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Bible Commentaries

The Expositor's Bible Commentary

Galatians 2

Verses 1-5

Chapter 7


Galatians 2:1-5

"FOURTEEN years" had elapsed since Paul left Jerusalem for Tarsus, and commenced his Gentile mission. During this long period-a full half of his missionary course-the Apostle was lost to the sight of the Judean Churches. For nearly half this time, until Barnabas brought him to Antioch, we have no further trace of his movements. But these years of obscure labour had, we may be sure, no small influence in shaping the Apostle’s subsequent career. It was a kind of Apostolic apprenticeship. Then his evangelistic plans were laid; his powers were practised; his methods of teaching and administration formed and tested. This first, unnoted period of Paul’s missionary life held, we imagine, much the same relation to his public ministry that the time of the Arabian retreat did to his spiritual development.

We are apt to think of the Apostle Paul only as we see him in the full tide of his activity, carrying "from Jerusalem round about unto Illyricum" the standard of the cross and planting it in one after another of the great cities of the Empire, "always triumphing in every place"; or issuing those mighty Epistles whose voice shakes the world. We forget the earlier term of preparation, these years of silence and patience, of unrecorded toil in a comparatively narrow and humble sphere, which had after all their part in making Paul the man he was. If Christ Himself would not "clutch" at His Divine prerogatives, {Philippians 2:5-11} nor win them by self-assertion and before the time, how much more did it become His servant to rise to his great office by slow degrees. Paul served first as a private missionary pioneer in his native land, then as a junior colleague and assistant to Barnabas, until the summons came to take a higher place, when "the signs of an Apostle" had been fully "wrought in him." Not in a day, nor by the effect of a single revelation did he become the fully armed and all-accomplished Apostle of the Gentiles whom we meet in this Epistle. "After the space of fourteen years" it was time for him to stand forth the approved witness and minister of Jesus Christ, whom Peter and John publicly embraced as their equal.

Paul claims here the initiative in the momentous visit to Jerusalem undertaken by himself and Barnabas, of which he is going to speak. In Acts 15:2 he is similarly placed at the head of the deputation sent from Antioch about the question of circumcision. The account of the preceding missionary tour in Acts 13:1-52; Acts 14:1-28, shows how the headship of the Gentile Church had come to devolve on Paul. In Luke’s narrative they are "Barnabas and Saul" who set out; "Paul and Barnabas" who return. {Acts 13:2; Acts 13:7; Acts 13:13; Acts 13:43; Acts 13:45-46; Acts 13:50; Acts 14:12; Acts 14:14; Acts 15:2; Acts 15:12} Under the trials and hazards of this adventure at Paphos, Pisidian Antioch, Lystra-Paul’s native ascendency and his higher vocation irresistibly declared themselves. Age and rank yielded to the fire of inspiration, to the gifts of speech, the splendid powers of leadership which the difficulties of this expedition revealed in Paul. Barnabas returned to Antioch with the thought in his heart, "He must increase; I must decrease." And Barnabas was too generous a man not to yield cheerfully to his companion the precedence for which God thus marked him out. Yet the "sharp contention" in which the two men parted soon after this time, {Acts 15:36-40} was, we may conjecture, due in some degree to a lingering soreness in the mind of Barnabas on this account.

The Apostle expresses himself with modesty, but in such a way as to show that he was regarded in this juncture as the champion of the Gentile cause. The "revelation" that prompted the visit came to him. The "taking up of Titus" was his distinct act (Galatians 2:1). Unless Paul has deceived himself, he was quite the leading figure in the Council; it was his doctrine and his Apostleship that exercised the minds of the chiefs at Jerusalem, when the delegates from Antioch appeared before them. Whatever Peter and James may have known of surmised previously concerning Paul’s vocation, it was only now that it became a public question for the Church. But as matters stood, it was a vital question. The status of uncircumcised Christians, and the Apostolic rank of Paul, constituted the twofold problem placed before the chiefs of the Jewish Church. At the same time, the Apostle, while fixing our attention mainly on his own position, gives to Barnabas his meed of honour; for he says, "I went up with Barnabas,"-"we never yielded for an hour to the false brethren,"-"the Pillars gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we might go to the Gentiles." But it is evident that the elder Gentile missionary stood in the background. By the action that he takes Paul unmistakably declares, "I am the Apostle of the Gentiles"; {Comp. Romans 11:13; Romans 15:16-17} and that claim is admitted by the consenting voice of both branches of the Church. The Apostle stepped to the front at this solemn crisis, not for his own rank or office’s sake, but at the call of God, in defence of the truth of the gospel and the spiritual freedom of mankind.

This meeting at Jerusalem took place in 51, or it may be, 52 A.D. We make no doubt that it is the same with the Council of Acts 15:1-41. The identification has been controverted by several able scholars, but without success. The two accounts are different, but in no sense contradictory. In fact, as Dr. Pfleiderer acknowledges, they "admirably supplement each other. The agreement as to the chief points is in any case greater than the discrepancies in the details; and these discrepancies can for the most part be explained by the different standpoint of the relaters." A difficulty lies, however, in the fact that the historian of the Acts makes this the third visit of Paul to Jerusalem subsequently to his conversion; whereas, from the Apostle’s statement, it appears to have been the second. This discrepancy has already come up for discussion in the last chapter. Two further observations may be added on this point. In the first place, Paul does not say that he had never been to Jerusalem since the visit of Galatians 1:18; he does say, that on this occasion he "went up again," and that meanwhile he "remained unknown by face" to the Christians of Judea {Galatians 1:22} - a fact quite compatible, as we have shown, with what is related in Acts 11:29-30. And further, the request addressed at this conference to the Gentile missionaries, that they should "remember the poor," and the reference made by the Apostle to his previous zeal in the same business (Galatians 2:9-10), are in agreement with the earlier visit of charity mentioned by Luke.

1. The emphasis of Galatians 2:1 rests upon its last clause, - taking along with me also Titus. Not "Titus as well as Barnabas"-this cannot be the meaning of the "also" - for Barnabas was Paul’s colleague, deputed equally with himself by the Church of Antioch; nor "Titus as well as others"-there were other members of the deputation, {Acts 15:2} but Paul makes no reference to them. The also (και) calls attention to the fact of Paul’s taking Titus, in view of the sequel; as though he said, "I not only went up to Jerusalem at this particular time, under Divine direction, but I took along with me Titus besides." The prefixed with (sun-) of the Greek participle refers to Paul himself: compare Galatians 2:3, "Titus who was with me." As for the "certain others" referred to in Acts 15:2, they were most likely Jews; or if any of them were Gentiles, still it was Titus whom Paul had chosen for his companion; and his case stood out from the rest in such a way that it became the decisive one, the test-case for the matter in dispute.

The mention of Titus’ name in this connection was calculated to raise a lively interest in the minds of the Apostle’s readers. He is introduced as known to the Galatians; indeed by this time his name was familiar in the Pauline Churches, as that of a fellow-traveller and trusted helper of the Apostle. He was with Paul in the latter part of the third missionary tour - so we learn from the Corinthian letters-and therefore probably in the earlier part of the same journey, when the Apostle paid his second visit to Galatia. He belonged to the heathen mission, and was Paul’s "true child after a common faith," {Titus 1:4} an uncircumcised man, of Gentile birth equally with the Galatians. And now they read of his "going up to Jerusalem with Paul," to the mother-city of believers, where are the pillars of the Church-the Jewish teachers would say-the true Apostles of Jesus, where His doctrine is preached in its purity, and where every Christian is circumcised and keeps the Law. Titus, the unclean Gentile, at Jerusalem! How could he be admitted or tolerated there, in the fellowship of the first disciples of the Lord? This question Paul’s readers, after what they had heard from the Circumcisionists, would be sure to ask. He will answer it directly.

But the Apostle goes on to say, that he "went up in accordance with a revelation." For this was one of those supreme moments in his life when he looked for and received the direct guidance of heaven. It was a most critical step to carry this question of Gentile circumcision up to Jerusalem, and to take Titus with him there, into the enemies’ stronghold. Moreover, on the settlement of this matter Paul knew that his Apostolic status depended, so far as human recognition was concerned. It would be seen whether the Jewish Church would acknowledge the converts of the Gentile mission as brethren in Christ; and whether the first Apostles would receive him, "the untimely one," as a colleague of their own. Never had he more urgently needed or more implicitly relied upon Divine direction than at this hour.

"And I put before them (the Church at Jerusalem) the gospel which I preach among the Gentiles-but privately to those of repute: am I running (said I), or have I run, in vain?" The latter clause we read interrogatively, along with such excellent grammatical interpreters as Meyer, Wieseler, and Hofmann. Paul had not come to Jerusalem in order to solve any doubt in his own mind; but he wished the Church of Jerusalem to declare its mind respecting the character of his ministry. He was not "running as uncertainly"; nor in view of the "revelation" just given him could he have any fear for the result of his appeal. But it was in every way necessary that the appeal should be made.

The interjected words, "out privately," etc., indicate that there were two meetings during the conference, such as those which seem to be distinguished in Acts 15:4; Acts 15:6; and that the Apostle’s statement and the question arising out of it were addressed more pointedly to "those of repute." By this term we understand, here and in Acts 15:6, "the apostles and elders," {Acts 15:1-41} headed by Peter and James, amongst whom "those reputed to be pillars" are distinguished in Acts 15:9. Paul dwells upon the phrase οι δοκουντες, because, to be sure, it was so often on the lips of the Judaisers, who were in the habit of speaking with an imposing air, and by way of contrast with Paul, of "the authorities" (at Jerusalem)-as the designation might appropriately be rendered. These very men whom the Legalists were exalting at Paul’s expense, the venerated chiefs of the mother Church, had on this occasion, Paul is going to say, given their approval to his doctrine; they declined to impose circumcision on Gentile believers. The Twelve were not stationary at Jerusalem, and therefore could not form a fixed court of reference there; hence a greater importance accrued to the Elders of the city Church, with the revered James at their head, the brother of the Lord.

The Apostle, in bringing Titus, had brought up the subject-matter of the controversy. The "gospel of the uncircumcision" stood before the Jewish authorities, an accomplished fact. Titus was there, by the side of Paul, a sample-and a noble specimen, we can well believe-of the Gentile Christendom which the Jewish Church must either acknowledge or repudiate. How will they treat him? Will they admit this foreign protege of Paul to their communion? Or will they require him first to be circumcised? The question at issue could not take a form more crucial for the prejudices of the mother Church. It was one thing to acknowledge uncircumcised fellow-believers in the abstract, away yonder at Antioch or Iconium, or even at Caesarea; and another thing to see Titus standing amongst them in his heathen uncleanness, on the sacred soil of Jerusalem, under the shadow of the Temple, and to hear Paul claiming for him-for this "dog" of a Gentile-equally with himself the rights of Christian brotherhood! The demand was most offensive to the pride of Judaism, as no one knew better than Paul; and we cannot wonder that a revelation was required to justify the Apostle in making it. The case of Trophimus, whose presence with the Apostle at Jerusalem many years afterwards proved so nearly fatal, {Acts 21:27-30} shows how exasperating to the legalist party his action in this instance must have been. Had not Peter and the better spirits of the Church in Jerusalem laid to heart the lesson of the vision of Joppa, that "no man must be called common or unclean," and had not the wisdom of the Holy Spirit eminently guided this first Council of the Church, Paul’s challenge would have received a negative answer: and Jewish and Gentile Christianity must have been driven asunder.

The answer, the triumphant answer, to Paul’s appeal comes in the next verse: "Nay, not even Titus who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised." Titus was not circumcised, in point of fact-how can we doubt this in view of the language of Galatians 2:5 : "Not even for an hour did we yield in subjection?" And he "was not compelled to be circumcised"-a mode of putting the denial which implies that in refusing his circumcision urgent solicitation had to be withstood, solicitation addressed to Titus himself, as well as to the leaders of his party. The kind of pressure brought to bear in the case and the quarter from which it proceeded, the Galatians would understand from their own experience. {Galatians 6:12; comp. Galatians 2:14}

The attempt made to bring about Titus’ circumcision signally failed. Its failure was the practical reply to the question which Paul tells us (Galatians 2:2) he had put to the authorities in Jerusalem; or, according to the more common rendering of Galatians 2:2 b, it was the answer to the apprehension under which he addressed himself to them. On the former of these views of the connection, which we decidedly prefer, the authorities are clear of any share in the "compulsion" of Titus. When the Apostle gives the statement that his Gentile companion "was not compelled to be circumcised" as the reply to his appeal to "those of repute," it is as much as to say: "The chiefs at Jerusalem did not require Titus’ circumcision. They repudiated the attempt of certain parties to force this rite upon him." This testimony precisely accords with the terms of the rescript of the Council, and with the speeches of Peter and James, given in Acts 15:1-41. But it was a great point gained to have the liberality of the Jewish Christian leaders put to the proof in this way, to have the generous sentiments of speech and letter made good in this example of uncircumcised Christianity brought to their doors.

To the authorities at Jerusalem the question put by the delegates from Antioch on the one side, and by the Circumcisionists on the other, was perfectly clear. If they insist on Titus’ circumcision, they disown Paul and the Gentile mission: if they accept Paul’s gospel, they must leave Titus alone. Paul and Barnabas stated the case in a manner that left no room for doubt or compromise. Their action was marked, as ver. 5 declares {Galatians 2:5}, with the utmost decision. And the response of the Jewish leaders was equally frank and definite. We have no business, says James, {Acts 15:19} "to trouble those from the Gentiles that turn to God." Their judgment is virtually affirmed in Galatians 2:3, in reference to Titus, in whose person the Galatians could not fail to see that their own case had been settled by anticipation. "Those of repute" disowned the Circumcisionists; the demand that the yoke of circumcision should be imposed on. the Gentiles had no sanction from them. If the Judaisers claimed their sanction, the claim was false.

Here the Apostle pauses, as his Gentile readers must have paused and drawn a long breath of relief or of astonishment at what he has just alleged. If Titus was not compelled to be circumcised, even at Jerusalem, who, they might ask, was going to compel them?-The full stop should therefore be placed at the end of Galatians 2:3, not Galatians 2:2. Galatians 2:1-3 form a paragraph complete in itself. Its last sentence resolves the decisive question raised in this visit of Paul’s to Jerusalem, when he "took with him also Titus."

2. The opening words of Galatians 2:4 have all the appearance of commencing a new sentence. This sentence, concluded in Galatians 2:5, is grammatically incomplete; but that is no reason for throwing it upon the previous sentence, to the confusion of both. There is a transition of thought, marked by the introductory But, from the issue of Paul’s second critical visit to Jerusalem (Galatians 2:1-3) to the cause which made it necessary. This was the action of "false brethren," to whom the Apostle made a determined and successful resistance (Galatians 2:4-5). The opening "But" does not refer to Galatians 2:3 in particular, rather to the entire foregoing paragraph. The ellipsis (after "But") is suitably supplied in the marginal rendering of the Revisers, where we take it was to mean, not "Because of the false brethren Titus was not (or was not compelled to be) circumcised, " but "Because of the false brethren this meeting came about, or I took the course aforesaid."

To know what Paul means by "false brethren," we must turn to Galatians 1:6-9; Galatians 3:1; Galatians 4:17; Galatians 5:7-12; Galatians 6:12-14, in this Epistle; and again to 2 Corinthians 2:17; 2 Corinthians 3:1; 2 Corinthians 4:2; 2 Corinthians 11:3-4; 2 Corinthians 11:12-22; 2 Corinthians 11:26; Romans 16:17-18; Philippians 3:2. They were men bearing the name of Christ and professing faith in Him, but Pharisees at heart, self-seeking, rancorous, unscrupulous men, bent on exploiting the Pauline Churches for their own advantage, and regarding Gentile converts to Christ as so many possible recruits for the ranks of the Circumcision.

But where, and how, were these traitors "privily brought in"? Brought in, we answer, to the field of the Gentile mission; and doubtless by local Jewish sympathisers, who introduced them without the concurrence of the officers of the Church. They "came in privily":-slipped in by stealth-"to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus." Now it was at Antioch and in the pagan Churches that this liberty existed in its normal exercise-the liberty for which our Epistle contends, the enjoyment of Christian privileges independently of Jewish law-in which Paul and his brother missionaries had identified themselves with their Gentile followers. The "false brethren" were Jewish spies in the Gentile Christian camp. We do not see how the Galatians could have read the Apostle’s words otherwise; nor how it could have occurred to them that he was referring to the way in which these men had been originally "brought into" the Jewish Church. That concerned neither him nor them. But their getting into the Gentile fold was the serious thing. They are the certain who came down from Judea, and taught the (Gentile) brethren, saying, Except ye be circumcised after the custom of Moses, "ye cannot be saved"; and whom their own Church afterwards repudiated. {Acts 15:24} With Antioch for the centre of their operations, these mischief-makers disturbed the whole field of Paul and Barnabas’ labours in Syria and Cilicia. {Acts 15:23; Galatians 1:21} For the Galatian readers, the terms of this sentence, coming after the anathema of Galatians 1:6-9, threw a startling light on the character of the Judean emissaries busy in their midst. This description of the former "troublers" strikes at the Judaic opposition in Galatia. It is as if the Apostle said: "These false brethren, smuggled in amongst us, to filch away our liberties in Christ, wolves in sheep’s clothing-I know them well; I have encountered them before this. I never yielded to their demands a single inch. I carried the struggle with them to Jerusalem. There, in the citadel of Judaism, and before the assembled chiefs of the Judean Church, I vindicated once and for all, under the person of Titus, your imperilled Christian rights."

But as the Apostle dilates on the conduct of these Jewish intriguers, the precursors of such an army of troublers, his heart takes fire; in the rush of his emotion he is carried away from the original purport of his sentence, and breaks it off with a burst of indignation: "To whom," he cries, "not even for an hour did we yield by subjection, that the truth of the gospel might abide with you." A breakdown like this-an anacotuthon, as the grammarians call it-is nothing strange in Paul’s style. Despite the shipwrecked grammar, the sense comes off safely enough. The clause, "we did not yield," etc., describes in a negative form, and with heightened effect, the course the Apostle had pursued from the first in dealing with the false brethren. In this unyielding spirit he had acted, without a moment’s wavering, from the hour when, guided by the Holy Spirit, he set out for Jerusalem with the uncircumcised Titus by his side, until he heard his Gentile gospel vindicated by the lips of Peter and James, and received from them the clasp of fellowship as Christ’s acknowledged Apostle to the heathen.

It was therefore the action of Jewish interlopers, men of the same stamp as those infesting the Galatian Churches, which occasioned Paul’s second, public visit to Jerusalem, and his consultation with the heads of the Judean Church. This decisive course he was himself inspired to take; while at the same time it was taken on behalf and under the direction of the Church of Antioch, the metropolis of Gentile Christianity. He had gone up with Barnabas and "certain others"-including the Greek Titus chosen by himself-the company forming a representative deputation, of which Paul was the leader and spokesman. This measure was the boldest and the only effectual means of combating the Judaistic propaganda. It drew from the authorities at Jerusalem the admission that "Circumcision is nothing," and that Gentile Christians are free from the ritual law. This was a victory gained over Jewish prejudice of immense significance for the future of Christianity. The ground was already cut from under the feet of the Judaic teachers in Galatia, and of all who should at any time seek to impose external rites as things essential to salvation in Christ. To all his readers Paul can now say, so far as his part is concerned: The truth of the gospel abides with you.

Verses 6-10

Chapter 8


Galatians 2:6-10

WE have dealt by anticipation, in chap. 6, with several of the topics raised in this section of the Epistle-touching particularly the import of the phrase "those of repute," and the tone of disparagement in which these dignitaries appear to be spoken of in Galatians 2:6. But there still remains in these verses matter in its weight and difficulty more than sufficient to occupy another chapter.

The grammatical connection of the first paragraph, like that of Galatians 2:2-3, is involved and disputable. We construe its clauses in the following way:-

(1) Galatians 2:6 begins with a But, contrasting "those of repute" with the "false brethren" dealt with in the last sentence. It contains another anacoluthon (or incoherence of language) due to the surge of feeling remarked in Galatians 2:4, which still disturbs the Apostle’s grammar. He begins: "But from those reputed to be something"-as though he intended to say, "I received on my part nothing, no addition or qualification to my gospel." But he has no sooner mentioned "those of repute" than he is reminded of the studied attempt that was made to set up their authority in opposition to his own, and accordingly throws in this protest: "what they were aforetime, makes no difference to me: man’s person God doth not accept." But in saying this, Paul has laid down one of his favourite axioms, a principle that filled a large place in his thoughts; {Comp. Romans 2:11; 1 Corinthians 1:27-31; 1 Corinthians 15:9-10; Ephesians 6:9; Colossians 3:25} and its enunciation deflects the course of the main sentence, so that it is resumed in an altered form: "For to me those of repute imparted nothing." Here the me receives a greater emphasis; and for takes the place of but. The fact that the first Apostles had nothing to impart to Paul, signally illustrates the Divine impartiality, which often makes the last and least in human eyes equal to the first.

(2) Galatians 2:7-9 state the positive, as Galatians 2:6 the negative side of the relation between Paul and the elder Apostles, still keeping in view the principle laid down in the former verse. "Nay, on the contrary, when they saw that I have in charge the gospel of the uncircumcision, as Peter that of the circumcision (Galatians 2:7)-and when they perceived the grace that had been given me, James and Cephas and John, those renowned pillars of the Church, gave the right-hand of fellowship to myself and Barnabas, agreeing that we should go to the Gentiles, while they laboured amongst the Jews" (Galatians 2:9).

(3) Galatians 2:8 comes in as a parenthesis, explaining how the authorities at Jerusalem came to see that this trust belonged to Paul. "For," he says, "He that in Peter’s case displayed His power in making him (above all others) Apostle of the Circumcision, did as much for me in regard to the Gentiles." It is not human ordination, but Divine inspiration that makes a minister of Jesus Christ. The noble Apostles of Jesus had the wisdom to see this. It had pleased God to bestow this grace on their old Tarsian persecutor; and they frankly acknowledged the fact.

Thus Paul sets forth, in the first place, the completeness of his Apostolic qualifications, put to proof at the crisis of the circumcision controversy; and in the second place, the judgment formed respecting him and his office by the first Apostles and companions of the Lord.

1. "To me those of repute added nothing." Paul had spent but a fortnight in the Christian circle of Jerusalem, fourteen years ago. Of its chiefs he had met at that time only Peter and James, and them in the capacity of a visitor, not as a disciple or a candidate for office. He had never sought the opportunity, nor felt the need, of receiving instruction from the elder Apostles during all the years in which he had preached Christ amongst the heathen. It was not likely he would do so now. When he came into conference and debate with them at the Council, he showed himself their equal, neither in knowledge nor authority "a whit behind the very chiefest." And they were conscious of the same fact.

On the essentials of the gospel Paul found himself in agreement with the Twelve. This is implied in the language of Galatians 2:6. When one writes, "A-adds nothing to B," one assumes that B has already what belongs to A, -and not something different. Paul asserts in the most positive terms he can command, that his intercourse with the holders of the primitive Christian tradition left him as a minister of Christ exactly where he was before. "On me," he says, "they conferred nothing"-rather, perhaps, "addressed no communication to me." The word used appears to deny their having made any motion of the kind. The Greek verb is the same that was employed in Galatians 1:16, a rare and delicate compound. Its meaning varies, like that of our confer, communicate, as it is applied in a more or less active sense. In the former place Paul had said that he "did not confer with flesh and blood"; now he adds, that flesh and blood did not confer anything upon him. Formerly he did not bring his commission to lay it before men; now they had nothing to bring on their part to lay before him. The same word affirms the Apostle’s independence at both epochs, shown in the first instance by his reserve toward the dignitaries at Jerusalem, and in the second by their reserve toward him. Conscious of his Divine call, he sought no patronage from the elder Apostles then; and they, recognising that call, offered him no such patronage now. Paul’s gospel for the Gentiles was complete, and sufficient unto itself. His ministry showed’ no defect in quality or competence. There was nothing about it that laid it open to correction, even on the part of those wisest and highest in dignity amongst the personal followers of Jesus.

So Paul declares; and we can readily believe him. Nay, we are tempted to think that it was rather the Pillars who might need to learn from him, than he from them. In doctrine, Paul holds the primacy in the band of the Apostles. While all were inspired by the Spirit of Christ, the Gentile Apostle was in many ways a more richly furnished man than any of the rest. The Paulinism of Peter’s First Epistle goes to show that the debt was on the other side. Their earliest privileges and priceless store of recollections of "all that Jesus did and taught," were matched on Paul’s side by a penetrating logic, a breadth and force of intellect applied to the facts of revelation, and a burning intensity of spirit, which in their combination were unique. The Pauline teaching, as it appears in the New Testament, bears in the highest degree the marks of original genius, the stamp of a mind whose inspiration is its own.

Modern criticism even exaggerates Paul’s originality. It leaves the other Apostles little more than a negative part to play in the development of Christian truth. In some of its representations, the figure of Paul appears to overshadow even that of the Divine Master. It was Paul’s creative genius, it is said, his daring idealism, that deified the human Jesus, and transformed the scandal of the cross into the glory of an atonement reconciling the world to God. Such theories Paul himself would have regarded with horror. "I received of the Lord that which I delivered unto you": such is his uniform testimony. If he owed so little as a minister of Christ to his brother Apostles, he felt with the most sincere humility that he owed everything to Christ. The agreement of Paul’s teaching with that of the other New Testament writers, and especially with that of Jesus in the Gospels, proves that, however distinct and individual his conception of the common gospel, none the less there was a common gospel of Christ, and he did not speak of his own mind. The attempts made to get rid of this agreement by postdating the New Testament documents, and by explaining away the larger utterances of Jesus found in the Gospels as due to Paulinist interpolation, are unavailing. They postulate a craftiness of ingenuity on the part of the writers of the incriminated books, and an ignorance in those who first received them, alike inconceivable. Paul did not build up the splendid and imperishable fabric of his theology on some speculation of his own. Its foundation lies in the person and the teaching of Jesus Christ, and was common to Paul with James and Cephas and John. "Whether I or they," he testifies, "so we preach, and so ye believed". {1 Corinthians 15:11} Paul satisfied himself at this conference that he and the Twelve taught the same gospel. Not in its primary data, but in their logical development and application, lies the specifically Pauline in Paulinism. The harmony between Paul and the other Apostolic leaders has the peculiar value which belongs to the agreement of minds of different orders, working independently.

The Judaisers, however, persistently asserted Paul’s dependence on the elder Apostles. "The authority of the Primitive Church, the Apostolic tradition of Jerusalem"-this was the fulcrum of their argument. Where could Paul, they asked, have derived his knowledge of Christ, but from this fountain-head? And the power that made him could unmake him. Those who commissioned him had the right to overrule him, or even to revoke his commission. Was it not known that he had from time to time resorted to Jerusalem; that he had once publicly submitted his teaching to the examination of the heads of the Church there? The words of Galatians 2:6 contradict these malicious insinuations. Hence the positiveness of the Apostle’s self-assertion. In the Corinthian Epistles his claim to independence is made in gentler style, and with expressions of humility that might have been misunderstood here. But the position Paul takes up is the same in either case: "I am an Apostle. I have seen Jesus our Lord. You-Corinthians, Galatians-are my work in the Lord." That Peter and the rest were in the old days so near to the Master, "makes no difference" to Paul. They are what they are-their high standing is universally acknowledged, and Paul has no need or wish to question it; but, by the grace of God, he also is what he is. {1 Corinthians 15:10} Their Apostleship does not exclude or derogate from his.

The self-depreciation, the keen sense of inferiority in outward respects, so evident in Paul’s allusions to this subject elsewhere, is after all not wanting here. For when he says, "God regards not man’s person, " it is evident that in respect of visible qualifications Paul felt that he had few pretensions to make. Appearances were against him. And those who glory in appearance were against him too. {2 Corinthians 5:12} Such men could not appreciate the might of the Spirit that wrought in Paul, nor the sovereignty of Divine election. They "reckoned" of the Apostle "as though he walked according to flesh". {2 Corinthians 10:2} It seemed to them obvious, as a matter of course, that he was far below the Twelve. With men of worldly wisdom the Apostle did not expect that his arguments would prevail. His appeal was to "the spiritual, who judge all things."

So we come back to the declaration of the Apostle in Galatians 1:11 : "I give you to know, brethren, that my gospel is not according to man." Man had no hand either in laying its foundation or putting on the headstone. Paul’s predecessors in Apostolic office did not impart the gospel to him at the outset; nor at a later time had they attempted to make any addition to the doctrine he had taught far and wide amongst the heathen. His Apostleship was from first to last a supernatural gift of grace.

2. Instead, therefore, of assuming to be his superiors, or offering to bestow something of their own on-Paul, the three renowned pillars of the faith at Jerusalem acknowledged him as a brother Apostle.

"They saw that I am intrusted with the gospel of the uncircumcision." The form of the verb implies a trust given in the past and taking effect in the present, a settled fact. Once for all, this charge had devolved on Paul. He is "appointed herald and apostle" of "Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, -teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth". {1 Timothy 2:6-7} That office Paul still holds. He is the leader of Christian evangelism. Every new movement in heathen missionary enterprise looks to his teaching for guidance and inspiration.

The conference at Jerusalem in itself furnished conclusive evidence of Paul’s Apostolic commission. The circumcision controversy was a test not only for Gentile Christianity, but at the same time for its Apostle and champion. Paul brought to this discussion a knowledge and insight, a force of character, a conscious authority and unction of the Holy Spirit, that powerfully impressed the three great men who listened to him. The triumvirate at Jerusalem well knew that Paul had not received his marvellous gifts through their hands. Nor was there anything lacking to him which they felt themselves called upon to supply. They could only say, "This is the Lord’s doing.; and it is marvellous in our eyes." Knowing, as Peter at least, we presume had done for many years. {Galatians 1:18} the history of Paul’s conversion, and seeing, as they now did the conspicuous Apostolic signs attending his ministry, James and Cephas and John could only come to one conclusion. The gospel of the uncircumcision, they were convinced, was committed to Paul, and his place in the Church was side by side with Peter. Peter must have felt as once before on a like occasion: "If God gave unto him a gift equal to that He gave to me, who am I, that I should be able to hinder God?" {Acts 11:17} It was not for them because of their elder rank and dignity to debate with God in this matter, and to withhold their recognition from His "chosen vessel."

John had not forgotten his Master’s reproof for banning, the man that "followeth not with us". {Luke 9:49; Mark 9:38} They "recognised," Paul says, "the grace that had been given me"; and by that he means, to be sure, the undeserved favour that raised him to his Apostolic office. {See Romans 1:5; 1 Corinthians 15:10; Ephesians 3:2; Ephesians 3:7-8; 1 Timothy 1:13} This recognition was given to Paul. Barnabas shared the "fellowship." His hand was clasped by the three chiefs at Jerusalem, not less warmly than that of his younger comrade. But it is in the singular number that Paul speaks of "the grace that was given me, " and of the "trust in the gospel" and the "working of God unto Apostleship."

Why then does not Paul say outright, "they acknowledged me an Apostle, the equal of Peter?" Some are bold enough to say - Holsten in particular - "Because this is just what the Jerusalem chiefs never did, and never could have done." We will only reply, that if this were the case, the passage is a continued suggestio falsi. No one could write the words of Galatians 2:7-9, without intending his readers to believe that such a recognition took place. Paul avoids the point-blank assertion, with a delicacy that any man of tolerable modesty will understand. Even the appearance of "glorying" was hateful to him. {2 Corinthians 10:17; 2 Corinthians 11:1; 2 Corinthians 12:1-5; 2 Corinthians 12:11}

The Church at Jerusalem, as we gather from Galatians 2:7-8, observed in Paul "signs of the Apostle" resembling those borne by Peter. His Gentile commission ran parallel with Peter’s Jewish commission. The labours of the two men were followed by the same kind of success, and marked by similar displays of miraculous power. The like seal of God was stamped on both. This correspondence runs through the Acts of the Apostles. Compare, for example, Paul’s sermon at Antioch in Pisidia with that of Peter on the Day of Pentecost; the healing of the Lystran cripple and the punishment of Elymas, with the case of the lame man at the Temple gate and the encounter of Peter and Simon Magus. The conjunction of the names of Peter and Paul was familiar to the Apostolic Church. The parallelism between the course of these great Apostles was no invention of second-century orthodoxy, set up in the interests of a "reconciling hypothesis"; it attracted public attention as early as 51 A.D., while they were still in their mid career. If this idea so strongly possessed the minds of the Jewish Christian leaders and influenced their action at the Council of Jerusalem, we need not be surprised that it should dominate Luke’s narrative to the extent that it does. The allusions to Peter in 1 Corinthians 1:12; 1 Corinthians 3:22; 1 Corinthians 9:5 afford further proof that in the lifetime of the two Apostles it was a common thing to link their names together.

But had not Peter also a share in the Gentile mission? Does not the division of labour made at this conference appear to shut out the senior Apostle from a field, to which he had the prior claim? "Ye know,’ said Peter at the Council, "how that a good while ago God made choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel, and believe." {Acts 15:7} To Peter was assigned the double honour of "opening the door of faith" both to Jew and Gentile. This experience made him the readier to understand Paul’s position and gave him the greater weight in the settlement of the question at issue. And not Peter alone, but Philip the Evangelist and other Jewish Christians had carried the gospel across the line of Judaic prejudice, before Paul appeared on the scene. Barnabas and Silas were both emissaries of Jerusalem. So that the mother Church, if she could not claim Paul as her son, had nevertheless a large stake in the heathen mission. But when Paul came to the front, when his miraculous call, his incomparable gifts and wonderful success had made themselves known, it was evident to every discerning mind that he was the man chosen by God to direct this great work. Peter had opened the door of faith to the heathen, and had bravely kept it open; but it was for Paul to lead the Gentile nations through the open door, and to make a home for them within the fold of Christ. The men who had laboured in this field hitherto were Paul’s forerunners. And Peter does not hesitate to acknowledge the younger Apostle’s special fitness for this wider province of their common work; and with the concurrence of James and John he yields the charge of it to him.

Let us observe that it is two different provinces, not different gospels, that are in view. When the Apostle speaks of "the gospel of the uncircumcision" as committed to himself, and that "of the circumcision" to Peter, he never dreams of any one supposing, as some of his modern critics persist in doing, that he meant two different doctrines. How can that be possible, when he has declared those anathema who preach any other gospel? He has laid his gospel before the heads of the Jerusalem Church. Nothing has occurred there, nothing is hinted here, to suggest the existence of a "radical divergence." If James and the body of the Judean Church really sympathised with the Circumcisionists, with those whom the Apostle calls "false brethren," how could he with any sincerity have come to an agreement with them, knowing that this tremendous gulf was lying all the while between the Pillars and himself? Zeller argues that the transaction was simply a pledge of "reciprocal toleration, a merely external concordat between Paul and the original Apostles." The clasp of brotherly friendship was a sorry farce, if that were all it meant-if Paul and the Three just consented for the time to slur over irreconcilable differences; while Paul in turn has glossed over the affair for us in these artful verses! Baur, with characteristic finesse, says on the same point: "The κοινωνια was always a division; it could only be brought into effect by one party going εις τα εθνη, the other εις την.. As the Jewish Apostles could allege nothing against the principles on which Paul founded his evangelical mission, they were obliged to recognise them in a certain manner; but their recognition was a mere outward one. They left him to work on these principles still further in the cause of the gospel among the Gentiles; but for themselves they did not desire to know anything more about them." So that, according to the Tubingen critics, we witness in Galatians 2:9 not a union, but a divorce! The Jewish Apostles recognise Paul as a brother, only in order to get rid of him. Can misinterpretation be more unjust than this? Paul does not say, "They gave us the right hand of fellowship on condition that, " but, "in order that we should go this way, they that." As much as to say: The two parties came together and entered into a closer union, so that with the best mutual understanding each might go its own way and pursue its proper work in harmony with the other. For Paul it would have been a sacrilege to speak of the diplomatic compromise which Baur and Zeller describe as "giving the right hand of fellowship."

Never did the Church more deeply realise than at her first Council the truth, that "there is one body and one Spirit; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in all". {Ephesians 4:4-6} Paul still seems to feel his hand in the warm grasp of Peter and of John when he writes to the Ephesians of "the foundation of the Apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself for chief corner-stone; in whom the whole building fitly framed together, groweth unto a holy temple in the Lord". {Galatians 2:20-21} Alas for the criticism that is obliged to see in words like these the invention of second-century churchmanship, putting into the mouth of Paul catholic sentiments of which in reality he knew nothing! Such writers know nothing of the power of that fellowship of the Spirit which reigned in the glorious company of the Apostles.

"Only they would have us remember the poor"-a circumstance mentioned partly by way of reminder to the Galatians touching the collection for Jerusalem, which Paul had already set on foot amongst them. {1 Corinthians 16:1} The request was prompted by the affectionate confidence with which the Jewish chiefs embraced Paul and Barnabas. It awakened an eager response in the Apostle’s breast. His love to his Jewish kindred made him welcome the suggestion. Moreover every deed of charity rendered by the wealthier Gentile Churches to "the poor saints in Jerusalem," was another tie helping to bind the two communities to each other. Of such liberality Antioch, under the direction of the Gentile missionaries, had already set the example. {Acts 11:29-30}

James, Peter, John, and Paul- it was a memorable day when these four men met face to face. What a mighty quaternion! Amongst them they have virtually made the New Testament and the Christian Church. They represent the four sides of the one foundation of the City of God. Of the Evangelists, Matthew holds affinity with James; Mark with Peter; and Luke with Paul. James clings to the past and embodies the transition from Mosaism to Christianity. Peter is the man of the present, quick in thought and action, eager, buoyant, susceptible. Paul holds the future in his grasp, and schools the unborn nations. John gathers present, past, and future into one, lifting us into the region of eternal life and love.

With Peter and James Paul had met before, and was to meet again. But so far as we can learn, this was the only occasion on which his path crossed that of John. Nor is this Apostle mentioned again in Paul’s letters. In the Acts he appears but once or twice, standing silent in Peter’s shadow. A holy reserve surrounds John’s person in the earlier Apostolic history. His hour was not yet come. But his name ranked in public estimation amongst the three foremost of the Jewish Church; and he exercised, doubtless, a powerful, though quiet, conciliatory influence in the settlement of the Gentile question. The personality of Paul excited, we may be sure, the profoundest interest in such a mind as that of John. He absorbed, and yet in a sense transcended, the Pauline theology. The Apocalypse, although the most Judaic book of the New Testament, is penetrated with the influence of Paulinism. The detection in it of a covert attack on the Gentile Apostle is simply one of the mare’s nests of a super-subtle and suspicious criticism. John was to be the heir of Paul’s labours at Ephesus and in Asia Minor. And John’s long life, touching the verge of the second century, his catholic position, his serene and lofty spirit, blending in itself and resolving into a higher unity the tendencies of James and Peter and Paul, give us the best assurance that in the Apostolic age there was indeed "One, holy, Catholic, Apostolic Church."

Paul’s fellowship with Peter and with James was cordial and endeared. But to hold the hand of John, "the disciple whom Jesus loved," was a yet higher satisfaction. That clasp symbolised a union between men most opposite in temperament and training, and brought to the knowledge of Christ in very different Ways, but whose communion in Him was deep as the life eternal. Paul and John are the two master minds of the New Testament. Of all men that ever lived, these two best understood Jesus Christ.

Verses 11-18

Chapter 9


Galatians 2:11-18

THE conference at Jerusalem issued in the formal recognition by the Primitive Church of Gentile Christianity, and of Paul’s plenary Apostleship. And it brought Paul into brotherly relations with the three great leaders of Jewish Christianity. But this fellowship was not to continue undisturbed. The same cause was still at work which had compelled the Apostle to go up to Jerusalem, taking Titus with him. The leaven of Pharisaic legalism remained in the Church. Indeed, as time went on and the national fanaticism grew more violent, this spirit of intolerance became increasingly bitter and active. The address of James to Paul on the occasion of his last visit to the Holy City, shows that the Church of Jerusalem was at this time in a state of the most sensitive jealousy in regard to the Law, and that the legalistic prejudices always existing in it had gained a strength with which it was difficult to cope. {Acts 21:17-25}

But for the present the Judaising faction had received a check. It does not appear that the party ever again insisted on circumcision as a thing essential to salvation for the Gentiles. The utterances of Peter and James at the Council, and the circular addressed there from to the Gentile Churches, rendered this impossible. The Legalists made a change of front; and adopted a subtler and seemingly more moderate policy. They now preached circumcision as the prerogative of the Jew within the Church, and as a counsel of, perfection for the Gentile believer in Christ. {Galatians 3:3} To quote the rescript of Acts 15:1-41 against this altered form of the circumcisionist doctrine, would have been wide of the mark.

It is against this newer type of Judaistic teaching that our Epistle is directed. Circumcision, its advocates argued, was a Divine ordinance that must have its benefit. {Romans 2:25-29 - Romans 3:1} God has given to Israel an indefeasible pre-eminence in His kingdom. {Romans 1:16; Romans 2:9-10; Romans 9:4-5; Romans 11:1-2} Law-keeping children of Abraham enter the new Covenant on a higher footing than "sinners of the Gentiles": they are still the elect race, the holy nation. If the Gentiles wish to share with them, they must add to their faith circumcision, they must complete their imperfect righteousness by legal sanctity. So they might hope to enter on the full heritage of the sons of Abraham; they would be brought into communion with the first Apostles and the Brother of the Lord; they would be ‘admitted to the inner circle of the kingdom of God. The new Legalists sought, in fact, to superimpose Jewish on Gentile Christianity. They no longer refused all share in Christ to the uncircumcised; they offered them a larger share. So we construe the teaching which Paul had to combat in the second stage of his conflict with Judaism, to which his four major Epistles belong. And the signal for this renewed struggle was given by the collision with Peter at Antioch.

This encounter did not, we think, take place on the return of Paul and Barnabas from the Council. The compact of Jerusalem secured to the Church a few years of rest from the Judaistic agitation. The Thessalonian Epistles, written in 52 or 53 A.D., go to show, not only that the Churches of Macedonia were free from the legalist contention, but that it did not at this period occupy the Apostle’s mind. Judas Barsabbas and Silas-not Peter-accompanied the Gentile missionaries in returning to Antioch; and Luke gives, in Acts 15:1-41, a tolerably full account of the circumstances which transpired there in the interval before the second missionary tour, without the slightest hint of any visit made at this time by the Apostle Peter. We can scarcely believe that the circumcision party had already recovered, and increased its influence, to the degree that it must have done when "even Barnabas was carried away"; still less that Peter on the very morrow of the settlement at Jerusalem and of his fraternal communion there with Paul would show himself so far estranged.

When, therefore, did "Cephas come down to Antioch?" The Galatians evidently knew. The Judaisers had given their account of the matter, to Paul’s disadvantage. Perhaps he had referred to it himself on his last visit to Galatia, when we know he spoke explicitly and strongly against the Circumcisionists. {Galatians 1:9} Just before his arrival in Galatia on this occasion he had "spent some time" at Antioch, {Acts 18:22-23} in the interval between the second and third missionary journeys. Luke simply mentions the fact, without giving any details. This is the likeliest opportunity for the meeting of the two Apostles in the Gentile capital. M. Sabatier, in the following sentences, appears to us to put the course of events in its true light:-"Evidently the Apostle had quitted Jerusalem and undertaken his second missionary journey full of satisfaction at the victory he had gained, and free from anxiety for the future. The decisive moment of the crisis therefore necessarily falls between the Thessalonian and Galatian Epistles. What had happened in the meantime? The violent discussion with Peter at Antioch, {Galatians 2:2-21} and all that this account reveals to us, - the arrival of the emissaries from James in the pagan-Christian circle, the counter-mission organised by the Judaisers to rectify the work of Paul. A new situation suddenly presents itself to the eyes of the Apostle on his return from his second missionary journey. He is compelled to throw himself into the struggle, and in doing so to formulate in all its rigour his principle of the abolishment of the Law."

The "troublers" in this instance were "certain from James." Like the "false brethren" who appeared at Antioch three years before they came from the mother Church, over which James presided. The Judaising teachers at Corinth had their "commendatory letters," {2 Corinthians 3:1} derived assuredly from the same quarter. In all likelihood, their confederates in Galatia brought similar credentials. We have already seen that the authority of the Primitive Church was the chief weapon used by Paul’s adversaries. These letters of commendation were part of the machinery of the anti-Pauline agitation. How the Judaisers obtained these credentials, and in what precise relation they stood to James, we can only conjecture. Had the Apostle held James responsible for their action, he would not have spared him any more than he has done Peter. James held a quasi-pastoral relation to Christian Jews of the Dispersion. And as he addressed his Epistle to them, so he would be likely on occasion to send delegates to visit them. Perhaps the Circumcisionists found opportunity to pass themselves off in this character; or they may have abused a commission really given them, by interfering with Gentile communities. That the Judaistic emissaries in some way or other adopted false colours, is plainly intimated in 2 Corinthians 11:13. James, living always at Jerusalem, being moreover a man of simple character, could have little suspected the crafty plot which was carried forward under his name.

These agents addressed themselves in the first instance to the Jews, as their commission from Jerusalem probably entitled them to do. They plead for the maintenance of the sacred customs. They insist that the Mosaic rites carry with them an indelible sanctity; that their observance constitutes a Church within the Church. If this separation is once established, and the Jewish believers in Christ can be induced to hold themselves aloof and to maintain the "advantage of circumcision," the rest will be easy. The way will then be open to "compel the Gentiles to Judaise." For unless they do this, they must be content to remain on a lower level, in a comparatively menial position, resembling that of uncircumcised proselytes in the Synagogue. The circular of the Jerusalem Council may have been interpreted by the Judaists in this sense, as though it laid down the terms, not of full communion between Jew and Gentile believers, but only of a permissive, secondary recognition. At Antioch the new campaign of the Legalists was opened, and apparently with signal success. In Galatia and Corinth we see it in full progress.

The withdrawal of Peter and the other Jews at Antioch from the table of the Gentiles virtually "compelled" the latter "to Judaise." Not that the Jewish Apostle had this intention in his mind. He was made the tool of designing men. By "separating himself" he virtually said to every uncircumcised brother, "Stand by thyself, I am holier than thou." Legal conformity on the part of the Gentiles was made the condition of their communion with Jewish Christians-a demand simply fatal to Christianity. It re-established the principle of salvation by works in a more individious form. To supplement the righteousness of faith by that of law meant to supplant it. To admit that the Israelite by virtue of his legal observances stood in a higher position than "sinners of the Gentiles," was to stultify the doctrine of the cross, to make Christ’s death a gratuitous sacrifice. Peter’s error, pushed to its logical consequences, involved the overthrow of the Gospel. This the Gentile Apostle saw at a glance. The situation was one of imminent danger. Paul needed all his wisdom, and all his courage and promptitude to meet it.

It had been Peter’s previous rule, since the vision of Joppa, to lay aside Jewish scruples of diet and to live in free intercourse with Gentile brethren. He "was wont to eat with the Gentiles. Though a born Jew, he lived in Gentile fashion"-words unmistakably describing Peter’s general habit in such circumstances. This Gentile conformity of Peter was a fact of no small moment for the Galatian readers. It contravenes the assertion of a radical divergence between Petrine and Pauline Christianity, whether made by Ebionites or Baurians.

The Jewish Apostle’s present conduct was an act of "dissimulation." He was belying his known convictions, publicly expressed and acted on for years. Paul’s challenge assumes that his fellow-Apostle is acting insincerely. And this assumption is explained by the account furnished in the Acts of the Apostles respecting Peter’s earlier relations with Gentile Christianity. {Acts 10:1-48 - Acts 11:1-18; Acts 15:6-11} The strength of Paul’s case lay in the conscience of Peter himself. The conflict at Antioch, so often appealed to in proof of the rooted opposition between the two Apostles, in reality gives evidence to the contrary effect. Here the maxim strictly applies, Exceptio probat regulam.

Peter’s lapse is quite intelligible. No man who figures in the New Testament is better known to us. Honest, impulsive, ready of speech, full of contagious enthusiasm, brave as a lion, firm as a rock against open enemies, he possessed in a high degree the qualities which mark out a leader of men. He was of the stuff of which Christ makes his missionary heroes. But there was a strain of weakness in Peter’s nature. He was pliable. He was too much at the mercy of surroundings. His denial of Jesus set this native fault in a light terribly vivid and humiliating. It was an act of "dissimulation." In his soul there was a fervent love to Christ. His zeal had brought him to the place of danger. But for the moment he was alone. Public opinion was all against him. A panic fear seized his brave heart. He forgot himself; he denied the Master whom he loved more than life. His courage had failed; never his faith. "Turned back again" from his coward flight, Peter had indeed "strengthened his brethren". {Luke 22:31-32} He proved a tower of strength to the infant Church, worthy of his cognomen of the Rock. For more than twenty years he had stood unshaken. No name was so honoured in the Church as Peter’s. For Paul to be compared to him was the highest possible distinction.

And yet, after all this lapse of time, and in the midst of so glorious a career, the old, miserable weakness betrays him once more. How admonitory is the lesson! The sore long since healed over, the infirmity of nature out of which we seemed to have been completely trained, may yet break out again, to our shame and undoing. Had Peter for a moment forgotten the sorrowful warning of Gethsemane? Be it ours to "watch and pray, lest we enter into temptation."

We have reason to believe that, if Peter rashly erred, he freely acknowledged his error, and honoured his reprover. Both the Epistles that bear his name, in different ways, testify to the high value which their author set upon the teaching of "our beloved brother Paul." Tradition places the two men at Rome side by side in their last days; as though even in their death these glorious Apostles should not be divided, despite the attempts of faction and mistrust to separate them.

Few incidents exhibit more Strongly than this the grievous consequences that may ensue from a seemingly trivial moral error. It looked a little thing that Peter should prefer to take his meals away from Gentile company. And yet, as Paul tells him, his withdrawal was a virtual rejection of the Gospel, and imperilled the most vital interests of Christianity. By this act the Jewish Apostle gave a handle to the adversaries of the Church which they have used for generations and for ages afterwards. The dispute which it occasioned could never be forgotten. In the second century it still drew down on Paul the bitter reproaches of the Judaising faction. And in our own day the rationalistic critics have been able to turn it to marvellous account. It supplies the corner-stone of their "scientific reconstruction" of Biblical theology. The entire theory of Baur is evolved out of Peter’s blunder. Let it be granted that Peter in yielding to the "certain from James" followed his genuine convictions and the tradition of Jewish Christianity, and we see at once how deep a gulf lay between Paul and the Primitive Church. All that Paul argues in the subsequent discussion only tends, in this case, to make the breach more visible. This false step of Peter is the thing that chiefly lends a colour to the theory in question, with all the far-reaching consequences touching the origin and import of Christianity, which it involves. So long "the evil that men do lives after them"!

Paul’s rebuke of his brother Apostle extends to the conclusion of the chapter. Some interpreters cut it short at the end of Galatians 2:14; others at Galatians 2:16; others again at Galatians 2:18. But the address is consecutive and germane to the occasion throughout. Paul does not, to be sure, give a verbatim report, but the substance of what he said, and in a form suited to his readers. The narrative is an admirable prelude to the argument of chap. 3. It forms the transition from the historical to the polemical part of the Epistle, from the Apostle’s personal to his doctrinal apology. The condensed form of the speech makes its interpretation difficult and much contested. We shall in the remainder of this chapter trace the general course of Paul’s reproof, proposing in the following chapter to deal more fully with its doctrinal contents.

1. In the first place, Paul taxes the Jewish Apostle with insincerity and unfaithfulness toward the gospel. "I saw," he says, "that they were not holding a straight course, according to the truth of the gospel."

It is a moral, not a doctrinal aberration, that Paul lays at the door of Cephas and Barnabas. They did not hold a different creed from himself; they were disloyal to the common creed. They swerved from the path of rectitude in which they had walked hitherto. They had regard no longer to "the truth of the gospel "- the supreme consideration of the servant of Christ-but to the favour of men, to the public opinion of Jerusalem. "What will be said of us there?" they whispered to each other, "if these messengers Of James report that we are discarding the sacred customs, and making no difference between Jew and Gentile? We shall alienate our Judean brethren. We shall bring a scandal on the Christian cause in the eyes of Judaism."

This withdrawal of the Jews from the common fellowship at Antioch was a public matter. It was an injury to the whole Gentile-Christian community. If the reproof was to be salutary, it must be equally public and explicit. The offence was notorious. Every one deplored it, except those who shared it, or profited by it. Cephas "stood condemned." And yet his influence and the reverence felt toward him were so great that no one dared to put this condemnation into words. His sanction was of itself enough to give to this sudden recrudescence of Jewish bigotry the force of authoritative usage. "The truth of the gospel" was again in jeopardy. Once more Paul’s intervention foiled the attempts of the Judaisers and saved Gentile liberties. And this time he stood quite alone. Even the faithful Barnabas deserted him. But what mattered that, if Christ and truth were on his side? "Amicus Cephas, amicus Barnabas; seal magis amicus Veritas." Solitary amid the circle of opposing or dissembling Jews, Paul "withstood" the chief of the Apostles of Jesus "to the face." He rebuked him "before them all."

2. Peter’s conduct is reproved by Paul in the light of their common knowledge of salvation in Christ.

Paul is not content with pointing out the inconsistency of his brother Apostle. He must probe the matter to the bottom. He will bring Peter’s delinquency to the touchstone of the Gospel, in its fundamental principles. So he passes in Galatians 2:15 from the outward to the inward, from the circumstances of Peter’s conduct to the inner world of spiritual consciousness, in which his offence finds its deeper condemnation. "You and I," he goes on to say, "not Gentile sinners, but men of Jewish birth-yet for all that, knowing that there is no justification for man in works of law, only through faith in Christ-we too put our faith in Christ, in order to be justified by faith in Him, not by works of law; for as Scripture taught us, in that way no flesh will be justified."

Paul makes no doubt that the Jewish Apostle’s experience of salvation corresponded with his own. Doubtless, in their previous intercourse, and especially when he first "made acquaintance with Cephas" {Galatians 1:18} in Jerusalem, the hearts of the two men had been opened to each other; and they had found that, although brought to the knowledge of the truth in different ways, yet in the essence of the matter-in respect of the personal conviction of sin, in the yielding up of self-righteousness and native pride, in the abandonment of every prop and trust but Jesus Christ-their history had run the same course, and face answered to face. Yes, Paul knew that he had an ally in the heart of his friend. He was not fighting as one that beateth the air, not making a rhetorical flourish, or a parade of some favourite doctrine of his own; he appealed from Peter dissembling to Peter faithful and consistent. Peter’s dissimulation was a return to the Judaic ground of legal righteousness. By refusing to eat with uncircumcised men, he affirmed implicitly that, though believers in Christ, they were still to him "common and unclean" that the Mosaic rites imparted a higher sanctity than the righteousness of faith. Now the principles of evangelical and legal righteousness, of salvation by faith and by law-works, are diametrically opposed. It is logically impossible to maintain both. Peter had long ago accepted the former doctrine. He had sought salvation, just like any Gentile sinner, on the common ground of human guilt, and with a faith that renounced every consideration of Jewish privilege and legal performance. By what right can any Hebrew believer in Christ, after this, set himself above his Gentile brother, or presume to be by virtue of his circumcision and ritual law-keeping a holier man? Such we take to be the import of Paul’s challenge in Galatians 2:15-16.

3. Paul is met at this point by the stock objection to the doctrine of salvation by faith-an objection brought forward in the dispute at Antioch not, we should imagine, by Peter himself, but by the Judaistic advocates. To renounce legal righteousness was in effect, they urged, to promote sin - nay, to make Christ Himself a minister of sin (Galatians 2:17).

Paul retorts the charge on those who make it. They promote sin, he declares, who set up legal righteousness again (Galatians 2:18). The objection is stated and met in the form of question and answer, as in Romans 3:5. We have in this sharp thrust and parry an example of the sort of fence which Paul must often have carried on in his discussions with Jewish opponents on these questions.

We must not overlook the close verbal connection of these verses with the two last. The phrase "seeking to be justified in Christ" carries us back to the time when the two Apostles, self-condemned sinners, severally sought and found a new ground of righteousness in Him. Now when Peter and Paul did this, they were "themselves also found to be sinners,"-an experience how abasing to their Jewish pride! They made the great discovery that stripped them of legal merit, and brought them down in their own esteem to the level of common sinners. Peter’s confession may stand for both, when he said, abashed by the glory of Christ, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord." Now this style of penitence, this profound self-abasement in the presence of Jesus Christ, revolted the Jewish moralist. To Pharisaic sentiment it was contemptible. If justification by faith requires this, if it brings the Jew to so abject a posture and makes no difference between lawless and law-keeping, between pious children of Abraham and heathen outcasts-if this be the doctrine of Christ, all moral distinctions are confounded, and Christ is "a minister of sin!" This teaching robs the Jew of the righteousness he before possessed; it takes from him the benefit and honour that God bestowed upon his race! So, we doubt not, many a Jew was heard angrily exclaiming against the Pauline doctrine, both at Antioch and elsewhere. This conclusion was, in the view of the Legalist, a reductio ad absurdum of Paulinism.

The Apostle repels this inference with the indignant mhnoito, Far be it! His reply is indicated by the very form in which he puts the question: "If we were found sinners" (Christ did not make us such). "The complaint was this," as Calvin finely says: "Has Christ therefore come to take away from us the righteousness of the Law, to make us polluted who were holy? Nay, Paul says; -he repels the blasphemy with detestation. For Christ did not introduce sin, but revealed it. He did not rob them of righteousness, but of the false show thereof." The reproach of the Judaisers was in reality the same that is urged against evangelical doctrine still-that it is immoral, placing the virtuous and vicious in the common category of "sinners."

Galatians 2:18 throws back the charge of promoting sin upon the Legalist. It is the counterpart, not of Galatians 2:19, but rather of Galatians 2:17. The "transgressor" is the sinner in a heightened and more specific sense, one who breaks known and admitted law. This word bears, in Paul’s vocabulary, a precise and strongly marked signification which is not satisfied by the common interpretation. It is not that Peter, in setting up the Law which he had in principle overthrown, puts himself in the wrong; nor that Peter in reestablishing the Law, contradicts the purpose of the Law itself (Chrysostom, Lightfoot, Beet). This is to anticipate the next verse. In Paul’s view and according to the experience common to Peter with himself, law and transgression are concomitant, every man "under law" is ipso facto a transgressor. He who sets up the first, constitutes himself the second. And this is what Peter is now doing; although Paul courteously veils the fact by putting it hypothetically, in the first person. After dissolving, so far as in him lay, the validity of legal righteousness and breaking down the edifice of justification by works, Peter is now building it up again, and thereby constructing a prison-house for himself. Returning to legal allegiance, he returns to legal condemnation; {Comp. Galatians 3:10-12; Galatians 3:19; Romans 3:20; Romans 4:15} with his own hands he puts on his neck the burden of the Law’s curse, which through faith in Christ he had cast off. By this act of timid conformity he seeks to commend himself to Jewish opinion; but it only serves, in the light of the Gospel, to "prove him a transgressor," to "commend" him in that unhappy character. This is Paul’s retort to the imputation of the Judaist. It carries the war into the enemies’ camp. "No," says Paul, "Christ is no patron of sin, in bidding men renounce legal righteousness. But those promote sin-in themselves first of all-who after knowing His righteousness, turn back again to legalism."

4. The conviction of Peter is now complete. From the sad bondage to which the Jewish Apostle, by his compliance with the Judaisers, was preparing to submit himself, the Apostle turns to his own joyous sense of deliverance (Galatians 2:19-21). Those who resort to legalism, he has said, ensure their own condemnation. It is, on the other hand, by an entire surrender to Christ, by realising the import of His death, that we learn to "live unto God." So Paul had proved it. At this moment he is conscious of a union with the crucified and living Saviour, which lifts him above the curse of the law, above the power of sin. To revert to the Judaistic state, to dream, any more of earning righteousness by legal conformity, is a thing for him inconceivable. It would be to make void the cross of Christ!

And it was the Law itself that first impelled Paul along this path. "Through law" he "died to law." The Law drove him from itself to seek salvation in Jesus Christ. Its accusations allowed him no shelter, left him no secure spot on which to build the edifice of his self-righteousness. It said to him unceasingly, Thou art a transgressor. {Romans 7:7-25 - Romans 8:1} He who seeks justification by its means contradicts the Law, while he frustrates the grace of God.

Verses 19-21

Chapter 10


Galatians 2:19-21

PAUL’S personal apology is ended. He has proved his Apostolic independence, and made good his declaration, "My Gospel is not according to man." If he owed his commission to any man, it was to Peter; so his traducers persistently alleged. He has shown that, first without Peter, then in equality with Peter, and finally in spite of Peter, he had received and maintained it. Similarly in regard to James and the Jerusalem Church. Without their mediation Paul commenced his work; when that work was challenged, they could only approve it; and when afterwards men professing to act in their name disturbed his work, the Apostle had repelled them. He acted all along under the consciousness of a trust in the gospel committed to him directly by Jesus Christ, and an authority in its administration second to none upon earth. And events had justified this confidence.

Paul is compelled to say all this about himself. The vindication of his ministry is forced from him by the calumnies of false brethren. From the time of the conference at Jerusalem, and still more since he withstood Peter at Antioch, he had been a mark for the hatred of the Judaising faction. He was the chief obstacle to their success. Twice he had foiled them., when they counted upon victory. They had now set on foot a systematic agitation against him, with its headquarters at Jerusalem, carried on under some pretext of sanction from the authorities of the Church there. At Corinth and in Galatia the legalist emissaries had appeared simultaneously; they pursued in the main the same policy, adapting it to the character and disposition of the two Churches, and appealing with no little success to the Jewish predilections common even amongst Gentile believers in Christ.

In this controversy Paul and the gospel he preached were bound together. "I am set," he says, "for the defence of the gospel". {Philippians 1:16} He was the champion of the cross, the impersonation of the principle of salvation by faith. It is "the gospel of Christ," the "truth of the gospel," he reiterates, that is at stake. If he wards off blows falling upon him, it is because they are aimed through him at the truth for which he lives-nay, at Christ who lives in him. In his self-assertion there is no note of pride or personal anxiety. Never was there a man more completely lost in the greatness of a great cause, nor who felt himself in comparison with it more worthless. But that cause has lifted Paul with it to imperishable glory. Of all names named on earth, none stands nearer than his to that which is "above every name."

While Paul in chaps. 1 and 2 is busy with his own vindication, he is meantime behind the personal defence preparing the doctrinal argument. His address to Peter is an incisive outline of the gospel of grace. The three closing verses are the heart of Paul’s theology {Galatians 2:19-21}. Such a testimony was the Apostle’s best defense before his audience at Antioch; it was the surest means of touching the heart of Peter and convincing him of his error. And its recital was admirably calculated to enlighten the Galatians as to the true bearing of this dispute which had been so much misrepresented. From Galatians 2:15-21 onwards, Paul has been all the while addressing, under the person of Peter, the conscience of his readers, and paving the way for the assault that he makes upon them. with so much vigour in the first verses of chap. 3. Read in the light of the foregoing narrative, this passage is a compendium of the Pauline Gospel, invested with the peculiar interest that belongs to a confession of personal faith, made at a signal crisis in the author’s life. Let us examine this momentous declaration.

1. At the foundation of Paul’s theology lies his conception of the grace of God.

Grace is the Apostle’s watchword. The word occurs twice as often in his Epistles as it does in the rest of the New Testament. Outside the Pauline Luke and Hebrews, and 1 Peter with its large infusion of Paulinism, it is exceedingly rare. In this word the character, spirit, and aim of the revelation of Christ, as Paul understood it, are summed up. "The grace of God" is the touchstone to which Peter’s dissimulation is finally brought. Christ is the embodiment of Divine grace-above all, in His death. So that it is one and the same thing to "bring to nought the grace of God," and "the death of Christ." Hence God’s grace is called "the grace of Christ,"-"of our Lord Jesus Christ" From Romans to Titus and Philemon, "grace reigns" in every Epistle. No one can counterfeit this mark of Paul, or speak of grace in his style and accent. God’s grace is not His love alone; it is redeeming love-love poured out upon the undeserving, love coming to seek and save the lost, "bringing salvation to all men". {Romans 5:1-8; Titus 2:2} Grace decreed redemption, made the sacrifice, proclaims the reconciliation, provides and bestows the new sonship of the Spirit, and schools its children into all the habits of godliness and virtue that beseem their regenerate life, which it- brings finally to its consummation in the life eternal. {Ephesians 1:5-9; 2 Timothy 1:9; Romans 3:24; Hebrews 2:9; 2 Corinthians 5:20-21; 2 Corinthians 6:1; Galatians 4:5; Titus 3:5-7; Titus 2:11-14; Romans 5:21}

Grace in God is therefore the antithesis of sin in man, counterworking and finally triumphing over it. Grace belongs to the last Adam as eminently as sin to the first. The later thoughts of the Apostle on this theme are expressed in Titus 3:4-7, a passage singularly rich in its description of the working of Divine grace on human nature. "We were senseless," he says "disobedient wandering in error, in bondage to lusts and pleasures of many kinds, living in envy and malice, hateful, hating each other. But when the kindness and love to man of our Saviour God shone forth," - then all was changed: "not by works wrought in our own righteousness, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, that, justified by His grace, we might be made heirs in hope of life eternal." The vision of the grace of God drives stubbornness, lust, and hatred from the soul. It brings about, for man and for society, the palingenesia, the new birth of Creation, rolling back the tide of evil and restoring the golden age of peace and innocence; and crowns the joy of a renovated earth with the glories of a recovered heaven.

Being the antagonist of sin, grace comes of necessity into contrast with the law. Law is intrinsically the opposer of sin; sin is "lawlessness," with Paul as much as with John. {Romans 7:12; Romans 7:14; 2 Thessalonians 2:4-8; etc.} But law was powerless to cope with sin: it was "weak through the flesh." Instead of crushing sin, the interposition of law served to inflame and stimulate it, to bring into play its latent energy, reducing the man most loyally disposed to moral despair. "By the law therefore is the knowledge of sin; it worketh out wrath." Inevitably, it makes men transgressors; it brings upon them an inward condemnation, a crushing sense of the Divine anger and hostility. {Romans 3:20; Romans 4:15; Romans 5:20; Romans 7:5; Romans 7:24; Galatians 2:16; Galatians 3:10-11; Galatians 3:19} That is all that law can do by itself. "Holy and just and good," notwithstanding, to our perverse nature it becomes death. {Romans 7:13; 1 Corinthians 15:56} It is actually "the strength of sin," lending itself to extend and confirm its power. We find in it a "law of sin and death." So that to be "under law" and "under grace" are two opposite and mutually exclusive states. In the latter condition only is sin "no longer our lord". {Romans 6:14} Peter and the Jews of Antioch therefore, in building up the legal principle again, were in truth "abolishing the grace of God." If the Galatians follow their example, Paul warns them that they will "fall from grace." Accepting circumcision, they become "debtors to perform the whole law,"-and that means transgression and the curse. {Galatians 5:1-4; Galatians 3:10-12; Galatians 2:16-18}

While sin is the reply which man’s nature makes to the demands of law, faith is the response elicited by grace; it is the door of the heart opening to grace. {Romans 3:24; Ephesians 2:8; etc.} Grace and Faith go hand in hand, as Law and Transgression. Limiting the domain of faith, Peter virtually denied the sovereignty of grace. He belied his confession made at the Council of Jerusalem: "By the grace of the Lord Jesus we trust to be saved, even as the Gentiles". {Acts 15:11} With Law are joined such terms as Works, Debt, Reward, Glorying, proper to a "righteousness of one’s own." {Romans 4:1-4; Romans 11:6; Galatians 2:16; Galatians 3:12} With Grace we associate Gift, Promise, Predestination, Call, Election, Adoption, Inheritance, belonging to the dialect of "the righteousness which is of God by faith." Grace operates in the region of the Spirit, making for freedom; but law, however spiritual in origin, has come to seek its accomplishment in the sphere of the flesh, where it "gendereth to bondage". {Galatians 4:23-31; Galatians 5:1-5; 2 Corinthians 3:6; 2 Corinthians 3:17} Grace appears, however, in another class of passages in Paul’s Epistles, of which Galatians 1:15; Galatians 2:9 are examples. To the Divine grace Paul ascribes his personal salvation and Apostolic call. The revelation which made him a Christian and an Apostle, was above all things a manifestation of grace. Wearing this aspect, "the glory of God" appeared to him "in the face of Jesus Christ." The splendour that blinded and over whelmed Saul on his way to "Damascus, was the glory of His grace." The voice of Jesus that fell on the persecutor’s ear spoke in the accents of grace. No scourge of the Law, no thunders of Sinai, could have smitten down the proud Pharisee, and beaten or scorched out of him his strong self-will, like the complaint of Jesus. All the circumstances tended to stamp upon his soul, fused into penitence in that hour, the ineffaceable impression of "the grace of God and of our Saviour Jesus Christ." Such confessions as those of 1 Corinthians 15:8-10, and Ephesians 2:7; Ephesians 3:7-8, show how constantly this remembrance was present with the Apostle Paul and suffused his views of revelation, giving to his ministry its peculiar tenderness of humility and ardour of gratitude. This sentiment of bound less obligation to the grace of God, with its pervasive effect upon the Pauline doctrine, is strikingly expressed in the doxology of 1 Timothy 1:11-17, -words which it is almost a sacrilege to put into the mouth of a falsarius: "According to the gospel of the glory of the blessed God, herewith I was intrusted who was aforetime a blasphemer and persecutor But the grace of our Lord abounded even more exceedingly. Faithful is the saying, worthy to be received of all, ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’-of whom I am chief. In me as chief Christ Jesus showed forth all His long-suffering Now to the King of the ages be honour and glory for ever. Amen." Who, reading the Apostle’s story, does not echo that Amen? No wonder that Paul became the Apostle of grace; even as John, "the disciple whom Jesus loved," must perforce be the Apostle of love. First to him was God’s grace revealed in its largest affluence, that through him it might be known to all men and to all ages.

2. Side by side with the grace of God, we find in Galatians 2:21 the death of Christ. He sets aside the former, the Apostle argues, who by admitting legal righteousness nullifies the latter.

While grace embodies Paul’s fundamental conception of the Divine character, the death of Christ is the fundamental fact in which that character manifests itself. So the cross becomes the centre of Paul’s theology. But it was, in the first place, the basis of his personal life. Faith in the Son of God, "who loved me and gave Himself up for me," is the foundation of "the life he now lives in the flesh."

Here lay the stumbling-block of Judaism. Theocratic pride, Pharisaic tradition, could not, as we say, get over it. A crucified Messiah! How revolting the bare idea. But when, as in Paul’s case, Judaistic pride did surmount this huge scandal and in spite of the offence of the cross arrive at faith in Jesus, it was at the cost of a severe fall. It was broken in pieces, -destroyed once and for ever. With the elder Apostles the change had been more gradual; they were never steeped in Judaism as Saul was. For him to accept the faith of Jesus was a revolution the most complete and drastic possible. As a Judaist, the preaching of the cross was an outrage on his faith and his Messianic hopes; now it was that which most of all subdued and entranced him. Its power was extreme, whether to attract or repel. The more he had loathed and mocked at it before, the more he is bound henceforth to exalt the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. A proof of the Divine anger against the Nazarene he had once deemed it; now he sees in it the token of God’s grace in Him to the whole world.

For Paul therefore the death of Christ imported the end of Judaism. "I died to law," he writes, - "I am crucified with Christ." Once understanding what this death meant, and realising his own relation to it, on every account it was impossible to go back to Legalism. The cross barred all return. The law that put Him, the sinless One, to death, could give no life to sinful men. The Judaism that pronounced His doom, doomed itself. Who would make peace with it over the Saviour’s blood? From the moment that Paul knew the truth about the death of Jesus, he had done with Judaism for ever. Henceforth he knew nothing-cherished no belief or sentiment, acknowledged no maxim, no tradition, which did not conform itself to His death. The world to which he had belonged died, self-slain, when it slew Him. From Christ’s grave a new world was rising, for which alone Paul lived.

But why should the grace of God take expression in a fact so appalling as Christ’s death? What has death to do with grace? It is the legal penalty of sin. The conjunction of sin and death pervades the teaching of Scripture, and is a principle fixed in the conscience of mankind. Death, as man knows it, is the inevitable consequence and the universal witness of his transgression. He "carries about in his mortality the testimony that God is angry with the wicked every day" (Augustine). The death of Jesus Christ cannot be taken out of this category. He died a sinner’s death. He bore the penalty of guilt. The prophetic antecedents of Calvary, the train of circumstances connected with it, His own explanations in chief-are all in keeping with this purpose. With amazement we behold the Sinless "made sin," the Just dying for the unjust. He was "born of a woman, born under law": under law He lived-and died. Grace is no law-breaker. God must above all things be "just Himself," if He is to justify others. {Romans 3:26} The death of Jesus declares it. That sublime sacrifice is, as one might say, the resultant of grace and law. Grace "gives Him up for us all"; it meets the law’s claims in Him., even to the extreme penalty, that from us the penalty may be lifted off. He puts Himself under law, in order "to buy out those under law". {Galatians 4:4-5} In virtue of the death of Christ, therefore, men are dealt with on an extra-legal footing, on terms of grace; not because law is ignored or has broken down; but because it is satisfied beforehand. God has "set forth Christ Jesus a propitiation"; and in view of that. accomplished fact, He proceeds "in the present time" to "justify him who is of faith in Jesus". {Romans 3:22-26} Legalism is at an end, for the Law has spent itself on our Redeemer. For those that are in Him "there is now no condemnation." This is to anticipate the fuller teaching of chap. 3; but the vicarious sacrifice is already implied when Paul says, "He gave Himself up for me-gave Himself for our sins". {Galatians 1:4}

The resurrection of Christ is, in Paul’s thought, the other side of His death. They constitute one event, the obverse and reverse of the same reality. For Paul, as for the first Apostles, the resurrection of Jesus gave to His death an aspect wholly different from that it previously wore. But the transformation wrought in their minds during the "forty days" in his case came about in a single moment, and began from a different starting-point. Instead of being the merited punishment of a blasphemer and false Messiah, the death of Calvary became the glorious self-sacrifice of the Son of God. The dying and rising of Jews were blended in the Apostle’s mind; he always sees the one in the light of the other. The faith that saves, as he formulates it, is at once a faith that Christ died for our sins, and that God raised Him from the dead on the third day. Whichever {1 Corinthians 15:3-4; 1 Corinthians 15:11; Romans 4:24-25; Romans 10:9; 1 Thessalonians 4:14} of the two one may first apprehend, it brings the other along with it. The resurrection is not an express topic of this Epistle. Nevertheless it meets us in its first sentence, where we discern that Paul’s knowledge of the gospel and his call to proclaim it, rested upon this fact. In the passage before us the resurrection is manifestly assumed. If the Apostle is "crucified with Christ," - and yet "Christ lives in him," it is not simply the teaching, or the mission of Jesus that lives over again in Paul; the life of the risen Saviour has itself entered into his soul.

3. This brings us to the thought of the union of the believer with Christ in death and life, which is expressed in terms of peculiar emphasis and distinctness in Galatians 2:20. "With Christ I have been crucified; and I live no longer; it is Christ that lives, in me. My earthly life is governed by faith in Him who loved me and died for me." Christ and Paul are one. When Christ died, Paul’s former self died with Him. Now it is the Spirit of Christ in heaven that lives within Paul’s body here on earth.

This union is first of all a communion with the dying Saviour. Paul does not think of the sacrifice of Calvary as something merely accomplished for him, outside himself, by a legal arrangement in which one person takes the place of another and, as it were, personates him. The nexus between Christ and Paul is deeper than this. Christ is the centre and soul of the race, holding towards it a spiritual primacy of which Adam’s natural headship was a type, mediating between men and God in all the relations which mankind holds to God. {Romans 5:14; 1 Corinthians 15:23; 1 Corinthians 15:45-48; 1 Timothy 2:5} The death of Jesus was more than substitutionary; it was representative. He had every right to act for us. He was the "One" who alone could "die for all"; in Him "all died". {2 Corinthians 5:14-15} He carried us with Him to the cross: His death was in effect the death of those whose sins He bore. There was no legal fiction here; no federal compact extemporised for the occasion. "The second Man from heaven," if second in order of time, was first and fundamental in the spiritual order, the organic Head of mankind, "the root," as well as "the offspring" of humanity. {1 Corinthians 15:45-49; comp. Colossians 1:15-17; John 1:4; John 1:9; John 1:15-16} The judgment that fell upon the race was a summons to Him who held in His hands its interests and destinies. Paul’s faith apprehends and endorses what Christ has done on his behalf, "who loved me," he cries, "and gave Himself up for me." When the Apostle says, "I have been crucified with Christ," he goes back in thought to the scene of Calvary; there, potentially, all that was done of which he now realises in himself the issue. His present salvation is, so to speak, a rehearsal of the Saviour’s death, a "likeness" {Romans 6:5} of the supreme act of atonement, which took place once for all when Christ died for our sins.

Faith is the link between the past, objective sacrifice, and the present, subjective apprehension of it, by which its virtue becomes our own. Without such faith, Christ would have "died in vain." His death must then have been a great sacrifice thrown away. Wilful unbelief repudiates what the Redeemer has done, provisionally, on our behalf. This repudiation, as individuals, we are perfectly free to make." The objective reconciliation effected in Christ’s death can after all benefit actually, in their own personal consciousness, only those who know and acknowledge it, and feel themselves in their solidarity with Christ to be so much one with Him as to be able to appropriate inwardly His death and celestial life, and to live over again His life and death; those only, in a word, who truly believe in Christ. Thus the idea of substitution in Paul receives its complement and realisation in the mysticism of his conception of faith. While Christ objectively represents the whole race, that relation becomes a subjective reality only in the ease of those who connect themselves with Him in faith in such a way as to fuse together with Him into one spirit and one body, as to find in Him their Head, their soul, their life and self, and He in them His body, His members and His temple. Thereby the idea of ‘one for all’ receives the stricter meaning of ‘all in and with one."’

Partaking the death of Christ, Paul has come to share in His risen life. On the cross he owned his Saviour-owned His wounds. His shame, His agony of death, and felt himself therein shamed, wounded, slain to death. Thus joined to his Redeemer, as by the nails that fastened Him to the tree, Paul is carried with Him down into the grave-into the grave, and out again! Christ is risen from the dead: so therefore is Paul. He "died to sin once," and now "liveth to God; "death lords it over Him no more": this Paul reckons equally true for himself. {Romans 6:3-11} The Ego, the "old man’ that Paul once was, lies buried in the grave of Jesus.

Jesus Christ alone, "the Lord of the Spirit" has risen from that sepulchre, -has risen in the spirit of Paul. "If any one should come to Paul’s doors and ask, Who lives here? he would answer, not Saul of Tarsus, but Jesus Christ lives in this body of mine." In this appropriation of the death and rising of the Lord Jesus, this interpenetration of the spirit of Paul and that of Christ, there are three stages corresponding to the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday of Eastertide. "Christ died for our sins: He was buried; He rose again the third day": so, by consequence, "I am crucified with Christ; no longer do I live; Christ liveth in me."

This mystic union of the soul and its Saviour bears fruit in the activities of outward life. Faith is no mere abstract and contemplative affection; but a working energy, dominating and directing all our human faculties. It makes even the flesh its instrument, which defied the law of God, and betrayed the man to the bondage of sin and death. There is a note of triumph in the words, - "the life I now live in the flesh, I live in faith!" The impossible has been accomplished. "The body of death" is possessed by the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus {Romans 6:12; Romans 7:23-25; Romans 8:1-2} The flesh-the despair of the law-has become the sanctified vessel of grace.

Paul’s entire theology of Redemption is contained in this mystery of union with Christ. The office of the Holy Spirit, whose communion holds together the glorified Lord and His members upon earth, is implied in the teaching of Galatians 2:20. This is manifest, when in Galatians 3:2-5 we find the believer’s union with Christ described as "receiving the Spirit, beginning in the Spirit"; and when a little later "the promise of the Spirit" embraces the essential blessings of the new life. Galatians 3:14; Galatians 4:6-7; 1 Corinthians 6:17; 1 Corinthians 6:19; Romans 8:9-16. The doctrine of the Church is also here. For those in whom Christ dwells have therein a common life, which knows no "Jew and Greek; all are one man" in Him. Galatians 3:28; Colossians 3:11; Romans 15:5-7. Justification and sanctification alike are here; the former being the realisation of our share in Christ’s propitiation for sin, the latter our participation in His risen life, spent "to God." Finally, the resurrection to eternal life and the heavenly glory of the saints spring from their present fellowship with the Redeemer. "The Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead, dwelling in us, shall raise our mortal body" to share with the perfected spirit His celestial life. The resurrection of Christ is the earnest of that which all His members will attain, -nay, the material creation is to participate in the glory of the sons of God, made like to Him, the "firstborn of many brethren". {Romans 8:11; Romans 8:16-23; Romans 8:29-30; Philippians 3:20-21}

In all these vital truths Paul’s gospel was traversed by the Legalism. countenanced by Peter at Antioch. The Judaistic doctrine struck directly, if not avowedly, at the cross, whose reproach its promoters sought to escape. This charge is the climax of the Apostle’s contention against Peter, and the starting-point of his expostulation with the Galatians in the following chapter. "If righteousness could be obtained by way of law, then Christ died for nought!" What could one say worse of any doctrine or policy, than that it led to this? And if works of law actually justified men, and circumcision is allowed to make a difference between Jew and Greek before God, the principle of legalism is admitted, and the intolerable consequence ensues which Paul denounces. What did Christ die for, all men are able to redeem themselves after this fashion? How can any one dare to build up in face of the cross his paltry edifice of self-wrought goodness, and say by doing so that the expiation of Calvary was superfluous and that Jesus Christ might have spared Himself all that trouble!

And so, on the one hand, Legalism impugns the grace of God. It puts human relations to God on the footing of a debtor and creditor account; it claims for man a ground for boasting in himself, {Romans 4:1-4} and takes from God the glory of His grace. In its devotion to statute and ordinance, it misses the soul of obedience, the love of God, only to be awakened by the knowledge of His love to us. {Galatians 5:14; 1 John 4:7-11} It sacrifices the Father in God to the King. It forgets that trust is the first duty of a rational creature toward his Maker, that the law of faith lies at the basis of all law for man.

On the other hand, and by the. same necessity, Legalism is fatal to the spiritual life in man. Whilst it clouds the Divine character, it dwarfs and petrifies the human. What becomes of the sublime mystery of the life hid with Christ in God, if its existence is made contingent on circumcision and ritual performance? To men who put "meat and drink" on a level with "righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost," or in their intercourse with fellow-Christians set points of ceremony above justice, mercy, and faith, the very idea of a spiritual kingdom of God is wanting. The religion of Jesus and of Paul regenerates the heart, and from that centre regulates and hallows the whole ongoing of life. Legalism guards the mouth, the hands, the senses, and imagines that through these it can drill the man into the Divine order. The latter theory makes religion a mechanical system; the former conceives it as an inward, organic life.

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Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Galatians 2". "The Expositor's Bible Commentary".