|Galatians Chapter 2|
MY PERSONAL COMMENTARY
THE BOOK OF GALATIANS
By David L. Hannah
Then fourteen years after I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with me also.
* Then fourteen years after I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, *
The commentators disagree as to rather this refers to fourteen years after his conversion, or fourteen years following his first trip to Jerusalem mentioned in the previous chapter. I would suspect, considering the flow of the narrative, that the latter is more likely, but I’ll save those arguments for the theologians, who are far more qualified than I. Wycliffe says, “If the question of the admission of Gentiles into the Church was settled at the famine visit (which is involved in equating Acts 11 with Gal 2), then it is strange that another conference was necessary for the settlement of the very same question (Acts 15).” The Zondervan NIV Bible Library also believes the fourteen years are dated from Paul’s first visit to Jerusalem, and say the following regarding this visit, “The most probable dating would place Paul’s conversion at approximately A.D. 32; the visit to see Peter, in A.D. 35; and the council, in A.D. 49. (The correctness of these dates depends, of course, on the actual date of Christ’s crucifixion.)”
This trip is most probably the same one Luke writes about (Acts 15:4-30), where Paul and Barnabas go to Jerusalem to defend their Gospel. Some claim it’s the trip where they brought an offering for the poor saints in Jerusalem (Acts 11:27-30), but nothing of that trip meets the description of their activities mentioned here. Paul’s purpose for going to Jerusalem here was to present to the Jerusalem Apostles his Gospel. That’s exactly what he did in the Acts fifteen account. He and Barnabas were sent, by the church at Antioch, to Jerusalem, to have the Apostles settle the dispute between them and the Judaizers (Acts 15:1-2). The Judaizers taught, according to some commentators, that new Gentile believers must practice circumcision, according to the Law of Moses, in order to be saved, or as others claim, that Gentile believers must practice circumcision, according to the Law of Moses, in order to attain a higher perfection (Gal 3:3; 4:21). In either case, Paul and Barnabas sharply disputed this doctrine as one of error. The church wanted this issue settled, so they sent them off to Jerusalem.
* and took Titus with me also. *
Paul and Barnabas were sent by the Antioch church to Jerusalem, along with some other believers, of which could have included Titus. However, it’s more likely that Paul simply asked Titus to accompany them on the trip so that Paul could show him as an example of a Gentile believer being tremendously used of God, in spite of not being circumcised.
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.
* And I went up by revelation, *
There are three possibilities here:
1.) He could be referring to a revelation that came to the church at Antioch during prayer, thus, he agreed to go to Jerusalem as a result of the subsequent request of that church.
2.) He could be referring to the fact that his Gospel came to him as a result of a direct revelation from God, and that was the compelling reason he agreed to present this Gospel to the Jerusalem council.
3.) He could be referring to a revelation from God that came to him, subsequent to the request of the Antioch church that he bring this issue to the Jerusalem council, a revelation that thus confirmed the church’s desire that he do so to be the very will of God.
I would suspect that the third is the accurate one. Paul had already written that his Gospel had come to him by direct revelation from God, and, consequently, he saw absolutely no need to have it confirmed by any man. I would not be surprised if he was less than excited by the church’s request that he explain his Gospel to the Jerusalem Apostles, so that they could decide if his Gospel, or that of the Judaizers, was the accurate one. God, by His grace, probably, by direct revelation to Paul, confirmed that this was His will.
Although Paul saw no need to have his Gospel confirmed by the Twelve, others did. It was the agreement of the Jerusalem council (Acts 15:6-21) that ever settled the issue for the rest of us. In the above mentioned passage, they gave absolute agreement to the teaching of Paul’s Gospel, they recognized his calling by God to carry this message to the Gentiles (Gal 2:7), they gave the right hand of fellowship to him and Barnabas (Gal 2:9), and Peter, the most respected Apostle, referred to Paul’s epistles as Scripture (2 Peter 3:15-16). Either Paul’s Gospel is the absolute truth, or all twelve of the Jerusalem Apostles were utterly deceived. Some would argue different degrees of inspiration, but the real question is rather or not the teaching of Paul is true, or false. One can claim that Moses had a higher degree of inspiration than Paul because God spoke to him face to face (Num 12:6-8), and, consequently, one must disregard any statement of Paul that would disagree with any statement of Moses. I have read such claims, but if that is the case, then all of the Apostles, those who spent over three years being trained by the Lord Jesus, were taken in by the deceiving lies of this false teacher. You can’t have it both ways. If Paul’s Gospel was in error, then he was a heretic. If his Gospel was wrong, then the Twelve were in error for not exposing his false teaching, but rather, they confirmed it publicly, they recognized the call of God on Paul’s life to carry his teaching to the Gentiles, they gave him the right hand of fellowship, and they embraced his teaching as Scripture.
Moses’ teaching was the absolute truth, the very Word of God, to all Jewish people who lived that side of the cross. Paul’s teaching is the absolute truth, the very Word of God, to all believers who live this side of the cross. THE CROSS OF JESUS CHANGES EVERYTHING!! If you fail to understand that, you fail to understand the impact that the death of the Lord Jesus had. You have absolutely no understanding of the Gospel, which is the power of God to save (Rom 1:16; 1 Cor 1:17-18).
* and communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, *
His very purpose for going to Jerusalem, a purpose that originated in the heart of God and came to Paul by revelation, was so he could plainly expound his message to the leaders of the Jerusalem church.
* but privately to them which were of reputation, *
It appears that he communicated his Gospel to the Apostles [at least James (the brother of Jesus), Peter and John (Gal 2:9)], and possibly some of the other elders, privately, before the general council meeting (Acts 15:6-7). I would imagine this was a very lengthy session, one where he took considerable time to build his case, and one where he was then confronted with many questions from those present. I’m quite certain that the Apostles would want to question him concerning every accusation they had heard regarding what he taught. I would be surprised if they didn’t thoroughly understand every aspect of his doctrine by the time this private meeting was completed.
* lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain. *
Was he concerned that the Jerusalem Apostles would not accept his Gospel as true, and then he would have to accept that he was preaching error? A thousand times “No!” Paul’s writings show us that he was totally aware of his own Apostleship (Rom 1:1; 1 Cor 1:1; 2 Cor 1:1; Gal 1:1). The references given are just a few of the ones to be found. Paul was aware of his callling. He knew he was preaching the Truth of God. He wouldn’t have wavered, even if the Twelve had rejected his message, just as they wouldn’t have wavered if Paul had rejected their message. All of the Apostles were fully convinced of their authority, and their message. It would, therefore, appear that his concern was that if his Gospel was rejected by the Twelve, then others would have doubted the validity of his past victories, and been skeptical of any future endeavors. Or, he might have written this statement tongue in cheek, because of the new doubts that the Galatian believers had concerning him, and his message. In other words, in a facetious way he might have been writing, “Oh no, I better run down to Jerusalem to make sure I’m preaching the right Gospel, because these Judaizers question the validity of it. After all, you now question what I say, so maybe I should as well!”
The bottom line is this, there was absolutely no way the Jerusalem Apostles were going to discount Paul’s Gospel. How could they? They received their information from the same source as Paul received his, from God.
But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised:
* But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, *
Concerning “neither,” Vincent says,”‘oude’ (NT:3761). More correctly, “not even.” So far were they from pronouncing my labour in vain, that not even Titus was compelled to be circumcised, although he was a Greek.”
Concerning “Greek,” Vine says ” ‘hellen’ NT:1672 originally denoted the early descendants of Thessalian Hellas; then, Greeks as opposed to barbarians, (Rom 1:14). It became applied to such Gentiles as spoke the Greek language, e. g., (Gal 2:3; 3:28). Since that was the common medium of intercourse in the Roman Empire, Greek and Gentile became more or less interchangeable terms.”
There is no mention made of the church in Antioch sending Titus along with Paul and Barnabas on this journey to Jerusalem, although he might have been one of the “others” referred to (Acts 15:1-3). Either the church at Antioch, where these Judaizers were causing this confusion, or Paul himself, decided that since the case of the false teachers was one concerning the issue of circumcision being necessary for salvation, that Titus should accompany them on this trip as a test case. Paul could present his Gospel, one that claimed that circumcision had no part in the message of salvation, and then introduce Titus as an uncircumcised Gentile believer whom he had accepted into the church. Then the Jerusalem Apostles would have to decide if 1.) they agreed with the Judaizers, who were also there presenting their case, or, 2.) they agreed with Paul, who claimed that circumcision is unnecessary for Gentile believers, and therefore, Titus should not be compelled to be circumcised, or, 3.) they agreed that Paul’s message was correct, but that Titus should be compelled to be circumcised, not as a part essential to his salvation, but as an act of Christian love to those who were offended at the notion that one could be saved apart from conformity to the Law of Moses.
* was compelled to be circumcised: *
Of “compelled,” Wuest says, “‘compelled’ denies, not the attempt to compel Titus to be circumcised, but the success of the attempt. The context clearly indicates that strong pressure was brought to bear upon the Jerusalem church to impose circumcision upon Gentile converts, Titus being the individual around whom the controversy was waging. The Jerusalem council sustained the decision of the Antioch church to the effect that circumcision was not to be required of Gentile converts.”
Referring back to the previous verse, Paul states that not only was he not running in vain, or not only had the Jerusalem Apostles determined that he was not running in vain, but they had chose to align themselves with Paul’s stand on the Gospel so strongly that they didn’t even compel Paul to circumcise Titus, even though strong pressure came to bear.
The Jerusalem Apostles chose to stand with Paul on this important issue, and not to be conciliatory by asking Titus to undergo circumcision for the sake of peace. There was far more at stake than peace. There was the clarity of the Gospel itself! Paul was willing to be conciliatory on this issue when less was at stake (Acts 16:1-3), as when he circumcised Timothy before taking him along as a travel companion in the ministry. There might have been a different reason for his allowing that, such as, 1.) the issue of salvation was not in question with the Jews that he was concerned with in Timothy’s case, and therefore he wasn’t concerned that circumcising Timothy would be viewed as his concession that it really was essential to salvation; or, 2.) he viewed these Jews as true brothers, and therefore was more concerned with their feelings than with the feelings of the Judaizers, whom he viewed as false brothers (Gal 2:4); or, 3.) he viewed this as an instance where it was proper for them to be “made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. And this I do for the gospel’s sake,” (1 Cor 9:22-23). I certainly
can’t give you the absolute assurance of what motivated him in the case of circumcising Timothy, but I know what motivated him in the case of not circumcising Titus. The core of the Gospel was at stake. He wanted us, we who would be influenced by his writings, to be absolutely certain of the Truth that a man is saved by faith, plus nothing. For that reason, he stood his ground. In spite of his decision, and the decision of the Jerusalem Apostles to stand with him, many in the twenty-first century are still preaching the message of salvation by works. Can you imagine what the strength of that message would be if Paul had given in? Thank God almighty that He gave Paul the strength to stand immovable on this issue. May he grant you and I like strength to stand for the integrity of Paul’s Gospel. We are save by faith alone! “Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace. And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.” (Rom 11:5-6), was the declaration of the Apostle Paul. May it be our declaration as well!
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:
* And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, *
Paul did not go to Jerusalem to lay his Gospel before the Twelve in hopes that they would critique it, and correct any errors it might contain, and add their considerable insights to it. Consider how confidant he was in the revelation God had given him; so confident that he never sought the opinions of the recognized authorities in Jerusalem.
NOTE: You and I, whatever are callings are, whatever others might call us, are not Apostles after the magnitude of the first century Apostles. We are not called of God to add to the canon of Scripture. Our position in the body of Christ as students of His Word is to prayerfully search for the Truth of what those Apostles taught. The purity of the Gospel is what was at stake in the case being discussed here, not the validity of our personal doctrine. It is wise for us to seek the counsel of others in our search for understanding, through studying the written opinions of the writers of respected commentaries, by reading books written by respected authors, by listening to taped sermons of respected teachers, and by listening to the counsel of a pastor that the Lord has put us in submission to. Ultimately, we must determine for ourselves what we feel the Lord is showing us in regards to His Word, but it’s wise to seek out what others are teaching regarding the subject.
The reason he traveled to Jerusalem was to address the issue of rather or not circumcision was a necessary step for Gentile believers, with the Jerusalem Apostles, because of these false brothers that Paul now refers to. In chapter one, he says that their gospel is not really a gospel at all. It’s not good news, because it places the burden of getting ourselves to Heaven back on our own shoulders. He even states a desire that God curse them eternally for attempting to altar the true Gospel. So, in chapter one, their gospel is false, in chapter two, they themselves are false. They are not true brethren! They are not saved!
In the mid-first century, A.D., false brethren were getting into the church unawares, trying to bring a dependence on the Law of Moses into the plan of salvation. In the late-first century, false brethren, ungodly men, were creeping into the church unawares, trying to turn the grace of God into lasciviousness, trying to bring license into the plan of salvation (Jude 4). In the case at hand here, our good works are necessary for salvation. “Sure, you’re saved by grace, by faith in the Lord Jesus, but you continue in that salvation only by doing good works!” is what the false brethren Paul was concerned with were teaching. In the case mentioned in Jude, good works are of no value to the believer whatsoever. “Live any way you want to! It makes no difference because you are saved by grace!” is what the false brethren Jude made mention of were teaching. These are the two extremes that first century believers were confronted with, concerning the doctrine of salvation by grace, through faith (Eph 2:8). We twenty-first century Christians still face variations of these two extremes. False brothers, sent by Hell itself, still infiltrate the church, unaware to us (as regarding their being false brothers), trying to altar the one true Gospel.
* who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, *
These false teachers could not deal with what Paul’s Gospel taught. They couldn’t accept that the Law was not made for the righteous, but for the lawless (1 Tim 1:9); consequently, we who have been made the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus (2 Cor 5:21) do not need the Law to keep us in line. We have become new creatures in Christ (2 Cor 5:17), so how shall we who are dead to sin live any longer therein (Rom 6:2)? Once the Law brought us to Jesus, we are no longer under its supervision (Gal 3:24-25). We now choose to live a life pleasing to God because we have been created to do so (Eph 2:10).
* that they might bring us into bondage: *
The fear of those who teach any form of legalism is that you and I cannot be trusted to live for God without some form of restraint put on us. These first century Judaizers wanted the saints to live under the constraints of Moses’ Law. The twenty-first century legalizer wants the saints to live under the constraints of their personal convictions. If they believe something to be sin, then they want all of Christianity to restrain from indulgence in that practice. They need to seek understanding from the teaching of Paul concerning disputable matters (Rom 14).
Paul here refers to living under legalism as bondage. There are two things that the Gospel of grace frees us from; law and sin. We are not free to sin, because sin is bondage. You cannot be free to be bound, because once you’re bound you are not free. The Law is now written in our heart, working through our conscience (Rom 2:14-15), causing us to do by nature the things contained in the Law of Moses. Christians live right because they have been made the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus (2 Cor 5:21), not because of some external law. A right relationship with God, through faith in Christ, will cause me to desire to live pleasing to Him. I must live by faith (Rom 1:17), and that faith that saves me will cause me to grow into a mature follower of Him (Gal 3:2-3).
To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.
* To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour;*
There is controversy among theologians as to how this verse should be translated, and as to what it actually means. Some respected authorities (Tertullion, and Zahn) have it telling us that Paul did actually give his subjection to the request of the false brethren that he have Titus circumcised. Others, (such as Bacon) that his temporary subjection was to the request of the Jerusalem Apostles that he have Titus circumcised to keep peace. In either of these cases, his subjection was temporary, and then he decided the issue was not one that could be compromised. What’s difficult about this conclusion, even though some of the original Greek manuscripts seem to support it, is to explain how Paul thought he was defending the Gospel by allowing Titus to be circumcised, which is the conclusion of these writers. However, the majority of the ancient manuscripts support the rendering of this passage as it is found in most translations, and the majority of scholars support the teaching that Paul would not give in to these false brethren for even one second.
I am of the opinion that the vast majority of the writers of commentaries (such as “Gill,” “Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown,” “Peoples,” “Adam Clarke,” “Barnes,” “Matthew Henry,” “Wycliffe,” “Luther,” and the “NIV Bible Library,” as well as such Greek scholars as “Robertson,” “Vincent,” and “Wuest,” to name a few) are correct, that in spite of the opposition brought to bear on Paul and Barnabas, by these false brethren, and possibly by some in the Jerusalem Council who might have felt it prudent to compromise, that Paul would not yield at all, and that, consequently, he refused to allow Titus to be circumcised. This seems to fit the insistence of Paul that he fought for the integrity of this Gospel.
If, indeed, any of the Jerusalem Council leaned towards compromise, by the time of the open meeting (Acts 15:6-21) they had reached a consensus that they would stand firmly with Paul and Barnabas, against the Judaizers.
* that the truth of the gospel might continue with you. *
Here we find the compelling drive behind the Apostle in his willingness to stand his ground. He could not, he would not, allow these Judaizers, these false brethren, to prevail in their attempt to bring the Mosaic Law into the Gospel message as a necessary part of salvation. It was the very Truth of the Gospel that he fought for! What is that Truth? We are saved by grace, apart from works, apart from observance of the Law (Rom 3:21). Our justification, our being declared in the courts of Heaven as righteous, does not come through works (Rom 4:1-5), but through our believing in the justifying work of Calvary, and in our having faith in the One Who died there. The above passage shows us that we are justified by faith, without works. We will discuss this, as regarding the teaching of James (James 2:14-26), later in this chapter.
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:
* But of these who seemed to be somewhat, *
In verse two he refers to these leaders as “them which were of reputation,” here, he refers to them as “these who seemed to be somewhat,” and in verse nine, he refers to them as those “who seemed to be pillars,” identifying the ones of whom he spoke as James (the brother of Jesus), Cephas (Peter), and John. Again, there is some disagreement as to the meaning of the Apostle in this verse. It would appear from these remarks as though he was being somewhat disrespectful to these great leaders, implying that, perhaps, their reputation exceeded what they were, that, they seemed to be more than they actually were, and that, their appearance as great pillars in the church was not totally justified. In that the case? Certainly, to some degree! They were, after all, mere men. Yes, they were Apostles! Yes, God had given them, great authority in the Church! Yes, they were a great strength in the support of that Church! But still, they were mere men! They were not infallible, in spite of all their giftings. As a matter of fact, Paul might have felt as though they were a bit tentative in defending the Gospel against the false teaching of these false brethren. He might have been disappointed in their initial response to this attack on the very Gospel of Jesus Christ (some suggest it was the three mentioned above who might have encouraged him to circumcise Titus for the sake of peace), just as he was disappointed in Peter’s behavior when he later traveled to Antioch (Gal 2:11-14). “Of reputation” (verse 2)? Rightfully so! “Somewhat” (verse 6)? Absolutely! “Pillars” of the Church (verse 9)? Without question! But still, it was Paul who stood his ground most tenaciously to defend the purity of this Gospel. There can be no doubt that Peter, John, and James understood the Gospel, but did they understand fully the gravity of the issue before them, that they must, in no way, give an inch to these false brethren? Perhaps, but if you emphatically yell, “Yes,” then you must be able to explain why Peter compromised that very issue with his conduct in Antioch. No man, no matter what is spiritual stature, always does the right thing. Was Paul correct when he gave up on Mark (Acts 15:36-41), or did his later remarks (2 Tim 4:11) prove that he should have given him another chance, as did Barnabas?
Some suggest the Greek would more correctly be interpreted “But to be something from (at the hands of) those who were of repute” [Wuest and Vincent], suggesting that Paul was saying that he didn’t need the recognition of the leaders of the Jerusalem Council as to his authority and Apostleship, having complete confidence in his calling, and his revelation.
Others believe he is using the language he is to dispute the confidence that the false teachers were causing others, first in Antioch, now in the Galatian churches, to place in the Twelve, over and above that which they placed in Paul. In other words, “Don’t listen to the inferior doctrine of Paul concerning salvation apart from works, but rather, to the superior doctrine of the Twelve. After all, they were taught personally by the Lord Jesus, Himself.” might be the argument they used to dissuade the believers in Galatia from accepting what they had been taught by Paul. Consequently, for the sake of disputing that
argument, Paul was talking down the authority of the Twelve (using Peter, John, and James, the most famous of them as examples), as far as that authority being superior to the authority God had given him as the Apostle to the Gentiles. Again, not that Paul didn’t respect the authority they had been given by God, as Apostles, but rather, that he recognized that he had been given the same authority. His authority, his gifting, his calling, was in no way inferior to that which the Twelve had.
*(whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: *
Whatever was he suggesting here? Was he suggesting that he didn’t have the least bit of respect for these Apostles? Was he suggesting that rank and calling are not to be respected? Should you and I show no respect to anyone whose rank is above ours in the home, in the Church, on the job, in the government? I don’t believe for a second that was Paul’s point.
Martin Luther, in his commentary on the book of Galatians, suggested that these false teachers might have been saying something like the following about Paul, “Now, whom ought you to believe: Paul, who stands alone, a mere disciple of the apostles, one of the last and least; or will you believe those grand apostles who were sent and confirmed by Christ Himself long before Paul?” Luther went on to say, “What could Paul say to that? He answered: ‘What they say has no bearing on the argument. If the apostles were angels from heaven, that would not impress me. We are not now discussing the excellency of the apostles. We are talking about the Word of God now, and the truth of the Gospel. That Gospel is more excellent than all apostles.'”
Yes, Paul had respect for the Apostles, for their rank, for their calling, but he had already said that even an angel from Heaven should be cursed if he were to preach anything different from the Gospel the Galatians had heard from him (Gal 1:8). If he was willing to suggest that God curse an angel from Heaven who would altar his Gospel, than why would he accept the counsel of any man, even an Apostle, who would suggest any kind of a compromise of this Gospel? When he states that who they were makes no difference to him, he states that in reference to the issue at hand, that being the integrity of his Gospel.
He not only believed in giving proper respect to others, he taught in his writings that you and I should do the same (Rom 13:7). We should all respect our spiritual leaders, but ultimately our greatest respect, and submission, belongs to the highest of all powers, God (Rom 13:1). Certainly, Paul respected the Jerusalem Apostles, and I’m sure, in certain situations would give way to their counsel, but in this case he had received his marching orders from God, Himself, and was therefore unable to give so much as an inch in regards to this Gospel.
* God accepteth no man’s person:) *
Certainly, these were great men of God. But, God still does what God wants to do! Why did God raise up the Apostle Paul to reveal this Gospel to? Why didn’t he reveal it, in the detail he did to Paul, to the Apostle Peter? We don’t read the detailed facts of the Gospel in Peter’s writings, in James’ writings, in John’s writings, or, in Jude’s writings. We only read the exciting details in Paul’s writings, and in the book of Hebrews; and most scholars believe that either Paul, or someone who traveled with him, wrote that Epistle. Why is that? Certainly the Twelve understood the Gospel in terms of its message of salvation, but did they understand every thing that Paul understood regarding its power? If they did,
at the time of the Jerusalem council (Acts 15:4-29), then they should have articulated it more fully to their followers. There should never have been an issue raised in the first place. Peter should never have been concerned about those who came from James, and what they might think of his eating with Gentiles (Gal 2:11-21), if there was a clear articulation of what the Gospel teaches being taught in Jerusalem. If they were teaching that the Law found its fulfillment in the Lord Jesus, and that they were no longer under the Law (Rom 6:14), than why were James, and the Jerusalem elders, concerned that the believing Jews in Jerusalem would not accept Paul, because they were zealous for the Law, and might even present a danger to him (Acts 21:17-26)? Why didn’t God reveal exactly to the Twelve what He had revealed to Paul? Again, why didn’t He reveal it to Peter, he who had been given the keys to the Kingdom (Matt 16:13-19), he who had first preached to the Jews (Acts 2:14-41), and to the Gentiles (Acts 10:27-48)?
Here’s some food for thought: certainly God had revealed to the Twelve what He wanted them to teach to the ones He was sending them to. Certainly God revealed to Paul what He wanted him to teach to the ones He was sending him to. Paul endeavored tirelessly to keep the Gentile believers from turning to the Law of Moses, and his writings show it. The Twelve, it seems, never discouraged the Jewish believers from being zealous for the Law (Acts 21:17-26). Was it because they weren’t as bold as Paul? I doubt that there wasn’t a courageous one among them! Perhaps it was because the message of the Law was to the Jews, and never to the Gentiles. I’m not suggesting that the Law plays a part in the salvation of the Jews, but rather, that, because it is their heritage, they were taught to have the highest regard for it. They seemed, from all the Scripture that I read, to continue to circumcise their children, even after they became Christians. I’m not suggesting, nor do I believe, that they taught Jewish believers that circumcision was a necessary part of salvation. That would be a different gospel from the one Paul preached. And yet, it appears the Jewish believers circumcised their children. Why? They certainly maintained a strong devotion to the Law after they were saved, and that devotion caused them to have a difficult time with Paul (see last passage). All I’m saying is, that the Twelve had surely been given a revelation, as to what to teach, even as Paul had. Yet, you do not read the same clarity of the Gospel in their writings as you do in Paul’s. Yet, confusion arose between Paul and those who were disciples of the Twelve. Yet, Peter was concerned with what those who came from James would think (Gal 2:11-21). As we consider these things, may the Lord give us understanding (2 Tim 2:7).
Paul’s point seems to be: God will do what God will do, because He is, after all, God! God revealed to Paul what He revealed to Paul because He wanted to.
* for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me: *
Vincent says, “In conference added nothing ouden (NT:3762) prosanethento (NT:4323). ‘In conference’ is an attempt to conform the sense to Gal 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.’ Render therefore, ‘imposed nothing on me.’ They imposed on me no new pros (NT:4314), ‘additional’) requirements; no conditions or limitations of my missionary work.”
The idea is, that in spite of all the false teachers were telling the believers in Antioch, when it was all said and done, the Apostles in Jerusalem did not seek to impose a single
change in the message Paul taught the Gentile believers. The language of these verses seem to indicate that it is possible that there might have been a leaning by some that Paul, for the sake of peace, allow the circumcision of Titus, but after much discussion between the Twelve, and Paul, they prayerfully determined that Paul’s message was absolutely correct, and did not seek to change the slightest detail of it.
But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter;
* But contrariwise, *
Paul had just concluded in the last verse that the Jerusalem Twelve had added absolutely nothing to the message God had given him. They had not asked him to add one point, or to subtract another, or to clarify still another. Now he points out that just the exact opposite happened.
*when they saw *
The Zondervan NIV Bible Library says of this phrase, “It implies a change of mind by the Twelve as a result of Paul and Barnabas’s having reported on all that God had done through them among the Gentiles (cf. Acts 15:4). At first they were skeptical and uncertain, but later they came to stand with Paul.”
Certainly, not all commentators agree with them, doubting that these Apostles could have ever disagreed on any doctrine concerning the very Gospel, itself. Again, remember that these great men of God were, in very fact, men. The Twelve were absolutely, unswervingly convinced of all that Jesus had taught them, and all that the Holy Spirit had revealed to them since. However, what if the issue of circumcising Gentile believers was not one of the things revealed to them? They weren’t even fully aware that God was going to save Gentiles, so God had to prepare Peter for the task of preaching to Cornelius, and his guests, by giving him a vision (Acts 10:9-20), and then had to convince the rest of the Twelve by sending Peter to report what God had done (Acts 11:1-18). Doesn’t it stand to reason, then, that since God was raising up another to carry this Gospel to the Gentiles on a regular basis, while Peter and the Twelve continued to preach to the Jews, that any further revelation concerning Gentile believers would then be given to the individual of His choosing to carry on this task. So, if the Twelve had not received any special revelation concerning this issue, then, they would have to determine the accuracy of Paul’s teaching by comparing it to what was revealed to them. To a good Jew, the idea of not being circumcised might have been too outlandish to even consider. But consider it, they must! It had now been brought to their attention as a result of this strong disagreement between Paul, and the Judaizers. When they heard what great things God was doing through the ministry of Paul and Barnabas they came to “see” something. After all, they personally knew Barnabas (Acts 9:27), and were, therefore, aware of his credibility, and his partnership with Paul would then give him some level of credibility as well. And they had now come to know, through the report of Paul and Barnabas, and the others who accompanied them (Acts 15:4), that the signs of an Apostle (2 Cor 12:12), which signs were a demonstration of the approval of God (Acts 2:22), and of God working with them (Mark 16:20), were indeed taking place in the ministry of these two.
* the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter; *
Vincent says, “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.'”
The Gospel is the Gospel! Anything else is not the Gospel (Gal 1:6-7)! It wasn’t a case of Paul teaching salvation by faith, apart from works, while Peter was teaching salvation by faith, while keeping the Law of Moses. They weren’t preaching two separate Gospels. When James, the half-brother of Jesus (one of the Three that Paul writes about in this passage), wrote that a man is justified by faith, along with works (James 2:14-26), he was not disagreeing with Paul’s assertion that a man is justified by faith, apart from works (Rom 3:28; Gal 2:16). They were talking about two very different things. Paul was talking about the works of the Law, while James was referring to our actions verifying our words. James’ examples, Abraham offering up Isaac (James 2:21) and Rahab helping the Israeli spies (James 2:25), had nothing to do with the Law of Moses. They were simply examples of taking actions according to the convictions that were held. Abraham believed Isaac was the heir that God had promised him, and that God would therefore raise him from the dead, if necessary, to fulfill that promise (Heb 11:17-19). He acted accordingly. Rahab believed that God was going to give the city of Jericho into the hands of Israel (Josh 2:1-15), and consequently, the best chance for her, and her family, to survive was to side with them, and therefore the actions she took demonstrated the strength of her convictions. James is not teaching that our works, in any way, save us. He is, however, teaching that true faith, faith that does saves us, will always affect our conduct. We will always act according to what we believe! Living by faith is not difficult. We all do it! We all walk out what we believe. The trick is to believe the right things. When the Scriptures say that the just will live by faith (Hab 2:4; Rom 1:17; Gal 3:11; and Heb 10:38), they are speaking of faith in God. We already act according to what we believe, but the just are those who believe what God says, and that belief, that faith, has justified them.
Having said all that, the fact that they were preaching the same Gospel in no way applies that they had the same level of understanding of that Gospel. Because they had different spheres of influence, they were ministering to different groups of people, the clarity of revelation could have varied as the necessity brought to bear by the uniqueness of their individual callings demanded. I stand convinced that if Paul were teaching on the genuineness of faith, the subject that James was teaching on (James 2:14-26), and was thus emphasizing the importance that true faith produces the consequential works, he would have felt a strong need to differentiate between those works, and the works of the Law, so that his readers would in no way assume any similarity. James felt no such need. They preached the same Gospel, but with different callings, to different people, and therefore, with different passions. Also, the needs were different. Paul was writing to those who wished to instill Law into the Gospel. James was writing to those who wished to instill license into the Gospel.
The Apostles recognized that God had “committed” to Paul the task of preaching this Gospel to the Gentiles, just as He had “committed” to Peter the task of preaching that same Gospel to the Jews. The New American Standard, and the New International Version of the Bible, along with other translations, render this word “entrusted.” After all their questions of Paul, they came away with an undeniable conviction that God had raised him up for the task of preaching this Gospel to the Gentiles, having entrusted it to him for this purpose. Because of this conviction, they never attempted to alter any part of the message God had given him to preach.
Peculiar, isn’t it, that even though the Twelve had been given the same task as Peter, they compared the calling of God on Paul to go to the Gentiles, to the calling of God on Peter, not on all of the Jerusalem Apostles, to go to the Jews. This certainly seems to indicate that Peter had a special calling, unique from the others.
(For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:)
* (For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, *
Concerning “wrought effectually,” Strong’s Concordance says, “energeo (en-erg-eh’-o); from NT:1756; to be active, efficient:” It’s the same word used by Paul when he says, ” but it is the same God ‘which worketh’ all in all.” (1 Cor 12:6), and, again, when he says, “But all these ‘worketh’ that one and the selfsame Spirit,” (1 Cor 12:11). The NIV renders it, “was at work in.” The NAS renders it, “effectually works.”
Regarding the word “in,” Vincent says, “Petroo (NT:4074). Better, ‘for’ Peter. In Peter would be en (NT:1722).”
The idea is that God was working on Peter’s behalf, effectively through his ministry, which was primarily directed towards the Jews. We’re told that God worked with all the Apostles, confirming the Word they preached (Mark 16:20).
* the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:) *
The false teachers were saying that Peter, and the others of the Twelve, were superior Apostles to Paul. Here, Paul acknowledges that God was surely moving mightily in, and through, Peter. But now he is also saying that the same God is moving in the very same way, not some inferior way, through him. This verse continues the thought of the previous verse, that the Apostles saw, or recognized, something. They saw that God had called, and gifted, Paul to preach to the Gentiles, in the very same way, and to the very same measure, as He had called, and gifted, Peter to preach to the Jews. In other words, he was saying to his readers, “Not only do I contend that my ministry is not inferior to the ministry of the Twelve, but the Apostles recognized that it was not in any way inferior to theirs’. I have their recognition as an Apostle in equal standing!”
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
* And when James, Cephas, and John, *
The Zondervan NIV Bible Library says, “The exact use and order of the names of the leading apostles in this verse should not escape notice. First, the order obviously corresponds to the relative positions and work of James and Peter as recorded in Acts. Peter was the great missionary. Hence, when Paul is speaking of the ministry to the Jews, Peter is prominent and James is not mentioned (vv. 7, 8). In dealing with a particular and official act of the Jerusalem church, however, James (who apparently presided at the council) is mentioned in the first position with the names of Peter and John following.”
The Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown commentary says, “James –placed first in the oldest manuscripts, even before Peter, as being bishop of Jerusalem, and so presiding at the council (# Acts 15:1-29). He was called ‘the Just,’ from his strict adherence to the law, and so was especially popular among the Jewish party though he did not fall into their extremes; whereas Peter was somewhat estranged from them through his intercourse with the Gentile Christians. To each apostle was assigned the sphere best suited to his temperament: to James, who was tenacious of the law, the Jerusalem Jews; to Peter, who had opened the door to the Gentiles but who was Judaically disposed, the Jews of the dispersion; to Paul, who, by the miraculous and overwhelming suddenness of his conversion, had the whole current of his early Jewish prejudices turned into an utterly opposite direction, the Gentiles.”
Wuest says of James, “his well-known strictness as to the observance of the Mosaic law gave special weight to his support of Gentile freedom from the law.”
This James was not one of the original Twelve. Judas, of course, had betrayed the Lord, and was replaced with Matthias (Acts 1:26). He and the other Eleven were the original Twelve Apostles of the new Church. The number included two James’; James, the son of Zebedee, and James, the Lesser. James, the son of Zebedee, had been martyred by the time of Paul’s writing to the Galatians (Acts 12:1-2). Rather there was an official act of replacing that James with the James mentioned here (the Lord’s brother), such as took place when Matthias replaced Judas (Acts 1:21-26), or rather, the remaining Eleven simply recognized, as they do with Paul and Barnabas is this passage, the call of God, and the grace of God, on James, is not certain. However, it is certain that this James is now prominent among the Twelve. He seemed to have some authority over the council at Jerusalem (Acts 15:13-21), and his opinion seemed to matter greatly to Peter (Gal 2:11-12).These are the only three of the Twelve to have Epistles placed in our canon of Scripture, unless one of the others had written the Book of Hebrews, which would be a surprise to most. Jude, it is assumed, was written by another half-brother of Jesus, Judas (Matt 13:55). Matthew, one of the Twelve, did, of course, write one of the Gospels.
* who seemed to be pillars, *
Most translations render this “reputed to be pillars.” In other words, others esteemed them as being the strength of the church.
* perceived the grace that was given unto me, *
The NIV Bible translates for “perceived,” “recognized.” Concerning this, The Zondervan NIV Bible Library says, “Gnontes (gnontes, tr. ‘recognized’ but literally ‘knowing’) differs from idontes (idontes, ‘saw,’ v. 7) in pointing to an internal conviction as opposed to an external awareness of a situation. The apostles ‘saw’ that Paul’s ministry had been blessed by God, for there were many converts. Out of this awareness grew the deeper conviction that the grace of God was with him.”
Personal Note: As you continue to read this commentary, you will undoubtedly come to know the passion I have for the grace of God. I have been teaching this message for over thirty years now. About fourteen years ago, when I was pastoring another church, a man came and taught for a few days while we were celebrating the twenty-fifth anniversary of that church, on the grace of God. His name was Dr. Stone, a man of some repute in the Church of God of Prophecy. Though his denominational ties wouldn’t necessarily cause one to conclude that his message would be one of grace, it is. He added to my understanding of this subject by his teaching concerning the other side of grace. Not only did he teach that grace was the Divine favor of God, but also, that grace was the Divine enabling of God. He concluded, to which I now say a hearty “Amen!” that the Apostles recognized the Divine enabling of God’s Spirit at work in the ministry and life of Paul. Also, Paul credited grace with his ability to labor more abundantly than all the other Apostles (1 Cor 15:10). It was grace, not personal effort that caused his effectiveness. God was at work in him mightily, through His grace. The reason Paul was tireless in his preaching this Gospel was because grace, the inward working of the Holy Spirit, was moving him along. That’s why he could say what he said, in the above passage, without it being a statement of pride. He knew it wasn’t him, but God!
What God calls you to do, He graces you to do. Paul had to cover far more territory than the other Apostles because he was called to go to the Gentiles. Therefore, it took a special gracing from God to accomplish the purpose of God in his life. You and I are not any better that some other member in the body because what we do might draw more attention to us that what they do does to them, we are just a different part of that body (1 Cor 12:14-27). God graces us to do what He calls us to do, but when we understand this, we must recognize that all the glory belongs to Him, and that we must not put any confidence in our efforts (Phil 3:3).
* they gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship; *
These three gave to Paul and Barnabas full acceptance into the fellowship of the Apostles, recognizing the same Apostolic anointing on them that was on Peter, and I’m certain that the other Apostles added their “Amen!” As I’ve already stated in this commentary, their acceptance of Paul was an acceptance of his Gospel. If Paul’s Gospel had been in error, they would have never recognized him in this way. When you are the caretakers of the church you don’t acknowledge someone as an Apostle to the Gentiles if you don’t trust their doctrine. This same John said that even taking one into your house whose doctrine was not that of the Twelve was to share in the false teacher’s wicked work (2 John 10-11). He also said that teachers who pretended to be one of them, to gain credibility as an Apostle, one who is a giver of Scripture, but then leave their fellowship to teach another doctrine, prove that they were never one of them, never having had an Apostolic anointing (1 John 2:19). He made those comments in reference to the Gnostics, those who were troubling the church in the late first century, A.D. That was not their opinion concerning Paul, as Peter later called his writings Scripture (2 Peter 3:15-16). They recognized his anointing as equal to theirs’, and his Gospel as the true Word of God. So should we!
When we read the words of Paul we can do so with the confidence that they are, indeed, the very Word of God. We can confidently base our doctrine on his teachings. His teachings came directly from God, Himself, and were approved by the Jerusalem Apostles, those reputed to be pillars. John said that error can be detected by rather, or not, the teacher of a doctrine listens to those who were with Christ from the beginning, the Twelve (1 John 4:6; 1:1). In other words, they understood that they, those who were taught by the Lord Jesus, Himself, were not only the caretakers of the church, but also the caretakers of Truth. Consequently, since Paul had the approval of these men, it is absolute proof that his doctrine is true!
* that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision *
Paul and Barnabas were called, and graced, to carry this Gospel to the Gentiles, while the Twelve were called, and graced, to carry it to the Jews. The Gospel was the same, salvation by faith in Christ alone, but the emphasis was different. Paul emphasized salvation apart from the works of the Law, while the Twelve emphasized that salvation was separate from the Law, but that good Jews should follow the teachings of Moses. Paul emphasized that a man is not justified by observing the Law (Gal 2:16), while James emphasized that a man is justified by faith, with the accompanying works of that faith (James 2:14-26). The preached the very same Gospel, but with a different emphasis.
Please note that James was not teaching that a man is justified by faith, along with the keeping of the Law. If he had been, then either he, or Paul, was in error. James’ examples of works, Abraham offering up Isaac (James 2:21-22) and Rahab helping the Jewish spies to escape (James 2:25), had nothing to do with the commands of the Law. He was simply teaching that genuine faith produces corresponding actions. If you genuinely believe something, your choices will demonstrate that belief. If you believe a bridge to be unsafe, you’ll choose an alternate route. If you believe a politician is good for the country, you’ll vote for him. There’s always a corresponding action to what we believe. That’s what James was teaching, and Paul would have wholeheartedly agreed!
Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do.
* Only they would that we should remember the poor; *
The Scriptures have much to say about us remembering those who are truly poor, or in great financial need (Prov 14:21,31; 19:17; 28:27; Ps 41:1; 112:9; Isa 58:6-12; Matt 25:34-46; and 1 John 3:17). There are many, many more passages than the few I’ve mentioned, but they will suffice to prove how important God views this subject, in both the Old, and the New, Testaments. It is the heart of God to remember those in need, so it is no surprise that it was the heart of the Jerusalem Twelve. It was not only important to them in personal practice, but also as a part of doctrinal integrity.
* the same which I also was forward to do. *
Even this important Truth that the Jerusalem Apostles pressed upon Paul and Barnabas was not an addition to anything they already preached. They had been practicing this lifestyle of remembering the poor since the very beginning of their becoming a team (Acts 11:25-30). They shared the passion that the Twelve had, and were exceedingly zealous in their receiving offerings for the poor saints at Jerusalem (2 Cor 8:1-15; 9:1-14).
But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed.
* But when Peter was come to Antioch, *
The Book of Acts does not record this visit of Peter to Antioch, so we’re not certain when it occurred. Though some argue, because the verb allows it, that this visit actually occurred before the Jerusalem Council that he had just discussed (Acts 15), the flow of Paul’s argument seems, to me, to dispute that. Perhaps Peter traveled to Antioch to witness, first hand, the wonderful things God was doing among the Gentiles, those things Paul had shared during his visit with the Council. He certainly had an interest, because he was the one God had used to first preach the Gospel to the Gentiles. When he arrived there, he must have been somewhat surprised to see Jewish and Gentile Christians eating together, which was something not covered at the Jerusalem Council. He had already received a vision regarding the eating of meats (). Although he might have initially taken that vision to mean that God was now accepting believing Gentiles into His Kingdom, cleansing them from their sins, as well as believing Jews, it seems that this visit convinced him that God was now allowing Jews, along with Gentile believers, to eat certain things they were forbidden to eat under the Law of Moses. Consequently, he joined with the Christian Jews of Antioch in the fellowship that came with the eating with the Gentile Christians of Antioch. He, evidently, even ate some “Gentile” food, things forbidden by the Law. The Zondervan NIV Bible Library says, “According to Paul, Peter did this for some time, because the imperfect tense of the verb implies that he ate with the Gentiles not once, on a single occasion, but on a regular basis, habitually.”
* I withstood him to the face, *
Vincent says, “To the face kata (NT:2596) prosoopon (NT:4383). As Acts 3:13. The meaning is expressed in the familiar phrase ‘faced him down.’ It is, however, rarely as strong as this in the New Testament. Rather ‘before’ the face, or ‘in’ the face of, meaning simply ‘in the sight or presence of’ (Luke 2:31).”
Paul confronted Peter openly, because the error that he had fallen into was adversely affecting the church. Paul wasn’t trying to show that he had more authority than Peter by opposing him, but he wanted to quickly correct the effect of Peter’s actions. However, he is here relating this story to his readers to continue to show them that his Apostolic authority was in no way inferior to that of Peter’s. Remember, the false teachers were telling the Galatian believers that Paul was an inferior Apostle to the Jerusalem Twelve, so he has taken considerable effort to correct this assumption. If he was inferior, according to the logic of the Judaizers, then his doctrine is inferior. Paul is defending his Apostleship in order to defend his Gospel, because his Gospel was the very Word of God. Peter’s actions were having a negative effect on the truth of the Gospel, that God now saves Jew and Gentile alike through their faith in the Lord Jesus, and not through any adherence to the Law of Moses. Peter knew this, so he had enjoyed fellowshipping in every way with his Gentile brethren, that is, until certain Jews came to Antioch from Jerusalem, Jews who knew James. Then, out of fear of what James might think, or at least, what some of the brothers in Jerusalem might think, he changed his conduct to appease others. Paul saw this change of conduct as something that would have a tremendous negative impact on the integrity of the Gospel, so he openly confronted Peter.
* because he was to be blamed. *
“He was to be blamed” is better translated “he stood condemned” (Vincent, Robertson, and many other Greek authorities). It’s the same word used by John (1 John 3:20-21) when referring to our hearts condemning us. John’s passage is the only other one where this word is used. Rather Paul refers to the Antioch believers now realizing the error of Peter’s actions, or, that Peter, himself, now realized his error, and that he stood condemned in his own eyes, is not certain. Suffice it to say that, in this case, Peter was wrong. Paul was right. The integrity of the Gospel stood strong.
It doesn’t make Peter a lesser Apostle because he needed corrected in this instance. Paul was wrong when he refused to give Mark a second chance (Acts 15:36-41; 2 Tim 4:11). We’re all human, even the Apostles. It’s their message that is infallible, not them.
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.
* For before that certain came from James, *
These men came from the Jerusalem church, where James was the pastor. It’s not clear if James actually sent them. It’s certainly not clear if James would have shared their concerns, however, it is possible. Remember, the Gospel is infallible, not the Apostles.
* he did eat with the Gentiles: *
The Zondervan NIV Bible Library says, “In this decision, Peter went beyond the letter of the decrees of the council, for though the council had acknowledged the right of freedom from the law for Gentiles, it had nevertheless retained the observance of the law for Jews. Now Peter was declaring that the Jew as well as the Gentile was free from Mosaic legislation.” As I stated in my comments on the previous verse, it appears that the controversy was that Peter actually ate some food that was offered him by the Gentile believers, food that was forbidden by the Law of Moses. Certainly, no one was applying pressure to Peter because he simply fellowshipped with the Gentiles, because he had already attained the acceptance of the Jerusalem believers for his sharing the Gospel with the Gentiles at Cornelius’ home (Acts 10:21-47). This had to be something different, something that he hadn’t previously done. Eating what was set before him (Luke 10:8) by his Gentile brothers in Christ, things that the Law would have forbidden him to eat, seems to be the issue at hand.
* but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, *
Alford says of Peter, “Ever the first to recognize, and the first to draw back from great truths.” What confusion this must have caused the Gentile believers, to have someone of Peter’s stature first fellowship with them, and then separate from that fellowship as though they were to accept that they were an inferior part of the body of Christ.
There are those Jews today, who have placed their faith in Christ, who certainly seem to feel that Jewish believers are a little more special to God than Gentile believers. Through
the work of the cross there is absolutely no difference, in Christ, between Jew and Gentile (Eph 2:11-19; Gal 3:26-29). We are all one in Him.
* fearing them which were of the circumcision. *
How very strong a motivator is fear! Fear of acceptance by our peers is one of the strongest fears we can struggle with. Peter knew the Truth! Peter walked in the Truth! Then he abandoned the Truth when he thought that his Christian brothers in Jerusalem might think less of him. He ceased to walk by conscience and began to walk by fear, fear of what others might think of him. He knew what was right, what was good, but he didn’t do it. He sinned before his God (Rom 14:22-23). He was a great man, but he sinned! How careful must we be? May the God of grace, equip us with grace, to always walk according to the Truth of grace. Amen!
And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation.
* And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; *
So strong was Peter’s influence that the other Christian Jews at Antioch followed his example. These who had been eating with their Gentile brothers all along were suddenly withdrawing from them. They had been influenced by Paul, initially, to live in total union with Gentile believers, but now had been influence by Peter to separate themselves from those non-Jews. How sad! Peter had influenced them, and the ones who came “from James” had influenced him.
Our decisions matter! We affect others when we make choices. We might not have the same level of influence over others that Peter had, but there are those that each of us influence.
* insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation. *
So strong had the peer pressure become among the Christian Jews in Antioch that it even affected Barnabas. Barnabas was the one who went to Tarsus to find Paul (Acts 11:25-26), and to take him to Antioch, and together they taught the saints there. He was Paul’s traveling companion on his first missionary journey, as well as his journey to Jerusalem (Acts 15:1-30). He taught the same doctrine, took the same risks, and made the same defense of this Gospel that Paul did. Yet now, due to the poor choice that Peter made, and the subsequent affect it had on the Jewish believers there, he was carried away with this dissimulation. Ultimately, the responsibility was his. Barnabas made the choice to yield to peer pressure. I, in no way, wish to yield his responsibility to Peter’s choice. I’m simply saying that when we, any of us, choose the wrong, we impact other lives in a negative way.
Robertson says of this word, “dissimulation,” “Hupokrisei (NT:5272) is in the instrumental case and can only mean hypocrisy in the bad sense (Matt 23:28), not merely acting a part.”
Peter, pressured by those men “from James,” played the hypocrite, and then the other believing Jews in Antioch played the hypocrite, and then, finally, even Barnabas played the hypocrite. How important it is that we stand strong for the Truth.
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?
* But when I saw that they walked not uprightly *
Strong’s says of “walked uprightly,” “orthopodeo (or-thop-od-eh’-o); from a compound of NT:3717 and NT:4228; to be straight-footed, i.e. (figuratively) to go directly forward:”
The NIV Bible renders it, “When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel,” Paul saw that the conduct of Peter, and the other Jewish believers, was not in line with the teaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
* according to the truth of the gospel, *
What was the “truth of the gospel” that they were not walking in line with? This Gospel teaches that we Gentiles were once “separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world (Eph 2:12) [NIV]. But now, through the blood of Christ, we have been brought near (Eph 2:13) [NIV], and made one with the Jewish believers. How? God has destroyed the “dividing wall of hostility (Eph 2:14) [NIV],” “by abolishing in His flesh the law with its commandments and regulations (Eph 2:15) [NIV].
Peter and the rest were acting like the dividing wall was still there, like the law still separated them, the Jews, from us, the Gentiles. However, the Gospel teaches that once we are in Christ, rather Jew or Gentile, we are all the sons of God, and that there IS no longer Jew or Gentile [Gal 3:26-29]. Verse 29 of that same passage teaches us that when we belong to Jesus then we are all “Abraham’s seed,” and we are all “heirs according to the promise.” Consequently, we can all fellowship freely, without the slightest of separation, when we understand that we are all one in Christ.
* I said unto Peter before them all, *
Peter’s actions affected the entire body of Christ because of the magnitude of who he was. He was considered the Apostle to the Jews [Gal 2:8], and was also the first to preach to the Gentiles [Acts 10:24-48]. He had the respect of all those who were saved. What he thought, what he did mattered! Because his actions were not in private Paul’s rebuke was not in private. He confronted him openly, so that all might learn from that confrontation.
* If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, *
Though Peter was born a Jew, and had lived according to Jewish Laws and customs, once he had received his vision that God had opened the way of salvation to us Gentiles (Acts 10:9-23), he had begun the habit of fellowshipping freely with all believers, even to the extent of eating Gentile food, things he previously thought unlawful to him. In this way, he was living after the “manner of Gentiles,” and not according to his former manner of living as other Jews did, abstaining from certain foods that he, up until the arrival of those Jews who came from James (Gal 2:12), had been openly eating.
* why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews? *
Wycliffe says, “But now, having gone that far and then broken off, he was logically compelling Gentile believers to live as Jews, that is, to adopt circumcision and the dietary laws of the Jews and thus remove all barriers between themselves and men like Peter. But
if the Gentile believers did this, they would sacrifice the truth of the Gospel, which had been affirmed at Jerusalem. The church had decided that no such burden of legal compliance was to be laid on Gentile believers. The whole principle of grace was at stake. The logical outcome of Peter’s conduct was to make Jews out of Gentile Christians or else force the creation of a Gentile church alongside the Jewish church, which would break the unity of the body of Christ.”
When Peter withdrew from the Gentile believers at Antioch his actions were preaching something contrary to the words he spoke in the Gospel’s defense at the Jerusalem council (Acts 15:7-11). His actions were saying that the Gentile believers must adopt Jewish customs, and the Law of Moses, including circumcision, if they desired full fellowship with believing Jews. As Wycliffe states, “The whole principle of grace was at stake.” Paul knew he must confront this error head on, so that’s exactly what he did.
We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles,
* We who are Jews by nature, *
Simply stated, he’s addressing those who were national Jews, born to Jewish parents.
* and not sinners of the Gentiles, *
In the Jewish theology that the first century Jew had grown up under, if you weren’t a Jew, you were a Gentile sinner. The Jewish people had the Law of Moses, and understood that they were the people of God (Ex 3:10). Therefore, all other people were sinners.
NOTE: There is a question among the theologians concerning rather Paul is still addressing Peter, or if he had finished telling that story, and was now addressing the Galatian church again. Again, I’ll save those arguments to the more qualified. In my opinion, it makes absolutely no difference because, in either case, he was speaking to the Galatian believers. The entire purpose of his sharing the account of his rebuking Peter was to address certain issues with the churches at Galatia, so rather this verse is a direct quote from his rebuke of Peter, or if he had already finished that account, in either case these words are meant for them, and in a larger sense, for us.
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.
* Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law,*
Concerning “justified,” the New Unger’s Bible Dictionary says, “Justification is a divine act whereby an infinitely Holy God judicially declares a believing sinner to be righteous and acceptable before Him because Christ has borne the sinner’s sin on the cross and has become ‘to us . . . righteousness’ (1 Cor 1:30; Rom 3:24). Justification springs from the fountain of God’s grace (Titus 3:4-5). It is operative as the result of the redemptive and propitiatory sacrifice of Christ, who has settled all the claims of the law (Rom 3:24-25; 5:9). Justification is on the basis of faith and not by human merit or works (Rom 3:28-30;
4:5; 5:1; 2:16). In this marvelous operation of God the infinitely holy Judge judicially declares righteous the one who believes in Jesus (Rom 8:31-34). A justified believer emerges from God’s great courtroom with a consciousness that another, his Substitute, has borne his guilt and that he stands without accusation before God (Rom 8:1,33-34). Justification makes no one righteous, neither is it the bestowment of righteousness as such, but rather it declares one to be justified whom God sees as perfected once and forever in His beloved Son.”
The Zondervan NIV Bible Library states, “But in Christ, God declares all righteous who believe, imputing divine righteousness to them. In this sense, justification does not express an ethical change or influence (though ethical changes follow); rather, it expresses the judicial action of God apart from human merit according to which the guilty are pardoned, acquitted, and then reinstated as God’s children and as fellow heirs with Jesus Christ.
Continuing from the previous verse, Paul states that the Christian Jews (Peter, and those whose error he exposed, and the believing Jews in Antioch) understood that a man is not justified by the works of the Law. This justification, this position of being in a right relationship with a holy God, that the believer enters into in his/her relationship with God, does not occur as a result of doing the works of the Law.
Concerning “the works of the law,” John Gill says, “By ‘the works of the law’ are meant, not only obedience to the ceremonial law, though this is included, but also to the moral law; for it can hardly be thought, that the men the apostle opposes could ever dream of justification by their compliance with the rituals of the ceremonial law if they believed there could be no justification by their obedience to the moral law; for if there is no justification by the latter, there can be none by the former: the words are therefore to be taken in the largest sense, as rejecting all works of the law, of whatsoever kind, from justification in the sight of God;”
The works of the Law that can never justify a single person are not simply the ceremonial laws that were a part of the Mosaic Law, but are, in fact, the entire Law. Keeping all the Law, including the moral Law of God (the ten commandments, etc.), will never cause one to be right with God because the we have already broken the Law, and therefore stand condemned by it (Rom 3:20; James 2:10).
* but by the faith of Jesus Christ, *
Robertson points out, “The two ways of getting right with God are here set forth: by faith in Christ Jesus (objective genitive), by the works of the law (by keeping all the law in the most minute fashion, the way of the Pharisees). Paul knew them both (see Rom 7).”
All the Greek expositors that I have read agree that this “faith of Jesus Christ” is, in actuality, faith in Jesus Christ. God, in His office as Judge, declares us to be righteous when we place our faith in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. When we come to understand that we are hopelessly lost, with no way to help ourselves (Rom 5:6) [NIV], and we come to the Lord Jesus for salvation (Acts 4:12), some wonderful things happen; our sins are forgiven, their stain removed (1 John 1:9), and the Lord quits counting our sins against us (2 Cor 5:17-19). So thorough is His cleansing of us that the One Who sees all, Who knows all, now sees us as “holy and unblameable and unreproveable” (Col 1:21-23). He now considers us “a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing;” and sees us as “holy and without blemish” (Eph 5:25-27). The above passages show us that God, through Jesus, has reconciled us to Himself (settled the differences between us, namely, our sins), has forgiven us, and cleansed us, from all our sins, and has received us as being unreproveable. The all-knowing One knows of absolutely nothing that should be held against us. Thank God for Calvary! Thank God for justification! Thank God for Jesus!
* even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, *
Paul continues his thought, because we believing Jews know these things as absolute fact, even we who are Jews by birth have ceased to trust the Law of Moses as a means of finding a position of right standing with God. Consequently, just as our Gentile brothers and sisters have fled to the person of Jesus for salvation, for cleansing, for justification, so have we. Why? Because we know it (faith in the Lord Jesus) to be the only path that leads to justification!
* and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. *
The Law doesn’t cause us to walk in a state of justification before God, but, on the contrary, it simply causes us to know how sinful we are (Rom 3:20), and that we are deserving of the wrath of God (Rom 4:15). The Law was given so we would know the extent of our sinfulness, that our sins were abundant (Rom 5:20), and so that we would then fully understand our need of a Savior (Gal 3:24). That was, and is, the function of the Law! It was never intended to make man right with God. If it had that potential then the Old Testament believer could have went to Heaven when he died, instead of Paradise (Luke 16:19-31; 23:43), where he/she had to wait until the Lord Jesus descended there after His death to deliver them (Eph 4:8-10), resurrect them (Matt 27:50-53), and take them to Heaven, only after His death on the cross prepared the way for redeemed man to enter there (Heb 10:19-23).
NOTE: If doing the works required by the perfect Law of God (Ps 19:7; Rom 7:12) can’t justify us (Gal 3:11), or give us life (Gal 3:21), then we must realize that there are no works that can. Keeping the rules of some church will not bring justification if keeping God’s own Law won’t! No works, no matter how good they are, can bring justification to us, only faith in the Lord Jesus can. It’s not by works, or by a mixture of faith and works, but by faith alone (Rom 11:6)!
The Zondervan NIV Bible Library points out, “The threefold repetition of the doctrine of justification by faith in this one verse is important, because it shows the importance the apostle gives to the doctrine. Besides, the three phrases increase in emphasis. The first is general. Paul says, ‘A man is not justified by observing … law, but by faith in Jesus Christ.’ A man is any man, anyone. The second phrase is particular and personal. ‘We, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law.’ This phrase involves Paul himself, as well as all who stand with him in the faith. The final statement is universal: ‘By observing the law no one will be justified.’ The words are literally ‘all flesh,’ i.e., mankind without exception. This universal application of the teaching is heightened by the fact that Paul apparently quotes from Ps 143:2 (as he also does in Rom 3:20), thereby, adding the stamp of a more general, biblical principle to his statements.”
If we honestly believe that Paul’s writings are Scripture, as did Peter (2 Peter 3:15-16), and we see here that Paul emphasized so strongly justification by faith apart from works, shouldn’t we join him in stressing this important Scriptural fact?
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.
* But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, *
Paul had just argued in the previous verse that justification comes only through faith in Christ, and never through observance of the Law. Now he seems to turn his attention to the main question this doctrine presents us with. Doesn’t the doctrine of justification apart from the Law of Moses lead one to a life of lawlessness, of license? If we are not under the Law of Moses, as Paul taught (Rom 6:14), then what will become of right living?
Regarding “are found sinners,” Vincent says, “Are found heuretheemen (NT:2147). More correctly, ‘were’ found: were discovered and shown to be. See Rom 7:10; 1 Cor 15:15; 2 Cor 5:3; Phil 2:8; 3:9.”
The first-century Jew grew up believing that all Gentiles were sinners, but the Jew was not, because he had the Law of Moses. Paul, with passion, taught that having the Law did not make one righteous, only keeping it did (Rom 2:12-13; Rom 2:17-27). He concluded by showing his Jewish readers at Rome that just as surely as the Gentile was a sinner by virtue of not having the Law, the Jew was a sinner by virtue of not keeping the Law, and therefore the Law’s purpose was to cause all men to realize their guilt before God (Rom 3:19). He then restated that purpose by saying that the Law brings us a consciousness, an awareness, of sin, not justification from it (Rom 3:20). Consequently, for one to seek justification from his/her sin, one must first discover that he/she is indeed a sinner! The Jewish believers would not need justification if they had never been unjustified. So, the very fact that they had come to Jesus to be justified, i.e., be saved and made right with God, as Peter had stated they had (Acts 15:7-11), was proof that they were, in fact, sinners, needing to be saved. So, truly, as this verse states, when Jews sought to be justified in Christ, they were brought to the awareness that they were sinners, just as the Gentiles were.
The argument seems to have been made that if this doctrine of justification by faith in Christ alone not only causes you to become aware of the fact that you are a sinner, needing saved, in the first place, but that even after you are saved, sin is still to be found in your life, in the very real sense that none of us are perfect, how good is this justification? Some might say that this way of believing was actually accusing Christ of being party to our sin.
* is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid. *
If the above argument is true, doesn’t that make Christ the minister of sin? If Christ has promoted a Gospel that acknowledges that we are sinners prior to our faith in Him, and shows us that we still commit acts of sin after placing our faith in Him, isn’t He, in essence, saying sin is acceptable now that we are saved? Absolutely not! Doesn’t this line of thinking promote the idea, among its converts, that sin is really not that bad any more? Go ahead! Do it! What does it matter? Grace will cover it! What was Paul’s response to these questions? God forbid! He wondered how one could even think such a thing. How could one who has died to sin in Christ (Rom 6:11) continue to live in it (Rom 6:1-2)? The one who thinks this way fails to understand that we become a new creation in Christ (2 Cor 5:17), created to do good works (Eph 2:10), when we place our faith in Him.
NOTE: There are those who simply explore the Scriptures to search for loopholes. When they discover the doctrine of grace, they see it as the loophole they were looking for, and begin to excuse their conduct with this “Grace will cover it” thinking. Listen! Those who truly come to Jesus to find salvation will never see grace this way. The faith that saves them will cause them to constantly continue in the Word to find freedom in all parts of their lives (John 8:31-32), realizing that the one who the Lord Jesus sets free, is free (John 8:36). You cannot be free to sin, because sin is bondage (John 8:34; Rom 6:16; 2 Peter 2:9). Freedom and sin are diametrically opposed to one another. We have been made free from sin (Rom 6:7,18), not free to sin!
I leave the judging of the heart to God, but I encourage those who come to Jesus to understand that when we cheapen sin, no longer seeing it as the awful thing it is, exceedingly sinful (Rom 7:13), we cheapen grace. If sin is not so bad, then grace is not so amazing! What makes grace so amazing is the fact that a never changing God (Mal 3:6; James 1:17), One Who has never repented, i.e., changed His mind (Num 23:19), about anything, including sin, One Who sees every horrible thing I do (Heb 4:12-13), chooses to justify me when I place my faith in His Son, Jesus (Gal 2:15-16), receive me as a son (John 1:12), make me a fellow-heir with His Son, Jesus (Rom 8:17) and prepare a permanent, eternal home for me in Heaven (John 14:1-3)! Oh, how marvelous His grace, how wonderful His ways! May I never cheapen the victory of Calvary by turning His wonderful grace into a pathetic excuse for my bad conduct! Thank God, grace does cover it, but may it be far from us to run off into the next act of sin with the mistaken idea that it’s OK to sin because of grace. May we instead run to the One Who loves us with the urgent request that the eyes of our understanding would be enlightened, that a spirit of wisdom and revelation would be given to us, so that we would know the power of God at work in us (Eph 1:17-21), and find the empowering grace (1 Cor 15:10) of God to walk uprightly before Him, that grace that teaches us to deny ungodliness (Titus 2:11-12), knowing that it’s he that doeth righteousness who is righteous (1 John 3:7).
For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor.
* For if I build again the things which I destroyed, *
Here Paul, while writing to the Galatian believer, is still referring back to his experience of rebuking Peter for his inconsistent actions regarding a Gentiles’ relationship to the Law of Moses, says if he were to follow Peter, as Barnabas had, and were to withdraw from his Gentile brethren, he would be rebuilding that which he had previously destroyed. In other words, both he and Peter had understood, by revelation, that the Law was not binding on the Gentile believer (Acts 15:7-11), and, it seems, Peter had come to realize what Paul had already known, that the Law was no longer binding on the believing Jew, either. At least, that’s what Peter’s actions of eating and fellowshipping with the Gentiles at Antioch would indicate. So, if Peter, or Paul, would now rebuild what they had professed by their words, and their actions, had been destroyed at Calvary, that being the Law of Moses, there would be consequences.
* I make myself a transgressor. *
What would be those consequences? They would make themselves transgressors. In what way? On the one hand, if the Law was abolished they would be transgressors by virtue of leaving Christ, as the only means of justification, and returning to it. On the other hand, if the Law had not been abolished, they would be transgressors for teaching others that it had. In either case, they would be found to be sinners. But I believe it’s even deeper than just that.
Justification through faith in Christ teaches that God was at work in His Son’s death at Calvary, reconciling us to Himself, not counting our sins against us (2 Cor 5:19). If that doctrine is not true, then we’re left to the Law, and God is still counting our sins against us, the Law is making us conscience of our sins (Rom 3:20), all the while not justifying us (Gal 2:16), leaving us the debt to pay for those sins, death (Rom 3:23). If we are not justified by our faith in Christ, then we are still in our sin; we are still transgressors! However, if we are not under the Law (Rom 6:14), then we can’t transgress it (Rom 5:12-13) in the sense that it has some power over us. Sin is still, as it has always been, a transgression of the Law (1 John 3:4), but when it comes to our standing with God, where there is no law, there is no transgression (Rom 4:15). How urgent it is that we don’t return to the Law, but rather, that we stay in the camp of trusting the Lord Jesus for our justification. There is no other way!
For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God.
* For I through the law am dead to the law, *
Regarding this verse, Martin Luther comments, “The doctrine of our opponents is similar to that of the false apostles in Paul’s day. Our opponents teach, ‘If you want to live unto God, you must live after the Law, for it is written, Do this and thou shalt live.’ Paul, on the other hand, teaches, ‘We cannot live unto God unless we are dead unto the Law.’ If we are dead unto the Law, the Law can have no power over us.
Paul does not only refer to the Ceremonial Law, but to the whole Law. We are not to think that the Law is wiped out. It stays. It continues to operate in the wicked. But a Christian is dead to the Law. For example, Christ by His resurrection became free from the grave, and yet the grave remains. Peter was delivered from prison, yet the prison remains. The Law is abolished as far as I am concerned, when it has driven me into the arms of Christ. Yet the Law continues to exist and to function. But it no longer exists for me.”
There is some debate over what “through the law” implies. Some commentators believe this to mean the Law of the Gospel, so their thinking is that it’s through the Law of the Gospel that we become dead to the Law of Moses. However, the majority believes it to be referring to the Law of Moses, so that this verse is actually saying that through the Law of Moses I am dead to the Law of Moses. I am not a theologian, but like many of you, I am of person of opinion, and that opinion is that the majority is correct in their understanding of this verse. I, too, believe Paul to be saying that it’s through the very Law of Moses that he is dead to that Law of Moses.
So, how do we explain this concept, that it’s the Law itself that has pronounced us believers dead to it? Paul teaches that the jurisdiction of the Law lasts as long as one lives (Rom 7:1), but you and I are dead in Christ (Rom 6:3-4), and when we died in Him we were freed from the Law’s jurisdiction. Just as the married woman whose husband died is free from the Law of marriage (Rom 7:2-3), so too, are you and I free from the Law through our death in Christ. The Law, itself, acknowledges that its commands are for those who live (Lev 18:5). Therefore, through that Law of Moses, since we are dead in Christ, we have thus died to the Law of Moses.
In saying that he was dead to the Law Paul disowned that Law entirely. He was no longer living under its economy, but rather, under the economy of grace. You can’t say that you have died to the Law, if you continue to keep it as your standard of living. But, you might say, then we’re back to the questions of the last verse, what about license? What about careless living? Read on!
* that I might live unto God. *
He didn’t conclude that his death to the Law freed him to live carelessly, in sin, but rather, unto God. Basically, all evangelical churches agree on this: God’s people should live right! However, we disagree from evangelical church to evangelical church as to what, exactly, is living right. One church says women shouldn’t wear slacks, make-up, etc. Another says those things are fine. One church considers it a sin to go to movies, another doesn’t. We agree we should live right, but disagree on exactly what that is. But we have an even greater fundamental difference than that. How do we do it? How do we get from here to there? How does a Christian with an alcoholic problem quit drinking? How do pastors get their “flock” to straighten up? That’s the real issue at hand in what Paul is showing us here. Some churches believe the way to get people to straighten up is to beat them up from the pulpit, shame them into coming to the altar on a Sunday evening to make new promises to God that they’ll never do those things again, promises that, in most cases, they’ll break before the sun sets on Monday. The problem is, there’s no power in our promises to God! The power is in God’s promises to us (2 Peter 1:3-4).
What is the key to our spiritual victory? It’s resurrection life! Paul cried out that he wanted to know Jesus, and the power of His resurrection (Phil 3:10). He taught that just as surely as we have identified with His death, we have also identified with His resurrection, which empowers us to live right (Rom 6:4-5). This experience of the Holy Spirit empowering us to live a victorious life doesn’t happen as a result of trying to keep the Law, but as a result of disowning the Law, casting it aside for faith in Christ (Phil 3:7-10). As a matter of Scriptural fact, the Law empowers sin, not us (1 Cor 15:54-57). It works all manner of evil desire in us (Rom 7:8). Remember, the Law of Moses was not the first Law that God ever gave to man. He gave a Law to Adam and Eve in the Garden, and it only had one command, and man still couldn’t keep it! Sin/Satan, in the guise of a serpent, said, “Yeah, but doesn’t it look good?” Sin seized the opportunity afforded it by the commandment, and produced in Eve a covetous desire (Gen 3:1-6; Rom 7:8), and Paul teaches the same thing will happen to you if you gravitate towards the Law, AND IT WILL!! We will have much more to share on this topic throughout the remaining commentary on this Book of Galatians.
Simply put, Paul is saying in this verse that if he is to live a life victorious over sin, then he must disown the Law.
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: *
In the last verse Paul stated that he was dead, in this verse he explains what he meant by that. He stated that he is crucified with Christ. Regarding “I am crucified,” Wycliffe says, “The perfect tense emphasizes both the past event and its continuing effects.” It wasn’t just that he was crucified, but he is crucified with Christ. Through our faith in Christ the Holy Spirit immersed us into Christ (1 Cor 12:13), and our lives are now hid in His (Col 3:3). It’s this state of being “in Him” that allows us to be a beneficiary of every spiritual blessing (Eph 1:3), such as being chosen before the creation of the world (Eph 1:4), being acceptable to a Holy God [KJV]/a recipient of His grace [NIV] (Eph 1:6), receiving redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins (Eph 1:7), to name a few.
In our union with Christ through the spiritual baptism of salvation (1 Cor 12:13; Rom 6:3-4), we have been united with Him in His death (Rom 6:5), the death of crucifixion, which satisfied the curse of the Law (Gal 3:10-14). When Jesus became sin for us (2 Cor 5:21), He willingly faced the wrath of a Holy God that we had been living under (John 3:36), and took away our sins (John 1:29), purging us from them (Heb 1:3). In His life on earth, prior to the cross, He kept the Law perfectly (Heb 4:15; 1 John 3:4), because He was under the Law, being born a Jew. But after His death, He was free from the Law, because the Law has power over the living. We have been united with Him in His death, so we now walk in His freedom from the Law (Rom 6:14). As is Paul, because you and I are also crucified with Christ, through the Law we are dead to the Law.
* nevertheless I live; *
Yes, Paul (as well as you and I) had died to the Law! Yet he was still breathing, he was still alive! And so are we! In Christ, we live! Wow, and what a life!
What about this new life? We were born again (John 3:16), born out of one life, one way of living (having died to that way of life), into another, a new way of living (Rom 7:6). This new way is the way of walking in the Spirit, and we’ll have much to say about that in the first few verses of the next chapter.
* yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: *
In the previous verse Paul states that he had died so that he could live. In this verse he says he was crucified, and yet he lives. Jesus told us that if we wanted to find life, we must lose ours (Matt 16:25), and that’s exactly what we discover when we identify with Jesus in his death. As Paul told the believers in Rome, if we enter into His death, so also, do we enter into His life (Rom 6:4-5). We died to the Law, and so we died to sin, but thank God we entered life itself, being born again! And yet, it’s not really us doing the living, but it’s Christ living in, and through, us! He is our life (Col 3:4)! He is actively at work is us, giving us the desire, and the ability, to walk in His good pleasure (Phil 2:13). It is now Christ in me, in you, the hope of glory (Col 1:27).
Regarding “glory,” Vine says, “GLORY, GLORIOUS doxa NT:1391, ‘glory’ (from dokeo, “to seem”), primarily signifies an opinion, estimate, and hence, the honor resulting from a good opinion. It is used (I) (a) of the nature and acts of God in self-manifestation, i.e., WHAT HE ESSENTIALLY IS AND DOES, as exhibited in whatever way he reveals Himself in these respects, and particularly in the person of Christ, in whom essentially His ‘glory’ has ever shone forth and ever will do,”
The glory of God, then, according to Vine, is essentially the Who He is. We were created in His image (Gen 1:26-27), but, as a result of sin, we’ve all come short of the Who He is, His glory (Rom 3:23). The eternal purpose of God is to restore the believer to that state, the state of being conformed to the image of His Son (Rom 8:29-30), Who is the express image of His Father, the brightness of His glory (Heb 1:3). Jesus shines forth the Who God is (His glory), and so will we, when we see Him face to face (1 John 3:2). In the mean time, as the process of our conformity to Him continues, that process that will be completed when we see Him, the hope of that completion, the hope of glory (Col 1:27), the hope of righteousness (Gal 5:5), the hope for the manifestation of the sons of God [the full revealing of all God has intended for his children] (Rom 8:19-25), causes us to press on to live a pure life before him (1 John 3:3).
NOTE: The true hope of the believer, the hope of glory, isn’t Heaven. Heaven is the gravy, not the potatoes! Being like Jesus is the potatoes. That’s the hope creation groans for, and the hope that causes us to purify ourselves. And that’s the hope that is born out of the eternal purpose of God for our lives.
This is the end game of the “Christ liveth in me” that Paul is talking about in the verse we are here discussing.
* and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, *
Regarding “by the faith of the Son of God,” Vincent says, “By the faith of the Son of God en (NT:1722) pistei (NT:4102) tee (NT:3588) tou (NT:3588) huiou (NT:5207) tou (NT:3588) Theou (NT:2316). Better, as the English Revised Version (1885): ‘in faith, the faith which is in the Son of God.’ Thus the defining and explicative force of the article tee (NT:3588) after pistei (NT:4102) is brought out. ‘In’ faith is better than ‘by’ faith, although en (NT:1722) is sometimes used instrumentally. ‘In’ corresponds better with en (NT:1722) sarki (NT:4561) ‘in the flesh.’ It exhibits faith as the element in which the new life is lived.”
Paul says, “I’m dead! But wait, I’m alive! Well, actually, it’s Christ living in me! But this walking and talking that you see me doing in this body of my flesh is done as a result of my faith in the Lord Jesus.” As Vincent said, “It exhibits faith as the element in which the new life is lived.” Faith is the sphere in which we now live. Again, I’ll have more to say concerning this important truth in my commentary on the first few verses of chapter three, especially verses two and three.
* who loved me, and gave himself for me. *
This new way of living is a direct result of the Lord Jesus loving us, and giving Himself on the cross for us. Again, as stated earlier in the commentary on this verse, through the new birth we entered into His death (death to the demands and curses of the Law, and death to the sin that the Law empowered), and consequently, into His resurrection (the new way of living for Him).
I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.
* I do not frustrate the grace of God: *
Concerning “frustrate,” Vine says, “DISANNUL, DISANNULLING atheteo NT:114 signifies ‘to put as of no value’ (a, negative, (theton, ‘what is placed,’ from tithemi, ‘to put, place’); hence, (a) ‘to act towards anything as though it were annulled’;”
The NIV and the NKJV translate it, “I do not set aside the grace of God,” while the NAS and the RSV translate it, “I do not nullify the grace of God,” and the BBE renders it, “I do not make the grace of God of no effect.”
As I stated in my notes earlier (Gal 2:9), grace is both the Divine favor and the Divine enabling of God in our lives. Paul is saying that he is not going to set aside God’s favor, and God’s enabling, that was actively at work in him. Again, I have taught in this commentary that in order to have resurrection power at work in our lives we must disown the Law (Gal 2:19). Paul’s doctrine is that when we trust in the Law we are trusting in our own ability to keep the Law, and when we do that we set aside God’s grace, His power working in us. God’s grace at work in our lives, through the miracle of the cross of Christ, has made it possible for us to be declared righteous (Rom 4:5; 5:1; Titus 3:7), which is the work of justification, and to walk uprightly before Him, doing by nature the things contained in the Law (Rom 2:14-15), having that Law written on our hearts and minds, having become a new creature in Christ (2 Cor 5:17), created with a new nature that bears the fruit of good works (Eph 2:10; Gal 5:22-23).
He was not willing to return to the futility of human effort as the means through which he would be received as righteous, and the means through which he would walk in righteousness. We shouldn’t be willing either.
* for if righteousness come by the law, *
Why can’t righteousness come by the Law? Shouldn’t righteousness be the fruit of doing what’s right, obeying that Law? It seems that logic would cause one would think that. Yet, Paul says that the Law will never make anyone righteous (Rom 3:20; Acts 13:39; Gal 2:16; Gal 3:11). Why not? What’s the problem? The Law, though its commandments are holy, just, and good (Rom 7:12), could not be effective because of our flesh (Rom 8:3). We were dead in our sins (Eph 2:1) and the Law was powerless to bring us life (Gal 3:21). If it could have, then righteousness would have come through that Law.
This death came when we were born into Adam, because his sin, and its’ consequential death, passed unto us (Rom 5:12-14). In other words, we were born into Adam when we were born into the human family, and as a result of that birth we received the Adamic nature; i.e., the fallen nature. We now have fallen prey to the human condition. In our fallen state the Law could tell us what to do, but it couldn’t give us the power to do it (Rom 7:18). It simply pointed out our sins, and as a consequence, condemned us to live forever in the death that was ours as a result of those sins (Rom 3:20; 7:7-10). O’ wretched man that I am! Where can I find help? Only in Jesus (Rom 7:24-25)! We must be born again (John 3:3)! In our first birth we were born into Adam, but now we must be born again into Jesus (Rom 5:15-21), the last Adam (1 Cor 15:45). It’s only in Jesus that we find this righteousness (1 Cor 1:30; 2 Cor 5:21). This righteousness that comes through faith in Christ is the only true righteousness (Phil 3:9).
* then Christ is dead in vain. *
Of this Robertson says, “Then Christ died for nought ara (NT:686) Christos (NT:5547) doorean (NT:1432) apethanen (NT:599). Condition of first class, assumed as true. If one man apart from grace can win his own righteousness, any man can and should. Hence, ara (NT:686), accordingly) Christ died gratuitously doorean (NT:1432), unnecessarily.”
To Paul it was simple. The Law couldn’t make anyone righteous, no matter what side of the cross they lived on. The idea that we are saved by faith so that our past sins are forgiven, but then we must keep the Law of Moses in order to become righteous before God is totally rejected by Paul. He claimed that any attempt to bring Law into justification would nullify the purpose of God in sending His Son Jesus to die. Paul sees that act of God as forever doing away with the Law as having any part in our right standing before God. To him, Christ ended the Law’s claim of having any part in our righteousness (Rom 10:4). We aren’t saved so God can empower us to keep the Law, but rather, we are saved so we can live a new way before God (Rom 7:6).
Walk of Grace Chapel, Council Bluffs Church