If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ. . . . We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might remain with you. (Gal. 1:10, 2:5).
It matters how I proclaim and live out the Gospel! What I say about the good news of Jesus (and how I live what I profess) either will lead non-believers away from Him, or draw them to Him; by the same token, my words and deeds either will undermine or will strengthen the faith of my fellow believers.
As a pastor, a husband, and a father, what I say about my faith in Jesus, and how I live that out, will affect those whom the Father has given me to shepherd. If I want the “truth of the [G]ospel” to remain with my wife, my children, and my church, I cannot allow myself to be misled by the man-made philosophies of this age, or by the perversions of the Gospel that are infiltrating and infecting the Church today. Like Jesus (and Paul), I must have the wisdom and boldness to speak out against the distortions of the Gospel that are leading God’s people astray. If I do not, I will be complicit with the enemy in his work of perverting the “truth of the [G]ospel” in the hearts of God’s Elect. It is an awesome spiritual responsibility to be a husband, or a father, or a pastor, or a teacher of God’s Word.
Peter learned this the hard way (as he did most of his lessons)! When he allowed himself to be influenced by the Judaizers and their false gospel (viz., that we are saved by placing our faith in Jesus and by obeying the law), he began to pull away from the Gentiles -- people God had been using him to reach with the Gospel. In Peter’s cowardice, disobedience, and hypocrisy, he even began leading other respected church leaders, like Barnabas, astray. (Gal. 2:11-13).
How do I avoid the same mistake Peter made? Paul gives some great advice. First, he cautions me not to pay attention to any other teaching or re-framing of the Gospel that contradicts the already revealed Word of God. Anything that conflicts with or is inconsistent with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as declared in Scripture, should be rejected and refuted, even if it is taught by a seemingly angelic being or a respected leader in the Church:
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse! (Gal. 1:6-9).
Second, I cannot please both God and man. That is why Paul writes that if he “were still trying to please men, [he] would not be a servant of Christ.” (Gal. 1:10). I must remember that my sole purpose and goal is to please Jesus, not my fellow man; I worship Jesus, not man; I am a slave of Christ, not of man.
Peter’s character, faith, and ministry were compromised for two reasons: He cared more about pleasing man than he did pleasing Jesus; he feared man more than he did his Lord. As a result, he allowed himself to give more credence to the doctrinal convictions of an influential religious sect within the Church than he did to what Jesus had taught him.
It is possible Peter compromised for reasons that seemed justifiable at the time. After all, he was an apostle to the Jews, not to the Gentiles. Perhaps he thought he was being shrewd in being careful not to offend the group of people to whom God had sent him as an apostle of Jesus Christ. Of course, the irony and the tragedy in that decision was that he no longer was preaching the Gospel of Jesus to those people; he effectively had ceased to operate as an apostle of Jesus Christ and now was the apostle of a false gospel.
The gravity of Peter’s offense cannot be over-stated: By his words and actions, he had led his followers into embracing another gospel, which really was “no gospel at all.” (Gal. 1:6). Peter effectively was preaching that “righteousness could be gained through the law,” and that the Christ had died for nothing. (Gal. 2:21). It is no wonder, then, that Paul felt compelled to rebuke Peter in front of all the people he had led into error. (Gal. 2:11-14). While it may have seemed harsh to Peter at the time, I believe Paul’s boldness in publicly challenging Peter’s heresy helped to ensure that the true Gospel “remained with [Peter]” and his ministry. (Gal. 2:5). I wonder if Paul had this incident in mind when he later counseled young Timothy to: “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.” (1 Tim. 4:16).