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The second chapter is closely connected in sense with the first, and is indeed a part of the same argument. Injury has been done by the division which is made. The proper division would have been at the close of Galatians 2:10. The general scope of the chapter, like the first, is to show that he did not receive the gospel from man; that he had not derived it from the apostles; that he did not acknowledge his indebtedness to them for his views of the Christian religion; that they had not even set up authority over him; but that they had welcomed him as a fellow-laborer, and acknowledged him as a co-adjutor in the work of the apostleship. In confirmation of this, he states Galatians 2:1 that he had indeed gone to Jerusalem, but that he had done it by express revelation Galatians 2:2; that he was cordially received by the apostles there - especially by those who were pillars in the church; and that so far from regarding himself as inferior to the other apostles, he had resisted Peter to his face at Antioch on a most important and vital doctrine.
The chapter, therefore, may be regarded as divided into two portions, namely:
I. “The account of his visit to Jerusalem and of what occurred there,” Galatians 2:1-10.
- He had gone up 14 years after his conversion, after having labored long among the Gentiles in his own way, and without having felt his dependence upon the apostles at Jerusalem, Galatians 2:1-2.
- When he was there, there was no attempt made to compel him to submit to the Jewish rites and customs; and what was conclusive in the case was, that they had not even required Titus to be circumcised, thus proving that they did not assert jurisdiction over Paul, and that they did not intend to impose the Mosaic rites on the converts from among the Gentiles,Galatians 2:3-5; Galatians 2:3-5.
- The most distinguished persons among the apostles at Jerusalem, he says, received him kindly, and admitted him to their confidence and favor without hesitation. They added no heavy burdens to him Galatians 2:6; they saw evidence that he had been appointed to bear the gospel to the Gentiles Galatians 2:7-8; they gave to him and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship Galatians 2:9; and they asked only that they should remember and show kindness to the poor saints in Judea, and thus manifest an interest in those who had been converted from Judaism, or contribute their proper proportion to the maintenance of all, and show that they were not disposed to abandon their own countrymen, Galatians 2:10. In this way they gave the fullest proof that they approved the course of Paul, and admitted him into entire fellowship with them as an apostle.
II. “The scene at Antioch, where Paul rebuked Peter for his dissimulation;” Galatians 2:11-21. The main object of mentioning this seems to be to show, first, that he did not regard himself as inferior to the other apostles, or that he had not derived his views of the gospel from them; and, secondly, to state that the observance of the Jewish rites was not necessary to salvation, and that he had maintained that from the beginning. He had strongly urged it in a controversy with Peter, and in a case where Peter was manifestly wrong; and it was no new doctrine on the subject of justification which he had preached to the Galatians. He states, therefore:
- That he had opposed Peter at Antioch, because he had dissembled there, and that even Barnabas had been carried away with the course which Peter had practiced; Galatians 2:11-14.
- That the Jews must be justified by faith, and not by dependence on their own law; Galatians 2:15-16.
- That they who are justified by faith should act consistently, and not attempt to build again the things which they had destroyed; Galatians 2:17-18.
- That the effect of justification by faith was to make one dead to the Law that he might live unto God; that the effect of it was to make one truly alive and devoted to the cause of true religion; and to show this, he appeals to the effect of his own heart and life Galatians 2:19-20.
- And that if justification could be obtained by the Law, then Christ had died in vain; Galatians 2:21. He thus shows that the effect of teaching the necessity of the observance of the Jewish rites was to destroy the gospel, and to render it vain and useless.
Then fourteen years after - That is, 14 years after his first visit there subsequent to his conversion. Some commentators, however, suppose that the date of the fourteen years is to be reckoned from his conversion. But the more obvious construction is, to refer it to the time of his visit there, as recorded in the previous chapter; Galatians 2:18. This time was spent in Asia Minor chiefly in preaching the gospel.
I went up again to Jerusalem - It is commonly supposed that Paul here refers to the visit which he made as recorded in Acts 15:0. The circumstances mentioned are substantially the same; and the object which he had at that time in going up was one whose mention was entirely pertinent to the argument here. He went up with Barnabas to submit a question to the assembled apostles and elders at Jerusalem, in regard to the necessity of the observance of the laws of Moses. Some persons who had come among the Gentile converts from Judea had insisted on the necessity of being circumcised in order to be saved. Paul and Barnabas had opposed them; and the dispute had become so warm that it was agreed to submit the subject to the apostles and elders at Jerusalem. For that purpose Paul and Barnabas had been sent, with certain others, to lay the case before all the apostles. As the question which Paul was discussing in this Epistle was about the necessity of the observance of the laws of Moses in order to justification, it was exactly in point to refer to a journey when this very question had been submitted to the apostles. Paul indeed had made another journey to Jerusalem before this with the collection for the poor saints in Judea Acts 11:29-30; Acts 12:25, but he does not mention that here, probably because he did not then see the other apostles, or more probably because that journey furnished no illustration of the point now under debate. On the occasion here referred to Acts 15:0, the very point under discussion here constituted the main subject of inquiry, and it was definitely settled.
And took Titus with me also - Luke, in the Acts of the Apostles Acts 15:2, says, that there were others with Paul and Barnabas on that journey to Jerusalem, but who they were he does not mention. It is by no means certain that Titus was appointed by the church to go to Jerusalem; but the contrary is more probable. Paul seems to have taken him with him as a private affair; but the reason is not mentioned. It may have been to show his Christian liberty, and his sense of what he had a right to do; or it may have been to furnish a case on the subject of inquiry, and submit the matter to them whether Titus was to be circumcised. He was a Greek; but he had been converted to Christianity. Paul had not circumcised him; but had admitted him to the full privileges of the Christian church. Here then was a case in point; and it may have been important to have had such a case before them, so that they might fully understand it. This, as Doddridge properly remarks, is the first mention which occurs of Titus. He is not mentioned by Luke in the Acts of the Apostles, and though his name occurs several times in the Second Epistle to the Corinthians 2 Corinthians 2:13; 2 Corinthians 7:6; 2 Corinthians 8:6, 2 Corinthians 8:16, 2 Corinthians 8:23; 2 Corinthians 12:18, yet it is to be remembered that that Epistle was written a considerable time after this to the Galatians. Titus was a Greek, and was doubtless converted by the labors of Paul, because he calls him his own “son,” Titus 1:4. He attended Paul frequently in his travels; was employed by him in important services (see 2 Corinthians in the places referred to above); was left by him in Crete to set in order the things that were missing, and to ordain elders there Titus 1:5; subsequently, he went into Dalmatia 2 Timothy 4:10, and is supposed to have returned again to Crete, where it is said he propagated the gospel in the neighboring islands, and died at the age of 94 - Calmet.
And I went up by revelation - Not for the purpose of receiving instruction from the apostles there in regard to the nature of the Christian religion. It is to be remembered that the design for which Paul states this is, to show that he had not received the gospel from human beings. He is careful, therefore, to state that he went up by the express command of God. He did not go up to receive instructions from the apostles there in regard to his own work, or to be confirmed by them in his apostolic office, but he went to submit an important question pertaining to the church at large. In Acts 15:2, it is said that Paul and Barnabas went up by the appointment of the church at Antioch. But there is no discrepancy between that account and this, for though he was designated by the church there, there is no improbability in supposing that he was directed by a special revelation to comply with their request. The reason why he says that he went up by direct revelation seems to be to show that he did not seek instruction from the apostles; he did not go of his own accord to consult with them as if he were dependent upon them; but even in a case when he went to advise with them he was under the influence of express and direct revelation, proving that he was commissioned by God as much as they were.
And communicated unto them that gospel ... - Made them acquainted with the doctrines which he preached among the pagans. He stated fully the principles on which he acted; the nature of the gospel which he taught; and his doctrine about the exemption of the Gentiles from the obligations of the Law of Moses. He thus satisfied them in regard to his views of the gospel; and showed them that he understood the system of Christianity which had been revealed. The result was, that they had entire confidence in him, and admitted him to entire fellowship with them; Galatians 2:9.
But privately - Margin, “Severally.” Greek (κατ ̓ ἰδίαν kat' idian. The phrase means that he did it not in a public manner; not before a general assembly; not even before all the apostles collected together, but in a private manner to a few of the leaders and chief persons. He made a private explanation of his motives and views, so that they might understand it before it became a matter of public discussion. The point on which Paul made this private explanation was not whether the gospel was to be preached to the Gentiles, for upon that they had no doubt after the revelation to Peter Acts 10:0; but whether the rites of the Jews were to be imposed on the Gentile converts. Paul explained his views and his practice on that point, which were that he did not impose those rites on the Gentiles; that he taught that people might be justified without their observance; and that they were not necessary in order to salvation. The reasons why he sought this private interview with the leading men in Jerusalem he has not stated. But we may suppose that they were something like the following:
(1) The Jews in general had very strong attachment to their own customs, and this attachment was found in a high degree among those who were converted from among them to the Christian faith. They would be strongly excited, therefore, by the doctrine that those customs were not necessary to be observed.
(2) If the matter were submitted to a general assembly of converts from Judaism, it could not fail to produce great excitement. They could not be made readily to understand the reasons why Paul acted in this manner; there would be no possibility in an excited assemblage to offer the explanations which might be desirable; and after every explanation which could be given in this manner, they might have been unable to understand all the circumstances of the case.
(3) If a few of the principal men were made to understand it, Paul felt assured that their influence would be such as to prevent any great difficulty. He therefore sought an early opportunity to lay the case before them in private, and to secure their favor; and this course contributed to the happy issue of the whole affair; see Acts 15:0. There was indeed much disputation when the question came to be submitted to “the apostles and elders” Acts 15:7; many of the sect of the Pharisees in that assembly maintained that it was needful to teach the Gentiles that the Law of Moses was to be kept Acts 15:5; and no one can tell what would have been the issue of that discussion among the excitable minds of the converts from Judaism had not Paul taken the precaution, as he here says, to have submitted the case in private to those who were of “reputation.” and if Peter and James had not in this manner been satisfied and had not submitted the views which they did, as recorded in Acts 15:7-21, and which terminated the whole controversy.
We may just remark here that this fact furnishes an argument such as Paley has dwelt so much on in his Horae Paulinae - though he has not referred to this - of what he calls undesigned coincidences. The affair in Acts 15:0 and the course of the debate, looks very much as if Peter and James had had some conference with Paul in private, and had had an opportunity of understanding fully his views on the subject before the matter came before the “apostles and elders” in public, though no such private conference is there referred to by Luke. But on turning to the Epistle to the Galatians, we find in fact that he had on one occasion before seen the same Peter and James Galatians 1:18-19; and that he had had a private interview with those “of reputation” on these very points, and particularly that James, Peter, and John had approved his course, and given to him and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship; Galatians 2:9. Thus understood, the case here referred to was one of the most consummate instances of prudence that occurred in the life of Paul; and from this case we may learn:
(1) That when a difficulty is to be settled involving great principles, and embracing a great many points, it is better to seek an opportunity of private explanation than to submit it to a general multitude or to public debate. It is not well to attempt to settle important points when the passions of a general assembly may be excited, and where prejudices are strong. It is better to do it by private explanations, when there is an opportunity coolly to ask questions and to state the facts just as they are.
(2) The importance of securing the countenance of influential men in a popular assembly; of having men in the assembly who would understand the whole case. It was morally certain that if such men as Peter and James were made to understand the case, there would be little difficulty in arriving at an amicable adjustment of the difficulty.
(3) Though this passage does not refer to preaching the gospel in general, since the gospel here submitted to the men of reputation was the question referred to above, yet we may remark, that great prudence should be used in preaching; in stating truths that may excite prejudices, or when we have reason to apprehend prejudices; and that it is often best to preach the gospel to men of reputation κατ ̓ ἰδίαν kat' idian “separately,” or “privately.” In this way the truth can be made to bear on the conscience; it may be better adapted to the character of the individual; he may put himself less in a state of defense, and guard himself less against the proper influences of truth. And especially is this true in conversing with persons on the subject of religion. It should be if possible alone, or privately. Almost any person may be approached on the subject of religion if it is done when he is alone; when he is at leisure, and if it is done in a kind spirit. Almost anybody will become irritated if you address him personally in a general assembly, or even with his family around him. I have never in more than in one or two instances been unkindly treated when I have addressed an individual on the subject of religion if he was alone; and though a minister should never shrink from stating the truth, and should never be afraid of man, however exalted his rank, or great his talents, or vast his wealth, yet he will probably meet with most success when he discourses privately to “them which are of reputation.”
To them which were of reputation - Meaning here the leading men among the apostles. Tyndale renders this, “which are counted chefe.” Doddridge, “those of greatest note in the church.” The Greek is, literally, “those who seem,” more fully in Galatians 2:6; “who seem to be something,” that is, who are persons of note, or who are distinguished.
Lest by any means I should run, or had run in vain - Lest the effects of my labors and journeys should be lost. Paul feared that if he did not take this method of laying the case before them privately, they would not understand it. Others might misrepresent him, or their prejudices might be excited, and when the case came before the assembled apostles and elders, a decision might be adopted which would go to prove that he had been entirely wrong in his views, or which would lead those whom he had taught, to believe that he was, and which would greatly hinder and embarrass him in Iris future movements. In order to prevent this, therefore, and to secure a just decision, and one which would not hinder his future usefulness, he had sought this private interview, and thus his object was gained.
But neither Titus, who was with me - Paul introduces this case of Titus undoubtedly to show that circumcision was not necessary for salvation. It was a case just in point. He had gone up to Jerusalem with the express reference to this question. Here was a man whom he had admitted to the Christian church without circumcising him. He claimed that he had a right to do so; and that circumcision was not necessary in order for salvation. If it were necessary, it would have been proper that Titus should have been compelled to submit to it. But Paul that says this was not demanded; or if demanded by anyone, the point was yielded, and he was not compelled to be circumcised. It is to be remembered that this was at Jerusalem; that it was a case submitted to the apostles there; and that consequently the determination of this case settled the whole controversy about the obligation of the Mosaic laws on the Gentile converts.
It is quite evident from the whole statement here that Paul did not intend that Titus should be circumcised; that he maintained that it was not necessary; and that he resisted it when it was demanded; Galatians 2:4-5. Yet on another occasion he himself performed the act of circumcision upon Timothy; Acts 16:3. But there is no inconsistency in Paul’s conduct. In the case of Titus, it was demanded as a matter of right and as obligatory upon him, and Paul resisted the principle as dangerous. In the case of Timothy, it was a voluntary compliance on his part with the usual customs of the Jews, where it was not pressed as a matter of obligation, and where it would not be understood as indispensable to salvation. No danger would follow from compliance with the custom, and it might do much to conciliate the favor of the Jews, and he therefore submitted to it. Paul would not have hesitated to have circumcised Titus in the same circumstances in which it was done to Timothy; but the circumstances were different; and when it was insisted upon as a matter of principle and of obligation, it became a matter of principle and of obligation with him to oppose it.
Being a Greek - Born of Gentile parents, of course he had not been circumcised. Probably both his parents were Greeks. The case with Timothy was somewhat different. His mother was a Jewess, but his father was a Greek Acts 16:3.
Was compelled to be circumcised - I think it is implied here that this was demanded and insisted on by some that he should be circumcised. It is also implied that Paul resisted it, and the point was yielded, thus settling the great and important principle that it was not necessary in order for salvation; see Galatians 2:5.
And that because of false brethren - Who these false brethren were is not certainly known, nor is it known whether he refers to those who were at Jerusalem or to those who were at Antioch. It is probable that he refers to Judaizing Christians, or persons who claimed to be Christians and to have been converted from Judaism. Whether they were dissemblers and hypocrites, or whether they were so imperfectly acquainted with Christianity, and so obstinate, opinionated, and perverse, though really in some respects good men, that they were conscientious in this, it is not easy to determine. It is clear, however, that they opposed the apostle Paul; that they regarded him as teaching dangerous doctrines; that they perverted and misstated his views; and that they claimed to have clearer views of the nature of the true religion than he had. Paul met such adversaries everywhere 2 Corinthians 11:26; and it required all his tact and skill to meet their plausible representations.
It is evident here that Paul is assigning a reason for something which he had done, and that reason was to counteract the influence of the “false brethren” in the case. But what is the thing concerning which he assigns a reason? It is commonly supposed to have been on account of the fact that he did not submit to the circumcision of Titus, and that he means to say that he resisted that in order to counteract their influence and to defeat their designs. But I would submit whether Galatians 2:3 is not to be regarded as a parenthesis, and whether the fact for which he assigns a reason is not that he sought a private interview with the leading men among the apostles? Galatians 2:2. The reason of his doing that would be obvious. In this way he could more easily counteract the influence of the false brethren. He could make a full statement of his doctrines. He could meet their inquiries, and anticipate the objections of his enemies. He could thus secure the influence of the leading apostles in his favor, and effectually prevent all the efforts of the false brethren to impose the Jewish rites on Gentile converts.
Unawares brought in - The word rendered “unawares” (παρεισάκτους pareisaktous) is derived from a verb meaning to lead in by the side of others, to introduce along with others; and then to lead or bring in by stealth, to smuggle in - Robinson, Lexicon. The verb occurs nowhere in the New Testament but in 2 Peter 2:1, where it is applied to heresies, and is rendered “Who privily shall bring in.” Here it refers probably to men who had been artfully introduced into the ministry, who made pretensions to piety, but who were either strangers to it, or who were greatly ignorant of the true nature of the Christian system; and who were disposed to take every advantage, and to impose on others the observance of the special rites of the Mosaic economy. Into what they were brought, the apostle does not say. It may have been that they had been introduced into the ministry in this manner (Doddridge); or it may be that they were introduced into the “assembly” where the apostles were collected to deliberate on the subject - Chandler. I think it probable that Paul refers to the occurrences in Jerusalem, and that these false brethren had been introduced from Antioch or some other place where Paul had been preaching, or that they were persons whom his adversaries had introduced to demand that Titus should be circumcised, under the plausible pretence that the laws of Moses required it, but really in order that there might be such proof as they desired that this rite was to be imposed upon the Gentile converts. If Paul were compelled to submit to this; if they could carry this point, it would be just such an instance as they needed, and would settle the whole inquiry, and prove that the Mosaic laws were to be imposed upon the Gentile converts. This was the reason why Paul so strenuously opposed it.
To spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus - In the practice of the Christian religion. The liberty referred to was, doubtless, the liberty from the painful, expensive, and onerous rites of the Jewish religion; see Galatians 5:1. Their object in spying out the liberty which Paul and others had, was, undoubtedly, to be witnesses of the fact that they did not observe the special rites of the Mosaic system; to make report of it; to insist upon their complying with those customs, and thus to secure the imposition of those rites on the Gentile converts. Their first object was to satisfy themselves of the fact that Paul did not insist on the observance of their customs; and then to secure, by the authority of the apostles, an injunction or order that Titus should be circumcised, and that Paul and the converts made under his ministry should be required to comply with those laws.
That they might bring us into bondage - Into bondage to the laws of Moses; see the note at Acts 15:10.
To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour - We did not submit to this at all. We did not yield even for the shortest time. We did not waver in our opposition to their demands, or in the slightest degree become subject to their wishes. We steadily opposed their claims, in order that the great principle might be forever settled, that the laws of Moses were not to be imposed as obligatory on the Gentile converts. This I take to be the clear and obvious sense of this passage, though there has been a great variety of opinions on it. A considerable number of manuscripts omit the words οἵς οὐδὲ hois oude), “to whom neither” (see Mill, Koppe, and Griesbach), and then the sense would be reversed, that Paul did yield to them for or after a short time, in order that he might in this way better consult the permanent interests of the gospel. This opinion has been gaining ground for the last century, that the passage here has been corrupted; but it is by no means confirmed. The ancient versions (the Syriac, the Vulgate, and the Arabic) accord with the usual reading of the text. So also do by far the largest portion of mss., and such, it seems to me, is the sense demanded by the connection. Paul means, in the whole passage, to say, that a great principle was settled. That the question came up fairly whether the Mosaic rites were to be imposed upon Gentile converts. That false brethren were introduced who demanded it; and that he steadily maintained his ground. He did not yield a moment. He felt that a great principle was involved; and though on all proper occasions he was willing to yield and to become all things to all men, yet here he did not court them, or temporize with them in the least. The phrase “by subjection” here means, that he did not suffer himself to be compelled to yield. The phrase “for an hour” is equivalent to the shortest period of time. He did not waver, or yield at all.
That the truth of the gospel might continue with you - That the great principle of the Christian religion which had been taught you might continue, and that you might enjoy the full benefit of the pure gospel, without its being intermingled with any false views. Paul had defended these same views among the Galatians, and he now sought that the same views might be confirmed by the clear decision of the college of apostles at Jerusalem.
But of those who seemed to be somewhat - See Galatians 2:2. This undoubtedly refers to those who were the most eminent among the apostles at Jerusalem. There is an apparent harshness in our common translation which is unnecessary. The word used here (δοκούντων dokountōn) denotes those who were thought to be, or who were of reputation; that is, men who were of note and influence among the apostles. The object of referring to them here is, to show that he had the concurrence and approbation of the most eminent of the apostles to the course which he had pursued.
Whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me - Tyndale renders this, “What they were in time passed, it maketh no matter to me.” The idea seems to be this. Paul means to say that whatever was their real rank and standing, it did not in the least affect his authority as an apostle, or his argument. While he rejoiced in their concurrence, and while he sought their approbation, yet he did not admit for a moment that he was inferior to them as an apostle, or dependent on them for the justness of his views What they were, or what they might be thought to be, was immaterial to his claims as an apostle, and immaterial to the authority of his own views as an apostle. He had derived his gospel from the Lord Jesus; and he had the fullest assurance that his views were just. Paul makes this remark evidently in keeping with all that he had said, that he did not regard himself as in any manner dependent on them for his authority. He did not treat them with disrespect; but he did not regard them as having a right to claim an authority over him.
God accepteth no man’s person - See the Acts 10:34 note; Romans 2:11 note. This is a general truth, that God is not influenced in His judgment by a regard to the rank, or wealth, or external condition of anyone. Its particular meaning here is, that the authority of the apostles was not to be measured by their external rank, or by the measure of reputation which they had among men. If, therefore, it were to be admitted that he himself were not in circumstances of so much external honor as the other apostles, or that they were esteemed to be of more elevated rank than he was, still he did not admit that this gave them a claim to any higher authority. God was not influenced in His judgment by any such consideration; and Paul therefore claimed that all the apostles were in fact on a level in regard to their authority.
In conference - When I conferred with them, Galatians 2:2. They did not then impose upon me any new obligations; they did not communicate anything to me of which I was previously ignorant.
The gospel of the uncircumcision - The duty of preaching the gospel to the uncircumcised part of the world; that is, to the Gentiles Paul had received this as his unique office when he was converted and called to the ministry (see Acts 9:15; Acts 22:21); and they now perceived that he had been specially intrusted with this office, from the remarkable success which had attended his labors. It is evidently not meant here that Paul was to preach only to the Gentiles and Peter only to the Jews, for Paul often preached in the synagogues of the Jews, and Peter was the first who preached to a Gentile Acts 10:0; but it is meant that it was the main business of Paul to preach to the Gentiles, or that this was especially entrusted to him.
As the gospel of the circumcision - As the office of preaching the gospel to the Jews.
Was unto Peter - Peter was to preach principally to the circumcised Jews. It is evident that until this time Peter had been principally employed in preaching to the Jews. Paul selects Peter here particularly, doubtless because he was the oldest of the apostles, and in order to show that he was himself regarded as on a level in regard to the apostleship with the most aged and venerable of those who had been called to the apostolic office by the personal ministry of the Lord Jesus.
For he that wrought effectually in Peter ... - Or by the means or agency of Peter. The argument here is, that the same effects had been produced under the ministry of Paul among the Gentiles which had been under the preaching of Peter among the Jews. It is inferred, therefore, that God had called both to the apostolic office; see this argument illustrated in the notes at Acts 11:17.
The same was mighty in me ... - In enabling me to work miracles, and in the success which attended the ministry.
And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars - That is, pillars or supports in the church. The word rendered “pillars” (στύλοι stuloi) means properly firm support; then persons of influence and authority, as in a church, or that support a church as a pillar or column does an edifice. In regard to James, see the note at Galatians 1:19; compare Acts 15:13. Cephas or Peter was the most aged of the apostles, and regarded as at the head of the apostolical college. John was the beloved disciple, and his influence in the church must of necessity have been great. Paul felt that if he had the countenance of these men, it would be an important proof to the churches of Galatia that he had a right to regard himself as an apostle. Their countenance was expressed in the most full and decisive manner.
Perceived the grace that was given unto me - That is, the favor that had been shown to me by the great Head of the church, in so abundantly blessing my labors among the Gentiles.
They gave unto me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship - The right-hand in token of fellowship or favor. They thus publicly acknowledged us as fellow-laborers, and expressed the utmost confidence in us. To give the right-hand with us is a token of friendly salutation, and it seems that it was a mode of salutation not unknown in the times of the apostles. They were thus recognised as associated with the apostles in the great work of spreading the gospel around the world. Whether this was done in a public manner is not certainly known; but it was probably in the presence of the church, or possibly at the close of the council referred to in Acts 15:0.
That we should go unto the heathen - To preach the gospel, and to establish churches. In this way the whole matter was settled, and settled as Paul desired it to be. A delightful harmony was produced between Paul and the apostles at Jerusalem; and the result showed the wisdom of the course which he had adopted. There had been no harsh contention or strife. No jealousies had been suffered to arise. Paul had sought an opportunity of a full statement of his views to them in private Galatians 2:2, and they had been entirely satisfied that God had called him and Barnabas to the work of making known the gospel among the pagan. Instead of being jealous at their success, they had rejoiced in it; and instead of throwing any obstacle in their way, they cordially gave them the right hand. How easy would it be always to prevent jealousies and strifes in the same way! If there was, on the one hand, the same readiness for a full and frank explanation; and if, on the other, the same freedom from envy at remarkable success, how many strifes that have disgraced the church might have been avoided! The true way to avoid strife is just that which is here proposed. Let there be on both sides perfect frankness; let there be a willingness to explain and state things just as they are; and let there be a disposition to rejoice in the talents, and zeal, and success of others, even though it should far outstrip our own, and contention in the church would cease, and every devoted and successful minister of the gospel would receive the right-hand of fellowship from all - however venerable by age or authority - who love the cause of true religion.
Only they would that we should remember the poor - That is, as I suppose, the poor Christians in Judea. It can hardly be supposed that it would be necessary to make this an express stipulation in regard to the converts from among the Gentiles, and it would not have been very pertinent to the case before them to have done so. The object was, to bind together the Christians from among the pagan and from among the Jews, and to prevent alienation and unkind feeling. It might have been alleged that Paul was disposed to forget his own countrymen altogether; that he regarded himself as so entirely the apostle of the Gentiles that he would become wholly alienated from those who were his “kinsmen according to the flesh,” and thus it might be apprehended that unpleasant feelings would be engendered among those who had been converted from among the Jews. Now nothing could be better adapted to allay this than for him to pledge himself to feel a deep interest in the poor saints among the Jewish converts; to remember them in his prayers; and to endeavor to secure contributions for their needs.
Thus he would show that he was not alienated from his countrymen; and thus the whole church would be united in the closest bonds. It is probable that the Christians in Judea were at that time suffering the ills of poverty arising either from some public persecution, or from the fact that they were subject to the displeasure of their countrymen. All who know the special feelings of the Jews at that time in regard to Christians, must see at once that many of the followers of Jesus of Nazareth would be subjected to great inconveniences on account of their attachment to him. Many a wife might be disowned by her husband; many a child disinherited by a parent; many a man might be thrown out of employment by the fact that others would not countenance him; and hence, many of the Christians would be poor. It became, therefore, an object of special importance to provide for them; and hence, this is so often referred to in the New Testament. In addition to this, the church in Judea was afflicted with famine; compare Acts 11:30; Romans 15:25-27; 1 Corinthians 16:1-2; 2 Corinthians 8:1-7.
The same which I also was forward to do - See the passages just referred to. Paul interested himself much in the collection for the poor saints at Jerusalem, and in this way he furnished the fullest evidence that he was not alienated from them, but that he felt the deepest interest in those who were his kindred. One of the proper ways of securing union in the church is to have the poor with them and depending on them for support; and hence, every church has some poor persons as one of the bonds of union. The best way to unite all Christians, and to prevent alienation, and jealousy, and strife, is to have a great common object of charity, in which all are interested and to which all may contribute. Such a common object for all Christians is a sinful world. All who bear the Christian name may unite in promoting its salvation, and nothing would promote union in the now divided and distracted church of Christ like a deep and common interest in the salvation of all mankind.
But when Peter was come to Antioch - On the situation of Antioch, see the note at Acts 11:19. The design for which Paul introduces this statement here is evident. It is to show that he regarded himself as on a level with the chief apostles, and that he did not acknowledge his inferiority to any of them. Peter was the oldest, and probably the most honored of the apostles. Yet Paul says that he did not hesitate to resist him in a case where Peter was manifestly wrong, and thus showed that he was an apostle of the same standing as the others. Besides, what he said to Peter on that occasion was exactly pertinent to the strain of the argument which he was pursuing with the Galatians, and he therefore introduces it Galatians 2:14-21 to show that he had held the same doctrine all along, and that he had defended it in the presence of Peter, and in a case where Peter did not reply to it. The time of this journey of Peter to Antioch cannot be ascertained; nor the occasion on which it occurred. I think it is evident that it was after this visit of Paul to Jerusalem, and the occasion may have been to inspect the state of the church at Antioch, and to compose any differences of opinion which may have existed there. But everything in regard to this is mere conjecture; and it is of little importance to know when it occurred.
I withstood him to the face - I openly opposed him, and reproved him. Paul thus showed that he was equal with Peter in his apostolical authority and dignity. The instance before us is one of faithful public reproof; and every circumstance in it is worthy of special attention, as it furnishes a most important illustration of the manner in which such reproof should be conducted. The first thing to be noted is, that it was done openly, and with candor. It was reproof addressed to the offender himself. Paul did not go to others and whisper his suspicions; he did not seek to undermine the influence and authority of another by slander; he did not calumniate him and then justify himself on the ground that what he had said was no more than true: he went to him at once, and he frankly stated his views and reproved him in a case where he was manifestly wrong. This too was a case so public and well known that Paul made his remarks before the church Galatians 2:14 because the church was interested in it, and because the conduct of Peter led the church into error.
Because he was to be blamed - The word used here may either mean because he had incurred blame, or because he deserved blame. The essential idea is, that he had done wrong, and that he was by his conduct doing injury to the cause of religion.
For before that certain came - Some of the Jews who had been converted to Christianity. They evidently observed in the strictest manner the rites of the Jewish religion.
Came from James - See the note at Galatians 1:19. Whether they were sent by James, or whether they came of their own accord, is unknown. It is evident only that they had been intimate with James at Jerusalem, and they doubtless pleaded his authority. James had nothing to do with the course which they pursued; but the sense of the whole passage is, that James was a leading man at Jerusalem, and that the rites of Moses were observed there. When they came down to Antioch, they of course observed those rites, and insisted that others should do it also. It is very evident that at Jerusalem the special rites of the Jews were observed for a long time by those who became Christian converts. They would not at once cease to observe them, and thus needlessly shock the prejudices of their countrymen; see the notes at Acts 21:21-25.
He did eat with the Gentiles - Peter had been taught that in the remarkable vision which he saw as recorded in Acts 10:0. He had learned that God designed to break down the wall of partition between the Jews and the Gentiles, and he familiarly associated with them, and partook with them of their food. He evidently disregarded the special laws of the Jews about meats and drinks, and partook of the common food which was in use among the Gentiles. Thus he showed his belief that all the race was henceforward to be regarded as on a level, and that the special institutions of the Jews were not to be considered as binding, or to be imposed on others.
But when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself - He withdrew from the Gentiles, and probably from the Gentile converts to Christianity. The reason why he did this is stated. He feared those who were of the circumcision, or who had been Jews. Whether they demanded this of him; whether they encountered him in debate; or whether he silently separated himself from the Gentiles without their having said anything to him, is unknown. But he feared the effect of their opposition; he feared their reproaches; he feared the report which would be made to those at Jerusalem; and perhaps he apprehended that a tumult would be excited and a persecution commenced at Antioch by the Jews who resided there. This is a melancholy illustration of Peter’s characteristic trait of mind. We see in this act the same Peter who trembled when he began to sink in the waves; the same Peter who denied his Lord. Bold, ardent, zealous, and forward; he was at the same time timid and often irresolute; and he often had occasion for the deepest humility, and the most poignant regrets at the errors of his course. No one can read his history without loving his ardent and sincere attachment to his Master; and yet no one can read it without a tear of regret that he was left thus to do injury to his cause. No man loved the Saviour more sincerely than he did, yet his constitutional timidity and irresolutehess of character often led him to courses of life suited deeply to wound his cause.
And the other Jews - That is, those who had been converted to Christianity. It is probable that they were induced to do it by the example of Peter, as they would naturally regard him as a leader.
Dissembled likewise with him - Dissembled or concealed their true sentiments. That is, they attempted to conceal from those who had come down from James the fact that they had been in the habit of associating with the Gentiles, and of eating with them. From this it would appear that they intended to conceal this wholly from them, and that they withdrew from the Gentiles before anything had been said to them by those who came down from James.
Insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away ... - Concerning Barnabas, see the note at Acts 4:36. Barnabas was the intimate friend of Paul. He had been associated with him in very important labors; and the fact, therefore, that the conduct of Peter was exciting so unhappy an influence as even to lead so worthy and good a man as he was into hypocrisy and error, made it the more proper that Paul should publicly notice and reprove the conduct of Peter. It could not but be a painful duty, but the welfare of the church and the cause of religion demanded it, and Paul did not shrink from what was so obvious a duty.
But when I saw that they walked not uprightly - To walk, in the Scriptures, is usually expressive of conduct or deportment; and the idea here is, that their conduct in this case was not honest.
According to the truth of the gospel - According to the true spirit and design of the gospel. That requires perfect honesty and integrity; and as that was the rule by which Paul regulated his life, and by which he felt that all ought to regulate their conduct, he felt himself called on openly to reprove the principal person who had been in fault. The spirit of the world is crafty, cunning, and crooked. The gospel would correct all that wily policy, and would lead man in a path of entire honesty and truth.
I said unto Peter before them all - That is, probably, before all the church, or certainly before all who had offended with him in the case. Had this been a private affair, Paul would doubtless have sought a private interview with Peter, and would have remonstrated with him in private on the subject. But it was public. It was a case where many were involved, and where the interests of the church were at stake. It was a case where it was very important to establish some fixed and just principles, and he therefore took occasion to remonstrate with him in public on the subject. This might have been at the close of public worship; or it may have been that the subject came up for debate in some of their public meetings, whether the rites of the Jews were to be imposed on the Gentile converts. This was a question which agitated all the churches where the Jewish and Gentile converts were intermingled; and it would not be strange that it should be the subject of public debate at Antioch. The fact that Paul reproved Peter before “them all,” proves:
(1) That he regarded himself, and was so regarded by the church, as on an equality with Peter, and as having equal authority with him.
(2) That public reproof is right when an offence has been public, and when the church at large is interested, or is in danger of being led into error; compare 1 Timothy 5:20, “Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.”
(3) That it is a duty to reprove those who err. It is a painful duty, and one much neglected; still it is a duty often enjoined in the Scriptures, and one that is of the deepest importance to the church. He does a favor to another man who, in a kind spirit, admonishes him of his error, and reclaims him from a course of sin. He does another the deepest injury, who suffers sin unrebuked to lie upon him, and who sees him injuring himself and others, and who is at no pains to admonish him for his faults.
(4) If it is the duty of one Christian to admonish another who is an offender, and to do it in a kind spirit, it is the duty of him who has offended to receive the admonition in a kind spirit, and with thankfulness. Excitable as Peter was by nature, yet there is no evidence that he became angry here, or that he did not receive the admonition of his brother Paul with perfect good temper, and with an acknowledgment that Paul was right and that he was wrong. Indeed, the case was so plain, as it usually is if men would be honest, that he seems to have felt that it was right, and to have received the rebuke as became a Christian. Peter, unhappily, was accustomed to rebukes; and he was at heart too good a man to be offended when he was admonished that he had done wrong. A good man is willing to be reproved when he has erred, and it is usually proof that there is much that is wrong when we become excited and irritable if another admonishes us of our faults. It may be added here that nothing should be inferred from this in regard to the inspiration or apostolic authority of Peter. The fault was not that he taught error of doctrine, but that he sinned in conduct. Inspiration, though it kept the apostles from teaching error, did not keep them necessarily from sin. A man may always teach the truth, and yet be far from perfection in practice. The case here proves that Peter was not perfect, a fact proved by his whole life; it proves that he was sometimes timid, and even, for a period, timeserving, but it does not prove that what he wrote for our guidance was false and erroneous.
If thou, being a Jew - A Jew by birth.
Livest after the manner of the Gentiles - In eating, etc., as he had done before the Judaizing teachers came from Jerusalem, Galatians 2:12.
And not as do the Jews - Observing their special customs, and their distinctions of meats and drinks.
Why compellest thou the Gentiles ... - As he would do, if he insisted that they should be circumcised, and observe the special Jewish rites. The charge against him was gross inconsistency in doing this. “Is it not at least as lawful for them to neglect the Jewish observances, as it was for thee to do it but a few days ago?” Doddridge. The word here rendered “compellest,” means here moral compulsion or persuasion. The idea is, that the conduct of Peter was such as to lead the Gentiles to the belief that it was necessary for them to be circumcised in order to be saved. For similar use of the word, see Matthew 14:22; Luke 14:23; Acts 28:19.
We who are Jews by nature - It has long been a question whether this and the following verses are to be regarded as a part of the address of Paul to Peter, or the words of Paul as a part of the Epistle to the Galatians. A great variety of opinion has prevailed in regard to this. Grotius says, “Here the narrative of Paul being closed, he pursues his argument to the Galatians.” In this opinion Bloomfield and many others concur. Rosenmuller and many others suppose that the address to Peter is continued to Galatians 2:21. Such seems to be the most obvious interpretation, as there is no break or change in the style, nor any vestige of a transfer of the argument to the Galatians. But, on the other hand, it may be urged:
(1) That Paul in his writings often changes his mode of address without indicating it - Bloomfield.
(2) That it is rather improbable that he should have gone into so long a discourse with Peter on the subject of justification. His purpose was answered by the reproof of Peter for his dissimulation; and there is something incongruous, it is said, in his instructing Peter at such length on the subject of man’s justification. Still it appears to me probable that this is to be regarded as a part of the discourse of Paul to Peter, to the close of Galatians 2:21.
The following reasons seem to me to require this interpretation:
(1) It is the most natural and obvious - usually a safe rule of interpretation. The discourse proceeds as if it were an address to Peter.
(2) There is a change at the beginning of the next chapter, where Paul expressly addresses himself to the Galatians.
(3) As to the impropriety of Paul’s addressing Peter at length on the subject of justification, we are to bear in mind that he did not address him alone.
The reproof was addressed to Peter particularly, but it was “before them all” Galatians 2:14; that is, before the assembled church, or before the persons who had been led astray by the conduct of Peter, and who were in danger of error on the subject of justification. Nothing, therefore, was more proper than for Paul to continue his discourse for their benefit, and to state to them fully the doctrine of justification. And nothing was more pertinent or proper for him now than to report this to the Galatians as a part of his argument to them, showing that he had always, since his conversion, held and defended the same doctrine on the subject of the way in which people are to be justified in the sight of God. It is, therefore, I apprehend, to be regarded as an address to Peter and the other Jews who were present. “We who were born Jews.”
By nature - By birth; or, we were born Jews. We were not born in the condition of the Gentiles.
And not sinners of the Gentiles - This cannot mean that Paul did not regard the Jews as sinners, for his views on that subject he has fully expressed in Romans 2:0; Romans 3:0. But it must mean that the Jews were not born under the disadvantages of the Gentiles in regard to the true knowledge of the way of salvation. They were not left wholly in ignorance about the way of justification, as the Gentiles were. They knew, or they might know, that men could not be saved by their own works. It was also true that they were under more restraint than the Gentiles were, and though they were sinners, yet they were not abandoned to so gross and open sensuality as was the pagan world. They were not idolaters, and wholly ignorant of the Law of God.
Knowing - We who are Jews by nature, or by birth. This cannot mean that all the Jews knew this, or that he who was a Jew knew it as a matter of course, for many Jews were ignorant of it, and many opposed it. But it means that the persons here referred to, those who had been born Jews, and who had been converted to Christianity, had had an opportunity to learn and understand this, which the Gentiles had not. This gospel had been preached to them, and they had professedly embraced it. They were not left to the gross darkness and ignorance on this subject which pervaded the pagan world, and they had had a better opportunity to learn it than the converts from the Gentiles. They ought, therefore, to act in a manner becoming their superior light, and to show in all their conduct that they fully believed that a man could not be justified by obedience to the Law of Moses. This rendered the conduct of Peter and the other Jews who “dissembled” with him so entirely inexcusable. They could not plead ignorance on this vital subject, and yet they were pursuing a course, the tendency of which was to lead the Gentile converts to believe that it was indispensable to observe the laws of Moses, in order to be justified and saved.
That a man is not justified by the works of the law - See the notes at Romans 1:17; Romans 3:20, Romans 3:26; Romans 4:5.
But by the faith of Jesus Christ - By believing on Jesus Christ; see the Mark 16:16 note; Romans 3:22 note.
Even we have believed in Jesus Christ - We are therefore justified. The object of Paul here seems to be to show, that as they had believed in the Lord Jesus, and thus had been justified, there was no necessity of obeying the Law of Moses with any view to justification. The thing had been fully done without the deeds of the Law, and it was now unreasonable and unnecessary to insist on the observance of the Mosaic rites.
For by the works of the law ... - See the notes at Romans 3:20, Romans 3:27. In this verse, the apostle has stated in few words the important doctrine of justification by faith - the doctrine which Luther so justly called, Articulus stantis, vel cadentis ecclesioe. In the notes referred to above, particularly in the notes at the Epistle to the Romans, I have stated in various places what I conceive to be the true doctrine on this important subject. It may be useful, however, to throw together in one connected view, as briefly as possible, the leading ideas on the subject of justification, as it is revealed in the gospel.
I. Justification is properly a word applicable to courts of justice, but is used in a similar sense in common conversation among people. An illustration will show its nature. A man is charged, e. g., with an act of trespass on his neighbor’s property. Now there are two ways which he may take to justify himself, or to meet the charge, so as to be regarded and treated as innocent. He may:
- Either deny that he performed the act charged on him, or he may,
- Admit that the deed was done, and set up as a defense that he had a right to do it.
In either case, if the point is made out, he will be just or innocent in the sight of the Law. The Law will have nothing against him, and he will be regarded and treated in the premises as an innocent man; or he has justified himself in regard to the charge brought against him.
II. Charges of a very serious nature are brought against man by his Maker. He is charged with violating the Law of God; with a want of love to his Maker; with a corrupt, proud, sensual heart; with being entirely alienated from God by wicked works; in one word, with being entirely depraved. This charge extends to all people; and to the entire life of every unrenewed person. It is not a charge merely affecting the external conduct, nor merely affecting the heart; it is a charge of entire alienation from God; a charge, in short, of total depravity; see, especially, Romans 1:0; Romans 2:0; Romans 3:0. That this charge is a very serious one, no one can doubt. That it deeply affects the human character and standing, is as clear. It is a charge brought in the Bible; and God appeals in proof of it to the history of the world, to every man’s conscience, and to the life of every one who has lived; and on these facts, and on his own power in searching the hearts, and in knowing what is in man, he rests the proofs of the charge.
III. It is impossible for man to vindicate himself from this charge. He can neither show that the things charged have not been committed, nor that, having been committed, he had a right to do them. He cannot prove that God is not right in all the charges which he has made against him in his word; and he cannot prove that it was right for him to do as he has done. The charges against him are facts which are undeniable, and the facts are such as cannot be vindicated. But if he can do neither of these things, then he cannot be justified by the Law. The Law will not acquit him. It holds him guilty. It condemns him. No argument which he can use will show that he is right, and that God is wrong. No works that he can perform will be any compensation for what he has already done. No denial of the existence of the facts charged will alter the ease; and he must stand condemned by the Law of God. In the legal sense he cannot be justified; and justification, if it ever exist at all, must be in a mode that is a departure from the regular operation of law, and in a mode which the Law did not contemplate, for no law makes any provision for the pardon of those who violate it. It must be by some system which is distinct from the Law, and in which man may be justified on different principles than those which the Law contemplates.
IV. This other system of justification is that which is revealed in the gospel by the faith of the Lord Jesus. It does not consist in either of the following things:
(1) It is not a system or plan where the Lord Jesus takes the part of the sinner against the Law or against God. He did not come to show that the sinner was right, and that God was wrong. He admitted most fully, and endeavored constantly to show, that God was right, and that the sinner was wrong; nor can an instance be referred to where the Saviour took the part of the sinner against God in any such sense that he endeavored to show that the sinner had not done the things charged on him, or that he had a right to do them.
(2) It is not that we are either innocent, or are declared to be innocent. God justifies the “ungodly,” Romans 4:5. We are not innocent; we never have been; we never shall be; and it is not the design of the scheme to declare any such untruth as that we are not personally undeserving. It will be always true that the justified sinner has no claims to the mercy and favor of God.
(3) It is not that we cease to be undeserving personally. He that is justified by faith, and that goes to heaven, will go there admitting that he deserves eternal death, and that he is saved wholly by favor and not by desert.
(4) It is not a declaration on the part of God that we have worked out salvation, or that we have any claim for what the Lord Jesus has done. Such a declaration would not be true, and would not be made.
(5) It is not that the righteousness of the Lord Jesus is transferred to his people.
Moral character cannot be transferred. It adheres to the moral agent as much as color does to the rays of light which cause it. It is not true that we died for sin, and it cannot be so reckoned or imputed. It is not true that we have any merit, or any claim, and it cannot be so reckoned or imputed. All the imputations of God are according to truth; and he will always reckon us to be personally undeserving and sinful. But if justification is none of these things, it may be asked, what is it? I answer - It is the declared purpose of God to regard and treat those sinners who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as if they had not sinned, on the ground of the merits of the Saviour. It is not mere pardon. The main difference between pardon and justification respects the sinner contemplated in regard to his past conduct, and to God’s future dealings with him. Pardon is a free forgiveness of past offences.
It has reference to those sins as forgiven and blotted out. It is an act of remission on the part of God. Justification has respect to the Law, and to God’s future dealings with the sinner. It is an act by which God determines to treat him hereafter as a righteous man, or as if he had not sinned. The ground or reason of this is, the merit of the Lord Jesus Christ; merit such that we can plead it as if it were our own. The rationale of it is that the Lord Jesus has accomplished by his death the same happy effects in regard to the Law and the government of God, which would have been accomplished by the death of the sinner himself. In other words, nothing would be gained to the universe by the everlasing punishment of the offender himself, which will not be secured by his salvation on the ground of the death of the Lord Jesus. He has taken our place, and died in our stead; and he has met the descending stroke of justice, which would have fallen on our own head if he had not interposed (see my notes at Isaiah 53:0) and now the great interests of justice will be as firmly secured if we are saved, as they would be if we were lost.
The Law has been fully obeyed by one who came to save us, and as much honor has been done to it by his obedience as could have been by our own; that is, it as much shows that the Law is worthy of obedience to have it perfectly obeyed by the Lord Jesus, as it would if it were obeyed by us. It as much shows that the Law of a sovereign is worthy of obedience to have it obeyed by an only son and an heir to the crown, as it does to have it obeyed by his subjects. And it has as much shown the evil of the violation of the Law to have the Lord Jesus suffer death on the cross, as it would if the guilty had died themselves. If transgression whelm the innocent in calamity; if it extends to those who are perfectly guiltless, and inflicts pain and woe on them, it is as certainly an expression of the evil of transgression as if the guilty themselves suffer. And an impression as deep has been made of the evil of sin by the sufferings of the Lord Jesus in our stead, as if we had suffered ourselves.
He endured on the cross as intense agony as we can conceive it possible for a sinner ever to endure; and the dignity of the person who suffered, the incarnate God, is more than an equivalent for the more lengthened sorrows which the penalty of the Law exacts in hell. Besides, from the very dignity of the sufferer in our place, an impression has gone abroad on the universe more deep and important than would have been by the sufferings of the individual himself in the world of woe. The sinner who is lost will be unknown to other worlds. His name may be unheard beyond the gates of the prison of despair. The impression which will be made on distant worlds by his individual sufferings will be as a part of the aggregate of woe, and his individual sorrows may make no impression on distant worlds. But not so with him who took our place. He stood in the center of the universe. The sun grew dark, and the dead arose, and angels gazed upon the scene, and from his cross an impression went abroad to the farthest part of the universe, showing the tremendous effects of the violation of law, when not one soul could be saved from its penalty without such sorrows of the Son of God. In virtue of all this, the offender, by believing on him, may be treated as if he had not sinned; and this constitutes justification. God admits him to favor as if he had himself obeyed the Law, or borne its penalty, since as many good results will now follow from His salvation as could be derived from his punishment; and since all the additional happy results will follow which can be derived from the exercise of pardoning mercy. The character of God is thus revealed. His mercy is shown. His determination to maintain his law is evinced. The truth is maintained; and yet he shows the fulness of his mercy and the richness of his benevolence.
(The reader will find the above objections to the doctrine of imputation fully considered in the supplementary notes on Romans 4:5; see especially the note at Romans 4:3, in which it is observed, that almost every objection against the imputation of righteousness may be traced to two sources. The first of these is the idea that Christ’s righteousness becomes ours, in the same sense that it is his, namely, of personal achievement; an idea continually rejected by the friends, and as often proceeded on by the enemies, of imputation. The second source is the idea that imputation involves a transference of moral character, whereas the imputing and the infusing of righteousness are allowed to be two very different things. Now, in this place, the commentator manifestly proceeds on these mistaken views. What does he mean by “transference of the righteousness of Christ” when he says, “justification is not that the righteousness of the Lord Jesus is transferred to his people?” What follows, at once explains. “Moral character,” he continues, “cannot be transferred. It adheres to the moral agent, as much as color does to the rays of light which cause it.” But this is quite aside from the subject, and proves what never had been denied. The same remarks apply with equal force to what is said about our being “always personally undeserving,” and never regarded as having ourselves actually “wrought out salvation.” These objections belong to the first source of misconception noticed above.
It has been asked a thousand times, and the question is most pertinent, How can God treat believers as innocent, if there be not some sense in which they are so? “The imputations of God are according to truth,” so is his treatment. The author tells us, that the ground of justification is the “merits of the Saviour,” which phrase he prefers throughout, to the more scriptural and more appropriate one of the righteousness of Christ; more appropriate, because the subject if forensic, belonging to judicature and dealing in matters of law; see Hervey’s reply to Wesley, vol. iv. p. 33. Yet if these merits, or this righteousness, be not imputed to us - held as ours - how can we be justified on any such ground? “I would further observe,” says Mr. Hervey, replying to Wesley in the publication just quoted, “that you have dropped the word ‘imputed,’” which inclines me to suspect you would cashier the thing. But let me ask, Sir, how can we be justified by the merits of Christ, unless they are imputed to us? Would the payment made by a surety procure a discharge for the debtor, unless it were placed to his account? It is certain the sacrifices of old could not make an atonement, unless they were imputed to each offerer respectively. This was an ordinance settled by Yahweh himself, Leviticus 7:18. And were not the sacrifices, was not their imputation, typical of Christ and things pertaining to Christ, the former prefiguring his all-sufficient expiation; the latter shadowing forth the way whereby we are partakers of its efficacy?
The language of President Edwards, the prince of American clergymen, indeed of theologians universally, is decisive enough, and one would think that the opinion of this master in reasoning should have its weight on the other side of the Atlantic. “It is absolutely necessary,” says he, “that in order to a sinner’s being justified, the righteousness of some other should be reckoned to his account; for it is declared, that the person justified is looked on as, in himself, ungodly: but God neither will nor can justify a person without a righteousness; for justification is manifestly a forensic term, as the word is used in scripture, and a judicial thing or the act of a judge; so that if a person should be justified without a righteousness, the judgment would not be according to truth. The sentence of justification would be a false sentence, unless there be a righteousness performed, that is, by the Judge properly looked upon as his.”
Nor are we sure, if our author’s distinction between pardon and justification be altogether accurate. By those who deny imputed righteousness, justification is frequently said to consist in the mere remission of sin. In a recent American publication, the views of the “new school party” are thus given: “Though they retain the word justification, they make it consist in mere pardon. In the eye of the Law, the believer, according to their views, is not justified at all, and never will be throughout eternity. Though on the ground of what Christ has done, God is pleased to forgive the sinner upon his believing, Christ’s righteousness is not reckoned in any sense as his, or set down to his account. He believes, and his faith or act of believing is accounted to him for righteousness; that is, faith is so reckoned to His account that God treats him as if he were righteous” - Old and New Theology, by James Wood. Now Mr. Barnes does not exactly say that justification and pardon are the same, for he makes a distinction. “The main difference between the two respects the sinner contemplated in regard to his past conduct, and to God’s future dealings with him.” “Pardon is a free forgiveness of least offences. Justification has respect to the Law and to God’s future dealings.”
But this difference is not respecting the nature of the things. It is simply a matter of time, of past and future; and justification, after all, is neither more nor less than pardon of sins past and to come. A criminal is often pardoned while his guilt is still allowed. To exalt pardon to justification there most be supposed a righteousness on the ground of which not only is sin forgiven, but the person accepted and declared legally righteous. And in this lies the main difference between the two. In the case of the believer however these are never found apart. Whoever is pardoned is at the same time justified. Earthly princes sometimes remit the punishment of crime, but seldom or never dream of honoring the criminal; but wherever God pardons, he dignifies and ennobles.
But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ - The connection here is not very clear, and the sense of the verse is somewhat obscure. Rosenmuller supposes that this is an objection of a Jew, supposing that where the Law of Moses is not observed there is no rule of life, and that therefore there must be sin; and that since the doctrine of justification by faith taught that there was no necessity of obeying the ceremonial law of Moses, therefore Christ, who had introduced that system, must be regarded as the author and encourager of sin. To me it seems probable that Paul here has reference to an objection which has in all ages been brought against the doctrine of justification by faith, and which seems to have existed in his time, that the doctrine leads to licentiousness. The objections are that it does not teach the necessity of the observance of the Law in order to acceptance with God. That it pronounces a man justified and accepted who is a violator of the Law. That his acceptance does not depend on moral character.
That it releases him from the obligation of law, and that it teaches that a man may be saved though he does not conform to law. These objections existed early, and have been found everywhere where the doctrine of justification by faith has been preached. I regard this verse, therefore, as referring to these objections, and not as being especially the objection of a Jew. The idea is, “You seek to be justified by faith without obeying the Law. You professedly reject that, and do not hold that it is necessary to yield obedience to it. If now it shall turn out that you are sinners; that your lives are not holy; that you are free from the wholesome restraint of the Law, and are given up to lives of sin, will it not follow that Christ is the cause of it; that he taught it; and that the system which he introduced is responsible for it? And is not the gospel therefore responsible for introducing a system that frees from the restraint of the Law, and introduces universal licentiousness?” To this Paul replies by stating distinctly that the gospel has no such tendency, and particularly by referring in the following verses to his own case, and to the effect of the doctrine of justification on his own heart and life.
We ourselves are found sinners - If it turns out that we are sinners, or if others discover by undoubted demonstration that we lead lives of sin; if they see us given up to a lawless life, and find us practicing all kinds of evil; if it shall be seen not only that we are not pardoned and made better by the gospel, but are actually made worse, and are freed from all moral restraint.
Is therefore Christ the minister of sin? - Is it to be traced to him? Is it a fair and legitimate conclusion that this is the tendency of the gospel? Is it to be charged on him, and on the plan of justification through him, that a lax morality prevails, and that people are freed from the wholesome restraints of law?
God forbid - It is not so. This is not the proper effect of the gospel of Christ, and of the doctrine of justification by faith. The system is not suited to produce such a freedom from restraint, and if such a freedom exists, it is to be traced to something else than the gospel.
For if I build again the things which I destroyed - Paul here uses the first person; but he evidently intends it as a general proposition, and means that if anyone does it he becomes a transgressor. The sense is, that if a man, having removed or destroyed that which was evil, again introduces it or establishes it, he does wrong, and is a transgressor of the Law of God. The particular application here, as it seems to me, is to the subject of circumcision and the other rites of the Mosaic law. They had been virtually abolished by the coming of the Redeemer, and by the doctrine of justification by faith. It had been seen that there was no necessity for their observance, and of that Peter and the others had been fully aware. Yet they were lending their influence again to establish them or to build them up again. They complied with them, and they insisted on the necessity of their observance. Their conduct, therefore, was that of building up again that which had once been destroyed, destroyed by the ministry, and toils, and death of the Lord Jesus, and by the fair influence of his gospel. To rebuild that again; to re-establish those customs, was wrong, and now involved the guilt of a transgression of the Law of God. Doddridge supposes that this is an address to the Galatians, and that the address to Peter closed at the previous verse. But it is impossible to determine this; and it seems to me more probable that this is all a part of the address to Peter; or rather perhaps to the assembly when Peter was present; see the note at Galatians 2:15.
For I through the law - On this passage the commentators are by no means agreed. It is agreed that in the phrase “am dead to the law,” the Law of Moses is referred to, and that the meaning is, that Paul had become dead to that as a ground or means of justification. He acted as though it were not; or it ceased to have influence over him. A dead man is insensible to all around him. He hears nothing; sees nothing; and nothing affects him. So when we are said to be dead to anything, the meaning is, that it does not have an influence over us. In this sense Paul was dead to the Law of Moses. He ceased to observe it as a ground of justification. It ceased to be the grand aim and purpose of his life, as it had been formerly, to obey it. He had higher purposes than that, and truly lived to God; see the note at Romans 6:2. But on the meaning of the phrase “through the law” (διὰ νόμου dia nomou) there has been a great variety of opinion.
Bloomfield, Rosenmuller, and some others suppose that he means the Christian religion, and that the meaning is, “by one law, or doctrine, I am dead to another;” that is, the Christian doctrine has caused me to cast aside the Mosaic religion. Doddridge, Clarke, Chandler, and most others, however, suppose that he here refers to the Law of Moses, and that the meaning is, that by contemplating the true character of the Law of Moses itself; by considering its nature and design; by understanding the extent of its requisitions, he had become dead to it; that is, he had laid aside all expectations of being justified by it. This seems to me to be the correct interpretation. Paul had formerly expected to be justified by the Law. He had endeavored to obey it. It had been the object of his life to comply with all its requisitions in order to be saved by it; Philippians 3:4-6. But all this while he had not fully understood its nature; and when he was made fully to feel and comprehend its spiritual requirements, then all his hopes of justification by it died, and he became dead to it; see this sentiment more fully explained in the note at Romans 7:9.
That I might live unto God - That I might be truly alive, and might be found engaged in his service. He was dead to the Law, but not to every thing. He had not become literally inactive and insensible to all things, like a dead man, but he had become truly sensible to the commands and appeals of God, and had consecrated himself to his service; see the note at Romans 6:11.
I am crucified with Christ - In the previous verse, Paul had said that he was dead. In this verse he states what he meant by it, and shows that he did not wish to be understood as saying that he was inactive, or that he was literally insensible to the appeals made to him by other beings and objects. In respect to one thing he was dead; to all that was truly great and noble he was alive. To understand the remarkable phrase, “I am crucified with Christ,” we may remark:
(1) That this was the way in which Christ was put to death. He suffered on a cross, and thus became literally dead.
(2) In a sense similar to this, Paul became dead to the Law, to the world, and to sin. The Redeemer by the death of the cross became insensible to all surrounding objects, as the dead always are. He ceased to see, and hear, and was as though they were not. He was laid in the cold grave, and they did not affect or influence him. So Paul says that he became insensible to the Law as a means of justification; to the world; to ambition and the love of money; to the pride and pomp of life, and to the dominion of evil and hateful passions. They lost their power over him; they ceased to influence him.
(3) This was with Christ, or by Christ. It cannot mean literally that he was put to death with him, for that is not true. But it means that the effect of the death of Christ on the cross was to make him dead to these things, in like manner as he, when he died, became insensible to the things of this busy world. This may include the following things:
- There was an intimate union between Christ and his people, so that what affected him, affected them; see John 15:5-6.
- The death of the Redeemer on the cross involved as a consequence the death of his people to the world and to sin; see Galatians 5:24; Galatians 6:14. It was like a blow at the root of a vine or a tree, which would affect every branch and tendril or like a blow at the head which affects every member of the body.
- Paul felt identified with the Lord Jesus; and he was willing to share in all the ignominy and contempt which was connected with the idea of the crucifixion. He was willing to regard himself as one with the Redeemer. If there was disgrace attached to the manner in which he died, he was willing to share it with him. He regarded it as a matter to be greatly desired to be made just like Christ in all things, and even in the manner of his death. This idea he has more fully expressed in Philippians 3:10, “That I may know him, (that is, I desire earnestly to know him,) and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;” see also Colossians 1:24; compare 1 Peter 4:13.
Nevertheless I live - This expression is added, as in Galatians 2:19, to prevent the possibility of mistake. Paul, though he was crucified with Christ, did not wish to be understood that he felt himself to be dead. He was not inactive; not insensible, as the dead are, to the appeals which are made from God, or to the great objects which ought to interest an immortal mind. He was still actively employed, and the more so from the fact that he was crucified with Christ. The object of all such expressions as this is, to show that it was no design of the gospel to make people inactive, or to annihilate their energies. It was not to cause people to do nothing. It was not to paralyze their powers, or stifle their own efforts. Paul, therefore, says, “I am not dead. I am truly alive; and I live a better life than I did before.” Paul was as active after conversion as he was before. Before, he was engaged in persecution; now, he devoted his great talents with as much energy, and with as untiring zeal, to the cause of the great Redeemer. Indeed, the whole narrative would lead us to suppose that he was more active and zealous after his conversion than he was before. The effect of religion is not to make one dead in regard to the putting forth of the energies of the soul. True religion never made one lazy man; it has converted many a man of indolence, and effeminacy and self-indulgence to a man actively engaged in doing good. If a professor of religion is less active in the service at God than he was in the service of the world; less laborious, and zealous. and ardent than he was before his supposed conversion, he ought to set it down as full proof that he is an utter stranger to true religion.
Yet not I - This is also designed to prevent misapprehension. In the previous clause he had said that he lived, or was actively engaged. But lest this should he misunderstood, and it should be inferred that he meant to say it was by his own energy or powers, he guards it, and says it was not at all from himself. It was by no native tendency; no power of his own; nothing that could be traced to himself. He assumed no credit for any zeal which he had shown in the true life. He was disposed to trace it all to another. He had ample proof in his past experience that there was no tendency in himself to a life of true religion, and he therefore traced it all to another.
Christ liveth in me - Christ was the source of all the life that he had. Of course this cannot be taken literally that Christ had a residence in the apostle, but it must mean that his grace resided in him; that his principles actuated him: and that he derived all his energy, and zeal, and life from his grace. The union between the Lord Jesus and the disciple was so close that it might be said the one lived in the other. So the juices of the vine are in each branch, and leaf, and tendril, and live in them and animate them; the vital energy of the brain is in each delicate nerve - no matter how small - that is found in any part of the human frame. Christ was in him as it were the vital principle. All his life and energy were derived from him.
And the life which I now live in the flesh - As I now live on the earth surrounded by the cares and anxieties of this life. I carry the life-giving principles of my religion to all my duties and all my trials.
I live by the faith of the Son of God - By confidence in the Son of God, looking to him for strength, and trusting in his promises, and in his grace. Who loved me, etc. He felt under the highest obligation to him from the fact that he had loved him, and given himself to the death of the cross in his behalf. The conviction of obligation on this account Paul often expresses; see the Romans 6:8-11; Romans 8:35-39 notes; 2 Corinthians 5:15 note. There is no higher sense of obligation than that which is felt toward the Saviour; and Paul felt himself bound, as we should, to live entirely to him who had redeemed him by his blood.
I do not frustrate the grace of God - The word rendered “frustrate” (ἀθετῶ athetō) means properly to displace, abrogate, abolish; then to make void, to render null; Mark 7:9; Luke 7:30; 1 Corinthians 1:19. The phrase “the grace of God,” here refers to the favor of God manifested in the plan of salvation by the gospel, and is another name for the gospel. The sense is, that Paul would not take any measures or pursue any course that would render that vain or inefficacious. Neither by his own life, by a course of conduct which would show that it had no influence over the heart and conduct, nor by the observance of Jewish rites and customs, would he do anything to render that inefficacious. The design is to show that he regarded it as a great principle that the gospel was efficacious in renewing and saving man, and he would do nothing that would tend to prevent that impression on mankind. A life of sin, of open depravity and licentiousness, would do that. And in like manner a conformity to the rites of Moses as a ground of justification would tend to frustrate the grace of God, or to render the method of salvation solely by the Redeemer nugatory. This is to be regarded, therefore as at the same time a reproof of Peter for complying with customs which tended to frustrate the plan of the gospel, and a declaration that he intended that his own course of life should be such as to confirm the plan, and show its efficacy in pardoning the sinner and rendering him alive in the service of God.
For if righteousness come by the law - If justification can be secured by the observance of any law - ceremonial or moral - then there was no need of the death of Christ as an atonement. This is plain. If man by conformity to any law could be justified before God, what need was there of an atonement? The work would then have been wholly in his own power, and the merit would have been his. It follows from this, that man cannot be justified by his own morality, or his alms-deeds, or his forms of religion, or his honesty and integrity. If he can, he needs no Saviour; he can save himself. It follows also that when people depend on their own amiableness, and morality, and good works, they would feel no need of a Saviour; and this is the true reason why the mass of people reject the Lord Jesus. They suppose they do not deserve to be sent to hell. They have no deep sense of guilt. They confide in their own integrity, and feel that God ought to save them. Hence, they feel no need of a Saviour; for why should a person in health employ a physician? And confiding in their own righteousness, they reject the grace of God, and despise the plan of justification through the Redeemer. To feel the need of a Saviour it is necessary to feel that we are lost and ruined sinners; that we have no merit upon which we can rely; and that we are entirely dependent on the mercy of God for salvation. Thus feeling, we shall receive the salvation of the gospel with thankfulness and joy, and show that in regard to us Christ is not “dead in vain.”
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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Galatians 2". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24