The Compulsion of Peter's Influence (Galatians 2:14)

A legitimate question I have when I read Galatians 2:14 is in what way Peter was compelling the Gentiles. Paul has described nothing that could be construed as behavior on Peter’s part to force Gentiles to become Jews. He has only described Peter’s withdrawal from table fellowship. The answer lies in Peter's apostleship. As an apostle, indeed as the chief apostle, Peter was central to the life of the church. As he went, so went the church. By withdrawing from table fellowship with Gentiles, Peter by his apostolic authority caused the boundaries of the church to move. It was as if the orbit of the assembly of Antioch had moved from a generous circle which encompassed everyone to a tight ring around only those who were Jewish or lived as Jews. Before Peter’s actions, those who were in the church consisted of all those who had believed in Jesus the Messiah. After Peter’s actions, the implication was those who were in the church were only the Jews who had confessed Jesus as the Christ. The logical corollary was clear: To be in the church, to be among those who confessed the Messiah, one had to become a Jew. One can only imagine the social pressure this placed upon the Gentiles in Antioch to take up Jewish practices, as Peter’s actions as the chief apostle affected and infected the behavior of all the Jews in the Antioch assembly. This implied compulsion went against the gospel, and it also went against Peter’s own conduct as a Jew and as an apostle. In this way Peter had condemned himself as hypocritical, and Paul’s statement showed why he was wrong.