In this passage, we see Paul fighting for the truth of the gospel. First he went to Jerusalem to make sure he was on the same page as the rest of the apostles concerning salvation by grace apart from law. And in the midst of that, the Judaizers started insisting that Titus (the same Titus Paul wrote to later in the book of the same name) had to be circumcised in order to be truly considered a Christian. But Paul said,
We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might remain with you. (2:5)
The other apostles, fully on Paul’s side on this matter, then gave their blessing for him to go out to the Gentiles with this gospel of grace. (2:7-9)
But later, Paul had to confront Peter himself on this matter. Apparently Peter, because of his experience with Cornelius earlier (Acts 10-11) had fully embraced the Gentiles and had gone to the extent of actually eating with them and most probably eating their food, even though it went against both Jewish custom and law.
When people from Jerusalem came, however, they were apparently looking side-eyed at Peter for what he was doing, and so he started separating himself from the Gentiles. As a result, the other Jews with Peter started to follow his example, threatening to split the church all over again over a false gospel.
And so once again, Paul went to the mat, fighting for the gospel, essentially saying, “What in the world are you doing Peter? All this time, you’ve been acting as a Gentile, eating their food and hanging out with them, this though you are a Jew. And why? Because you know that we are not saved by keeping the law but through faith in Christ. You know perfectly well that nobody can be saved by keeping the law because nobody can possibly keep it perfectly. So why are you doing this?” (2:14-16)
Why was Paul so passionate about this? Why did he fight for the gospel so desperately? Because it was this same gospel that had saved him. It was not some gospel that he or anyone else had simply made up (1:11). It was a gospel that had stopped him in his tracks from a life headed toward death and gave him life.
But this was not a gospel that had come to him because of his own goodness or worth. It was not a gospel that had come to him because he had kept the law perfectly and because he had earned his salvation. He had murdered people, persecuting the church of God.
Rather, God had called Paul solely by His grace from before Paul was even born. And it was by His grace that God was pleased to reveal his Son to Paul. More he called Paul to spread that same gospel of grace to the Gentiles (1:11-16).
And so when people attacked this gospel that had saved him, Paul fought for it.
So should we. We have been given life through this gospel. God set us apart for himself before we were born and he called us. Not because of our own goodness. Not because of our own worthiness. But because of his grace. And now he calls us to spread his gospel of grace to those around us. So when this gospel of grace is attacked, we need to defend it.
How passionate are you about the gospel? Do you realize just how much you have been given? Do you understand the grace that God has showered down upon you? Then let us fight for the gospel and defend it against those who would attack it. Not because they are our enemies. But because they and all those around us need the truth of the same gospel that has saved us.