Personal: Defense of Paul’s Apostleship
Galatians 1 – 2
Galatians 1 – 2
Galatians 1. Unlike other epistles, in chapter 1 we have no commendation, no confirmation of love, and no prayer requests. This is because the subject and error of the Galatians was so serious. There is a certain calmness about those types of greetings that was unsuitable in this situation. Most epistles begin with a doctrinal section, and then conclude with a practical section. But in Galatians, Paul inserts this personal section at the beginning because they were denying his apostleship. If the Galatians were going to hear his message, that fact must be established first. As with the Galatians, the Corinthians also were under the powerful influence of evil workers, who wanted to turn them from the truth, and separate them from the apostle Paul. He gives the most complete defense of his apostolic authority in 2 Cor. 10-13. The difference between Galatia and Corinth was that there had been a turning with the Corinthians, while Paul still stood in doubt of the Galatians. Accordingly, Paul defends his apostleship at the beginning of Galatians, but saves it for the end in 2 Corinthians. Right from the introduction of Galatians we see the seeds of the doctrine Paul will address in this epistle (v.4): that Christ to took care of our sins, and that He will deliver us from this evil world. Then Paul quickly launches into the subject which deeply burdened his heart.
- Introduction and Salutation (1:1-5)
- The Strong Rebuke (1:6-10)
- The History of Paul’s Conversion and Commission (1:11-17)
- Paul’s First Encounter with Peter (1:18-24)
- Paul’s Second Encounter with Peter (2:1-10)
- Paul’s Third Encounter with Peter (2:11-13)
- Paul’s Public Response to Peter (1:14:21)
Introduction and Salutation (1:1-5)
Writer. This epistle was written by the Apostle Paul, who – when he was Saul of Tarsus – was the champion of Judaism. His history is traces out on the first chapter. After being arrested by the grace of God and converted, Saul was fully delivered from the law, and became Paul – the champion of the gospel of the grace of God. He writes to these “foolish Galatians” as the champion of grace with all the experience of the ex-champion of law. Paul is therefore the perfect instrument to warn the Galatians of the trap they had fallen into, and to explain what they needed to do to be delivered.
¶ Paul, apostle, not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ, and God the Father who raised him from among the dead, v.1 Writer. Paul was accused of being less than an apostle because he hadn’t walked with or received his apostleship from the Lord Jesus on earth. He turns this around to show that his commission excluded all human appointment or recognition, and thus had nothing to do with men or the earth. It wasn’t “from men” (by apostolic succession), or “through man” (through apostolic succession). Resurrection is brought in because God’s satisfaction with the work of Christ is the foundation of all Christian blessings. The root of legal error is the man can do something for his own salvation. It is really the glorification of the natural man. From the very first verse, the proper foundation is laid; all blessing is “not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ, and God the Father”.
2 and all the brethren with me, to the assemblies of Galatia. v.2 Recipients. The Galatians had gotten out of step with their brethren and the apostles. This is what we call heterodoxy. But Paul hadn’t gone off; he speaks of the brethren as “with me”. Notice that this epistle is addressed to “the assemblies” [plural] in Galatia. There was a number of assemblies in the region of Galatia. Evil doctrine had spread to an entire region. We must not be deceived into thinking that evil doctrine will be contained to one locality. Recall that there were five cities in the Vale of Siddom, and all were destroyed together.
3 Grace to you, and peace, from God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, v.3 Salutation. Grace is always in the salutation in epistles written to believers from among the Gentiles. To the Jews it was ‘peace’ (Shalom), but to the Gentiles it was ‘grace’. Both are included here! Grace is the means of our salvation, peace is the result. Grace was their area of weakness.
4 who gave himself for our sins, so that he should deliver us out of the present evil world, according to the will of our God and Father; v.4 Thanksgiving. The Galatian error was twofold; (1) that justification is obtained by law-keeping, and (2) that a holy life is maintained by law-keeping (see Acts 15:1). This verse shows that Christ meets both those needs. Christ “gave himself for our sins” to secure a righteous standing for us before God. But He also has “delivered us out of the present evil world”. This present evil world began when Cain went out and built a city. He set up a system in independance of God. Note: William Kelly translates this expression “present evil age”. When did “this age” become evil? With the rejection and crucifixion of our Lord. It was then that the princes of this age crucified the Lord of glory. But both deliverances, from our sins and from the world, are “according to the will of our God and Father”. Christianity brings us into relationship with God as Father, not as Jehovah. This precious privilege would not be enjoyed by those who put themselves under law.
5 to whom be glory to the ages of ages. Amen. v.5 Praise and Worship. Legalism results in the cessation of spontaneous praise and worship, because it puts the soul at a distance from God. The Galatians could tell just by this introduction that there was no distance for Paul!
The Strong Rebuke (1:6-10)
Grace. What is grace? The word can be used different ways in scripture. It can refer to special enabling power to endure a trial (2 Cor. 12:9). It can also refer to generosity of heart (2 Cor. 8:9). But the primary sense of grace, and in the context of Galatians, is the unmerited favor of God. It is God’s settled disposition of favor towards His own, totally apart from the works of law, without man deserving any of it. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph. 2:8-9). Some legalists have a very twisted view of grace, as if it is something that man must earn through his works. But grace cannot be earned.
¶ 6 I wonder that ye thus quickly change, from him that called you in Christ’s grace, to a different gospel, v.6 Without further delay, Paul launches into that which burdened his heart. He was shocked by the progress of evil. It was a quick change, because Galatians was written within five years of Paul preaching to them (Acts 16:6). That had changed from believing the message of “Christ’s grace” to “a different gospel”. Why was it no longer the true gospel? Because any “improvement” or “enhancement” to the work of Christ makes it a totally different message. “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). There is a downward progression in Galatians that begins with “changed” (v.6), progresses to “bewitched” (Gal. 3:1), and then finally “entangled again with a yoke of bondage” (Gal. 5:1). It starts here with getting away from the Lord’s grace. How can we be preserved from this error? We can “be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 2:1), and “be established with grace; not with meats” (Heb. 13:9).
7 which is not another one ; but there are some that trouble you, and desire to pervert the glad tidings of the Christ. v.7 But this “different gospel” is really “not another”… it isn’t a gospel at all. There is not another gospel. There aren’t two ways to be saved. (The two words in v.6 and v.7 are not the same.) Legalism isn’t good news. Rather than deny all point of the gospel, they false teachers perverted it, which is far more dangerous.
8 But if even “we” or an angel out of heaven announce as glad tidings to you anything besides what we have announced as glad tidings to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, now also again I say, If any one announce to you as glad tidings anything besides what ye have received, let him be accursed. vv.8-9 Something that alarmed Paul was how easily the Galatians were turned aside from the truth. He pronounces a double anathema (accursed) on any who would bring a different gospel. He says “if even we”… referring to Paul and his fellow laborers. If Paul came and preached something different from what he had originally preached, he would be cursed… this is hypothetical, and only possible for an apostate. He goes on the say “or an angel out out of heaven”… an elect angel from God could never do this, but a fallen angel could. An “angel out of heaven” is a fallen angel. The anathema is repeated for emphasis. But in the second anathema (v.9) it is broadened out to include “any” (man or demon) who would pervert the gospel. It is remarkable that numerous false cults and false religions began with an angel bringing a different gospel (Islam, Mormonism). It is also remarkable that the Roman Catholic Church, at the Council of Trent, pronounced anathema on any who preached the gospel of God’s grace. But in scripture we have God’s anathema… quite the opposite! In v.8 Paul speaks of what “we have announced” and in v.9 of “what ye have received”. The Galatians had received the true gospel. Now they were being turned away. We are witnessing the spirit of a father rise up in Paul against those who would take away the children’s bread.
10 For do I now seek to satisfy men or God? or do I seek to please men? If I were yet pleasing men, I were not Christ’s bondman. v.10 Trying to be agreeable to men is incompatible with serving Christ. This is exactly what the Judaizing teachers were doing to gain a following among the Galatians and gain their monetary support (Gal. 4:17, 6:13). The same thing is commonly done in Christendom today. If Paul sought to please men, he never would have written this epistle, and he would have preached the necessity of circumcision. We cannot please both. If I am a man-pleaser, I cannot be a God-pleaser.
The History of Paul’s Conversion and Commission (1:11-17)
11 But I let you know, brethren, as to the glad tidings which were announced by me, that they are not according to man. 12 For neither did I receive them from man, neither was I taught them, but by revelation of Jesus Christ. vv.11-12 The gospel Paul preached wasn’t “according to man”; it was not something men would naturally be pleased with. The gospel makes nothing of man and everything of Christ. But also (v.12) Paul’s authority was from heaven, as opposed to the Judaizers who got their authority and instructions from Jerusalem. It is interesting that before his conversion, Paul got his authority from Jerusalem as well (Acts 9:1-2). Paul was not taught the gospel by the twelve in Jerusalem, rather he received his gospel “by revelation of Jesus Christ”. There is no higher authority than the risen Christ.
13 For ye have heard what was my conversation formerly in Judaism, that I excessively persecuted the assembly of God, and ravaged it; 14 and advanced in Judaism beyond many my contemporaries in my nation, being exceedingly zealous of the doctrines of my fathers. vv.13-14 Paul now speaks of his career under the law. Paul was a Goliath for Judaism (Phil. 3:4-6). If you wanted one man that embodied Judaism completely, it was Saul of Tarsus. He was no slouch. He took his Judaism into action, excessively persecuting the Church (John 16:2). He could say before Agrippa, “And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities” (Acts 26:11). Paul was “excessive”… he was a religious zealot. It is very rare for a zealot to turn 180⁰, but such is the power of grace. There are at least three reasons for mentioning his commission: (1) to show the effect of legalism, that it made Paul an antagonist of grace – it always does that, (2) to show that Paul was well versed in Judaism – he was qualified to speak about it, and (3) to show that God’s power can deliver anyone, no matter how steeped in religion. He calls it “the Jew’s religion” Similar to the way John speaks of “the Jews’ feasts” in his gospel. God no longer owned them as of Him.
15 But when God, who set me apart even from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace, 16 was pleased to reveal his Son in me, that I may announce him as glad tidings among the nations, immediately I took not counsel with flesh and blood, vv.15-16 What was it that turned Paul around? The sovereign activity of God’s grace (v.15). God had a purpose for Paul, and God singled him out from his “mother’s womb”. Paul was the first one to publicly preach that Jesus was “the Son of God” (Acts 9:20). Peter preach an exalted Man; “God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). Peter, to whom the Father revealed the blessed truth of Christ’s Sonship () never preached that truth. It was given to Paul to preach it. But this goes farther than preaching. God’s Son was revealed, not only in Paul’s words, but in his whole manner of life. The same is what God desired for each one of us. The primary result of the Gospel is to form the life of the Son of God in the believer. Practical salvation is not by the law any more than eternal salvation is. It is by formation of Christ in us. Christianity is a Person (v.16), not a religion (v.13).
17 nor went I up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went to Arabia, and again returned to Damascus. v.17 It is significant that Paul was saved away from Jerusalem, and steered clear after conversion. Paul’s commission was from the glorified Head of the Church. It is also significant that Paul was an apostle before he went to Jerusalem. Going to Arabia occurs in the gap between Acts 29:22-23. It shows the total disconnect between Paul’s gospel and human order. In Acts 21:18-29, we find that when Paul went back against the Lord’s will, he fell under James’ influence and ended up in literal bondage.
Paul’s three Encounters with Peter. In the following sections, Paul relates three encounters with Peter. These three encounters form a solid defense of his apostleship, and competence to deal with the Galatian error. Also, in the various encounters, the issue of the law and circumcision comes up, such that these encounters also provide a powerful introduction to the rest of the epistle.
- 1st Encounter (1:18-24)…. Showing Paul was in harmony with Peter and the other apostles.
- 2nd Encounter (2:1-10)….. Showing Paul’s complete understanding of the Christian revelation.
- 3rd Encounter (2:11-13)…. Showing that Paul had sufficient authority to rebuke another apostle.
Paul’s First Encounter with Peter (1:18-24)
Showing Paul was in Harmony with Peter and the Other Apostles
18 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to make acquaintance with Peter, and I remained with him fifteen days; 19 but I saw none other of the apostles, but James the brother of the Lord. vv.18-19 Paul didn’t go up to Jerusalem until three years after his conversion. He went up to keep the unity of the Spirit, by ensure that he would continue in harmony with Peter. He spent fifteen days there, probably bringing Peter up to speed on what the Lord had done and shown to him. The Judaizing teachers couldn’t claim to be in harmony with the other apostles. They were out of step with their brethren. He mentions that he saw James, which would have been James the Just (the Lord’s brother), who became very prominent in Jerusalem. If any of the leaders in Jerusalem would have taken issue with Paul’s gospel, it would have been James who was entrenched in Judaism, as we see from the end of the book of Acts. During the Lord’s lifetime, James and the Lord’s other brothers and sisters did not believe on Him (John 7:5). They came to faith after the resurrection, and two of them wrote epistles which are part of the New Testament canon.
20 Now what I write to you, behold, before God, I do not lie. v.20 Paul isn’t leaving anything out. The purpose of this trip was neither for training in Christian doctrine, nor for authorization. Rather, it was for fellowship… to “make acquaintance” with Peter.
21 Then I came into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. v.21 After Paul went to Jerusalem, he went to “the regions of Syria and Cilicia”, which was Paul’s hometown. He established his testimony there. It takes time for gift to be developed. It was probably eight or nine years before he went abroad again, and when he finally did, it was by Divine instruction (see Gal. 2:2).
Faithfulness in the private sphere first. From the time Paul was converted on the Road to Damascus (A.D. 34; Acts 9:1-9), his time in Damascus (Acts 9:10-19), three years in Arabia (Gal 1:17), return to Damascus then departure from the city for safety (Gal 1:17; Acts 9:20-25; 2 Cor 11:32-33), his private visit to Jerusalem (Acts 9:26-29; Gal 1:18), eight or nine years in Tarsus (Acts 9:30; Gal. 1:21), to when Barnabas travels to Tarsus in order to seek Saul (A.D. 46; Acts 11:25) is a total of twelve years between his conversion and official public ministry! It is important for the servant of God to be faithful in a local sphere first, before undertaking a broader sphere of ministry.
22 But I was unknown personally to the assemblies of Judaea which are in Christ; 23 only they were hearing that he who persecuted us formerly now announces the glad tidings of the faith which formerly he ravaged: 24 and they glorified God in me. vv.22-24 Although they had never seen Paul, the saints in Judea were generally supportive of Paul and the gospel he preached. This is a powerful testimony! They were previously the objects of his “excessive” persecution, and now they “glorified God” in Paul.
Paul’s Second Encounter with Peter (2:1-10)
Showing Paul’s Complete Understanding of the Christian Revelation
¶ Then after a lapse of fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus also with me; v.1 The Spirit of God brings up the fourteen year lapse between Paul’s first two visits to Jerusalem to destroy any notion that Paul got either his doctrine or authority from the twelve in Jerusalem. Any notion of apostolic succession is set aside. See v.3 for why Paul took Titus with him. They went to to Jerusalem because that is where the Judaizing teachers had come from. Rather than come to some conclusion up in Antioch, the brethren went to Jerusalem to handle the matter. Jerusalem is the last place they would naturally go to get a favorable decision on the issue at hand, but it was important to go there to keep the unity of the Spirit.
— This is the same incident we get in Acts 15:1-35 —
2 and I went up according to revelation, and I laid before them the glad tidings which I preach among the nations, but privately to those conspicuous among them, lest in any way I run or had run in vain; v.2 Here it says that Paul went from Antioch up to Jerusalem “by revelation”, but in Acts 15:2 we find that Paul was asked to up by his brethren. He also had a special word from the Lord to go, whether directly as in Acts 16:9-10, or through a prophet as in Acts 21:10-11. This is how things ought to be in the local assembly. The servants of the Lord should have a word from the Lord to do this or that, and the Lord should also lay it on the hearts of the local brethren! It is wonderful when that is the case. Paul communicated his gospel to those who were of reputation privately, not before the whole assembly, as it was important to get the leaders clear on the issue. The reason he gives for doing it privately was on account of the false brethren brought in. To blast this out to the whole company before getting those of reputation (who were wavering and unclear) on the same page could have resulted in a split, and all Paul’s labors becoming a big waste. He graciously acted to avoid a public confrontation. Furthermore, it was critical for the leaders to be clear and united on the issue before the council began (Acts 15:6).
3 (but neither was Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, compelled to be circumcised;) v.3 This verse is a parenthesis, but an important one. Titus was taken as an example of grace, and as a test case; an uncircumcised Gentile that believed the gospel. What would they do? Deny that he was saved? His presence there brought the issue to the surface.
4 and it was on account of the false brethren brought in surreptitiously, who came in surreptitiously to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage; v.4 The “false brethren” had been brought in by believing Jews, but they had a plan of their own. It was a strategy of Satan to take these liberated Gentiles who were serving Christ, and bind them in the cords of legalism. Satan “spies out” those who are enjoying true liberty and makes a calculated attack on them. Their plan was to bring the believers under law through the ceremony of circumcision. In ch.5 Paul explains how the ceremonial and moral aspects of the law are intertwined. Once they were in bondage, there would be a hierarchy among believers, and they could easily be channelled to the will of the false leaders.
5 to whom we yielded in subjection not even for an hour, that the truth of the glad tidings might remain with you. v.5 The “we” is Paul, Barnabas, and Titus, with the other apostles, now united in voice. They refused to go along with the legalists. We can’t stand by when evil doctrine is taught, however it isn’t an opportunity to act in the flesh. This is an important thing to remember, and it takes discernment to know whether it someone is simply “weak in the faith” (Rom. 14:1 – 15:7), or whether there is an effort to bring souls under bondage. If it is the latter, it is an open assault on the gospel, and we must stand up for the truth. Paul sensed correctly that, if this error was not nipped in the bud, “the truth of the glad tidings” was in jeopardy of extinction. What a moment this was! How easy it would have been to bow under the pressure. But at what cost!
6 But from those who were conspicuous as being somewhat–whatsoever they were, it makes no difference to me: God does not accept man’s person; for to me those who were conspicuous communicated nothing; v.6 Those who “were conspicuous as being somewhat” are the three pillars; Peter, James, and John. Notice that Paul is rallying around the Word of God (the revelation given to him), not the importance of persons. This is a good lesson. They “added nothing” to Paul, in that there was nothing more they could add to Paul’s doctrine. In everything Paul had a superior understanding of the gospel of the grace of God.
7 but, on the contrary, seeing that the glad tidings of the uncircumcision were confided to me, even as to Peter that of the circumcision, 8 (for he that wrought in Peter for the apostleship of the circumcision wrought also in me towards the Gentiles,) 9 and recognising the grace given to me, James and Cephas and John, who were conspicuous as being pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship, that “we” should go to the nations, and “they” to the circumcision; vv.7-9 Far from teaching Paul anything, the three who “seemed to be” pillars approved of what Paul was saying and doing. Note that James here couldn’t be the Apostle James (James the Great) because he had been martyred, but James the Lord’s brother takes a prominent role in Acts 15. They are called “pillars” because they were considered by the assembly to have large moral weight. When the Lord exercises his servant to go out with his work he also exercises his brethren. This is the proper order. But having the right hands of fellowship is not required. The other Apostles couldn’t give him additional light or a commission (ch. 1) but they could offer an expression of their fellowship with him. When the Lord Jesus rose from the dead, he gave to the twelve apostles an earthly commission: to go to all nations and make disciples, baptizing in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and teaching them to observe the teachings of Jesus. In the early chapters of Acts, we find that the twelve did not go to the Gentiles, but rather remained in Jerusalem. Paul had just returned from his first missionary journey. The pillars essentially concede at this point that God had confided the gospel of the uncircumcision to Paul, and they sign over that commission to him. Now, Paul did fulfill his commission to the Gentiles, but he brought more than the gospel of the kingdom… “For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel” (1 Cor. 1:17), which was the gospel of the grace of God! Yet beyond this, Paul’s love for Israel was so strong (Rom. 10:1) eventually he started doing Peter’s work. In this Paul had the Lord’s heart, but not the Lord’s mind… and he ended up in prison.
10 only that we should remember the poor, which same thing also I was diligent to do. v.10 The most the other apostles could come up with to add to Paul’s commission was that he should “remember the poor”. And it was redundant because Paul was already disposed to do that. Most likely they were saying to remember the poor in Jerusalem (if so it would be consistent with many other epistles). The Gentiles to whom Paul ministered were comparatively wealthy.
Paul’s Third Encounter with Peter (2:11-13)
Showing that Paul had Sufficient Authority to Rebuke Another Apostle
¶ 11 But when Peter came to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be condemned: v.11 This event took place a short time later in Antioch. What makes this failure of Peter so sad is how strongly he came out on the side of grace in Acts 15. He had publicly declared that “we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they” (Acts 15:11). A short time later Peter fell into the snare of legalism. It was a public failure and it required a public rebuke (1 Tim. 5:20). Not every failure requires a public rebuke. Those who are leaders (Peter was) need to be especially careful, not just about their doctrine but their actions because they have a big effect on others. And yet, Peter received this correction. Since Peter could receive this correction from Paul, it follows that the Galatians ought to be willing to as well… and so should we.
12 for before that certain came from James, he ate with those of the nations; but when they came, he drew back and separated himself, fearing those of the circumcision; v.12 Before the legalists came from James, Peter ate freely with the believing Gentiles in the Antioch assembly. But when they came, Peter separated from the Gentiles and refused to eat with them. Peter’s failure was “fearing the circumcision” – the danger of peer pressure. Proverbs tells us that “the fear of man bringeth a snare” (Prov. 29:25). James the Lord’s brother was the most prominent and the most legal of the leaders in Jerusalem, and he carried significant clout. Peter buckled under the pressure. Peter’s change in behavior would have been very obvious and disheartening. The root of this failure is the same as the root of his failure in the hall of the high priest. After this incident, Peter disappears from the pages of inspired history.
13 and the rest of the Jews also played the same dissembling part with him; so that even Barnabas was carried away too by their dissimulation. v.13 “Dissemble” is the opposite word from “assemble”. It is to practically undo what the Spirit of God had done in forming the assembly. The striking thing is that Barnabas had disputed with Paul against these teachers when they came to Antioch (Acts 15:2), and he was present for the Jerusalem council, but he was led astray back in Antioch when these ones came from James, and when Peter capitulated. We rarely realize what influence we have on each other. Those who are leaders need to be extremely careful. In the end, Paul was the only one who stood up for “the grace that is in Christ Jesus”.
Satan’s Minor Successes. Satan was unsuccessful at both: (1) bringing the saints under law, and (2) disrupting the unity of the Church as we saw at the council of Jerusalem (Acts 15:1-35; Gal. 2:1-10). However, Satan is a tireless foe, and he will take any advantage he can get. Just after the council of Jerusalem, where Satan’s wiles were evaded, he had two minor yet important successes. First, while he could not bring the saints under law, he was able to get Peter to compromise on the truth of the gospel when he came up to Antioch. That event is not recorded in Acts, but is given to us in Gal. 2:11-13. Second, while Satan was unsuccessful at diving the assembly, he was able to drive a wedge between two faithful servants, Paul and Barnabas, which is recorded in Acts 15:36-41. We are never more vulnerable to defeat than after our greatest success.
Paul’s Public Response to Peter (1:14:21)
The Third Encounter was very close to home for the Galatians. Before Peter came the Jews were going on eating with the Gentiles in liberty. When Peter came, he continued with them. But when Judaizers came from James, he dissembled. In the same way, the Galatians had been running well until the Judaizers came to them. By using the same tactics on their leaders, the Judaizers had brought them into bondage as well.
An Introduction to Next Division
Paul Develops Peter’s Inconsistency (vv.14-15)
14 But when I saw that they do not walk straightforwardly, according to the truth of the glad tidings, I said to Peter before all, If “thou”, being a Jew, livest as the nations and not as the Jews, how dost thou compel the nations to Judaize? 15 We, Jews by nature, and not sinners of the nations, vv.14-15 Peter was not being consistent… he was not walking “straightforwardly”. Peter was adding something to the gospel, thus striking against its foundation (vv.16-17). by separating he was stating that believing Gentiles were still unclean when God had called them clean (Acts 10). Paul as much as says, ‘Peter, you who was a Jew brought up with ceremonial cleanliness, feel that in Christianity you have liberty to live without the Jewish customs as the Gentiles do by nature, why then are you reversing the principle in application to the Gentiles?’ It is inconsistent.
The Effect of Teaching Justification by Law (vv.16-17)
16 but knowing that a man is not justified on the principle of works of law nor but by the faith of Jesus Christ, “we” also have believed on Christ Jesus, that we might be justified on the principle of the faith of Christ; and not of works of law; because on the principle of works of law no flesh shall be justified. 17 Now if in seeking to be justified in Christ we also have been found sinners, then is Christ minister of sin? Far be the thought. vv.16-17 Paul is applying the principle behind Peter’s actions to see what it does to the truth of justification. Frankly, it slaughters it. A person is justified, not by law-keeping, but by letting his or her case rest with Christ and His work in simple faith. But if, having done this (v.17) we are told by Judaizers that we are still unclean while resting in faith, then Christ is made the minister of sin! By Peter’s actions he was stating that Christ was not in the business of blotting out sins, but of keeping them and manifesting them! Note: When you get faith “of” Christ, it is Christ as the object of faith (see Gal. 2:20). If the law can only discover sin, and Christ approve of the use of the law for justification, then Christ has not delivered me from sin but has left me under its bondage. Far be the thought! Note: the term “justified in Christ” gives the thought of the believer’s righteous standing in Christ’s place before God.
The Effect of Teaching Law as a Rule of Life (vv.18-20)
18 For if the things I have thrown down, these I build again, I constitute myself a transgressor. v.18 The gospel had torn down “the middle wall of partition” (Eph. 2:14). In believing the gospel of the grace of God we recognize this in principle. Peter, by his actions, was building again that wall. It was especially wrong because it took the cross of Christ to bring it down (Eph. 2:14). By rebuilding a segregation between believers, we are practically saying Christ was wrong to tear down the wall originally, and I was wrong to tear it down in my mind. As a practical note, Paul graciously stops saying “thou” and “we”, and instead says “I”, letting Peter apply it to himself. This is a powerful lesson on how to rebuke.
19 For “I”, through law, have died to law, that I may live to God. v.19 Paul never denied the law its proper place (Rom. 3:31) instead he shows that the law had its full force resulting in death because of sin: that of death under law reaching Christ – and by association – the old “I”. The life to which the Dominion of law was attached has ended at the cross. The law is not dead, but the believer is dead to it (Rom. 7:1-6). In keeping with the way the law works, I realize my other powerlessness. By association with Christ’s death (connect with v.20) I am completely removed from the law’s sphere of influence (Rom. 7:1-6). The expression “that I may live to God” means that the believer is liberated to be occupied with pleasing and God undistracted by law (see Rom. 6:10).
20 I am crucified with Christ, and no longer live, “I”, but (1) Christ lives in me; (2) but in that I now live in flesh, I live by faith, (3) the faith of the Son of God, (4) who has loved me and given himself for me. v.20 By association with Christ’s death, we have been completely disassociated from the life to which the law was addressed. The old “I” has been crucified… the law has nothing to say to me now! Christ rose from the dead, and so we live – leaving the old “I” where it lies, the sentence fully passed – seeing the new “I” as God does, and drawing all our resources from a risen, glorified Christ. A holy practical life cannot come by law keeping. To impose the law on a Christian is to misunderstand the new life. There is no wrong impulse that needs to be restrained in the new life. What the new life needs is liberty, an object, and a motive. Given those things, the new life will perform to a far higher standard – up to “the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2)! Four things that will really allow us to life a holy Christian life:
- A new life – the life of Christ in me (displayed practically by the fruits of the Spirit).
- A new principle to live by – faith as opposed to works.
- A new object – the Son of God as opposed to self (the law makes me focus on self). It is “the faith of the Son of God”, the faith that has the Son of God and His love for me as its object
- A new motive – love instead of fear.
It is important to see that, in the death of Christ, not only are my sins put away, but I am crucified as well.1
The Net Result of Legalism (v.21)
21 I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness is by law, then Christ has died for nothing.v.21 The net result of the principle behind Peter’s actions (although he did not comprehend it) in vv.12-13 is now given. If a person could be made righteous positionally or practically by the law, then (1) the grace of God is set aside, and (2) Christ’s death was a waste. How solemn! Righteousness is not obtained by the law. You can’t work it out for yourself nor did Christ work it out for you in His life. We are saved by His death (Rom. 5:10; 1 Cor. 15:3-4). Justification is “not on the principle of law” (Rom. 3:21).