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Bible Commentaries

Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary
Galatians 2

 

 


Verse 1

CONTENTS

The Apostle opens this Chapter, about his Visit to Jerusalem. And then enters upon the grand Subject of his whole Epistle, of the Method of Justification, solely in, and by Christ.


Verses 1-5

(1) ¶ Then fourteen years after I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with me also. (2) And I went up by revelation, and communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to them which were of reputation, lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain. (3) But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised: (4) And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage: (5) To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.

I humbly conceive, that by the fourteen years, the Apostle here speaks of, he meant, from the date of his conversion. And it should seem to be the more probable, because he had just before in the preceding Chapter, been speaking of that wonderful event. So that it was warm upon his mind. And the revelation, which he saith he went up by, is meant to imply, that his going there, was neither by mission from the Church, nor from his own desire, but from some secret intimation from the Lord. No doubt, but that the Apostle, from living much in personal communion with Jesus, through the Spirit, found his mind not unfrequently directed in his movements from one place to another, and more especially in such as related. more immediately to the Church. Reader! is it not in some measure realizing heaven upon earth, when the children of God by faith are enabled to keep up constant fellowship with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ? And is not this the very design of all the Lord's communications to his people? 1 John 1:1-3; Revelation 3:20. Yea, is it not to the want of this, the soul is in leanness?

I beg the Reader to observe the manner of expression the Apostle useth, when speaking of the doctrine he preached. He calls that Gospel which he preached among the Gentiles. Not that he preached any other, than one, and the same Gospel, both to Jew and Gentile. But that he preached the pure Gospel, unmixed with the least shades of the Jewish ceremonies. Christ, and Christ alone, as Jehovah's salvation to the ends of the earth, was the whole sum, and substance, of Paul's preaching. What the Apostle determined in his preaching to the Church at Corinth, was the same to all Churches; Jesus Christ and him crucified. He determined to know nothing beside. 1 Corinthians 2:2. Justification by Christ without the works of the law, made up the whole, both of Paul's preachings, and of his writings, as relating to the present time-state of the Church. And the title at the head of every Epistle, and the text, of every Sermon, this Chapter, in a single verse of it, would have suited. I, through the law, (said Paul,) am dead to the law, that I might live unto God! We shall find many occasions as we pass through this beautiful Epistle, to observe, how closely the Apostle stuck to this doctrine, and followed it up. No one point of the Gospel, did Paul more warmly contend for, or more clearly prove. And we have reason to bless the Holy Ghost, for raising up his servant to this ministry, and for directing the Apostle's mind, to, establish the great truth, so clearly as he hath done; in the proper apprehension of which, the Church is so highly concerned. But it will be sufficient for our present purpose to observe, that this was the Gospel he preached to the Gentiles; and in which there was no variation, from all his discourses.

What the Apostle speaks of privately preaching to Persons of reputation, means no other, I humbly conceive, than that, he familiarly discoursed upon the same subject, in the private conversation he held with those he visited, at their own houses, or in the walks be had with them; as what he discoursed upon, in the public congregation. Many of those whom the Lord had called by sovereign grace, were of Jewish extraction; and of consequence, they naturally had an attachment to the law of Moses, in which they had been educated. Paul, therefore, in private discourse, it is more than probable, taught them more plainly, and familiarly, by answering questions which might arise out of discourse, than could have been done in public. And as he elsewhere, in another part of his Epistle expressed it, he taught them, that in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. Galatians 6:15.

And, perhaps, the Reader, if he be well acquainted with the state of the Church in the present day, yea, from his own experience it may be, will know, how difficult deep-rooted prejudices of nature, custom, and education, are, to be totally destroyed. I know, through grace, and from divine teaching, that Christ is all and in all. And, I am as fully persuaded, as if all the great truths of God were laid open before me now, as they will in that day when the secrets of all hearts shall be disclosed; that salvation is wholly in Christ, and wholly from Christ; and that the Church, in every individual member of the sacred body, can neither add to, nor take from the sovereign work, fulfilled, completed, and finished, as it hath been, by the Lord Jesus himself alone. I stand convinced, on the most palpable testimony of Scripture, that neither tears nor prayers, repentance, nor faith, as procuring causes, become the least atom, in obtaining this great salvation. I know these things in theory, as plain, and clear, as though written with a sun-beam; yet often do I detect myself in practice, taking a certain degree of greater, or less comfort, as that prayer hath been more fervently offered, or this ordinance more sweetly enjoyed. And yet, when the thing be rightly considered, what is this, but substituting somewhat in the room of Christ. To live simply upon Jesus, as the Head of his body the Church, the fullness that filleth all in all, is to make Him what Jehovah hath made him to the Church; the head of all influence, and of all happiness: being made of God to all his people, wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption; that all glory may be not in what we feel, but what Christ is, and in the Lord. 1 Corinthians 1:30-31. But, if gracious, and truly regenerated souls; (for it is of such only that I am now speaking,) who profess to seek justification by Christ only, live more, or less comfortable, as they feel the workings of grace in their hearts; what is this, but by so much departing from the simplicity that is in Christ; and not as Paul speaks, holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God. Colossians 2:19.

I hope that the Reader, through grace, will enter into the right apprehension of this statement. He will not then suppose, that I am speaking in the smallest degree slightingly of the workings of grace in the soul. The gifts of the Holy Ghost, and the exercise of the heart in them, are precious things. And very blessed it is to enjoy them, and to be led by them, as handmaids unto the Lord Jesus. But grace and gifts are not Christ. And sweeter by far is it, to be led by God the Spirit to Jesus, empty, poor, and needy, and under a conscious leanness of soul, to cleave to Jesus for new supplies of spiritual blessings, than in the most lively actings of joy, to take comfort from what we feel, and in those seasons lose sight of what Christ is. Reader! depend upon it, that it is treading on the confines of danger, when our spirits are carried away with the rudiments of our own hearts, and not after Christ. Colossians 2:8.

We must not overlook what the Apostle hath observed concerning this private preaching of his, when he saith, that it was, lest by any mean he should run, or had run, in vain. Paul could not mean, that he had either any doubts, in relation to the truths he preached, or of his being sent by the Lord to preach them, or of his success in preaching, in all instances to whom the Lord sent him. The Lord had taught Paul himself, for he received it not from man, neither was taught it by man, but by Jesus Christ. Galatians 1:11-12. And God the Holy Ghost had specially ordained him, when he sent him forth to the ministry. Acts 13:1-5. And the Lord had long borne testimony to the word of his grace by Paul. Acts 14:1-10. But when the Apostle speaks of running in vain, he meant, lest the people, from the temptation of the enemy, and the corruptions of their own minds, should take prejudice against the blessed doctrine he taught, of justification in Christ, and by Christ alone, as if it favored licentiousness. Reader! it is this clamor against the truth of God, Which hath been set up by Satan in all ages of the Church, and is, indeed, among the master-pieces of his devices. What multitudes are kept back by his policy, sometimes for years together, from even hearing the preachers of this free-grace salvation? And how many precious souls doth his diabolical craft cause to go lean, from day to day, under the same distressing apprehension? It is, indeed, the most dangerous of all his delusions, when he transforms himself into an angel of light. And when the temptation is dressed up, under such a specious covering, that to trust wholly in Christ, is opening the very flood-gates of sin; who, in the first face of this argument, would suspect that the supposed friendly caution came from hell? Reader! it is the blessedness of God's children, that though we are told by Christ himself, such will be the temptations of the latter day trials, that, if it were possible, they would deceive even the very elect; yet, Jesus by the impossibility, limits the danger, they shall not. Matthew 24:24. Though Satan doth for a long time terrify the Lord's little ones, yet he shall not finally. Many, by his bugbear stratagems, do sometimes live in great poverty and leanness of soul, and in much fear. But here is their security: All that the Father giveth me, (saith Christ,) shall come to me. John 6:37. Sooner or later they must come. And Jesus sweetly adds: They shall know the truth, and the truth shall make them free. John 8:32.

I beg the Reader to notice Paul's expression, when he calls those false brethren who opposed him and his preaching. There is a sense, in which men professing the same name of Christian, may be called brethren, because they differ from Jews and Mahometans, who totally disown Christ. But they are false brethren, who though professing Christ, deny his Godhead. Modern manners taking place of ancient faith, have, indeed, endeavored to amalgamate things of opposite qualities, and to make the iron and the clay to join. Daniel 2:43. Hence men, as opposite in their creed as light and darkness, are now found to meet together, and smothering the real sentiments of their hearts, profess to be all cordially united in brotherly love, to promote religion through the earth. Their different views of Christ, the great Author of the Gospel, is considered by them as a secondary consideration; and whether they believe in his Godhead, or do not, the robbing the Son of God of his glory, in this first and highest of all possible concerns, is passed by, that the spread of religion, according to their different views, may not be obstructed by such means! Such things were not known in the days of the Apostles! Nay, so much the reverse, that John, under the immediate direction of the Holy Ghost, said, and left it upon record, for a guide to the faithful in all ages, that if there came unto you, (said John,) and bring not this doctrine, (namely, the doctrine of Christ, which hath both the Father and the Son,) receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed, is partaker of his evil deeds. 2 John 1:9-11. And Paul, under the same authority, commanded the Church not to be unequally yoked. Yea, the Apostle demands, as a thing perfectly decided and incontrovertible, what part (saith he) hath he that believeth with an Infidel? And the express command of God himself to the same amount is: Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you; and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. 2 Corinthians 6:14, to the end.

The false brethren of Paul's days, to which he alludes, differed, in some shades, from those of modern times. They did not deny the Godhead of Christ, but they called in question, it should seem, the doctrine Paul taught of free grace, for he saith, they came in privily to spy out the liberty which is in Christ Jesus. By which, it is evident, they disliked the doctrine of justification by Christ alone, and endeavoured to bring the people into bondage, by teaching them to seek justification, in part, by their good works. Happy would it have been, for the peace and comfort of the Church, had such characters been known only in the days of the Apostles. But their generation hath reached to the present hour! Let not the Reader, however, overlook an inspired Apostle's testimony concerning them. Paul calls them false brethren! And the fallacy of their doctrine may he clearly seen by a single illustration. Suppose a poor sinner under the awakenings of grace, and by the leadings of the Holy Ghost, from the conviction of sin, comes forth with the anxious question, what must I do to be saved? And, suppose, that instead of the immediate answer Paul gave to this same question, when put to him by the Jailor at Philippi, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thine house; Acts 26:30-31. suppose, that a preacher should direct such an one to his repentings and reformings, to his amendments, and tears, and prayers, telling him to hope that Christ will do the rest, when he hath done his best? What a trifling would this be with an alarmed sinner under his soul distresses? And what could charity herself say of all such preachers, but as Job did of those pretended friends of his when they read to him such reproving lectures on his dunghill, Miserable comforters are ye all! Job 16:2. Oh! how sweet doth God the Spirit preach Christ in his fullness, completeness, and all-sufficiency, when he saith, In the Lord shall all the seed of head be justified, and shall glory. Isaiah 45:25. Reader! look to these things, for they are now.


Verses 6-15

(6) But of these who seemed to be somewhat, (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man's person:) for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me: (7) But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter; (8) (For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:) (9) And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision. (10) Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do. (11) ¶ But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. (12) For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. (13) And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation. (14) But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews? (15) We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles,

I do not think it necessary to swell the pages of the Poor Man's Commentary on the subject, (and which hath long since ceased, as well as all the parties of it,) concerning Paul's reproving Peter. It should seem very clearly from the history, that Paul's doctrine, and Peter's, were both essentially, one and the same, on all the grand points of the Gospel. 1 Peter 1:5. They only differed, as to the indulgence Peter had shown to the Gentiles, in relation to common food. Since the Holy Ghost had taught Peter by the vision on the house top, (see Acts 10:9.) that there was nothing common or unclean which God had sanctified, Peter had no longer scrupled to eat with the Gentiles. But, when certain Jews came with James, fearing that these might take offence at this Christian liberty, in accommodation to their prejudices, the Apostle withdrew from them. Had Peter been more firm in this liberty, he would not have incurred the displeasure of Paul. But we learn from it, that great men, and the greatest of men, are but men. No where can we look for perfection, but to the Lord Jesus. And sweetly hath the Holy Ghost caused the frailties of his saints to be recorded, purposely to teach the Church her own nothingness, in her best characters, and that all her excellency is alone in Christ.


Verses 16-19

(16) Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. (17) But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid. (18) For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor. (19) For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God.

I beg the Reader to be very attentive to the statement, which God the Holy Ghost hath here made by his servant the Apostle, concerning the method of justification, and which, indeed, more or less, is the subject of this whole Epistle. And I beg the Reader's attention to it the more, because errors are continually discovered in the minds, even of the Lord's people, on this great point of the Gospel. Nothing this side eternity, can be as interesting, as for every child of God to know the sure ground of his acceptance with God in CHRIST. The smallest departure from truth, in this particular, may induce great confusion. And until that my soul is firmly established in an unshaken confidence of God's full justification in Christ, I shall not be prepared either for an appearance before God, in time, or in eternity.

Now the Apostle's account is short, and plain, and simple: Knowing, (saith he,) that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ. And the reason is evident. The law of God demands unsinning obedience. The least departure is a breach of the whole, and, consequently, the offender is subject to the full penalty of disobedience. The soul that sinneth, it shall die. And as all mankind have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; so, it must undeniably follow, that by the deeds of the law, can no flesh be justified in God's sight. This is a short, but it is a clear statement of what Paul saith, Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law.

From the law, the Apostle turns to the Gospel. We are justified by the faith of Jesus Christ. Here Paul considers Christ as the sole justifying cause before God, of his Church and people. And on this truly scriptural ground. Christ as their Head, and Surety, and Representative, obeyed the whole precepts of the law, and suffered the whole penalty of the breaches of it by his death. Hence, as the Apostle sums it up in the next chapter, Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law being made a curse for us. Galatians 3:13. Here, therefore, there is as full a confirmation of redemption by Christ, as under the foregoing observation, there was a confirmation of being condemned by the law. And Christ's obedience and death, being set forth by God himself for a propitiation, nothing can be more plain and satisfactory, than that we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of all our sins, according to the riches of his grace. Ephesians 1:7.

And the way in which this obedience and blood-shedding of Christ becomes the cause of the justification of his people before God is, by virtue of their union with him, and their interest in him. Christ and his people, in the eye of God's righteous law, are one. Hence, what Christ did, is as if they had done it. What Christ, suffered, is as if they had suffered. For, as in all, Christ acted as; their Surety, and being accepted of God, yea, appointed by God in this high character, when he had performed all his Suretyship-offices, and God declared himself well pleased with him, both law and justice must discharge the original debtor, having come upon the Surety, and the debt having been fully paid. Both cannot pay, for, in that case, it would be doubly paid, which would he unjust. And, therefore, the Apostle's conclusion is correct. Now, therefore, there can be no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. Romans 8:1.

And, lastly, to add no more. The soul's enjoyment of this blessed state of justification before God, solely in the Person, and by the redemption of Christ, becomes the right of every regenerated child of God, in all its bearings, and in all its branches, by faith. So Paul declares: We are justified (saith he) by the faith of Christ. Hence, though the whole work and glory is Christ's, yet the Church enjoys it by faith. We realize the blessed properties of the whole, by our faith in Him, and our dependence upon Him. So, that in the proportion that the Lord gives his people grace to act faith upon Christ, and his complete righteousness, which justifies freely, fully, satisfactorily; such more or less, will be our joy and peace in believing, abounding in hope through the power of the Holy Ghost. Romans 15:13.

It forms a blessed view to faith, to behold this complete remedy of God's own providing, for the recovery of the Church from sin, in this time-state of her being. And it is very blessed also, when by faith, we live in the enjoyment of it. Here we see the truth and sweetness of that blessed scripture, that Christ is set forth a propitiation through faith in his blood. Romans 3:25. And we see no less, under the same divine teaching, that as God hath set Christ, forth a propitiation, so the Church is accepted in him. Christ's righteousness, in the sight of God, is their righteousness, as being one with him. They are, indeed, One. And, hence, scripture declares, that Christ's righteousness is unto all, and upon all that believe. Romans 3:22. So that they are accounted holy in Christ's holiness, as if they had fulfilled all holiness in their own persons. Song of Solomon 4:7; Ezekiel 16:14. Reader! do not dismiss the subject until through the Lord's teaching, you have found the blessedness of it in your own heart. And suffer me to add, that you never will enter into the complete and absolute enjoyment of it, before that the Lord hath made you bare, and stripped you of all, and every supposed quality in yourself, and in your own attainments. A man must see - himself lost, before that he will ask for salvation. And Christ will never be precious, until sin is seen to be exceeding sinful. And no one will rightly esteem Christ's righteousness, while fancying he hath somewhat of his own to recommend him before God.

I cannot refrain from calling the Reader's attention one moment longer, to what the Apostle here saith, of being dead to the law, that he might live unto God. If these words were not found in the Bible, and written by a man, under the immediate influence of the Holy Ghost, we should stand amazed at the Apostle's account of himself. Dead to the law! What was Paul lawless? Yes! indeed, if putting Christ in the place of the law be so. For, in fact, not only Paul, but every regenerated child of God is so, in respect to seeking principles of life, or justification from the law. Christ is the sole life of everyone who is regenerated. That soul cannot be living upon Christ, who makes any one law-work a part of justification. No man can be looking to Christ and the law together for life: if you are alive in Christ, like Paul, you are dead to the law. But so far is this from giving occasion to licentiousness, that the Holy Ghost declares it to be the only source of subduing sin. If ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. Romans 8:13.

Some there are, however, from being untaught by the Spirit, and, consequently, unable to explain these things according to their creed, have ventured to interpret the Apostle's expression, as if, when Paul said he was dead to the law, he meant the Ceremonial law. But, unhappily for their cause, the Scriptures never make distinction between the moral and ceremonial law, when speaking on the subject. This distinction exists but in men's brains. And, wonderful to tell, after all the volumes which men, untaught of God, have written about the moral law, there is not such a word as moral or ceremonial in all the Bible. So, that while men of this complexion are wearying themselves for very vanity, their labors, are all foreign to Scripture, and serve only to prove, what (Must everlastingly be expected from the writings of unawakened men,) that they know not God. 1 Corinthians 1:21.

As, therefore, the Scriptures of God, when speaking of the law, make no distinction, but plainly mean the whole law; so, when Paul tells the Church he is dead to the law, he also can be supposed to mean no other, than the whole of it. And, if the Apostle be allowed, (as every honest man should,) to explain his own meaning, his words in this place are in exact correspondence to all his other writings on the subject. Let the Reader consult what Paul hath said, 1 Corinthians 9:21. and Philippians 3:6-9. and then say, whether such blessed living upon Christ can be licentiousness. Let men call it so if they dare. Be it my happiness to have the same law-death and Spirit-life in Jesus. Time , or rather eternity will show with whom the truth is. Whether the bolstered pride of a poor, sinful man's fancied righteousness, or t he righteousness which is of God by faith?


Verse 20-21

(20) I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. (21) I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.

We have a most beautiful and blessed subject opened to us in those words. I only lament the shortness I must observe, in this work, in commenting on them. Paul being crucified with Christ, cannot be supposed to mean a bodily crucifixion, for the Apostle was not present, as far as we can learn, when Christ died on the cross. But the sense is Paul, as a member of Christ's mystical body, was represented by Christ in his death. And in this sense, so was every individual of Christ's Church. Precisely the same as in Adam's transgression in the garden, I, and the whole race of mankind were involved with him, both in the sin and punishment. For, as it is said of Levi, that he was in the loins of his father Abraham when Melchizedec met him, and blessed him, (Hebrews 7:10.) so all the seed of Adam were in the loins of Adam, when our first father fell by transgression, and pulled down upon himself and his posterity the dreadful ruin. In like manner, all the spiritual seed of Christ were in the loins of Christ from everlasting, and, of consequence, interested in all the blessedness he hath procured for them. Hence, Paul might say, and every child of God may truly say the same, I am crucified with Christ. For Christ was not crucified as a private person, but as the public head and representative of his whole body the Church. So, that when he died for sin, in him they became dead to sin. His death became the spring of their life, for by his death he overcame death, and by his stripes, as the Prophet declared, we are healed. Isaiah 53:5.

And it is very blessed to behold how sweetly the scriptures follow up the subject, through all the several subsequent parts of it, from the cross to the crown. As the Church is crucified with Christ, so is she said to be buried with him by baptism unto death. Romans 6:3. And as buried with him, so risen with him to newness of life. Colossians 2:12. And as risen with him, so is she said to sit together with him in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2:6. And in Christ's entrance into heaven, he is expressly said to have entered there as our forerunner, and to appear in the presence of God for us. Hebrews 6:19-20. and Hebrews 9:24-28. So that in all, and every department of Christ's offices, the Lord of life and glory is never considered in the Scriptures of eternal truth, as acting in a private capacity, but as the public head and representative of his people. Paul was therefore very correct, when he said, I am crucified with Christ. Reader! there is one point that You and I should attend to on this subject, which, if like Paul, we can subscribe to, as he could, will make it very blessed indeed. We both daily prove our descent from Adam by generation, for certain it is, that his blood and corruption run through our veins, and we too sadly feel the consequence of sin in the sorrows of it. The grand question is, can we as clearly prove our union with Christ by regeneration, in the sweet influences of his Holy Spirit, quickening us from dead works to a new life in Christ, and his righteousness? Sweet and precious testimony, when the Spirit thus witnesseth to our spirits, that we are the children of God!

But we must go further, for many more beauties are contained in this glorious Scripture. Paul saith, that he was not only crucified with Christ, but that he lived with him. And how contradictory soever this may appear to carnal men, they are among the plainest truths of God to those that are spiritual. A oneness with Christ the sole cause of all. This brings up after it all its blessedness. It is not a natural, but a spiritual life. It is the Spirit that quickeneth; (saith Jesus himself,) the flesh profiteth nothing. John 6:63. And hence Paul saith: If Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the spirit is life because of righteousness. Romans 8:10. Regeneration makes no alteration on the flesh, but the spirit. There is nothing in the flesh made holy. And there is nothing in the spirit left unholy. Hence, Paul saith, Nevertheless, I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me. Not life in Paul, but in Christ; yea; Christ living in him.

I entreat the Reader, attentively to observe the Apostle's words; and he will discover their beauty and order. Paul doth not say I live in Christ, but it is Christ which liveth in me. It is not first our interest in Christ, but Christ's interest in us, which is the source of all life and blessedness. Christ's right in us is the cause. Our right in him is the effect. We love him because he first loved us. And the Church lays her claim to Christ on this ground. I am (saith, she) my beloved's. And then she adds, and my beloved mine. Song of Solomon 6:3; 1 John 4:19.

Neither is this all. The Apostle adds: And the life that I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. Oh! what unnumbered and endless blessings are contained in these words. I can but just glance at them. Let the Reader, however, not fail to take notice how sweetly Paul chimes on the subject of faith. All his life is in Christ, from Christ, by Christ. And all his enjoyment of this life is by faith of the Son of God. Yes! it is by the lively actings of faith, that the Lord's people enjoy their high privileges in Christ. Observe, all is in Christ; yea, Christ himself is their all. But their joys in this life, will be more or less, as they are enabled to live upon Jesus. And, if the Reader will look a little more narrowly into the subject, he will discover, that both the life in Christ, and the faith Paul speaks of from Christ, are from one and the same. Perhaps I shall somewhat surprise the Reader at first, when I say, that faith is not an act of the child of God, no more than the life in Christ, which gives birth to that faith is. Paul's expression warrants this conclusion. He saith, that the life he now lives in the flesh, (meaning his time-state in the body,) he lives by the faith of the Son of God. Of the Son of God, not in the Son of God. Whereas, if this faith was our act, though God's gift, it would not be of the Son of God, but in, or upon, the Son of God. And this is scriptural. For Christ is both the Author, and the Finisher, and the Giver of faith. Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:29. Therefore, faith is Christ's, act upon his people, which calls forth their life of faith upon him, and not first their act upon him. The life of faith, like all other life, is first a life of receiving. Incomings before outgoings. Air received before we breathe forth. The first is the cause, the last the effect. I hope the Reader will apprehend me. Paul, certainly, himself so distinguished, and both knew the difference, and enjoyed it, when he said, upon another occasion, to the Philippian Church, I follow after, (said Paul,) if I may apprehend that, for which I also am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:12. It is Christ's apprehension, or holding us up, which is the cause both of our safety and happiness, and not our apprehension of him. The child in the bosom finds security, not from clasping the fond mother's neck, but from being encircled in her arms. And in like manner, our safety ariseth, not from our faith, but from Christ's love. The eternal God is thy refuge; and underneath are the everlasting arms. Deuteronomy 33:27. Hence one of old, convinced of this, cried out to the Lord: Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe; yea my delight shall be always in thy statutes. Psalms 119:117.

I must not trespass: but I know not how to leave my meditation on this precious Scripture. There is a vast deal of the most lively act of faith, going forth upon the Person of the Lord Jesus, when Paul said: who loved me, and gave himself for me. It is Christ himself which the Apostle so passionately hangs upon; and the consequences resulting from the Lord's love to him, he then enjoys. Paul views Christ the cause: and the giving himself for Paul, the effect. But who is competent to unfold, and explain, a thousandth part of what is contained in the bosom of this sweet Scripture, when considered, in the infinite dignity of the Person loving, and the unparalleled nature of the gift bestowed; together with the view of those, on whom he maketh that grace to shine? No powers of arithmetic can number the extent of that love; neither the value of that gift. The Church of God, while in grace here upon earth, may in silence muse on the boundless subject; and hereafter in glory, when with faculties ripened into perfection, the body of Christ will be more fully qualified, to contemplate it; but the full discovery of it, being in its very nature infinite, will never, to all eternity, be so completely unfolded, so as to say, the whole is seen. Oh! for Christ now to dwell in our hearts by faith, that being rooted, and grounded in love, we may be able to comprehend with all saints, what is the breadth; and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge; that we may be filled with all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:14 to the end.

I admire the Apostle's conclusion of the Chapter. It forms a strong appeal to the truth, after what he had before been speaking, of the Person, and glory of Christ, and the entire justification of his Church, by Himself, and his redemption-work. I do not (said he), frustrate the grace of God. No but, on the contrary, he gives all the glory, where alone it is due; and magnifies the divine mercy, in ascribing the whole to grace. All, according to Paul's view of the subject, and under the teaching of God the Holy Ghost, is to the praise of the glory of his grace who hath made the Church accepted in the beloved. Ephesians 1:6. But it would be a miserable thing indeed, and sadly frustrating, and making void, the riches of God's grace, to join anything of the work of the creature, in whole, or in part, as in the least contributing to justification before God. For if righteousness come by the law: if any of the fallen race of Adam, could be supposed capable of working out for themselves a righteousness of their own; yea, could perform a single deed, or exercise a single thought of purity, to recommend themselves to the great searcher of hearts: in this case, it would set aside, the necessity of redemption. For this would at once show, that the creature hath a capability of somewhat, be that somewhat ever so little; and by improvement, more might then be expected from him. And then, the consequences which would follow, would be, that there could have been no cause for so great a sacrifice as God's dear Son. The blood of Christ might have been spared: and Christ (as Paul saith) is then dead in vain. Whereas, the decided, unalterable language of holy Scripture, on this point, is, that without shedding, of blood there is no remission. Hebrews 9:22. That it was in due time, Christ died for the ungodly. Romans 5:6. And that, if one died for all, then were all dead. 2 Corinthians 5:14. Oh! the foul ingratitude, in attempting to lessen the infinite importance of Christ's obedience and death, as the sole cause of salvation! Oh! the horrible presumption, in thereby impeaching both the wisdom, and love of God g, in the contrivance of such vast mercies! And, oh! thou dear Redeemer! what base returns, are these to thee, and all thine agonies, and soul-travail, when men set up a righteousness of their own, to lessen thereby, the infinitely precious sacrifice of thyself on the cross, whereby alone, thou hast perfected forever them that are sanctified ! Reader will you bend your knee with mine, and with me beg of God that like Paul, we may be always able to say: I do not frustrate the grace of God; for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.


Verse 21

REFLECTIONS

READER! let us pass over every lesser consideration, of men, and things relating to the Apostles, and servants of Christ, to have our whole thoughts fixed and centered upon the Person of the Almighty Master. Precious Jesus! be thou the One glorious Object of all my meditation!

And, while I contemplate Christ on the cross, as Paul hath here set him forth; let me ask myself, whether like Paul I can say, I am crucified with him! Do I indeed know that Christ, in all his sufferings and death, was the Surety, Representative, and Head of his people? Was I, to all intents and purposes, in Him, represented by Him, and by his sufferings and death, in the name, and for his people, redeemed by Him; and the old man of sin, in my nature, crucified with him? And not only in the cross, but in his burial, resurrection, ascension, entrance into Heaven, and sitting at the right hand of the Majesty on high; in all these, do I know Jesus as my representative? Did Christ buy out my redemption, on the cross? Am I buried with him by baptism, into death? Am I risen with him, by regeneration, through God the Holy Ghost; and do I see myself by faith sitting with Him, in heavenly places, in Christ Jesus? Is He gone as my forerunner, to appear in the presence of God for me; and the life I now live in the flesh, do I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me? Oh! for grace, in lively exercise, to be always realizing my personal interest in Christ! And may it be my daily portion, under the gracious teachings of God the Holy Ghost, to know, that such is the infinite dignity of Christ's Person, and the infinite preciousness of his bloodshedding, and righteousness, that Jehovah is more honored, and glorified, by his obedience and death, than he is dishonored, by all the sins of his people, during the whole time-state of the Church on earth! Yes! thou dear Lord! I do see, through God the Spirit's teaching, that thou art everything that is blessed, to thy Church, and people; and like Paul, I am dead to the law, that I might live unto God.

 


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Bibliography Information
Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Galatians 2:4". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pmc/galatians-2.html. 1828.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, December 5th, 2020
the First Week of Advent
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