Paul rejected his Jewish Christian brothers' insistence that Gentiles still needed to take up the yoke of the law, even though they believed in Jesus Christ. In Paul's view such an attitude continued to place the Gentile believers in the category of "sinners." The phrase "Gentile sinners" may very well been employed by the "men from James" as a reference to the Gentile believers. The term would raise questions in the minds of those Jews having table-fellowship with the Gentiles. Should they eat with sinners, that is Gentiles who do not possess the law (Psalms 27:3; 54:3; 91:7; 124:3; 128:3; Tobit 13:8; Jubilees 23:23-24; 4 Ezra 4:23), or more importantly, who do not follow the halakic rules?
The very concept of "sinner" in reference to the Gentile Christians meant for Paul that his Jewish brothers had missed the point of justification by faith. His argument in 2:15-18 and beyond is that in Christ God has justified the Gentiles through faith, even though they remain Gentiles. They remain Gentiles, but in Christ they are no longer "sinners." Justification by faith is not simply the way one enters the covenant, it is the way one lives in the covenant. Therefore, circumcision and table-regulations were not to be required of the Gentiles. The inheritance of Abraham now belonged to the Gentiles as well (3:14).