Paul was a change agent of sorts because even after Jesus died and was resurrected, his disciples didn’t seem to fully comprehend what he had done for them. Liberty was a foreign concept to the Jews. The temple that the Jews worshipped in was designed to constantly remind them that they were separated from God by their sin. After Jesus died and was resurrected, the Jews, and everyone else, had free access to God. There wasn’t anything they could do from that point forward that wouldn’t be forgiven.
One of the problems the Jewish people had was continuing to think of themselves as God’s chosen or special people. They thought a barrier still existed between God and man. The idea that anyone could freely enter into the presence of God was beyond the Jews’ comprehension. Paul felt it was his responsibility to correct this erroneous thinking. Paul wanted the Jewish people to understand that they were no longer special. That was why they didn’t like Paul’s message and tried to kill him.
One of the ways the Jewish people tried to stop Paul’s gospel message from being accepted was to say that he had made it up, that it wasn’t really true. What he was preaching was so radical that Paul was reluctant to share his message with certain people. It took him 14 years to grow strong enough in his faith that he was willing to confront the leaders of the church in Jerusalem. Peter, especially, was a problem for Paul because everyone trusted Peter and believed everything he said was directly from the Lord.
Finally, when Paul made it back to Jerusalem, he said straight out, God has spoken this message to me and I am obligated to share it with you (Galatians 2:2). “And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship” (Galatians 2:9). Everyone finally agreed that Paul should take his message to the people outside of Israel so that they could become Christians too.
Later, Peter came to visit Paul in a city where he was preaching. Peter stirred up trouble by acting like Paul was doing something wrong. Paul confronted Peter and told him to his face that he was being a hypocrite. The dispute between these two men was about whether or not a person could work his way into heaven. Paul said, “We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.