Then after 14 years: Some scholars suggest that Paul may mean “in the 14th year,” that is, a partial year followed by 12 full years and then another partial year. (Compare 1Ki 12:5, 12; see study note on Ga 1:18.) The period likely ran from 36 C.E. when Paul first visited Jerusalem as a Christian to 49 C.E. when he came to Jerusalem with Titus and Barnabas to discuss the circumcision issue with the apostles and elders there.—Ac 15:2.
as a result of a revelation: Paul here adds a detail not found in Luke’s account in the book of Acts. (Ac 15:1, 2) Christ, as head of the Christian congregation, apparently used a revelation to direct Paul to bring the important issue of circumcision to the apostles and elders in Jerusalem. (Eph 5:23) That historic meeting took place about 49 C.E. By mentioning this revelation, Paul further countered the Judaizers, who insisted that he was no true apostle. Jesus himself not only commissioned Paul but also gave him directions by means of revelations, proving that Paul was indeed a true apostle.—Ga 1:1, 15, 16.
I am preaching: The Greek word basically means “to make proclamation as a public messenger.” It stresses the manner of the proclamation, usually an open, public declaration rather than a sermon to a group.—See study note on Mt 3:1.
not even Titus . . . was compelled to be circumcised: When the circumcision issue arose in Antioch (c. 49 C.E.), Titus accompanied Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem. (Ac 15:1, 2; Ga 2:1) He was “a Greek,” an uncircumcised Gentile. (See study note on a Greek in this verse.) The use of the verb “to compel” in this verse may suggest that some Judaizers, or Christians who advocated following Jewish beliefs and customs, tried to pressure Titus to get circumcised. However, at the meeting in Jerusalem, the apostles and elders ruled that Gentile Christians did not need to get circumcised. (Ac 15:23-29) Paul refers to Titus’ case here because it added weight to his argument that converts to Christianity are not under the Mosaic Law. Titus performed his ministry primarily among uncircumcised people of the nations, so his uncircumcised state did not create an issue. (2Co 8:6; 2Ti 4:10; Tit 1:4, 5) Thus, his case differed from that of Timothy, whom Paul had circumcised.—See study note on Ac 16:3.
a Greek: Titus is described as a Greek (Helʹlen). This may simply mean that he was of Greek descent. However, some first-century writers used the plural form (Helʹle·nes) in referring to non-Greeks who had adopted the Greek language and culture. It is possible that Titus was Greek in that broader sense.—See study note on Ro 1:16.
false brothers: The Greek word for “false brother” (pseu·daʹdel·phos) is found only here and at 2Co 11:26. One lexicon defines the word as “a Christian in name only.” The Judaizers in the Galatian congregations posed as spiritual men, while in reality, they sought to direct the congregation back to strict adherence to the Mosaic Law. (See study note on Ga 1:6.) Paul said that such men were “brought in quietly” and that they “slipped in to spy” on Christian freedom, showing that these men used subtle tactics to spread their dangerous teachings.—Compare 2Co 11:13-15.
the truth of the good news: This expression, which also occurs in verse 14, refers to the whole body of Christian teachings in God’s Word.
God: Greek manuscripts read “God” here, but a few translations of the Christian Greek Scriptures into Hebrew and other languages use the divine name.
those who are uncircumcised: Lit., “those who are of the uncircumcision,” that is, the non-Jews.
just as Peter: Paul here shows that those taking the lead in the congregation cooperated with one another. (See study note on Ga 2:9.) The governing body in Jerusalem agreed that Paul had been entrusted with a ministry focusing on non-Jews, while Peter’s focus was primarily on preaching to the Jews. However, neither Paul’s assignment nor Peter’s was exclusive. It was Peter who had first opened up the work of preaching to Gentiles. (Ac 10:44-48; 11:18) And Paul witnessed to a great many Jews, as his commission from Christ included preaching “to the nations as well as to . . . the sons of Israel.” (Ac 9:15) Both men obediently carried out their respective commissions. For example, Peter later traveled E to serve in Babylon, which had a sizable Jewish population and was renowned as a center of Jewish learning. (1Pe 5:13) Paul carried out missionary journeys that extended far to the W, perhaps as far as Spain.
those who are circumcised: Lit., “those who are of the circumcision,” that is, the Jews.
empowered Peter for an apostleship . . . empowered me: The Greek verb e·ner·geʹo is here rendered “empowered.” In some of its other occurrences, the verb has been rendered “to be at work,” “to operate,” or “to energize.” (Eph 2:2; 3:20; Php 2:13; Col 1:29) In this context, it seems to convey the idea that God gave Peter and Paul not only the authority to act as apostles but also the capability to carry out their responsibilities.
Cephas: One of the names of the apostle Peter.—See study note on 1Co 1:12.
pillars: Just as a literal pillar provides support to a structure, so the men here described as figurative pillars were a source of support and strength to the congregation. The same word is used to call the Christian congregation “a pillar and support of the truth” (1Ti 3:15) and to describe the fiery legs of an angel (Re 10:1-3). James, Cephas, and John were known to be like pillars—solidly fixed, spiritually strong, and reliable in their support of the congregation.
the right hand of fellowship: Or “the right hand of partnership.” A handshake or the grasping of another’s hand denoted joint participation, fellowship, or partnership. (2Ki 10:15) About 49 C.E., the apostle Paul visited Jerusalem to take part in the discussion by the first-century governing body on the matter of circumcision. (Ac 15:6-29) During this visit, he apparently met with James, Peter, and John to discuss the commission that Paul had received from the Lord Jesus Christ to preach the good news. (Ac 9:15; 13:2; 1Ti 1:12) Paul here recalls the spirit of unity and cooperation evident in that meeting and afterward. The brothers saw clearly that they all shared the same work. They agreed that Paul and Barnabas should go to the nations, or the Gentiles, in their preaching work, while James, Peter, and John would focus on preaching to those who [were] circumcised, or the Jews.
keep the poor in mind: About 49 C.E., Peter, James, and John gave Paul and his fellow worker Barnabas a commission. (Ga 2:9) They were to keep the material needs of impoverished Christians in mind as they preached to the nations. Here Paul reports that he earnestly endeavored to do so. When the Christians in Judea later came into need, Paul encouraged the congregations in other locations to share material things with their needy brothers in Jerusalem. Paul’s letters reveal the attention that he gave to this matter. In both of his inspired letters to the Corinthian Christians (c. 55 C.E.), he wrote about the collection; he said that he had already given directions on this matter “to the congregations of Galatia.” (1Co 16:1-3; 2Co 8:1-8; 9:1-5; see study notes on 1Co 16:1, 3; 2Co 8:2.) About 56 C.E. when Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome, the collection was almost complete. (Ro 15:25, 26) Paul fulfilled his commission shortly thereafter, for later at his trial in Jerusalem, he told Roman Governor Felix: “I arrived to bring gifts of mercy to my nation.” (Ac 24:17) Such loving concern for the needs of fellow Christians was one of the identifying marks of first-century Christianity.—Joh 13:35.
Cephas: One of the names of the apostle Peter.—See study note on 1Co 1:12.
resisted: Or “confronted.” After noticing that the apostle Peter refused to associate with non-Jewish brothers because of fear of man, Paul took the initiative and “resisted him face-to-face,” reproving him before all who were present. The Greek word translated “resisted” literally means “stood against.”—Ga 2:11-14.
eat with people of the nations: Meals were occasions for fellowship that customarily included prayers, so it is understandable that the Jews generally did not share meals with Gentiles. In fact, the Israelites were commanded never to mingle with the nations that remained in the Promised Land, not even mentioning their gods. (Jos 23:6, 7) By the first century C.E., Jewish religious leaders had added their own restrictions, insisting that entering a Gentile home led to ceremonial uncleanness.—Joh 18:28.
he stopped doing this and separated himself: In 36 C.E., Peter, who was a Jewish Christian, used the third of “the keys of the Kingdom” to open up the opportunity for Cornelius and his household to become the first Christians who were not Jews or Jewish proselytes. (See study note on Mt 16:19.) Peter stayed in Cornelius’ home for days, no doubt sharing a number of meals with his Gentile hosts. (Ac 10:48; 11:1-17) He rightly continued the practice of eating with Gentile Christians. However, some 13 years later, while in Syrian Antioch, Peter suddenly “stopped doing this.” He feared the reaction of some Jewish Christians who had come from Jerusalem. These men had come from James, apparently meaning that they had associated with James, who was in Jerusalem. (See study note on Ac 15:13.) These men were slow to accept change and still insisted on strict adherence to the Mosaic Law and certain Jewish customs. (See study note on Ac 10:28.) Peter’s conduct could have undermined a decision that the governing body made in the same year as Peter’s visit, about 49 C.E. That decision had confirmed that Gentile Christians were not required to obey the Mosaic Law. (Ac 15:23-29) Paul here reviews the incident at Antioch, not to embarrass Peter, but to adjust a wrong view held among the Galatians.
those of the circumcised class: Lit., “the (ones) out of circumcision,” that is, some circumcised Jewish Christians who were visiting from the congregation in Jerusalem. In other occurrences, the same Greek expression is translated “the supporters of circumcision,” “those circumcised,” and “those who adhere to the circumcision.”—Ac 11:2; Col 4:11; Tit 1:10.
joined him in putting on this pretense . . . in their pretense: Two related Greek expressions occur here, a verb (sy·ny·po·kriʹno·mai) and a noun (hy·poʹkri·sis). Both were originally used to refer to Greek stage actors who wore masks when playing their parts. The second occurrence of “pretense” in this verse is rendered from the noun. That noun occurs six times in the Christian Greek Scriptures and is rendered “hypocrisy” elsewhere. (Mt 23:28; Mr 12:15; Lu 12:1; 1Ti 4:2; 1Pe 2:1; on the related word “hypocrite,” see study notes on Mt 6:2; Lu 6:42.) According to some lexicons, the Greek verb rendered “joined . . . in putting on this pretense” is here used figuratively, meaning “to join in playing a part or pretending” or “to join in hypocrisy.”
Cephas: One of the names of the apostle Peter.—See study note on 1Co 1:12.
is declared righteous: In the Christian Greek Scriptures, the verb di·kai·oʹo and the related nouns di·kaiʹo·ma and di·kaiʹo·sis, traditionally rendered “to justify” and “justification,” carry the basic idea of a person being cleared of any charge, held as guiltless, and therefore pronounced righteous and treated as such. (See study note on Ro 3:24.) Some in the Galatian congregations were being influenced by Judaizers, who were attempting to establish their own righteousness by works of the law of Moses. (Ga 5:4; see study note on Ga 1:6.) However, Paul stressed that only through faith in Jesus Christ would it be possible to gain a righteous standing with God. Jesus sacrificed his perfect life, providing the basis for God to declare righteous those exercising faith in Christ.—Ro 3:19-24; 10:3, 4; Ga 3:10-12, 24.
the very things that I once tore down: Paul at one time was zealous for Judaism, believing that he could gain a righteous standing with God by works of the Mosaic Law. (See study note on Ga 1:13.) But he figuratively tore down that belief when he became a Christian. (Ga 2:15, 16) His opposers claimed that Christians could gain salvation only by strictly following the Law. (Ga 1:9; 5:2-12) Paul explains here that if he put himself—or if any of the other Jewish Christians put themselves—back under the Mosaic Law, the result would be to build up again those “very things.” He would also again make himself a transgressor of that Law, subject to its condemnation.—See study note on Ga 3:19.
through law I died toward law: Paul’s words form part of an argument showing that he could not attain a righteous standing before God through “works of law.” (Ga 2:16) The Mosaic Law condemned Paul as a sinner deserving of death, since he could not keep the Law perfectly. (Ro 7:7-11) However, Paul says that he “died toward law” in the sense that he had been freed from the Law. That Law covenant was legally terminated on the basis of Jesus’ death on the torture stake. (Col 2:13, 14) That is why Paul could write to the Christians in Rome that they were “made dead to the Law through the body of the Christ.” (Ro 7:4) When Christians exercised faith in Christ’s sacrifice, they “died toward law.” Because the Law was what led Paul to Christ, Paul could say that it was “through law” that he “died toward law.”—See study notes on Ga 3:24 and 3:25.
I am nailed to the stake along with Christ: The Gospels use the Greek verb syn·stau·roʹo of those who were literally put on stakes alongside Jesus. (Mt 27:44; Mr 15:32; Joh 19:32; see study note on Ro 6:6.) Like other Christians, Paul lives by faith in the Son of God. (Ga 3:13; Col 2:14) By showing faith in the executed Christ, a Jewish Christian lives as a follower of Christ, not of the Law.—Ro 10:4; 2Co 5:15; see study note on Ga 2:19.
in the flesh: That is, as a human.
who loved me and handed himself over for me: Here Paul’s use of the pronoun “me” focuses on the benefits of Christ’s gift to each individual who chooses to exercise faith in Jesus. (See study note on Joh 3:16.) Paul understood and accepted Christ’s great love for him as an individual, so he was motivated to be loving and warm and generous to others. (See study note on 2Co 5:14; compare 2Co 6:11-13; 12:15.) He appreciated that Jesus had called him to be a disciple even though he had opposed Christ’s followers. Paul understood that Jesus, as an expression of love, gave up his life not only for righteous people but also for those who were weighed down with sin. (Compare Mt 9:12, 13.) While highlighting that Christ’s sacrifice applied to him personally, Paul clearly knew that the ransom would benefit an untold number of people.
Christ actually died for nothing: Paul emphasizes that if a person could be declared righteous through law, that is, by performing works of the Mosaic Law, Christ’s death would have been unnecessary. In this verse, Paul also explains that anyone who tries to earn the gift of life is, in effect, rejecting the undeserved kindness of God.—Ro 11:5, 6; Ga 5:4.