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Bible Commentaries

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament
Galatians 2

 

 

Verse 1

Galatians 2:1. Then after an interval of fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem. The fourteen years of independent apostolic labor are to be reckoned not from the journey last mentioned (Galatians 1:18), but from Paul’s conversion, this being the great turning point in his life (Galatians 1:15). As this probably took place A. D. 37, we would have the year 50 or 51 or the Apostolic Council here referred to. This date is confirmed by other chronological hints and combinations. The second journey to Jerusalem, on a purely benevolent mission during the famine of 44, at a season of persecution when probably all the Apostles were absent and only “the Elders” are mentioned (Acts 11:30; Acts 12:25), is omitted as irrelevant to the point here at issue. After my conversion, he means to say, I had the following opportunities of conferring with the Apostles: (1.) three years afterwards I went to Jerusalem, and saw Peter, but only for a fortnight; (2.) after a lapse of fourteen years I went to Jerusalem again and had a special conference with the chief Apostles. But in neither case was I instructed or commissioned by them; on the contrary, they recognized me as an independent, divinely appointed Apostle of the Gentiles.

Lightfoot also identifies this visit with that to the Apostolic Council, which he puts into the year 51, but dates the fourteen years from the first visit (Galatians 1:18), and throws the first visit back to A. D. 38, and the conversion to A. D. 36, adopting the Jewish mode of reckoning.

With Barnabas, having taken with me Titus also. Barnabas, next to Paul the chief leader of the Gentile mission, is mentioned by Luke (Acts 15:2) as his fellow-delegate from Antioch. Titus is nowhere mentioned in the Acts, but included in the ‘certain others,’ who accompanied them. Being an uncircumcised convert and a living testimony of the efficient labors of Paul among the Gentiles, Titus was peculiarly suited for the object of this journey. He was also (as Lightfoot suggests) much in Paul’s mind, if not in his company, at the time he wrote this Epistle (comp. 2 Corinthians 2:13; 2 Corinthians 7:6; 2 Corinthians 7:13-15; 2 Corinthians 8:16; 2 Corinthians 8:23; 2 Corinthians 12:18).


Verses 1-10

Excursus on the Relation of Paul to the Jewish Apostles.

Compare here my History of the Apostolic Church (1853), pp. 245-260 and pp. 282 ff., 616 ff., and an able Excursus of Dr. Lightfoot on ‘St. Paul and the Three,’ in his Com. on Galat., p. 283 ff. (second ed. 1866).

The Epistle to the Galatians and the entire history of the Apostolic Church cannot be understood without keeping constantly in view the fact that the Apostolic Church embraced two distinct, and yet essentially harmonious sections of Jewish and Gentile Christians, which ultimately grew together into one community. The distinction disappeared after the destruction of Jerusalem, when the last link between the old and the new religion was broken. Before that event there was more or less friction arising from educational prejudices and congenial surroundings. In the second chapter of the Galatians and the fifteenth chapter of the Acts the friction is distinctly brought out, and, at the same time, the underlying Apostolic harmony. In the second century the antagonism without the harmony reappeared in the distorted and heretical forms of the Judaizing Ebionitism and the antinomian Gnosticism.

The Jewish Christianity clung closely to the Mosaic traditions and usages and hoped for a conversion of the Jewish nation until that hope was annihilated by the terrible judgment of the destruction of the temple, and the Jewish theocracy. The Gentile Christianity was free from those traditions and established on a liberal and independent basis. The older Apostles, especially James, Peter, and John (in his earlier period) represented the church of the circumcision (Galatians 2:9); James the brother of the Lord and head of the mother church at Jerusalem, being the most strict and conservative, Peter the most authoritative, John the most liberal and holding himself in mysterious reserve for his later comprehensive position. Paul and Barnabas represented the Apostolate of the Gentiles, and the independent, progressive type of Christianity.

Once, and as far as we know, once only these great leaders of Apostolic Christianity came together for public and private conference, at Jerusalem, to decide the great and vital question whether Christianity should be forever confined to the narrow limits of Jewish traditions with circumcision as the necessary term of membership, or whether it should break through these boundaries and become as universal as the human race on the sole basis of a living faith in Christ as the all-sufficient Saviour of men. Of this critical turning point we have but two accounts, one from the chief actor on the part of a free gospel for the Gentiles, in the second chapter of this Epistle, and one from his pupil and companion, ion, Luke, in the fifteenth chapter of the Acts. Neither James, Peter, or John make any direct allusion to these memorable transactions. The two accounts are not contradictory, but supplementary. Both represent the conference as a sharp controversy, ending in a peaceful understanding which saved the unity of the Church. The great principle for which Paul contended triumphed, that faith in Christ alone, without circumcision, is necessary to salvation, and consequently that circumcision should not be imposed upon the Gentile converts. Without this principle Christianity could never have conquered the world. On the other hand a temporary concession was made to the Jewish party, namely that the Gentiles should “ abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication,” that is from practices which were peculiarly offensive to the conscience of the Jews. Paul was fully recognized by the Jewish Apostles as the Apostle of the Gentiles and received from them the right hand of fellowship and brotherhood on the sole condition that he should remember the poor brethren in Judaea by the exercise of practical charity, which he had done before and which he did afterwards with all his heart. Nevertheless the old controversy continued, not, indeed, among the Apostles (excepting the dispute between Peter and Paul, at Antioch, which referred only to conduct, not to doctrine), but among the unconverted Pharisaical Judaizers and Paul; and the whole career of the great Apostle of the Gentiles was a continual struggle against those pseudo-apostles who could never forget that he had been a fanatical persecutor, and, who looked upon him as a dangerous radical. To this life-long conflict we owe his greatest Epistles, especially the Galatians and the Romans, with their vigorous defence of Christian liberty and their profound expositions of the doctrines of sin and grace. Thus error has been providentially overruled for the exposition and vindication of truth. (See the next Excursus on Paul and Peter.)


Verse 2

Galatians 2:2. By revelation. In consequence of a divine monition such as he often experienced (comp. Acts 16:6-7; Acts 19:21; Acts 20:22-23; Acts 22:17; Act_27:23; 2 Corinthians 12:1). This was the inward, personal motive. Luke in Acts 15:2 omits this, but mentions the external, or public occasion, namely, the appointment by the church of Antioch, which sent him and Barnabas as delegates to represent the interests of Gentile Christianity. This appointment may have been either prompted or confirmed by the inner revelation. So Peter, according to Acts 10, was induced both by a vision and by the messengers of Cornelius, to go to Cæsarea.

And communicated to them, or laid before them, i.e., the Christians at Jerusalem (Galatians 2:1), the whole congregation. This implies a public transaction in open council, which is described in the Acts. Paul confines himself to an account of the private and personal agreement with the leading Apostles, because the decision and pastoral letter of the council (Acts 15:22 ff.) had already been communicated by him to his churches (Acts 16:4). The decree was a compromise intended for a special emergency, and not for universal and permanent use. But it was no doubt interpreted by the Judaizing teachers in a sense contrary to the meaning of the chief Apostles, and hence the importance of referring to their personal understanding with Paul.

Privately, or apart, in private conference, as distinct from the discussion in open council. Such private conferences are always held in connection with public assemblies, for the purpose of preparing and maturing business for final action. Bengel: ‘All were not capable of comprehending it’

Those of chief reputation, the leading men who enjoyed the greatest authority among the Jewish Christians, the ‘pillar’ Apostles, namely James, Peter, and John (Galatians 2:9). Similar is the expression, ‘the very chiefest Apostles’ (2 Corinthians 11:5; 2 Corinthians 12:11). ‘The men of chief reputation’ is a term of honor, but as repeated in Galatians 2:6; Galatians 2:9 in connection with ‘something,’ and ‘pillars,’ it seems to imply a slight tint of irony. The blame is, of course, not intended for the Apostles themselves, whose testimony in his favor it is his purpose here to relate, and whom he always treated with fraternal esteem and love, but for the Judaizers who unduly exalted them above Paul. He feels himself equal to them before men, and yet in his deep humility before God he calls himself the least of the Apostles and unworthy of the high name, because he persecuted the church of God (1 Corinthians 15:9). See Excursus.

Lest perchance, etc., lest my apostolic labors past and present should be fruitless, not in themselves nor in the judgment of Paul, but in the judgment of the Jewish Christians. The non-recognition of the Gentile churches by the mother church of Jerusalem would have interfered also with the progress of his mission and unsettled many of his weaker converts, as the example of the Galatians shows. The expression ‘run’ is taken from the image of a race, to which the Christian life is frequently compared (Philippians 2:16; 2 Timothy 4:7; 1 Corinthians 7:24 f.; Galatians 5:7; Hebrews 12:1). Bengel: ‘I should run with the swift victory of the gospel.’


Verse 3

Galatians 2:3. Yet not even Titus .... being a Greek, or although he was a Greek, that is, a heathen. Far from declaring my labors fruitless and disapproving my gospel, the Jewish Apostles did not force even Titus, my companion and co-laborer, much less the body of the Gentile converts, to submit to circumcision, although the Judaizing party peremptorily demanded it as a condition of justification (as appears from Galatians 2:4-5, and Acts 15:5).


Verse 4

Galatians 2:4. And that (happened, or, was done) on account of the false brethren. The words ‘and that’ (δέ=nempe) are explanatory, and assign the reason why Titus was not compelled by the chief Apostles to be circumcised. It explains and qualifies the general assertion (Galatians 2:3), and intimates that under other circumstances, if no principles had been involved, and if the false brethren had not made it a party issue, the Jewish Apostles might have demanded or at least recommended circumcision, as an act of prudence, or for peace sake. Paul would have respected the scruples of weak brethren (comp. Romans 14, 15); while he was inflexible in resisting the demands of false brethren. He himself, after the apostolic council, circumcised Timothy (Acts 16:3) without any inconsistency (comp. 1 Corinthians 7:18). For he did this from his own impulse, and for the purpose of making Timothy more useful, without compromising the principle of justification by faith. It must be remembered, also, that Timothy was a Jew from his mother’s side, and that therefore the Jews had a certain right to claim him, while Titus was a pure Gentile by birth.

Others take Galatians 2:4 as an independent, though grammatically irregular sentence, and supplement it in this way: ‘But (δέ in the adversative sense) on account of the false brethren (i.e., to appease the Judaizers) the leading Apostles RECOMMENDED the circumcision of Titus as a charitable concession to their prejudices—to whom, however (i.e., the false brethren), we (Paul and Barnabas) did not yield for a single hour.’ This would imply a slight censure of the weakness of the other Apostles, Paul was, we must suppose in this case, distracted between the duty of frankness and the duty of reserve; he wished to maintain his independence without compromising his colleagues. Hence the broken and obscure character of the sentence.

Foisted in, brought in by unfair means, like traitors and spies. These Judaizers were formerly Pharisees (Acts 15:5), and were so still in spirit, although they professed Christianity by the mouth and were baptized. From these false brethren who were intolerant Judaizers of the malignant type and bitter haters of freedom, we should carefully distinguish the weak brethren whom Paul treats with great indulgence (Romans 14:1; Romans 15:1-3).

To spy out, or to act as spies on our freedom from the bondage of the law, and to find out how far we observed the Mosaic ordinances or violated them.

In Christ Jesus, in living union with him who is the end and fulfilment of the law (Romans 10:4). This is the positive side of freedom. Out of Christ there is no true freedom, but slavery of sin (comp. Galatians 5:1-12; John 8:32-36).


Verse 5

Galatians 2:5. These false brethren, it must be remembered, required circumcision and the observance of the whole ceremonial law not only from the Jewish, but also from the Gentile Christians, and that not only as an old venerable custom, but as a necessary condition to salvation. Paul and his companions could, therefore, not yield to them for a moment by the submission (required by the false brethren) to the law of circumcision, so as to circumcise Titus according to their demand. He could here not become a Jew to the Jews in order to gain them (1 Corinthians 9:20-22), as in such cases where the truth was not jeopardized, and where subjection was simply a matter of charity and expediency. Submission in the case of Titus would have been treason to the truth that Christ is the only and sufficient source of salvation; it would have been a sacrifice of the sacred rights and liberty of the Gentile Christians. Bengel takes ‘submission.’ as a limitation: ‘We would willingly have yielded for love.’


Verse 6

Galatians 2:6. From those reputed to be something; lit., ‘those who have the estimation of being something,’ that is, something great, or ‘those who are held in chief reputation,’ ‘who are looked up to as authorities,’ the ‘pillar’ apostles, Galatians 2:9, or as Paul expresses it in 2 Corinthians 11:5; 2 Corinthians 12:11, ‘the very chiefest apostles.’ It appears from Galatians 2:9 that he means the older Apostles, James, Peter, and John, who were justly regarded as the pillars of the Church. The expression may be depreciatory (comp. Galatians 6:3), according to the context. He does not, as already remarked, depreciate his colleagues, but disapproves the extravagant overestimate put upon them by the Judaizers in behalf of their own narrow and exclusive system and in opposition to Paul. His high sense of independence, far from being identical with pride, rested in his humility and was but the complement to his feeling of absolute dependence on God.

What they once (formerly) were,’ refers to their advantages in the personal intercourse with Christ, on which the Judaizers laid great stress, and on which they based the superiority of the Twelve. Paul made no account of the knowledge of Christ ‘after the flesh’ (2 Corinthians 5:16), which was of no benefit to the Jews without faith.

God accepteth not man’s person, or God is no regarder of person. A Hebraizing expression for impartiality. To regard a man’s person, his face, wealth, rank, and external condition, as distinct from his intrinsic merits, is partiality, and this God never exercises (comp. Acts 10:34; Romans 2:11; Ephesians 6:9; Colossians 3:25).

For to me those, I say,—reassumption of the unfinished sentence in another form, instead of: ‘From those of chief reputation—I received no new instruction.’

Added (or communicated, imparted) nothing, i.e., by way of supplementing or correcting my exposition of the Gospel (Galatians 2:2), but on the contrary they were satisfied with it and with my mode of converting the Gentiles. (Others explain: laid no additional burden on me, namely, the ceremonial law; but they laid no burden on him at all.)


Verse 7

Galatians 2:7. When they saw, from the communications of Paul (Galatians 2:2) and the abundant results of his missionary labors among the Gentiles (Acts 15:12).

That I am (not was) intrusted. I have been and am still intrusted. The Greek perfect implies that the commission and trust is still in active force.

With the gospel of uncircumcision. i.e., with the evangelization of the Gentiles. The gospel is the same, but the sphere of labor is different Paul was directed to the field of heathen missions at his conversion (which coincided with his call and apostleship), Acts 9:15, and more clearly by a special revelation in the temple of Jerusalem, Acts 22:17-21. Yet the division of labor was not absolute and exclusive. Paul generally commenced to preach in the synagogue because it furnished the most convenient locality and the natural, historical connection for the announcement of the gospel, and because it was resorted to by the numerous proselytes who formed the bridge to heathen missions (comp. Acts 13:5; Acts 13:46; Acts 14:1; Acts 18:6; Romans 1:16; Romans 9:1; Romans 9:3). On the other hand, Peter, though he was then, and continued to be, the head of the Jewish Christian branch of the Apostolic Church, opened the door for the conversion of the Gentiles by the baptism of Cornelius (Acts 10-11; Acts 15:7), and his Epistles show that in his later years he did not confine himself to the circumcision, for the congregations to which they are addressed were of a mixed character and partly founded by Paul.


Verse 8

Galatians 2:8 is a parenthetic explanation of Galatians 2:7.

Gave strength to (or worked for), i.e., enabled them successfully to discharge the duties of the Apostolic office, by conferring upon them the necessary spiritual gifts and qualifications and accompanying their preaching with signs and miracles (comp. Romans 15:18-19; 2 Corinthians 12:12).

For the Gentiles—for the apostleship of the Gentiles.


Verse 9

Galatians 2:9. Perceiving (or knowing) indicates the conviction arrived at in consequence of the successful labors of Paul, as the divine attestation of his apostleship.

The grace implies here the call, the spiritual outfit and the success, all of which Paul regards as a free gift of God in Christ, as he says, 1 Corinthians 15:10 : ‘By the grace of God I am what I am; and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all; yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.’

James stands here first according to the best manuscripts. It is the brother of the Lord, mentioned Galatians 1:19. Although not one of the Twelve, he enjoyed Apostolic authority. (There is no good reason for understanding here, with Dr. Wieseler, the younger Apostle of that name, James the son of Alphæus, who held no very prominent rank. The older James, the son of Zebedee, suffered martyrdom in 44, six years before the Council of Jerusalem.) In the Jewish Church at large Peter occupied the most prominent rank, and is therefore named in Galatians 2:7-8; but in Jerusalem of which Paul speaks here, James stood at the head of the congregation (comp. Acts 12:17; Acts 15:11; Acts 21:18), and he probably presided also over the Apostolical Council, or at all events exerted the controlling influence there and led to the final decision, Acts 15:13 ff.

Pillars, i.e., leading men, chief champions of the church, which is often represented as a temple, 1Cor. 5:16; Ephesians 2:21; 1 Timothy 3:15; Revelation 3:12. But the expression is used in the same sense in all languages without metaphor, and especially among the Jews of the great teachers of the law. Paul does not deny his colleagues to be the leading Apostles of the Jews; they were so still in fact, as he was the pillar of the Gentile Church; but the Judaizers used the expression no doubt in an envious party sense and with the view to depreciate Paul (comp. Galatians 2:6 note).

The right hands of fellowship. A pledge of brotherhood and fidelity. This fact, based as it was, on sincere esteem and love, refutes the conclusion of some modern critics that there was a serious discord between Paul and the older Apostles. They differed widely, no doubt, in talent, temperament, and field of labor, but they agreed in spirit and principle; they were servants to the same Lord and organs of the same grace, and as they sought not their own glory, there was no room for envy and jealousy.

That we should (go, or, be Apostles, or, preach the gospel) to the Gentiles and they to the circumcision, i.e., the Jews. Division of the field of labor, with one reservation, mentioned in Galatians 2:10, and faithfully kept.


Verse 10

Galatians 2:10. Remember the poor of the Jewish Christians in Palestine, who suffered much from famine and persecution (comp. Acts 11:29). Charity should thus not only afford temporal relief to the needy, but be a moral bond of union also between the Jewish and the Gentile Christians and furnish a proof of the gratitude of the latter for the unspeakable gift of the gospel which they received from the former. Such a collection is mentioned Acts 11:29 f., and was forwarded by the congregation of Antioch to the brethren in Judæa through the hands of Paul and Barnabas during the famine of 44. On his third great missionary tour between 54 and 57, Paul raised large contributions in his congregations for this purpose, and took them himself to Jerusalem on his fifth and last visit (1 Corinthians 16:1; 2 Corinthians 8-9; Romans 15:25; Acts 24:17).

The very thing which I was zealous (diligently endeavored) to do, then and always. He needed no prompting to this duty and privilege. It was his habit, and hence the Judaizers had no ground whatever to charge him with a breach of contract on that score. The exercise of Christian liberality and benevolence for the poor, for missions and all the general operations of the Church, is as much a duty and ought to be as steady a habit, as prayer, or any other exercise of piety. What Paul did in the Apostolic age, has been done by the Church ever since. The West receives the gospel from the East and must show its gratitude by helping the East. If pure Christianity is to be revived in Bible Lands it must be done by the faith and the money of the Churches of Europe and America.


Verse 11

Galatians 2:11. The scene here related is of great importance for the history of Apostolic Christianity, but has often been misunderstood and distorted both in the interest of orthodoxy and heresy. It took place between the Apostolic conference (A. D. 50) and the second great missionary journey of Paul (A. D. 51). To the same period must be assigned the personal dispute between Paul and Barnabas on account of Mark, related in Acts 15:30-40. Barnabas followed the bad example of Peter (Galatians 2:13), and Mark would naturally sympathize with Barnabas, his cousin (Colossians 4:10), and with Peter, his spiritual father (1 Peter 5:13). There was, therefore, a double reason for the temporary alienation of Paul and Barnabas. It appears that soon after the council at Jerusalem a misunderstanding arose as to the precise bearing of the decree of the council (Acts 15:20; Acts 15:29). That decree was both emancipating and restrictive; it emancipated the Gentile converts from circumcision as a test of church membership (on the observance of which the Pharisaical Judaizers, or ‘false brethren’ had vainly insisted), but it laid on them the restriction of observing the precepts traditionally traced to Noah (comp. Genesis 9:4-5) and required from ‘proselytes of the gate,’ namely, the abstinence from ‘meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication’ (including probably unlawful marriages within the forbidden degrees of kindred, Leviticus 18:1 and forward). The decree was framed to meet a special temporary emergency and certain specific complaints of the Jewish converts against the Gentile brethren in regard to these detested practices. But the decree made no direct provision for the conduct of the Jewish Christians, who were supposed to know their duty from the law read every Sabbath in the synagogues (Acts 15:21). And it was on this point that the difference of a strict and a liberal construction seems to have arisen. The logic of the decree pointed to a full communion with the Gentile brethren, but the letter did not. It was a compromise, a step in the right direction, but it stopped half way. It left the Levitical law concerning clean and unclean meats untouched (Luke 11:4 ff., comp. Acts 10:14).(1) The heretical Judaizers considered the whole ceremonial law as binding upon all; James and the conservative Jewish brethren as binding only upon Jews; Paul and Peter as abrogated by the death of Christ. The conservative party at Jerusalem, under the lead of James, understood the decree as not justifying any departure of the circumcised Christians from their traditional rites and habits, and continued to maintain a cautious reserve towards Gentile Christians and all uncircumcised or unclean persons (Luke 15:2; Acts 10:28), without, however, demanding circumcision; while the more liberal Jewish Christians at Antioch, encouraged by the powerful example of Peter, who had been freed from narrow prejudices by his vision at Joppa, and eaten with the uncircumcised Cornelius at Cæsarea (Acts 10:27-28; Acts 11:3), associated with their Gentile brethren in social intercourse, and disregarded in their common meals the distinction between clean and unclean animal food; they may possibly even have innocently partaken of meat offered to idols, which was freely sold at the shambles, or at all events they ran the risk of doing so. Paul considered this as a matter in itself indifferent and harmless, considering the vanity of idols, provided that no offence be given to weak brethren, in which case he himself would ‘eat no flesh for evermore,’ lest he make his ‘brother to stumble’ (1 Corinthians 8:7-13; 1 Corinthians 10:23-33;Romans 14:1-4); while as to fornication of any kind he condemned it absolutely as defiling the body which is the temple of God (1 Corinthians 5:1-13; 1 Corinthians 6:18-20). This freedom as to eating with Gentiles threatened to break up a part of the Jerusalem compromise and alarmed the conservative Jews. Hence the remonstrance from Jerusalem which prevailed on the timid and impulsive Peter, and all the Jewish members of the congregation at Antioch, even Barnabas, but provoked the vigorous protest of Paul who stood alone in defence of Christian liberty and brotherhood on that trying occasion. This view of the matter seems to afford the best explanation of the conduct of both James and Peter, without justifying it; for Peter certainly denied his own better conviction that God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34), or that in Christ there is neither Greek nor Jew (as Paul expresses it, Colossians 3:24), and once more denied his Lord in the person of his Gentile disciples. The alienation, however, was only temporary, and did not result in a split of the church.

The residence of Peter at Antioch gave rise to the tradition that he founded the church there (A. D. 44, according to the Chronicle of Eusebius) before he transferred his see to Rome. The tradition also perpetuated the memory of the quarrel in dividing the church of Antioch into two parishes with two bishops, Evodius and Ignatius, the one instituted by Peter, the other by Paul.

Cephas is the Apostle Peter mentioned Galatians 2:9, and not one of the seventy disciples, as Clement of Alexandria and other fathers (also the Jesuit Harduin) arbitrarily assumed in order to clear Peter of all blame.

I withstood him to the face, personally, not secretly or behind the back. It was a very bold act of Paul, requiring the highest order of moral courage. It seems inconsistent with the harmony of the Apostolic church and to reflect too severely on Peter, the prince of the Apostles. Hence it has always been a stumbling block to those who believe, contrary to the explicit confessions of the Apostles themselves (1 John 1:8; James 3:2; Philippians 3:12), that their inspiration implied also their moral perfection, or that doctrinal infallibility is inseparable from practical impeccability. Several of the most eminent fathers, Origen, Jerome, and Chrysostom, tried to escape the difficulty by a misinterpretation of the words ‘to the face,’ as if they meant, ‘according to appearance only’ (secundum speciem), not in reality, and assumed that the dispute had been previously arranged by the Apostles for the purpose of convincing, not Peter, who was right all along, but the Jewish Christian members of the congregation, that the ceremonial law was now abolished. This most unnatural interpretation makes bad worse, by charging the hypocrisy upon both Paul and Peter, and turning the whole scene into a theatrical farce. St. Augustine, from a superior moral sense, protested against it, and Jerome himself tacitly abandoned it afterwards for the right view. The author of the Pseudo-Clementine Homilies (an Ebionite fiction of the second century, xvii. 19) understands the passage correctly, but makes it the ground of an attack on St. Paul (under the name of Simon Magus) by Peter, who says to him: ‘Thou hast withstood me to my face. If thou callest me condemned, thou accusest God who revealed Christ to me.’

He was condemned, self-condemned, self-convicted by his own conduct, not by the Gentile Christians of Antioch, for Paul would hardly have waited for the judgment of others in a matter of such importance. The inconsistency carried in it its own condemnation, as Paul proves (Galatians 2:15-21). The translation ‘he was blamed’ is not strong enough, and the translation of the E. V. ‘he was to be blamed,’ or reprehensible, deserving of censure, is ungrammatical and lame.


Verses 11-14

Excursus on the Controversy of Peter and Paul.

The collision of the two Apostles was of course only temporary. Peter showed weakness, Paul rebuked him, Peter submitted, and both continued to labor, at a respectful distance, yet as brethren (comp. 1 Corinthians 9:5; 2 Peter 3:15-16), for their common Master until they sealed their testimony by their blood and met again never more to part in the church triumphant above- The same is true of the alienation of Paul from Barnabas and Mark, which took place about the same time, but was adjusted afterwards, as we learn from Paul’s respectful allusion to Barnabas (1 Corinthians 9:6), and Mark’s later connection with Paul (Colossians 4:10; Philemon 1:24; 2 Timothy 4:11).(1) At the same time it cannot be denied that the scene in Antioch reveals an immense fermentation and commotion in the Apostolic Church, which was not a dead unit, but a living process and a struggle of conflicting views and tendencies with an underlying harmony. On the one hand the quarrel has been greatly exaggerated by Celsus, Porphyry, and other enemies of Christianity, old and new, who used it as a weapon against the character and inspiration of the Apostles; on the other hand it has been explained away and dishonestly misinterpreted by eminent fathers and Roman commentators in mistaken zeal for a rigid and mechanical orthodoxy.

We take the record in its natural, historical sense, and derive from it the following instructive lessons: —

1. The right and duty of protest against ecclesiastical authority, even the highest, when Christian truth and principle are endangered. The protest should be manly, yet respectful. Paul was no doubt severe, but yet he recognized Peter expressly as a ‘pillar’ of the Church and a brother in Christ (Galatians 1:18; Galatians 2:9). There was no personal bitterness and rudeness, as we find, alas, in the controversial writings of St. Jerome (against Rufinus), St. Bernard (against Abelard), Luther (against Erasmus and Zwingli), Bossuet (against Fenelon), and other great divines.

2. The duty to subordinate expediency to principle, the favor of man to the truth of God. Paul himself recommended and practised charity to the weak; but here a fundamental right, the freedom in Christ was at stake, which Peter compromised by his conduct, after he himself had manfully stood up for the true principle at the Council of Jerusalem, and for the liberal practice at Antioch before the arrival of the Judaizers.

3. The moral imperfection of the Apostles. They remained even after the Pentecostal illumination frail human beings, carrying the heavenly treasure in earthen vessels, and stood in daily need of forgiveness (2 Corinthians 4:7; Philippians 3:12; James 3:2; 1 John 1:8; 1 John 2:2). The weakness of Peter is here recorded, as his greater sin of denying his Lord is recorded in the Gospels, both for the warning and for the comfort of believers. If the chief of the Apostles was led astray, how much more should ordinary Christians be on their guard against temptation! But if Peter found remission, we may confidently expect the same on the same condition of hearty repentance. ‘The dissension — if dissension it could be called — between the two great Apostles will shock those only who, in defiance of all Scripture, persist in regarding the Apostles as specimens of supernatural perfection.’ (Farrar, Life and Work of St, Paul, i. 444.)

4. The collision does not justify any unfavorable conclusion against the inspiration of the Apostles and the infallibility of their teaching. For Paul charges his colleague with hypocrisy or dissimulation, that is, with acting against his own better conviction. We have here a fault of conduct, a temporary inconsistency, not a permanent error of doctrine, A man may know and teach the truth, and yet go astray occasionally in practice. Peter had the right view of the relation of the gospel to the Gentiles ever since the conversion of Cornelius; he openly defended it at the Apostolic Council (Acts 15:7; comp. Galatians 2:1-9), and never renounced it in theory; on the contrary, his own Epistles agree fully with those of Paul, and are in part addressed to the same Galatians with a view to confirm them in their Pauline faith; but he suffered himself to be influenced by some scrupulous and contracted Jewish Christians from Jerusalem. By trying to please one party he offended the other, and endangered for a moment the sound doctrine itself.

5. The inconsistency here rebuked quite agrees with Peter’s character as it appears in the Gospels. The same impulsiveness and inconstancy of temper, the same mixture of boldness and timidity, made him the first to confess, and the first to deny Christ, the strongest and the weakest among the Twelve. He refused that Christ should wash his feet, and then by a sudden change he wished not his feet only, but his hands and head to be washed; he cut off the ear of Malchus, and in a few minutes afterwards he forsook his Master and fled; he solemnly promised to be faithful to Him, though all should forsake Him, and yet in the same night he denied Him thrice. If the legend of Domine quo vadis (which is first mentioned in the Apocryphal Acts of Peter and Paul) has any foundation in fact, he remained ‘consistently inconsistent’ to the last. A few days before his execution, it is said, he escaped from prison, but when he reached a spot outside of Rome, near the gate of St. Sebastian, now marked by a chapel, the Lord appeared to him with a cross, and Peter asked in surprise: ‘Lord, whither goest thou? (Domine, quo vadis?) And when the Lord replied: ‘I am going to Rome to be crucified again,’ the disciple returned deeply humbled, and delivered himself to the jailor to be crucified head downwards.

6. It should be remembered, however, on the other hand, first, that the question concerning the significance of the Mosaic law, and especially of the propriety of eating meat offered to idols, was a very difficult one and continued to be agitated in the Apostolic Church (comp. 1 Corinthians 8-10; Romans 14). The decree of the Council at Jerusalem (Acts 15:20; Acts 15:29), after all, stated simply the duties of the Gentile converts, strictly prohibiting them the use of meat offered to idols, but it said nothing on the duties of the Jewish Christians to the former, thus leaving some room for a milder and stricter view on the subject. We should also remember that the temptation on the occasion referred to was very great, since even Barnabas, the Gentile missionary, was overcome by it.

7. Much as we may deplore and censure the weakness of Peter and admire the boldness and consistency of Paul, the humility and meekness with which Peter, the oldest and most eminent of the twelve Apostles, seems to have borne the public rebuke of a younger colleague, are deserving of high praise. How touching is his subsequent allusion in 2 Peter 3:15-16, which is addressed to the Galatians among others, to the very Epistles of his ‘beloved brother Paul,’ in one of which his own conduct is so sharply condemned. This required a rare degree of divine grace which did its full work in him through much suffering and humiliation, as the humble, meek, gentle, and graceful spirit of his Epistles abundantly proves.

8. The conduct of Paul supplies a conclusive argument in favor of the equality of the Apostles and against the papal view of the supremacy of Peter. No pope would or could allow any Catholic bishop or archbishop to call him to an account and to talk to him in that style of manly independence. The conduct of Peter is also fatal to the claim of papal infallibility, as far as morals or discipline is concerned; for Peter acted here officially with all the power of his Apostolic example, and however correct in doctrine, he erred very seriously in practice, and endangered the great principle of Christian freedom, as the popes have done ever since. No wonder that the story was offensive to some of the fathers and Roman commentators, and gave rise to most unnatural explanations.

We may add that the account of the Council in Jerusalem in Acts 15 likewise contradicts the Vatican system, which would have required a reference of the great controversy on circumcision to the Apostle Peter rather than to a council under the presidency of James.

9. The Apostolic Church is typical and foreshadows the whole course of the history of Christendom. Peter, Paul, and John represent as many ages and phases of the Church. Peter is the rock of Catholicism, Paul the rock of evangelical Protestantism. Their temporary collision at Antioch anticipates the world-historical antagonism of Romanism and Protestantism, which continues to this day. It is an antagonism between legal bondage and evangelical freedom, between Judaizing conservatism and Christian progress. Jerusalem, Rome, and Petersburg are in different degrees on the side of Peter; Wittenberg, Geneva, and Oxford—at various distances and with temporary reactions—follow the standard of Paul. Let us hope also for a future reconciliation in the ideal Church of harmony and peace which is symbolized by John, the bosom friend of Christ, the seer of the heavenly Jerusalem.

Paul and Peter, as far as we know from the New Testament, never met again after this scene in Antioch. But ecclesiastical tradition reports that they were tried and condemned together in Rome, and executed on the same day (the 29th of June), Peter, the Galilaean disciple, on the hill of the Janiculum, where he was crucified; Paul, the Roman citizen, on the Ostian road at the Tre Fontane, where he was beheaded. Their martyr blood thus mingled is still a fountain of life to the church of God.


Verses 11-21

The Collision of Paul with Peter at Antioch.

Paul continues to prove his independent Apostolic dignity, and shows that he asserted it even in open opposition to Peter at Antioch before the mother congregation of Gentile Christianity, when the latter acted inconsistently with his own view concerning our justification before God, and in a moment of weakness betrayed the cause of the Gentiles by yielding to the pressure of the Judaizing ritualists. Then Paul stood all alone as the champion of Christian liberty. In Galatians 2:15 he passes from the personal and historical part to the doctrinal part, namely, the defence of his evangelical view of the way of salvation in opposition to the Judaizing legalism of the false teachers.

The Acts make no mention of this controversy with Peter, but they relate a dispute between Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15:36-40), which took place likewise at Antioch soon after the Apostolic conference, and although referring mainly to a personal matter concerning Mark, was in all probability connected with the other dispute, inasmuch as Barnabas suffered himself to be led into a similar inconsistency by the example of Peter (Galatians 2:2; Galatians 2:13).


Verse 12

Galatians 2:12. Certain persons from James, not simply members of his congregation at Jerusalem, out followers, and (as the word ‘from’ seems to indicate ) delegates of James of Jerusalem (Galatians 2:9), and invested with some authority, which they abused. We are not to understand by them ‘false brethren’ (Galatians 2:4), or heretical Jewish Christians who taught the necessity of the circumcision for all, and made use of the name of James without any authority from him; for Peter would not have permitted such men to influence his conduct. Yet they were strict and extremely conservative Jewish Christians who regarded themselves bound to observe the whole law of Moses, without requiring the same from the Gentile converts. This was the position which James himself took at the Council (Acts 15:16-21), and to which he always adhered, as we may infer from his advice given to Paul (Acts 21:20-25), and also from the accounts of tradition (especially Hegesippus, who represents him as a perfect Jewish saint). It would seem from this passage that, soon after the Council, James sent some esteemed brethren of his congregation to Antioch, not for the purpose of imposing the yoke of ceremonialism upon the Gentile Christians,—for this would have been inconsistent with his speech at the Council and with the synodical letter,—but for the purpose of reminding the Jewish Christians of their duty and recommending them to continue the observance of the divinely appointed and time-honored customs of their fathers which were by no means overthrown by the compromise measure adopted at the Council. It is unnecessary therefore to charge him with inconsistency. All we can say is that he stopped half way and never ventured so far as Paul, or even as Peter, who broke through the ceremonial restrictions of their native religion. Confining his labors to Jerusalem and the Jews, James regarded it as his duty to adhere as closely as possible to the old dispensation, in the vain hope of bringing over the nation as a whole to the Christian faith; while the Apostle of the Gentiles, on the contrary, owed it to his peculiar mission to maintain and defend the liberty of the gospel and the rights of the uncircumcised brethren.

Renan (St. Paul, ch. 10) asserts without proof that James deliberately organized a Jewish counter-mission and sent delegates to the Gentile churches for the purpose of undermining Paul’s influence and demanding circumcision as a condition of church membership. This view is as wild as the heretical romance of the Pseudo-Clementine Homilies, and in flat contradiction with the public position and profession of James at the Council (Acts 15), and his conduct towards Paul, whom he recognized as a brother and fellow-Apostle according to Paul’s own statement (Galatians 2:9, comp. Galatians 1:19). James was conservative and somewhat contracted, but not heretical.

He used to eat (the imperfect indicates the habit) together with the Gentiles, i.e., Gentile (uncircumcised) Christians. This is the best proof from the pen of Paul himself that Peter agreed with him in principle, and for a time even in practice. With his accustomed ardor Peter carried out his conviction which he had boldly professed in Jerusalem, and made common cause with the Gentile converts. The Pharisees reproved Christ for eating with sinners (Luke 15:2). The Jews were strictly forbidden to eat with unclean persons and idolaters. The Gentiles made no distinction between clean and unclean animals, and consumed without scruple the meat offered to idols and sold on the market. The Apostle probably refers here not only to the ordinary meals, but also to the primitive love feasts (agapæ) and the holy communion. A common participation of the Lord’s Supper was the completion and seal of Christian-fellowship and church union. We may say that it followed as a last consequence from the decree of the Apostolic Council, but it was not expressly enjoined, and the strict Jewish party thought it unsafe, for the present at least, to venture so far, contenting itself with a general recognition of the Gentile brethren, and keeping them at a respectful distance. James probably shared in this opinion, and may have considered Peter too hasty. The same scrupulous conservatism and exclusivism exists to this day in various shapes of close communism which refuses to sit at the Lord’s table with Christians of any other sect, on account of some difference of doctrine or polity or ceremonies.

He withdrew and separated himself. ‘The words describe forcibly the cautious withdrawal of a timid person who shrinks from observation.’ Characteristic for Peter, who was the first to confess Christ, and the first to deny him; the first to recognize the rights of the Gentiles, and the first to disown them practically. His strength and weakness, his boldness and timidity are the two opposite manifestations of the same warm, impulsive and impressible temper. He was, like the Galatians, ‘liable to sudden transitions from fever-heat to fever-chill’ (Macgregor). But he was always ready to confess his sins and to repent. And this redeeming feature makes one sympathize with him in his weakness. There was a great deal of human nature in him, but also a great deal of divine grace which triumphed at last. Blameworthy as he was for his inconsistency, he is still more praiseworthy for the humility with which he bore the sharp rebuke of a younger colleague, and lovingly commended the Epistles of ‘brother Paul’ in which his own inconsistency is recorded (2 Peter 3:15-16).

Fearing those of the circumcision, Jewish converts.


Verse 13

Galatians 2:13. The other Jews, i.e., Jewish Christians of Antioch, who very naturally suffered themselves to be carried away by the example and the high authority of Peter.

Dissembled likewise with him, were guilty of the same hypocrisy. A very strong, yet truthful expression. For we have here no mere accommodation to weak brethren for the sake of charity and peace, such as Paul himself taught and practised (1 Corinthians 9:20; Romans 14:1; Romans 15:3; Acts 16:3), but a duplicity and self-contradiction at the expense of truth, a denial of the better conviction to the detriment of the Gentile Christians whom Peter acknowledged as brethren in theory, and whom he now disowned in practice. The logical tendency of this conduct was evidently to break up the communion of the two branches of the church, although he himself would no doubt have deplored such a result.

Even Barnabas, my friend and co-laborer in the work of heathen missions, and fellow champion of the liberty of the Gentile brethren. This shows the gravity of the crisis and the power of old Jewish habits even upon more liberal minds. The word even implies sadness arising from respect and affection. Comp. Cæsar’s Et tu, Brute! The two friends separated on this occasion, and each pursued an independent path (Acts 15:39), thus dividing and doubling the work of mission, but Paul afterwards respectfully alludes to Barnabas (1 Corinthians 9:6), and to Mark, his cousin (Colossians 4:16).


Verse 14

Galatians 2:14. Straight, uprightly, honestly. According to (the rule of) the truth. Others, ‘towards,’ i.e., so as to maintain the truth of the gospel (comp. Galatians 2:5).

Before all, i.e., the assembled congregation. For only in this public way the censure could have its desired effect upon the body of the Jewish Christians. ‘A public scandal could not be privately cured’ (Jerome). (Comp. 1 Timothy 5:20.)

The following verses to the end of the chapter are a summary report or dramatic sketch of Paul’s address to Peter. Galatians 2:15-18 are certainly addressed to Peter, but the personal and historical narrative imperceptibly loses itself in appropriate doctrinal reflections suggested by the occasion and admirably adapted to the case of the Galatians, who had fallen into the same error. In the third chapter it naturally expands into a direct attack on the Galatians. A similar mingling of narrative and reflection occurs in John 3:14-21; John 3:31-36.

Livest as the Gentiles, according to the manner and custom of the Gentiles in regard to eating (Galatians 2:12). The present tense ‘livest,’ or ‘art wont to live,’ implies habit and principle (for Peter had partaken of unclean food long before, and by divine command, Acts 10:10-16; Acts 10:28; Acts 11:3), and brings out more vividly the inconsistency of Peter, who in the same breath gave up his native Judaism and led the Gentile converts back to Judaism.

Why art thou constraining (or, compelling), not physically and directly, but morally and indirectly, by the force of example which is powerful for good or evil according to the character and position of the man who sets it. It is not necessary to sup-pose that the delegates of James required from the Gentile converts the observance of the Jewish law of meats. James himself, at all events, confined it to Jewish Christians. But the example of such an Apostle as Peter implied a sort of moral compulsion even for Gentile Christians.

To Judaise, to imitate and adopt Jewish manners, to conform to the Jewish religion, without becoming a full Jew. Comp. Romanize, Romanizing tendency.


Verse 15

Galatians 2:15. Many commentators close here the speech of Paul to Peter; others with Galatians 2:16; still others with Galatians 2:18. But the words, ‘we who are Jews by nature,’ would not suit the Galatians, most of whom were Gentiles by birth, and there is no mark of a return of the speech to the Galatians till Galatians 3:1.

We Jews by birth, and not sinners, i.e., gross sinners without law and without God, like the heathen. The two words were almost synonymous in the mouth of the Jew. Comp. Matthew 9:13; Luke 7:34; Romans 2:12; Ephesians 2:12.


Verse 16

Galatians 2:16. Yet knowing that a man is not justified by works of law (law-works, Gesetzeswerke), but only through faith in Jesus Christ, we ourselves also became believers in Christ Jesus. Here the term ‘justify’ is first introduced in this Epistle. On the important doctrine of justification see the Excursus below, and the comments on Romans 1:17 and Romans 3:20. It means acquittal from the guilt and punishment of sin in the tribunal of the just and holy God, on the ground of Christ’s atoning death and through the medium of faith by which we apprehend Christ’s merits and make his righteousness our own. ‘By works of law,’ the whole law, moral as well as ceremonial.

Shall no flesh be justified, lit., ‘shall all flesh not be justified,’ or ‘find no justification.’ An expressive Hebraism. The negation attaches to the verb, and not to the noun. But the genius of the English language requires such a transposition. ‘Flesh’ in Hebrew is often used for man, living being. The future tense expresses moral impossibility: such a thing can never happen. The passage is an authoritative confirmation of his own statement by an allusion to Psalms 143:2 : ‘Enter not into judgment with Thy servant: for in Thy sight shall no man living be justified.’ Comp. Romans 3:20, where the passage is quoted in the same form with the same addition ‘of works of law.’


Verse 16-17

Excursus on justification.

The doctrine of justification by faith is one of the fundamental doctrines of Paul, and is set forth most fully in this Epistle and in that to the Romans. How shall a sinner be justified before a holy God? This was a vital question in the Apostolic age, and came very near splitting the Church. It shook Western Christendom again in the sixteenth century, and divided it into two camps. It is no idle scholastic dispute, but involves the peace of conscience and affects man’s whole conduct. It is nearly equivalent to the question: ‘What shall I do to be saved?’

To this question there were two answers. The Pharisaical Jews and Christian Judaizers said: ‘Man is justified by works of the law.’ Paul said just as emphatically: ‘Man is justified by faith in Christ.’ The Judaizers would not deny the importance and necessity of faith in Christ, but practically they laid the main stress upon works, and hence they demanded circumcision as a term of church membership, and a sign and pledge for the observance of the whole Mosaic law. Paul reasons in this chapter that to return to the law for justification is virtually to abandon Christ, and to declare his death needless and fruitless.

The following are the chief points to be considered here: —

1. The verb to justify (δικαιω) may be used both in an efficient and in a judicial sense, i.e., (1.) to make just, to transform a sinner into a saint; (2.) to declare just, to acquit. In Hellenistic Greek, and especially in Paul’s Epistles, it has the judicial or forensic meaning. This appears—

(a.) From the equivalent terms ‘to reckon,’ or ‘to account for righteousness.’ Galatians 3:6; Romans 4:3; Romans 4:5; Romans 4:9; Romans 4:23-24; James 2:23.

(b.) From the phrase to be justified ‘before God,’ or ‘in the sight of God,’ i.e., before His tribunal. Galatians 3:11; Romans 3:20.

(c.) From such passages where God or Christ is said to be justified. God is just and cannot be made just but He may be accounted or declared just by man. Romans 3:4 (from Psalms 51:4); 1 Timothy 1:16; comp. Matthew 11:19; Luke 6:29; Luke 6:35.

(d.) From the opposite phrase to condemn. Matthew 12:37 : ‘By thy words shalt thou be justified, and by thy words shalt thou be condemned;’ Deuteronomy 25:1 : ‘The judges shall justify the righteous and condemn the wicked;’ Proverbs 17:15.

2. Consequently ‘justification’ (δικαιωσις, Romans 4:25; Romans 5:18) is a judicial act of acquittal, in opposition to condemnation.

Now there may be two kinds of justification, legal and evangelical. The former would be a reward of merit, the latter is a free gift of grace. We may be justified and accepted by God on the ground of our good works, the observance of His law, that is, because we are really righteous and deserving of acceptance; or we may be justified gratuitously on the ground of the merits of Christ the righteous, as apprehended by a living faith.

But justification by works is impossible, because we are all sinners by nature and practice, and justly exposed to the wrath of God. We cannot in our own strength observe the divine law; if we could, there would have been no need of a Saviour and his death to atone for our sins. The more we try to keep the law, the more are we driven to a conviction of sin and guilt and to a painful sense of the need of redemption. This is the pedagogic or educational mission of the law. It is in itself ‘holy, just, and good,’ but it is opposed and defeated by the power of sin in the flesh, or the corrupt nature of man, which it cannot overcome. It is therefore no ‘Quickening spirit,’ but a ‘killing letter.’ The best it can do is to bring the moral decease to a crisis by revealing sin in its true nature, and thus to prepare the way for the cure.(1)

‘And therefore Law was given them to evince

Their natural pravity stirring up

Sin against Law to fight; that when they see

Law can discover sin, but not remove,

Save by those shadowy expiations weak,

The blood of bulls and goats, they may conclude

Some blood more precious must be paid for man.’

3. Hence we are shut up to gratuitous justification by the free grace of God through faith in Christ who came into the world for the very purpose of redeeming us from the curse of the law and the guilt and power of sin. God is the judge; we stand charged before His tribunal with violation of his holy law; Christ steps in with his merits as our surety; we accept Him as our Saviour, in sincere repentance and faith; God pronounces us just for His son's sake, pardons our sins and adopts us as His children. This is justification as taught by Paul. The atoning death of Christ is the meritorious ground of our justification; a living faith in Him is the condition on our part; a holy obedience is the evidence or necessary consequence.

4. For it is impossible truly to believe in Christ without following his example. We are not justified outside of Christ, but in Christ, standing in Him, united with Him, identified with Him, consecrated to Him. Faith without works is dead. Paul demands a faith which is ‘operative by love’ (Galatians 5:16). He insists on good works fully as much as his Judaizing opponents, but as a result of justification, not as a condition of it. The truly good works are works of faith and manifestations of gratitude to God for his redeeming love in Christ Paul only carried out the teaching of Christ who attributes saving power not to love or hope or works of men, but to faith. ‘Thy faith hath saved thee;’ ‘He that believeth in Me hath (already here and now) eternal life.’ In all these cases faith is not merely a theoretical belief, but trust of the heart, repose of the will in Christ, an outgoing of the whole inner man towards Him as our Saviour. Faith is the bond of a vital union with Christ and appropriates his righteousness and all his benefits. ‘It is a living, busy, active, mighty power, and cannot possibly cease from working good.’ The same grace of God which justifies, does also regenerate and sanctify. Faith and love, justification and sanctification are as inseparable in the life of the true Christian as light and heat in the rays of the sun.

Paul’s doctrine of justification then differs as widely from antinomianism which denies the necessity of good works, as it differs from Jewish legalism, and all its kindred errors which make good works an antecedent condition of justification and virtually teach that man is his own Saviour.

5. Paul’s doctrine of justification is a source of unspeakable comfort and peace. It humbles our pride, it gives us a full assurance of pardon, it fills us with a deep sense of the boundless love of God, and the all-sufficient salvation of Christ. It acts as the strongest stimulus of gratitude and entire consecration to the service of Him who loved us and gave Himself for us.


Verse 17

Galatians 2:17. Were found, discovered, in the eyes of God and men, at the time of our conversion to Christ and our justification by faith in him.

Sinners in the Jewish sense, i.e., lawless heathen, as in Galatians 2:15.

A minister of sin, helper, promoter.

Let it never be! or ‘Far be it;’ ‘By no means;’ ‘Away with the thought;’ ‘Nay, verily.’ This phrase occurs fourteen times in St. Paul, thrice in Galatians (Galatians 2:17; Galatians 2:21; Galatians 3:21), ten times in Romans (Romans 3:4; Romans 3:6; Romans 3:31; Romans 6:2; Romans 6:15; Romans 7:7; Romans 7:13; Romans 9:14; Romans 11:1; Romans 11:11), and once in 1 Corinthians 6:15. It is an expression of strong denial, often mixed with moral indignation or aversion, and is here and generally used by Paul interjectionally in rebutting an unjustifiable inference deduced from his teaching by an opponent. The rendering ‘God forbid’ in the E. V. in all these passages is strongly idiomatic, but unfortunate, as it implies a familiar use of God’s name then prevalent in England, which borders on profanity. There is neither ‘God’ nor ‘forbid’ in the Greek phrase.


Verses 17-19

Galatians 2:17-19. Galatians 2:17-19 furnish an example of the condensed and nervous dialectics of Paul, similar to Romans 3:3-8. The sense is somewhat obscured by brevity, and has been differently explained. Some make Paul reason from false premises of the Judaizers, by drawing from them a logical inference which they themselves must repel with pious horror. But he rather draws, in the form of a question, a false conclusion of the Judaizing opponents from correct premises of his own, and rejects their conclusion with his usual formula of abhorrence; just as in Romans 6:2 he repels a false antinomian inference from his correct doctrine of justification by faith: ‘Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid!’ His argument is this: But (you may object) if by seeking gratuitous justification in Christ we had to abandon legal justification and sink to the level of common ‘sinners’ (that is, take our position with the profane heathen who know not the law, and can only be justified by faith), does it not follow then (ᾶρα) that Christ instead of abolishing sin, promotes sin? Away with this monstrous and blasphemous thought! On the contrary, there is sin in returning to the law after having abandoned it for faith in Christ (as Peter did). I myself (Paul now politely chooses the first person, but means Peter) stand convicted of transgression if I build up again (as thou doest now at Antioch) the very law of Moses which I pulled down (as thou didst at Cæsarea by divine command, and at first in Antioch), and thus condemn my own former conduct. For the law itself taught me to exchange it for Christ to whom it points and leads as a schoolmaster. It would be sin therefore to return to it for justification.


Verse 18

Galatians 2:18. The sin is the other way, in going back from Christ to Moses, from the gospel of freedom to the law of bondage. Paul speaks with delicate consideration in the first person, but really means Peter and the Judaizers. He supposes a case which actually occurred, and exposes its folly. Peter in this case proved himself an architect of ruin.

The things which I pulled down, the Mosaic ordinances, in this case the Levitical law of meats. Paul frequently uses the metaphor of building; comp. 1 Corinthians 3:10-14; 2 Corinthians 5:1; 2 Corinthians 10:4; Romans 15:20; Ephesians 2:20-22.

I prove myself to be a transgressor of the law itself, by rebuilding it on the ruins of the gospel contrary to its own spirit and intent to prepare the way for the gospel as its fulfillment.


Verse 19

Galatians 2:19. For I through law died to law (a dative of disadvantage) that I might live to God (dative of advantage). The same idea is expressed in Romans 7:4-6; Colossians 2:20. Paul gives here, in a single sentence, the substance of his own experience, which he more fully explains in the seventh chapter of Romans. The “I” is here Paul himself, and not Peter (as in Galatians 2:18). The law itself led him to Christ, so that it would be sinful and foolish to return to it again, as Peter did. As well might a freedman become a slave, or a man return to childhood. The law is a schoolmaster to lead to Christ (Galatians 3:24), by developing the sense of sin and the need of redemption. But the very object of a schoolmaster is to elevate the pupil above the need of his instruction and tuition. His success in teaching emancipates the pupil. So children nurse at their mother’s breast, that they may outgrow it, and by passing through the school of parental authority and discipline they attain to age, freedom, and independence. The ‘law’ is therefore to be taken in the same sense in both cases of the Mosaic law. Comp. Romans 7:6-13. Those who (with many of the fathers, and even Luther and Bengel) refer it in the first clause to the law of Christ (Romans 8:2), and in the second clause to the law of Moses, miss the drift and beauty of the passage. ‘Law’ without the article has a wider sense, and is applicable to all kinds of law, as a general rule or principle, but chiefly and emphatically to the Mosaic law, which is usually indicated by the definite article.

That I might live unto God, a new life of obedience to the law of Christ, and gratitude for the redeeming mercy of God. The death of the old man of sin is followed by the resurrection of the new man of righteousness. This cuts off all forms of antinomianism.


Verse 20

Galatians 2:20. I have been crucified with Christ (not ‘am crucified,’ as the E. V. has it). Paul means the past act which took place in his conversion. It is an explanation of the word ‘died,’ Galatians 2:19 (not ‘am dead,’ E. V.). Since the law is a school master to Christ who fulfilled it and removed its curse by His atoning death on the cross, the believer is crucified with Christ as to his old, sinful nature, but only in order to live a new spiritual life with the risen Saviour. Comp. Romans 6:5-10; Galatians 5:24; Galatians 6:14; Colossians 2:20

And it is no longer I that live, or, ‘I live no longer myself,’ in the unconverted state, under the dominion of sin and the curse of the law. ‘I have no longer a separate existence, I am merged in Christ’ (Light-foot). The E. V: ‘Nevertheless I live, yet not I,’ conveys a beautiful and true idea, but is grammatically incorrect, since the original has no ‘nevertheless’ nor ‘yet’

But it is Christ that liveth in me, Christ, the crucified and risen Redeemer, who is the resurrection and the life, is the indwelling, animating, and controlling principle of my life. One of the strongest and clearest passages for the precious doctrine of a real life-union of Christ with the believer, as distinct both from a mere moral union and sympathy, and from a pantheistic confusion and mixture. Christ truly lives and moves in the believer, but the believer lives and moves also, as a self-conscious personality, in Christ. Faith is the bond which so unites the soul to Christ, that it puts on Christ (Galatians 3:27), that it becomes a member of His body, yea flesh of His flesh and bone of His bone (Ephesians 5:30), and derives all its spiritual nourishment from Him (John 15:1 ff.). Comp. Galatians 3:27 : ‘Ye did put on Christ;’ Galatians 4:19 : ‘Until Christ be formed in you;’ 2 Corinthians 1:3; 2 Corinthians 1:5 : ‘Jesus Christ is in you;’ Colossians 3:4 : ‘When Christ who is our life, shall appear;’ Philippians 1:21 : ‘For to me to live is Christ;’ John 15:5 : ‘I am the vine, ye are the branches;’ John 17:23 : ‘I in them, and Thou in Me, that they may be perfected into one.’

That (life) which I now live in the flesh. ‘Now’ after my conversion, as compared with my old life. ‘In the flesh,’ in this bodily, temporal form of existence. It is explanatory of the preceding sentence. The life-union with Christ does not destroy the personality of the believer. Even his natural mortal life continues in this world, but as the earthen vessel containing the heavenly treasure of the imperishable life of Christ who dwells in him and transforms even the body into a temple of the Holy Spirit

I live in the faith, (not ‘by,’ E. V.) corresponds to ‘in the flesh,’ and conveys the idea that faith is the living element in which Paul moved.

Of the Son of God, the object of faith, the eternal Son of the Father who has life in himself (John 5:26), and by his incarnation and his atoning death on the cross has become the fountain of divine life to man.

Who loved me, individually, as a personal friend. The love of Christ to the whole world applies in its full force to each believing soul, as the sun pours its whole light and heat with undiminished force on every object it reaches.


Verse 21

Galatians 2:21. I do not frustrate, or set at nought, make of no effect, nullify, as the Judaizers do with their assertion of the necessity of the law for justification.

The grace of God, which revealed itself in the infinite love and atoning death of Christ, Galatians 2:20.

Christ died (not ‘is dead,’ E. V.) for nought, or ‘uselessly,’ ‘gratuitously,’ i.e., without good cause; not ‘in vain’ (i.e., without fruit or effect). If the observance of the law of Moses or any other human work could justify and save man, the atoning death of Christ would be unnecessary as well as fruitless. This blasphemous inference gives the finishing stroke to the false Judaizing gospel.

The power of this concluding argument Peter could not resist, and he no doubt felt ashamed and humbled at this overwhelming rebuke, as he did after the denial of his Master, although Paul, from discretion and kindness, says nothing of the result of this collision. The effect of it was long felt: to the Ebionites it furnished material for an attack upon Paul, to the Gnostics for an attack upon the Jewish apostles, to Porphyry for an attack upon Christianity itself. But Christianity has survived all these attacks, and gains new strength from every conflict

 


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Bibliography Information
Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on Galatians 2:4". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/scn/galatians-2.html. 1879-90.

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