"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.
"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
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
"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.
"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
"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.
"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.
"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,
"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.
"but contrariwise, when they saw that I had been intrusted with the
gospel of the uncircumcision, even as Peter with (the gospel) of the
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
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.
"(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."
"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
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
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
"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.
evidence of his independence by referencing his personal rebuke
of Peter and others over their dissimilation (Gal 2:11-15).
"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.
"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
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.
"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.
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.
"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
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
A summary statement in direct
opposition to the teachings of those who had perverted the
truth. (Gal 2:16-21).
"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
"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
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
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.
"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.
"For I through the law died unto the law, that I might live unto
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
"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.
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
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."
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
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
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.