Galatians 2:11-21

11 But when Cephas came to Antioch I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned.
12 For before certain men came from James, he ate with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party.
13 And with him the rest of the Jews acted insincerely, so that even Barnabas was carried away by their insincerity.
14 But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, "If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?"
15 We ourselves, who are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners,
16 yet who know that a man is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ, and not by works of the law, because by works of the law shall no one be justified.
17 But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we ourselves were found to be sinners, is Christ then an agent of sin? Certainly not!
18 But if I build up again those things which I tore down, then I prove myself a transgressor.
19 For I through the law died to the law, that I might live to God.
20 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, who loved me and gave himself for me.
21 I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification were through the law, then Christ died to no purpose.

Galatians 2:11-21 Meaning and Commentary

INTRODUCTION TO GALATIANS 2

In this chapter the apostle proceeds with the narrative of himself, and gives an account of another journey of his to Jerusalem, where he had a conversation with the chief of the apostles; in which they approved of his ministry, allowed of his commission, and took him into fellowship with them, but gave him no new instructions, nor added to his spiritual light and knowledge; from whence it appeared that the Gospel he preached was not after men, or received from men, as he had asserted in the preceding chapter; and he also gives an account of his meeting with Peter at Antioch, and how he reproved him for some judaizing practices; which leads him to assert the doctrine of justification by faith, in opposition to the works of the law; which is the grand point he had in view to establish in this epistle, and which he vindicates from the charge of licentiousness. He begins with an account of another journey of his to Jerusalem, the circumstances of which he relates, as the time when, fourteen years ago; the persons he took with him as his companions, Barnabas and Titus, Ga 2:1 what moved him to it, a revelation from God; and the business he did when come thither, he communicated the Gospel, and that not to any but to such that were of reputation, and not publicly but privately; his end was, that it might appear how successful he had been in his ministry, and had not laboured in vain, Ga 2:2 then follows a narrative of a particular event relating to Titus, who is described as one of his companions, and by his nation, a Greek; and who though an uncircumcised person, yet the apostles and elders at Jerusalem did not oblige him to be circumcised, which showed that they were of the same mind with the apostle in this point, Ga 2:3 and the reason of it was because of the false teachers, that they might not give them any handle; who are described by their character, false brethren, by their private manner of getting in among the saints, and by their ends and views, which were to spy out their Christian liberty and bring them into bondage, Ga 2:4 to whom the apostle opposed himself, and would not give way for the least space of time; for this end, that the truth of the Gospel might continue with the Gentiles, Ga 2:5 and as for the apostles, though they were men of great character and reputation, nor would the apostle detract from it; yet they added nothing to him, he received nothing from them, Ga 2:6 but, on the other hand, partly because they saw that as the Gospel to be preached to the Jews was committed to Peter, so the same Gospel to be preached to the Gentiles was committed to Paul; and partly because of the same efficacy and success in the ministry of the one as in the ministry of the other; as also because they perceived what gifts of grace were bestowed on the apostle; they gave to him and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, as a token of their mutual agreement, and as being of the same society, Ga 2:7-9 nor did they give him and Barnabas anything in charge, but only to remember the poor, to which he was forward enough of himself, Ga 2:10 after which follows an account of an opposition made by the apostle to Peter, which was done at Antioch, and to his face, and not without reason, Ga 2:11 for whereas some time before he ate with the Gentiles, which was commendable in him, he afterwards declined conversation with them, moved to it by fear of the converted Jews, Ga 2:12 and such was the force of his example, that other Jews, who before did not scruple eating with the Gentiles, separated likewise, and even Barnabas himself, Paul's companion, Ga 2:13 wherefore seeing this was not walking according to the Gospel of Christ, and with that integrity and uprightness which became such persons, the apostle publicly reproved Peter, and expostulated with him; partly on account of his former conversation with the Gentiles, though he himself was a Jew, and therefore it was absurd and contradictory in him to oblige the Gentiles to live as the Jews did, Ga 2:14 and partly on account of the ledge which he and Peter and others who were Jews, and not sinners of the Gentiles, had of the doctrine of justification; that it was not by the works of the law, but by faith in Christ; for to this end they had believed in Christ that they might be justified, not by the one, but by the other; which doctrine is confirmed by a passage referred to in Ps 149:2, Ga 2:5,16 and whereas it might be objected that this doctrine of free justification opened a door to licentiousness, the apostle answers to it by an abhorrence of it, Ga 2:17 and by observing that this would build up what he had destroyed, Ga 2:18 besides, he argues the contrary from his being dead to the law, that he might live unto God, Ga 2:19 and from his crucifixion with Christ, and of the old man with his deeds; and from Christ's living in him, and his living by faith upon him, Ga 2:20 and for the further confirmation of the doctrine of justification being by faith, and not by works, he suggests, were it otherwise, both the grace of God would be frustrated and made void, and the death of Christ be in vain, Ga 2:21.

Galatians 2:11-21 In-Context

9 and when they perceived the grace that was given to me, James and Cephas and John, who were reputed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised;
10 only they would have us remember the poor, which very thing I was eager to do.
11 But when Cephas came to Antioch I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned.
12 For before certain men came from James, he ate with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party.
13 And with him the rest of the Jews acted insincerely, so that even Barnabas was carried away by their insincerity.
14 But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, "If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?"
15 We ourselves, who are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners,
16 yet who know that a man is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ, and not by works of the law, because by works of the law shall no one be justified.
17 But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we ourselves were found to be sinners, is Christ then an agent of sin? Certainly not!
18 But if I build up again those things which I tore down, then I prove myself a transgressor.
19 For I through the law died to the law, that I might live to God.
20 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, who loved me and gave himself for me.
21 I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification were through the law, then Christ died to no purpose.
Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 1952 [2nd edition, 1971] by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.