“But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, ‘If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?” (Gal. 2:14)
Now we know why Paul was so upset with Peter and Barnabas. The two of them knew the truth of the gospel. This has been Paul’s concern all along, that someone was teaching a different gospel than the one he had taught them. He will not let up on this until he has made his point clear. There is only one true gospel. One true teaching about Jesus and salvation for both Jews and Gentiles. Peter has violated this true gospel in Paul’s eyes and Barnabas who also knew better was swept along in the false teaching
The true gospel did not allow for a Jewish church and a Gentile church, neither did it allow for separate fellowship or communion. In the true gospel, Jews and Gentiles were the same in the eyes of God. The true gospel was for all the world, the entire creation and no group was more special than another. The Jews, which included the apostles and early leaders of the church, had trouble with this concept.
The true gospel does not offer one idea of salvation and reconciliation to one group of people and a different one to a second or third group. All of mankind are the same in God’s eyes. Race, color, language, sex or any other difference is lost in the true gospel.
It’s interesting how different Bible teachers treat this verse. Some say that Paul is not talking about difference in doctrine but failure to adjust to differences in social behavior. This leads to a teaching that we don’t need to worry about minor things such as baptism or skin color or social position. These things are considered mere trifles and not gospel deviations. I would agree that skin color or social position are not a consideration of the gospel but I disagree on the subject of baptism. Baptism is a command of God. Skin color is an act of God. Social position is a manmade thing. How can baptism be lumped in with minor things like skin color or social status?
One comment I read said that details about baptism didn’t matter but obeying Jesus did. Since Jesus commanded baptism and taught his apostles how to teach and administer it then wouldn’t the details matter? If being baptized is obeying Christ’s command then it must be an important consideration and being baptized according to the scriptures has to be important too.
No, Paul is discussing race and cultural differences. This is a Jew versus Gentile mistake in the same way that a black versus white would be a mistake or Arab versus Non-Arab. Slave or free, rich or poor, male or female are not things on which the Christian can base his fellowship. Peter was wrong to stop eating with the Gentiles because they were Gentiles and not Jews.
Obviously, it is important for the followers of Jesus to walk in step with the good news He brought to man. That good news was preached by Peter repeatedly as recorded in Acts and also by Paul. Later both of these men wrote letters expounding on that good news. What they taught others is the true gospel and Peter knew it but didn’t live it. It put him out of step. Walking in step with the true gospel is pretty much like John’s “If we walk in the light…” (1 John 1:7) Not being in step with Jesus is to walk in darkness and that is not a good thing.
Task for Today: First, make sure you understand what the true gospel is. The gospel is the good news of what Jesus did and what he expects us to do. Second, make sure you follow that true gospel as much as you possibly can. Do not be led astray by those who come teaching “another gospel which is not a gospel at all.” Trust in Jesus for his saving grace and follow him by living his commands.