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Bible Commentaries

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary
Galatians 2

 

 

Verses 1-9

CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES

Gal . Then fourteen years after.—From Paul's conversion inclusive. I went again to Jerusalem.—The same visit referred to in Acts 15, when the council of the apostles and Church decided that Gentile Christians need not be circumcised.

Gal . I went up by revelation.—Quite consistent with the fact that he was sent as a deputy from the Church at Antioch (Act 15:2). The revelation suggested to him that this deputation was the wisest course. Communicated privately to them which were of reputation.—It was necessary that the Jerusalem apostles should know beforehand that the gospel Paul preached to the Gentiles was the same as theirs, and had received divine confirmation in the results it wrought on the Gentile converts.

Gal . Neither Titus [not even Titus], being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised.—The apostles, constrained by the firmness of Paul and Barnabas, did not compel or insist on his being circumcised. Thus they virtually sanctioned Paul's course among the Gentiles, and admitted his independence as an apostle. To have insisted on Jewish usages for Gentile converts would have been to make them essential parts of Christianity.

Gal . False brethren unawares [in an underhand manner] brought in privily to spy out.—As foes in the guise of friends, wishing to destroy and rob us of our liberty—from the yoke of the ceremonial law.

Gal . To whom we gave place by subjection not for an hour.—We would willingly have yielded for love, if no principle was at issue, but not in the way of subjection. Truth precise, unaccommodating, abandons nothing that belongs to itself, admits nothing that is inconsistent with it (Bengel).

Gal . They in conference added nothing to me.—As I did not by conference impart to them aught at my conversion, so they now did not impart aught additional to me above what I already knew. Another evidence of the independence of his apostleship.

Gal . They gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship.—Recognising me as a colleague in the apostleship, and that the gospel I preached to the Gentiles by special revelation was the same as theirs.

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Gal

Confirmatory Proofs of a Divine Call—

I. Seen in a prudent consultation with the acknowledged leaders of the Church (Gal ).—The men of reputation referred to in these verses are not so called by way of irony, but because of their recognised authority in the mother Church. Paul was not summoned to Jerusalem, but divinely directed to take the journey. Neither his teaching nor his office was called in question, nor did he fear the most searching inquiry into his commission. Conscious of his divine call, he claimed equality of status with the rest of the apostles, and explained to them and to the Church the principles and methods of the gospel he preached. He had nothing to fear, whatever might be the judgment of the Church leaders in Jerusalem. He expected from them nothing but sympathy and encouragement in his work, and he hailed with joy the opportunity of sharing the counsel of men as interested as himself in the success of the gospel. With his God-given convictions and views, it was impossible for him to meet the apostles on any other ground than that of perfect equality.

II. Seen in a prompt and stern refusal to compromise principle (Gal ).—The object of Paul's visit to Jerusalem was to discuss a vital principle of the gospel—the right of the Gentiles to the privileges of the gospel without observing the works of the Jewish law. A misunderstanding at that critical moment might have imperilled the liberty of the gospel. The presence of Barnabas and Titus was significant—the one a pure Jew, a man of gentle disposition and generous impulse; and the other a Gentile convert, representing the world of the uncircumcised. It is to the credit of the Church leaders at Jerusalem that, with their strong Jewish prejudices, they admitted that the legal rite of circumcision must not be imposed on Gentile converts. They were so convinced that this was the will of God, and that He had already sanctioned this as an essential feature of the gospel, that they dared do no other. An attempt was made, not by the apostles, but by certain "false brethren," to insist that Titus should be circumcised; but this was promptly and stoutly opposed. A concession on this point would have been fatal to the universality of the gospel—the whole Gentile world would have been trammelled with the bondage of legal ceremonies. It was then that the great battle of Christian liberty was fought and won. The victory was another testimony of the validity and power of the divine commission with which Paul was entrusted.

III. Seen in the inability of the wisest leaders to add anything to the divine authority.—"But of these who seemed to be somewhat … in conference added nothing to me" (Gal ). When Paul was called to the apostleship he "conferred not with flesh and blood"; now he affirms that flesh and blood did not confer anything on him. In conference and debate with the chiefs of the Church he showed himself their equal, and on the great essentials of the gospel he was in perfect agreement with them. Though Paul is too modest to say it, so far from his learning anything from them, they were more likely to learn something from him, especially as to the wider scope of the gospel. "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 earlier 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 was 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" (Findlay).

IV. Seen in winning the recognition of a special mission and of equality in the apostleship.—"They saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, … and perceived the grace that was given unto me," etc. (Gal ). Paul won the confidence and admiration of his fellow-apostles. They listened with candour and ever-deepening interest to his explanations, and, whatever might have been their prejudices, they frankly acknowledged his divine commission. What a memorable day was that when James, Peter, John, and Paul met face to face! "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."

Lessons.—A divine call—

1. Confers the necessary qualifications to carry out its mission.

2. Demands courage and fidelity.

3. Compels public recognition.

GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES

Gal . Truth its Own Evidence.—

1. Though the minister of Jesus Christ is not to depend upon the approbation of others for confirmation of his doctrine, as if he were uncertain before their testimony is added, yet he is not to be so self-willed as to misregard what others judge or think, but ought to demit himself so far as to give a friendly account of the doctrine, that mistakes arising from misinformation may be removed and the joint consent of others to the truth obtained.

2. As there are always some in the Church of God who have deservedly more reputation than others, so Christian prudence will teach a man to be so far from striving against such that he will endeavour, by giving due respect to them, to receive approbation from such, that he may be in a better capacity to do good to others.

3. Nothing marreth the success of the gospel more than difference of judgments and strifes and debates among eminent preachers, many resolving to believe nothing till preachers agree among themselves, and many stumbling-blocks are cast before people by the venting of passions, jealousies, animosities, and revenge. Paul endeavoured to get the consent of the other apostles to the doctrines preached by him, lest by the calumnies of his adversaries his preaching should be useless.—Fergusson.

Gal . The Power of Truth.

I. Superior to ceremonial observances (Gal ).

II. Detects and exposes the wiliest tactics of false teachers (Gal ).

III. Is uncompromising in its attitude towards the subtlest errors (Gal ).

Gal . False Brethren and their Treatment.

I. The Church of God on earth, even at the best, hath wicked men and hypocrites in it.

II. They who teach Christ, joining some other thing with Him in the cause of salvation, are said to creep in, because in appearance they maintain Christ; yet because they add something to Christ, they neither enter nor continue in the true Church with any good warrant from God.

III. No man can set down the precise time when errors had their beginning, for the authors thereof enter in secretly, not observed of men.

IV. The false brethren urged circumcision to bring the converts into bondage.—They that be of a corporation stand for their liberties. What a shame it is that men should love bondage, and neglect the spiritual liberty which they have by Christ.

V. The false brethren urged the apostles to use circumcision but once; but they would not yield so much as once, because their act would have tended to the prejudice of Christian liberty in all places. Julian, sitting in a chair of state, gave gold to his soldiers one by one, commanding them to cast frankincense so much as a grain into the fire that lay upon a heathenish altar. Christian soldiers refused to do it, and they which had not refused afterwards recalled their act and willingly suffered death. We are not to yield the least part of the truth of the gospel. This truth is more precious than the whole world beside. There is no halting between two religions.

VI. The apostles gave no place by way of subjection.—They willingly suffered their doctrine to be tried, yet they were not bound to subjection. We are to give place by meek and patient bearing of that which we cannot mend, but we are not to give place by subjection.

VII. If circumcision be made a necessary cause of salvation, the truth of the gospel does not continue, and falsehood comes in the room.—Perkins.

Gal . A Spy.—Captain Turner Ashby was a young officer in the Confederate army, the idol of the troops for his general bravery, but especially for his cleverness in gathering information of the enemy. On one occasion he dressed himself in a farmer's suit of homespun that he borrowed, and hired a plough-horse to personate a rustic horse-doctor. With his saddlebags full of some remedy for spavin or ringbone, he went to Chambersburg, and returned in the night with an immense amount of information. His career was one full of romantic episode.

Gal . Fidelity to Truth.—

1. Though much may be done for composing Church differences by using meekness and forbearance towards those who oppose themselves, yet we are not for peace' sake to quit the least part of truth. Thus Paul, who for lawful ceding became all things to all men, would not give place by way of subjection, so as to yield the cause to the adversaries; neither would he do anything, in its own nature indifferent, that would be an evidence of yielding.

2. A minister, when called to confess and avow truth, hath not only his own peace with God and keeping of a good conscience to look to, but also the condition of his flock, who will be shaken or confirmed in the truth by his faint or bold and faithful confession.

3. It is not enough that people have the name of the gospel among them or some truths mixed with errors; but all, and especially ministers, should endeavour to have the gospel in purity and integrity, free from any mixture of contrary errors.—Fergusson.

The Truth not to be yielded.—Shortly after James I. came to the throne of England he set up a claim to all the small estates in Cumberland and Westmorland, on the plea that the Statesmen were merely the tenants of the Crown. The Statesmen met, to the number of two thousand, at Ratten Heath, between Kendal and Staveley, where they came to the resolution that "they had won their lands by the sword, and were able to hold them by the same." After that meeting no further claim was made to their estates on the part of the Crown.

Gal . Recognition of a Special Mission.

I. By men of reputation who confessed their inability to augment its authority (Gal ).

II. Acknowledging that the commission was distinctly divine (Gal ).

III. Confirmed by cordially admitting the messenger into the fellowship of highest service (Gal ).

Gal . Divine Blessing the Highest Sanction of Ministerial Authority.—

1. It is not the pains of ministers, or any virtue in the word preached, from whence success flows, but from the effectual working of the Spirit. Paul ascribed the success both of his own and Peter's ministry to this.

2. Whom God doth call to any employment, and chiefly whom He calls to the ministry, He fitteth with gifts and abilities suitable thereto. James, Cephas, and John did not acknowledge Paul to be an apostle called by God, but on perceiving that grace and gifts, ordinary and extraordinary, were bestowed upon him.

3. We ought not to withhold our approbation, especially when it is craved, from that which by evident signs and reasons we perceive to be approved of God, though the giving of our approbation may disoblige those who pretend much friendship towards us.—Fergusson.

The Efficacy of the Christian Ministry.

I. That grace or power to regenerate is not included in the word preached, as virtue to heal in a medicine. To regenerate is the proper work of God.

II. That grace is not inseparably annexed and tied to the word preached, for to some it is the savour of death unto death.

III. The preaching of the word is an external instrument of faith and regeneration, and the proper effect of it is to declare or signify.

IV. The apostles at Jerusalem acknowledged Paul to be an apostle, because he had the gifts of an apostle, and because his ministry was powerful among the Gentiles.

V. As all ministers in their places are pillars, they are hereby admonished to be constant in the truth against all enemies whatsoever.

VI. As ministers are pillars, we are taught to cleave to them and their ministry at all times—in life and death.—Perkins.


Verse 10

CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES

Gal . Remember the poor.—Of the Jewish Christians in Judea then distressed. Paul's past care for their poor prompted this request. His subsequent zeal in the same cause was the answer to their appeal (Act 11:29-30; Rom 15:26-27; 1Co 16:3; 2Co 9:1; Act 24:17).

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Gal

Christianity and Poverty.

I. Christianity has ever been the friend of the poor.—

1. The poor who are made so by accepting Christianity. Accepting Christ often means the loss of friends, of status, of fortune. The discovery of this result among the first Christians might have much to do in the formation of a common fund. There are many Jews and heathen to-day who are convinced of the truth of Christianity, but hesitate to make a public avowal of their belief because of the apparent impossibility of gaining a livelihood and the certainty of social ostracism. Christian missionaries are not in a position to guarantee their support, nor do they wish to encourage, a system that might easily degenerate into wholesale bribery. There are converts who run all risks and deliberately accept Christ and poverty. All such the Christian Church, often at great sacrifice, does its best to befriend.

2. The poor who are made so by unavoidable calamity.—Judea was devastated by famine in the reign of Claudius Cæsar, and the apostles promptly organised relief for the sufferers in the Jewish Churches (Act ). Christianity has ever been ready to help the distressed and unfortunate. The hospitals, almshouses, and other benevolent institutions that abound are substantial monuments of the practical benevolence of the Christian Church. Christianity is the best friend of the people.

II. Christianity inculcates a zealous and unselfish charity.—"Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same I also was forward [zealous] to do." Paul had already rendered noble service in this direction, and was prompted by the spirit of the gospel to continue to do so. He was zealous in good works, though he stoutly denied any merit in them to justify the sinner. His first concern was to help the Jewish poor, though many of them impugned his apostolic authority and strove to ruin his influence. As champion of the Gentiles he employed the wealth of his converts in supplying the needs of his famishing Jewish brethren. Christian charity is superior to the jealousies of sects and parties, and even to personal insult and wrong. Behind the hand of the generous alms-giver is the heart of love.

III. Christianity elevates and enriches the poor.—It enjoins temperance, industry, honesty, and perseverance—the practice of which has raised many from poverty to wealth. The man who has prospered should never forget the claims of the poor. It is said that a certain man dreamed that the Saviour appeared to him and upbraided him with giving so little to His cause. The man replied, "I can't afford it." "Very well," said the Saviour; "let it be so. But do you remember, that when that business panic happened, how you prayed to Me to keep you out of difficulties? And I heard your prayer and tided you over the trouble. And do you remember also, when your little child was sick, how you prayed that her life might be spared, and again I heard your prayer and restored her? But now let it be an understanding between us that henceforth when you are in trouble I do nothing for you, seeing you can't afford to help Me." The man's conscience was touched, and he exclaimed, "Lord, take what I have; it is Thine."

Lessons.—

1. Christianity is the source of the highest philanthropy.

2. Is the unfailing hope and comfort of the poor.

3. Has achieved its greatest triumphs among the poor.

GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES

Gal . Remember the Poor.

I. The Church of Jerusalem was in extreme poverty.—

1. Because the poorer sort received the gospel.

2. Because the richer were deprived of their riches for their profession of the name of Christ.

II. It is the office of pastors and teachers, not only to preach and dispense the word, but also to have care of the poor.

III. Satisfaction, recompense, and restitution are the way to life by the appointment of God.—

1. He must restore who is the cause of any wrong or loss to others and all that are accessory.

2. Restitution is to be made to him that is wronged and bears the loss if he be known and alive; if he be dead, to his heirs; if all be dead, to the poor.

3. The things to be restored are those which are of us unjustly received or detained, either known to us or unknown.

4. As to the order of restitution, things certain must first be restored, and things uncertain after.

IV. It is not enough for us to give good words and to wish well, but we must in our places and calling do our endeavour that relief may be sealed to our poor.—

1. The charge was great to maintain the altar of the Lord in the Old Testament; the poor come in the room of the altar.

2. The poor represent the person of Christ.

3. Compassion in us is a pledge or an impression of the mercy that is in God towards us, and by it we may know or feel in ourselves that mercy belongs unto us. The observing of the commandment of relief is the enriching of us all.—Perkins.

Christian Duty to the Poor.—

1. It is frequently the lot of those who are rich in grace to be poor in the things of the present life, and driven into such straits as to be forced to live upon some charitable supply from others, God seeing it convenient hereby to wean them from worldly contentments that heaven may be more longed after and more sweet when it comes.

2. Though those who are our own poor, within the bounds where we live, are chiefly to be relieved by us, yet in cases of extremity the poor who live remote from us are also to be supplied.

3. Ministers ought to press upon the people, not only duties which are easy and cost them nought, but also those that are burdensome and expensive, especially that they would willingly give of those things they enjoy for the supply of others who want.—Fergusson.

The Poor Representative of Christ.—One evening at supper, when one of the boys had said the grace, "Come, Lord Jesus, be our Guest, and bless what Thou hast provided," a little fellow looked up and said, "Do tell me why the Lord Jesus never comes. We ask Him every day to sit with us, and He never comes!" "Dear child, only believe, and you may be sure He will come, for He does not despise our invitation." "I shall set a seat," said the little fellow, and just then there was a knock at the door. A poor frozen apprentice entered, begging a night's lodging. He was made welcome, the chair stood empty for him, every child wanted him to have his plate, and one was lamenting that his bed was too small for the stranger, who was quite touched by such uncommon attentions. The little one had been thinking hard all the time. "Jesus could not come, and so He sent this poor man in His place: is that it?" "Yes, dear child; that is just it. Every piece of bread and every drink of water that we give to the poor, or the sick, or the prisoners for Jesus' sake, we give to Him."—Memoir of John Falk.

Remembrance of the Poor recommended.

I. The nature of the assertion.—

1. Remember the work of the poor.

2. The deprivations of the poor.

3. Our remembrance of the poor should be founded on a personal acquaintance with their circumstances. "Indeed, sir," said a person of large property, "I am a very compassionate man; but to tell you the truth, I do not know any person in want." He kept aloof from the poor.

II. Obligations to comply with the recommendation.—

1. The dictates of humanity require it.

2. The demands of duty.

3. The rights of justice.

4. The claims of interest.

III. Answer objections.—Such as:

1. My circumstances are impoverished and I have nothing to spare.

2. Charity must begin at home.

3. I have a right to do what I will with my own.

4. The poor do not deserve to be remembered.—Beta.


Verses 11-21

CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES

Gal . When Peter was come to Antioch I withstood him to the face.—The strongest proof of the independence of his apostleship in relation to the other apostles, and an unanswerable argument against the Romish dogma of the supremacy of St. Peter.

Gal . The other Jews dissembled likewise with him.—The question was not whether Gentiles were admissible to the Christian covenant without becoming circumcised, ‘but whether the Gentile Christians were to be admitted to social intercourse with the Jewish Christians without conforming to the Jewish institution. It was not a question of liberty and of bearing with others' infirmities, but one affecting the essence of the gospel, whether the Gentiles are to be virtually compelled to live as do the Jews in order to be justified.

Gal . Walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel.—Which teaches that justification by legal works and observances is inconsistent with redemption by Christ. Paul alone here maintained the truth against Judaism, as afterwards against heathenism (2Ti 4:16-17).

Gal . Is therefore Christ the minister of sin?—Thus to be justified by Christ it was necessary to sink to the level of Gentiles—to become sinners, in fact. But are we not thus making Christ a minister of sin? Away with the profane thought! No; the guilt is not in abandoning the law, but in seeking it again when abandoned. Thus, and thus alone, we convict ourselves of transgression (Lightfoot).

Gal . I through the law am dead to the law.—By believing union to Christ in His death we, being considered dead with Him, are severed from the law's past power over us.

Gal . If righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.—Died needlessly, without just cause. Christ's having died shows that the law has no power to justify us, for if the law can justify or make us righteous, the death of Christ is superfluous.

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Gal

A Fearless Defence of Fundamental Truth—

I. Does not hesitate to impeach a distinguished Church dignitary of inconsistency.—"But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed," etc. (Gal ). Peter had been accustomed to mingle with the Gentile converts on the ground of perfect social equality. Influenced by the fierce bigots of legalism, who insinuated that the circumcised occupied a superior status to the uncircumcised, he withdrew from the social circle of the Gentiles and confined himself to that of his Jewish brethren. The pliability of his impulsive nature led him into this as into other mistakes. To create a social distinction between Jew and Gentile was to undermine the gospel. Paul saw at a glance the threatened peril, and it needed all his tact and courage to confront it. Though it meant a public impeachment of the sincerity and consistency of one of the most venerated apostles, the champion of the Gentiles did not hesitate. Alone, even Barnabas having for the time being deserted him, he stood up boldly for the truth of the gospel.

II. Is the opportunity for an authoritative restatement of the truth imperilled (Gal ).—In these verses the apostle again sets forth the fundamental doctrine of justification by faith, without the works of the law. The Judaisers contended that to renounce legal righteousness was in effect to promote sin—to make Christ the minister of sin (Gal 2:17). Paul retorts the charge on those who made it, and showed that they promote sin who set up legal righteousness again (Gal 2:18). 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 (Findlay). "The complaint was this," says Calvin,—"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."

III. Is made more impressive by showing the effect of the truth on personal experience (Gal ).—In these words the apostle indicates that his own deliverance from the law was effected by being dead to the law—being crucified with Christ; and that his own spiritual life was originated and sustained by a living faith in a loving and self-sacrificing Christ. "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, brganic life."

Lessons.—

1. The leaven of error is not easily suppressed.

2. True religion has never lacked a race of brave defenders.

3. Experimental religion is the best guarantee of its permanence.

GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES

Gal . Christian Consistency—

I. May be spoilt by yielding to an unworthy fear (Gal ).

II. Should be strictly maintained for the sake of others (Gal ).

III. Should be defended with intrepid courage (Gal ).

Gal . An Astute Defender of the Faith.

I. Here we have an example of true virtue, in St. Paul resisting evil to the utmost of His power. In like manner must every one of us resist evil, first in himself and then in them that appertain to him.

II. An example of boldness and liberty in reproving sin.—

1. This liberty in reproving is not the fruit of a bold and rash disposition, but is the fruit of God's Spirit, and is so to be acknowledged.

2. This liberty is to be ordered by a sound mind whereby we are able to give a good account of our reproofs, both for the matter and manner of them.

3. Our admonitions must be seasoned and tempered with love.

III. An example of an ingenuous and honest mind.—When Paul sees Peter he reproves him to the face. Contrary to this is the common practice in backbiting, whispering, and tale-bearing, whereby it comes to pass that when a man is in fault every man knows it save he who is in fault. We see that excellent men, even the chief apostles, are subject to err and be deceived.—Perkins.

Gal . The Power of Example.—

1. So weak and inconstant are the best of men that, being left to themselves, the least blast of temptation will make them break off the course of doing well in the very midst, and, without respect either to conscience or credit, openly desert it.

2. To separate from a true Church and break off communion with its members cannot be attempted without sin, not though we eschew the offence and stumbling of many.

3. Of so great force is the bad example of men, eminent, gracious, and learned, that not only the weak and infirm, but even those who are strong and richly endowed with both grace and parts, will sometimes be corrupted by it. It is usual for us unawares to esteem such as more than men, and being once so far engaged in our esteem of them we do not so narrowly examine their actions as we do those of other men.

4. An inundation of evil examples, though held forth by private Christians, is so impetuous and of such force to carry others along with it, that even the very best of men can hardly stand against it.—Fergusson.

An Erring Apostle.

I. Peter's sin was simulation.—Among the Gentiles at Antioch he used Christian liberty in eating things forbidden by the ceremonial law; yet after the coming of certain Jews from Jerusalem, he separates himself from the Gentiles, and plays the Jew among the Jews. This act of Peter was not a sin in itself, but the circumstances made it a sin

1. He not only abstained from meats forbidden by the ceremonial law, but withdrew himself from the Gentiles and kept company apart with the Jews.

2. He abstained not among the Jews at Jerusalem, but at Antioch among the Gentiles, where a little before he had openly done the contrary, using his Christian liberty.

3. He used this abstinence when certain Jews came from Jerusalem to search out the liberty of the Gentiles.

4. While Peter seeks to avoid the small offence of some Jews, he incurs a greater offence of all the Gentiles.

5. This act of Peter tended to the overthrowing of Paul's ministry and the suppressing of the truth of the gospel.

II. The cause of Peter's sin was fear of offending the Jews.—It was a sin because he feared man more than God. It was a sin, not of malice, but infirmity. A sin of infirmity is when there is a purpose in the heart not to sin, and yet for all this the sin is committed, by reason the will is over-carried by temptation, or by violence of affection as by fear, anger, lust.

III. The effect of Peter's sin.—He drew the Jews and Barnabas to the like dissimulation. Here we see the contagion of an evil example.

1. Ministers of the word must join with good doctrine the example of a good life.

2. Practice in the ministry is a part of the teaching.

3. All superiors are warned to go before their inferiors by good example.

4. The consent of many together is not a note of truth. Peter, Barnabas, and the Jews, all together are deceived; Paul alone has the truth. Ponormitane said, "A layman bringing Scripture is to be preferred before a whole council." Paphnutius alone had the truth, and the whole council of Nice inclined to error.—Perkins.

Gal . Justification by Faith, not by Works.—

1. Though private sins, which have not broken forth to a public scandal, are to be rebuked in private, public sins are to receive public rebukes, that public scandal may be removed, and others scared from taking encouragement to do the like (Gal ).

2. Though the binding power of the ceremonial law was abrogated at Christ's death, and the practice in some things left as a thing lawful and in itself indifferent, yet the observance, even for that time, was dispensed with more for the Jews' sake, and was more tolerable in them who were born and educated under that yoke, than in the Gentiles, to whom that law was never given, and so were to observe it, or any part of it, only in case of scandalising the weak Jews by their neglecting of it (Gal ).

3. Though every man by nature is a child of wrath and enemy to God, yet those born within the visible Church have a right to Church privileges and to enjoy the external means of grace and salvation (Gal ).

4. The doctrine of justification by faith and not by works was early opposed, and no doctrine so much opposed, because no truth is more necessary to be kept pure, as if it be kept pure several other truths are kept pure also, and if it fall other truths fall with it (Gal ).—Fergusson.

Gal . Justification by Faith.

I. Man is justified by the mere mercy of God.—And there is excluded by justification all merit of congruity, all meritorious works of preparation wrought by us, all co-operation of man's will with God's grace in the effecting of our justification.

II. Man is justified by the mere merit of Christ.—That is, by the meritorious obedience which He wrought in Himself, and not by anything wrought by Him in us.

III. A sinner is justified by mere faith.—That is, nothing within us concurs as a cause of our justification but faith, and nothing apprehends Christ's obedience for our justification but faith. This will more easily appear if we compare faith, hope, and love. Faith is like a hand that opens itself to receive a gift, and so is neither love nor hope. Love is also a hand, but yet a hand that gives out, communicates, and distributes. For as faith receives Christ into our hearts, so love opens the heart and pours out praise and thanks to God and all manner of goodness to men. Hope is no hand, but an eye that wistfully looks and waits for the good things faith believes. Therefore it is the only property of faith to clasp and lay hold of Christ and His benefits.

IV. The practice of them that are justified is to believe.—To put their trust in Christ.

1. Faith and practice must reign in the heart and have all at command. We must not go by sense, feeling, reason, but shut our eyes and let faith keep our hearts close to the promise of God. Faith must overrule and command nature and the strongest affections thereof.

2. When we know not what to do by reason of the greatness of our distress, we must fix our hearts on Christ with separation, as he that climbs up a ladder or some steep place the higher he goes the faster he holds.—Perkins.

Gal . False Methods of Salvation—

I. To seek justification in any other way than through Christ.—"If, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves are found sinners" (Gal ).

II. Reflect unjustly on the character of the only Saviour.—"Is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid" (Gal ).

III. Aggravate our sin by restoring in practice what we have abandoned in theory.—"For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor" (Gal ).

Gal . The Christian Dead to the Law.

I. The state in which the apostle describes himself to be.—"I am dead to the law." Not the moral law of God. Every rational creature in the universe is under its dominion, the believer as well as others. He must escape from existence before he can escape from the law of God. The apostle means he is dead to it as a covenant between God and himself. There still stands the law before him in all its primitive authority, purity, and majesty; he honours it and strives to obey it, and often rejoices in the thought that the time will come when he shall have his soul in a state of perfect conformity to it, but this is all. Its life-giving, death-bringing powers are utterly at an end, and he knows they are at an end. He is dead to all hope from the law, dead to all expectation of heaven or of salvation from it. He builds no more hope on his obedience to it than as though the law had ceased to exist, and no more fear has he of condemnation from it. The believer, dead to the legal covenant, rests from it. The connection between him and it is over, and with it are over the feelings within him, the painful, perturbing, apprehensive, slavish feelings arising out of it.

II. The means whereby the apostle has been brought into the state he describes.—"I through the law am dead to the law." Suppose a man anxious to pass from one country to another, from a dangerous and wretched country to a safe and happy one. Directly in his road stands a mountain which he cannot pass over, and which he at first imagines he can without much difficulty climb. He tries, but scarcely has he begun to breast it when a precipice stops him. He descends and tries again in another direction. There another precipice or some other obstacle arrests his course; and still ever as he begins his ascent he is baffled, and the little way he contrives to mount serves only to show him more and more of the prodigious height of the mountain, and its stern, rugged, impassable character. At last, wearied and worn, heart-sick with labour and disappointment, and thoroughly convinced that no efforts of his can carry him over, he lies down at the mountain's foot in utter despair, longing still to be on the other side, but making not another movement to get there. Now ask him as he lies exhausted on the ground what has occasioned his torpor and despair; he will say that mountain itself: its situation between him and the land of his desires, and its inaccessible heights and magnitude. So stands the law of God between the Christian and the land he longs for. The impossibility of making our way to God by means of the law arises from the extent of its requirements, and the unbending, inexorable character of its denunciations. We can do nothing but die to it, sink down before this broad, high, terrific mountain in utter despair. While through the law the believer dies to all hope from the law, through the cross of Christ he also dies to all apprehension from it.

III. The design of this deadness to the law in the Christian's soul.—"That I might live unto God." This living unto God dethrones self, discovers to the man the base, degrading idol to which he has been bowing down, makes him ashamed of the worship he has paid it, and places on the throne of his heart his Saviour and his God. His renunciation of his self-righteousness has gradually brought on other renunciations of self. The law driving him to Christ has been the means of driving him out of self altogether. It has brought him into the sphere of the gospel and among those soul-stirring principles, feelings, and aspirations connected with the gospel. There is no greater mistake than to imagine that the gospel has destroyed the law or loosened in any degree its hold on men. The gospel rests on the law. But for the law and its unbending, unchangeable, eternal character the gospel had not existed, for it would not have been needed. Dead to the law and alive unto God are two things that go together; the one springs out of the other. The more completely we die to the law as a covenant, the more fully, freely, and happily shall we live unto God.—C. Bradley.

Dead to the Law by the Law.

I. The person justified is dead to the law.—Here the law is compared to a hard and cruel master, and we to slaves or bondmen, who so long as they are alive are under the dominion and at the command of their masters; yet when they are dead they are free from that bondage, and their masters have no more to do with them. To be dead to the law is to be free from the dominion of the law.

1. In respect of the accusing and damnatory sentence of the law.

2. In respect of the power of the law.

3. In respect of the rigour of the law, exacting most perfect obedience for our justification.

4. In respect of the obligation of the conscience to the observance of ceremonies.

II. The justified person is dead to the law by the law.—By the law of Moses I am dead to the law of Moses The law accuses, terrifies, and condemns us, and therefore occasions us to flee unto Christ who is the cause that we die unto the law. As the needle goes before and draws in the thread which sews the cloth, so the law goes before and makes a way that grace may follow after and take place in the heart.

III. The end of our death to the law is that we may live to God.—We live to God wisely in respect of ourselves, godly in respect to God, justly in respect to men. That we may live godly we must:

1. Bring ourselves into the presence of the invisible God, and set all we do in His sight and presence.

2. We must take knowledge of the will of God in all things.

3. In all we do and suffer we must depend on God for success and deliverance.

4. In all things we must give thanks and praise to God.—Perkins.

Gal . The Believer crucified with Christ, and Christ living in the Believer.

I. The believer is conformed to the death of Christ.—

1. The nature of this crucifixion. It is figurative, not literal; yet real, and not chimerical. It not only signifies suffering and dying to sin, but also to effect this by the efficacy of Christ's cross.

2. The objects to which the Christian is crucified, and the principles which thereby expire:

(1) The law considered as a means of justification.

(2) The world—its applause, treasures, gratification.

(3) Self.

3. The sufferings which accompany this crucifixion. Severe conviction and mortification. The complete surrender of heart is attended with many pangs. The continuance of the struggle is grievous.

II. The believer participates in the life of Christ.—

1. The principle of the life—Christ living in the soul.

2. The evidences of this life—holy tempers, spiritual conversation, benevolent actions.

3. The instrument by which this life is introduced and maintained in the soul—faith.

Lessons.—

1. This subject furnishes a test to try the reality of our religion and the measure of our attainments.

2. Exposes the delusion of Pharisees, hypocrites, and antinomians.

3. Exhibits the dignity, felicity, and exalted hopes of the real believer.—Delta.

The Religious Life of the Apostle—

I. Was characterised from the beginning by promptitude of action.

II. Was marked by a constant solicitude for his own personal salvation.

III. Was eminent for its spirit of devotion.

IV. Was one of high fellowship with the divine.

V. Had its foundation and power in a living faith in Christ.

Truths to live on.—Some one has said, "Give me a great truth that I may live on it." And the preacher may well say, "Give me a great truth that I may preach it." There are many great truths in this verse. And yet how simply are they put! The first great truth taught in this verse is the oneness between Christ and those who believe in Him. What St. Paul means is this, that having died with Christ on the cross, he has in Christ paid the penalty of sin, is therefore free from its guilt, and it is no longer his old self that lives and rules, but Christ lives in him. And is not this the Christ I want? Not only a Christ to copy, not a Christ outside me, but a Christ living and reigning within. The believer lives by faith, and faith lives on the promises, for faith is a loving trust. The presence or absence of faith rules the whole destiny of every man. The man who believes will live one way. The unbeliever will live in another way. If you have this simple trust in Christ, you may appropriate the last clause of the verse, "He loved me, and gave Himself for me." When did that love begin? Never. When will that love end? Never.

"Every human tie may perish,

Friend to friend ungrateful prove,

Mothers cease their own to cherish,

Heaven and earth at last remove;

But no changes

Can attend the Saviour's love."

For those Christ loves He will undertake altogether. He gives them His peace, His joy, His smile, His arm, His hand, His home. For He gave Himself. There are all treasures in Him. Strength for every need, wisdom for every question, comfort for every sorrow, healing for every wound, provision for every day. "For me," so insignificant, unworthy, so bad; for me, whose iniquities have darkened the blue heavens; for me, a slave of sin.

"Why was I made to hear Thy voice

And enter while there's room,

While thousands made a wretched choice,

And rather starve than come?

'Twas the same love that spread the feast,

That gently forced me in,

Else I had still refused to taste,

And perished in my sin."

—F. Harper, M.A.

The Love of the Son of God to Men.

I. The existence of this amazing affection.—Let not the strangeness of the love stagger us into doubt or disbelief, but let us receive and rest in the revealed fact. Viewed from the side of the divine, it is affection from a superior towards those vastly inferior. Viewed from the side of the human beings beloved, it is an affection altogether undeserved. The contrast between His dignity and our demerit is the background on which His love stands out conspicuously.

II. The proof of affection He gave.—Not left to assertion or speculation, but proved by a public act. What He did expresses what He felt. He showed it openly by self denial and self-surrender. He gave not His substance or possessions, not another being, but to procure our salvation and express His love He delivered up His own person.

III. The personality or individuality of the affection.—He died for all and for each. His love to each human being might be inferred from that to the whole race, but it is affirmed directly. Each singly had a distinct place in His loving death. Each was a unit before Him, and had a personal interest in His affection.—W. Smiley, B.A.

The Life of Faith.

I. The life which the apostle lived in the flesh.—

1. His whole life was a life of religious decision. He made his choice and never faltered in it. He saw what he had to do, and he began to do it at once. He allowed no parley with the enemy. Nor was this resolution fleeting; it continued through life.

2. His life was marked by a solemn regard and care for his own personal salvation.—There are two sources of religious danger of which we are not always sufficiently aware—zeal for doctrinal truth, and active employment in promoting the spread of truth. How possible it is that, through the treachery of our hearts, even these may be allowed insensibly to sap the very foundations of that solemn fear, as to our own selves, which ought to influence us! Remember that truth is not the substance of salvation, but its instrument. Water others, but neglect not your own vineyard.

3. His life was truly a life of devotion.—His was a life of prayer. Philosophy asks for a reason for the efficacy of prayer, and, waiting for an answer, never prays at all. Religion hears that God will be inquired of by us, thankfully bends the knee, touches the golden sceptre, and bears away the blessing. We always want; we must always pray. And wish we for a model of high aspiration in prayer? Let the apostle elevate and expand our languid desires.

4. His life was one of heavenly-mindedness.—He lived indeed in the flesh, but his life was in heaven. Heavenly-mindedness is the result of three things—an assurance of present acceptance with God, habitual intercourse with Him through His Son, and the extinction of the worldly spirit. Our fears and aversions result from principles directly opposite.

5. His life was one of cheerful submission to providential appointments.—His was no life of envied ease. In every city bonds and afflictions awaited him. These dispensations operated on a tender and delicate mind, for in him were united great energy and great tenderness. Yet this man, hunted like a beast of prey, always preserves and exhibits a contented cheerfulness. There was no sorrow for himself, none allowed to others for him. The principle itself reason could not furnish; but when furnished it is seen to be most reasonable.

6. His life was one of laborious usefulness.—He lived not to himself, but to Christ Jesus his Lord, in the promotion of His will in the moral benefit and eternal salvation of men. This was the life he lived in the flesh, even to spread the light and influence of the gospel to all.

II. The principle and source of his life.—

1. It is Christian faith. Its object, the Son of God. It receives His words as true, and regards Him as an atoning sacrifice. "He gave Himself for me."

2. In its nature it is confiding and appropriating.—How does faith connect itself with the results stated?

(1) It regenerates as well as justifies.

(2) It produces vital union with Christ.

(3) It is habitual in its exercise.

(4) It is realising. It gives a spiritual apprehension of invisible and eternal realities.—R. Watson.

Self-abolished and Replaced.—Caroline Herschel, the sister of the great astronomer, was through all her life the most attached servant of her brother. She called herself "a mere tool, which my brother had the trouble of sharpening." She learned the details of observing with such success that she independently discovered eight comets. Her devotion was most complete. Wherever her brother was concerned she abolished self and replaced her nature with his. Having no taste for astronomy, her work at first was distasteful to her; but she conquered this, and lived to help his work and fame.

Gal . The Perils of False Teaching.

I. It seeks to base personal righteousness on an effete legalism.—"If righteousness come by the law."

II. It defeats the gracious purposes of God.—"I do not frustrate the grace of God."

III. It renders the sacrifice of Christ nugatory.—"Then Christ is dead in vain."

Frustrating Divine Grace.—

1. The joining of works with faith in the matter of justification is a total excluding of God's free grace and favour from any hand in the work. Grace admits of no partner. If grace does not all, it does nothing; if anything be added, that addition makes grace to be no grace.

2. That the apostle doth exclude in this dispute from having any influence in justification the works, not only of the ceremonial but also of the moral law, appears from this—that he opposes the merit of Christ's death to all merit of our own, whether by obedience to the one law or the other.

3. If there had been any other way possible by which the salvation of sinners could have been brought about but by the death of Christ, then Christ would not have died. To suppose Christ died in vain or without cause is an absurdity. If justification could have been attained by works or any other means, then His death had been in vain, and it were an absurd thing to suppose He would have died in that case.—Fergusson.

Justification by Works makes Void the Grace of God.

I. Grace must stand wholly and entirely in itself.—God's grace cannot stand with man's merit. Grace is no grace unless it be freely given every way. Grace and works of grace in the causing of justification can no more stand together than fire and water.

II. The apostle answers the objection that if a sinner is justified only by faith in Christ then we abolish the grace of God.—He shows that if we be justified by our own fulfilment of the law then Christ died in vain to fulfil the law for us.

III. We have here a notable ground of true religion.—That the death of Christ is made void if anything be joined with it in the work of our justification as a means to satisfy God's justice and to merit the favour of God. Therefore the doctrine of justification by works is a manifest error.—Perkins.

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Galatians 2:4". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/phc/galatians-2.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.

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