Vincent's Word Studies
Then fourteen years after I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with me also.
Fourteen years after (διὰ δεκατεσσάρων ἐτῶν)
Rev. after the space of fourteen years. Comp. δἰ ἐτῶν πλειόνων after several years, Acts 24:17; δἰ ἡμερῶν after (some) days, Mark 2:1. Διὰ means after, that is, a given number of years being interposed between two points of time. Not, in the course of (Rev. marg.).
And I went up by revelation, and communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to them which were of reputation, lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain.
By revelation (κατὰ ἀποκάλυψιν)
It was specially and divinely revealed to me that I should go. In what way, he does not state.
Only here and Acts 25:14. Ἀνά up, τιθέναι to set. To set up a thing for the consideration of others: to lay it before them.
Unto them (αὐτοῖς)
The Christians of Jerusalem generally.
Privately (κατ' ἰδίαν)
The general communication to the Jerusalem Christians was accompanied by a private consultation with the leaders. Not that a different subject was discussed in private, but that the discussion was deeper and more detailed than would have befitted the whole body of Christians.
To them which were of reputation (τοῖς δοκοῦσιν)
Lit. to those who seem; are reputed. Men of recognized position, James, Cephas, John. Not his adversaries who were adherents of these three. It is not to be supposed that he would submit his gospel to such. The expression is therefore not used ironically. Paul recognizes the honorable position of the three and their rightful claim to respect. The repetition of the phrase (Galatians 2:6, Galatians 2:9) may point to a favorite expression of his opponents in commending these leaders to Paul as models for his preaching; hardly (as Lightfoot) to the contrast between the estimation in which they were held and the actual services which they rendered to him. He chooses this expression because the matter at stake was his recognition by the earlier apostles, and any ironical designation would be out of place.
Lest by any means I should run or had run in vain
Better, should be running. Comp. Philippians 2:16. This is sometimes explained as implying a misgiving on Paul's part as to the soundness of his own teaching, which he desired to have set at rest by the decision of the principal apostles. On this explanation μή πως will be rendered lest in some way or other. But such a misgiving is contrary to Paul's habitual attitude of settled conviction respecting that gospel which he had received by revelation, and in the preaching of which he had been confirmed by experience. In consulting the Christians at Jerusalem Paul had principally in view the formal indorsement of his work by the church and its leaders. Their formal declaration that he had not been running in vain would materially aid him in his mission. Μή πως is therefore to be taken as marking an indirect question, whether - not possibly; and the sense of the whole passage is as follows: "I laid before them that gospel which I preach to the Gentiles, that they might examine and settle for themselves the question whether I am not possibly running or had run in vain." The investigation was to be for their satisfaction, not for Paul's. Run (τρέχειν) is a favorite metaphor with Paul. See Romans 9:16; 1 Corinthians 9:24, 1 Corinthians 9:26; Galatians 5:7; Philippians 2:16; Philippians 3:13, Philippians 3:14.
But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised:
More correctly, not even. So far were they from pronouncing my labor in vain, that not even Titus was compelled to be circumcised, although he was a Greek. Though approving Paul's preaching, the apostles might, for the sake of conciliation, have insisted on the circumcision of his Gentile companion.
Being a Greek (Ἕλλην ὤν)
Or, although he was a Greek. Const. closely with σὺν ἐμοι, with me. It was a bold proceeding for Paul to take an uncircumcised Gentile with him to the conference at Jerusalem.
Was compelled to be circumcised (ἠναγκάσθη περιτμηθῆναι)
That is. no constraint was applied by the Jerusalem church and its authorities for the circumcision of Titus. The statement is not that such an attempt was pressed but successfully resisted, but that circumcision was not insisted on by the church. The pressure in that direction came from "the false brethren" described in the next verse.
And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage:
The false brethren (τοὺς ψευδαδέλφους)
Only here and 2 Corinthians 11:26. Christians in name only; Judaisers; anti-Paulinists. The article marks them as a well known class.
Unawares brought in (παρεισάκτους)
N.T.o. Lit. brought in by the side, and so insidiously, illegally. Vulg. subintroductos. olxx. Strabo (xvii. 1) uses it as an epithet of Ptolemy, "the sneak." Comp. παρεισάξουσιν shall privily bring in, 2 Peter 2:1; and παρεισεδύησαν crept in privily, Jde 1:4. Brought in, not from Jerusalem into the church at Antioch, nor into the Pauline churches generally, but into the Christian brotherhood to which they did not rightfully belong.
The double relative introduces the explanation of the two preceding epithets: false brethren, privily brought in, since they came in privily to spy out our liberty.
Came in privily (παρεισῆλθον)
Lit. came in beside. Only here and Romans 5:20, where it implies nothing evil or secret, but merely something subsidiary. The aorist has a pluperfect sense, indication the earlier intrusion of these persons into the Christian community.
To spy out (κατασκοπῆσαι)
Freedom from Mosaism through justification by faith.
Bring us into bondage (καταδουλώσουσιν)
Only here and 2 Corinthians 11:20. Bring us into subjection to Jewish ordinances. The compound verb indicates abject subjection.
To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.
We gave place by subjection (εἴξαμεν τῇ ὑποταγῇ)
We, Paul and Barnabas. Gave place or yielded, N.T.o By the subjection which was demanded of us. The noun only in Paul and the Pastorals, and always in the sense of self-subjection. Comp. 2 Corinthians 9:13; 1 Timothy 2:11; 1 Timothy 3:4.
But of these who seemed to be somewhat, (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man's person:) for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me:
Render the passage as follows: "But to be something from (at the hands of) those who were of repute, whatever they were, matters nothing to me (God accepteth not man's person), for those who were of repute imparted nothing to me."
To be something (εἶναί τι)
From those who were of repute (ἀπὸ τῶν δοκούντων)
Whatsoever they were (ὁποῖοι ποτὲ ἦσαν)
Ποτέ in N.T. is invariably temporal, and points here to the preeminence which these apostles had formerly, up to the time of Paul's visit, enjoyed, because of their personal connection with Jesus.
Maketh no matter to me (οὐδέν μοι διαφέρει)
Paul does not say, as A.V. and Rev., that the standing and repute of the apostles were matters of indifference to him, but that he was indifferent about receiving his commission from them as recognized dignitaries of the church. The construction is: "To be something (εἶναί τι) at the hands of (ἀπὸ) those who were of repute matters nothing to me."
God accepteth no man's person
Or more strictly, accepteth not the person of man. Parenthetical. Λαμβάνειν πρόσωπον to receive or accept the face is a Hebraism. See on James 2:1. In O.T. both in a good and a bad sense; to be gracious, and to show favor from personal or partisan motives. In N.T. only here and Luke 20:21, both in a bad sense. Similar Hebraistic expressions are βλέπειν εἰς πρόσωπον to look at the face, Matthew 22:16 : θαυμάζειν πρόσωπα to admire the countenances, Jde 1:16 : καυχᾶσθαι ἐν προσώπῳ to glory in the face, 2 Corinthians 5:12.
For - to me
Explaining the previous statement. To be of consequence because commissioned by those in repute matters nothing to me (God accepteth not man's person), for although they might have asserted their high repute and authority to others, to me they did not, as shown by their imposing on me no new requirements.
In conference added nothing (οὐδὲν προσανέθεντο)
In conference is an attempt to conform the sense to Galatians 1:16. The verb without the accusative, as there, means to confer with. Here, with the accusative, the meaning is laid upon or imposed on. Rend. therefore, imposed nothing on me. They imposed on me no new (πρὸς additional) requirements; no conditions or limitations of my missionary work.
But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter;
The gospel of the uncircumcision (τὸ εὐαγγέλιον τῆς ἀκροβυστίας)
The phrase only here in N.T. The gospel which was to be preached to the uncircumcised - the Gentiles. Lightfoot aptly says: "It denotes a distinction of sphere, and not a difference of type."
(For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:)
He that wrought effectually (ὁ ἐνεργήσας)
In Peter (Πέτρῳ)
Better, for Peter. In Peter would be ἐν Πέτρῳ.
Unto the apostleship (εἰς)
Unto the Gentiles (εἰς τὰ ἔθνη)
To make me an apostle to the Gentiles.
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; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision.
Who seemed to be pillars (οἱ δοκοῦντες στύλοι εἶναι)
Better, who are in repute as pillars. The metaphor of pillars, applied to the great representatives and supporters of an institution, is old, and common in all languages.
The grace (τὴν χάριν)
Including all the manifestations of divine grace in Paul - his mission, special endowment, success in preaching the gospel - all showing that he was worthy of their fellowship. He is careful to speak of it as a gift of God, δοθεῖσαν.
They gave the right hands of fellowship (δεξιὰς ἔδωκαν κοινωνίας)
The phrase only here in N.T. A token of alliance in the apostolic office of preaching and teaching. The giving of the right hand in pledge was not a distinctively Jewish custom. It appears as early as Homer. Deissmann cites an inscription from Pergamum, 98 B. C., in which the Pergamenes offer to adjust the strife between Sardes and Ephesus, and send a mediator δοῦναι τὰς χεῖρας εἰς σύλλυσιν to give hands for a treaty. See δεξιὰν or δεξιὰς διδόναι 1 Macc. 6:58; 11:50, 62; 2 Macc. 11:26; 12:11; 13:22; and δεξ. λαμβάνειν to receive right hand or hands, 1 Macc. 11:66; 13:50; 2 Macc. 12:12; 14:19. The custom prevailed among the Persians, from whom it may have passed to the Jews. See Joseph. Antiq. 18:9, 3. Images of right hands clasped were sometimes exchanged in token of friendship (see Xen. Anab. ii. 4, 1). Tacitus (Hist. i. 54) says: "The state of the Lingones had sent, according to an ancient institution, right hands, as gifts to the legions, a signal token of good will." On Roman coins often appear two hands joined, with various inscriptions, as Exercituum Fides; Concordia; Consensus. To give the hand in confirmation of a promise occurs Ezekiel 10:19. In Isaiah 62:8, God swears by his right hand.
Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do.
With only this stipulation.
We should remember (μνημονεύωμεν)
The only instance in N.T. of this verb in the sense of beneficent care. No instance in lxx. In Psalm 9:12, there is the thought but not the word.
The poor (τῶν πτωχῶν)
The poor Christians of Palestine. Comp. Acts 24:17; Romans 15:26, Romans 15:27; 1 Corinthians 16:3; 2 Corinthians 9:1. For the word, see on Matthew 5:3. In lxx ordinarily of those who are oppressors, or of those who are quiet in contrast with the lawless.
The same which (ὃ - αὐτὸ τοῦτο)
Lit. which, this very thing. The expression is peculiarly emphatic, and brings out the contrast between Judaising hostility and Paul's spirit of loving zeal. Rev. which very thing.
But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed.
To the face (κατὰ πρόσωπον)
As Acts 3:13. The meaning is expressed in the familiar phrase faced him down. It is, however, rarely as strong as this in N.T. Rather before the face, or in the face of, meaning simply in the sight or presence of (Luke 2:31), or according to appearance (2 Corinthians 1:7). The explanation that Paul withstood Peter only in appearance or semblance (so Jerome, Chrysostom, Theodoret, and other Fathers) is one of the curiosities of exegesis, and was probably adopted out of misplaced consideration for the prestige of Peter.
He was to be blamed (κατεγνωσμένος ἦν)
A.V. is wrong. Rev. correctly, he stood condemned. Not by the body of Christians at Antioch; rather his act was its own condemnation.
For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision.
Did eat with (συνήσθιεν)
A.V. misses the force of the imperfect, marking Peter's custom. Not only at church feasts, but at ordinary meals, in defiance of the Pharisaic that this prohibition was not binding (Acts 10:28; Acts 11:8, Acts 11:9), and had defended that position in the apostolic conference (Acts 15:7 ff.).
Withdrew and separated himself (ὑπέστελλεν καὶ ἀφώριζεν ἑαυτόν)
Or, began to withdraw, etc. Ὑποστέλλειν only here in Paul. It means, originally, to draw in or contract. Thus of furling sails, closing the fingers. Middle voice, to draw or shrink back from through fear. Hence, to dissemble or prevaricate. There seems to be no special reason for making it either a military metaphor, as Lightfoot, or a nautical metaphor, as Farrar. See on Acts 20:20.
And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation.
Dissembled with him (συνυπεκρίθησαν)
N.T.o. Peter's course influenced the other Jewish Christians as Antioch, who had previously followed his example in eating with Gentiles.
Was carried away (συναπήχθη)
With their dissimulation (αὐτῶν τῇ ὑποκρίσει)
Not to or over to their dissimulation. Paul uses a strong word, which is employed only in 1 Timothy 4:2. The kindred verb ὑποκρίνεσθαι to play a part, and the noun ὑποκριτής hypocrisy do not occur in his letters. Their act was hypocrisy, because it was a concealment of their own more liberal conviction, and an open profession of still adhering to the narrow Pharisaic view. It was "a practical denial of their better spiritual insight" (Wieseler).
But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?
See additional note at the end of this chapter.
Walked not uprightly (ὀρθοποδοῦσιν)
Lit. are not walking. N.T.o. olxx. oClass. Lit. to be straight-footed.
Being a Jew (ὑπάρχων)
The verb means originally to begin; thence to come forth, be at hand, be in existence. It is sometimes claimed that ὑπάρχειν as distinguished from εἶναι implies an antecedent condition - being originally. That is true in some cases. But, on the other hand, it sometimes denotes a present as related to a future condition. The most that can be said is that it often is found simply in the sense of to be.
Livest after the manner of Gentiles (ἐθνικῶς ζῇς)
Ἑθνικῶς, N.T.o. The force of the present livest must not be pressed. The reference is not strictly temporal, either as referring to Peter's former intercourse with the Gentile Christians, or as indicating that he was now associating with them at table. It is rather the statement of a general principle. If you, at whatever time, act on the principle of living according to Gentile usage. At the time of Paul's address to Peter, Peter was living after the manner of Jews (Ἱουδαΐκῶς).
Indirect compulsion exerted by Peter's example. Not that he directly imposed Jewish separatism on the Gentile converts.
To live as do the Jews (Ἱουδαΐ̀ζειν)
N.T.o. Once in lxx, Esther 8:17. Also in Joseph. B. J. 2:18, 2, and Plut. Cic. 7. It is used by Ignatius, Magn. x. Χριστιανίζειν to practice Christianity occurs in Origen.
We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles,
Continuation of Paul's address; not the beginning of an address to the Galatians. Under we Paul includes himself, Peter, and the Jewish Christians of Antioch, in contrast with the Gentile Christians. The Galatians were mostly Gentiles.
Who are Jews, etc.
The who is wrong. Render we are Jews. The expression is concessive. We are, I grant, Jews. There is an implied emphasis on the special prerogatives and privileges of the Jews as such. See Romans 3:1 f.; Romans 9:1 ff.
Sinners of the Gentiles (ἐξ ἐθνῶν ἁμαρτωλοί)
Lit. sinners taken from the Gentiles, or sprung from. Sinners, in the conventional Jewish sense; born heathen, and as such sinners; not implying that Jews are not sinners. The Jew regarded the Gentile as impure, and styled him a dog (Matthew 15:27). See Romans 2:12; 1 Corinthians 6:1; 1 Corinthians 9:21; Ephesians 2:12; Luke 18:32; Luke 24:7. Possibly Paul here cites the very words by which Peter sought to justify his separation from the Gentile Christians, and takes up these words in order to draw from them an opposite conclusion. This is quite according to Paul's habit.
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.
See on Romans 3:20, Romans 3:26. The meaning to declare or pronounce righteous cannot be consistently carried through Paul's writings in the interest of a theological fiction of imputed righteousness. See, for example, Romans 4:25; 1 Corinthians 6:11; and all passages where the word is used to describe justification by works of the law, as here, Galatians 3:11; Galatians 5:4. If one is a real righteousness, founded upon his conformity to the law. Why is the righteousness of faith any less a real righteousness?
By the works of the law (ἐξ ἔργων νόμου)
Lit. out of the works, etc. Comp. Romans 3:20. Works are characteristic of a legal dispensation. Paul often puts "works" alone as representing legal righteousness. See Romans 4:2, Romans 4:6; Romans 9:11, Romans 9:32; Romans 11:6; Ephesians 2:9.
But by faith (ἐὰν μὴ)
As the Greek stands, it would read, "Is not justified by the works of the law save through faith." So, unfortunately, Rev. This would mean, as the Romish interpreters, not through works of the law except they be done through faith in Christ, and would ascribe justification to works which grow out of faith. Paul means that justification is by faith alone. The use of ἐὰν μὴ is to be thus explained: A man is not justified by the works of the law: (he is not justified) except by faith in Jesus Christ. Ἑὰν μὴ retains its exceptive force, but the exception refers only to the verb. Comp. εἰ μὴ in Matthew 12:4; Luke 4:26, Luke 4:27; Galatians 1:19; Revelation 21:27.
But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid.
Are found (εὑρέθημεν)
Like the Gentiles, Galatians 2:15. Paul assumes that this was actually the case: that, seeking to be justified in Christ, they were found to be sinners. To seek to be justified by Christ is an admission that there is no justification by works; that the seeker is unjustified, and therefore a sinner. The effort to attain justification by faith in Christ develops the consciousness of sin. It compels the seeker, whether Jew or Gentile, to put himself upon the common plane of sinners. The Jew who calls the Gentile a sinner, in seeking to be justified by faith, finds himself a sinner also. The law has failed him as a justifying agency. But Paul is careful to repudiate the false inference from this fact, stated in what immediately follows, namely, that Christ is a minister of sin.
Minister of sin
A promoter of sin by causing us to abandon the law.
God forbid (μὴ γένοιτο)
See on Romans 3:4. Not a reply merely to the question "is Christ a minister of sin?" but to the whole supposition from "if while we seek." The question is not whether Christ is in general a minister of sin, but whether he is such in the case supposed. Paul does not assume that this false inference has been drawn by Peter or the other Jewish Christians.
For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor.
I build again the things which I destroyed (ἃ κατέλυσα ταῦτα πάλιν οἰκοδομῶ)
Peter, by his Christian profession, had asserted that justification was by faith alone; and by his eating with Gentiles had declared that the Mosaic law was no longer binding upon him. He had thus, figuratively, destroyed or pulled down the Jewish law as a standard of Christian faith and conduct. By his subsequent refusal to eat with Gentiles he had retracted this declaration, had asserted that the Jewish law was still binding upon Christians, and had thus built again what he had pulled down. Building and pulling down are favorite figures with Paul. See Romans 14:20; Romans 15:20; 1 Corinthians 8:1, 1 Corinthians 8:10; 1 Corinthians 10:23; 1 Corinthians 14:17; Ephesians 2:20 f. For καταλύειν destroy, see on Romans 14:20; see on 2 Corinthians 5:1.
I make myself (ἐμαυτὸν συνιστάνω)
Better, prove myself. The verb originally means to put together: thence to put one person in contact with another by way of introducing him and bespeaking for him confidence and approval. To commend, as Romans 16:1; comp. Romans 5:8; 2 Corinthians 3:1; 2 Corinthians 4:2; 2 Corinthians 5:12. As proof, or exhibition of the true state of a case is furnished by putting things together, the word comes to mean demonstrate, exhibit the fact, as here, Romans 3:5; 2 Corinthians 6:11.
A transgressor (παραβάτην)
See on James 2:11, and see on παράβασις transgression, Romans 2:23. In reasserting the validity of the law for justification, which he had denied by seeking justification by faith in Christ, he proves himself a transgressor in that denial, that pulling down.
For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God.
Justifying the previous thought that the reerection of the law as a standard of Christian life and a means of justification is a condemnation of the faith which relies on Christ alone for righteousness.
I, through the law, am dead to the law (ἐγὼ διὰ νόμου νόμῳ ἀπέθανον)
For am dead, render died. Faith in Christ created a complete and irreparable break with the law which is described as death to the law. Comp. Romans 7:4, Romans 7:6. The law itself was the instrument of this break, see next verse Ἑγὼ is emphatic. Paul appeals to his personal experience, his decided break with the law in contrast with Peter's vacillation.
Might live unto God (θεῷ ζήσω)
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
I am crucified with Christ (Χριστῷ συνεσταύρωμαι)
This compound verb is used by Paul only here and Romans 6:6. In the gospels, Matthew 27:44; Mark 15:32; John 19:32. The statement explains how a believer dies to the law by means of the law itself. In the crucifixion of Christ as one accursed, the demand of the law was met (see Galatians 3:13). Ethically, a believer is crucified with Christ (Romans 6:3-11; Philippians 3:10; 1 Corinthians 15:31; 2 Corinthians 4:10), and thus the demand of the law is fulfilled in him likewise. Paul means that, "owing to his connection with the crucified, he was like him, legally impure, and was thus an outcast from the Jewish church." He became dead to the law by the law's own act. Of course a Jew would have answered that Christ was justly crucified. He would have said: "If you broke with the law because of your fellowship with Christ, it proved that both he and you were transgressors." But Paul is addressing Peter, who, in common with himself, believed on Christ (Galatians 2:16).
I live; yet not I((ζῶ δὲ οὐκέτι ἐγώ)
The semicolon after live in A.V. and Rev. should be removed. Rend: and it is no longer I that live, but Christ, etc. The new life of Christ followed his crucifixion, Romans 6:9-11. He who is crucified with Christ repeats this experience. He rises with Christ and shares his resurrection-life. The old man is crucified with Christ, and Christ is in him as the principle of his new life, Romans 4-11.
I now live
Emphasis on νῦν now, since the beginning of my Christian life, with an implied contrast with the life in the flesh before he was crucified with Christ. Then, the I was the center and impulse of life. Now, it is no longer I, but Christ in me.
By the faith of the Son of God (ἐν πίστει τῇ τοῦ υἱοῦ τοῦ θεοῦ)
Better, as Rev., in faith, the faith which is in the Son of God. Thus the defining and explicative force of the article τῆ after πίστει is brought out. In faith is better than by faith, although ἐν is sometimes used instrumentally. In corresponds better with ἐν σαρκὶ in the flesh. It exhibits faith as the element in which the new life is lived.
And gave himself (καὶ παραδόντος ἑαυτὸν)
Καὶ and has an explanatory force: loved me, and, as a proof of his love, gave himself. For παραδόντος gave, see on was delivered, Romans 4:25.
"For God more bounteous was himself to give
To make man able to uplift himself,
Than if he only of himself had pardoned."
Dante, Paradiso, vii. 115-117
For me (ὑπὲρ ἐμοῦ)
See on for the ungodly, Romans 5:6.
I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.
The grace of God (τὴν χάριν τοῦ θεοῦ)
Χάρις is, primarily, that which gives joy (χαρά). Its higher, Christian meaning is based on the emphasis of freeness in a gift or favor. It is the free, spontaneous, absolute loving kindness of God toward men. Hence often in contrast with the ideas of debt, law, works, sin. Sometimes for the gift of grace, the benefaction, as 1 Corinthians 16:3; 2 Corinthians 8:6, 2 Corinthians 8:19; 1 Peter 1:10, 1 Peter 1:13. So here: the gracious gift of God in the offering of Christ.
Is dead (ἀπέθανεν)
More correctly, died; pointing to the historical incident.
In vain (δωρεὰν)
Groundlessly, without cause. See on 2 Thessalonians 3:8. The sense here is not common. It is not found in Class., and in N.T. only John 15:25. In lxx, see Psalm 34:7, 19; 108:3; 118:161; 1 Samuel 19:5; Sir. 20:23; 29:6. Comp. Ignatius, Trall. v. Paul says: "I do not invalidate the grace of God in the offering of Christ, as one does who seeks to reestablish the law as a means of justification; for if righteousness comes through the law, there was no occasion for Christ to die."
Additional Note on Galatians 2:14-21.
The course of thought in Paul's address to Peter is difficult to follow. It will help to simplify it if the reader will keep it before him that the whole passage is to be interpreted in the light of Peter's false attitude - as a remonstrance against a particular state of things.
The line of remonstrance is as follows. If you, Peter, being a Jew, do not live as a Jew, but as a Gentile, as you did when you ate with Gentiles, why do you, by your example in withdrawing from Gentile tables, constrain Gentile Christians to live as Jews, observing the separative ordinances of the Jewish law? This course is plainly inconsistent.
Even you and I, born Jews, and not Gentiles - sinners - denied the obligation of these ordinances by the act of believing on Jesus Christ. In professing this faith we committed ourselves to the principle that no one can be justified by the works of the law.
But it may be said that we were in no better case by thus abandoning the law and legal righteousness, since, in the very effort to be justified through Christ, we were shown to be sinners, and therefore in the same category with the Gentiles. Does it not then follow that Christ is proved to be a minister of sin in requiring us to abandon the law as a means of justification?
No. God forbid. It is true that, in seeking to be justified in Christ, we stood revealed as sinners, for it was Christ who showed us that we could not be justified by the works of the law; that all our legal strictness only left us sinners. But the inference is false that Christ is thereby shown to be a minister of sin.
For to say that Christ is a minister of sin, is to say that I, at his bidding, became a transgressor by abandoning the law, that the law is the only true standard and medium of righteousness. If I reassert the obligation of the law after denying that obligation, I thereby assert that I transgressed in abandoning it, and that Christ, who prompted and demanded this transgression, is a minister of sin.
But this I deny. The law is not the true standard and medium of righteousness. I did not transgress in abandoning it. Christ is not a minister of sin. For it was the law itself which compelled me to abandon the law. The law crucified Christ and thereby declared him accursed. In virtue of my moral fellowship with Christ, I was (ethically) crucified with him. The act of the law forced me to break with the law. Through the law I died to the law. Thus I came under a new principle of life. I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. If I should declare that righteousness is through the law, by reasserting the obligation of the law as you, Peter, have done, I should annul the grace of God as exhibited in the death of Christ: for in that case, Christ's death would be superfluous and useless. But I do not annul the grace of God.