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SYNOPSIS OF THE CHAPTER
i. Paul declares that he had compared his Gospel with Peter, James, and John, and that it had been approved of them so completely that there was nothing to be added to it or subtracted from it.
ii. He declares (ver. 7) that it had been mutually agreed between them that they should preach to the Jews and he to the Gentiles.
iii. He describes (ver. 11) how he had rebuked Peter openly for heedlessly assuming the appearance of a Judaiser, and so tempting the Gentiles into a similar error.
iv. He proves (ver. 16) that we are justified not by the works of the law but by the faith of Christ, and that for three reasons: ( a ) because (ver. 17) otherwise in abolishing the law Christ would be the minister of sin; because ( b ) the law itself proclaims its own abrogation in Christ, because (Ver. 21) otherwise Christ would have died in vain. Ver. 1. Then fourteen years after I went up again to Jerusalem. Are these years to be reckoned from the date of Paul's conversion, or from the end of the three years spent in Arabia and Damascus? S. Jerome takes the latter, and so gets a date of seventeen years after the conversion, or A.D. 54, the twelfth of the Emperor Claudius, for this journey of S. Paul. But since Claudius ceased to reign in the next year, and was succeeded by Nero, in whose second year Paul was sent bound to Rome (Acts xxvii.), it would follow that all the history of Paul that is contained in Acts 15.-27 I shall show directly that the journey alluded to here and that described in Acts 15:0 are the same must be compressed into two years, which, considering the number and importance of the events recorded, seems very improbable. Moreover, it is clear, from Acts 18:11 , that Paul, after what took place at Jerusalem, spent a year and a half at Corinth and then three years at Ephesus ( Act 20:31 ). Accordingly, the opinion of Baronius and others seems better founded, by which these fourteen years are reckoned from S. Paul's conversion. He treats that as an illustrious event from which to reckon, just as we treat a call to the Papacy, to the Episcopate, or to religion as the beginning of a new era.
That this journey of Paul to Jerusalem is the same as that described in Acts xv., when he went up to the council, is evident from the identity of cause, place, and persons in both. This is the opinion of the Fathers in general, except Chrysostom, who argues as follows: In Acts xv. Paul appears as sent to Jerusalem by his fellow-Christians; but here (ver. 2) he says that he went up to Jerusalem by revelation , hence the two journeys are distinct. My answer is: I deny the consequence. For both may be true, viz., that he went up by revelation, and that he was sent by the Christians of Antioch; because, as Bede remarks, he was warned by a voice from heaven to undertake the embassy entrusted to him by the people of Antioch, and went up, both for the sake of obtaining a decision of the common question about the observance of the law, and also for his own private purpose, viz., that he might compare his own teaching with that of the chief of the Apostles (ver. 2). From what has been said it follows, as Baronius holds, that the Council of Jerusalem was held fourteen years after Paul's conversion, in the sixteenth year after the Crucifixion of Christ, in the ninth year of Claudius, A.D. 51 . Ver. 2. I communicated unto them that the Gospel which I preached. I put it before Peter and the Apostles, making them as it were judges of my Gospel, that they might approve, disapprove, add, or take away as they saw fit in common council, and that I might receive it then at their hands to be believed and taught. See Galatians 1:16 , and comments.
Observe that the Apostle did not compare his Gospel with that of the other Apostles because he had any doubt of its truth or completeness, or of its agreement with that preached by Peter and the rest; for he knew most certainly, by the revelation of God, that together with them he had received the same full and perfect Gospel, as is evident from Gal i. 11, 12. It was not for his own sake that he made the comparison, but for the sake of those converted to the faith, amongst whom Paul was traduced by the Judaising pseudo-Apostles, as one who, among the Gentiles, slighted the law of Moses, contrary to the practice of Peter, James, and John, nay, of Paul himself when among Jews. To show the falsity of the accusation, to show the agreement of his teaching with that of the other Apostles, and also to guard his own authority, Paul compares his Gospel with theirs, lest , he says, by any means I should run, or had run in vain.
To Them. That is to the first Christians, those made at Jerusalem, for the adjective "Christian" is latent in the substantive "Jerusalem."
Which were of reputation. Who seemed to be pillars (ver. 9.) of the Church and leading Apostles.
Lest I should run in vain. Lest, through the report spread abroad by the pseudo-Apostles, that my teaching was condemned by the Apostles, the faithful should believe neither me nor any teaching, and so all my labour should he rendered ineffectual Cf. S. Jerome ( Ep. xi . ad August .), Tertullian ( contra Marcion. lib. iv.), and S. Augustine ( contra Faustum ), who anticipates Luther's opinions, and against them shows that the word of God, even when most pure, and all its preachers, stand in need of the testimony and authority of men. This is what he says: " Who is so foolish as to believe nowadays that the epistle produced by Manichæus was really written by Christ, and not to believe that what Matthew wrote contained the doings and sayings of Christ? Even if he has doubts about Matthew being the author, at all events he prefers to believe about Matthew himself what he finds the Church believes, and what has been continuously believed and handed down from his times to the present, rather than what some fugitive or other from Persia, coming 200 or more years after Christ, tells us about Christ's words and works. For would the Church wholly believe the Apostle Paul himself, who was called from heaven after the Lord's ascension, if he had not found Apostles in the flesh, to whom he might make it clear by communicating his Gospel that he was of the same fellowship as they ?" (lib xxviii. c. 4).
Our Protestant friends should note this, and apply it to themselves, who prefer to believe Calvin, coming 1500 years after Christ, and teaching new doctrines, rather than the Church and the unanimous tradition of so many centuries.
Observe that this testimony is not for the laity to give, even if they be magistrates, but for Peter and the Apostles, i.e ., for the Roman Pontiff and the Bishops, who have succeeded the Apostles, whether individually, or assembled in council. For Paul sought this testimony to his teaching and Apostleship from the Council of Jerusalem, in which the judges were the Apostles, and where Peter, as the president, spoke first and pronounced sentence. So from the time of the Apostles up to the present time, the whole Christian world, when doubts as to the faith, or new opinions, or heresies spring up, has sought from the Roman Pontiff, and from the Councils over which he presides, either in person or by his legates, a decision and testimony as to the truth. Whatever dogmas or doctors are condemned by them the whole Christian world regards as heretical. Heretics alone, because they are heretics, have refused to recognise this condemnation, this judgment, this testimony, and have in every age avoided it. So it is not surprising if our Protestants do the same; nay, their doing so is a sure proof of novelty, of wrong faith, and of heresy.
Ver. 3. Neither Titus, who was a Gentile, was compelled to be circumcised. Observe the word compelled. Though the false brethren, the Jews, urged and tried to force it, yet I would not consent to Titus being circumcised, since he was a Gentile. Had I consented, I should have been thought to allow the necessity of circumcision and the law of Moses for Gentiles. But when I circumcised Timothy afterwards (Acts xvi. 3), I did so not under compulsion, but of my own initiative, that I might not irritate the Jews. For Timothy was not wholly a Gentile, being on his mother's side a Jew, and on his father's a Gentile, and so half-Jew, half-Gentile
Gentile. Literally "Greek" [as in A.V.] At the time of Alexander the Greeks were those of the Gentiles who were best known to the Jews. Ver. 4. And that. I.e ., not even though the false brethren of the Jews urged it was Titus circumcised (Chrysostom, Œcumenius). S. Jerome takes away the adversative but , and makes the verse follow immediately on the construction of the preceding. But it is better to take the Greek διὰ δὲ , which our version renders sed propter , in the sense of δὴ or δη̃τα , i.e ., "nempe," in spite of it all , he was not circumcised.
The interpretation of Primasius and some others, who take the δὲ , sed , in its strictly adversative sense, as meaning that Titus was not indeed compelled by the Apostles to be circumcised, but yet was circumcised because of the importunity of the false brethren, is clearly inconsistent with the following words, To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour , and also with a sound faith. For circumcision having been already done away, and having given place to baptism under the Gospel, it was forbidden to Gentiles to be circumcised. But Titus was a Gentile by both parents. Cf. S. Augustine ( Ep . xix . ad. Hieron ., and de Mendacio , c. 5).
Unawares brought in, who came in privily. Like spies preparing for traps to be laid for us, they crept in by stealth. Cf. Rom 5:20 and comments.
To spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus. Our liberty from the yoke and burden of the numerous legal ceremonies from which Christ has set us free by His faith and His Church. Ver. 6. But by those who seemed to be somewhat (supply nothing ) was adding to my teaching. The Apostle, as is his wont, breaks off and interpolates a clause ( whatsoever they were it maketh nothing to me ), and then returns to his subject with a change of case. Peter, James, and John, the chief Apostles, added nothing to me (Anselm).
They who seemed to be somewhat. (1.) These leading Apostles who seemed to be somewhat were illiterate and uncultivated fishermen, whilst I, a Roman citizen, excelled them in zeal and knowledge of the law (Ambrose and Anselm). Since Paul was pressed by the authority of the other Apostles, who were claimed as Judaisers, he exalts his own authority and his own teaching, though with all modesty. This is why he adds, God accepteth no man's person, as appears from this choice of fishermen to be Apostles. (2.) Augustine turns the όποι̃οι ( quales ) as implying sinners. No one need trouble to cast in my teeth the sins of my persecuting days, or remind Peter that he denied Christ. (3.) Chrysostom and Jerome, however, read it: Whatever they were in doctrine and observance of circumcision and the law is nothing to me; to God they will give account, for God accepteth no man's person. The first of these three explanations is nearest the intention of the Apostle.
God accepteth no man's person. I.e ., the conditions attaching to a person, which have nothing to do with the free calling of God. To pay attention to these in conferring benefices and offices is in men a vice contrary to distributive justice, which is called in Greek προσωποληψία . In God it would be no vice, but it would be inconsistent with His liberality and greatness. See Rom 2:11 and comments.
Added nothing to me. This is Valla's translation [and that of A.V.], but the Greek is προσανέθεντο, they communicated nothing being content with my statement as sufficient. See Gal 1:16 and comments. Ver. 7. The gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter. I.e ., of the circumcised Jews. See my canon 21.
You will urge: Then Peter was not head of the Church, but Apostle and Pope of the Jews only. Some reply that this is said of the care and division of protection that Peter was appointed to protect the Jews, Paul the Gentiles; and this especially, because he adds, He that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles ; which signifies: I was given the duty, the necessary graces, and apostolic gifts for my apostleship to the Gentiles.
Jerome's answer is much better. He points out that at that time, at the very beginning of the Church, when there was still, as verse 12 shows, a wall of separation between Jews and Gentiles, Peter and Paul divided between them not power but works, so that Paul, hateful as he was to the Jews, might primarily and chiefly preach to the Gentiles, and Peter to the Jews. On occasion Paul preached to the Jews, as Acts ix. shows, and Peter to the Gentiles (Acts x.). Moreover, Peter transferred his see to Gentile Rome, as all historians, all the Fathers, the chronicles and monuments testify in common. See Bellarmine for these in detail. If any one after reading them still is in doubt, he must be too prejudiced or too impudent to form a sane judgment. Ver. 8. He that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision to make him the Apostle of the circumcised Jews by filling Peter with strength and effectual energy, did exactly the same for me among the Gentiles. As Ephrem puts it, he was alike effectual in us, both by working signs and wonders, by efficacy of speech, by the conversion of some many to Christ. Ver. 9. Cephas. Clement of Alexandria (Euseb. Hist. Eccl. ii. 12) and Dorotheus ( in Synopsi ) thought that that Cephas was not the Apostle Peter, but one of the seventy disciples. But the Church neither knows nor commemorates any other Cephas save S. Peter. The words, who seemed to be pillars , show that an Apostle is meant, and, therefore, Peter. Accordingly, in verse 14, S. Paul opposes himself to Peter, as being a sort of primate over James and John. In Syriac, spoken at Antioch of Syria, the same person would be called Cephas who by the Greeks was called Peter. So the man styled Cephas here is in verse 7 Peter.
That we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision. So Christ is called, in Rom. xv. 8, a minister of the circumcision , inasmuch as He was promised and given to the Jews as the first-fruits of the world. Accordingly, the Apostles at first confined their labours to these circumcised Jews. Ver. 10 . The poor. The Jews, who, for Christ's sake, had been spoiled of their goods by their fellows (Heb. x. 34 and Chrysostom). Jerome, however, understands the poor who became so voluntarily to be meant, those who had sold their possessions and had given the price to the Apostles, to be distributed among the faithful especially the poor among them, of whom there was a great number (Acts ii. 45). Ver. 11. I withstood him to the face. Erasmus and others interpret this to mean in appearance, outwardly, feignedly, and by previous arrangement. The literal meaning is better: I openly resisted Peter, in order that the public scandal caused by him might he removed by a public rebuke (Augustine, Ambrose, Bede, Anselm, and nearly all other authorities).
Because he was to be blamed. (1.) Because he had been blamed ( κατεγνωσμένος ) by other brethren, whom Peter had offended by this proceeding, in their ignorance of his true intention and motive, as Chrysostom and Jerome say, or, as Ephrem turns it, "because they were offended in him." (2.) Theophylact and Œcumenius understand it: Peter had been blamed by the other Apostles because he had eaten with the Gentile Cornelius at Cæsarea. Fearing lest he should be blamed again by them or by other Jews, he withdrew himself from all intercourse with the Gentiles. (3.) The opinion of Ambrose is better. He had fallen under the condemnation of the truth and of Gospel liberty, which sets the Gentiles free from the darkness and slavery of Judaism. (4.) The Vulgate reprehesiblis (in place of reprehensus , as with the authors cited above) is better, and agrees with the context. It gives the reason for resisting Peter, because he was to be blamed for simulating Judaism.
It may be asked whether Peter was really blameworthy and was actually blamed by Paul. For many years there was a sharp dispute on this point between S. Jerome and S. Augustine, as may be seen in their epistles. Jerome, Chrysostom, Theophylact, Baronius answer in the negative, and hold that the rebuke was only theatrical. They argue that Peter, who had lawfully followed the Jewish customs at Jerusalem among Jews, lived as a Gentile among Gentiles at Antioch; when, however, the Jews arrived who had been sent to Antioch from Jerusalem by James, he withdrew from the Gentiles in favour of the Jews, lest he should offend those who had been the earliest to receive the faith (see ver. 9), and also that he might at the same time give Paul, the Apostle of the Gentiles, an opportunity of rebuking him, that by yielding he might teach the Jews that the time for Judaising was past. On the other side S. Augustine maintains that Peter was really blameworthy, and was blamed by Paul, as the record distinctly declares.
Out of this arose a dispute between S. Augustine and S. Jerome about simulation and lying. Jerome argued from this action of Peter's that any similar simulation is lawful. Augustine denied that he did simulate, and laid down the unlawfulness of all lying or simulation, especially in matters of religion. In this second question, however, neither seems to have understood the other's position. Jerome did not maintain that Peter told a lie, or put on a profession of Judaism while secretly detesting it, as Augustine, by the strength of his language, seems to think that Jerome held. The latter did not say that Peter was right in professing Judaism; if he did, then it would be right for any one of the faithful to make a profession of any false faith or any heresy. But Jerome only held what S. Chrysostom did, viz., that the rebuke administered to Peter by Paul was not really intended, but was merely theatrical, it being arranged between them beforehand that Paul should rebuke Peter, not for simulation , but for thoughtless dissimulation , and that Peter should accept the rebuke thus arranged for, that so the Judaisers might be really rebuked in the specious rebuke given to Peter, and with him might clearly understand that Judaising was forbidden. The lawfulness of such an action is not denied by Augustine, all he denies is that the proceeding was of this nature.
From this it appears how little ground Cassian ( Collat. xvii. 17- 25), Origen, Clement, Erasmus, and others (see the passages in Sixtus of Sens, lib. v. annot. 105) had for founding the lawfulness of lying on this passage, or for endorsing the saying of Plato, that, although a lie is an evil thing, yet it is occasionally necessary, just as we use hellebore or some other drug , for this is now an established error condemned by Innocent III. ( Tit. de Usuris , cap. super eo .), and by Ecclesiasticus vii. 14. Against it too S. Augustine writes two treatises, one entitled de Mendacio and the other contra Mendacium. Nor is there any exception to be taken here against Jerome and Chrysostom. They only understand and excuse a secret arrangement, whereby no lie was acted, but a rebuke was simulated, and this is a legitimate action, as is evident in military stratagems, when for instance, the enemy feigns to flee, and so draws its foes into an ambush.
A third question was also disputed between Jerome and Augustine as to the date when the Old Law came to an end, but this is outside the present subject, and it is sufficient therefore to say very briefly that the Old Law, so far as obligation goes, came to an end at Pentecost, when the New Law was promulgated, but that its observance did not wholly cease, it being lawful to observe it for a while, till the Jews had been gradually weaned from it, that so in due time it might receive an honourable burial. In this dispute Augustine seems to have held the stronger position.
It may be urged that in this act of Peter's there was at least something sinful, if not actually erroneous in faith, as some have rashly asserted. By his action it may be thought that he thoughtlessly made a profession of Judaism, and so put a stumbling-block in the way of the Gentiles, and tempted them to Judaise with him. He had previously lived with the Gentiles, but he afterwards withdrew from them suddenly, went over to the Jews, and lived with them. From this the Gentiles might properly infer that judaism was necessary to salvation, both for him and themselves, and was binding on Christians; for though the Old Law, with its ceremonies, was not yet the cause of death, and might be preserved so as to secure for itself an honourable burial, and also to draw the Jews to the faith of Christ, yet it was dead, and in one sense death-giving, viz., to any one who should keep it on the supposition that it was binding on Christians. Although Peter, however, did not so regard it, yet his action was so imprudent as to give the Gentiles good reason for thinking that he did.
The justness of this remark is evident from the two remarks made by Paul: I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed ; and: When I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the Gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, Why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews ? viz., by your simulation, or what the Greeks call hypocrisy. All this shows that either Peter sinned or that Paul told a lie, which God forbid. See S. Augustine ( Ep. 8, 9, and 19 to Jerome ), Cyprian ( Ep. ad Quintum ), Gregory ( Hom. 18 in Ezech .), Ambrose, &c.
To what has been said I add this: This sin of Peter's was venial, or material only, arising from want of thought, or from want of light and prudence. He seems to have thought that, being the Apostle of the Jews especially, that he ought rather to avoid scandalising them than the Gentiles, and that the Gentiles would readily recognise the rightfulness of this line of action. In so doing he erred, for " although ," as S. Thomas says, " the Holy Spirit who descended an the Apostles at Pentecost established them thereafter in such prudence and grace as to keep them from mortal sins, yet he did not also save them from venial sins ."
Observe that a lie may consist in deeds as well as in words. For example, if a man lead another to suppose by his conduct that he is a good man or his friend, when he is neither of these, then he is guilty of a lie. This lie by deed is what is properly called hypocrisy. Similarly, if any Christian at Rome wears a yellow cap he acts a lie, by thus giving himself out as a Jew.
Notice, however, with Cajetan that falsity in deeds is more easily excused than falsity in words. The reason is that words are express signs of mental concepts, but deeds are not, and so admit a wider interpretation. Hence if soldiers feign flight to draw the enemy into an ambush, they are not guilty of hypocrisy, as they would be if they were to say in words: "We flee, 0 enemy, because we are afraid of you."
Again, observe the following rule: When there is a just cause of concealing the truth, no falsehood is involved. Peter, in the act under discussion, had partly a just cause, viz., the fear of offending the Jews. His withdrawal from the Gentiles was not a formal declaration that he was a Judaiser, but only tantamount to saying that he preferred to serve the Jews rather than the Gentiles, the just cause of this preference being that he was more an Apostle of the former than of the latter. I say partly , for he was not wholly justified in so acting, inasmuch as he was bound, as universal pastor, to care for the Jews without neglecting the Gentiles. Hence it follows also that in one respect he sinned through want of due consideration. The infirmity of man's mind, however, is such that he cannot always hit the exact mean, and under complex circumstances benefit one without harming another.
Some one will object then: Since Paul corrected Peter, he was of equal, if not superior authority; in other words Paul, and not Peter, was the head of the Apostles.
I deny the consequence. For superiors may, in the interests of truth, be corrected by their inferiors. Augustine ( Ep . xix.), Cyprian, Gregory, and S. Thomas lay down this proposition in maintaining also that Peter, as the superior, was corrected by his inferior. The inference from what they say is that Paul was equal to the other Apostles, inferior to Peter, and hence they all were Peter's inferiors; they were the heads of the whole Church, and Peter was their chief. Gregory ( Hom. 18 in Ezech .) says: " Peter kept silence, that the first in dignity might be first in humility ;" and Augustine says the same ( Ep . xix . ad Hieron .): " Peter gave to those who should follow him a rare and holy example of humility under correction by inferiors, as Paul did of bold resistance in defence of truth to subordinates against their superiors, charity being always preserved ."
He did eat with the Gentiles. He ate, according to Anselm, of pork and other forbidden meats, without any scruple, to show that the Ceremonial Law was abrogated. Ver. 13. And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him. What was the nature of this dissimulation? Jerome, Chrysostom, and Œcumenius say it was "economical," to prevent the Jews being scandalised; but Augustine, Anselm, and the Latins in general give a more satisfactory explanation in maintaining that it was an act of hypocrisy. The latter, too, have the Greek on their side, the literal meaning of which is, they acted hypocritically with him. They pretended to keep the law, which they knew to be abrogated. Barnabas followed them in pretending that there was a difference in meats, and that the Jews were to be preferred to the Gentiles, and so, though they did not consciously intend it, yet they made the Greeks to believe that the Old Law was necessary to salvation. Ver. 14. But when I saw that they walked not uprightly. The Greek word used here denotes literally to walk straight , without turning to the right hand or to the left.
If thou being a Jew lives after the manner of the Gentiles. To live as a Gentile is to partake indifferently of the same food, and thereby to show that the ceremonies of the law are dead, if not deadly, now that the Gospel is being preached. Having done this, why do you now avoid the Gentiles, and so compel them to Judaise? Ver. 15 . Sinners of the Gentiles. So, according to Augustine and Anselm, the Jews contemptuously called the Gentiles, as being idolaters. Ver. 16. A man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ. The English but here exactly interprets the work that the Latin translates by nisi. There is an antithesis between the works of the law and the faith of Jesus Christ , and accordingly the Protestants are wrong in neglecting the force of the antithesis, and translating the phrase as if it meant a man is justified only by the faith of Christ. Moreover, even if the Apostle had said the latter, yet he would lend no support to the Protestant doctrine of justification by faith only, for S. Thomas admits faith as the sole justifying cause. The word only excludes the works of the law, not the works of hope, fear, charity, and penance, which spring from faith as daughters from a mother. Ver. 17. But if while we seek to be justified by Christ we ourselves also are found sinners, is, therefore, Christ the minister of sin ? 1. If we are still in sin, and are looking to faith in Christ for forgiveness, while as a matter of fact it is not to be found there, but in the law, then does Christ support sin, inasmuch as He has taken away the law, which, according to the Judaisers, alone destroys sin. If the law alone justifies, then the law of grace, which abolishes the law, is the minister of sin. This is the interpretation of Jerome, Chrysostom, Primasius, Anselm, and Theophylact.
2. Vatablus says that "to be found a sinner" means to teach that the Mosaic law is necessary to salvation along with the Evangelical law. If, says S. Paul, we have taught this, as our traducers say we have, is then Christ or the Gospel involved in this heresy?
3. Others again interpret the verse thus: If we also, who boast of our being justified in Christ, are found sinners; if we give way to our lusts equally with the Jews or the Gentiles, who are aliens to Christ, does it necessarily follow that our teaching about justification through Christ is erroneous? Does Christ make us sinners unless He be joined to the Law? If Christ's followers give way to sin it is their own fault, not His.
The first of these three interpretations is the best, as being the least forced. The others have to supply a clause; the second supplies "are called sinners," the third, "because they give way to their lusts." The first two agree better with the context. The Apostle is trying to prove that faith and not the law justifies. If, then, they who trust to faith in Christ are none the less found sinners, then Christ is found a deceiver in promising righteousness by faith, and in not keeping His promise. Hence He becomes the servant of sin, not its conqueror, especially since He has abrogated the law, which, they say, was our justifier against sin.
The Apostle uses a common Hebraism. His question implies a negative reply, and refutes the Judaising error by a reductio ad absurdum. Cf. Romans 3:5 ; S. John 8:53 ; Jeremiah 18:20 .
Ver. 18 . For if I build again if I attribute justifying faith to the law the things which I destroyed i.e ., the law, as justifying I make myself a Transgressor. Like a Proteus, I change my faith at every wind. This is a fresh argument. If I do what the Jews falsely allege against me, I shall be a hypocrite, a destroyer in public of what I build again in private. But a hypocrite no one has charged me with being. Ver. 19. For I through the law am dead to the law. The law was the forerunner of Christ, and died when He appeared. The Ceremonial died absolutely, the Moral only so far as it was a tutor, and a judge of sin. By the law itself I died to law, because itself bade me die to it and live unto Christ. This is a second reason, following on that given in ver. 17, why we are justified by Christ and not by the law. Since the law itself sent me to Christ, why do you, 0 Jews, go against its own declarations, and seek to galvanise it into fresh life? It does not, however, follow from this that the binding force of the Decalogue ceased when Christ came, for the law in this respect was not Mosaic, but natural and immutable. Cf. notes on Romans 7:1 .
Accordingly, Luther's remarks here and again on chapter iv. of this Epistle are impious. " To die to the law ," he says, " is nothing but to be free from obeying it, whether it be ceremonial or moral, for it is obvious that the law was given to the Jews, and not to us ." He says the same in his treatise de Libertate Christiantâ : " The Christian needs neither law nor works, for by faith he is free from all law ." Again, in the Wittenberg Edition of his works (pp. 189, 190), he says: " The human heart must hate above all things the law of God, and so far God Himself. " Listen to these words, all ye who have been miserably deceived by him and his colleagues, and shudder at the words not of a man but of Satan. For what more blasphemous and abominable words could Satan, the sworn foe of God and man, utter against God, or what words more dangerous to man?
The sentiments of Calvin ( Instit. lib. 3, cap. 19, § 2, 4, 7): " When conscience says, 'Thou hast sinned,' reply, ' Yes, I have sinned.' 'God will, therefore, condemn and Punish you.' 'No, for it is the law that threatens that; but I have nothing to do with the law.' 'Why?' 'Because I am free.' " Is this the pure Gospel? Did Paul teach this? " Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid. Yea, we establish the law. " (Romans 3:31 .) " Who ," says S. Augustine ( contra Ep. Pelag. lib. iii. c. 4), " is so impious as to say that he does not keep the commandments, because a Christian is not under the law but under grace ?" Who can believe that Luther and Calvin were sent by God to be reformers of the Church, when they abrogate all law, human and Divine? Ver. 20. I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me. By baptism I am crucified with Christ, and dead to sin and the law; I am cut off from the old tree, and grafted as a new branch into the new tree of the Cross of Christ, from which I draw a new life, so that it is not so much I that live but Christ who lives in me. It is not the law, not nature, not concupiscence, not my own will that now drives me into action; but Christ's grace is now, as it were, my soul, and the cause of all virtuous living, and the wellspring of humility, fortitude, wisdom, joy, peace, and all virtues. So Jerome, Chrysostom, Anselm. Gregory ( Hom. 32 in Evan .) says. " We leave ourselves, we deny ourselves when we change what we were in the old man, and strive for what we are called in the new. Think how Paul denied himself when he said, 'It is not I that live.' The cruel persecutor was dead, the pious preacher had begun to live; for if he were himself, he would not be pious. But if he asserts that it is not he that lives, let him tell us whence it is that he preaches holiness in his teaching of the truth. He adds 'Yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.' It is as if he said plainly: 'As far as I am concerned, I am dead, for I do not live after the flesh; but yet I am not really dead, for I live spiritually in Christ.' " So too Chrysostom writes: " See and admire an exact explanation of life. Since he had given himself wholly to Christ and His Cross, and did everything at His command, he did not say, 'I live to Christ,' but, what is much more, 'Christ liveth in me.' " So too S. Jerome. " He who once lived as a persecutor and under the law, lives no longer. But Christ liveth in him as wisdom, fortitude, peace, joy, and all virtues. He who has not these cannot say, 'Christ liveth in me.' "
S. Bernard ( Serm. 7 in Quad .) says: These words of Paul are as if he should say: 'To all other things I am dead; I do not feel them, I pay them no attention, I care not for them. Whatever, however, is Christ's finds me alive and ready. For if I can do nothing else, at all events I can feel. Whatever makes for his honour pleases me, what against it displeases. Yea, it is not I that live, it is Christ that lives in me.' "
It is Christ then, that teaches, preaches, prays, works, suffers in me, says S. Paul, so much so that I seem to be changed into Christ and Christ into me. " Each one ," says S. Augustine ( in Ep. Joan. tract. 2), " is what he loves. If thou lovest earth, thou will be earthly; if thou lovest God, thou wilt be God ." Or, as S. Dionysius puts it, "Love changes the lover into what he loves." Cf. Hosea 9:10 : "Their abominations were according as they loved."
The metaphor of the old tree and the new, the old life and the new, used here by S. Paul, is paralleled by that used in Rom. vi., where he speaks of our being planted, buried, crucified, dead, and risen, together with Christ. So S. Ignatius wrote to the Romans, "My love was crucified" my love, my life, my soul, my whole being was crucified when Christ suffered.
Notice here four properties of love. (1.) According to Dionysius ( de Divin. Nomin. c. 4), "love is a unifying force." This the Apostle touches in the words: "I am crucified with Christ;" I am united to, and am as it were one with Christ crucified. (2.) The second property of love is mutual inherence, which links God and man in the bonds of mutual love, and causes each to will what the other wills, and to say with the Bride in Song vi. 3: "I am my beloved's, and my beloved is mine." This too S. Paul alludes to when he says that "he is in Christ, and Christ in him." (3.) The third property is to turn the thoughts always in the same direction. For love, as a bond between minds, necessarily governs the thoughts of the mind. This S. Paul touches in the words, "I live," and "Christ liveth," i.e ., the same life of memory, understanding, and will. (4.) The fourth is ecstasy. " Divine love ," says Dionysius ( ubi supra ), " causes ecstasy; it takes lovers out of themselves, so that they are no longer their own masters, but pass under the yoke of what they love. Hence the exclamation of Paul, when on fire with love and dominated by it: 'I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.' Like a true lover, he was beside himself. We may even venture to say that a lover passes all bounds of self, and can do everything for the greatness of his love, because it makes him reach out in every direction and lay hold of everything ." Nay, ecstatic love laid hold on God Himself, and made Him communicate Himself to His creatures, and still more strongly, when it led Him to ally the Person of the Word to human nature in the Incarnation (Phil. ii. 7). It was ecstasy, therefore, which made the Word flesh, crucified It, and gave It the likeness of sin, because we were sinners and condemned to death; for it was out of His great, nay, His ecstatic love that Christ took all that we are, sin only excepted.
This ecstasy of love may almost be said to have changed the heart of Paul into the heart of Christ, just as we read about S. Catherine of Sienna, that her ardent love for Christ made her ask Him to remove her own heart and give her His; whereupon He granted her petition, and in place of her own gave her a new Christ-like heart. So too S. Chrysostom ( Hom . 23 in Ep. ad Rom .), after quoting, these words of Paul's, went on to say: " And so the heart of Paul was the heart of Christ, the tablets of the Holy Spirit, a roll written on by charity ." A little before he had called the heart of Paul, " the heart of the world ," and given this explanation of the term: " His heart was so enlarged that in it was room for whole cities and peoples and tribes. For 'my heart,' he says, 'is enlarged.' Nevertheless, however large it was, the love which enlarged it often brought it anguish. 'Out of much tribulation and sorrow,' he says, 'have I written unto you;' and I would fain see that heart melted, burning with love of them that they are perishing, bringing forth children. A heart that sees God is higher than the heavens, wider than the world, brighter than the rays of the sun, hotter than fire, harder than adamant, that sends forth streams of living water, a springing well, that waters not the face of the earth but the souls of men ."
This ecstasy has often been experienced by saints who have been overcome by the love of Christ. S. Dominic, when elevating the Body of Christ in the Mass, was carried aloft, and his body, catching the fire with which his soul was consumed, was kindled as it were into a flame, whilst he ascended to be united to Christ, his love. S. Francis too conceived in his mind such ardour, as S. Bonaventura says, from the seraph who appeared to him at night, that his body was wonderfully changed from that of an earthly man to a heavenly spirit, and into an image of the Crucified: bearing the five wounds of the Saviour, and the five marks burnt into him by the fire of the love of Christ, he became a marvel to the world.
Well too says S. Gregory of Nyssa ( Hom. 15 in Cant .): " 'To me to live is Christ.' By these words the Apostle not only exclaims that in him live no human affections, such as pride, fear, lust, grief, anger, timidity, audacity, recollection of injuries, envies, desire of revenge, of money, of honour, or of glory, but that all these being killed, He only remains who is none of these, who is sanctification, purity, immortality, and light and truth, who feeds among the lilies in the glories of His saints ."
So did Andrew the Apostle joyfully embrace the Cross. When he was condemned by Ægeas, Proconsul of Achaia, to be crucified for preaching the Cross, he exclaimed, as he approached the cross prepared for him: " 0 noble cross, long desired, ardently loved, ever sought, already foreseen, gaily and gladly do I come to thee; may my Master, who hung on thee, welcome me, His disciple, that through thee I may come to Him who through thee redeemed me ." So saluting the cross, and making his prayer, he stripped off his garments and surrendered himself to his executioners, who thereupon tied him with ropes to the cross and raised him aloft. There he hung for two days and taught the people, till, finally, after having asked the Lord that he might not be taken down from the cross, he was surrounded with a glorious light from heaven, and when the light departed he gave up the ghost. All this is related in his Acts, which are thoroughly trustworthy.
So too S. Peter, when condemned by Nero to the cross, asked and obtained that he might be crucified, not like his Master, but with his head downwards.
S. Philip the Apostle preached the faith to the Scythians at Hierapolis, a city of Asia, during the reign of the Emperor Claudius; and having baptized many of them, he was at length crucified by the heathens and stoned, and so died a blessed martyr, as Eusebius relates, and, following him, Baronius.
When S. Bartholomew the Apostle had spread the Gospel through Lycaonia, in Greater Armenia, when Astyax was king, and had converted a temple of Ashtaroth in Lower India into a temple of the true God, and had baptized King Polemius and all his subjects, he was seized shortly afterwards, and after being beaten with sticks was crucified, and then flayed alive. On the twenty-fourth day afterwards he was beheaded, and so died.
At Rome, when Decius and Valerian were emperors, Pope Xystus was thrown into the Tullian prison and afterwards crucified. Prudentius ( Hymn. 2 de S. Laurentio ) thus alludes to this: " When Xystus was already fastened to the cross he said prophetically to Laurence, when he saw him standing weeping at the foot of his cross: 'Cease to weep for me; I go before thee, my brother. In three days thou shalt follow me.' "
S. Dionysius the Areopagite was scourged at Paris in the time of the Emperor Hadrian, then tortured by fire and thrown to the wild beasts, without suffering any harm. He was then raised on a cross, from which he was taken down and again scourged, after which his head was cut off, and he carried it in his own hands for two miles. Baronius ( in Martyrol. Obadiah 1:9; Obadiah 1:9 ).
When S. Calliopus, a devout youth, was invited to a banquet spread in honour of the gods, he replied: " I am a Christian; I worship Christ with fastings, and it is not lawful for a Christian mouth to receive what has been offered to infamous and unclean idols ." The governor, on hearing this, ordered him to be cruelly scourged, and then bade him give up his foolish craze, obey the decrees of the emperors, sacrifice to the gods, and so save his life, otherwise he should be crucified like his Master. Calliopus replied: " I wonder at your impudence; you have been repeatedly told that I am a Christian, and that when a Christian dies he will live with Christ, yet you impudently fight against the truth. Hasten for me the same death as any Master bore ." When the governor saw that he was not to be shaken from his purpose, he gave sentence that he should be crucified on the Friday in Holy Week. When his mother heard of this, she bribed the soldiers to crucify her son with his head downwards, which was done. When he died a voice was heard from heaven: " Come, thou citizen of Christ's kingdom and fellow-heir of the holy angels ." All this is related in his Life by Surius (April 7).
Wonderful, too, was the love of the Cross shown by a mere boy, S. Wernher, and wonderful was his martyrdom by crucifixion. Having confessed and made his Communion, he was secretly taken by the Jews, and on Good Friday, in imitation of Christ, and out of hatred to Him, tied to a wooden pillar. There he was cruelly scourged, cut about with a knife in every part of his body, tortured with pincers, so that he seemed to be dead. The holy boy, however, lingered three days, hanging from the pillar, till the blood ceased to flow, when, after bearing his sufferings with the utmost patience, he gave up his spirit to Christ, crucified to the glory of God. See the account of him in Surius (April 2). For similar cruelties on the part of the Jews, see Socrates ( Hist. lib. vii. c. 16).
Ado ( Martyrol. May 22), and, following him, Baronius (A.D. 440), relates a similar story of a holy maiden named Julia, who was brought before Felix, and urged by every blandishment to sacrifice to idols. On her refusal she was beaten by the hands of the servants, tortured by means of her hair, scourged, and crucified. When she gave up the ghost a dove left her mouth and flew to heaven. Who shall find a brave woman? Her price is far off, yea, from the ends of the earth.
Lately in Japan six Franciscans, three of our Order, and seventeen Japanese laymen, among them a lad, Aloysius, of twelve years, and another, Antonius, of thirteen, were, by order of King Taicosama, crucified, and pierced with a sword in the right side. They thus joyfully suffered the agonies of martyrdom.
Who loved me and gave Himself for me. Note the use of the singular. It is not us nor for us , but me and for me. Paul speaks thus: (1.) because of the greatness and the sweetness of his love; (2.) because he felt himself the first of sinners; (3.) because each one owes thanks to Christ for His death, just as though Christ had died for him only. " Happy, thrice happy he ," says S. Jerome, " who can say, because Christ lives in him, in every thought and work, 'I live in the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.' " Ver. 21. I do not frustrate the grace of God. I do not reject or spurn, or, as S. Ambrose renders it, " I am not ungrateful to the grace of God ." S. Augustine takes it as in the text. They frustrate the grace of God, says S. Jerome, who seek for justification through the law, and those who after baptism are polluted by sin. But this is a moral interpretation; that first given is the literal meaning.
For if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain. Since Christ gave His life as the price of our justification, He would have given it in vain if we could gain that justification through the law. This is a third argument, ex impossibili. No one is so mad as to say that Christ suffered in vain; but He did suffer for our justification; therefore we are justified by Christ, not by Moses by faith, not by the law.
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Lapide, Cornelius. "Commentary on Galatians 2". The Great Biblical Commentary of Cornelius a Lapide. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29