I started reading through Galatians the other day and got stuck in chapter 2. Most people probably get stuck at chapter 3 when Paul talks about works/faith, but not me...
The reason that I got stopped in chapter 2 was because I read verse 12 talking about Peter, "for before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing, the circumcision party. And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him..." He "drew back and separated himself." This idea that Peter is better than others because he doesn't upset the Jewish custom and culture threatens the gospel of justification by faith alone through Christ alone because it implies that all Christians had to live like Jews, specifically in their dietary habits, in order to be justified before God.
Chapter 2 deals with the gospel and culture. Let me explain a bit more using some words from your friend and mine, Mark Driscoll. There are 3 groups out there, one says as Christians we should be completely separate from the world, another says, we should meld with the world/popular culture, the last is somewhere in the middle. The deal is that the gospel should be our primary concern. It exists in different cultures around the world(which is GREAT and BEAUTIFUL). The Church(big C) gathers in community with thousands of cultural differences to celebrate our freedom in Christ. Sometimes we forget that the gospel comes first and we put culture above it, creating hierarchies of Christians (ie, we pray 5 times a day at 6am, we wear cool clothes and play our worship really loudly.) This shouldn't be. Therefore, we must always come back to the gospel as culture changes around us.
In ch. 2 we see that this whole ordeal happens because the people are putting culture (circumcision) above the gospel. They say, you can't be Christian if you aren't circumcised. This is wrong. They are legalists who bring culture as high as the gospel and doubt Christians who haven't participated in the ways of their culture. The thing is though, that Jesus fulfilled the law, so we don't need more rules and regulations, we need Jesus.
I find myself and others putting culture first before the gospel of Jesus. We say, "this worship is boring", or "this preaching is a bit dry." There are also those who just think they are better than others because they know more Bible, or can talk the spiritual talk better. We fail to even think about whether or not the gospel of Jesus is going forth and if lives are being changed by it. We add the prerequisite of culture to the gospel, "if your faith doesn't look like mine, you are not a christian or you are not as good of a christian as me." The fact of the matter is, that one is not better than the other. We are ALL saved by grace through faith in Jesus. He saved sinners, messed up and crazy people. ALL of us have sinned and fall short of His glory, yet through Jesus and HIS redemptive work on the cross we are reconciled to God...AMAZING and BEAUTIFUL!
Galatians 2: 19,"For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose."