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Bible Commentaries

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

Galatians 2

Verse 1

GAL. 2

Two major divisions of this chapter are: (1) Paul's appeal to the fact that fourteen years after his conversion (long after he had been successfully preaching the gospel), the leading apostles in Jerusalem fully endorsed his preaching and extended to him the right hand of fellowship (Galatians 2:1-10), and (2) that in one very important particular he had withstood the apostle Peter face to face, exposing his sin and hypocrisy, the obvious conclusion from such an incident being that (in one particular at least) he was superior to the apostles in Jerusalem (Galatians 2:11-21).

Around these two major themes of the chapter, however, Paul wove some of the most important theological principles revealed in the New Testament, introducing the main theme of Galatians in Galatians 2:16, which is "Justification by the Faith of Christ, and not by the Law of Moses."

Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus with me. (Galatians 2:1)

Paul's intention here was to justify his apostleship, as not having been received through human beings; and, since that apostleship began with his conversion, the "fourteen years" here means fourteen years after his conversion. It is remarkable how religious fads can blind the eyes of expositors, and a startling example of it is seen in the usual treatment of this visit, making it fourteen years after his last visit to Jerusalem. This is based on the mistaken view that Paul in this letter had set out to name every trip he had ever made to the capital of Judaism. He obviously had no such intention. He left out of consideration altogether a trip to Jerusalem which he and Barnabas had made to deliver famine relief "to the elders" in Jerusalem (Acts 11:30); but, as that trip came about the time when Peter was imprisoned, James had been martyred, and all of the apostles were in hiding, it could have had no bearing whatever on what Paul was emphasizing here.

I went up again to Jerusalem ... has the simple meaning of "upon another occasion I went up to Jerusalem." It is totally wrong to read this as if it said, "the second time I went up to Jerusalem." The New Testament merely states that he went up "again." As Ridderbos said, "Once one has rid himself of the idea that Paul wants to give a summary here of all his trips to Jerusalem,"[1] it is easy to see that the meeting described in these verses is the so-called Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:1ff), and that there is no need to identify it as the famine visit of Acts 11:30. McGarvey was in perfect agreement with this view;[2] and, as Harrison asked, "If the question of the admission of Gentiles into the church had been settled on the famine visit,"[3] why was another conference necessary to settle the same question?

Titus ... For full discussion of this man, see under 2 Corinthians 7:6.

Barnabas ... It should be noted that Paul, in order to avoid assuming any domination over Barnabas, stated that he went "with" him; whereas, in the case of Titus, one of his faithful followers, he referred to "taking him."

One of Paul's purposes, in addition to that of defending his apostleship by making this journey, was to prove that he properly respected and honored those who were apostles before him; and, as Barclay noted, "To prove that his independence was not anarchy, nor schismatic and sectarian, but that his gospel was indeed no other than the faith delivered to the church."[4]

Another important sidelight here is that Paul spoke of Barnabas here with the necessary implication that he was already known to the Christians in Galatia, "a further indication that they were the churches of the first missionary journey,"[5] in which Barnabas shared.

[1] H. N. Ridderbos, The Epistles of Paul to the Churches of Galatia (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1953), p. 78.

[2] J. W. McGarvey, The Standard Bible Commentary, Galatians (Cincinnati, Ohio: The Standard Publishing Company, 1916), p. 256.

[3] Everett F. Harrison, Wycliffe Bible Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1971), p. 698.

[4] William Barclay, The Letters to the Galatians and Ephesians (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1964), p. 16.

[5] F. Roy Coad, A New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1969), p. 449.

Verse 2

And I went up by revelation; and I laid before them the gospel which I preach among the Gentiles but privately before them who were of repute, lest by any means I should be running, or had run, in vain.

By revelation ... From Luke (Acts 15:2), it is clear that the church in Antioch commissioned Paul and Barnabas to go to Jerusalem; but from this it is learned that Paul went by "revelation." As Macknight said, "The church at Antioch was directed by divine revelation to send Paul and Barnabas on this mission. So, he could justly say that he went by revelation."[6] There is also the possibility that Paul, at first, would not go, until specifically commanded by Christ to do so. It is a fact that Christ personally stood by Paul on occasions (Acts 22:18). Furthermore, Paul's reasons for going were not for the purpose of receiving instruction or of getting the apostles in Jerusalem to decide anything. He went there for the purpose of straightening out the error that, for the moment, was rampant in the church in that city. There is nothing in this whole episode that reveals "the Mother Church settling important matters of doctrine." See comment on this so-called council in my Commentary on Acts 15.

And I laid before them ... Paul's efforts here were directed to the purpose of correcting false views prevalent in the church in Jerusalem; therefore, he laid the pure gospel before them. This does not mean "that Paul had begun to feel insecure about his gospel."[7] It was an effort to unify the church.

Who were of repute ... seems somewhat ironical. Ridderbos said, "It positively is not that."[8] However, Paul's mention of this, using similar and somewhat more emphatic terms, no less than four times in this passage would definitely suggest that very possibility.

But privately ... Some scholars dogmatically assert that Paul's account of the "council" here cannot be harmonized with Acts 15:1ff; but that is only because they fail to see that there were private discussions which took place before the public and more formal meeting later on. Huxtable noted that Luke mentions no less than three separate meetings[9] in Acts 15:4,6,12. Even today large public meetings are usually preceded by private discussions of those in charge of them. Lipscomb said:

These private consultations were a wise precaution to avoid misunderstanding. Such private conferences are usually held in connection with public assemblies for the purpose of preparing and maturing business for final action.[10]

Lest by any means I should be running ... in vain ... If the Twelve had repudiated Paul's gospel, it would, in a sense, have nullified his whole life's work, making it to be largely "in vain." Paul definitely did not mean here that he had any question regarding his own redemption.

[6] James Macknight, Apostolical Epistles with Commentary and Notes (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1969), p. 122.

[7] Herman N. Ridderbos, op. cit., p. 81.

[8] Ibid.

[9] E. Huxtable, The Pulpit Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1950), Vol. 20, p. 70.

[10] David Lipscomb, A Commentary on the New Testament Epistles (Nashville: Gospel Advocate Company, n.d.), p. 203.

Verse 3

But not even Titus who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised: And that because of the false brethren brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage: to whom we gave place in the way of subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.

"The apostle's language here is somewhat ambiguous,"[11] as Bruce said, making the interpretation to be: The first time I took Titus to Jerusalem the question was not even raised; but, at a later time, the false brethren spied on us and demanded that he be circumcised; but we refused to do so, etc. Sanday, Bruce and others make Galatians 2:2-5 a parenthetical statement. However, it appears to this writer that the parenthesis is to explain the fact that, even under pressure from the demands initiated by the false brethren, Titus was not circumcised, the mention of the false brethren being for the purpose of showing how the question came up. In any case, the big point is that Paul absolutely refused to have Titus circumcised; and that, even if pressure was applied to Titus personally, he also refused to accommodate the Judaizers.

To spy out our liberty ... "The notion of hostile intent is strongly suggested by this."[12] The Judaizing party in the church was prepared to go to any lengths to enforce law-keeping and circumcision upon all who became Christians, whether Jew or Gentile.

Liberty which we have in Christ Jesus ... "Being in Christ is primal in all Pauline teaching; once grasped, the secret to Paul is discovered."[13] "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature" (2 Corinthians 5:17). The liberty which Paul had in view here was primarily freedom from the ceremonials of Judaism; but there is a notable and extensive freedom "in Christ" from all encumbering religious devices. Even the grand ordinances of Christianity are only two in number, baptism and the Lord's Supper; and one of these is observed only once at the beginning of the Christian life. How antagonistic to the true teachings of the New Testament are the declamations of those who attempt to make Paul's words here to mean that Christians are free from those ordinances! It was not freedom from Christ's commandments that Paul taught, but freedom from the forms and ceremonies of Judaism. Jesus himself declared that "Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:19). The contrast between the teaching of Paul and the teaching of men here is observable in the following:

PAUL: The binding of circumcision and Jewish ceremonial upon Christians violates the truth that the Christian religion is all that is needed for salvation .... TRUE.

MEN: The binding of circumcision, etc., nullified the truth that faith in Christ is the sole and sufficient ground of justification.[14] ... FALSE.

Such audacious perversions of sacred truth should be detected and rejected by all true believers in Christ.

[11] F. F. Bruce, Answers to Questions (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1972), p. 103.

[12] E. Huxtable, op. cit., p. 73.

[13] Raymond T. Stamm, The Interpreter's Bible (New York: Abingdon Press, 1953), Vol. X, p. 472.

[14] E. Huxtable, op. cit., p. 74.

Verse 6

But from those who were reputed to be somewhat (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth not man's person) - they, I say, who were of repute imparted nothing to me.

Who were reputed to be somewhat ... who were of repute ... Paul does not here question the legitimate reputation and prominence of the Twelve, but he is careful not to admit any lack of equality with them on his own behalf. As Howard said it: "He did not want to imply total submission to their judgment, or deny his own unique and divinely given authority."[15]

God accepteth not man's person ... No man's opinion should be received merely upon the basis of who he is, his position in life or any office that he holds. Even Jesus our Lord did not require people to believe him upon the basis of his status as a human being, but upon the basis that God had given him a message, and that that message of God was what he taught. Paul's reference here is addressed exactly to that very principle. Not even an apostle should be believed as a man, but as a true messenger of God. See more on this in my Commentary on John 12:49. How differently are the sayings of men urged upon us today. Lo, a bishop has spoken, a pope has circulated an encyclical, the head of a church has spoken, or a general conference has decided it, etc. The human failing in relying upon such things predisposes people to find a similar thing at Jerusalem in the events related in this chapter. Indeed this has been called the First Ecumenical Council of the Church, but it was no such thing.

They imparted nothing to me ... Paul was the one who imparted the truth on that occasion, not the so-called council. How amazing is a comment like this:

Added nothing to me ... Paul does not mean that he received from them nothing essential for his gospel![16]

Despite such allegations, if language has any meaning at all, that is exactly what Paul did mean, namely, that the council made no contribution of any kind whatever to the gospel he preached, to the revelation of Christ which he had received, or to anything whatever that concerned Paul.

Scholars are critical of Paul for not delivering the "findings of the council" to the Galatians in this letter, and for not any time or anywhere even mentioning them in his epistles. Some even presume to date Galatians at a time far removed from this council in order to account for his not delivering the decisions of it; but the reason for such omission is clear enough in this dynamic clause. The council made no contribution whatever to the gospel, the great result of the meeting being that they received Paul's views in their entirety and began to preach as they should have been doing already, in full consonance with the gospel Christ had given them, exactly as he had to Paul. Stamm asserted that "Acts says that this conference was called to decide whether Gentile converts must be circumcised";[17] but this is due to misreading Acts 15:1ff. Stamm's very next line is, "But (Acts) in reporting the action of the council says nothing about circumcision.[18] Of course it didn't! No such purpose is discernible anywhere. The question of whether Gentiles were to be circumcised had long ago been revealed to the Twelve, as well as to Paul. Peter himself had received into full fellowship the uncircumcised Cornelius, baptizing him into Christ, and defending the action against some who questioned it (Acts 10 and Acts 11). Not only had the question already been determined, all of the apostles on earth, in conference assembled, did not have the authority to alter that decision in any manner. To be sure, the councils of men held today are even more incompetent and unauthorized to meet and determine Christian doctrine; and their presuming to do so is the prime scandal that has perverted Christianity in so many particulars through the ages.

[15] R. E. Howard, Beacon Bible Commentary (Kansas City, Missouri: Beacon Hill Press, 1965), Vol. IX, p. 41.

[16] Raymond T. Stamm, op. cit., p. 474.

[17] Ibid., p. 477.

[18] Ibid.

Verse 7

But contrariwise, when they saw that I had been intrusted with the gospel of the uncircumcision, even as Peter with the gospel of the circumcision (for he that wrought for Peter unto the apostleship of the circumcision wrought for me also unto the Gentiles).

Gospel of the circumcision.., of the uncircumcision ... Huxtable was correct in the observation that:

This does not indicate any diversity in the doctrine communicated to the uncircumcision from that communicated to the Jews, but simply a diversity in the sphere of its proclamation.[19]

The marvelous tenderness and forbearance of the heavenly Father are fully in view in all of these remarkable events. The failure of the apostleship in Jerusalem to get on with preaching the gospel "to the whole creation" as Christ had commanded them to do (Mark 16:15,16) was the most deplorable sin they ever committed. For God to have permitted the Judaizing of Christianity would have been, in its final result, the restriction of salvation to Jews alone; and the entire premise of God's loving all people and desiring their salvation would have been countermanded and nullified. That was the acute and fatal nature of the problem. The intervention of God himself at such a juncture was the only way to correct it. This accounts for the conversion of Saul of Tarsus who had the power to cut the umbilical cord that strapped the infant church to Judaism, threatening to strangle Christianity to death.

The weakness of the Twelve, springing from their environment, and their failure (at first) to understand the world-wide, independent nature of Christianity, was contained by Almighty God in those events clustered around the name of Paul; and with infinite mercy and tenderness, the Father did not remove or punish the Twelve, but on the other hand, committed the preaching to the Gentiles to one more able than themselves to do it. Later on, of course, the Twelve took up and discharged fully their total responsibility. Would they ever have been able to do so without Paul? It seems unlikely; therefore the miracle of Paul!

Verse 9

And when they perceived the grace that was given unto me, James and Cephas and John, they who were reputed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship, that we should go unto the Gentiles and they unto the circumcision.

James and Cephas and John ... James the brother of John had already been slain by Herod (Acts 12), and this James was the oldest brother of Jesus (Matthew 13:55f), which probably accounts for his influence in the Jerusalem church at this time. Here he was named even ahead of Peter and John; and his position seems to have been that of a "leading elder" in the church there.

Were reputed to be pillars ... Paul does not deny with this the high office belonging to the Twelve, not the deserved reputation and esteem they enjoyed in Jerusalem; but there is a hint here that their specific behavior with regard to the Gentiles was unbecoming. The "reputed pillars" had caved in in this glaring particular. The words are therefore spoken in love and pity, rather than reproachfully.

Right hands of fellowship ... This was the big point of Paul's relating this incident. Despite their own defection (in that sense), they nevertheless unhesitatingly agreed that Paul was preaching the pure and unadulterated gospel, a thing which they, through timidity, at the moment were not doing; and some little time would elapse before they would.

Verse 10

Only they would that we should remember the poor; which very thing I was also zealous to do.

Paul mentioned this as a practical matter and with a view to alerting the Galatian churches that they might expect him to raise money from them to be distributed among the poor, as soon as he should have the opportunity. On Paul's final visit to Jerusalem, he delivered such a contribution to James and the elders in Jerusalem (Acts 21:17).


The next eleven verses (Galatians 2:11-21) were written, it seems, to emphasize, not merely that Paul's gospel had been approved by the Twelve, but that in one grave particular, he preached the true gospel even when it was opposed by such men as Peter and even Barnabas. The chronology of the incident described here is difficult, if not impossible, to determine. Dummelow noted that:

Some hold that St. Paul in this passage is not mentioning a later instance of his independence, but merely another instance of it which was earlier in time than that mentioned in Galatians 2:1-10.[20]

Favoring that understanding are the indefinite "when Cephas came to Antioch" (Galatians 2:11), and the "before that" of Galatians 2:12, which may be Paul's way of saying that the episode he was about to relate happened "before" the one just recorded. This would make Peter's conduct appear to be a little less flagrant than when it is understood as coming immediately after the events just narrated. However, if it was an earlier action, it still came after the experience he had in the home of Cornelius (Acts 10), being totally reprehensible, no matter when it occurred. Ramsay also held that it is not mandatory to interpret the last half of this chapter as coming after the first part, quoting Turner and Zahn as having the same view.[21]

McGarvey wrote that "It was probably very soon after the council in Jerusalem."[22] Lipscomb declared that "I am confident that it could not have come before";[23] and Ridderbos said, "It seems to lie in the whole bearing of the context that Peter came to Antioch after the apostolic council.[24] John William Russell thought, "This was previous to the visit of Paul to Jerusalem."[25] Not a great deal hinges on the point, either way.

[20] J. R. Dummelow, Commentary on the Holy Bible (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1937), p. 949.

[21] William M. Ramsay, A Historical Commentary on St. Paul's Epistles to the Galatians (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1965), p. 304.

[22] J. W. McGarvey, op. cit., p. 260.

[23] David Lipscomb, op. cit., p. 208.

[24] Herman N. Ridderbos, op. cit., p. 95.

[25] John William Russell, Compact Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1964), in loco.

Verse 11

But when Peter came to Antioch, I resisted him to the face, because he stood condemned.

He stood condemned ... Far from being infallible in matters of doctrine, the apostle Peter, who is alleged to have been the first pope, here committed the most fundamental doctrinal error imaginable, upsetting completely the false teaching of Peter's supremacy. Peter was not merely condemned by a fellow-apostle, he was self-condemned, his own conscience reproving and repudiating his actions. Paul stated in Romans (Romans 2:1) the principle that holds a man self-condemned if he practices what he condemns in others. This Peter did, for he advocated eating with Gentiles in Acts 10; but here he refused to do so.

Before going any further with this said failure of the beloved Peter, it should be brought to mind that this was only a momentary thing. As Halley put it:

It took a few years for the apostles to get adjusted to the new teaching; and Paul adjusted more quickly than Peter did. The Galatian incident happened after Paul had come all the way out of Judaism, and while Peter was coming out. But Peter did come all the way out before any of the books of the New Testament were written, and there is not an iota of difference between the teaching of Paul and Peter in the New Testament.[26]

Paul was compelled to relate this for reasons which were no doubt providential. The utter condemnation of all the arrogant claims of the historical church regarding the supremacy of Peter, his infallibility, and their own alleged succession to such prerogatives is accomplished by this narrative, as well as the practical thing at hand, in which Paul used it to defend his own apostleship.

Verse 12

For before that certain came from James, he ate with the Gentiles; but when they came, he drew back and separated himself, fearing them that were of the circumcision. And the rest of the Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that even Barnabas was carried away with their dissimulation.

From James ... In Acts 15, it is learned that these Judaizers actually had no commission whatever from James (Acts 15:24), yet they were sinfully and deceitfully operating in his name.

The identity of these Judaizers is provided in Acts 6:7; Acts 15:5, where it is made clear that they were priests of the sect of the Pharisees who had accepted the gospel, but were unwilling to give up the customs and ceremonies of Judaism. They were a powerful and very influential group, and Paul here made extenuating remarks regarding the conduct of both Peter and Barnabas, Peter's mistake being due to fear of the powerful Pharisaical party, and Barnabas' being that he was just "carried away" with it in a moment of weakness.

Verse 14

But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Cephas before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest as do the Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, how compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?

I said unto Cephas ... before them all ... This bold rebuke administered by Paul to Peter may not be taken as a relaxation of Jesus' rule that the brother having sinned should first be approached privately (see my Commentary on Matthew, Matthew 5:24). The situation was not one which pertains to any persons today, for both Paul and Peter were inspired apostles of the highest rank; and the near-unique situation demanded exactly what Paul did here. We therefore disagree with Hendriksen that here is established the principle of "rebuking publicly those who have sinned publicly,"[27] unless and until the three steps commanded by Jesus in Matthew 18:15-17 have been taken. Church leaders, as recommended by Calvin, taking upon them to imitate Paul's action here, are presuming far too much. Besides, it is not certainly known that Paul had not already, in this case, taken the steps of the first and second admonitions, as he had instructed Titus to do (3:10); but no matter what Paul did, it is the instruction to Titus that more correctly fits the analogy with church leaders today. See much more on this in my Commentary on Matthew, Matthew 18:15.

Verse 15

But we being Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, yet knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but through FAITH OF JESUS CHRIST even we believed on Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by the FAITH OF JESUS CHRIST, and not by the works of law; because by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. (KJV)

This passage announces the great theme of Galatians, which is Justification by the Faith of Christ; and the key words in it have been properly rendered, in the light of the best scholarship on earth, and capitalized to emphasize the truth.


The teaching set forth in this series of commentaries with regard to justification is advocated fully in my Commentary on Romans 3:22; and the student is referred to that for a great deal of material that cannot be repeated here. Since the publication of that volume in 1973, further scholarly studies by distinguished theologians have fully confirmed the undeniable accuracy of translating "faith of Christ" instead of "faith in Christ" in this place and a number of other places in the New Testament. Of course, the KJV is correct in most of these places, though not in all; and strong voices have for years been crying out against the perversion inherent in changing God's word to read otherwise than the way it is handed down to people in the Greek New Testament. Foy E. Wallace, Jr., decried the butchering of the passage at hand thus:

In this verse (Galatians 2:16), "by the faith of Christ" is changed to "only through faith in Christ"; but" the faith of Christ" refers to the gospel system of faith, and they have manipulated this passage to teach justification by faith only, going so far as to change "the works of the law" (the law of Moses) to "deeds dictated by law"; yet faith itself is a law (Romans 3:27) .... A committee of text-makers who will artfully twist such a specific gospel passage to implement the false doctrine of faith alone will do anything in the name of translation.[28]

As recently as April, 1974, Professor George Howard, University of Georgia, published a study of "The Faith of Christ" in Expositor Times, pointing out that James Macknight in the 19th century, Gabriel Hebert in 1955, and other great scholars have demanded that this passage be translated correctly as "the faith of Christ."[29] After citing dozens of scientific studies by distinguished linguists, he gave as his conclusion that:

We may conclude then that, grammatically speaking, [@pistis] [@Christou] should be rendered "faith of Christ."[30]

He even went further and affirmed that the usual definition of faith as the word is used in the New Testament is not trust/faith as usually thought, but "faithfulness," in the sense of "obedience," "reliability," or "fidelity."[31] That this is the truth appears from Paul's references to "obedient faith" at both ends of the book of Romans (Romans 1:5; Romans 16:26).

Thus, the "faith of Christ" includes both his own trust/faith in the heavenly Father, and his perfect obedience and fidelity in the discharge of his mission of redemption. The doctrine of salvation through faith only is wrong on many counts. It is wrong in misunderstanding the sinner's trust/faith as the ground of justification, whereas it is actually the obedient faith of the Son of God; and even in the Lord's case, it was not faith only, but faith and perfect obedience. It is totally wrong to regard "faith in Christ" (as used in the New Testament) as reference to the theological concept trust/faith, or subjective faith of the sinner; because as noted by Howard, the usual definition in the New Testament is not that at all, but fidelity. There are other instances in which "faith in Christ" means "the Christian religion," a definition Wallace applied in this verse, but which this writer feels is incorrect in this context. Over and beyond all this, let the key expression "in Christ" be given its proper emphasis, and it is at once clear that no man who ever breathed has "faith in Christ" when he himself has refused to be baptized into Christ, in which case he might have faith out of Christ," but not "in him." Another legitimate meaning of "faith in Christ" is faith exercised by one who is "in Christ," having been baptized into him, made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and fully identified as a member of Christ's spiritual body, the church.

The faith of Christ ... meaning his perfect fidelity and obedience, is actually the ground of man's redemption. Absolute perfection is required of all who would be saved (Matthew 5:48), a state that is not attainable by any man who ever lived, save only Jesus Christ our Lord, Immanuel. Perfection being the sine qua non without which none shall enter eternal life, how may it be procured and in a sense achieved by man? God's device of making one perfect, in the sense of being absolutely justified, is that of transferring him into Christ, identifying him with Christ and as Christ, a transference and identity achieved on behalf of the Christian when he is in the spiritual body of Christ. Thus Paul could say, "That we may present every man perfect in Christ" (Colossians 1:28). See article on "Jesus Christ, Inc.," in my Commentary on Romans. As Paul would say a little later in this chapter, the life which the Christian lives is not his own, but Christ's (Galatians 2:20).

Even we believed on Christ Jesus ... This is sinners' faith, introduced into the passage after the "faith of Christ" was mentioned just ahead of it; and if "faith of Christ" meant a sinner's believing in Christ, this clause would not have been added. Paul develops this great theme throughout the following passages in the epistle.

Works of the law ... refers to Jewish ceremonial in the Law of Moses and has no reference whatever to the ordinances of the Christian religion and to moral obligations and duties of Christians.

[28] Foy. E. Wallace, Jr., A Review of the New Versions (Fort Worth, Texas: The Foy E. Wallace, Jr., Publications, 1973), p. 509.

[29] George Howard, Article: "The Faith of Christ," in Expositor Times, Vol. 7, pp. 212-214, April, 1974.

[30] Ibid.

[31] Ibid.

Verse 17

But if, while we sought to be justified in Christ, we ourselves also were found sinners, is Christ a minister of sin? God forbid.

This is somewhat parenthetical to clear up any possible misunderstanding. Paul had just laid down the gospel that we are justified by the faith of Christ; and, in order to prevent any man from thinking that his own fidelity and compliance with Christ's teaching were not needed, Paul effectively denied such a thought with this verse. Christians are not saved in their sins but from their sins. And holiness is an attainment without which no man shall see the Lord. This does not imply that one has to be perfect, an impossibility anyway, but it does teach that a man must do his best to serve God. God will supply whatever is lacking on the Christian's part, so that at last every man shall be accounted "saved by grace" and not by any merit whatever.

Verse 18

For if I build up again those things which I destroyed, I prove myself a transgressor.

Hendriksen paraphrased the meaning of this as, "If I start to rebuild the very things I have torn down, it is then that I prove myself a transgressor."[32]

"The things I have torn down" would be the ceremonial regulations of Judaism; and Paul here stated that it would be sinful if again he reverted to their observance.

Verse 19

For I through the law died unto the law, that I might live unto God.

"To live unto God" is to be in Christ who lives at God's right hand; where Christ is, there the Christian is; for because of his membership in Christ's spiritual body, there is a sense in which he "is Christ." Christ died, therefore we have died in his person on Calvary as our substitute. That is what Paul meant by saying, "We are baptized into his death." Through the Christian's being "in Christ," and identified with Christ, he has already perished upon the cross in the person of his substitute. "Being dead to sin but alive unto God in Christ" (Romans 6:11) has a meaning parallel with this verse. The Romans passage does not mean that "in Christ" the Christian is no longer tempted; but that "in Christ" the penalty of sin, which is death, is already paid upon behalf of the Christians by Christ who died on the cross. Here the thought is that "in Christ" Christians have already fulfilled all of the law, since that is what Christ' did; and we are "in him" and "of him." Also, there is here the thought that people are dead to the law through the body of Christ.

Verse 20

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I that live, but Christ liveth in me: and that 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. (KJV)

Here we have followed the KJV, because of the accurate rendition of "FAITH OF THE SON OF GOD."

It is no longer I that live ... This touches the incredibly important truth that no man is ever saved in his own personal identity as possessing any true righteousness. All of the righteousness of God is in Christ (Ephesians 1:3); and no mortal may be saved as John Doe. He must renounce self and become identified with Christ who is righteous. "As Christ," therefore, he is dead to sin, has fulfilled the law, is alive unto God, and the heir of eternal glory "in Christ." "This doctrine, one of the fundamentals of Pauline theology, is one of the concepts which gives meaning to and ties together in a coherent whole the various aspects of Paul's gospel."[33] This forsaking of one's identity to be "Christ, in a sense, in Christ" was announced by Christ himself, who said, "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me" (Matthew 16:24). Also he said, "He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same beareth much fruit ... If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, etc." (John 15:4-6). Therefore, if a man is able to answer two questions affirmatively, there is no way he can be lost: (1) Is he "in Christ"? (The only way one can be "in Christ" is to be baptized into him.) (2) Will he be "found in him"? (Philippians 3:9). This means, will he still be "in Christ" when life ends, or the Lord comes? The person described by affirmative answers to these questions is of them concerning whom the voice from heaven said, "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord" (Revelation 14:13).

Verse 21

I do not make void the grace of God: for if righteousness is through the law, then Christ died for naught.

The great problem existing from the day man first committed sin is, "How can even God justly declare a human being to be righteous?" That the Law of Moses could not do it is an axiom. If true righteousness could have been procured by any man who ever lived on earth through means of the Mosaic Law, Christ's death would not have been necessary. The corollary of that is that for one to rely upon law-keeping for justification is to repudiate and reject Christ' sacrifice.

And how does God justly account a man to be righteous? It is not by shooting righteousness into him gratuitously because he believed, but by transferring the sinner into Christ who IS righteous, the sinner first of all renouncing his own identity, in the sense of having any merit (as Jesus said, "denying himself"'), being baptized into Christ and remaining "in him" until the final summons. It is the perfect faith and righteousness of Jesus Christ which constitute "the righteousness of God through the FAITH OF CHRIST" (Romans 3:22-26). Please see my Commentary on Romans, chapter 3, for extensive discussion of this.

Copyright Statement
Coffman's Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Galatians 2". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.