Contending for the Gospel: Galatians 2:14-16
“14) But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of all, “If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews? 15) “We are Jews by nature and not sinners from among the Gentiles; 16) nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified.” Galatians‬ ‭2:14-16‬ ‭
These verses build on Galatians 2:11-13 where Paul says he opposed Peter to the face because he stood condemned in hypocrisy. The word “hypocrisy” comes from Greek drama and theater. When an actor switched characters, they had a mask on a stick that they would put over their face. The mask was called the “hypocra.” It allowed an actor to play two parts. Soon the word hypocrisy evolved. It took on the meaning of being “two faced” and referred to people wearing two faces in life.
In this text Paul was accusing Peter of wearing two faces and not being consistent with the gospel. He openly ate and fellowshipped with the Gentile believer in Antioch until James and a Jewish delegation arrived. Then he switched characters and adopted the usual Jewish social distancing practices.
Paul quickly saw that the truth of the Gospel was at stake. According to Galatians 2:16, he noted that the doctrine of justification by faith was on trial with Peters actions. Paul was pointing out that social distancing from Gentile believers according to the Law gained no favor or merit with God. Instead, by their actions, Peter and the others stood condemned. They were confusing and distorting the application of the gospel.
God used this text early in my Christian life to help crucify prejudice and discrimination. The Holy Spirit convicted me that all men and women are created equal and should be treated with respect and dignity irregardless of age, race or social/economic status.
A persons past life also comes into consideration. I have some dear Christian friends serving life in prison who committed terrible crimes before coming to faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus has transformed them into new people. They are welcome at my camp fire any time.
But This text also teaches that we need to contend for the truth of the gospel. Jesus died on the cross to save sinners, but He does not endorse sinful living. Repentance from sin and personal change is part of the Gospel message. God loves the sinner but He hates the sin that enslaves and destroys people. Jesus gives hope for a new life.
I confess, it takes courage, truth and sincere love to contend for the truth of the Gospel the way Paul did in this text of Scripture. Godly believers need to create an atmosphere where we can stimulate one another to godliness.
I’m not talking about empowering critics. They are part of the problem. I’m talking about mutually wrestling through the application of the gospel toward godly living. This story is an example of contending for the application of the gospel in daily living. This wasn’t a “put down”; rather it was a “build up!” It was part of the refining process in the early church.
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global