended or not. People notice how their pastors speak and act, and, justifiably or unjustifiably, often assume that that is how God would have them speak and act, thus, as Christians. If a pastor acts in an improper manner, then, laypeople can be misled. Or if a pastor gives the impression that his opinion is God’s opinion (for instance, in politics), consciences might be burdened in matters God in which would not have them be burdened. Peter had a particular responsibility to watch his life and doctrine closely, and since he had failed in this regard, the whole congregation had to be admonished through his admonishment, for the good of all involved. Similarly, had Paul erred, by God’s grace we can safely assume that he would have received Peter’s biblical rebuke with gratitude and heeded it.
God had and has set Christians free from the Old Testament ceremonial and civil laws. The Ten Commandments remained, not because they were part of the Old Testament law, but because they were consistent with the love of God in Christ that we are to reflect toward our neighbor in fruits of repentance and the works He has prepared in advance for us to walk in. All of them were reaffirmed by Jesus in the New Testament as His will for those being renewed in the image of the One who had displayed His love perfectly in accord with these commands.
In Christ there was no longer Jew or Gentile, just as there is no black, white, yellow, purple, neon green, or whatever color you can think of today. There are only Christians, a redeemed people, one people through one Baptism in one Lord. You are not loved more or less than your Christian brother or sister because of where you came from, who your descendants are, or what language you speak. You are loved perfectly, like your fellow believer, through Christ our Lord, your Savior, who pays no heed to such distinctions. And so let your conduct be in step with the wonderful truth of the gospel that declares this to you and through which you are declared righteous in the Father’s sight for Christ’s sake. And when you err, receive the loving admonishment of a brother or sister, and when they err, offer the same to them, not as though their error or sin was beneath you, but aware that you yourself are capable of the same and equally in need of the grace of God. And in that way, even when public sin must be publicly addressed, all will benefit in the end.