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Galatians 2

Galatians 2:1
"Then after the space of fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus also with me."

Paul writes that after the space of fourteen year" he went back to Jerusalem.  After leaving Jerusalem the first time after his conversion, he spent fourteen years out of the company of the center of operations for the apostles.  Paul is making the point here that he was acting independently of the Jerusalem church. 

There is a point of disagreement here among the scholars as to which trip to Jerusalem Paul is speaking of here.  There are two visits recorded in Acts.  The first is documented in Acts 11:27-30.  There was a great famine in Judea and Paul along with his traveling companions brought money contributed by gentile churches for the purpose of famine relief to the Judean congregations. The timing of this trip by Paul and Barnabas coincides with the time Herod had James the brother of Zebedee killed and imprisoned Peter.  This is the famous account where Peter was miraculously released from prison by an angel of the Lord.  According to Luke in Acts 12:1 all of these events occurred about the same time. 

The second trip is recorded in Acts 15 and documents what is known today as the Jerusalem Council which convened specifically to answer the question of whether or not Gentile Christians had to be circumcised.  The result of that meeting was that it was settled and declared that Gentiles had the same entrance requirements to the kingdom of God that Jews had.  The sect that had been going behind Paul and teaching that Gentiles had to observe specific tenants of the old law in order to become Christians had been denounced publicly and finally by the Apostles, in Jerusalem. 

The dispute among the scholars is over which one of these trips Paul is referring to in Galatians.  His wording in verse 1 appears to mean that it was fourteen years between his first and second trip to Jerusalem.  The difficulty with that is that it is difficult to reconcile that with his historical timeline.  Paul's conversion happened about 34 AD.  Herod Agrippa had James the brother of Zebedee executed and he imprisoned Peter in about 44AD which was just prior to his death by worms at the hands of an angel of the Lord as recorded in Acts 12.  According to Acts 12, Paul's famine trip to Jerusalem and Herod's Agrippa's death were more or less concurrent events, give or take a couple of years.  The date of Herod Agrippa's death is a matter of historical fact.  Paul's first visit to Jerusalem happened three years or so after his conversion which would make it about 37 AD.  The problem is that there is not fourteen years between 37 AD and 44 AD. 

A possible explanation is that Paul's first visit to Jerusalem, being not for the purpose of the dispute at hand was simply not accounted for in his account in Galatians.  That famine relief visit had nothing to do with the issue at hand and he disregarded any mention of it in favor of the pressing argument for his authority as a genuine Apostle.  The wording does not necessarily exclude any other visits. It does say that there was a period of fourteen years between his first visit and another one. 

Galatians 2:2
"And I went up by revelation; and I laid before them the gospel which I preach among the Gentiles but privately before them who were of repute, lest by any means I should be running, or had run, in vain."

Paul was directed by the Holy Spirit to make this trip.  It was time to put this issue to rest once and for all and the Holy Spirit was directing the actions of Paul leading up to it.  This is not the first account we have of the direct guidance of the Holy Spirit in the affairs of spreading the gospel throughout the world.  See Acts 10:19; 11:12; 13:2; 16:7. 

When Paul said "he went up by revelation" he meant that it had been revealed to him divinely that he was to do this.  Paul was letting his readership know that he was getting his marching orders directly from the highest source.  And it was at the command of the Holy Spirit that he made this trip to Jerusalem thereby giving this action His divine approval. 

Paul's entire defense of himself as an Apostle rests on citing divine authority.  There is an application to be made for us today in this account.  Paul backed everything he said up with divine authority.  We today can emulate that practice in our religious lives and be assured of living according to God's will.  In short, Paul cited a "thus saith the Lord" for his actions leading up to his visit to Jerusalem. Today, if everyone claiming Christ as savior would similarly demand and demonstrate divine authority for what they say and do and reject those things for which there is none, there would be a lot less religious division among those professing Christianity. 

"and I laid before them the gospel which I preach among the Gentiles but privately before them who were of repute"

Paul went straight to Peter, James, John (V-9), and others who were reputed leaders of the church in Jerusalem to demonstrate to them the gospel he preached.    He knew they also had to be acting under the direct supervision of the Holy Spirit as was he and he knew the best way to confront this issue was to bypass the trouble makers and go straight to the top of those in charge on earth.  He was an apostle as was Peter and John therefore Paul knew that they at least were receiving divine directions at this point.  So this issue was going to be settled first among these apostles before going any further. 

"lest by any means I should be running, or had run, in vain"

If the apostles in Jerusalem did not agree with Paul, then his entire trip to Jerusalem was a waste.  The Judaizers were coming out of Judea and going to the gentiles with their heresy.  Unless all of the apostles agreed and sent that message out together, the actions of the Judaizers would never be stopped and Paul's efforts in his trip to Jerusalem along with his evangelizing efforts of the past seventeen years would have been for nothing.  The Judaizers were destroying everything Paul did with their heresy.  It is vitally important to keep in mind that both the Judaizers and those who would succumb to their heresy were doomed (Galatians 1:9, Galatians 5:4).  It concerned Paul greatly to think of the possibility that all the Christians he worked to evangelize would be lost if this heresy went unchecked. 

Galatians 2:3
"But not even Titus who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised:"

Paul had taken Titus, an uncircumcised gentile Christian, with him to this council and he was not required to be circumcised by the Apostles.  The Judaizers attempted to compel Titus to submit to circumcision but were completely rebuffed. 

Galatians 2:4
"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:"

Titus was not circumcised, the mention of the false brethren being for the purpose of showing how the question came up.  Paul had come to Jerusalem specifically to address this issue and while he was there conferring with the leaders of the church about it, some from the very group of false teachers he came to refute were snuck in by someone on the inside for the express purpose of trying to force circumcision on Titus and to bring the Christians under the bondage of the old law. 

These Judaizers were bold, quick to act, had internal support and were organized to the degree that they nearly met Paul and company at the doors with their heresy.  Let's keep in mind also that they had already sent Judaizers out into the gentile world and they had successfully managed to lure whole congregations away from the truth.  This had developed into a serious problem and was threatening the existence of the church.  It's no wonder Paul was sent to Jerusalem to face this problem head on (V-2).  This apostasy was entirely Jewish in origin and had developed to the degree it had under the noses of the apostles in Jerusalem.  The leaders of the church in Jerusalem weren't getting it done so Paul was sent to clean up the mess.  Paul's visit to Jerusalem brought the whole issue to the surface and forced the leaders of the church there to face it and deal with it in a more direct manner.  The Jerusalem council resulted in a letter being written by the leaders of the church which Paul and company took with them (Acts 15:23-29).  This letter from the church in Jerusalem utterly destroyed the doctrine the Judaizers were forcing on the Gentile Christians. 

"privily brought in"

The fact that these Judaizing spies were snuck in secretly suggests that they knew their doctrine would be challenged by the apostles.  If they had been confident of their doctrine, they most certainly would have come boldly in the front door and challenged Paul and company to the face.  This is how it is with change agents bringing false doctrine into the church.  They come  in with stealth under the guise of innocence and corrupt the way of truth with their heresy out of sight of those who would oppose them. 

Galatians 2:5
"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."

They did not yield in any way to the demands of the Judaizers.  They stood steadfast and immovable (1 Corinthians 15:58) and refused to submit to them. 

"that the truth of the gospel might continue with you"

The Judaizers were spreading their heresy wherever they could.  This letter by Paul to the churches in Galatia is proof that their efforts had reached that far.  Paul and company resisted their heresy at the council so that it could be defeated abroad.  The only way truth would prevail in Galatia was for the error to be stopped coming out of Jerusalem.  Before that could happen, the Jerusalem church had to send a unified message from the leadership there.  This message was sent out in part by letters recorded in Acts 15:23-29.

Galatians 2:6
"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:"

But from those who were claimed to be the leaders of the Jerusalem church.  Their station in the minds of the people made no difference to Paul.  Neither does it make any difference to God.  God does not accept man's ideas on righteousness.  In other words, it makes no difference what the leaders in Jerusalem say, if it's not God's will, it's not the truth and God will not accept it.  Man does not have the authority to make doctrine under any circumstances.  Man cannot approach God with his own righteousness (Romans 10:3, Philippians 3:9). 

"they, I say, who were of repute imparted nothing to me"

There is no part of the gospel that Paul did not already know.  The leaders of the Jerusalem church taught him nothing about the truth that Paul did not already have.  Paul went to Jerusalem for one reason and it did not include learning anything from them at all.  Paul already knew the gospel in its entirety and and had preached the whole counsel of God to the churches in Galatia. 

Galatians 2:7
"but contrariwise, when they saw that I had been intrusted with the gospel of the uncircumcision, even as Peter with (the gospel) of the circumcision"

The Jerusalem council recognized that God had fully inspired Paul to carry the gospel to the Gentiles the same as He had inspired Peter to the Jews.  God who commissioned Peter to work as an apostle among the Jews equally charged Paul to work among the Gentiles.  The gospel is the same, however the sphere of influence was different.  Paul was directed to the Gentiles at his conversion (Acts 9:15) and later in Acts  22:17-21). 

We need to bear in mind that Paul's directive to the Gentiles was not exclusive of the Jews.  It was Paul's habit when he came to a new city to go to the Jewish synagogues first (Acts 13:14; 14:1; 17:1-2; 18:3; 18:19; 19:8).  This was the most favorable location for the beginning of the gospel work as the synagogues were frequented by Jews who already believed in God and had knowledge of the old testament scriptures regarding the coming of the Messiah.  The synagogues were also used by the Jewish proselytes which provided the most expedient avenue to the rest of the Gentiles.  As was often the case, Paul's evangelizing efforts were much more effective among the Gentiles than they were to the Jews.  Often times, Paul's life was in jeopardy from the Jews while the Gentiles were a lot more receptive to the gospel. 

Galatians 2:8
"(for he that wrought for Peter unto the apostleship of the circumcision wrought for me also unto the Gentiles);"

The gospel is the same for each group of people.  The scope of influence was different.  One gospel, two different mission fields.  Paul made the universal application of the gospel for all mankind in Galatians 3:28 where he wrote, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus."

Galatians 2:9
"and when they perceived the grace that was given unto me, 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;"

Paul identifies the leaders of the Jerusalem church by name here.  Upon hearing the gospel Paul had been preaching to the Gentiles, they completely approved and offered their right hands in fellowship.  To offer one's hand in fellowship is to acknowledge, condone and support what they are teaching.  Offering the right hand of fellowship is the same thing as saying we are unified. 

Paul's point to his readership is that they added nothing to what he had been preaching.  No corrections were made, no additions, no subtractions, therefore what Paul had been telling them all along was the truth.  The obvious conclusion being that what the Judaizers had been saying all along was not the truth and should be rejected.

"that we should go unto the Gentiles, and they unto the circumcision"

Paul was to continue his evangelical efforts within his divinely appointed sphere while they, meaning Peter, James and John, would proceed with theirs.  No changes were made to anything.  Upon completion of the Jerusalem council, it was decided that Paul was acting under the authority of God, preaching the whole counsel of God and now bearing the right hand of fellowship with the reputed pillars of the Jerusalem church.

What a blow this must have been to the Judaizers.  They were expecting something entirely different but were disappointed.  Paul shows up in Jerusalem with Titus who was an uncircumcised Gentile and are confronted almost immediately about it and after a meeting with at least Peter, James and John, they leave with their approval and no doctrinal changes made to what they had been preaching among the Gentiles. 

Now Paul could return to his work and confront the Judaizers with the endorsement of the leaders of the Jerusalem church.  Not that he needed their approval other than it was to the authority of these men as genuine apostles they appealed.  The Judaizers had been attacking Paul's station as an apostle and preaching another gospel to the gentiles in the name of the apostles working from Jerusalem.

Peter, James and John were to return to their work among the Jews, referred to as "the circumcision" by Paul.  They had their work to do as well.  They had a considerable organization of Judaizers to confront and refute.  Peter, however did act in support of Paul when he penned the epistle we refer to as 1 Peter.  It was specifically addressed to the Gentile population of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia (1 Peter 1:1).  Written around 65 AD, it forever unified the gospel among the Gentiles and Jews and sealed the fate of the Judaizing doctrine that had been promulgated among the Gentiles.  There is not one hint in Peter's epistle to the Gentiles about the necessity of circumcision in order for Gentiles to become Christians. 

Galatians 2:10
"only (they would) that we should remember the poor; which very thing I was also zealous to do."

This was the only exhortation Peter, James and John had for Paul.  This was all they had to add to what Paul had been teaching in his evangelistic efforts.  And according to Paul, he was already diligent in his efforts to do that without being told to do so.  The conclusion here is that what Paul had been teaching the churches in Galatia was the truth, complete and authoritative.  On the other hand, what the churches in Galatia were being taught by the apostates coming out of Judea was false and utterly without divine authority of any kind. 


Further evidence of his independence by referencing his personal rebuke of Peter and others over their dissimilation (Gal 2:11-15).

Galatians 2:11
"But when Cephas came to Antioch, I resisted him to the face, because he stood condemned."

There were two cities in ancient times named Antioch.  Both cities were founded by Seleucus Nicator, ruler of Syria from 301-380 BC, and named for his father Antiochus. 

     1. Antioch in Pisidia of the Roman province of Galatia   This city was built on a plateau commanding one of the roads leading from the East to the Maeander River and Ephesus.  It is mentioned in the Bible in connection with the visits of the apostle Paul on his various missionary journeys.  On his first visit Paul preached the gospel in the synagogue and incurred the wrath of a number of the Jews of that city.  So opposed were they to his preaching that they continued their persecution of him when he journeyed to Lystra.  On the backswing of the first journey, he passed through Antioch again. It is to be assumed that he also visited the city on his second and third tours. References to Antioch in Galatia are found in Acts 13:14; Acts 14:19, 21.

     2. Antioch in Syria   Seleucus Nicator founded this Antioch on the banks of the Orontes River, about fifteen miles inland.  This Antioch grew to be a large and prosperous city.  She was the third city of the empire, ranking behind only Rome and Alexandria.  Antioch is best known to Christians as the cradle of Gentile Christianity and as the headquarters for Paul’s missionary efforts.  It was largely because of the church at Antioch that the council at Jerusalem declared that Gentile Christians were not subject to the Jewish law.  It was here, during the early labors of Paul and Barnabas, that the followers of Jesus were first called Christians.  Antioch continued to be a center of Christianity and Christian scholarship for many years after the apostolic era.  This Antioch is the one to whom Paul is here referring and was located roughly 300 miles from Jerusalem. References to Antioch in Syria are found in Acts 6:5; Acts 11:19,26.

After the Jerusalem council it was decided to write a letter and send it with some of the leading men of the church in Jerusalem to Antioch with Paul and company in order to demonstrate their unity with Paul and to help put down the Judaizing element within the church (Acts 15:20-30). While they were there, Peter made a visit to Antioch.  While on this visit, Peter at first ate with the Gentiles.  But when some of the Judaizers came from Jerusalem, he withdrew and associated only with the Jewish Christians. 

Upon seeing this, Paul, who had just come from a successful trip to Jerusalem where he had secured the unity and support of the Jerusalem church over this very issue, and carrying a letter written by the authority of Peter (Acts 15:23-29), which denied any form of Judaism, witnessed Peter's hypocrisy and confronted him to the face about it.  This is a powerful testament to the passion and boldness of Paul over this matter.  Paul was a champion of the gospel, a true soldier of Christ in every respect.  Paul confronted Peter to the face in front of his peers, and in front of the Judaizers. 

We can draw a number of conclusions from this, but first we must acknowledge that Paul meant Peter no harm in this matter.  Paul mentioned that Peter "stood condemned", therefore Peter's actions had resulted in placing him in such a position that his eternal security
was in jeopardy.  Peter was in as much danger here as Simon the Sorcerer was when he tried to buy the ability to pass on the miraculous spiritual gifts of the Holy Spirit in Acts 8:20.   Peter confronted Simon on that occasion, now Peter stood condemned for actions of his own and Paul pointed out his error to him.  

One conclusion we can draw from this is the overwhelming influence this Judaizing force had within the Christian community.  The Judaizers were not successful in Jerusalem at the council so they decided to follow these men to Antioch.  They were not giving up easily and deliberately went to Antioch in order to pursue their efforts there.  They had gone behind Paul before and been successful, so now they were going back to what had worked in the past.  Paul left the Jerusalem council with overwhelming support but this did not stop the Judaizers.  They were determined to do whatever was necessary in order to achieve their ends, which if left unchecked would have resulted in the condemnation of countless souls. 

Paul knew all this and his purpose for confronting Peter had far reaching implications.  The hypocrisy of Peter on this instance would have fueled the fire of the Judaizers.  They would have noticed this and would have been all the more determined in their efforts.  Peter was not alone in this either.  The racial prejudice which fueled this Judaizing heresy was deeply ingrained into the lives and attitudes of the Jews.  They had a lot of that to overcome, but this did not relinquish them from the obligation to do so.  It is significant to keep in mind that Peter stood condemned for it.  Their racial prejudice was serious then and it is serious now wherever it may rear its ugly head.  There is no room in the heart of any Christian for racial bigotry.  It will open the door for all kinds of heresy within the Lord's church and will result in the condemnation of souls if left unchecked as surely as it would have in the New Testament church of the first century. 

Galatians 2:12
"For before that certain came from James, he ate with the Gentiles; but when they came, he drew back and separated himself, fearing them that were of the circumcision."

The leaders of the Judaizing faction apparently approached James after Paul, Peter and the rest of the group left Jerusalem.  Apparently after failing to find any support there, they set out on their own journey to Antioch in order to try and push their agenda there.  This was their usual mode of operation, having been successful with similar tactics. 

The text appears to suggest that these Judaizers might have come from the presence of James bearing his approval.  Such is not the case as evidenced in the letter written by the spiritual leaders in Jerusalem which demonstrates that they were all of one accord on this issue and had already given Paul and company the right hand of fellowship (V-9).  James was mentioned as one of the "pillars" of the church which were in attendance at the council.  In addition, the letter written by the leaders in Jerusalem stated in Acts 15:24, "Since we have heard that some who went out from us have troubled you with words, unsettling your souls, saying, "You must be circumcised and keep the law" — to whom we gave no such commandment".  James was one of the authors of this letter, it being sent by his approval and with his authority as well as the others and being in the possession of those with whom he had previously extended the right hand of fellowship to.  These Judaizers were acting outside the approval of James back in Jerusalem.  Therefore having been unsuccessful with appealing to James in the absence of the others, they resorted to coming to Antioch directly with the intentions of bringing the Gentiles under the law of Moses. 

Prior to the arrival of the Judaizers, Peter was eating and fellowshipping the Gentile Christians in Antioch as brethren.  But when they showed up in Antioch and stirred up the prejudice which fueled the Judaizing heresy, Peter withdrew from association with the Gentiles.  It is evident that Peter's defection was obvious to everyone there. 

Galatians 2:13
"And the rest of the Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that even Barnabas was carried away with their dissimulation."

When Peter, an Apostle and recognized leader of the church withdrew from eating with the Gentiles it was more than the rest of the Jews could bear.  Even Barnabas, Paul's companion and trusted ally on the trip to the Jerusalem yielded and joined in with their withdrawal from the Gentiles.  Peter should have stood strong on this occasion, recognizing that his failure would cause others to stumble.  The church needed a leader and Peter missed the mark and because of it, other Jews stumbled and fell in with Peter's transgression. 

Those who are the spiritual leaders in the church then and today have a serious responsibility to live as an example to others.  When a spiritual leader stumbles and falls, many who look up to them as examples find themselves shaken in their convictions and will stumble as well.  It is important for those who take on the responsibilities of Elders, Deacons, preachers and teachers of the word to recognize this and order their lives with this in mind.  The inspired words of James in 3:1-2 are appropriate, "My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment."  Those who are teachers and spiritual leaders have an awesome responsibility and must conduct their lives as if others are watching all of the time. 
 

Galatians 2:14
But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Cephas before (them) all, 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, ever a bold and staunch supported of the truth confronted Peter with his error in front of everyone present at that occasion.  Peter was guilty of hypocrisy.  He was a natural born Jew who had abandoned the abrogated law of Moses and was living a Christian life just like the rest of the Gentiles.  Yet when confronted with the racial prejudice of the Judaizers, he, with his actions in withdrawing from them, was compelling them to live as do the Jews who were still practicing Judaism.  In other words, Peter had rejected the Law of Moses and was not living according to it, but compelled his Gentile brethren to do so.  Peter was guilty of hypocrisy and Paul called him on it face to face and in public.  

Paul's rebuke of Peter was not meant to be damaging to him rather it was meant to underscore Paul's independence from them as far their authority goes.  Paul's entire purpose in this section of the letter is to establish the fact that he was preaching the true gospel independent from the rest and that he was not in any way deriving his authority or teaching from anyone other than God. 

Galatians 2:15
"We being Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles"

Paul is still speaking to Peter here. "We" meaning those of us who are Jewish born Christians.  Paul identifies who he is talking about here by including himself in their company. 

"and not sinners of the Gentiles"

And not of those formerly outside the family of God under the old law.  Paul is drawing a contrast between Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians.  This phrase illustrates the insolent contempt of the Judaizers toward the Gentiles.  Paul does not exhibit this trait as evidenced by his staunch support of them as Christians, however the racial prejudice of the Judaizers is illustrated here.  Many Jews just cannot get over the fact that they are no longer born into the family of God.  No one under the new law can claim to be in the family of God as their birthright.  They were having difficulty with the concept that all must die to their old selves and be reborn as a child of God equally with the Gentiles.

Paul did not use this phrase in a derogatory manner toward his readership.  One would not naturally insult their readership in a letter meant to exhort and edify them.  Paul also used the term "Heathen" (Ethnos in Greek), to refer to the Gentiles in Galatians 1:16; 2:9 and 3:8.   The term is not meant to be demeaning at all in this letter.  We must be careful not to project our own conceptions on prejudism onto the narrative.  Moreover, Paul clears any misconceptions his readers may have over his words here in his very next sentence recorded in part in V-17 where he places his own nationality on an equal playing field with them in respect to justification before God. 


A summary statement in direct opposition to the teachings of those who had perverted the truth. (Gal 2:16-21).

Galatians 2:16
"yet knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, even we believed on Christ Jesus, 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."

"Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law".  The law in view in this context is the law of Moses.  Keeping in mind the former context, the Jews in company with Paul who came into Christ knew that no one is justified by the works of the Jewish law.  Many Jews knew this as evidenced by the unanimous support Paul received in Jerusalem from the church leaders there. 

This Bible student has seen this verse of scripture used out of context on many instances to advance the doctrine of salvation by faith alone.  It is alleged from this verse of scripture that the reference to the law is actually a reference to God's law under the new covenant.  If this were true, then one would not even be required to believe in Jesus in order to be saved.  Either we are accountable to God's law or we are not.  There can be no partial accountability, one cannot pick and choose what they wish to obey, moreover one cannot be bound salvationally to one tenant of God's law and released from all the others. 

A Biblical definition of sin can be found in 1 John 3:4, "Every one that doeth sin doeth also lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness."  The KJV renders this verse thus: "Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law."  The Bible defines the scope of sin as encompassing all mankind for "all have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God" (Romans 3:23).  Therefore if all of God's law were in Paul's view in this verse then there would be no condemnation for lawlessness, therefore there would be no such thing as sin and everyone alive on earth today could expect to inherit a home in heaven with God forever.  We know this is not the case from verses of scripture such as Matthew 7:13-14 which reads, "Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it."

It is evident from an examination of the entire content of the letter of Galatians as it stands in relation to the rest of God's word that Paul's reference to the law in the immediate context of this passage is limited to the law of Moses.  Any attempt to extend it further in scope results in contradictions of God's word elsewhere when the results are thought through to their logical conclusions.  

"but through faith in Jesus Christ, even we believed on Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ"

Paul is contrasting the law of Moses with faith in Christ which is further characterized as "the faith" in Galatians 3:14 in the original language.  The KJV, NKJV, ASV, ESV, NASB which are all recognized as being literal translations leave the definite article out of the translation, rendering it simply "faith".   Young's literal translation is one translation which renders it correctly, "that to the nations the blessing of Abraham may come in Christ Jesus, that the promise of the Spirit we may receive through the faith".  This makes Paul's usage of the word for "faith" here and elsewhere in scripture representative of the gospel system of faith. 

If Paul meant to contrast faith with God's law today, then he is contradicting scripture which elsewhere defines "faith" as law such as in Romans 3:27 where by inspiration, Paul is contrasting the law of Moses and the law of Faith, "Where then is the glorying? It is excluded. By what manner of law? of works? Nay: but by a law of faith." (ASV).  The NKJV renders this as "the law of faith".  Faith cannot be called a law by inspiration if it is not a law.  It is not a law in the sense that the law of Moses was with its tedious system of complicated ordinances associated with religious law along with the fact that it was also the national constitution of the nation of Israel.  But the "Law of Christ" as Paul defines it in Galatians 6:2 is a rule of conduct or behavior which the faithful Christian will adhere to as a result of his or her desire to please God through obedience of His will stemming from their love for God and a genuine desire to live faithfully from the heart. 

It is important when examining one's doctrine that they think the results through to the end.  In other words, what does my doctrinal conclusion result in when compared to the word of God in all other instances.  Many people today use this verse in Galatians to set forth the doctrine of salvation by faith only by applying Paul's reference here to the law of God in the new covenant.  They contrast faith and obedience to God instead of contrasting the law of Moses against the system of faith we live under today, the latter being in the inspired viewpoint of Paul.   Faith as a mental exercise in and of itself is one act which one must engage in to obey the law of God.  Now if Paul meant in this verse that mental belief could set aside the law of God, then why would one need to repent, or be born again, or confess Christ as the son of God or love their neighbor all of which are acts which Biblically are set forth as absolute requirements for salvation?  We must be careful when considering doctrinal conclusions to take into account what the implications are in other areas of God's word.  If the doctrinal conclusion results in a transgression of God's will anywhere or a contradiction of His nature, we must reject it and study further. 

Obedience to the will of God is how Jesus taught in the parable of the wise and foolish builders to have our hopes built on unmovable rock (Matthew 7:21-27, Luke 6:46-49).  Matthew's account of this parable starts with the words "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven".  Those who say Lord Lord are believers.  They have faith in the Son of God.  If salvation were by faith alone, then there will be people in the kingdom of heaven who believed in Jesus but did not obey God which is a direct contradiction of what Jesus said here.  Those who teach and practice salvation by faith alone are counting on a salvation where Jesus Christ is a liar and out of union with God the Father.  The implications of this doctrine result in both the direct transgression of God's will and a contradiction of God's nature which explicitly states that God cannot lie.  Any belief which results in a contradiction of God's nature and/or the circumvention of God's law in any aspect of it anywhere in the new covenant as it applies to us today cannot be the truth. 

"and not by the works of the law: because by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified."

The works of the abrogated law of Moses are what in view here.  Under no circumstances can it be supported from an examination of God's word that Paul is referencing any works of law in any context other than the law of Moses.  Faith as a mental exercise is a work of God's law under the new covenant.  Paul cannot mean the works under the new law because if he did, then he contradicted himself when he said it was by faith. 

Galatians 2:17
"But if, while we sought to be justified in Christ, we ourselves also were found sinners, is Christ a minister of sin? God forbid."

In the previous sentence, Paul made reference to the Gentiles as "sinners of the Gentiles".  The Jewish nation was in for quite a surprise.  While they were seeking to live faithfully in Christ, they were found to be alien sinners, living outside the family of God just like the Gentiles were.  Now under the new faith system, everyone outside Christ is an alien sinner and all are equally accountable, Jew and Gentile alike, are amenable to the terms and conditions set forth as requirements for entering the family of God. 

"is Christ a minister of sin? God forbid."

Does the fact that Jews and Gentiles are on equal footing under the same system of faith mean that Jesus is an encourager or promoter of sin?  Paul answers that question for them. Compare this statement with one Paul made in Romans 6:15 where he was likewise contrasting the old law with the new system of faith, "What then?  shall we sin, because we are not under law, but under grace? God forbid" (ASV).  There are no circumstances under which Christ can be accused of promoting, encouraging, approving of or ignoring sin in any way shape or form.  Christ is never a promoter, or in acceptance of, sinful behavior.  Paul is telling his readership not to take any of what he is writing as permission to sin. 

Galatians 2:18 For if I build up again those things which I destroyed, I prove myself a transgressor.

Paul had been preaching in the churches everywhere that the old law of Moses was fulfilled and thus abrogated.  He is here stating that if he were to start to rebuild the very things he had torn down it would serve as proof that he was a transgressor.  If he goes back and contradicts what he had previously been teaching, then he has proven himself to be a transgressor of God's law. 

The "things which I destroyed" which Paul referred to are a reference to the ceremonial regulations of Judaism, and Paul stated here that it would be sinful if after all he reverted back to their observance.

Galatians 2:19
"For I through the law died unto the law, that I might live unto God."

The old law pointed to Christ.  Jesus taught in "Luke 24:44-48, "..."These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me."  And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures. Then He said to them, "Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witnesses of these things."

Paul knew through the teachings of the law of Moses that it was temporary.  Keep in mind that Paul was a Pharisee which was an equivalent of being a modern day doctor of the law.  Many Pharisees had a lot of problems and were subject to a lot of criticism from Christ, but they were highly educated in the law of Moses.  It was not their knowledge that was in question, it was the application of it by some of them that caused them to be condemned by Christ.   In short, Paul knew the law of Moses. 

In Jeremiah 31:31-34 God promised to make a new covenant not according to the one given at Mt. Sinai. Hebrews 8:7-13 quotes Jeremiah, claiming it was fulfilled when the New Testament of Jesus replaced the law given at Sinai.

In Psalm 110:4, Christ was prophesied to be a priest after the order of Melchizedek. Under the Law of Moses, priests had to be of the tribe of Levi.  Christ was also prophesied to be a descendant of David of the tribe of Judah (2 Samuel 7:12, Isaiah 11:1). Hence, if Christ would be a priest of the tribe of Judah, God must have intended all along to bring an end to the Law of Moses.

These Old Testament passages show that God never intended the Law of Moses to be permanent. He said all along that they would someday be replaced by a different system.  Paul knew through the old law that it was was temporary and that he would have to abandon it in favor of a new system of faith.  So in keeping with what the old law taught concerning its fulfillment and subsequent replacement, Paul "died unto the law", meaning he cast off the old law in favor of the new law.  It is important here to realize that through a proper understanding of the old testament, anyone can recognize that Jesus of Nazareth is the promised Messiah, and the old law of Moses is set aside in favor of the new covenant.

"that I might live unto God."

Paul understood that in order to be justified and live faithfully as a child of God, he had to die to the old law and live according to the will of God under the new system of faith.  Living unto God means living and serving Him obediently. 

In order for Paul to become alive unto God it was necessary for him to be dead to the Law of Moses.  It is vital that we keep in mind which law is in view in this context.  Under no circumstances can this mean that Paul became dead to the law of Christ so that he could live unto God.  Many today point to this context and use it to set forth the belief that Paul's use of the word "law" here is universally applicable to all of God's law.  If this were true, then Paul here would be setting aside God's law on belief as well as the rest.  If any conditions whatsoever exist for the receiving of salvation in any way, then God's law has not been set aside.  Proponents of the "no law" persuasion are inconsistent in their application.  Either there is law under the new covenant or there is not.  Saying there is no law under the new covenant and then proclaiming any conditions whatsoever for the reception of Salvation is a doctrinal contradiction.  Paul is not teaching that one lives unto God by making oneself universally dead to all of God's law across the board. 

It was necessary for Paul to become dead to the law of Moses  because the guilt of sin cannot be removed by that law.  Acts 13:38-39, "Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through this Man is preached to you the forgiveness of sins; and by Him everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses." (NKJV)  Concerning the inability of the law of Moses to justify, the Hebrew writer wrote in 10:1-4, "For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? For the worshipers, once purified, would have had no more consciousness of sins.  But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year.  For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins." (NKJV)

The application to made from this passage is that to Judaize and return to portions of the old law is to bind oneself to a law that cannot save.  The law of Moses had a purpose for a definite period of time.  Once this period of time expired, the law of Moses was fulfilled and replaced with the law of Christ.  The Judaizers were going behind Paul's evangelizing efforts and teaching Paul's converts that they needed to return to a law which could not save them in order to be saved.  We see alot of this in practice today.  There are religious organizations who burn incense as a part of their religious ceremony.  There are those who practice the use of manmade instruments of music in their worship.  These things and more are all integral components of worship under the law of Moses for which there is no authority given under the new covenant. 

Galatians 2:20
I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I that live, but Christ living in me: 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.

Jesus Christ was executed by crucifixion but He was resurrected and still lives.  Paul uses the death of Christ and His resurrection to draw a comparison between it and his new life in Christ.  When Jesus Christ died, the reign of the law of Moses came to an end.  When Paul converted to Christianity his devotion to that law came to an end.  Jesus Christ was resurrected to reign over His people under the new covenant.  Paul was resurrected to live under the reign of Christ. 

Paul mentions this crucifixion of himself later in the letter in chapter 5, verse 24 which reads, "And those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires." (NKJV)  The term crucify carries the meaning of putting someone to death.  In this context, the person put to death is oneself.  Not in a literal sense but in the sense that their former fleshly desires no longer reign over them.  Instead of practicing a lifestyle which pursues the desires of the flesh, they practice a lifestyle of self denial in favor of righteousness. 

Being crucified with Christ also means to die with Christ.  There is a connection between dying with Christ and Christian baptism.  Paul draws a direct connection between being dead to sin and baptism into Christ in Romans 6:1-3, "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?" (NKJV).  Paul goes on to write in verses 4-12 of Romans 6 about the putting to death of one's fleshly desires.  Paul's mention of being crucified with Christ in Galatians 2:20 has a direct  connection between the crucifixion of Christ and Christian baptism.  It is at the point of baptism where the Christian reckons himself to be dead to sin just as Christ was.  The initial crucifixion of the flesh occurs at one's baptism into Christ and then starts one out on the path of a lifelong pattern of self denial of personal passions and lusts thus allowing Christ to reign over their life which includes ruling their behavior.  

"it is no longer I that live, but Christ living in me"

Paul died to the law of Moses, and he also died to himself.  He was still alive physically but he was no longer the master of his own life.  His life was now wholly under the direction of Jesus Christ.  He was so dead to his former life and so much under the direction of Christ that he said Christ was actually "living in me".  That is how Christ operates in all of us.  He lives and reigns in us and through us by His word which is recorded for us by inspiration of the holy scriptures.  When we subject ourselves to the authority of Christ and live according to His will, He lives within us. 

"and that (life) which I now live in the flesh I live in faith, (the faith) which is in the Son of God"

Jesus Christ died literally and was resurrected.  Paul did not literally die and then become alive again like Jesus did.  Paul used this to illustrate how completely he had died to the old law.  Paul's new life, while still in the flesh, is lived in the faith which is in the Son of God.  There are many translations from the original language here that differ from one another.  The KJV translates this as "I live by the faith of the Son of God".  Other translations are thus:

"I live by faith in the Son of God" (NKJV, NASU, NIV, ESV, NASB)

"in the faith I live of the Son of God" (YLT)

This verse is one which advocates of salvation by faith alone refer to in support of their doctrine.  Most of the most popular modern translations render this as "by faith" and it is understood by many that faith as a mere mental belief apart from any role of physical effort is what is meant here.  However, the original language does not appear to support this view, rather it points to a system of faith in Christ which includes the faith response of the believer as well as the mental belief of the facts. 

This faith response includes the crucifixion of oneself with Christ which starts with one's initial baptism into Christ and the putting to death of one's fleshly desires which in a word is summed up as repentance.  In order to live in the faith, there must by necessity be a response which is a conscious decision and a commitment to follow after and serve Christ obediently and faithfully. 

Galatians 2:21
I do not make void the grace of God: for if righteousness is through the law, then Christ died for nought.

Paul's use of the word "grace" here is representative of all that the Godhood did in the redemption of mankind under the system of faith which is in Christ.  Paul is making a point here that to reject the system of faith under which we live today is to completely devalue the grace of God in one's life.  In Galatians 5:4, Paul later reinforced his thought on this when he wrote, "You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace" (NKJV).  Appealing to the law Moses for justification is the same thing as rejecting the system of faith under which Christians now live and voids the grace of God in a Christian's life and bears the consequence of falling from that grace. 

The modern Calvinistic doctrine of Once Saved Always Saved (OSAS) teaches that a Christian cannot so sin as to lose their salvation. Paul's letter is addressed to the churches of Galatia, therefore his readership is entirely Christian.  Also notice Paul's use of the personal pronoun by referring to himself.  Paul  was a Christian writing to Christians and he declared that to seek justification through the law of Moses was to nullify the grace of God.  One of Calvinism's foundational TULIP doctrine is the Perseverance of the Saints.  If such a thing were true, then Paul could not have nullified the grace of God, neither could the Galatian Christians to whom Paul addressed this letter fall from it.   

"for if righteousness is through the law, then Christ died for nought."

The important application to make from this is that if it were possible to be justified through the law of Moses then there was no reason for Christ to have died on the cross.  Why would one of the members of the Godhead subject himself to the pain and humiliation of the cross if it were not necessary.  No one comes to the Father but by Christ Jesus (John 14:6), this includes those who lived under the law of Moses.  The blood of Christ was necessary in order to forgive the transgressions committed under the old law, (Hebrews 9:15).  Therefore, we can conclude that the Judaizers were trying to bind a law on the Gentile Christians which would never have the power to save them. 

The inability of the old law to justify mankind is well illustrated in scripture.  Acts 13:39 reads, "and by him [Jesus] every one that believeth is justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses" (ASV).  Other passages which further teach this fact are found in Acts 4:11-12, Hebrews 10:1-4, 1 Peter 1:18-25.

Paul's use of the term "the law" in this verse is restricted entirely to the law of Moses.  Many today who try to support the doctrine of salvation by faith alone expand the scope of Paul's intended meaning here to include the law of Christ under the new covenant.  The purpose for this is to eliminate the necessity for obedience to the will of God under the new covenant.  Such an abuse of scripture is an unconscionable perversion of what Paul was teaching to the Galatian Christians.  If it were unnecessary to keep God's law under the new covenant, then it would not be necessary to obey any of it whatsoever.  One cannot set aside the law of God and then be constrained to selectively obey it.  It is part of God's law under the new covenant to believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God (John 3:18).  No one who advocates salvation apart from new testament law is going to try and set forth the idea that one does not have to believe in Jesus.  Believing is an act of obedience to God's law under the new covenant that every one who claims Christ as their savior is going to insist on.  Advocates of salvation apart from keeping God's law under the new covenant are inconsistent in their requirements for salvation.  They require the keeping of one of God's new testament laws and deny the keeping of other parts of it as it pertains to other areas of their lives.  Christians are not permitted to selectively obey God. 

Galatians 2 Paraphrase

Later, after an interval of fourteen years, I again went up to Jerusalem with Barnabas and Titus.  I went up in obedience to a revelation of God's will and I fully revealed to them the Gospel which I proclaim among the Gentiles.  I met the leaders of the church privately to discuss this with them because I was worried that all the work I was doing and had done would be for nothing. 

My companion Titus, even though he is Greek, was not forced by them to be circumcised.  There was danger of this through the false brethren who were secretly brought in by others.  Pretending to be Christians, they snuck into where we were meeting because they wanted to spy on us in order to find a way to bring us all back under the bondage of the Law of Moses.  We refused to give in to their demands, not even for an hour, in order that the truth of the Gospel might continue with you. 

From the spiritual leaders in Jerusalem, I learned nothing different from what I had been preaching. Whether they were men of importance or not, mattered nothing to me for God shows personal favoritism to no man.  In any event the leaders there imparted nothing new to the gospel I have preached to you.

In fact, when they saw that I was entrusted with the preaching of the true Gospel to the Gentiles as Peter had been to the Jews, (for Christ who had been at work within Peter for his Apostleship to the Jews had also been at work within me for my Apostleship to the Gentiles).  So when James, Cephas, and John, who were recognized as great spiritual leaders in the church, perceived the grace that had been given to me, they gave Barnabas and I the right hand of fellowship and agreed that we should continue to go to the Gentiles and they to the Jews.   They urged us to remember the poor, which I was already diligent to do.

Now when Peter had come from Jerusalem to Antioch, I confronted him face to face because he transgressed God's will and was standing in condemnation for it.  Peter had been eating with the Gentiles until some of the Judaizers came there from James in Jerusalem.  But when these Judaizers arrived in Antioch he withdrew from the Gentiles and separated himself from them because he was afraid of them.  And then when the other Jewish Christians saw Peter's defection, they joined in with Peter's hypocrisy to the point that even Barnabas was influenced and joined with them. 

But when I saw that they were not straightforward about this according to the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, "You are a Jew who is living like a Gentile, and not living as a Jew who follows the Law of Moses, so why are you compelling your Gentile brethren to do so? We who are of the Jewish nation who are Christians, and are not born "sinners," as we call those who are not Jews know that no man is justified by the works of the law of Moses, but through the system of the faith in Jesus Christ.  We believed on Christ Jesus that we might be justified by the faith which is in Christ and not by the works of the law of Moses, because by the works of the law of Moses, no man today shall be justified. 

As we seek to be declared just before God through our union with Christ we have learned that we Jews are alien sinners as much as the Gentiles.  Does this mean that Jesus Christ is promoting or acceptant of sin?  Absolutely not.  For if I were to try and rebuild the Mosaic system of law that I have been tearing down, then I would convict myself to be a transgressor of that law which foretold its own end through Christ.  It was through the teachings of the law of Moses that I rejected it so that I could live my life to God. 

I have been put to death with Christ and now it is no longer I that rule over my life, but Christ who is alive in me.  So the life I am living now is lived in the system of faith which is found only in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up on the cross for me.  I do not render null and void the grace of God, for if it were possible to be declared righteous through keeping the law of Moses, then it was not necessary for Christ to have been crucified and He died for nothing.


Church of Christ Commentary and Study Guide for the book of Galatians

Author

Lesson Title

David Hersey Introduction to Galatians
David Hersey Outline of Galatians
David Hersey Galatians Chapter 1
David Hersey Galatians Chapter 2
David Hersey Galatians Chapter 3
David Hersey Galatians Chapter 4
David Hersey Galatians Chapter 5
David Hersey Galatians Chapter 6
David Hersey Galatians Paraphrase
David Hersey Timeline of the Apostle Paul

 


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