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Bible Commentaries

John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible
Galatians 2

 

 

Verses 1-21


His Authority recognised by the Apostles at Jerusalem and maintained in his Conflict with St. Peter

1-10. It was not until upon the occasion of a subsequent visit to Jerusalem fourteen years later that St. Paul had laid his gospel before the chief authorities there, and they had approved of all that he had done and taught.

Paraphrase. '(1) It was fourteen years before I again visited Jerusalem, in company with Barnabas and Titus. (2) It was an impulse from the Spirit which led me to go and explain my teaching to the leaders there, that I might see whether they approved it. (3) That they did so was shown by the fact that they did not demand the circumcision of my companion, Titus, Gentile though he was. (4) Some, no doubt, desired it, but on account of the Judaisers, who were trying to bind the burdens of the Law upon us, (5) I utterly refused, because by allowing it I should have compromised the truth of the gospel. (6) But the most influential leaders of the Jerusalem Church—let their authority be what it may, that does not concern the truth or divine approval of my teaching—had no desire to correct or supplement my views, (7) but recognised that I had my sphere of labour among the Gentiles as truly as Peter had his among the Jews, (8) and that each was successful in his own sphere. (9) Not only so, but these leaders, James, Peter, and John, gave us the right hand of fellowship in token of their approval and sympathy, and bade us God-speed in our foreign mission, while they themselves sought to evangelise the Jews, (10) only asking us to send contributions for the poor at Jerusalem, which indeed we were eager to do.'

1. Fourteen years after] i.e. after his conversion (Galatians 1:16), from which the various subsequent events are dated: cp. Galatians 1:16, Galatians 1:18, Galatians 1:21. Again] There is much difference of opinion as to which of St. Paul's visits to Jerusalem, as recorded in the Acts, he here refers. Many scholars hold that this visit corresponds to that recorded in Acts 15 at the close of the First Missionary Journey. Others, especially Ramsay, identify this visit with that recorded in Acts 11:27-30 and Acts 12:25.

Barnabas was his companion on both occasions. Certainly that mentioned in Acts 11:27-30;—his second visit—was caused by a revelation—that to Agabus—but the third visit (Acts 15), the direct occasion of which was about the Mosaic Law, seems, from what follows, the one to which the Apostle alludes. Barnabas] cp. Acts 4:36-37; Acts 11:22; Acts 13:2. Titus] was perhaps the most trusted of all St. Paul's companions and emissaries. When any specially delicate work had to be done requiring experience and tact, Titus was chosen for the purpose: cp. 2 Corinthians 7:6; 2 Corinthians 8:6, 2 Corinthians 8:17-18, and notes there. It is remarkable that his name is never mentioned in Acts.

2. By revelation] in response to a prophetic inspiration. Them.. of reputation] cp. Galatians 2:9.

Last, etc.] that it might be evident that even in their view he was not labouring in vain.

3. But neither (RV 'not even') Titus.. was compelled] This was a crucial instance of the application of the principle at stake. A demand was made by the rigid Judaists that Titus should be circumcised. The demand raised the whole question of the obligation of the Gentiles to observe the Jewish Law, and St. Paul peremptorily refused it. There is an apparent inconsistency between the Apostle's rejection of the demand in this case and his consent to the circumcision of Timothy at Lystra (Acts 16:3) 'because of the Jews which were in these parts.' The inconsistency, however, is only apparent. In the case of Titus St. Paul was opposing the principle that observance of the Jewish Law (and circumcision as the sign of it) was necessary to salvation. This was the doctrine of the Jewish-Christian party, and St. Paul gave no place to them, 'no, not for an hour.' In the case of Timothy there was no such principle at stake. There were no Jewish Christians in question, only Jews, who evidently thought that Timothy, being of Jewish nationality on his mother's side, should bear the. outward sign of his nationality. As the matter had only a racial, not a religious, significance, St. Paul circumcised Timothy on grounds of expediency. We may compare his own personal attitude in similar matters (Acts 18:18; Acts 20:16; Acts 21:23) as showing that he continued to practise some of the Jewish customs, even in religious observances, though he did not regard them as necessary to salvation, or think of imposing them upon others. It is to be remembered also that while Timothy was half a Jew, Titus was a pure. Gentile, and the question at issue involved the Christian liberty of the Gentiles.

4. Liberty] i.e. from the requirements of the Mosaic Law.

5. We maintained our position firmly in order to preserve for you (and for all like you) the distinctive truth of the gospel, viz. that faith in Christ is the one condition of salvation.

6. But of those, etc.] RV 'But from those who were reputed to be somewhat'; those to whom was accorded the greatest influence.

Maketh no matter] does not affect the merits of my claim. In conference added (RV 'imparted') nothing] did not propose any correction or addition to my teaching.

7. The reference is not to two different doctrines, but to two different spheres of the Gospel's operation.

8. God gave to me success in my work, as He had given to Peter success in his.

10. Only they would] they made this one stipulation. The poor] cp. Acts 11:29-30; Acts 24:17; 1 Corinthians 16:3. I also was forward] RV 'zealous'; I was as eager to do this as they were to have me.

11-16. Not only was St. Paul's independence of the Twelve established by the circumstances already mentioned, but on one memorable occasion he had felt obliged to rebuke Peter for inconsistent action (thereby asserting his own independent authority), and at the same time to remind him that it was by faith they themselves had been saved.

Paraphrase. '(11) On another occasion, at Antioch, I similarly maintained my independence of the Judæan Apostles, for I testified against Peter's unworthy action there to his face. (12) When he came at first among the brethren there he joined freely in the love-feasts with the Gentile converts; but on the arrival of some Jewish Christians from Jerusalem he dissociated himself from the Gentiles owing to a weak dread of criticism. (13) Other Jews, including even Barnabas, were led away by his example. (14) In view of this inconsistency, I publicly challenged Peter thus: If hitherto you have been content to associate freely with the Gentiles and conform to their way of life, why do you now keep aloof as if these brethren ought to adopt the Mosaic Law before you can admit them to your company? (15) You and I, Jews as we are, and not Gentile outcasts, (16) know from our own experience that it is by faith in Christ that men are saved, and not by works of Law.'

11. Peter] RV 'Cephas.' To Antioch] Those who hold that the previous passage (Galatians 2:1-10) refers to St. Paul's second visit to Jerusalem (Acts 11:29-30), of course place this visit of Peter to Antioch after St. Paul's return there, i.e. between Acts 12:25 and Acts 13:1. Those who take Galatians 1:1-10 as referring to the Apostle's third visit (Acts 15), for the most part date this occurrence after the council of Jerusalem, i.e. during the interval mentioned in Acts 15:35 though some hold that St. Paul in this passage is not mentioning a later instance of his independence, but merely another illustration of it which was earlier in time than that mentioned in Galatians 2:1-10.

Because he was to be blamed] RV 'because he stood condemned,' i.e. by the very inconsistency of his acts.

12. He did not eat with the Gentiles] He would thus be defiled according to the Jewish Law. Withdrew] i.e. refused any longer to sit with the Gentile Christians at the love-feasts, and perhaps also in their houses. Peter had evidently forgotten the lesson of his vision at Joppa (Acts 10:9-16), and if this action of his was done after the decision of the council at Jerusalem (Acts 15:14-21), his conduct is placed in a still more unfavourable light.

13. Barnabas also] RV 'even Barnabas,' whom the Galatians knew as fellow-missionary with St. Paul.

15. Sinners of the Gentiles] St. Paul is here adopting for argument's sake the rigid Jew's contemptuous description of the Gentiles.

16. Even we] i.e. with all our Jewish privileges we are no better than the Gentiles we despise, but must equally with them seek salvation by faith in Christ.

17-21. St. Paul seems here quite imperceptibly to pass from his rebuke to Peter to the broader question of the obligation of the Law and to the impassioned statement of his own living faith.

Paraphrase. '(17) But some one says that in spite of their trust in Christ some have fallen into sin (and therefore require the guidance of the Law). Is Christ then, or the Gospel, the cause of their sin? Whatever conclusion we may draw, that one is manifestly absurd. (18) But whoever goes back to the Law for guidance, after having left it and put his trust in Christ, is the real transgressor. (19) I was led by the Law to know my sin and put my trust in Christ, that I might live unto God; delivered by Him from sin, I was done with the Law—as much so as if I had been dead. (20) Through the power of Christ's Cross I died to my old life; and yet I live in a truer sense than before: rather I should say that it is no longer I who live, it is Christ who lives in me; and if I can speak of living at all, it is in so far as I live by faith in the Son of God, who is the source and support of my life, the indwelling power of a new righteousness. (21) I do not thus make the grace of God of no effect, as I would if I clung to the Law; for if we could be made righteous by the Law, Christ need not have died for our salvation.'

17. But if, etc.] This is a difficult passage. It seems to state an objection of the Judaising party, that faith in Christ is insufficient to keep men from sin. Or possibly it deals with an argument put forth by the Galatians themselves, that their faith in Christ was insufficient to enable them to withstand their temptations, and that adoption of the Law would be a help. In any case St. Paul pushes the argument to its logical conclusion, and shows its absurdity.

God forbid] lit. 'be it not so,' 'far be it'; St. Paul's usual formula for rebutting an argument: cp. Galatians 3:21; Romans 3:4, Romans 3:6, Romans 3:31; Romans 6:2, Romans 6:15, etc.

19. Dead] ethically; broke relations with the Law system as by a death. That I might live] I died to the old life and relations in order to live to the new.

20. St. Paul passes from the inability of the Law to the ability of Christ to save him.

Crucified with Christ] He identifies himself with Christ in His death. Christ's death means to him the cessation of the old life of sin as well as of legal justification: cp. Galatians 6:14; Romans 6:1-11; 2 Corinthians 5:14; Colossians 3:3. Nevertheless I live] RM 'and it is no longer I that live'; my real life is not this natural life, but the life of faith in union with Christ. By the faith of] RV 'in faith, the faith which is in the Son of God.' St. Paul here enunciates his doctrine of mystic union with Christ. He is so entirely under the influence of Christ that he regards his thoughts and words and deeds as prompted by the Saviour. All that he is he owes to Christ who abides in Him. The spiritual relation between Christ and himself is so intimate that he can only describe it as Christ living in him: cp. Romans 6:1-11.

 


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Bibliography Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Galatians 2:4". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcb/galatians-2.html. 1909.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, June 3rd, 2020
the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
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