I don’t think Paul was a natural team player. He’s keen to make sure that the Galatians know that the gospel he preached to them doesn’t depend on any other apostle, but is first hand. He acknowledges that he checked out his message with ‘the acknowledged leaders’ but seems more interested in the fact that he confronted even Peter (Cephas, the Aramaic equivalent of the name) and his old friend and colleague Barnabas when they were persuaded to go back to old separations of Jew and Gentile.
I suspect that it didn’t take much for Paul to get into an argument. But this really mattered to him. This whole letter is a passionate response to a church giving up the freedom to be different yet united, falling back into old habits of division and exclusion.
Behind Paul’s thinking is the gospel of justification through faith by grace, depending wholly upon God through Christ. But the issue comes to a head over Paul’s insistence that the old barriers have gone.
How central is unity in freedom to our vision of faith? What would Paul have to say to our churches?