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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament Commentary for Schools and Colleges

Galatians 2

Verses 1-99

Chapter 2

1 10 . St Paul’s visit to Jerusalem

11 21 . Visit to Antioch and disagreement with St Peter

This chapter consists of two paragraphs. We have, first, an account of a visit of St Paul to Jerusalem, and his conference with the Apostles of the Circumcision ( v . 1 10); and, secondly, a narrative of his disagreement with Peter at Antioch and a conclusion upon the question in debate ( v . 11 21).

1. fourteen years after ] This is not to be reckoned from the time of the first visit, mentioned ch. 1:18, but from the date of St Paul’s conversion; and this visit may therefore be assigned to a.d. 51. It was on the occasion described in Acts 15:0 .

St Paul had gone to Jerusalem once during the interval, to carry relief to the poor brethren who were suffering from the famine, Acts 11:30 , Acts 12:25 . But he does not here refer to that visit, because its object and attendant circumstances are foreign to the purpose of his present argument, and because he had probably no opportunity then of conferring with the Apostles. The visit was purely one of benevolence, and may have been brief in duration. Calvin, however, and others identify the visit of this verse with that of Acts 11:30 . Twice after this, St Paul revisited the Holy City in a.d. 54, of which visit a cursory mention is made Acts 18:21 , Acts 18:22 , and finally in a.d. 58 (Acts 21:17 ).

with Barnabas ] This name, which signifies ‘the Son of Exhortation’, was given by the Apostles to an early convert, whose original name was Joseph or Joses. He was a Levite of Cyprus, and was associated with Paul in the commencement of his missionary work among the Gentiles. He accompanied him on this occasion, as well as on the previous visit to Jerusalem, recorded in Acts 11:30 . Like St Paul, though not of the number of the Twelve, he was included in “the glorious company of the Apostles” 1 1 His festival is retained in the Calendar of the English Church, with special Collect, Epistle and Gospel. In the Collect he is termed ‘thy holy Apostle Barnabas’. Under June 11, to the bare name Barnabas in the Calendar was prefixed in 1663 ‘S.’, and added, ‘Apost. and M.’ (see Lightfoot, p. 93).

At the conclusion of this visit, owing to a dispute with St Paul, Barnabas separated from him, and is not again mentioned in St Luke’s narrative.

Titus also ] He was one among the ‘certain others’ appointed by the Church in Antioch to go up to Jerusalem with Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15:2 ). He is specially mentioned because of the incident narrated in v . 2 foll.

2. by revelation ] In the Acts no mention is made of this divine intimation. It would seem to have been concurrent with the external commission from the Church. The account of this visit is not contradictory to, or even inconsistent with St Luke’s narrative in Acts 15:0 . They supplement one another. “The account of the Acts is fuller; that of the Galatians only brings out the chief points. Luke, in keeping with the documentary character of the Acts, gives us the public transactions of the Council at Jerusalem; Paul taking a knowledge of these for granted, shortly alludes to his private conference and agreement with the Apostles. Both together give us a complete history of that remarkable convention”. Schaff.

The phrase ‘by revelation’ is used by St Paul (Ephesians 3:3 ) of the means by which the will and purpose of God in the Gospel were communicated to him. How this revelation is effected we know not. It consists in the temporary uplifting of the veil which hides “the things not seen”, and always implies the sure conviction of its reality and Divine origin on the part of the recipient. Comp. 1:12.

communicated ] not as a would-be disciple, but as one on a footing of equality.

to them ] i.e. the Church at Jerusalem.

that Gospel which I preach ] St Paul was still preaching the same Gospel among the Gentiles. It was the same in principle and substance, however varying in its application to the diverse characters and circumstances of those to whom it came.

privately ] Privately, not secretly. There is here no hint of any suppression of the truth. The object of this private consultation was to prepare for the public conference, and was alike an act of respectful courtesy towards the officers of the Church, and a wise precaution to ensure orderly proceedings at the Council.

to them which were of reputation ] Better, ‘to those of high reputation’, the leaders, pillars of the Church. The same expression occurs with slight additions vv . 6, 9.

lest … in vain ] It was very important that there should be unanimity at the Council. If at the first synod of the Church, it should appear that St Paul was preaching a different Gospel among the Gentiles from that which was taught by the Apostles in Judæa, the result could not fail to be distrust of the former (so prone are men to test truth by the numbers and position of its advocates), and thus the success of his labours would be impaired.

Most commentators suppose the Apostle to fear lest his work for the future should be hindered, and that in the past undone. The construction of the original is peculiar and difficult. The particle rendered ‘or’, may mean ‘than’ or ‘more than’. And so the sense would be, ‘Lest I should run less successfully than heretofore’. The metaphor of a ‘race’ as descriptive of a course of life or of labour is a familiar one with St Paul. Acts 20:24 ; 2 Timothy 4:7 .

3 5. The construction of this passage is irregular and uncertain, and the meaning of several words and phrases obscure. But the general argument would seem to be as follows: ‘I conferred indeed with the Apostles at Jerusalem, but though I was quite ready to treat them with courtesy and respect, I was not prepared to make to them any concession of principle. That would have been to allow their authority as superior to my own, and would also have been a betrayal of the Gospel. An attempt was made to assert the necessity of obedience to the ceremonial law, as a condition of justification. This attempt took a practical shape, when certain false brethren with sinister motives demanded that Titus, a Gentile, should submit to circumcision. The Apostles were for temporising, in the hope of conciliating these intruders, who were really spies, feigning themselves to be true men and zealous for the law. The question in itself might seem indifferent. [St Paul had himself taken Timothy “and circumcised him on account of the Jews”, Acts 16:3 . But then Timothy was the son of a Jewish mother.] But when they tried compulsion, I at once made a stand and refused compliance. What I might perhaps have conceded to love, was resisted when it involved subjection to these false brethren: that the Gospel in its purity and fulness might be preserved for you Gentiles. Of that Gospel the observance of the ceremonial law is no condition. To insist upon it, is to pervert the truth of the Gospel, and send men back for salvation to the “weak and beggarly elements” from which Christ by His death hath for ever set us free’.

3. neither Titus ] Better, not even Titus, who, as Paul’s colleague, might have thus had more ready access to the Jews.

being a Greek ] unlike Timothy, Acts 16:1-44.16.3 .

was compelled ] Scholefield renders, “was under any necessity to be circumcised, but only because, &c.” i.e. there was no necessity for his being circumcised, except that pretended necessity which was set up by these false brethren. (Hints for an improved Translation of the N. T.)

“Paul might have suffered Titus to be circumcised; but because he saw they would compel him thereunto, he would not. For if they had prevailed therein, by-and-by they would have gathered that it had been necessary to justification, and so through this sufferance would have triumphed against Paul.” Luther.

4. and that, because ] Better, but only, because. The pressure would not have been put upon us, had it not been for false brethren, &c.

false brethren ] Rather, ‘pretended’. Venn.

unawares brought in ] Rather, ‘insidiously brought in’.

our freedom ] Liberty (not license) is the watchword of the Gospel. The truth alone the truth as it is in Jesus makes man free free alike from the bondage of the law and the slavery of sin.

bring us into bondage ] A strong expression = ‘utterly enslave us’. For the thought, ever uppermost in St Paul’s mind when writing this Epistle, comp. ch. 4:21 5:1.

5. To whom … an hour ] In some early copies the negative seems to have been omitted. “We yielded by a temporary concession”. This would of course imply that Titus was circumcised. But the received reading is not to be disturbed.

the truth of the Gospel ] The truth which is indeed good tidings that man is justified for the merit’s sake of Jesus Christ by faith, and not for his own works or deservings.

with you ] Galatians, and with all other Gentile converts.

6 9. The construction is again broken and irregular. The punctuation of the Rev. Vers. makes the sense clear. “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: 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); 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”.

6. But of these ] Rather, “But from those”. The sentence would have run regularly “From those of reputation … I gained no new enlightenment”, but having been interrupted by a parenthesis (whatsoever … person) the structure is changed. “To me, I say, these eminent persons gave no new instruction”.

who seemed to be somewhat ] nearly as in v . 2. ‘Those of considerable reputation’, though here perhaps not without a shade of irony.

whatsoever they were ] Rather, ‘ once were’, i.e. as the chosen companions of Christ during His earthly ministry.

God accepteth no man’s person ] The force of this Hebraism is well illustrated by its use, Acts 10:34 . “God does not confine His favours to those upon whom He has already bestowed them, however abundantly”.

for they who seemed ] ‘for’ is here merely resumptive: ‘to me, I say , those of reputation (is there not a tinge of irony in the repetition of the phrase?) imparted nothing new’.

7 9. ‘So far from their communicating any further revelation to me, their conduct was the very opposite of this. They recognised the completeness of the Gospel which I preach, by consenting to the arrangement by which I was to go to the Gentiles and they to the Jews’.

Two causes combined to bring about this result they ‘saw’ the success of St Paul’s missionary labours, ‘the signs and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles’ by Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15:12 ); and they recognised the cause of this success, the grace of God, which alone can make a weak and sinful man to be an able minister of the new covenant.

7. contrariwise ] See 2 Corinthians 2:6 , 2 Corinthians 2:7 ; 1 Peter 3:9 . In both these passages the word expresses the strongest possible contrast. It is used absolutely, ‘The very reverse was the case when they saw, &c.’

when they saw ] ‘They’ is used with reference to ‘those of reputation’, before mentioned, and is restricted ( v . 9) to three Apostles specified by name.

the gospel of the uncircumcision … to Peter ] Clearly not two different Gospels, as Jowett understands the passage. This would be to contradict what had been said ch. 1:6 9. It can only mean ‘the work of evangelising Gentiles and Jews’. So we read of “the beginning of the Gospel” Philippians 4:15 , i.e. the early days of missionary effort. In the Greek the word ‘Gospel’ is not repeated, but has been supplied (in Italics) in both A.V. and R.V. A more exact rendering would be, “I have been entrusted with the Gospel for the Gentiles, even as Peter was for the Jews”. The disease is one and the same, however the symptoms may vary in different individuals or classes, Romans 3:9 ; Isaiah 53:6 , and the remedy is one , Romans 1:16 , Romans 3:28-45.3.30 .

was committed ] Lit. ‘has been entrusted’, comp. 1 Thessalonians 2:4 ; 1 Corinthians 4:1 .

8. This verse is parenthetical. It expands and explains verse 7.

in Peter ] Rather, ‘ for Peter’ so ‘ for me’.

9. In the Greek the order is, ‘And when they perceived the grace that had been given to me, James and Cephas and John &c.” James (see note 1:19) is named first, because the reference is to a special act of the Church in Jerusalem, of which he was president or Bishop. “When St Paul is speaking of the missionary office of the Church at large, St Peter holds the foremost place”. Lightfoot. Compare vv . 7, 8 with Acts 12:17 , Acts 15:13 , Acts 21:18 .

seemed to be pillars ] Better, ‘were in repute as pillars’. The metaphor by which the Church is compared to a house or temple is frequent both in the O. T. and N. T. See 2 Corinthians 6:16 , and Revelation 3:12 , ‘I will make him a pillar in the sanctuary of my God’.

the right hands of fellowship ] as a pledge of fidelity to the same truth, with a view to the adoption of distinct spheres of missionary labour.

10. One reservation was made which was in accordance with my own earnest desire.

the poor ] In the department of almsgiving no distinction was to be made. On two recorded occasions, St Paul conveyed alms from the Gentiles to the poor saints in Jerusalem, Acts 10:29 , Acts 10:30 ; 1 Corinthians 16:3 . He was not afraid of being charged with resorting to bribery for gaining converts a justification, if any be needed, of the action of Missionary Societies in modern times. Our Lord Himself had set the example.

11 21. We learn from Acts 15:22 , foll. that when the Council broke up, certain members of the Apostolic company were sent to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas, to convey to the Churches of Syria and Cilicia the determination of the Church in Jerusalem on the question which had been submitted to them, as to the necessity of circumcision in the case of Gentile converts. After the deputation had returned to Jerusalem, Paul and Barnabas “tarried in Antioch”. It was during their stay that the visit of St Peter took place, as to which St Luke is silent.

Various attempts were made in early times to explain away an incident, which seemed to throw discredit on Peter or Paul or on both of them. To some it appeared incredible that Peter, the Apostle of the circumcision, should have been permitted to fall into grievous doctrinal error; to others, that St Paul should have treated him with such severity; to a third class, that such a dispute should have arisen in the infancy of the Church between its two principal teachers, both being inspired men. But we may note,

1st, that the error of St Peter did not consist in preaching false doctrine, but in a want of straightforwardness of conduct, by which the ‘truth of the Gospel’ was liable to be perverted.

2nd, that moral perfection is not to be looked for, even in an Apostle.

3rd, that St Peter’s conduct, as here described, is quite consistent with that pourtrayed by the Evangelists. ‘Boldness and timidity, first boldness, then timidity, were the characteristics of his nature.

“It is remarkable, and may be considered as a proof of the truth of the history, that this conduct, however unintelligible, is in keeping with Peter’s character. We recognise in it the lineaments of him who confessed Christ first, and first denied Him; who began by refusing that Christ should wash his feet, and then said, ‘not my feet only, but my hands and my head’; who cut off the ear of the servant of the highpriest, when they came to take Jesus, and then forsook Him and fled”. Jowett.

4th, that St Paul’s rebuke, though unsparing, is free from any rudeness of expression or personal animosity.

5th, that the record of this painful interview, while placing St Paul’s Apostolic authority in the strongest light, and therefore germane to his purpose in the opening chapters of this Epistle, is a precious heritage of the Church an everlasting monument of the grace of God. For an admirable summary of the instructive lessons which it contains, see Dr Schaff’s Commentary, p. 29. Appendix II. p. 84. That the two great Apostles were at heart agreed, taught and influenced by the same Spirit, and zealous for the same truth, is shewn by the touching allusion made subsequently by Peter (2 Peter 3:15 , 2 Peter 3:16 ) to the Epistles (including this to the Galatians) of ‘our beloved brother Paul’ an allusion the more striking because the letter in which it occurs is probably addressed to Galatian converts among others.

11. Peter ] In the Greek, ‘Cephas’, the Apostle Peter. The difficulty of accepting this narrative in its obvious sense, led some in early times to suggest that not the Apostle, but one of the seventy disciples of the same name, is here referred to.

withstood him to the face ] Jerome’s well-known solution of the difficulty a solution which approved itself to Chrysostom that the reproof was only apparent, was refuted by Augustine and ultimately abandoned by Jerome. It supposes a preconcerted plan for convincing, not Peter, but the Jewish converts, that the obligation of the ceremonial law had ceased, and leans for support on a mistranslation, ‘in appearance’, for ‘to the face’. The exact expression is found in the LXX. Deuteronomy 7:24 , Deuteronomy 7:9 :2; Jude 1:2 :14. At Jerusalem St Paul’s authority had been confirmed by the acquiescence of the Church; here it must be asserted in opposition to the temporising conduct of St Peter.

was to be blamed ] Better, as R.V. stood condemned , convicted of dissimulation by the very facts of the case.

12, 13. The decree of the Council of Jerusalem had virtually exempted Gentile converts from the observance of the Jewish ceremonial law (see Acts 15:1 , Acts 15:5 , Acts 15:28 , Acts 15:29 ). It is probable that James, fearing lest the Jewish Christians should be led to claim the same exemption, sent delegates to Antioch to keep them steadfast in their adherence to it. This would be quite in accordance with his conduct as recorded Acts 21:20-44.21.25 . St Peter had been taught by a heavenly vision not to call any man common or unclean (Acts 10:28 ). Before the coming of these delegates, he had boldly exercised his freedom in the Gospel, and had eaten with Gentile believers, not only at the Holy Communion and the Agapæ, or love feasts, but perhaps in social life. The Pharisees regarded such intercourse with abhorrence. They had murmured against our Lord, saying, ‘This man receiveth sinners and eateth with them’. [To those murmurs the Church owes the three parables of Luke 15:0 ] But on the arrival of the emissaries from James, Peter began to shew signs of timidity and gradually withdrew from the company of the Gentile Christians.

did eat ] used to eat with.

withdrew ] A word used of drawing off troops, and in nautical matters of shortening sail. It describes conduct the reverse of that boldness and impetuosity which had marked St Peter’s previous course.

fearing them which were of the circumcision ] fearing to give offence to the converts from Judaism. Not for the first time did Peter learn by experience that “the fear of man bringeth a snare”, Proverbs 29:25 .

13. dissembled likewise with him ] Lit. practised like hypocrisy. They believed and professed that they might eat with the Gentiles, they acted as if it were unlawful to do so.

Barnabas also ] or, ‘even Barnabas’, who as Paul’s companion was familiar with his clear and unreserved teaching on the great doctrine of justification by faith even he was swept away with the rising tide of dissimulation. This may have been the commencement of the dissension which took place so soon after between Paul and Barnabas, resulting in their separation (Acts 15:39 ).

14. This was not a case for private remonstrance. The conduct of Peter and the rest was a practical denial of the truth of the Gospel, and, as such, could not but do widespread mischief. St Paul therefore took occasion to rebuke him in the presence of the whole company of believers (comp. ‘I withstood him to the face’, v . 11).

according to the truth ] Lit. ‘towards the truth,’ i.e. with a view to its maintenance and propagation.

If thou, being a Jew … Jews ] Various opinions have been held with regard to the limit of the address to Peter. Some suppose it to terminate in this verse; others with v . 15 or 18; most, at the end of the chapter. But a comparison of the abruptness of the opening words with the more calm argumentative style of what follows, seems to confirm the view that the actual words addressed to Peter are contained in verse 14, and that Paul passes imperceptibly into a discussion of the great principle which he felt to be at stake. It is possible that the later verses contain the substance of the Apostle’s remonstrance with Peter, as they certainly contain the ground of the expostulation in v . 14. This is confirmed by the expression “We, Jews by nature”; but the whole passage has direct reference to the state and dangers of the Galatians.

being a Jew ] a Jew by birth and education, not a Gentile proselyte.

livest after … Gentiles ] Ever since his visit to Cornelius, Peter had associated freely and eaten with the Gentiles.

why compellest thou ] How is it that now by your example you are forcing the Gentile converts to conform to the Jewish ceremonial? It is of course moral compulsion that is meant, that kind of influence to which new converts would be specially prone to yield.

to live as do the Jews ] Lit. to Judaize, to observe the ceremonial law, as necessary to salvation. That no less is intended appears from v . 21.

15 18. Consider what is involved in our having embraced Christianity. We were Jews by birth, and not Gentiles, whom the Jews look down upon as ‘sinners’. We were convinced that man cannot be accounted righteous before God on the score of a perfect obedience to the law, but that he is so accounted for the merits’ sake of Christ through faith. We, I say, believed in Christ, that we might be justified as the result of such faith and not of obedience to the law. We had cast aside all trust in the law, and earnestly sought to be saved only by Christ through faith. If we were mistaken, if instead of being justified (i.e. perfectly righteous before God in the imputed righteousness of Christ), we were found to be unjustified and therefore ‘sinners’, like those Gentiles on whom we used to look down, Christ instead of being “the end of the law for righteousness,” would virtually be the minister of sin all His work having failed to justify us, He would have ministered to a state of sin. But such a thought is not to be entertained for a moment. For to insist on the necessity of legal obedience for salvation is to build up an edifice which I formerly overthrew, and to reduce myself to the old position of a transgressor.

Jews by nature ] by birth , not even proselytes.

sinners of the Gentiles ] Rather, from among the Gentiles .

16. The force of the prepositions is obscured by the rendering of A. V. Literally, ‘Knowing that man is not justified from (i.e. as the result of) works of the law, but through faith in Jesus Christ … even we believed on Christ Jesus, that we might be justified from (i.e. as the result of) faith in Christ, and not from works of the law; for from works of the law shall no flesh be justified.’ In the language of St Paul man is justified from faith, and through faith and by faith (dative without preposition expressed, Romans 3:28 ), never for or on the score of faith. In Romans 3:30 , God is said to justify “the circumcision from faith and the uncircumcision through faith”, where the emphasis is not on the prepositions but on faith . This is clear from the fact that whereas in this passage God is said to justify the Jews from faith, in Galatians 3:8 , He is said to justify the Gentiles from faith, comp. Hebrews 10:38 , and Habakkuk 2:4 LXX. Vers. In Philippians 3:9 , we meet with the expression ‘the righteousness which is of God upon (condition of) faith’.

but by the faith ] i.e. but only through faith in Jesus Christ. The rendering of the R.V. ‘save’ is grammatically possible, but logically wrong, and, as a translation, not only incorrect, but misleading. The declaration of St Paul has its counterpart in the utterance of the believing heart

Nothing in my hand I bring;

Simply to Thy Cross I cling.

A shipwrecked sailor was trying to save his life by swimming, employing one hand for that purpose, while with the other he clutched a bag of provisions which he had rescued from the sinking ship. When his strength was nearly exhausted, a vessel came in sight. He was descried and a rope thrown to him. He seized it with one hand. ‘Lay hold with both hands, or we cannot save you’. He let go the bag of provisions and was hauled safely on board the friendly vessel. His life was saved apart from his provisions. But he found that it could not be maintained without them. See Appendix III. p. 87.

of Jesus Christ ] that faith which has Christ Jesus for its object, and nearly = in Jesus Christ. It is explained by the words which follow immediately, “We also ourselves believed in Christ Jesus”. The transposition of the names of our Blessed Lord in this verse is doubtless ‘not arbitrary’, though it is not easy to explain its force. It must be remembered that Proper names which are now mere designations to distinguish one person from another were originally descriptive. To those who thus regarded the name Christ as meaning the Anointed or Messiah, there would be conveyed a different thought according as it preceded or followed the more personal name Jesus. Any one who will read the passage aloud, substituting ‘Messiah’ or ‘the Anointed’ for ‘Christ’, will perceive, if he does not fathom the difference.

even we ] Better, we also, as well as Gentile converts.

for by the works … justified ] This is a quotation, not quite literal, from Psalms 143:2 . It is made also in Romans 3:20 , being there introduced for a special purpose, as referring to Jews, by the words, “We know that whatsoever things the law saith, it saith to them that are under the law”. It is here used for a similar purpose, and as a decision from which no appeal was possible. See note on c. 3:22.

no flesh ] a Hebraism = no human being.

17 21. The argument of these verses is somewhat obscure an obscurity due, partly to the inadequacy of language to express the intensity of the Apostle’s feelings, partly to the introduction of metaphorical expressions, which elude the attempt to define them accurately.

St Paul, like other Jewish believers, earnestly desiring to escape the penalty of conscious sin, had abandoned all trust in the law, and had thrown himself entirely on the mercy of God in Jesus Christ. If he is now told that in doing this, he and they had foregone their privileges as children of Abraham, and reduced themselves to the position of sinners of the Gentiles ( v . 15), it might be said that Christ is a minister of sin. Away with such a false conclusion! St Paul had swept away all notion of justification by obedience to the law, because he knew that a man is justified by faith apart from such obedience, and to build up the edifice which he had pulled down would be to stand self-convicted as a transgressor of the law. ‘I’, he says, ‘for one, through the law, through experience of its inability to give life, turned my back on it for ever as a ground of justification before God. I died to the law. Thenceforth, as a ground of justification, it was no more to me than to a dead man. I did this, not that I might be free from the law, as a rule of life, but that I should live the only life worth living a life impossible to me so long as I sought justification by the law a life consecrated to God. I have been speaking of dying. There is another sense in which I died. I am crucified with Christ, a partaker of His death, a death issuing in resurrection; and this resurrection life, which I share with and derive from my Divine Lord, itself not natural but spiritual, transforms my whole natural and earthly life, so that I live this latter in the faith of Jesus Christ, who loved me and gave Himself for me. I do not, like the Judaizers, set at nought that grace of God to which I owe so much. And yet to seek justification by works would be practically to nullify it: for if by the law man obtains justification, Christ’s death was purposeless and superfluous’.

17 . while we seek ] Rather, while seeking , i.e. earnestly desiring. The reference is to the time when they embraced the Gospel. Hence, for ‘are found’, read, “were found”, found ourselves in the same position as those ‘sinners’ of the Gentiles, whom we had been accustomed to look down upon, and needing, like them, a free salvation.

we ourselves ] not necessarily, ‘I and Peter’ (see note on v . 14), but we who, as Jews, inherited the advantages of the chosen race.

is therefore … of sin ? ] Are we to accept the inference that Christ is the minister of sin? The word ‘sin’ has direct reference to ‘sinners’ in the former clause. The Judaizers might taunt the Apostle with the suggestion, that, as faith in Christ had made them ‘sinners’, Christ had become a minister to a state of sin.

minister of sin ] The antithesis occurs 2 Corinthians 11:15 , “ministers of righteousness”. Is Christ, who is the author and finisher of our faith, employed in a service, which so far from emancipating men from sin, promotes sin?

God forbid ] Lit. let it not come to pass! This formula is used by St Paul fourteen times to express a strong denial and utter repudiation of some proposition, either put forward by himself, or suggested by an opponent. “Away with such a thought!” There is of course neither ‘God’ nor ‘forbid’ in the Greek, but the English phrase is an excellent idiomatic equivalent.

18 . The edifice which St Paul had pulled down was not, as some suppose, the Levitical law of meats, or the Mosaic ceremonial law, in themselves considered. It was not, as a rule of life, but as a ground of justification , that he utterly repudiated and swept them away.

I make myself ] Rather, I prove, I conclude myself to be; nearly = I convict myself.

a transgressor ] nearly equivalent to ‘sinner’ above, which had primary reference to the Gentiles. Sin is the transgression or violation of the law. If I am now trying to build up again the system of justification by legal obedience, I by that very attempt convict myself of having been a transgressor, when instead of obeying the law, I sought to destroy its obligation.

19 . For it was through the law, through the conviction of its inability to give life, that I became dead to the law. The law demanded a perfect obedience, as a condition of justification. This none can render; and it was when I experienced its condemning power, that I fled to Christ for salvation. “When the commandment came, sin revived, and I died”, Romans 7:9 . Thus it was through the law that I died to the law.

am dead to the law ] Better, died to the law . The reference is to the time when deeply convinced that he could not be justified by his own obedience, he abandoned for ever all trust in his own “righteousness, which is of the law”; that he might “win Christ and be found in Him”, and might so possess the righteousness which is of God on the condition of faith only, Philippians 3:9 . We observe that St Paul does not regard faith and works, Christ and the sinner, as supplementing one another. He is ‘dead to the law’, he has no more to do with it, as a means of justification or ground of merit , than if he were dead. The same expression occurs Romans 7:4 , where the figure employed is that of the marriage tie, which is entirely dissolved by death.

that I might live unto God ] not, that I might live in sin or carelessness. The Gospel which provides a perfect righteousness in Christ, which is justification , provides also a life of holiness by the Spirit, a life unto God, which is sanctification . These are distinct, but inseparable nay, the latter is the end and the result of the former.

To live unto God, is to live with the eye of the soul ever turned upward, to have the affection set on things above. Its motto is ‘sursum corda’, its prayer ‘fiat voluntas tua’. The same form of expression occurs Romans 6:11 , ‘Reckon ye yourselves dead unto sin, but living to God in Christ Jesus’.

20 . I am crucified ] Better, I have been crucified. The mention of death and life suggests the Death which bore fruit in Resurrection. The Christian is by faith ‘incorporated into’ Christ (Hooker). Of this incorporation Baptism is the sign and the pledge. Hence the prayer in the Office for Public Baptism, ‘that he may crucify the old man, and utterly abolish the whole body of sin; and that as he is made partaker of the death of Thy Son, he may also be partaker of His Resurrection’. Crucifixion, though a lingering mode of death, is yet as certain in its issue as that by the rope or the axe. Two robbers were ‘crucified with Christ’, on separate crosses. One was with Him in His Cross, and therefore with Him in Paradise.

nevertheless I live ] more exactly, ‘And it is no longer I that live’. The ‘old man’ is crucified. The ‘new man’ which has put on the Lord Jesus Christ, is clothed in Him, has Him as the principle of its life (ch. 3:27). Christ is now “our life” (Colossians 3:4 ), and ‘He that keepeth His commandments dwelleth in Him, and He in him. And hereby we know that He abideth in us, by the Spirit which He hath given us’, 1 John 3:24 .

the life which I now live in the flesh ] my life as a man on earth, since I became a believer. It is termed ‘in the flesh’, to shew that more is meant than the life of the soul. St Paul was no mystic. With him Christianity was not abstraction from the duties of social life. It elevated, purified, ennobled them. He claimed and used his rights as a citizen of Rome, while living as a citizen of Heaven.

by the faith of the Son of God ] Rather, ‘in faith’ a faith which has for its object the Son of God. The life in the flesh is lived in faith. This is the sum of practical religion. What a perversion of the truth to apply to those who withdraw from the world, with its duties, its trials, its opportunities, the title of ‘religious’!

The object of this faith is not termed, as usual, Jesus Christ. It is “the Son of God”. But that is not all. He, in His uncreated Majesty, as “the effulgence of the Father’s glory and express image of His substance”, could not win the confidence of the conscious sinner. But His eternal Sonship gave its value to His atoning sacrifice, and is “the source of His life-giving power”.

gave Himself for me ] = delivered Himself up for me to anguish, and shame and death. The same verb occurs in the passive Romans 4:25 , “who was delivered up”. Luther remarks on this passage, ‘Here have ye the true manner of justification set before your eyes, and a perfect example of the assurance of faith. He that can with a firm and constant faith say these words with Paul, is happy indeed. And with these words Paul taketh away the whole righteousness of the law and works”. See Additional Note, p. 90.

21 . The word rendered ‘frustrate’ is used in reference both to persons and things, in the sense of setting at naught, treating with utter disregard and contempt. In ch. 3:15 it is used of setting aside a covenant. Our Lord speaks of those who despise, treat with neglect His servants, as despising Him, Luke 10:16 . In Hebrews 10:28 it is used of a presumptuous violation of the law of Moses.

I do not treat the grace of God with contempt, as if it were a thing of nought, as do the Judaizers. It was that grace which prompted the unspeakable gift, the all-sufficient sacrifice. And if man can be justified by his own obedience, the death of Christ is unnecessary.

is dead in vain ] Rather, “died without cause”. Not, ‘in vain’, but gratuitously, without any adequate purpose or result. Deny, or ignore the atoning efficacy of that death, and it becomes aimless and superfluous.

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Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Galatians 2". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cgt/galatians-2.html. 1896.