Paul related that fourteen years after his first trip to Jerusalem as an apostle, he, Barnabas and Titus had returned for his third visit. The church at Antioch had sent them with questions regarding whether circumcision was required for Gentile Christians.
It was on this occasion that Paul’s authority was recognized when Titus, a Gentile was not ordered to be circumcised. James, Peter and John accepted Paul as an apostle to the Gentiles, while they continued to minister to the Jews. He stated this to convince the Galatians that his authority was indeed equal to that of the Jerusalem apostles.
Peter, a great apostle of Christ was also a man who made mistakes. Paul related one of these events to the Galatians in order to show that he was equal to Peter and even found it necessary to rebuke him. It is not known when this event occurred, but it was probably shortly after Paul and his associates had returned to Antioch from their conference in Jerusalem.
There was still great prejudice between the Jews and Gentiles. Peter was instructed in a vision several years earlier that God is no respecter of persons. He had seen that principle first-hand at the conversion of Cornelius. On this occasion, however, Peter had been eating and associating with the Gentiles but when a group of Jews came from Jerusalem, he feared them and removed himself from the Gentiles and joined the Jews separately.
Peter had committed a serious breach of fellowship and Paul rebuked him publicly for his sin. His example had caused other Jewish Christians, including Barnabas to withdraw themselves from the Gentiles.
In his rebuke of Peter, Paul reminded him that through the death of Christ, man is no longer justified by works of the law (Law of Moses) but by faith in Christ. If one is saved through the law, Christ died in vain. The shedding of His blood was useless if man is still required to obey the Old Testament law.
We can be encouraged by the fact that the great apostle Peter fell but was able to be lifted up. As lowly sinners, we fall but the same grace of God will lift us up if we will repent.