Galatians 2
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
Fourteen years elapsed between the first and second visits of Paul as apostle to Jerusalem. During this interval of severe work he had experienced the opposition of the Judaizers. He deemed it advisable, therefore, and was also impelled by the Spirit, to go up to have a conference with the apostles about the whole policy to be pursued in the Gentile mission. In the verses before us he relates what took place in connection with the conference. And here we learn -

I. HOW AGREEABLE TO THE MIND OF THE SPIRIT THE CONFERENCE OF BRETHREN IS. (Ver. 2.) For Paul went up with Barnabas and Titus "by revelation." The Spirit impelled him to confer with the apostles at Jerusalem, and to strengthen his own judgment by securing theirs. And in the conference he seems to have laid before them the gospel of free grace which for fourteen years he had been preaching among the Gentiles. His statement was an exposition of his message, how he had taught the Gentiles that they were to be justified by faith and not by ceremony. Moreover, he was careful to enter into conference only with those who were of reputation, whose judgment would command respect, and to insist on the conference being private and confidential. Now, there can be no question about the great value of such confidential interchanges of thought by brethren. Even when there is not much light shed upon the path of duty, as seems to have been the case here, there is yet the confirmation of the Lord's servants in the propriety of their course.

II. IN CONTENTION WITH OTHERS WE SHOULD HAVE CLEARLY BEFORE US THE INTERESTS OF THE GOSPEL. (Vers. 3-5.) Titus, who accompanied Paul to Jerusalem, had been Paul's companion in Galatia and in the mission tom's of Asia Minor. He was a Greek, a Gentile therefore, as distinct from a Jew. He had not, like Timothy, any Jewish blood in his veins. When the Judaizers, therefore, urged that Titus should be circumcised, and so become a proselyte to Jewish ceremonials, Paul resisted the demand so determinedly that no circumcision of Titus ever took place. In doing so, Paul had the interests of truth clearly in view. Had he yielded to the clamour, the gospel would have ceased practically to be a power in Galatia. It would not have continued with them. It would have been said, on the contrary, that salvation does not come by faith alone, but by ceremony as well. It was the interests of the gospel which Paul had clearly in view. It would be well if we had always so clear a view of the interests of truth in our contentions with others. It is to be feared we sometimes fight for our consistency and personal interests rather than for the gospel. We should suspect our motives until we see the gospel's interests clearly involved in our struggle.

III. A CONFERENCE MAY ADD NO FRESH LIGHT TO WHAT WE HAVE, BUT SIMPLY CONFIRM US IN OUR COURSE. (Ver. 6.) The apostle admits that the brethren at Jerusalem seemed to the Galatians to be most important judges of such matters as were brought before them. He himself did not form the same extravagant opinion of their ability, for he felt assured that "God accepteth no man's person," and that he, as an apostle born out of due time, had as much light given to him for his work as those who were in Christ before him. Hence he states plainly that they imparted nothing to him in the conference. They simply confirmed him in the practice of Christian liberty. And this will often be the case in Christian conferences. It is not the fresh light they shed upon doctrine or duty, but mainly the confirmation they afford of lines of duty already taken up. This, however, ought not to be despised, but rather gratefully accepted as according to the will of God.

IV. THE IMPRIMATUR OF THE APOSTLES IS SIGNIFICANT. (Vers. 7-9.) It is to be observed that Paul never sought apostolic ordination. He and Barnabas were designated by the brethren at Antioch when about to proceed upon their first missionary journey (Acts 13:1-3). But he had never all these years sought for ordination at the hands of the apostles who were in office before him. At the end of fourteen years he gives in a report, and all that he receives from the apostles is "the right hand of fellowship." In this connection we may quote from the able book of the "American citizen" on 'The Philosophy of the Divine Operation.' He is contending for Paul, not Matthias, being the twelfth apostle. After showing Paul's superior marks of apostleship, he proceeds," Ordination, where there is no Holy Spirit, is not scriptural ordination. The laying on of hands by men who do not possess the Spirit of Christ themselves is not consecration. Hence offices and interests imparted by men or Churches whose spirit is merely formal and secular have no Divine validity. The men appointed under such circumstances may be good and useful, as many of them are. Communications of grace from above may be granted them. But the seal of God is not in the act of ordination. And Paul, called of God, with only the right hand of fellowship given him by the apostles, does the work of God better than Matthias, ordained by non-spiritual administrators."

V. THE REMEMBRANCE OF THE POOR WAS ALWAYS TO CHARACTERIZE THE CHRISTIAN MISSION. (Ver. 10.) The apostles, in recognizing Paul's policy and mission among the Gentiles, merely reminded him of the care of the poor, which was to be a first note of the Christian mission. The gospel is preached to the poor; it charges itself with their care. It was with the gospel the obligation recognized by the "poor laws" arose. The care of the poor was not felt by other religious systems as it is by Christianity. And it is questionable if the poor are as well cared for by law as they would be if left to Christian love. Now, there can be no doubt of this trait of Christianity being a most important evidence of its Divine origin. The care of the poor would never have become the commonplace it now seems to be had not Christianity charged itself with the enlightenment and the care of the poor (Matthew 11:5). The Christian commune, the noble experiment which succeeded Pentecost, put for a time poverty outside the Church's pale (Acts 4:34). But even when poverty is driven out of the Church, it will still exist in the world, and for the poor Christianity must provide. This is one of its great missions; the apostles, though poor themselves, nobly responded to the call and faced the problem; and so must we all in our spheres if we have aught of the apstolic spirit. - R.M.E.

Three preliminary points are mentioned.

(1) Time. "Then after the space of fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem." It is possible to date this from his conversion, but it is more natural and quite tenable to date it from the last-mentioned visit. If so, then we have seventeen important years, during which all the intercourse that Paul bad with the senior apostles extended to fifteen days spent with Peter in Jerusalem. That, surely, was very little on which to found a representation of his being a pupil of these apostles, or one acting under their orders.

(2) Companions. "With Barnabas, taking Titus also with me." The mention of Barnabas as his principal companion helps to identify the visit with that recorded in the fifteenth of the Acts. Titus also is brought in, as afterward to be referred to. Both may have been known to the Galatian Churches, and would be able to bear witness to the accuracy of his account of the conference.

(3) Impulse. "And I went up by revelation." The impelling influence was a supernatural communication made to him, that it was his duty to go up to Jerusalem. It may have been with or against his own inclination. It was certainly conjoined with the action of the Gentile Churches. But what determined his action was no feeling of his own as of doubt about his teaching, or summons from Jerusalem to give an account of his teaching, but simply the intimation to him of the Divine will. The private conference. The great feature of the third visit was conference. There was the public conference, of which we have a record in the fifteenth of the Acts. But there seems to have been beforehand a private conference with the men of repute, which alone is mentioned here, as being that which affected the question of his independence as an apostle.

(1) Subject of conference. "And I laid before them the gospel which I preach among the Gentiles." He laid not before some, but before all the Christians at Jerusalem, the gospel which he was still in the habit of preaching among the Gentiles. He made it a public enough matter that he preached justification by faith. He made it equally public that, as an inference from that, he taught that there was no necessity to impose circumcision on Gentile converts.

(2) Reason for private conference. "But privately before them who were of repute, lest by any means I should be running, or had run, in vain." While courting publicity, he had a regard to prudence. The gospel he preached might have a strange sound to them at Jerusalem. He did not, therefore, in the first place lay it before the general body of Christians there. But he began by laying it privately before the three afterward mentioned, viz. James, Peter, and John. They had special qualifications for understanding what was to come up for public conference. And experiences, reasons, nice points, could be gone into with them that could not so suitably be gone into at a public conference. They were, moreover, men of repute, men of leading, who might be expected to influence the others. If, then, he secured a good understanding with them, his course, both what it had been and what it might yet be, would have its full effect. Whereas, if for want of the proper means being used, he failed in securing a good understanding, he would really be impairing the effect of what he had done or might yet do. Results of private conference as bearing on the question of independence -


1. No compulsion was used in the case of Titus. "But not even Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised." This was a good ease for trying the question of liberty. Timothy, who was after this circumcised in accommodation to Jewish feeling, was of hail-Jewish extraction. Titus was of pure Gentile extraction. Was he, then, necessitated to circumcise Titus? No; it was a notorious fact that under the eye of the three, under the eye of the whole Church, he was allowed to go about Jerusalem with an uncircumcised Gentile convert as his recognized companion and assistant. That was not as though he had weakly yielded at the conference. It was, on the contrary, a signal triumph obtained for liberty.

2. The reason of his taking so firm a stand was that it was made a question of liberty. Character of the false brethren. "And that because of the false brethren privily brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage." They were false, men who had never really agreed to the terms of Christian membership. They had become connected with the society of Christians, not as genuine believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, but on falsely pretending faith. They climbed into the Christian fold by some other way than Christ. There were others in the background who prompted them to make a false profession. They acted as the tools of others for illegitimate purposes. Espionage was one purpose. They stole into the Christian camp, not because they had any delight in being there, but simply as spies. What they wished to spy out was the liberty enjoyed by the Gentile Christians, i.e. liberation from circumcision in the possession of Christ. More particularly, it was the action of the Church in Jerusalem in view of the association of an uncircumcised Gentile convert with Paul. A further purpose was bondage. They spied out the liberty that they might have it as an object for their attack. Their tactics were to make a demand for the circumcision of Titus. Their success would have been the enslavement of Gentile Christians. Stand made by Paul against the false brethren. "To whom we gave place in the way of subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you." It was a bold step, in the first place, to take Titus to Jerusalem. Feeling may have been stronger than he expected to find it. How was he to act? It would, no doubt, have been pleasing to many if he had seen his way to circumcise Titus. Under certain circumstances he might have been free to do it in the way of accommodation. But seeing that the false brethren, by the circumcision of Titus, meant the enslavement for ever of Gentile Christians, he gave place in the way of subjection, no, not for an hour. He acted thus decisively in the interests of all his Gentile constituents. And his successful resistance on this occasion, which some were now seeking to turn against him (as though he had then given in his submission to Peter and the rest), was really a triumph obtained for the Gentile Christians everywhere, for which particularly they, the Galatians, should show gratitude in the way of resisting the assaults of the Judaists on them. Let the truth of the gospel - justification simply by faith - continue with them.


1. They imparted nothing to him. "But from those who were reputed to be somewhat (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me; God accepteth not man's person) - they, I say, who were of repute imparted nothing to me." The construction with which the sentence commences is not carried out to the end. "From them of repute" would naturally be followed up by "I received nothing." But instead of that, after the parenthesis which is in three clauses, it is taken up in the form - "they of repute," which is followed by "imparted nothing to me." The three were reputed to be somewhat, and Paul does not mean to hint that this reputation was not deserved. What he has to do with is that their reputation should be thought to destroy his independence. He esteemed them, and he was glad to know of their being esteemed. In that respect their reputation did matter to him, but it mattered nothing for his independence. It is not upon reputation that God proceeds in his choice or acknowledgment of instruments, And with all their reputation they imparted to him no additional authority or element in teaching, as superiors to an inferior.

2. They recognized him. As having an independent trust. "But contrariwise, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel of the uncircumcision, even as Peter with the gospel of the circumcision (for he that wrought for Peter unto the apostleship of the circumcision wrought for me also unto the Gentiles)." Of the men of repute, he singles out Peter as the principal representative of the circumcision. He was entrusted with the gospel whose sphere was the circumcision; and he presented it, as may be seen from his address and Epistles, with a certain adaptation to the Jews. The burden of his early preaching was the great crime which the Jews had committed in crucifying their Messiah, and their duty to repent of that crime and to trust in Christ for salvation. When he writes to them as the Dispersion, he is still a Jew, in dwelling on the ancient glories of the race. His mind is imbued with the deliverances wrought for them, the majesty and sanctity of their temple, the sacred functions of the priesthood, the mystery of sacrifice, all receiving their fulfilment in the Christian manifestation. He is also a Jew in looking forward to a glorious future. His gospel points away to" the inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away;" "the salvation ready to be revealed in the last time;" "the appearing of Jesus Christ." But Paul was on a parity with Peter. He was entrusted with the gospel, whose sphere was the uncircumcision, and he presented it with a certain adaptation to the Gentiles. Not shunning Jewish imagery, he combined with it a certain free use of Gentile imagery. And it was specially given him to preach, what Peter indeed had learnt before him, that the Gentiles were to be admitted into the kingdom of God without being required to submit to circumcision. This parity of trust was made evident to the men of repute at Jerusalem. And the way in which it was made evident was this. It was evident that Peter was appointed to the apostleship of the circumcision by the abundant energy with which God supplied him for working among them. It was equally evident that Paul was appointed to the apostleship of the Gentiles by the abundant energy with which God supplied him for working among them. As having such a trust by the display of grace toward him. "And when they perceived the grace that was given unto me." The conclusion was forced home on them that he had an independent trust. When they compared that with their former knowledge of him, they could only ascribe it to grace. Their knowledge was now of him as a remarkable trophy of grace.

3. They gave him formal recognition. "James and Cephas and John, they who were reputed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship, that we should go unto the Gentiles, and they unto the circumcision." The three are now mentioned by name. The last mentioned is John, and it is remarkable that in this, the only mention of him by Paul, he is represented as doing a kindly act. Peter, who is called Cephas (which also means "rock"), has just had a wide sphere connected with him. James is here placed before him on the same ground on which he presided at the public conference, viz. as representative (not necessarily bishop)of the mother Church at Jerusalem. His taking the lead made the formal recognition of Paul the act of the Church: while the association of Peter and John with him gave it a wider significance. These three were had in estimation as pillars (stoops, supports), i.e. men upon whom (humanly speaking) the keeping up of the Church greatly depended. Their formal recognition extended to Barnabas. They recognized in what was not exclusively Eastern fashion (being rather universal), by each giving the right hand of fellowship. That in regard to which they expressed fellowship was the division of work - Gentile and Jewish - which is not to be understood with the greatest strictness. The fellowship they expressed amounted to giving Paul and Barnabas their hearty good wishes in their separate and co-ordinate sphere.

4. They only recommended. "Only they would that we should remember the poor; which very thing I was also zealous to do." There is a recognized ecclesiastical distinction between an injunction and a recommendation. The three did not, as ecclesiastical superiors, lay their authority upon Paul and Barnabas; they on]y, as brethren, made a request of them. The request chimed in with Paul's own habitual feeling. He speaks only for himself, his zeal extending beyond the time when he could speak for Barnabas, who shortly afterwards parted from him. Thus conclusively does he establish his independence. The matter of the request was remembering the poor. It was a request that came very naturally from the three. They were connected with a poor Church. Intolerance, too, was more rife and keen in Palestine than elsewhere. And it would often be a perplexity to them - taking them to the throne of grace - how the poor under their charge were to be provided for. They therefore took occasion to commend them to these representatives of the Gentile Churches. It was a providential arrangement that the Jewish Christians were to some extent dependent for support on the Gentile Christians. It tended to call forth the charity of the latter and to counteract the narrowness of the former, and thus to promote unity. It is a peculiarly Christian thing to remember the poor. Christ has shown men to be equal irrespective of condition, in that he has died for all, and would have all raised to sonship. Having taught us to care for men's souls, he has taught us, as we could not otherwise so forcibly be taught, to care also for men's bodies. We are to show our affection for Christ in ministering to the wants of his poor. And we will show a tenderness even for the wants of those who are not with us in the same Christian bond. - R.F.

I. THE GOSPEL IS OFFERED TO MEN IS ALL CIRCUMSTANCES OF LIFE. It is for men of every race, practising all varieties of social habits, living in different stages of civilization, holding the utmost diversities of creed, viewing the gospel itself from many distinct standpoints. None are so privileged as not to need it - the circumcised want it. None are so neglected as to be excluded from it - the uncircumcised have it preached to them. In the breadth of Divine love God has so ordered it that means shall be found for spreading his grace in the various directions where it is needed.

II. DIFFERENT MEN ARE CALLED TO DIFFERENT FIELDS OF CHRISTIAN WORK. Division of labour is as valuable in the Church as in business. This principle is generally recognized in foreign missions. It would greatly economize work and money and save much unseemly strife if it were equally acknowledged at home. It is to the shame of the Church that so much of its efforts is spent in maintaining the rivalry of the sects and parties, while the great world lies neglected. If the labourers are few it is a scandal that they should be quarrelling for their rights on the little patch already cleared. We are too short-sighted. We should "lift up our eyes." There the fields white to the harvest would call us out to broader efforts.

III. THE VARIOUS FUNCTIONS OF CHRISTIAN WORK ARE DETERMINED BY THE VARIOUS GIFTS OF THE CHRISTIAN LABOURERS. St. Paul was most fitted for Gentiles, St. Peter for Jews. They wisely recognized their diversity of vocations. It is important to see that we are in the right work. What is the best work for one man may be very unsuitable for another. We shall fail if we slavishly copy the most successful servants of Christ in a line that may not be ours. Butler could not organize a revival; nor could Wesley confute deism. We may be discouraged needlessly at our failure. Try some other work till the right work is discovered. The important point is to find our mission in our capacities rather than in our inclinations. We are not necessarily most fit for the work we like best. Still sympathy with a particular work is one great aid to success; only let us see that we do not confound this with self-will or ambition.

IV. DIVERSITY OF ADMINISTRATIONS IMPLIES SO DISCORD. Rather it is the best security for harmony. When all attempt the same work jealousy and rivalry spring up. If we differ naturally we are sure to come in conflict when trying to do the same thing. The ox and the ass are useful beasts, but bad yokefellows. The Apostles Paul and Peter could not have remained on friendly terms if they had kept to the same field. We should show friendship for those who are carrying on a different work from our own, recognizing them as fellow-servants with one Master.

V. THE SAME TRUTH AND GRACE ARE FOUND IN DIVERSITIES OF ADMINISTRATIONS. St. Paul and St. Peter preached essentially the same gospel. There is but one Christ and one narrow way. Diversity cannot go beyond the one gospel without becoming apostasy. - W.F.A.

Passing from the Jerusalem conference, Paul next mentions the strife which Peter and he had at Antioch. Peter had come down to see the work of God among the Gentiles. In his large-heartedness he had not only approved of it and rejoiced in it, but, laying aside all his Jewish prejudices, he had taken his seat at the table of the Gentiles, and had eaten whatever was placed before him. But certain "false brethren" having come round, and having urged the imperative necessity of ceremony, he yielded to his fears, withdrew from Gentile society, and lived in quarantine with the Judaizers. It would appear also that Barnabas was entrapped into similar vacillation; so that there was nothing for it but for Paul to stand up like a man and denounce Peter for his weakness. In doing so he was contending for the truth of the gospel. Let us look into the subject a little more closely.

I. CONSIDER PETER'S LIFE OF LIBERTY. (Ver. 12.) It was only right, and what we should expect, for Peter to throw aside his Jewish narrowness, the punctiliousness about meats and drinks, and to go in for brotherhood with the Gentiles at their feasts. Here we have the noble and big-hearted apostle acting upon his own better impulses. It is such liberty the gospel fosters. It is the foe of that narrowness which so often keeps men from uniting. It is the foe of that little-mindedness which keeps so many in estrangement. We cannot be broader in our sympathies or freer in our life than the gospel makes us. It can be easily shown that the so-called liberties beyond its sphere are real bondages.

II. CONSIDER PETER'S RETURN TO BONDAGE. (Vers. 12, 13.) When the Judaizers came down from Jerusalem, they were so positive about the necessity of the Jewish ceremonies and scrupulosities, as to put pressure upon the apostle; so that, taking counsel of his fears, he deliberately withdrew from Gentile society and shut himself up with the Jews. This was a sore fall. And so astute were these brethren in their dissimulation that Barnabas was also led away. It is well to see clearly how bondage sets in immediately on our abandoning principle and acting on the pressure of our fears. Men fancy that, when called upon to act on principle, they are forfeiting their liberty; but the truth is all the other way. The free are those who act upon the dictates of truth; the slaves are those who have surrendered principle because of pressure.

III. CONSIDER PAUL'S NOBLE REPRIMAND OF PETER. (Ver. 14.) It must have been a trial for Paul to take his stand against his senior both in years and in the apostolate. He must have appreciated the delicacy of his position in standing up against the conduct of the apostle of the circumcision. But he felt constrained to rebuke his brother as by his vacillating conduct traitorous to truth. And in no way can we testify so powerfully to truth as when we take the field, however reluctantly, against those we respect, and who are deservedly popular, but who have somehow erred in judgment upon some point of importance. It requires courage and firmness; but it always has its reward in the extension of truth and of God's kingdom.

IV. PAUL SHOWS THAT THE QUESTION OF JUSTIFICATION WAS REALLY INVOLVED IN PETER'S CONDUCT. (Vers. 15-17.) Peter had very properly, though a Jew, lived after the manner of Gentiles, and so manifested his Christian liberty. Why, asks Paul, does he now turn round and require Gentiles to live like Jews? Is it to be thus insinuated that ceremonies save men's souls? Is not this the vilest bondage? Is not the gospel, on the contrary, the embodiment of the truth that a man is not justified by the works of the Law, but by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ? If Jewish ceremonies are still necessary to justification, then the work of Jesus Christ, in which we are asked to trust, cannot be complete. Such ceremonialism is thus seen to be in conflict with the gospel of justification by faith alone. To tell men that ceremonies must save them is to turn them away from Christ as the object of trust to rites and ceremonies as the object. Am I to believe in the power of baptism and of the sacraments as administered by certain persons in order to salvation? or am I to trust my Saviour? The two methods of salvation are totally distinct, and it is fatal to confound them. The meaning of all such ceremonialism is to put souls upon a false track, so far as salvation is concerned. It is to translate man's justification from the true foundation in Christ's work to the rotten foundation of self-righteousness. Against this we must ever wage persistent war.

V. PAUL CONSEQUENTLY INSISTS ON THE SINFULNESS OF THE LEGAL SPIRIT. (Ver. 18.) For what we destroy in accepting the gospel is all trust in ceremonies as grounds of salvation. The works of the Law are seen to be no ground of trust for justification and salvation. If, then, after having destroyed the self-righteous and legal spirit, and fled for refuge to Jesus as our Hope, we turn round like Peter to rebuild the edifice of self-righteousness and legalism, we are simply making ourselves transgressors. We are forfeiting our liberty and piling up fresh sin. Hence it is of the utmost moment that we should clearly and constantly recognize the sinfulness of the legal spirit. It robs Jesus of his rightful position as Saviour of mankind. It casts away the gospel and goes back for salvation to the Law, which can only condemn us; it makes the sacrifice of Jesus vain and only increases sin. Against all legalism, consequently, we must wage incessant war. Nothing is so derogatory to Jesus or destructive of men's souls. It is another gospel, but an utterly fallacious one. Unless Jesus has the whole credit of salvation, he will not be our Saviour. He must be all or nothing. "Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ." - R.M.E.

But when Cephas came to Antioch, I resisted him to the face. From the public conference at Jerusalem, Paul and Barnabas went down to Antioch, where, it is said, they tarried. They separated after this stay. The visit of Peter to Antioch must be referred to this period, seeing Barnabas is mentioned as still with Paul. There was more than resistance made to Peter; there was the going up to him, meeting him face to face, and charging him with inconsistency. So significant was this, that three such Fathers as Origen, Chrysostom, and Jerome were only able to get over it by unwarrantably supposing it to be simulated. It was Paul himself who quoted the words, "Thou shalt not speak evil of a ruler of thy people." He could not have borne himself thus to Peter if he had owed obedience to him as his ecclesiastical superior. But, having an independent sphere, and being specially entrusted with the liberty of the Gentile Christians, he had a right to speak freely. Nor was there impropriety in his bringing this incident forward here, although it reflected on Peter, seeing that it was necessary to put his independence beyond question, which had been called in question in the Galatian Churches.

I. HOW THE OCCASION DEMANDED HIS WITHSTANDING OF PETER. "Because he stood condemned." He was condemned by his own conduct. Its inconsistency was so marked.

1. Before the coming of certain from James, he mixed freely with the Gentile Christians. "For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles." It is difficult to say whether, or how far, James is involved by the introduction of his name here. There is no reason to suppose that he sent these men (especially as Peter was already on the spot) to raise the question of intercommunion in the Church at Antioch. He had been remarkably explicit on the question of circumcision at the public conference in Jerusalem. We can understand his not being thoroughly liberated from Jewish narrowness. And those men who used his name or came from under his influence may have been of a more timid type than he. The question related to eating with the Gentiles. This was forbidden under the old order of things, on the ground of its being a barrier against heathenism. But when Jews and Gentiles were both within the one Church, circumstances were changed. There was no need for the barrier being continued. But it was difficult for those who had been accustomed to the barrier to regard it as done away. The difficulty had been got over at Antioch, but it still existed to comers from Jerusalem. Peter had been broadened in his ideas, and when he came to Antioch he had no difficulty in entering into the free communion which had been established there. He lived as though he had been one of the Gentiles. He made no difference at private meals or at the public agapae. To see a leader like Peter following such a course promised well for the interests of liberty.

2. On the coming of certain from James, he gave way to fear. "But when they came, he drew back and separated himself, fearing them that were of the circumcision." He drew back until he occupied a separate position. The influence by which he was swayed from the course which he had been following was fear. His fear was occasioned by the coming of certain from James. The objects of his fear were they of the circumcision, i.e. Jewish Christians, especially at Jerusalem, with whom these comers from James would communicate. He was afraid of what they of the circumcision would say. We need not be surprised at his being suddenly swayed from a noble course. It was of a piece with his nobly daring to walk on the water toward Christ, and then, when he looked on the troubled water, crying out in fear, "Lord, save me; I perish." It was of a piece with his drawing his sword in defence of his Master, and then, when questioned by the servants in the hall of the high priest, denying him three times, the third time with an oath. So he had made a noble vindication of his conduct on a former occasion, when taken to task for going in to the uncircumcised and eating with them. He was still acting under the same noble impulse when at first in Antioch he freely associated with the Gentile Christians. But when he saw certain from James, from no unbrotherly feeling toward Paul or toward the Gentile Christians, but, simply afraid of how it would affect him with them of the circumcision, he drew back and back until he placed a decided distance between him and the Gentile Christians.

3. His dissimulation was followed. "And the rest of the Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that even Barnabas was carried away with their dissimulation." Peter's conduct is characterized as dissimulation. That was the head and front of his offending. And a very serious offence it was. It was not that he was narrow-minded like the comers from James, but that he concealed his liberal sentiments. It was not that he had changed his mind, but that he acted as though he had changed his mind. This was serious, not only in itself, but in its consequences. For Peter held high position as an apostle. His influence would have carried the rest of the Jews forward in their free intercourse with the Gentiles. But when he dissembled, he carried the rest of the Jews with him in his dissimulation. Numbers carry influence as well as position. Even Barnabas got into the stream. He was a man of position. He had been under the influence of Paul, and with Paul had championed Gentile liberty at Jerusalem. But when the rest of the Jews dissembled with Peter, the consequence was (expressed, if not by "insomuch," by "carried") that he was carried away as by a stream. Paul was equal to the occasion. "But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel." The influence from James was not decided enough. Peter dissembled, the rest of the Jews followed, even Barnabas was carried off his feet, only Paul walked, as the expression here is, with straight feet, - the stream did not carry him away; for which the Church to all time is his debtor. He saw that they were not straight-footed, that they were being carried away and aside from the path of gospel liberty. He saw what was at stake, that it was really, as before, the enslavement of the Gentiles; and therefore, unawed by the reputation of Peter, unawed by the influence of numbers, unshaken by the desertion of Barnabas, he to the face withstood Peter.

II. THE WORDS WITH WHICH HE WITHSTOOD PETER. "I said unto Cephas before them all." It was not silent, dogged withstanding; it was rational withstanding. Paul had his reason, which he stated, not only promptly, but publicly. Peter's offence had been public, especially in its consequences. It was not a case, therefore, for consulting the feelings of the offender. There was public procedure to be counteracted. They all, as well as Peter, needed to be brought back to the truth of the gospel. And therefore what he said, he said, not behind Peter's back, nor to him in private, but to his face before them all.

1. Peter was not acting fairly with the Gentiles. "If thou, being a Jew, livest as do the Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, how compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?" Paul proceeds upon Peter's practice. He had been living up to that time in Antioch after Gentile fashion, i.e. in disregard of the law of meats, and not after Jewish fashion, i.e. showing regard to the law of meats. There was no consistency, therefore, in compelling the Gentiles to Judaize. That is the word which is in the Greek (distinct from the former mode of expression), and which ought to have been in the translation as guiding to the meaning. The force put upon the Gentiles was not the force of Peter's example, but the force or logic of Peter's position. It was not that Gentiles needed to be circumcised in order to have communion with Christ, which had been disclaimed at the public conference; but it was that they needed to be circumcised in order to have communion with Jewish Christians. In that respect it was putting the Gentiles to the necessity of Judaizing.

2. Jews as well as Gentiles needed to believe on Christ in order to be justified. "We being Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, yet knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law, save through faith in Jesus Christ, even we believed on Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law: because by the works of the Law shall no flesh be justified." Three times is the word "justified" used here, three times are the works of the Law disclaimed as the ground of justification, and three times are we said to be justified by faith in Christ. Paul proceeds on the fact that they (and he includes himself) were Jews. The Gentiles were sinners (actually); hence the need for a barrier being raised against Gentilism. The Jews were privileged. There was much in the distinction, apart from the self-righteousness that might be put into it, and which Paul here meets with a touch of irony. But there was nothing in it for justification. To be justified is to be regarded as having met the requirements of Law. They, Jews, saw two things with regard to justification. They saw that a man is not justified by the works of the Law. The requirements of the Law are briefly that we love the Lord our God with all our soul, with all our strength, and with all our mind; and that we love our neighbors as ourselves. This love should be exhibited in our works. But, as they fall far short of such a standard, they are not the source out of which we can be justified. They saw also that a man is justified through faith in Jesus Christ. They saw where justification was not to be found; they, beyond that, saw where it was to be found. Not seeing it in themselves, in their own works, they saw it in Christ. He has met all the requirements of Law. His work can carry a law, usable sentence. And we are justified by means of faith in him; not because of the nature or degree of our faith, but simply because of our faith bringing us into a relationship to Christ as our Surety, in which we are regarded as having met all the requirements of Law. Seeing these two things with regard to justification, they, Jews, acted upon them. They believed on Christ Jesus not otherwise than the Gentiles. They sought to be justified, not on the ground of their own works, but on the ground of Christ's work. They saw that works could not be the ground from their own Scriptures, in which they read, "By the works of the Law shall no flesh be justified."

3. Paul repudiates an inference from Jews needing to take up the position of sinners along with Gentiles, in order to be justified in Christ. "But if, while we sought to be justified in Christ, we ourselves also were found sinners, is Christ a minister of sin? God forbid." He is proceeding upon the former statement. They, Jews, were not justified by the works of the Law, - that was equivalent to their being found sinners. This name, jarring to the ear, had formerly been applied to the Gentiles. Were they, then, to be classed as sinners with the Gentiles in order to be justified in Christ? Was that not (some might say) making Christ a minister of sin? Such an inference with all his heart he repudiates. God forbid. It is no more making Christ a minister of sin than one who comes with the means of escape to a man who is unconsciously perishing is the minister of danger to him. The first ministry that man needs is the ministry of conviction. We must be roused out of our self-pleasing dreams to see that we are sinners. And Christ is doing us a loving service when, even in his offer of salvation, he convicts us of sins.

4. He is rather proved the transgressor who builds up after pulling down. "For if I build up again those things which I destroyed, I prove myself a transgressor." The connection is that, instead of Christ being the minister of sin, he himself would be proved the transgressor. While not using Peter's name, he puts Peter's case. Peter had pulled down, in becoming a Christian believer; he had abandoned Law-righteousness. Now he was building up again, in giving the Law a place for justification. If he, Paul, did that, he would be proved a transgressor. He would certainly be a transgressor between the time of his pulling it down and the time of his building it up again.

5. His own experience carried him beyond the Law. "For I through the Law died unto the Law, that I might live unto God." The Law was the instrument by which there was effected his death to the Law. It showed him to be a sinner, but that led to his seeing how the curse was removed, how all the claims of Law were for ever met; so that he became a dead man to the Law, placed for ever beyond its power. He was a dead man to the Law, that he might be a living man to God - in his having his covenant standing secured, but also in his having his being vitalized by God and drawn towards God.

6. He presents in himself a threefold contrast.

(1) Crucified, and yet he lives. "I have been crucified with Christi yet I live." The contrast has already been presented; here (if we adopt the punctuation, to which there is no decisive objection) it is made to stand out. How he became a dead man to the Law was by sharing death with Christ as his representative, even the particular form of death, viz. crucifixion. The contrast was startling (to the disciples and to the murderers) when Christ presented himself alive after his crucifixion. "I am he that liveth, and was dead." This representation repeats the contrast in us. Nay, our crucifixion is carried down so that not in successive moments but in the same moment we share with Christ in his crucifixion and in his resurrection.

(2) Himself, and yet not himself. "And yet no longer I, but Christ liveth in me." The crucifixion has not been the annihilation of self; for it can still be said, "I live." It is he who, as a living man, stretches himself, who before was crucified. All the elements in the new life are ours as subsisting in us. But there has been the crucifixion of the old self. There is a rapidity in the thought - No longer I. It is no longer self that is the central principle of our life. That is a false, God-opposing self that has been, and is being, taken forth and crucified before our eyes. Away with self in the place that does not rightfully belong to it. A change has been made from wrong to right. It is Christ we have placed at the centre of our life; from which centre he rules the whole life, fills us with his own light, and strength, and peace, and joy, so that it is truly Christ living in us.

(3) A life in the flesh, and yet a life of faith. "And that life which I now live in the flesh I live in faith, the faith which is in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself up for me." "We exist here in a double connection - first, with the transitory on one side; and, secondly, with the untransitory on the other. The sponge gets its food and life from the fluid, ever-moving waters of the sea; but it must be also fastened to some rock that does not move, and gives firm anchorage to it in the waters. The bird has wings connecting it with the air, and feet on which it takes the ground for rest or settles in firm hold on its perch for the sleep of the night. Trees get their feeding largely from the air, and the light in which their foliage so receptively spreads itself and their limbs so gracefully play; but they must have their roots also taking firm hold of the ground, by these to be localized and kept erect and steady in the storms. By such feeble analogies we conceive the double state of man, connected on one side with infinite mutabilities in things, and on the other with immutable ideas and truths and God." The great object with which our faith brings us into communion in the unseen world is here said to be the Son of God, who loved us and gave himself for us. And what we have to do in our life in the flesh is to draw our life from redeeming love. What we have to do amid our experience of sin is to appropriate redemption. And this we have to do, not once, but habitually.

7. What his care was. "I do not make void the grace of God: for if righteousness is through the Law, then Christ died for nought." His care was to magnify the grace of God in the death of Christ. He would not allow the Law to be sufficient for righteousness, because that would be to make void the grace of God in a way which was never to be thought of, viz. making the death of Christ superfluous. All make void the grace of God who live as though Christ had never died. Let us magnify the grace of God by regarding the death of Christ as all-sufficient for righteousness - taking it as our righteousness. - R.F.

There can be no doubt that this rebuke offered by one apostle to another was real and earnest, and not, as St. Jerome tried to maintain, a dramatic pretence. We have here, then, the startling spectacle of the two leading apostles in conflict. Yet it is plainly implied that they were not opposed in their general work. It was not their teaching nor their normal practice, but one particular act of weakness that occasioned the trouble.

I. APOSTLES ARE FALLIBLE. Plainly St. Peter was to blame. If St. Paul's view of the gospel were correct - as we must all now hold - St. Peter was wrong in ceasing to eat with Gentiles. But even if the view of the Jerusalem Church were correct, he was not the less to blame in first following the more liberal course, and then abandoning it out of deference to the party of James. He was clearly inconsistent, and it is evident that his inconsistency was not due to change of conviction, but only to culpable weakness.

1. If an apostle fail, who else will presume to be safe?

2. The "fear of man that bringeth a snare" is a fruitful source of temptation to many of the best men, especially in regard to sins against charity. We seem to be ashamed of our charity more than of any other grace, and yet it is the noblest and the most essentially Christian.

3. Distinguish between apostolic teaching and apostolic conduct. Neither in his preaching nor in his writing did St. Peter defend the course he pursued at Antioch. Inspiration for teaching does not imply faultlessness in action.

II. IT IS RIGHT TO REBUKE DANGEROUS FAULTS. St. Peter was the senior apostle, and it might seem presumptuous to oppose him. He was the foremost apostle, and opposition might endanger the peace of the Church. Many would let deference to years and rank and fear of painful discord prevent them from acting as St. Paul acted. But right is above all personal considerations. There are interests of the Church that may be ruined by a slavish fear of disturbing peace. The peace thus secured is a false peace. There are times when controversy in the Church is a duty of paramount importance. It may be the only security against fatal error. Yet, though then the least of evils, it is still an evil, and should not be undertaken without grave reason.

1. In the present instance the question was of vital importance. It cut at the root of the unity and brotherhood of the Church. If Christians could not eat together at the "agape," the simple but all-significant meal of the Christian family, the Church would be broken up. This was no light matter to be overlooked. It demanded even the contention of apostle with apostle. Let us see that the importance of the cause is sufficient to justify the painful consequences of a controversy before opening it up.

2. The question was of public interest. The fault of St. Peter was no secret, nor did it only concern himself. His powerful example affected others, till even St. Barnabas was led away. No private friendship can be pleaded in excuse for letting a public evil go unchecked. In such cases brother must oppose brother, though his heart bleeds at the necessity.

III. REBUKE SHOULD BE OPEN AND DIRECTLY OFFERED TO THE OFFENDER. St. Paul "withstood him to the face." It needed no little courage for the new and often-suspected apostle thus to challenge the first man in the Church. Few have such courage, and many only betake themselves to backbiting. If we have anything against a man, the right thing is to tell it him to his face. This is the only honourable course. It is due to him in fairness. It prevents misunderstanding, and often saves a long and widespread quarrel. Such a course escapes presumption if it is taken with an honest conviction that the conduct opposed is wrong, with a sincere desire to save others from the consequences of it, with all humility in regard to one's self as equally fallible and with great kindness and charity for the offender. Yet we are not all called to this work. It requires a Paul to rebuke a Peter wisely and well. - W.F.A.

These words contain the pith and kernel of the Epistle. Occurring in historical narration, they strike the key-note of what is rather an expostulation and appeal to previous convictions than an original, calm argument, such as is the treatment of the same subject in the Epistle to the Romans. St. Paul says he convicted St. Peter of inconsistency in requiring Gentiles to Judaize, by reminding him that even they, Jews as they were, were not justified on account of works, but through faith in Christ. By an easy and natural transition this reminiscence is made the occasion for passing from the historical to the doctrinal part of the Epistle. That great truth which called forth the protest of apostle against apostle is the truth from which the Galatians, like the Christians at Antioch, are being lured away. It is of the essence of Christianity to them as it was to their sister Church, and as it will be to the Church in all ages.

I. CHRISTIANITY BRINGS JUSTIFICATION. What is justification? Some have understood it as "making righteous," others as "accounting righteous." It is plain that St. Paul does teach that real righteousness is obtained through faith (e.g. Romans 3:21). But it is equally plain that the natural rendering of such a passage as that now before us suggests the idea of treating or reckoning as righteous. The inference is that St. Paul used the expressions in both senses. And the inference from that is, not that he was confused in thought or consciously ambiguous, but that he saw a much closer connection between the two than Protestant theology, in revulsion from Romanism, has always made apparent. Justification is the immediate result of forgiveness. God cannot think a man to be other than he is; but he can act towards him better than he deserves, can treat a sinner as only a righteous man deserves to be treated. This is justification. Now, forgiveness is personal and moral. It is not mere remission of penalties. It is reconciliation and restitution. The justification which is the consequence is not a mere external thing. It sows the seed of positive righteousness by infusing the highest motive for it. If it did not do this it would be immoral. Justification is itself justified by its fruits. This great boon is the first grace of Christianity. Until we are forgiven and thus justified we cannot begin to serve God.

II. CHRISTIANITY DECLARES THE FAILURE OF ATTEMPTING TO SECURE JUSTIFICATION THROUGH WORKS OF LAW. All the world over men have been making frantic but futile efforts in this direction. A sickening sense of failure is the invariable result (Romans 7:24). It is like the vanishing of a nightmare to see that the whole attempt is a mistake, that God recognizes its impotence, and that he does not expect us to succeed in it.

1. We cannot be justified through works of Law, because if we do our best we are unprofitable servants, and have only done what we ought to have done. The slave whose whole time belongs to his master cannot earn anything by working overtime. Future obedience is simply obligatory on its own account; it cannot atone for past negligence.

2. We cannot renew our own nature by anything we do, seeing that we only Work outwards from our nature. While the heart is corrupt the conduct cannot be justifying.

3. There is no life in Law to infuse power for holier service. Law restrains and represses; it cannot renew and inspire. Only love and grace can do that.

4. Nevertheless, obedience to the principles of the Law is not superseded by any other method of justification. It is the justified through faith, and they only, who truly obey the Law, delighting to do the will of God.


1. Faith is the means of justification, not the grounds of it. We are not justified on account of faith, but through faith. Faith is not, taken as itself, a virtue serving just as works of Law were supposed to serve. The one ground of forgiveness and renewal is the grace of God in Christ. Faith is the means of securing this, because it unites us to Christ.

2. This faith is in Christ, not in a creed. We may cast our thoughts about Christ into a creed. Yet what is necessary is not the understanding of and assent to any doctrines, but trust in a Person.

3. The faith is active trust. It is not only believing about Christ, but relying on him in conduct. For example, it is like, not only believing that a certain pillar-box belongs to the post-office, but also dropping one's letter into it.

4. It is trust to Christ in all his relations, and therefore as much the confidence in him as our Lord and Master that directly leads to obedience, as passive reliance on him as a Saviour for the forgiveness and renewal which we can never work out for ourselves. - W.F.A.

Paul proceeds in the exposition of Peter's mistake to show that it is only when through the Law we die to all legal hope, we can live unto God. When legal hope has died within us, Christ has room to live and be the source of our spiritual energy.

I. CONSIDER THE DEATH OF LEGALISM. (Vers. 19, 20.) The idea of self-righteousness or Pharisaism was and is that we can live through the Law. But the more careful analysis of sin leads us to see that the Law can only condemn and slay us. The same experience became our Lord's when he became our Representative. Though obeying the Law in every particular, he found that, in consequence of our sin, for which he had made himself responsible, the Law demanded his death in addition to his obedience, or rather "his obedience even unto death." Not until he was crucified had he satisfied the demands of Law. In his crucifixion, therefore, he died to the Law. It had after that no more claim upon him. When he said on the cross, "It is finished," he died to the Law. Now, it is only when we enter into this purpose of the crucifixion, and die to all hope from the Law, that we are in a position to live unto God. "The death of legal hope" is "the life of evangelical obedience." The legalism must die within us before we get into the large place of new obedience. Among the many purposes of our Lord's death upon the cross, this was a prime one, viz. to wean us away from all idea of winning life by law-keeping, that we may gratefully receive it as the gift of free grace.

II. CONSIDER THE LIFE UNTO GOD. (Vers. 19, 20.) Though legal hope has died, so that Paul is "dead to the Law" like Christ in Joseph's tomb, he is at the same time enabled to "live unto God." In truth it is then that the life unto God begins. For life by the Law is life for self; whereas when we die to all legal hope, we are delivered from the self-life, and enabled to live the life of consecration to God. And when does this life of consecration to God come? By inspiration Christ comes and lives literally within us by his Spirit, so that we become in a real sense inspired persons. Consequently, Paul declares that it is not he himself who lives the consecrated life, but "Christ liveth in me." He abandoned himself to the Spirit of Christ, and thus made way for the life of consecration. Nothing is more important, then, than this self-abandonment to the Spirit of Christ, who is the Spirit of consecration. This is the holocaust of the Christian life, the abandonment of every faculty and power to the Divine fire, that all may rise in sublimity to heaven.

III. CONSIDER THE LAW OF THE NEW LIFE. (Ver. 20.) Paul has abandoned himself to the Spirit of Christ. His life becomes in consequence one of simple dependence upon the Son of God: or, as it is here put, "The life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God;" or, as the Revised Version has it, "And that life which I now live in the flesh I live in faith, the faith which is in the Son of God." The self-abandoned life is the life of constant dependence upon the Son of God. But this being so, the law of Christ's life necessarily becomes the law of the life of consecration. What, then, is the law of Christ's life? It is the law of love leading to self-sacrifice; for of the Son of God it is here said by Paul, "Who loved me, and gave himself for me." Christ, in consecrating himself to God, dedicated himself to our salvation. He became the voluntary victim; he died that we might be redeemed. Hence self-sacrifice is the law of the new life. Now, no other system but Christianity secures such self-abandonment and self-abnegation. The Hindu self-abandonment to Brahma, for example, is abandonment to a desireless condition. "He remains," it has been said, "stupidly still (immobile), his arms in air. Brahma is his death, and not his life." Again, Mohammedan self-abandonment is crude fanaticism. "It is true," says the same writer, "that Allah does not kill all the faculties of the soul as Brahma does; but he renders them fatalistic, fanatic, and sanguinary. He is for his adorers the fire which consumes them, and not their life." The Jesuit, again, has a self-abandonment to the chief of his order at Rome; but in renouncing judgment, affections, will, and conscience to his superior, he allows his true life to be killed, and his obedience is only the galvanism of spiritual death. It thus turns out that all other self-abandonments but that to Christ are counterfeits, and his only stands the test of experience. He rouses us to action, to intelligent self-sacrifice. He teaches us to "live not unto ourselves, but unto him who died for Us, and rose again" (2 Corinthians 5:15).

IV. IN THIS ARRANGEMENT THERE IS NO FRUSTRATION, BUT A MAGNIFYING OF THE GRACE OF GOD. (Ver. 21.) If righteousness came by ceremonialism, if ceremony were the secret of salvation, then assuredly the grace of God would be frustrated, and Christ have died in vain. If legal hopes are still legitimate, then the crucifixion of Christ was a mere martyrdom by mistake. On the other hand, when we have seen clearly, as Paul did, that the Law cannot save us, but must be given up as a ground of hope, then we gather round the cross of Christ, and we adore the devotion which thereby secured our salvation, and we magnify the grace of God. Legalism is the antithesis and frustration of Divine grace; whereas the life of consecration, which the death of all legalism secures, is the tree exaltation of God's grace manifested in a crucified Saviour. Let us make sure, then, of the crucifixion of the legal spirit within us, and then the consecrated life which the contemplation of Christ crucified inspires shall be found to be the true way of magnifying the grace of God. - R.M.E.

Here is a history of man's experience with Law. At first the vision of Law crushes and terrifies. Then it works deliverance from the life that is wholly given up to it. This deliverance is not for antinomian licence, but for spiritual life in God.

I. WHAT IS IT TO DIE TO LAW? Law here is not merely the Mosaic code. It is generic. Every nation has more or less some conception of law. We all feel it in our conscience. To live for this, to toil simply to meet its requirements, to be gloomy and despondent at our failure, is to live to Law. This by no means implies perfect or even partial obedience to Law. It may go with absolute failure; it is never found resulting in the complete harmony of Law and conduct. Sow, to die to Law is to be free from this galling yoke. It is to be liberated from the frightful vision of an obligation that is imperative and yet beyond our powers - the nightmare feeling that we must do what we cannot do. It is freedom, too, from the habit of living in regard to Law as the rule and motive of life.

II. HOW DOES LAW LEAD TO THIS RESULT? We can understand how the gospel does it by offering forgiveness and by calling us to a better method of holiness. But Law also strangles the life that dwells in it.

1. It condemns our failure, and so shows us that it is vain to attempt to live in it.

2. It proves itself impotent to give us the means of fulfilling its requirements. The longer we live in it the more do we see that such a life is fruitless. Thus we gradually cease to feel drawn to it. At length we confess our failure and abandon the attempt. The Law has then killed the life we had in it.

III. WHAT IS THE OBJECT OF THIS DEATH TO LAW? Regarded by itself it is a miserable disaster. Law points to righteousness. To cease to live in Law is to dismiss the discredited guide in the wilderness and to be left alone. By itself the result would be ruinous. But it is only permitted in order to clear the way for something better. We must not rest in freedom from Law. To be free from the obligation and free from the penalty, and to have no new and better life, would be the collapse and degradation of all moral order. That is a false and fatal gospel which consists only in the promise of such a result. The only reason for allowing it is to secure the new life in God.

1. This means exchanging a blind submission to Law or a loving obedience to our Father in heaven.

2. It means abandoning the helpless command for the inspiration of a living presence. This is the true Christian life. It is therefore no selfish salvation that is offered to us, but a life of self-dedication, a losing of self in God. Note that the Law does not lead to this result, nor does dying to the Law. Thus far only the way is prepared. The new life in God flows from the gospel of Christ. - W.F.A.

St. Paul's Christianity was identification of the Christian with Christ. It was not merely believing a scheme of doctrine, nor following a certain course of devotion, nor accepting an offered grace. It was absolute union with Christ in spiritual experience. Nothing is more characteristic of the apostle than the way in which, in almost every Epistle, he describes the Christian life as going step by step with the life of Christ from the earthly humiliation and death to the heavenly triumph. Here the most essential elements of that experience are pointed out, and the secret of them declared.


1. Crucifixion with Christ. This is no figure of speech, meaning only that, inasmuch as Christ died for us, we may be said to have been crucified representatively in him. The passionate earnestness of St. Paul in describing his own spiritual renewal goes far beyond any such shallow conception. He is plainly describing what he really endured.

(1) This is death. The old life is killed out. The passions, lusts, habits, and associations of the life in sin, self, and worldliness are mortified. Christianity is not simply educational. It is first of all militant - purging, scourging, killing.

(2) This is crucifixion - a painful, violent death; for it is no light matter to destroy the life in sin, so full of pleasant attractions, and so deeply rooted in our inmost nature - and a judicial execution, wrought on us by the vindictive powers of our own treacherous passions when once we turn from them to faith in Christ.

(3) This is a crucifixion with Christ. Our union with Christ necessitates this death of the old life and brings it about. The new wine bursts the old bottles. Conscience and Law fail to destroy the old life, though they reveal its hideous deformity. But when we come to Calvary and reach out to the dying Christ, entering into his experience by faith and vivid sympathy, the old self receives its mortal wounds. Then we can live the former life no longer.

2. Christ living in us. St. Paul feels that he has so given himself up to Christ that the ruling power in him is no longer self but Christ. This is true Christianity.

(1) It is life. We die that we may live. We begin with mortifying the old life, but we do not continue to exist in a barren asceticism. New energies spring up from the grave of the old life.

(2) This life is Christ's. It derives its power from Christ, it is swayed by the will of Christ, it seeks the ends of Christ, it breathes the spirit of Christ, it is lived in personal communion with Christ. Selfish aims and self-devised resources are gone, and in their place the grace of Christ is the inspiration, and the mind and will of Christ are the controlling influences of the new life. This is not a future possibility, but a present attainment. The life is now lived in the flesh.


1. It is realized through faith. St. Paul lives "in faith." The power of Christ to destroy the old life and live himself in us depends on our faith in him, and is exercised just in proportion as we yield ourselves to him in trustful reliance and loyal obedience. No fate will make it ours, no mechanical influence will secure it. Intelligently, voluntarily, we must exercise faith in him to be joined to him in crucifixion and new life. Faith is always the greatest bond of union.

2. It is determined by the love and sacrifice of Christ. Here is the motive for our faith. The love of Christ constrains us. The gift of himself for us reveals and confirms his love and brings it home to our hearts. The explanation of the revolution in St. Paul's life, of the death of the persecutor, and the creation of the apostle, is his coming under the influence of these truths. To enjoy the same experience we must

(1) fix our thoughts on the same great, wonderful love and sacrifice of Christ; and

(2) appropriate them personally to ourselves. "He loved me," etc. - W.F.A.

I. IF WE SEEK FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS BY MEANS OF LAW WE MAKE NO USE OF THE GRACE OF GOD. Here are two rival methods for obtaining righteousness. The first is wide and various, by means of Law, any law - the Levitical system, ascetic discipline, rites of heathen mysteries, Stoic philosophy, our own attempts to conform to an outside rule. The second is specific, the grace of God, the grace shown in the gospel, the grace that comes through the sacrifice of Christ. These two methods are mutually exclusive. They run in opposite directions. The Judaizing party was trying to combine them. The Roman Catholics made the same attempt when they regarded justification as the result of works wrought by means of grace. But, though grace does lead us to conformity with Law, it can only do so in its own way by changing the heart and planting principles of righteousness, not by assisting the old servile effort to keep certain external ordinances. The old stage-coach can be of no assistance to the express train. By so much of the distance as you go by road you leave the rail and therefore lose ground. The mistake of neglecting grace for Law is

(1) foolish, for we thus lose a help freely offered;

(2) ungrateful, for we refuse the gift of God; and

(3) dangerous, for we shall be to blame for the failure that could have been avoided had we not declined to avail ourselves of God's method of righteousness.

All attempts, then, to increase holiness by monastic rules, regulations of a religious order, specific vows, or restraints of formal Church discipline are unchristian. The higher righteousness must be attained by the same means through which the first elements were secured. Any other method is poorer and weaker. We begin with grace; we can never improve upon grace.


1. The method of Law was the older method. If this had been successful there would have been no need to add another. If the Old Testament were enough the New Testament need never have been produced.

2. The method of Law was the less costly method. We do not turn to more expensive methods if no superior advantage is to be gained by them. The new method is only possible at the greatest possible cost. The righteousness by Law required no special sacrifice. The righteousness by grace required the death of the Son of God. How much superior must God consider it to be willing to pay so heavy a price in order to secure it to us! We may be sure that, if by any easier way the same results could have been reached, God would have spared his own Son. Yet they who neglect this grace for the old method of Law proclaim by their actions that the great sacrifice was unnecessary. For themselves, too, they do make it a useless thing. This is the pathetic side of their error. Refusing to avail themselves of the grace of God, they bring it to pass that, as far as they are concerned, Christ died in vain. - W.F.A.

The Pulpit Commentary, Electronic Database.
Copyright © 2001, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2010 by Biblesoft, Inc.
All rights reserved. Used by permission.

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