‘But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?’ — Galatians 2:14
An extremely important truth was at stake when Paul wrote Galatians – the gospel message. Some were saying the gospel is faith plus law-keeping. Paul was preaching that salvation (justification) comes not by the works of the law but by the faith of Jesus Christ. His message was that no flesh is justified by the works of the law.
Others, like Peter, Barnabas, and James knew the gospel and believed it like Paul did, but there came a time that they were too worried about pleasing those who disagreed (v.11-13). The caved in to the pressure to not walk ‘uprightly according to the truth of the gospel’.
This created an inconsistency and a hypocrisy that polluted the gospel message. Peter, Barnabas, and others Jewish Christians were living in a way that undermined the clarity of the gospel. Because of this, Paul rebuked Peter (and the others) strongly (v.14).
I admire Paul’s conviction and courage, and I cringe at Peter’s compromise and cowardice. What we learn is that we never get past wanting to please people, and when we care too much about pleasing people, we are on precarious ground. The goal of our lives ought to be faithfulness to Christ and His gospel, regardless of what any religious people, hypocrites, or important individuals think.
The only way to take this strong stand is to fully understand the gospel, to believe it with all of our hearts, and to have Christ’s grace working our lives. If we read Paul’s explanation in Galatians 2, it is clear, convincing, and empowering (v.15-21).
How thoroughly do we understand the gospel? If we understand it, are we applying it rigorously to our walk? Are we prepared to stand for the purity of the gospel even when others put great pressure on us? I admire those who have stood for the gospel through the centuries, despite great pressure and even martyrdom, and I want to stand with them as well.