When we reach out to others with the gospel, we may be tempted to tweak the truth of the gospel to suit different people at different times. But this approach has serious implications.
We may sometimes wish that the gospel was more appealing to friends and relatives. However, Paul's experience shows that the gospel cannot be tweaked for any reason without serious consequences.
Paul recounts his second visit to Jerusalem, 14 years after his conversion (Galatians 2:1). This visit took place after a prophet named Agabus predicted a severe famine, prompting the Christians in Antioch to hold a collection to support their brethren in Judea. They sent Paul and Barnabas to deliver the money to fellow believers in Jerusalem (Acts 11:27-30). This time, the two men brought Titus, a Gentile (Greek) believer along (Galatians 2:1).
But Paul had another reason for going. A divine revelation prompted him to present the gospel he was preaching among the Gentiles to those who had become apostles before him. He wanted to ensure he ″was not running and had not been running my race in vain″ (v. 2). Was he asking the Jerusalem leaders to check whether his teaching was correct, as this verse appears to suggest? Not at all. Paul's real concern was that Christianity could split into two groups-Jewish and Gentile-if Jerusalem did not stand in fellowship with him on the gospel.
To quote from F. F. Bruce, ″That would be disastrous; Christ would be divided; and Paul's own work among the Gentiles would be frustrated″1 because there could end up being one justification for the Jews and another for the Gentiles.
As everyone was Jewish in the Jerusalem church, the circumcision controversy was essentially a Gentile churches' issue. However, with Jerusalem's recognition and support, Paul knew he would not be alone in proclaiming the Christ-only, circumcision-free gospel. There would be no two justifications and God's church would stay united.
What was the Jerusalem leaders' response to Paul's presentation? Titus was not ″compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek″ (v. 3). To Paul, this was proof enough of their total agreement with his gospel, which was no different from theirs.
Circumcision was an issue in the Gentile churches because false believers had infiltrated their ranks in order to make them slaves to the law (v. 4). But Paul and his co-workers, for the sake of the Gentile believers, refused to compromise, so that Gentile believers could continue to experience the truth of a law-free gospel (v. 5).
We may sometimes wish that the gospel was more appealing to friends and relatives. However, Paul's experience shows that the gospel cannot be tweaked for any reason without serious consequences. There is only one gospel revealed by God and it is based on this gospel that we are saved.