If someone tried to take away what is most precious to you, how would you respond?
This is the very thing Paul is addressing with the churches in Galatia, and to us as well.
The gospel, Paul would argue, is the most precious thing you possess, and the most precious thing you have to share with others. He will not, as we read here, let anyone get away with taking it from him – or from you by consequence.
He will also not stand for conduct evidenced from the former days when people were separated by their religious practices. For religious people of any stripe to bring their prides and prejudices to those living according to the gospel of grace must be confronted.
He would even take a gentile into the home base of the Jews without causing that gentile to be circumcised that he be more acceptable to the Jewish believers present there.
What kind of man has this kind of passion for what he believes in? Not many, that’s for sure!
And this is what Paul is saying. Don’t you recognize the grace which has saved you? Don’t you understand the only thing between you and eternal damnation in the pit of hell is the grace of God?
It should not be controversial at all to walk according to the grace of Jesus Christ no matter where you are and no matter who sees. But it is and always has been, and I suppose it always will be.
Even Peter felt the social pressure to relent in the face of religiosity. Even Barnabas! How far would this fakeness have spread had the apostle Paul not been such a staunch defender of the grace of Jesus Christ?
Paul sites this event not to embarrass Peter forever, but because it is such a powerful example of what happens in any life when we retreat from the liberty found in the cross of Christ and go back under the shelter of appearing to keep any sort of set of religious rules. The worst part of this is no one can keep or has kept the religious rules anyway, so it is for appearance sake only.
Would you then trade that sort of behavior and fakeness for the ONLY thing capable of saving you?
Paul, as an example to all of us, is necessarily very intense about this, and I’m so thankful he was!