Galatians 2

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Galatians 2:1

A literal translation of the first few words would be, “Then through fourteen years.” The Greek preposition diá (through) is here usually translated “after,” as the expression “through fourteen years” evidently is to be understood as signifying that this period had passed. (Compare Mark 2:1 and Acts 24:17, where diá also has the sense of “after.”) Since there is no direct link to the apostle’s earlier fifteen-day stay with Peter, likely the fourteen years are to be counted from the time of Paul’s conversion.

The apostle continued: “I again went up to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking also Titus along.” Based on the book of Acts, Barnabas accompanied Paul on two of his visits to Jerusalem. (See, however, the Notes section.)

The purpose of the first one of the two trips was to bring a contribution to Jerusalem for the believers who would be affected by the adversities of a foretold famine. It was the Antioch congregation that sent Barnabas and Paul with the collected funds. The fact that the Acts account mentions Barnabas first suggests that he, not Paul, had the prime responsibility in connection with this mission. (Acts 11:30) Nothing in the book of Acts suggests that Paul had in mind discussing the evangel that he proclaimed. In fact, there would have been no reason for him to give an account about his activity in Syrian Antioch. The Jerusalem congregation had sent Barnabas there and, at his request, Paul joined him. So the apostle would not have felt compelled to take Titus along for the purpose of making a test as to whether there would be any insistence on this believing non-Jew’s being circumcised. It may also be noted that the Acts account does not mention that anyone else accompanied Barnabas and Paul to Jerusalem. (Acts 11:29, 30)

Years earlier, the apostles had decided to devote themselves exclusively to the “ministry of the word.” (Acts 6:2–4) It may well be, therefore, that other elders were responsible for overseeing the relief efforts. This would agree with what is reported in Acts 11:29, 30: “The disciples decided to send relief, each to contribute what he could afford, to the brothers living in Judaea. They did this and delivered their contributions to the elders through the agency of Barnabas and Saul.” (NJB) Paul and Barnabas may simply have talked to the elders who accepted the donated funds.

There may not have been any opportunity for association with the apostles during the brief stay in Jerusalem. If, as considerable manuscript evidence might suggest (see the Notes section), the developments narrated in Acts 12:1-24 may have preceded the arrival of Paul and Barnabas. According to the Acts account, Herod Agrippa I had executed the apostle James, and Peter was miraculously delivered from prison, thwarting Agrippa’s apparent plan to have him killed after the Passover. Therefore, the apostles may have chosen to stay away from Jerusalem until some time had passed after Agrippa’s death. At least Peter must have lived elsewhere during all the time his life was in danger. He certainly would have exercised due caution. (Compare Matthew 2:13–15, 22, 23.)

In his letter to the Galatians, Paul would not have been misrepresenting matters by omitting any reference to the trip with Barnabas. The purpose of that trip really had no bearing on Paul’s ministry to the nations and may well have involved no contact with the apostles.

What occasioned Paul’s going to Jerusalem fourteen years after his conversion evidently was a situation that developed in Antioch upon his return with Barnabas following an extensive mission on Cyprus and in parts of Asia Minor. Certain men from Judea, with no authorization from the Jerusalem congregation, stirred up no little trouble by insisting that circumcision and adherence to the Mosaic law were essential for salvation. (Acts 15:1, 24) Because of this development, according to the book of Acts, “Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to discuss this question with the apostles and the elders.” (Acts 15:2, NRSV) Unlike the mission involving the relief effort, there is specific reference to the apostles and mention is made of others who accompanied Paul and Barnabas. Furthermore, the fact that Paul’s name precedes that of Barnabas suggests that the apostle was the most prominent in the discussions. Since an issue had arisen about uncircumcised Christians like Titus, it was most appropriate for Paul to take him along to Jerusalem.


A twelfth-century manuscript reading of tessáron (four) is evidently a copyist’s error, as there is no support for it in any extant older Greek manuscripts.

The most ancient manuscript evidence supports the reading pálin anében (“again I went up”). This includes P46 (from about 200), the fourth-century Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus, and the fifth-century Codex Alexandrinus. There is also evidence for the reading anében pálin (“I went up again”). The reading pálin anélthon, however, has limited support. As both anében and anélthon signify “I went up,” the variations in manuscripts are really insignificant.

There is uncertainty about the reading of Acts 12:25. Numerous manuscripts, including the fourth century Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus, read eis Ierousalém (into or to Jerusalem), suggesting that Paul and Barnabas made another trip to Jerusalem after completing their relief mission. This particular section of Acts is not preserved in any of the papyrus manuscripts dating from before the fourth century. Other later manuscript readings indicate that Paul and Barnabas returned from Jerusalem upon completing their assignment. Among the various ancient manuscript readings are the following: ex Ierousalém (out of Jerusalem), apó Ierousalém (from Jerusalem), eis Antiocheian (into or to Antioch), ex Ierousalém eis Antiocheian (out of Jerusalem into Antioch). According to these later manuscripts, the events narrated in Acts chapter 12 could have preceded the arrival and departure of Paul and Barnabas.

Galatians 2:2

While the Acts account indicates that the Antioch congregation sent Paul, Barnabas, and some others to Jerusalem, the apostle added a clarifying detail: “But I went up according to a revelation.” The Greek term katá (according to) here has the sense of “in response to,” “in accord with,” or “as the result of.” Although the manner in which it was conveyed is not stated, this divine revelation (apokálypsis, “unveiling,” “uncovering”) doubtless was one of the many that the apostle received personally to guide and strengthen him in his service as an apostle to the nations. (2 Corinthians 12:7)

Paul knew that what he had taught Jews and non-Jews about salvation was correct and, therefore, had no reason to discuss the content of his preaching with the apostles. A divine revelation, however, indicated to Paul that it was then appropriate for him to do so. The apostle’s mentioning his going to Jerusalem “in response to a revelation” fitted his argument that he had not received the evangel from a human source and so was not inferior to any of the twelve apostles then living. He did not need their authorization or confirmatory response but always acted under divine guidance as the chosen apostle to the nations.

As to what he did at that time, Paul continued, “and I laid before them the evangel that I am preaching among the nations.” The Greek word anatíthemai denotes “to lay before,” “to present,” or “to explain.” Paul set forth the substance of the glad tidings. Since the Greek verb for “preaching” (kerysso,) is in the present tense, this indicates that the apostle continued to proclaim the same evangel among the nations or the non-Jewish peoples. No change in the content of his preaching occurred after the trip to Jerusalem.

Apparently the ones designated by the pronoun “them” are identified by what the apostle added, “but in private to the noted ones.” The expression “noted ones” (dokoúntes [form of dokéo]; literally, “seeming ones”) signifies those who appeared to be something in the eyes of others — persons of repute or prominence. Later, Paul identified them by name — James, Cephas (Peter), and John (2:9). The words “in private” are a rendering of kat’ idían, literally meaning “according to own” and signifying “apart from others,” “alone,” or “privately.”

The book of Acts does not mention such a private meeting. This is understandable, as the writer Luke focused on the final resolution of the issue that had been raised concerning uncircumcised believers. That there must have been a discussion with those held in high esteem by the congregation is only logical. For there to have been a meeting of all the apostles and elders of the Jerusalem congregation about a particular matter, those responsible for convening such a gathering needed to be approached.

Apparently at a private meeting, the apostle Paul, acting in harmony with a divine revelation, set forth the evangel he proclaimed among the non-Jewish peoples. The basic content of this evangel was that faith in Jesus Christ, the unique Son whom the Father had raised from the dead, constituted the sole basis for salvation. Besides relating what he proclaimed, the apostle doubtless also must have mentioned how God had blessed his efforts and those of Barnabas and how, through them, many miracles had occurred among the uncircumcised Gentiles. (Compare Acts 15:4, 12.) Thus, it would have been made clear to all present that Paul was preaching the true evangel that he had received by revelation and that his firm stand not to impose circumcision and adherence to the Mosaic law on non-Jewish believers had the backing of holy spirit.

Regarding the reason for the private discussion with those of repute, Paul continued, “not that somehow I might be running or had run in vain.” The apostle here refers to his tireless efforts or sustained exertions in declaring the evangel among the nations as “running.” He had thus “run” from the start of his conversion and continued doing so at the time he spoke to the prominent ones of the Jerusalem congregation. His apprehension was that all he had accomplished and continued to do in ministering to non-Jews might be “in vain,” or prove to be for nothing.

Since Paul had received the evangel “through revelation of Jesus Christ,” he had no doubts about the content of his preaching among the non-Jews. As evident from his other letters to believers, however, he was deeply concerned that all whom he aided to become disciples of Jesus Christ would continue to be such. If any were led astray, the diligent efforts that Paul expended in their behalf would have been for nothing. For example, when the apostle was forced to leave Thessalonica because of intense opposition, he was fearful about the effect persecution might have on the new believers. He wrote: “When I could stand it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith. I was afraid that in some way the tempter might have tempted you and our efforts might have been useless.” (1 Thessalonians 3:5, NIV)

Paul knew that advocating circumcision and observance of the Mosaic law as essentials for salvation constituted a perversion of the evangel. Hence, he was rightly apprehensive that a wrong decision respecting this could do untold spiritual harm. His experience with Jewish believers who had come to Antioch from Jerusalem forcefully demonstrated how persuasive they were. Even though he and Barnabas were personally present and set forth sound counterarguments, this did not resolve the issue. At least some members of the Antioch congregation apparently gave credence to the erroneous views propagated by Jewish believers from Judea.

Galatians 2:3

Paul continued: “But not even the Greek Titus, the one with me, was compelled to be circumcised.” By having the uncircumcised Titus accompany him to Jerusalem, Paul likely had in mind using the example of this Greek brother as a test case. The fact that James, Peter, and John did not insist on the circumcision of Titus proved undeniably that they were in full agreement with the manner in which Paul discharged his responsibilities as an apostle to the nations.

In Greek, the word for “compel” (anankázo) signifies “to constrain,” “to drive to,” “to put under necessity,” “to force.” Such compelling could be accomplished by means of threats, persuasion, or entreaty. It could also be achieved by subtle pressure to gain group approval or acceptance. There was, however, no compelling of any kind in the case of Titus. Though uncircumcised, he was accorded full acceptance as a beloved brother. Both the indicator of strong contrast (allá, “but”) and the strong negative (oudé, “not even”) serve to emphasize that the “noted ones” neither said nor implied that Titus should get circumcised.

According to Paul’s other letters, Titus continued to be a close associate in subsequent years. At the apostle’s request, he ministered to Christians in Corinth, developing intense love for them on account of their commendable response to correction. Upon leaving the city and rejoining Paul in Macedonia, he returned to Corinth to complete the task of getting a contribution ready for the poor believers in Judea. (2 Corinthians 2:13; 7:6, 7, 13–15; 8:6, 16, 17, 23; 12:17, 18) During the final years of Paul’s life, Titus had the assignment of handling problems in congregations on the island of Crete. Thereafter Paul encouraged him to join him at Nicopolis, probably the city located on a peninsula in northwestern Greece. (Titus 1:4, 5; 3:12) During the apostle’s second imprisonment and doubtless at his request or with his approval, Titus headed for Dalmatia. (2 Timothy 4:10)

Galatians 2:4

Despite the concurrence of James, Peter, and John that circumcision and adherence to the Mosaic law were not to be imposed on non-Jewish believers, an element within the congregation opposed the correct position. Paul stated, “But because of the brought-in false brothers who came in to spy on our freedom, which we have in Christ Jesus, in order to enslave us.” In view of the expression “false brothers,” the Greek adjective pareísaktos (brought in) has generally been understood in a sinister sense — “smuggled in” or “brought in quietly, secretly, or under false pretenses.”

Paul did not disclose who was responsible for bringing false brothers into the congregation. In view of Jesus’ parable or likeness about the weeds and the wheat, Satan evidently planted these sham believers among genuine Christians. (Matthew 13:24–30, 37–39) This would agree with what Paul said in his letter to the Thessalonians about Satan’s interfering with his efforts to strengthen fellow believers. (1 Thessalonians 2:18) Similarly, out of great concern for the spiritual welfare of the Corinthian congregation, the apostle wrote: “I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 11:3, NIV)

The “false brothers” were those who maintained that salvation was dependent on circumcision and compliance with the Mosaic law. If permitted to go unchecked, they would have made Christianity but another sect of Judaism. In Jerusalem and Judea, the Mosaic law was binding on all Jews as a civil law. Therefore, the apostles and other genuine believers continued to observe the law, nonetheless recognizing that they could never attain salvation thereby. The false brothers, however, were still Pharisaical at heart, insisting that all persons must become Jews and live as such in order to be saved. (Compare Acts 15:5, 10, 11; 21:20–26.)

Because wrong motivations were involved, the verb pareisérchomai, defined as “come in,” here is commonly viewed as having the sense of “slip in,” or “sneak in.” The objective of the “false brothers” was to “spy on” the freedom genuine believers enjoyed. By reason of being “in Christ Jesus” or members of his body united to him as head, believing Jews and uncircumcised Gentiles freely associated with one another. Since fleshly distinctions no longer counted, genuine Jewish believers had no objection to entering the homes of their non-Jewish brothers and eating with them. These believing Jews no longer viewed non-Jews as unclean and close contact with them as defiling. (Compare Acts 10:28, 29; 11:2, 3.) The false brothers, however, spied on this marvelous freedom. They apparently made it their business to determine whether all the believers who associated freely with one another were really circumcised. On finding out that certain ones were not, these false brothers must have questioned the propriety of freely associating with uncircumcised Gentiles. (Compare Acts 11:2, 3.) In this way, they wished to destroy the unity that had come about between Jews and non-Jews on the basis of faith in Jesus Christ as God’s sole means for salvation.

Galatians 2:5

Respecting the false brothers, Paul wrote, “to whom not even for an hour did we yield in submission.” The false brothers evidently insisted that Titus be circumcised, but the apostle refused to give in to what they expected. Paul’s use of the first person plural verb eíxamen (“we did yield”; “we did give in”; “we did surrender” [preceded by the strong negative oudé, “not even”]) probably included Barnabas and Titus. While circumcision in itself was not wrong, insistence on it and on observance of the Mosaic law for gaining salvation was contrary to Christian teaching. There was no room for compromise in an effort to preserve peace, but a firm stand had to be taken. In no way was Paul going to pacify the false brothers.

The apostle (evidently also Barnabas and Titus) did not waver. Not even for the briefest period — an hour — did he yield in submission (the dative te hypotagé [“to the submission, obedience, subordination, or subjection”] here evidently signifying “to the submission that was expected or demanded”). Paul did not succumb even momentarily to the pressure exerted by the false brothers and give some indication of perhaps submitting to what they advocated. (Compare Revelation 17:12 and 18:10, where “hour” designates a short period.)

Pointing to the noble, unselfish aspect for the unyielding stand, the apostle added, “in order that the truth of the evangel might remain with you.” The evangel is the truth, untainted by any falsehood, and the expression “the truth of the evangel” signifies the truth that is embodied in the glad tidings.

As a Jew, Paul would not personally have been affected by requirements that might be imposed on non-Jewish believers. He was not waging a personal battle. His firm stand was for the benefit of the Galatians and all other believing non-Jews. If the apostle had compromised with reference to Titus, the false brothers could have pointed to this as a precedent. This would have put into their hands a persuasive argument for their contention, especially since it would have appeared that all the apostles and elders of the Jerusalem congregation agreed with them. As a consequence, circumcision and compliance with the Mosaic law could have been imposed on all uncircumcised believers, including those in Galatia. In that case, “the truth of the evangel” would not have “continued” or “remained” with them. The introduction of circumcision and adherence to the Mosaic law as vital for salvation would have perverted the evangel, implying that faith in Jesus Christ was insufficient for gaining an approved standing with God. The false brothers were attacking the very foundation of Christian teaching. Any compromise with them for the sake of peace would have been destructive to the truth embodied in the evangel.

Note: The original reading of the sixth-century Codex Claromontanus does not include the words hois oudé (“to whom not even”). This is either a copyist’s error or a deliberate adjustment, as all other extant Greek manuscripts include the words. If a deliberate omission, the copyist may have felt that a correction was needed in view of Paul’s circumcising Timothy. (Acts 16:3)

Galatians 2:6

With reference to James, Cephas, and John, Paul wrote, “But from those who seemed to be something.” As in verse 2, the Greek word rendered “seemed” is a form of the term dokéo. In designating James, Cephas, and John as “those who seemed to be something,” the apostle was not downgrading their significant place in the Christian congregation. Instead, he was emphasizing that they were highly regarded. These faithful brothers were men of repute. Certain members of the congregation, though, apparently viewed them as being more than they actually were.

Paul then interrupted the sentence. Two intervening parenthetical phrases follow before the apparent thought with which the apostle began is completed. From a strict grammatical standpoint, however, the sentence starting with “but from” remains incomplete. This appears to be indicative of the rapid flow of Paul’s thoughts — thoughts impelled by the depth and intensity of his feelings.

Regarding James, Cephas, and John, Paul added, “whatever they were formerly does not matter to me.” In the Jewish community, James, Cephas, and John never enjoyed the distinction Paul had. Cephas and John were fishermen, “uneducated and ordinary.” (Acts 4:13, NRSV) Though not illiterate, they had not received any rabbinical instruction (as had Paul). Cephas and John were reckoned as being among the common people. To believers, however, they had the distinction of having been in intimate association with God’s Son. In the eyes of many, this in itself made the apostles special. As for the disciple James, he was the “brother of the Lord.” Such a distinction would have been very impressive and must have filled many with a measure of awe. After the violent death of the apostle James (the brother of John), it seems that Jesus’ half brother came to occupy a similar place of prominence.

Paul, though, looked at James, Cephas, and John spiritually and so did not attach undue importance to such outward distinction or to what these men formerly were by reason of their close association with Jesus Christ while on earth. Outward appearances did not overawe the apostle and make him feel inferior.

The Greek word diaphéro, here having the sense of “is of importance,” “does matter,” or “makes a difference,” is preceded by a strong negative (oudén), signifying “not at all,” “in no way,” or “in no respect.” Since the verb diaphéro is in the present tense, this indicates that Paul continued to have this view when writing to the Galatians.

Pointing to the spiritual reason for his statement about those who “seemed to be something,” Paul said, “[the] face of man God does not accept.” Since the “face” (prósopon) is an individual’s most distinctive feature, the expression “face of man” signifies man’s outward appearance. God’s not accepting the “face of man” is indicative of divine impartiality. Unlike humans who are impressed by what appears to the eyes, God does not accept anyone on that basis. The Most High revealed this very forcefully to the prophet Samuel in connection with Jesse’s son Eliab: “Do not judge from his appearance or from his lofty stature.… Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but [YHWH] looks into the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7; NAB) Distinctions brought about by circumstances over which one has no control do not make one special. The Most High is not swayed by such distinctions, and the apostle knew that this truth was clearly set forth in the inspired Scriptures.

Respecting James, Cephas, and John, the apostle concluded, “to me, indeed, the noted ones presented nothing.” The Greek word gár denotes “for,” “indeed,” “in fact,” or “certainly.” As there appears to be no linkage of gár with the preceding words, its meaning apparently is “indeed” or “in fact,” not “for.” Paul used the strong negative oudén (here denoting “nothing”) to modify the verb prosanatíthemai (prós, toward; aná, up; títhemi, lay, put, or place). This verb may be understood in its basic sense — “lay, put or place before,” “present.” James, Cephas, and John did not “lay before” or “present” to Paul anything new that he needed to consider. They added absolutely “nothing” to the evangel that he had preached and continued to proclaim. The implication is that James, Cephas, and John were declaring the same evangel. (Regarding “noted ones” [form of dokéo], see comments on verse 2.)

Note: Many manuscripts, including the fourth-century Codex Vaticanus, omit the definite article ho (the) before theós (God). It is, however, found in P46 (from about 200) and the fourth-century Codex Sinaiticus.

Galatians 2:7

As to what they “saw,” “recognized,” or “perceived” about his commission, Paul continued, “But contrariwise [that is, instead of imparting anything new], seeing that I had been entrusted with the evangel for the uncircumcised as Peter [had] for the circumcised.”

Based on the evidence presented to them, James, Peter and John “saw” or recognized that Paul had been entrusted with the commission to declare the evangel to the uncircumcised or to the non-Jews. In no respect did they view what Paul was preaching as a different evangel. It was the same “good news” that they themselves declared. Paul’s role in making known the “glad tidings” to the non-Jews was the same as that of Peter in proclaiming the evangel to Jews and proselytes.

On the day of Pentecost, fifty days after Jesus’ resurrection, Peter was the principal spokesman in bearing witness to the reality of the resurrection and what the Father had accomplished through his Son. (Acts 2:1–40) With the exception of his acting at divine direction in bringing the evangel to the Italian centurion Cornelius, his household and friends, Peter served primarily among the Jews. The apostle Paul, though, preached extensively among the non-Jews. This was in keeping with his being called by God through Jesus Christ to be “an apostle to the nations.”

Galatians 2:8

Pointing to the same source for what he and Peter were able to accomplish, Paul added, “for the One working in Peter for an apostleship to the circumcised also worked in me for [an apostleship to] the nations.” The Father is evidently being referred to as “the One.” In this case, the verb for “work” (energéo) seemingly has the sense of “empower” or “grant the ability,” and the objective of the divine working or empowering concerned the apostleships of Peter and Paul. While eis, the preposition preceding “apostleship” (apostolé), often means “in” or “into,” the apparent significance here is “for.” Thus, from the Most High, by means of his spirit, Peter and Paul received everything that they needed to discharge their respective ministries as apostles. Indicative of God’s working in them was their bold proclamation of the evangel and the many miracles that occurred through them. Clearly, Peter and Paul had the identifying marks of apostles — “signs and wonders, and mighty deeds.” (2 Corinthians 12:12, NAB). The sphere of their labors, though, was different, with Peter ministering to Jews and proselytes and Paul laboring chiefly among the non-Jewish peoples.

Galatians 2:9

James, Cephas, and John, based on their discussion with Paul, came to “know” (ginósko), discern, or recognize that he had been granted divine favor. This is the point the apostle made when he said, “and having recognized the favor given to me.” Paul’s accomplishments simply could not have been attributed to human effort. They were the product of the powerful operation of God’s spirit within him. There was no question about the fact that the apostle was a recipient of God’s “favor” or “grace” in a superabundant way. In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul made this acknowledgment: “For I am the least of the apostles and am not really fit to be called an apostle, because I had been persecuting the Church of God; but what I am now, I am through the grace of God, and the grace which was given to me has not been wasted. Indeed, I have worked harder than all the others — not I, but the grace of God which is with me.” (1 Corinthians 15:9, 10, NJB) Especially in view of his past record as a persecutor, the “favor” or “grace” given to Paul revealed the greatness of divine mercy. This divine favor or kindness was unearned, unmerited, and undeserved.

In view of what the leading ones perceived about him and his preaching, Paul wrote: “James and Cephas and John, the ones who seemed [form of dokéo] to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas [the] right [hands] of fellowship in order that we [would serve] among the nations but they among the circumcised.”

“James the brother of the Lord” (1:19) and the apostles Cephas (the Semitic equivalent of the Greek name “Peter,” meaning “rock”) and John were regarded as “pillars” or outstanding supports of the congregation. According to Acts 15, James evidently presided when the apostles and elders of the Jerusalem congregation discussed whether circumcision and compliance with all the requirements of the Mosaic law were to be imposed on believing non-Jews. Probably because James figured so prominently at that time, Paul chose to mention his name first.

In referring to James, Cephas, and John as appearing to be pillars, Paul did not mean that they merely seemed to be such but, in actuality, were not prominent supports. Instead, he was calling attention to their reputation. They were highly esteemed as men who took the lead.

Fully convinced by the evidence presented to them, James, Cephas, and John acknowledged Paul and Barnabas as doing the same work and extended to them their right hands. (The Greek term for “right” here is plural.) This was an expression of their full acceptance of Paul and Barnabas as partners. Appropriately, therefore, the apostle referred to the “right [hands] of fellowship.” Complete concord existed among all. The five men evidently shook hands when agreeing upon the fields in which they would labor.

The book of Acts shows that Paul thereafter expressed great concern for the Jews living in the regions where he proclaimed the evangel. On the sabbath, he would customarily go to the place where they assembled for worship, using the opportunities extended to him to share the glad tidings about Jesus Christ. Accordingly, the division of territory is not to be viewed as meaning that Paul and Barnabas agreed to preach exclusively to non-Jews, whereas James, Cephas, and John would limit their activity to Jews and proselytes. Instead, Paul and Barnabas would declare the evangel in regions with predominant non-Jewish populations, while James, Cephas, and John would concentrate on those areas where the Jews were in the majority.


Manuscripts differ in the order of the names. The most ancient manuscripts list James first. This includes P46 (from about 200) and the fourth-century Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus. A number of later manuscripts use the Greek form “Peter” and place it first. Possibly this change in the positions of the names occurred because Peter was mentioned in verse 8. Although this James was not the brother of John, copyists’ familiarity with the combination “James and John” may have been a factor in transposing the order of the names.

The words “and Cephas” are missing in the fifth-century Codex Alexandrinus. This is evidently a copyist’s error. In P46 (from about 200), the Greek name “Peter” appears instead of the Semitic equivalent “Cephas.”

Galatians 2:10

Although laboring among non-Jews, Paul and Barnabas were not to forget about the needs of fellow Jewish brothers. The apostle commented on this aspect, “only that we remember the poor.” Evidently these were mainly the poor or needy among the believing Jews in Jerusalem and Judea. To “remember” them would signify keeping ever in mind their needy condition and compassionately coming to their aid.

Paul was in complete heart harmony with the encouragement expressed by James, Cephas, and John. He added, “which very thing I also was eager to do.” The Greek verb (spoudázo) for “to be eager” basically means “to hasten” or “to hurry.” In this case, the term conveys the idea of earnest or diligent effort, coupled with strong motivation. It signifies “to do one’s best,” “spare no effort,” “work hard,” or “act quickly, eagerly.” Paul’s letters to the Romans and the Corinthians reveal that he did his best in keeping the poor in mind. He encouraged making contributions in behalf of needy Jewish believers and assumed personal responsibility for getting the donated funds to Jerusalem. Even the prospect of being arrested and deprived of his freedom did not deter Paul from discharging this responsibility. (Acts 21:11–14)

The apostle’s speaking in the first person appears to reflect the circumstance that he was no longer working with Barnabas as his partner. A sharp difference of opinion about having Mark accompany them on a second evangelizing trip led to their laboring in different areas. (Acts 15:36–41)

Galatians 2:11

Further emphasizing his equality with the apostles, Paul continued: “But when Cephas came to Antioch, I withstood him to his face.”

No time indicator is given about Cephas’ (Peter’s) visit in Antioch. Since, up to this point, Paul’s account has followed a chronological order, it is reasonable to conclude that Peter went to Antioch after it was unanimously agreed that circumcision and adherence to the Mosaic law were not requirements for non-Jewish believers.

The Greek term for “withstand” (anthístemi) has the sense of “resist,” “oppose,” or “stand one’s ground.” A direct confrontation was involved. It was face-to-face and public. By not holding back from correcting Peter in this manner, Paul showed that he did not regard himself as an inferior.

The apostle’s firm stand, however, was motivated by deep concern for the preservation of the evangel in purity. In no way did Paul try to elevate himself at Peter’s expense.

Commenting on the reason for his speaking out, Paul said of Peter, “because he was condemned.” The Greek word for “condemn” (kataginósko) can signify being condemned by one’s own actions or words. It may also be, however, that Paul meant that others, particularly non-Jewish believers with whom association was discontinued, could see that Peter was in the wrong.

Note: While the Greek “Peter” appears in many manuscripts, the Semitic equivalent “Cephas” is found in the fourth-century Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus, as well as the fifth-century Codex Alexandrinus.

Galatians 2:12

Explaining why Peter was condemned, Paul continued: “For before certain ones came from James, he used to eat with non-Jews [metá ton ethnón, with the nations]; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing the ones from among the circumcised.”

Paul did not reveal why these certain ones came to Antioch. The words “from James” could mean that James had actually sent them. In view of Peter’s already being in Antioch, however, it seems unusual that James would have sent a delegation to Antioch to check on how believers responded to the decision about what was required of non-Jewish believers. Possibly these men were “from James” because they closely identified themselves with him. Believers from Jerusalem and Judea may have had a great interest in the Antioch congregation, since the Jerusalem congregation had originally sent Barnabas to Antioch. (Acts 11:22)

A later incident mentioned in the book of Acts provides some indication about the thinking of the certain ones “from James.” On what proved to be Paul’s last visit to Jerusalem, he saw James and the elders of the Jerusalem congregation. At that time the apostle was told: “Brother, you see how many thousands of believers there are from among the Jews, and they are all zealous observers of the law. They have been informed that you are teaching all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to abandon Moses and that you are telling them not to circumcise their children or to observe their customary practices. What is to be done? They will surely hear that you have arrived. So do what we tell you. We have four men who have taken a vow. Take these men and purify yourself with them, and pay their expenses that they may have their heads shaved. In this way everyone will know that there is nothing to the reports they have been given about you but that you yourself live in observance of the law.” (Acts 21:20–24, NAB)

Understandably, Jewish believers with such great zeal for the law that they continued to share in the sacrificial services at the temple would not be inclined to associate freely with uncircumcised believers whose very presence in the sacred precincts would have been a capital offense. Strict separation from all non-Jews was part of their customary way of life. From childhood, they had been taught that it was sinful to eat with anyone other than Jews and proselytes. (Compare Acts 11:2, 3.) Although believing that Jesus was indeed the Christ, they continued to live as Jews in the Jewish community. Their view of non-Jews basically remained the same. Since, in Jerusalem and Judea, the congregations were Jewish, association with fellow believers did not result in regular contact with non-Jewish believers as it did in congregations elsewhere.

A traditional account recorded by Eusebius in the early part of the fourth century presents a picture of James that would have appealed to believing Jews who faithfully followed the requirements of the Mosaic law. Eusebius quoted the words of Hegesippus, who lived in the second century: “The charge of the Church passed to James the brother of the Lord, together with the Apostles. He was called the ‘Just’ by all men from the Lord’s time to ours, since many are called James, but he was holy from his mother’s womb. He drank no wine or strong drink, nor did he eat flesh; no razor went upon his head; he did not anoint himself with oil, and he did not go to the baths.” (Ecclesiastical History, Book II, chap. XXIII, translated by Kirsopp Lake) To what extent, however, this traditional account preserves an accurate portrayal of James cannot be determined.

Before “certain ones from James” arrived, Peter had no scruples about eating with non-Jewish believers. Years earlier, he had been taught by means of a vision that he should not regard anyone as defiled or unclean. (Acts 10:28) Therefore, he had unhesitatingly entered the home of Cornelius and, for the first time in his life, eaten with uncircumcised people. (Acts 11:3) From then onward, Peter no longer considered it sinful to associate with non-Jews.

Not all Jewish believers, however, grasped the full significance of what Peter had been taught. While recognizing that non-Jews could become believers, many believing Jews did not abandon the view that freely associating with any uncircumcised people was wrong. Peter was fully aware that this was the opinion of certain Jews “from James.” So he began to distance himself from believing non-Jews. The Greek words for “withdraw” (hypostéllo) and “separate” (aphorízo) are in the imperfect tense, suggesting that Peter did this gradually or progressively. Apparently he started to limit his association with non-Jewish believers and progressively confined all close fellowship to Jewish believers. Thus, he began to treat his non-Jewish brothers as if they were unfit companions.

Peter did this, as Paul noted, “fearing the ones from among the circumcised,” that is, those Jews who had come “from James.” It may be that Peter feared losing esteem in their eyes, as they would have judged his associating freely with non-Jewish believers as sinful. Apparently concern about his standing with certain fellow Jews caused him temporarily to disown his non-Jewish brothers.


The reading of P46 (from about 200) seems to be tina (certain one) instead of the plural tinas (certain ones) appearing in most ancient manuscripts.

The plural élthon is generally regarded as the correct reading, even though the singular élthen (he came) is found in P46 (from about 200) and fourth-century Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus. It is not likely that Peter would have been moved to change his conduct toward non-Jewish brothers on account of just one visiting Jewish believer. So, there appears to be sound reason for accepting the plural élthon as the correct reading.

Galatians 2:13

Peter’s wrong course affected Jewish believers in the Antioch congregation. Paul added: “And the remainder of the Jews also joined him in [this] hypocrisy, and even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy.” The Greek verb synypokrínomai denotes “acting hypocritically along with others,” or “joining others in dissembling or putting on a pretense.” In its basic sense, the noun hypokrités signifies “one who answers” and came to be the designation for an “actor,” “one who plays a part on the stage.” Since actors wore large masks equipped with devices for amplifying the voice, the term hypokrités came to have a metaphoric sense — “a person who plays a part, puts on a pretense, or dissembles.”

As an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, Peter was highly respected and occupied an influential position. Therefore, his withdrawing from non-Jewish believers and separating himself had a bad effect on other Jewish believers in Antioch, prompting them to imitate his example in giving the group of Jews from Jerusalem the impression that they were in heart sympathy with a separatist stance regarding all non-Jews. Even Barnabas, who had labored with Paul in bringing the evangel to uncircumcised peoples, did not resist the pressure to act out this lie. He may have justified his course by concluding that it was but a temporary measure to avoid giving needless offense to fellow Jews. All, however, apparently failed to recognize the seriousness of their pretense or hypocrisy. The word for “lead astray” (synapágomai) can also denote “to be carried away.”

Note: The word kaí, translated “also” in this case, is found in numerous manuscripts. It is, however, missing in P46 (from about 200) and the fourth-century Codex Vaticanus. The omission of kaí, however, does not change the meaning of Paul’s words.

Galatians 2:14

Paul acted quickly. He continued: “But when I saw that they were not walking in line with the truth of the evangel, I said to Cephas before all: ‘If you, being a Jew, like a non-Jew [ethnikós, nation-like] and not like a Jew [ioudaikós, Jewish-like] live, how can you compel non-Jews [literally, nations] to Judaize?’”

Indicative of the sharp difference between his firm stand and the action of the others is the apostle’s use of the conjunction allá (but), a marker of strong contrast. Paul “saw” or “recognized” the wrongness of what Peter, Barnabas, and other Jews in the Antioch congregation were doing. The Greek verb orthopodéo (orthós, straight, upright; podós, foot) denotes “to walk uprightly or straight,” “to conduct oneself aright.” It is in the present tense and, therefore, indicates that the “walk” or “course” was then in progress. The verb is followed by the preposition prós, meaning “toward” but here having the significance of “according to” or “in line with.” Peter, Barnabas, and the others were not “walking” in harmony with the “truth” embodied in the evangel. Their course negated the vital truth that both Jews and non-Jews could enjoy a clean standing before God on the basis of their faith in Jesus Christ. A refusal to fellowship and eat with uncircumcised believers implied that they were still defiled or unclean and, hence, unacceptable companions.

It is inconceivable that believing Jews who refused to join their non-Jewish brothers at common meals would have been willing to eat from the same loaf and drink from the same cup in remembrance of Christ. Left unchecked, a deliberate withdrawal and separation from non-Jewish believers would have divided the congregation, the body of Christ. It was only by joint fellowship, partaking of the same loaf and the same cup, that believing Jews and non-Jews; men and women; slaves, freemen, and masters could demonstrate their unity as members of Christ’s body with an approved standing before God as his children. (1 Corinthians 10:16, 17) Far too much was at stake for Paul to have tolerated any compromise in order to keep from offending certain legalistic-minded Jews. The apostle knew that a failure to accept, on the basis of race, tribe, sex, or social standing, any believer as an approved child of God constituted a rejection of the truth that was clearly revealed in the evangel. (Colossians 3:11)

Paul, therefore, publicly reproved Peter. While all the other Jewish brothers were guilty of playing false, Peter’s example had been responsible for inducing them to adopt the same behavior. So Paul’s directing his words of reproof to Peter served well in correcting everyone.

Though a Jew, Peter had earlier conducted himself like a non-Jew, not adhering to Jewish separatism but eating with uncircumcised believers and treating them as brothers with an approved standing before God. Peter’s discontinuing association with uncircumcised believers, however, suggested that his non-Jewish brothers would only be acceptable companions if they got circumcised and submitted to the requirements of the Mosaic law. Rightly, then, Paul spoke of Peter’s action as “compelling” and “forcing” Gentile believers to become Jews. Peter’s course was self-contradictory, and Paul’s pointed question made this forcefully clear.

The words that follow this question (verses 15–21) may be a continuation of Paul’s words of reproof, or his further development of the subject, the objective being to correct the Galatians.


While many manuscripts contain the Greek name Peter, the Semitic equivalent Cephas has more ancient manuscript support (including P46, Codex Sinaiticus, Codex Vaticanus, and Codex Alexandrinus).

Manuscripts vary in the placement of zés (live). In the Majority text (represented mainly by Byzantine manuscripts), the term follows ethnikós, whereas zés follows ioudaikós in the fourth-century Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus, as well as the fifth-century Codex Alexandrinus. The difference in the position of the verb, however, does not alter the meaning.

The reading pós (how) has the support of P46 (from about 200), the fourth-century Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus, the fifth-century Codex Alexandrinus, and numerous other ancient manuscripts. The Majority text (represented chiefly by Byzantine manuscripts), though, reads (why). This variation does not materially affect the meaning of Paul’s words.

Galatians 2:15

Evidently with the situation at Antioch in mind (if not part of the reproof directed to Peter), Paul included himself, “We, by nature, Jews and not sinners from the nations.” Like Peter and other believing Jews, Paul was a Jew by nature, that is, by birth. The Jews viewed all people who were uncircumcised and without the law as defiled sinners. The law was an expression of the divine will, setting forth what God required for one to be “holy” as he is “holy,” clean, or pure. Therefore, the non-Jews who had not accepted the law as their guide were unclean sinners.

Galatians 2:16

Regarding the basic truth that believing Jews knew or recognized, Paul continued: “But knowing that a man is not justified by works of law but only through faith in Jesus Christ, also we have believed in Christ Jesus so that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of law, because by works of law no flesh will be justified.”

The term “justify” (dikaióo) here denotes coming to have an approved relationship with God, not having sin reckoned against one. Believing Jews “knew,” recognized, or were fully aware that they could never hope to prove themselves wholly righteous before God by “works of law,” that is, by their efforts to fulfill the requirements of the Mosaic law. Regardless of their diligence and zeal in observing the law, they would still miss the mark of perfect obedience and, therefore, be condemned by the law as sinners. Since flawless obedience was impossible, they could not be justified on the basis of personal merit.

The Greek preposition (ek), commonly rendered “by,” means “out of.” Accordingly, justification is not “out of” — neither having its source in nor resulting from — “works of law,” the kind of actions that the Mosaic law prescribed and which sinful humans could not carry out perfectly.

The only way in which any human can be justified or counted as righteous or guiltless by God is “through faith in Jesus Christ” or, more literally, “through faith of Jesus Christ.” This linkage of faith to God’s Son is not to be understood as meaning the “faith” belonging to him. Rather, it denotes the “faith,” or unqualified trust, that has Jesus Christ as its object. This faith is the means for obtaining forgiveness and, therefore, the righteous standing before God that is made possible through Christ’s sacrifice. (Acts 13:38, 39)

In Greek, the word kaí means “and,” “also,” or “even.” Because of the apparent contrast with non-Jews, the expression kaí hemeís probably means “also we.” Paul included himself when using “we,” with apparent reference to other believing Jews. Like the believing non-Jews, “we, too,” as Paul expressed it, “have believed in Christ Jesus.”

The Greek word for “believe” (pisteúo) is the verb form of “faith” (pístis). Therefore, “to believe in Christ Jesus” means “to put or have faith in” or “to place full trust in” him. Such putting of faith in God’s Son is of such a nature that the individuals doing so bind or attach themselves completely to Christ, resulting in a marvelous union with him.

Such a faith or implicit trust has a direct bearing on justification. As Paul added, “so that we might be justified out of faith in Christ.” The apostle had previously written “through” (diá) faith but now used “out of” (ek) and thus contrasted the true source for justification with the invalid one — “and not out of works of law.” Faith that has Christ as its object did result in justification, but justification does not have its source in or result from “works of law.” For the third time, Paul stressed that works of law could not lead to justification, concluding with the words, “because out of works of law no flesh will be justified.” “Flesh” (humans in their sinful or fallen state) cannot be pronounced guiltless on the basis of “works of law.” When attempting to prove themselves righteous by strict adherence to a particular code of law, all sinful humans are doomed to failure.

At the time consideration was given to whether believing non-Jews needed to be circumcised and charged to submit to the requirements of the Mosaic law, the apostle Peter (based on what he had witnessed in the home of Cornelius) expressed the same thought about the way in which both Jews and non-Jews gain divine approval. He said, God “made no distinction between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. Now, then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.” (Acts 15:7–11, NIV)


The “but” () is missing in many manuscripts, including P46 (from about 200). It is, however, found in the fourth-century Codex Vaticanus and other manuscripts. Neither the inclusion nor the omission of the term affects the basic meaning of Paul’s words.

Manuscripts vary in reading either “Jesus Christ” or “Christ Jesus.”

The most ancient extant manuscripts read hóti, whereas dióti is found in many other manuscripts. Since both words can be understood to mean “because,” the variation is insignificant.

Galatians 2:17

Continuing his argument, Paul raised the question: “But if we who seek to be justified in Christ were ourselves also found [to be] sinners, really Christ a servant of sin?” To be justified “in Christ” evidently means having a guiltless standing before God by reason of being “in Christ,” at one with him. Paul’s question apparently relates to believing Jews. They had turned their backs on the law as being totally ineffectual in gaining a righteous standing with God. If their seeking to be justified exclusively “in” Jesus Christ did not lead to the desired result, they would prove to be worse sinners than they were while trying to gain righteousness by means of the law. They would find themselves outside the law like the Gentile sinners. That would mean that Jesus Christ had actually contributed to their sin and was serving the interests of sin.

The introductory “really” is a rendering of the Greek ara. Depending on the accent, this term can (1) point to a negative response to a question and have the significance of “really,” “indeed,” “then,” or “even,” or (2) may mean “thus,” “consequently,” or “therefore.” Since there is no verb in the phrase, “really Christ a servant of sin,” translators commonly insert “is” or another verb.

Paul began his sentence with the conditional “if” (ei). Accordingly, the phrase “really Christ a servant of sin” is evidently to be regarded as a deduction from the conditional statement and may mean, “indeed, would not Christ be a servant of sin?” The question form appears to be the preferable choice, as Christ is never the servant of sin.

The expression, “May it not happen,” provides a strong negative answer. It is impossible for the Son of God ever to be the promoter of sin. Paul’s negative exclamation may signify that such a thing should never be attributed to Jesus Christ — “perish the thought.” (See also comments on 3:21.)

Galatians 2:18

Apparently highlighting how inconsistent it would be for a believing Jew to teach or to imply that believing non-Jews needed to follow the precepts of the Mosaic law, Paul said: “For [gár] if what I tear down is what I again build up, I show myself [to be] a transgressor.” Although the Greek word gár can also mean “indeed” or “certainly,” it evidently here has the sense of “for,” linking what follows with Paul’s previous statement about justification and the impossibility of Christ’s ever being a servant of sin.

The “tearing down,” “destroying,” or “breaking down” (katalyo, a combination of katá [down] and lyo [loose]) apparently relates to the manner in which Jews, upon becoming believers, came to view the Mosaic law. They came to recognize that it could not help even one member of the sinful Jewish nation to be considered as guiltless by God. In thus representing the law as valueless from the standpoint of justification, believing Jews “tore” it down.

Consequently, when believing Jews implied (as Peter and others did when separating themselves from believing non-Jews) that uncircumcised peoples needed to submit themselves to the requirements of the law in order to enjoy full fellowship with them, they were building up the law. Their course indicated that, in the case of non-Jews, faith in Jesus Christ had to be supplemented by obedience to the Mosaic law in order for them to have the same standing before God that believing Jews enjoyed. Those involved in such building up would show that they had been wrong when tearing down the law with reference to justification. As Paul, continuing to speak of himself representatively, concluded: “I show myself to be a transgressor,” one who oversteps fixed limits.

Galatians 2:19

Regarding the Mosaic law, Paul noted: “For I, through law, died to law so that I might live to God.” In the Greek text, “I” (egó) is the first word and so occupies an emphatic position. Evidently the apostle was thereby stressing that he was speaking from personal experience. Although not preceded by the definite article, “law,” as indicated by the context, designates the Mosaic law. As in the previous verse, the word gár apparently means “for.” It serves to introduce why Paul would be a transgressor if he were to “build up” the law. The reason is that the law itself indicated that he could not gain a righteous standing through it.

The Mosaic law revealed to Paul that he was a sinner. Despite all his efforts to gain merit before God through observance of the law, he found himself condemned, falling short of its righteous requirements. The apostle’s experience with the law made him realize that he could never hope to gain a guiltless standing before God. As a result, Paul died to the law insofar as trying to gain a right relationship with God through or by means of it. It was “through” or “by means” of the law itself that this occurred. Since, however, he acquired an approved standing before God through faith in Jesus Christ, Paul was no longer under the condemnation of sin and dead in God’s sight by reason of his failure to live up perfectly to the requirements of the law. (Compare Ephesians 2:1-5.) The expression “live to God” may also signify to “live for God,” that is, to live a life that reflects submission to the divine will in attitude, word, and action. It is the kind of life that Jesus Christ exemplified. His will was his Father’s will.

Revealing why the law had no hold on him, Paul wrote: “I am crucified with Christ.” (Galatians 2:20) The apostle Paul employed the Greek term systauróo. While the prefix can indicate one’s being executed alongside another on a separate staurós (Matt. 27:44; Mark 15:32; John 19:32), the apostle evidently viewed himself as being put to death on the same staurós with Christ. Because of his having become a member of Christ’s body, Paul could speak of sharing in the experience of the head of this body — the Christ. Hence, he, as one who had put forth extraordinary efforts to prove himself righteous by strict adherence to the law, died as if he had been nailed with Christ on the staurós. In his being put to death with God’s Son, Paul ceased to be under the control of the Mosaic law. He was discharged from the obligations imposed by a legal code. (Rom. 7:1–6)

Note: Ancient Greek writers used the word staurós to designate an upright pale or stake. The verb stauróo, therefore, meant “to attach to, suspend from, or affix to a stake [staurós] or timber [xylon]” (as it does in the Septuagint in the account about the sentence imposed on Haman [Esther 7:9, 10; compare Acts 5:30 and 10:39]). According to the minority view (expressed, for example, in Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, under “Cross, Crucify”), Jesus died on an upright pale. In the highly allegorical Epistle of Barnabas (probably written early in the second century), Jesus’ staurós is associated with the letter tau (T). Archaeological evidence, though very limited, indicates that the Romans did use a stake with a cross beam, but not in the position commonly associated with the stylized Latin cross.

Galatians 2:20

Commenting on the result of this kind of death with Christ, Paul added: “Living, however, no longer am I, but Christ is living in me.” The old “I” (egó) was dead. The zealous Pharisee Saul (Paul) who had outstripped others of his age in his devotion to tradition and progress in Judaism ceased to exist. As a disciple of Jesus Christ, Paul was not the same man. All his vain striving to gain merit with God came to an end. The apostle had fully thrown himself upon the Father’s mercy and trusted unreservedly in the atoning power of Christ’s sacrifice. The clean standing that he enjoyed before God was due to his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Through God’s Son, Paul began enjoying a newness of life, and that life was so intimately bound up with Jesus Christ that the apostle could speak of Christ as living “in” him. Paul perceived that the Son of God had fully taken possession of his very being.

With reference to his new life, the apostle continued: “But the [life] which I am now living in [the] flesh I am living in faith, the [faith] of the Son of God who loved me and gave himself up for me.” Though still “in the flesh” or a human, Paul lived “in” the element of faith. He had absolute confidence in the cleansing that God’s Son had effected. The apostle did not doubt that he had been justified through his faith in Jesus Christ. His new life reflected complete reliance on what God’s Son had accomplished. Faith, not a desire to prove himself righteous, was the motivating force in Paul’s life. His was the faith “of the Son of God.” The genitive construction “of the Son” does not mean “belonging to the Son” but signifies “resting on the Son.” It is the faith that has Jesus Christ as its object.

Paul was filled with gratitude for what God’s Son had done for him. The apostle viewed the love and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ in a very personal way. He did not merely speak of being included in this love and being among those for whom God’s Son gave himself up or sacrificed his life. Instead, Paul referred to Jesus Christ as the One “who loved me and gave himself up for me.

Note: The reading “of Son of God” (huioú toú theoú) has the support of many manuscripts, including the fourth-century Codex Sinaiticus and the fifth-century Codex Alexandrinus. Other manuscripts, though read “of God and of Christ” (theoú kaí Christoú). These include P46 (from about 200) and the fourth-century Codex Vaticanus.

Galatians 2:21

Therefore, it was unthinkable for Paul to return to an arrangement that rested on observing a legal code in order to gain divine approval. He continued: “I am not setting aside the favor of God; for if righteousness is through law, then Christ died for nothing.” In Greek, the “not” (ouk) precedes the verb meaning “I am setting aside,” adding emphasis to the negation. He firmly resisted any conduct suggesting that faith in Christ was insufficient to gain an approved standing before God. The Greek verb “set aside” or “nullify” (athetéo) is in the present tense, indicating that Paul’s not “setting aside the favor of God” continued to be his determination. For the apostle to have returned to proving himself righteous by striving to live up to the law or teaching that others should do so would have meant voiding the favor of God — the unmerited kindness shown in being justified through faith in Jesus Christ. It would have been like saying to the Father that his favor or grace was insufficient for attaining a righteous standing. The apostle, however, knew that, on his own merit, he could never hope to be righteous or guiltless before God. Paul’s life as a zealous Pharisee had amply demonstrated that to him. Never could he return to a legalistic observance of the law or, by word and action, imply that non-Jews needed to do so upon becoming believers.

If it had been possible for sinful humans to prove themselves righteous by perfect obedience to the law, there would have been no need for God’s Son to die. It would simply have been necessary to teach obedience to the law, making the sacrifice of Christ superfluous. As Paul said, “then Christ died for nothing” (Greek, doreán, derived from doreá, gift; hence, meaning “as a free gift,” “for nothing,” “needlessly,” or “purposelessly”). Righteousness, that is, being viewed as righteous before God, however, was not attainable by sinful humans “through law.” Instead, the Mosaic law condemned them, clearly identifying them as guilty of sin before the Almighty.