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Bible Commentaries

The Expositor's Greek Testament
Galatians 2

 

 

Verse 1

Galatians 2:1. διὰ δεκατ. ἐτῶν. Greek usage in calculating intervals of time between two events reckons two years for the two broken years at the beginning and end of the period. Some critics, notably Lightfoot, calculate this period from the meeting with Peter mentioned in Galatians 1:18 : but this attaches far too much importance to that interview. It is only mentioned and its date loosely indicated in order to show that three full years passed before they had any intercourse. The dominant note of time throughout in the mind of the author is surely the conversion: and the object of specifying a period of time here, as in Galatians 1:18, is to show how many years of Christian life had passed before the event.— τίτον. The names of the Christians who accompanied Paul and Barnabas are not given in Acts 15:2. It appears that Titus, a Greek Christian, one of Paul’s own children in Christ, was among them, and that Paul was responsible for his selection. His choice of a Greek for his companion evinces the determined spirit with which he started on his mission.


Verses 1-10

Galatians 2:1-10. NARRATIVE OF THE AUTHOR’S VISIT WITH BARNABAS TO THE CHURCH OF JERUSALEM, HIS FRUITLESS NEGOTIATIONS WITH PARTY LEADERS, AND THE BROTHERLY WELCOME AND RECOGNITION HE RECEIVED FROM JAMES PETER AND JOHN.—The author has shown by a rapid glance over the first thirteen years of his Christian life how independent he had been of human teaching at his conversion and subsequently. He now proceeds to record the true history of the negotiations which he had undertaken at Jerusalem in conjunction with Barnabas in the fourteenth year of his ministry. (On the identity of this conference with the Apostolic Council, whose proceedings are recorded in Acts 15, see Introd., pp. 141–144). The Galatians were well aware of the position of Paul and Barnabas in the Church of Antioch: it was not therefore necessary to state in express terms that they were deputed to represent that Church. Enough that their first act was to lay before the Church of Jerusalem an account of the Gospel they were preaching to the Gentiles, and that their divine commission to the Gentiles was fully recognised by the leaders of the Church at Jerusalem. They knew already the general outline of events: for the resolution adopted at Jerusalem, and subsequently approved at Antioch, had been duly communicated to them by Paul himself. His object in this Epistle is to remove misconstruction as to his own position. His reference of this question to the Church of Jerusalem had been misrepresented as an act of submission and acknowledgment of his own inferiority, whereas he had really procured the condemnation of the false brethren who denied his authority, had silenced his opponents, and met with brotherly fellowship and full recognition at the hands of James Peter and John.


Verse 2

Galatians 2:2. κατὰ ἀποκάλυψιν. This statement of Paul’s motive is in no way inconsistent with the independent statement in the Acts that he was deputed by the Church. The revelation may have come to Paul himself, and in that case he prompted the decision of the Church, of which he and Barnabas were at that time the ruling spirits; or it may have been made through the Spirit to the Church, in which case Paul would count it right at once to obey his voice.— ἀνεθέμην … Two different methods of action are here specified, public addresses describing the nature and result of the Apostle’s preaching among the Greeks, and private interviews with individual brethren or groups of brethren. The term κατʼ ἰδίαν does not imply secrecy in these communications. The context shows that the point at issue was the circumcision of Gentile converts.— τοῖς δοκοῦσιν. As this phrase recurs four times in eight verses, it is necessary to determine its true meaning with some precision. δοκεῖν nowhere else conveys the idea of superiority implied in our versions, of reputation (of repute R.V.). The two passages adduced in its support do not stand the test of criticism: in Eur., Heracl., 897 there is an obvious ellipsis of εὐτυχεῖν, in Hec., 295 of δόξαν ἔχειν. In the latter indeed δοκούντων appears to be a cynical comment of the deposed queen on the unreality of outward glory.

In fact δοκεῖν, like seem in English, was either a neutral term which expressed according to the context any impression, good or bad, produced by the appearance of an object, or it laid stress on the unreality of the mere outward semblance. The Greeks dwelt often on the contrast between δοκεῖν and εἶναι embodied in the famous line of Æschylus οὐ γὰρ δοκεῖν δίκαιος ἀλλʼ εἶναι θέλει. In Galatians 2:6 this contrast reappears in the antithesis between δοκοῦντες εἶναι and ποτε ἦσαν. In Galatians 2:9, on the contrary, οἱ δοκοῦντες, coupled as it is there with στύλοι εἶναι, denotes the high estimate formed of the Three. The elliptical phrase ἀνεθέμην τοῖς δοκοῦσιν in Galatians 2:2 should in like manner be interpreted by the context. I take it to mean ἀνεθέμην οἷς ἐδόκει δεῖν ἀναθέσθαι. Paul, as he states, brought the matter in private interviews before those whom it seemed right to approach in that way, sc., influential opponents, whose hostility he was anxious to deprecate.— μή πως … It was of vital moment to the welfare of the Greek Churches at that time to avoid a breach with Jerusalem. Besides embracing a minority of Jewish Christians, they were leavened through and through with Jewish influences, so that a quarrel might have led to a disastrous schism in all the existing Churches. More than this, they relied still mainly on the Old Testament for the basis of their theology and morals. The abundant promise of harvest among the Greeks rested still on the nucleus of devout Gentiles who had been prepared by the teaching of the synagogue for the lessons of Christ’s Apostles. τρέχωἔδραμον. The present subjunctive is coupled here with the aorist indicative, as it is in 1 Thessalonians 3:5, to express the fear of present failure, coupled with a dread that past labours had been rendered futile.


Verse 3

Galatians 2:3. Howbeit even Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, had not been compelled to be circumcised. The last verse related the steps taken by Paul to disarm opposition. He was, however, no less resolute in his resistance to any encroachment on Christian freedom. The presence of Titus with him attested his determination; for the circumcision of Titus had been demanded, and resisted evidently by Paul himself. It is a strange misconception of critics to argue as if this struggle over Titus took place at Jerusalem. The demand for the circumcision of all converts was made at Antioch and pressed against the authority of Paul and Barnabas (Acts 20:2): the express object of the deputation was to protest against this demand, which they did with entire success. The Greek aorist ἠναγκάσθη answers here to the English pluperfect, as often elsewhere (cf. Winer, xl., 5).


Verse 4

Galatians 2:4. The narrative returns here, after the parenthetical reference to Titus, to the subject of Galatians 2:1-2, and the verb ἀνέβην, already repeated in Galatians 2:2, must here also be supplied to complete the sense: But it was because of the false brethren privily brought in that I went up, men who came in.… The addition of the article, rightly inserted by the Revised Version before false brethren, shows that they were a particular body of convicted offenders against Christ, of whose guilt the Galatians had been already informed. The force of παρεισάκτους is well illustrated by Strabo. xvii., p. 794, where it denotes the treacherous introduction of foreign enemies into a city by a faction within the walls. In the next clause παρεισῆλθον describes the stealthy entrance of these secret foes; κατασκοπῆσαι marks their hostile intent, and likens them to spies who are bent on discovering to an enemy the weak points in a military position: the freedom of the Greek Churches in Christ is further declared to be the object of their hostility. This description brings the Epistle into close touch with the Acts: for it is there stated that Paul and Barnabas were driven to go up to Jerusalem by the factious opposition of certain foreign emissaries from Judæa who attacked the freedom of the Greek converts from circumcision and disturbed the peace of the Church; also that these men were altogether repudiated and condemned at Jerusalem by the Apostles and brethren, and finally that the document embracing this sentence of condemnation had been placed by Paul himself in the hands of the Galatians. There can be no doubt, in view of this close correspondence, that the false brethren whom the Epistle denounces are identical with the Pharisaic emissaries who stirred up strife at Antioch.— καταδουλώσουσιν. All the best MSS. agree in reading this future indicative instead of the subjunctive after ἵνα; possibly the author meant to express thereby the assured hope of success, and not merely the intention of the conspirators.


Verse 5

Galatians 2:5. εἴξαμεν. Paul here couples Barnabas with himself in recording the determined resistance offered by both to the demand for the circumcision of all Christians preferred at Antioch. Barnabas was at that time a staunch supporter of Greek freedom. The verse obviously refers to their attitude at Antioch before going to Jerusalem.— τῇ ὑποταγῇ: by our submission. Here, as in 2 Corinthians 9:13, ὑποταγή denotes a voluntary act, not one imposed upon a subject. The same rendering appears more appropriate for expressing the due attitude of wife and children in 1 Timothy 2:11; 1 Timothy 3:4. The middle voice ὑποτάσσεσθαι is five times rendered submit in the Authorised Version, and the force of the original is impaired by its exclusion from the text of the Revised Version.— ἵνα … The motive for firmness was the maintenance of the truth of the Gospel, i.e., of the freedom to which the uncircumcised were entitled in Christ.— πρὸς ὑμᾶς: for you, i.e., with a view to your welfare. The rendering of our versions, with you, would be properly expressed by ἐν ὑμῖν.


Verse 6

Galatians 2:6. The author here resumes the broken thread of the narrative, which he interrupted after Galatians 2:2 in order to show that his conciliatory attitude at Jerusalem was not due to weakness or irresolution. He now proceeds to relate the sequel of the advances which he made at Jerusalem to the Pharisaic party. The repetition of the phrase οἱ δοκοῦντες, and the fresh transition from the plural εἴξαμεν to the singular ἐμοί, indicate the fresh shifting of the scene from Antioch back to Jerusalem. The first clause is left unfinished, for the mention of these men who seemed to be anything leads the author to interrupt his narrative again that he may challenge their right to be heard; he breaks, accordingly, into the disparaging comment, what manner of men they had once been, maketh no matter—a forcible expression of his disappointment at finding so little Christian sympathy or life where he had hoped to find so much. After this parenthesis he remoulds the form of his sentence; and οἱ δοκοῦντες, the subject of ἦσαν, becomes the subject of the verb προσανέθεντο. Instead, therefore, of concluding the sentence in its original form, and stating that from those who so seemed he got no response, he writes, to me, I say, those who so seemed communicated nothing further.— τῶν δοκούντων εἶναί τι. These are identified with τοῖς δοκοῦσιν in Galatians 2:2. They are there described as men whom it was thought advisable to approach in private, here as men who were thought to be anything, i.e., to have any weight in the Church. The English version somewhat suggests that they held high office and were in positions of dignity, perhaps Apostles; but the Greek order in that case must have been τί εἶναι, nor can that emphasis be justified in rendering the enclitic τι after εἶναι. They were probably party-leaders, but the Apostle writes of them with scant respect as men who were now little better than a name.— ὁποῖοί ποτε ἦσαν …: What manner of men they had once been maketh no matter to me. The margin of the Revised Version rightly renders ὁποῖοι as an indirect interrogative dependent on διαφέρει, and gives to ποτε its true sense of formerly, in time past (as in Galatians 1:13; Galatians 1:23). Coupled as it is here with ποτε, ἦσαν has the force of a pluperfect, and contrasts the character of these men as reported from past time with what Paul actually found them to be: he could get no brotherly help or counsel from them. Therefore he pronounces the adverse judgment upon them ( πρόσωπονλαμβάνει); for, like his Master (Luke 20:21), he regarded no man’s person, if weighed in the balance and found wanting.— ἐμοὶπροσανέθεντο. This clause forms an antithesis to ἀνεθέμην τοῖς δοκοῦσιν in Galatians 2:2. Paul had laid before them an account of his successful ministry among the Greeks, but they had no further response to make in the shape of Christian sympathy, or of fresh argument in justification of their prejudices against him and his teaching.


Verse 7

Galatians 2:7. The emphatic opening of this verse, ἀλλὰ τοὐναντίον, gives prominence to the thorough contrast presented by James, Cephas and John to the cold reserve of these suspicious and prejudiced opponents. It is perfectly clear in the Greek text, though unfortunately not in the English versions, that they are the subject throughout Galatians 2:7-9, and that the participles ἰδόντες and γνόντες refer to them as well as the verb ἔδωκαν. But contrariwise James and Cephas and John … when they saw … and perceived the grace that was given unto me, gave to me and Barnabas right hands of fellowship. They saw in the marvellous success of Paul and Barnabas a visible token of their divine commission and of the grace bestowed upon them. These were doubtless the real authors of the final resolution adopted by the Council; and its hearty appreciation of their beloved Barnabas and Paul, men that have hazarded their lives for the name of the Lord Jesus Christ coincides with the language of the Epistle.— πέτρος. In this and the next verse the Greek name is used to designate the Apostle of the circumcision, probably because he was already known to the whole Greek world as an Apostle under that name. In Jerusalem, however, and as a man, he habitually went by his Hebrew surname Cephas, and that name is accordingly given him elsewhere in the Epistle.


Verse 8

Galatians 2:8. ἐνεργήσας. When this verb is applied to the work of the Spirit in the hearts of men, the preposition ἐν is added to it. The absence of ἐν before πέτρῳ and ἐμοί indicates that this verse is not describing the work of grace in the hearts of Peter and Paul, but the work of God for them, i.e., for the furtherance of the Gospel which they preached.


Verse 9

Galatians 2:9. The name of James is placed before those of the Apostles Peter and John. This was probably because as permanent head of the local Church he presided at meetings (cf. Acts 21:18). The well-known strictness of his own legal observance gave special weight to his support of Greek freedom on this occasion. A comparison of his address with the subsequent resolution of the Council suggests that he took a leading part in drafting some part of it at least.— οἱ δοκοῦντες στύλοι εἶναι. The habitual application to the Church of figures borrowed from a temple of God suggested the description of Apostles as pillars. It occurs also in Clement of Rome and Ignatius. The repetition of the phrase οἱ δοκοῦντες is apparently designed to contrast the high estimate formed of the Three with the unfounded and indefinite estimate of others who had proved to be mere names.— ἵνα … The mutual understanding between the two groups of Apostles obviously did not imply an absolute restriction of each to one section of the Church. All converts alike were members of a single united Church: circumstances of themselves forbade any definite division: Paul opened his ministry everywhere in the synagogue, and numbered Jews as well as Greeks amidst his converts. So Peter again is next found at Antioch.


Verse 10

Galatians 2:10. μόνονἵνα. A verb must be supplied out of δεξιὰς ἔδωκαν expressive of the pledge that the other Apostles exacted from Barnabas and Paul. τῶν πτωχῶν. These words are displaced from their grammatical position after μνημονεύωμεν in order to lay stress upon the poor being the central object of the appeal. Judæa suffered often from famine in apostolic times, and Christians were probably the worst sufferers owing to religious ill-will and social persecution. This passage implies chronic poverty. So also does the history of the Pauline contribution, which was not an effort to meet a special emergency, for it took more than a year to collect, but a fund organised to meet a permanent demand for systematic help.— . The addition of τοῦτο after αὐτό shows that is not the object of ποιῆσαι, but is used with adverbial force for a connecting particle, as in Galatians 1:7, as for which.— καὶ ἐσπούδασα: not I also, for this would require καὶ ἐγώ in the Greek text. The force of καί is to intensify the following verb. I was not only willing, but was indeed zealous to do so.


Verses 11-14

Galatians 2:11-14. INTRIGUE AT ANTIOCH TO AFFIX THE STIGMA OF UNCLEANNESS ON UNCIRCUMCISED BRETHREN, COUNTENANCED BY PETER AND BARNABAS, BUT OPENLY REBUKED BY PAUL.—The gathering of many Christians at Antioch after the Apostolic Council during the sojourn of Paul and Barnabas in that city is recorded in the Acts, but no mention is made of Peter or of this episode. The omission is instructive, for it bears out the impression which the Epistle itself conveys that the collision was a transitory incident, and had no lasting effect on Church history. The fact, however, that Peter and Barnabas both consented to affix the stigma of uncleanness on their uncircumcised brethren rather than incur the obloquy of eating with them bears striking testimony to the strength of the prejudices which then prevailed among Jewish Christians. Neither of them had any real scruples about intercourse with these brethren: Peter had been taught of God long ago not to call any unclean whom God had cleansed, and had recently protested at Jerusalem against laying the yoke of the Law upon the neck of the disciples; Barnabas had ministered for years to Greek converts, had championed their cause at Jerusalem with Paul, and had like Peter consorted with them freely of late: yet neither of them had the moral courage to act up to their convictions under the eyes of the brethren from Jerusalem. Their vacillation attests the difficulty of retaining Jews and Greeks in one communion, and the wisdom and prudence which guided the decision of the Apostolic Council. But that decision had materially strengthened Paul’s position. A basis of union had been formally ratified between the two Churches of Jerusalem and Antioch. The Church of Jerusalem by calling on Greek Christians to consent, as they had done, to certain prescribed forms of abstinence had virtually bound themselves to accept these as conditions of intercourse, and the withdrawal from the common meal violated therefore the spirit of a solemn treaty. Paul had therefore strong ground for remonstrance, independently of his authority in his own Church, and his protest was evidently effectual, though he refrains from recording Peter’s humiliating retreat from a false position. For it is recorded here for the express purpose of exemplifying his successful vindication of his apostolic rights.

The early Fathers shrank from admitting the moral cowardice of which Peter was guilty on this occasion, and made various efforts to evade the plain sense. Clement of Alexandria questioned the identity of Cephas with the Apostle. Origen propounded a theory that the scene was a preconcerted plot between the two Apostles for the confutation of the Judaisers; and this theory prevailed extensively in spite of the discredit which it cast on the character of both until it was effectually exposed by Augustine in controversy with Jerome, who had himself adopted it.

Again, this momentary collision be ween the two great Apostles was distorted by party spirit into an evidence of personal rivalry. Their preeminence in their two respective spheres has been already noted as early as the Apostolic Council, and this led, perhaps inevitably, to personal comparison. In the Corinthian Church opposite partisans adopted their names for rival watch-words. At a later time elaborate fictions of their lifelong antagonism were invented and circulated in the Clementine literature. But the collision here mentioned was obviously a transitory incident. The language of gratitude and esteem applied to Peter elsewhere in the Epistle precludes any idea of permanent estrangement.— ὅτι κατεγνωσμένος ἦν. Our versions are surely wrong in giving a causal force to ὅτι in this clause, for it adduces no clear and reasonable justification of the opposition offered. It is much better to take ὅτι as declarative: Paul is here stating the ground which he took up against Peter: I withstood him, saying that he had condemned himself. He urged that Peter was condemned by his own inconsistency. By first eating with Gentiles and then pressing upon them observance of the very principles that he had violated he was playing fast and loose with the Law.


Verse 12

Galatians 2:12. ἰακώβου. Any visitors from the Church of Jerusalem might perhaps be said to come from James, who was its permanent head; but these brethren appear to have been in special sympathy with James in regard to their strict observance of the Law, and the respect paid by Peter to their opinion suggests that they were representative men, probably deputed for some purpose by their Church. There is, however, no reason to conclude that James prompted or approved the intrigue against Gentile freedom at Antioch. Scrupulous as he was about observing the Law, he had taken a leading part at Jerusalem in shaping the recent contract with their Gentile brethren, and was the last man to sanction an evasion of its terms.

The imperfect tenses ὑπέστελλεν, ἀφώριζεν give a graphic picture of Peter’s irresolute and tentative efforts to withdraw gradually from an intercourse that gave offence to the visitors.— τ. ἐκ περιτομῆς. The omission of τῆς before περιτομῆς is conclusive against the rendering of our versions, them … of the circumcision. For περιτομή without an article does not denote the body of men, but the rite. By τ. ἐκ περιτομῆς are meant the party who based their faith on circumcision, and made that the charter of God’s covenant rather than baptism, and not the Jewish Christians in general. It is clear from the context that the Circumcision as a body did eat with their brethren until Peter set the example of withdrawal through fear of this determined minority of partisans. In Acts 11:2 the phrase obviously singles out a particular party who pressed the claims of circumcision in an assembly consisting wholly of circumcised men. In Acts 10:45 οἱ ἐκ π. πιστοί distinguishes those who believed after circumcision from the uncircumcised who believed; and in Colossians 4:11 οἱ ὄντες ἐκ π. οὗτοι μόνοι συνεργοί designates those men who were my only fellow-workers after circumcision. (For the force of the elliptical phrase οἱ ἐκ cf. Galatians 3:7; Galatians 3:9, Romans 4:14.)


Verse 13

Galatians 2:13. συνυπεκρίθησανὑποκρί σει The verb ὑποκρίνεσθαι is often used of playing a part as an actor in a play without any invidious meaning; but ὑπόκρισις corresponds throughout the N.T. to its English equivalent hypocrisy, and fidelity to the Greek text almost demands that rendering here. The men who had hitherto eaten with the uncircumcised and now withdrew because they shrank from giving offence were, in fact, affecting religious scruples which they did not feel, and the Apostle does not hesitate to denounce such insincerity by its true name hypocrisy.— καὶ βαρνάβας: even Barnabas. The defection of Barnabas was a heavier blow to the cause of Gentile freedom than the vacillation of Peter. With the single exception of Paul himself, Barnabas had been the most effective minister of Christ for the conversion of Greeks; he had been of late deputed to appear with Paul as their representative in Jerusalem, and his withdrawal from social communion with Greek Christians fell upon them with the force of a betrayal. Yet Paul, who had been for many years his most intimate companion, and knew his heart, writes more in sorrow than in anger of his lamentable weakness in being led away by evil example. For he saw that he was the victim of stronger wills than his own. Jerusalem had been his early home and the place of his earliest ministry. The Twelve had been his first teachers in Christ: his cousin John Mark, who was even then in Antioch, was so dear to him that Barnabas, when driven to choose between him and Paul, chose Mark for the companion of his future ministry. What wonder then that he was tempted on this occasion for a moment to yield to the influence of Peter and the brethren from Jerusalem!


Verse 14

Galatians 2:14. πρὸς τ. ἀλήθειαν. Our versions render πρός, according to, like κατά: and so impugn these men for want of uprightness in their conduct rather than for inconsistency of doctrine. But the censure of the Apostle is really directed to the falsehood of their teaching. They were not dealing straightforwardly with the truth in casting the slur of uncleanness on those whom God had cleansed in Christ.— ἀναγκάζεις. Peter was by his example really putting a severe pressure on Gentile converts to adopt a Jewish rule of life, though perhaps unintentionally.— ὑπάρχων. This participle notes the bearing of antecedents on present action. Peter being a Jew might have been expected to act otherwise.


Verses 15-21

Galatians 2:15-21. JEWS THEMSELVES WERE DRIVEN TO RESORT TO CHRIST AS SINNERS FOR PARDON BECAUSE THEY COULD NOT OBTAIN JUSTIFICATION BY PERFECT OBEDIENCE TO THE LAW—NOT THAT THEY MIGHT THEREBY BECOME MORE FREE TO SIN, BUT FOR THE SAKE OF NEW LIFE IN CHRIST, EVEN AS PAUL HIMSELF ENDURED CRUCIFIXION WITH CHRIST, THAT CHRIST MIGHT LIVE IN HIM. Galatians 2:15. As the next verse opens, according to the Greek MSS., with εἰδότες δὲ, it is necessary to understand here a finite verb, We are Jews, etc.

The personal narrative breaks on abruptly at this point. Peter drops out of sight, and the Epistle passes from a protest against his vacillation into an elaborate argument against the doctrinal errors of the Pharisaic party, which forms too integral a portion of the whole Epistle to be detached from it. Yet the new strain of thought springs so directly out of the previous remonstrance that it might well have been addressed there and then to the Jewish Christians at Antioch. The outspoken protest against an insidious attempt to force on Gentiles the Jewish rule of life leads naturally to an enquiry what this rule has done for men who are Jews by birth. Did it justify them before God? We know that it did not: they had to turn to Christ for the peace with God which the Law could not give. In short, Galatians 2:15-21 are connected at once with the preceding matter and the subsequent; and apparently reproduce in substance an argument which had already been addressed, viva voce, to the circumcision-party at Antioch, whom the Apostle identifies in spirit and policy with the subsequent agitators in Galatia.— οὐκ ἐξ ἐθνῶν ἁμ. This clause expresses pointedly the insolent contempt of the Pharisaic party for Gentiles, who did not belong to the holy nation nor inherit the Law and the Covenants. Yet in spite of these arrogant pretensions to superior sanctity (it is added) they were driven by the verdict of their own conscience to embrace the faith of Christ because they knew that no flesh could possibly be so perfect in obedience to Law as to be thereby justified.


Verse 16

Galatians 2:16. οὐ δικαιοῦται … Two methods of seeking justification in the sight of God are here distinguished. The former took account of nothing but stedfast obedience to the law of God. Before his conversion Paul knew no other: he had been taught by his legal training to base his standard of right and wrong entirely on the revealed law, to find in it the sole guide of conscience, and to measure righteousness by conformity to its commandments alone.

But his view of God’s judgment had been profoundly modified by his conversion. He had learnt on the one hand from the teaching of Christ how impossible it was for man to attain to perfect righteousness, seeing that God claims not only obedience to the letter of the law, but an allegiance of the heart too thorough to be attainable by human infirmity. But on the other hand he knew now that God is a loving Father in Christ, ever seeking out His erring children that He may win them back, ever ready to temper strict justice with infinite mercy, and waiting only for the first response of imperfect faith and imperfect repentance, so they be at all sincere, to blot out a guilty past, and pronounce a favourable judgment on the sinner. He perceived that there is room in the judgment of God for another element beside strict justice, viz., the mercy of the judge, and that a prisoner, however clear may be his guilt on the evidence of his life, may nevertheless be assured of pardon and acceptance by throwing himself in humble trust on that mercy. In the Epistles of Paul accordingly justification acquired a new meaning, becoming equivalent to acceptance before God, and the term righteousness was applied to the merciful acquittal of the guilty but penitent offender.

The clause ἐξ ἔργων νόμου defines an acquittal on the merits of the case alone, based on a life of holy obedience, while διὰ πίστεως . χρ. points to faith in Christ as the appointed channel of God’s mercy.— ἐπιστεύσαμεν. Here, as in Romans 13:11, this verb denotes the act of embracing the faith. Jewish Christians had by their conversion declared the hopelessness of their position under the Law without Christ. Faith in him was (they saw) the only means of obtaining justification.— διότι … This clause corroborates the verdict of conscience and experience by the authority of Scripture, for it adopts the language of Psalms 142(143) 2, οὐ δικαιωθήσεται ἐνώπιόν σου πᾶς ζῶν, with only some verbal alterations suggested by the context of the Epistle. As two kinds of justification have been mentioned, the clause ἐξ ἔργων νόμου is required here to make it clear that the justification to which the Psalm refers was legal, the words ἐνώπιόν σου are dropped as needless in this context, and πᾶσα σάρξ is substituted for πᾶς ζῶν in order to show that the Psalm referred to earthly life. The passage is quoted with corresponding verbal changes in Romans 3:20.


Verse 17

Galatians 2:17. εἰ δὲἁμαρτωλοί. The last verse arrived at the conclusion that Jewish converts by their own act condemned themselves to be guilty of a broken law. The argument now proceeds on this assumption “If it be true (as has been shown) that we by seeking to be justified in Christ were found to be ourselves also sinners as well as the Gentiles—if our sin was then discovered, and it be admitted that confession of sin lies at the root of all Christian life, what then is the attitude of Christ toward sin?”— ἆρα χ. . διάκονος; This clause is clearly interrogative, and the true reading is ἆρα, not ἄρα (inferential). For here, as always elsewhere In Pauline language, μὴ γένοιτο repudiates a monstrous suggestion, put forward in the form of a question, the mere statement of which is repugnant to the moral sense.

It was objected to this doctrine of God’s free grace in Christ to guilty sinners that it held out a license to sin by doing away the wholesome restraints of the Law, and so encouraged men to continue in sin by its assurance of pardon. The fallacy is here dismissed with scorn on the strength of the very nature of Christ, but is more fully exposed in the sixth chapter to the Romans.


Verse 18

Galatians 2:18. “If, indeed, I do reestablish the authority of the Law over Christian life, it becomes true that Christ did lead me to transgression.” So argues the Apostle as he turns to his own life for an illustration of the incompatibility of allegiance to Christ with the continued supremacy of the Law.


Verse 19

Galatians 2:19. ἐγὼ. The stress laid on the personal pronoun shows that Paul is here referring to the facts of his personal history. He singles out his own conversion for the sake of the crucial example which it afforded of the difficulty of reconciling the commands of Christ with the traditional law of Israel, for he was actually bearing the commission of the high priest, and carrying out the orders of the Sanhedrim when Christ met him in the way and laid His commands upon him. He had to choose between the two: and at Christ’s word he flung up his office and renounced for ever the service of the Law.— διὰ νόμου: though under law. The translation of these words in our versions through the law seems to me fatal to the sense: for the death to Law which is here recorded was not due to the instrumentality of Law, but was the immediate effect of the vision and words of Christ; and the express object of this reference to the conversion of Saul is to show how union with Christ annihilates the authority of an outward law. διὰ νόμου is really akin to διὰ γράμματος καὶ περιτομῆς in Romans 2:27, and to διʼ ἀκροβυστίας in Romans 4:11. In all these cases διά denotes the environment, whether of the letter, of circumcision, of uncircumcision, or of law, which was subsisting at the time. Saul was on official duty, surrounded by the circumstances and machinery of Law when Christ stayed him, and he became at once dead to the claim of Law upon him.— νόμῳ ἀπέθανον. These words give a vivid description of the spiritual revulsion produced by his conversion in the heart of Saul. Whereas, hitherto, his whole mind had been set on fulfilling the whole Law, and he had counted its obligations all in all to him, he now entirely renounced the duty of obedience to its commands and repudiated its authority. And just as death works a final change, and leaves behind an indelible effect, so did his conversion affix a permanent stamp of lifelong change on all his after years: thenceforth he served another Master, owned absolute obedience to His will, listened for His inward voice or outward revelation, and drank of His Spirit.

The absence of the article before νόμῳ is noteworthy; whereas the Law of Moses, being the one revealed Law, is always designated the Law ( νόμος), νόμῳ denotes law in the abstract, so that this clause comprehends emancipation from all control of external law. The freedom was, of course, purely spiritual: Paul continued fully to acknowledge the duty of outward submission to all duly ordained authority, but maintained the absolute independence of his spirit and conscience from its dictates.— ἵνα θεῷ ζήσω. This clause adds the motive for this death to Law. It was a veritable death unto life: Saul had striven in vain to obtain life before God by zealous fulfilment of every commandment; he now acknowledged his utter failure, surrendered all the pride and ambition of his life, and cast himself in humble trust at the feet of Jesus to receive from Him that precious life which he had sought in vain by his most zealous efforts under the Law.


Verse 20

Galatians 2:20. χριστῷ συνεστ. The Greek order throws special emphasis on χριστῷ: union with Christ became from that time the central feature of his life; it entailed in the beginning a fellowship with his crucifixion, a real crucifixion of heart and will. By this figure he describes the intense agony of spiritual conflict, the crushing load of shame and bitter remorse which he underwent during the three days of darkness and silent despair that followed his vision of the Christ.— ζῶ δὲ: And I live. I can perceive no ground for rendering δέ nevertheless (A.V.) or yet (R.V.). There is no contrast here between the life and the previous death: on the contrary, the life is presented as the direct outcome of the death. As the resurrection of Christ was the sequel of the crucifixion, so Paul was joined to Christ in death that he might be joined to Him in spiritual life.— οὐκ ἔτι … The new life is no longer, like the former, dependent on the struggling efforts of a mere man to draw near to God in his own righteousness. Christ Himself is its source, as the vine is the source of life to the branches.— δὲ ζῶ: But in that I live. Our versions make this = ἣν ζωὴν ζῶ; but it seems to me more accordant with the context and with Greek forms of expression to make = in that, as it is rendered by A.V. in Romans 6:10. Two instances of this adverbial use of for a connecting particle have been already noted in this Epistle (Galatians 1:7, Galatians 2:10). Paul is here accounting for the fact that he now possesses spiritual life, though still in the flesh and subject to motions of sin in his members: it belongs to him in virtue of his faith in the Son of God.— μεἐμοῦ. The previous clauses have expressed the intimate personal union between the spirit of Paul and his Divine Master. In harmony with that view an exclusive personal aspect is presented of the love of Christ and of His sacrifice on the Cross, as though Paul himself had been their sole object.


Verse 21

Galatians 2:21. Christ died in order that men might live before God by His grace in spite of a broken Law; if men could keep the Law of themselves and live, there would be no call for grace, and the death of Christ would be proved a useless sacrifice.— διὰ νόμου. Law was never, like faith, instrumental to justification (cf. Galatians 2:16). Accordingly, Paul never speaks of justification through Law, but either ἐκ νόμου or ἐν νόμῳ. Here, as in Galatians 2:19, διὰ νόμου really denotes a legal environment, and the verse argues that if righteousness was really within men’s reach under a legal dispensation, then there was no occasion for the death of Christ at all.

 


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Bibliography Information
Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Galatians 2:4". The Expositor's Greek Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/egt/galatians-2.html. 1897-1910.

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Sunday, December 8th, 2019
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