September 29, 2013

The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Galatians

Tom Lowe

II. Personal: Defense of Paul’s Apostleship (1:11–2:21)

            II.B: Independent of Jerusalem Apostles (1:13-2.21)

                        II.B.4: Illustrated by Paul’s Rebuke of Peter (2.11-2.21)

 

Chapter II.B.4.c: The Principle Involved (2.15-21)

 

Galatians 2.15-21 (KJV)

 

15 We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles,

16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.

17But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid.

18 For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor.

19 For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God.

20 I am Crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live ; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

21 I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.

 

 

Commentary

15 We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles,

16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.

Verses 15 and 16 are connected together in most of the oldest manuscripts, and read as one sentence.

But how far did Paul’s rebuke of Peter extend? Considerable discussion has centered on the question of whether Paul’s direct remarks to Peter were limited to verse 14 or whether, as in the NIV, they continued to the end of the chapter. While it is impossible to determine, it would seem that Paul uttered more than one sentence in reproving Peter. The remaining verses of the chapter develop, then, the inconsistency between Peter’s behavior and his beliefs.

We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles,

The Jew in that day looked upon the Gentile as a sinner.  In fact, Gentile and sinner were synonymous terms. Therefore, the rebuke that Paul gave shows the folly of lawgiving—how foolish it was.

Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ,

This is the first appearance of the important word “Justified,” in this letter, and probably in Paul’s writings (if, as we believe, Galatians was the first letter he wrote). “Justification by faith” was the watchword of the Reformation, and it is important that we understand this doctrine.

“How should [a] man be just with God?” (Job 9.2) was a very important question, because the answer had eternal consequences. “The just shall live by His faith” (Hab. 2.4) is God’s answer; and it was this truth that has liberated so many, down through the ages, from religious bondage and fear. This concept is so important that three New Testament books explain it to us

      1.    Romans explains the meaning of “the just”—“For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "The just shall live by faith."  "A just", or righteous man is not someone who thinks he is so, or who is thought by others to be so; nor are any made so by their obedience to the law of works; but he is one that is made righteous by the righteousness of Christ imputed to him.

      2.    Galatians explains “shall live”—“But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for "the just shall live by faith."  (Gal.3.11). The man who is justified by faith, that is, by the object of his faith, Christ and his righteousness, and not by works; he shall live a life of justification, through that righteousness that his faith receives; he shall live contentedly, with peace and joy in the Holy Ghost, as the result of his being justified by faith; and this makes a clear point, that he is not justified by the law, for if he was, he would not live by faith in Christ, but in and by the deeds of the law.

      3.    Hebrews explains “by faith”—“Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him" (Hebrews 10.38). The meaning is that the righteous should live by "continued confidence" in God. They should live their lives not in doubt, and fear, and trembling anxiety, but by exercising a calm trust in God. They should not confide in their own merits, works, or strength. They should exercise constant reliance on their Maker. The sense is, that a persevering confidence or belief in the Lord will preserve us amidst all the trials and calamities to which we are exposed.

But what is justification? Justification is the act of God whereby He declares the believing sinner righteous in Jesus Christ. Every word of this definition is important. Justification is an act and not a process. No Christian is more justified than another Christian. Therefore, having been justified [once-and-for-all] by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5.1, my personal translation). Since we are justified by faith, it is an instance of an immediate transaction between the believing sinner and God. If we were justified by works, it would have to be a gradual process.

Furthermore, justification is an act of God; it is not the result on Man’s character or works. “It is God that justifieth” (Romans 8.33). It is not by doing the “works of the Law” that a sinner gets a right standing before God, but by putting his faith in Jesus Christ. As Paul will explain latter in this letter, the law was given to reveal sin and not to redeem from sin—“Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3.20). God in His grace has put our sins on Christ, and Christ’s righteousness has been put to our account—For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5.21)

In justification, God declares the believing sinner righteous; He does not make him righteous (Of course, real justification leads to a changed life, which is what James 2 is all about.). Before the sinner trusts Christ, he stands GUILTY before God; but the moment he trusts Christ he is declared NOT GUILTY and he can never be declared GUILTY again!

Justification is not simply “forgiveness,” because a person could be forgiven and then go out and sin and become guilty. Once you have been “justified by faith” you can never be held guilty before God.

Justification is also different from “pardon,” because a pardoned criminal still has a record. When a sinner is justified by faith, his past sins are remembered against him no more, and God no longer records his sins—Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, Whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, And in whose spirit there is no deceit” (Psalms 32.1, 2).

Finally, God justifies “sinners,” not “good people.” Paul declares that God justifies “the ungodly” (Romans 4.5). The reasons most sinners are not justified is because they will not admit they are sinners! And sinners are the only kind of people Jesus Christ can save (See Matt, 9.9-13; Luke 18. 9-14). All men are on the same level before the Cross and that level happens to be “sinner.” You are a sinner. I am a sinner. I don’t care who you are, you are a sinner in God’s sight.

When Peter separated himself from the Gentiles, he was denying the truth of justification by faith, because he was saying, “We Jews are different from—and better than—the Gentiles.” Yet both Jews and Gentiles are sinners—even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3.22, 23)—and can be saved only by faith in Christ.

even we have believed in Jesus Christ,

Paul includes himself in the little word “we, “because he had put this doctrine to the test and validated it by his own experience

justified…by the faith of Jesus Christ

“By the faith of Jesus Christ,” is the same as saying “by Christ,” the object of that faith which saves; He alone is the ground of our justification.

for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.

Notice what Paul says here. If a Jew had to leave the Law behind—that is, forsake it—in order to be justified by faith, Paul’s question is, “Why should the Gentile be brought under the Law?” That was the great argument at the council at Jerusalem in Acts 15: “Should the Gentile be brought under the Law?” Thank God, the answer, guided by the Spirit of God, was that the Gentile was not under the Law for salvation—he was called to a much higher plane.

Could the Gentile find justification under the law when the Jew had already proven it was impossible? The Jews had had the Law for almost fifteen hundred years and had not been able to keep the Law at all. Why force the Gentiles under something that had not saved even one Israelite? Gentile believers were already justified by grace. It would be folly for the Gentiles to turn from grace to the Law which had been unable to justify the Jew.

“Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law”—the word “the” is not in the original; so it should read “not justified by works of the Law.” This includes the Mosaic system, and it includes any legal system. This is what I mean: if you say you have to join a certain church or that you have to have a certain experience, or that you have to be baptized to be saved, you are contradicting this verse.

“Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law”—any Law. Paul embraces the whole legal system that is found in every religion. This makes Christianity different from every other religion on the top side of the earth. Every religion that I know anything about, instruct us to do something. Christianity is different. It tells us we are justified by faith; that is, faith is an accomplished act and fact for you. Every other religion says do. Christianity says done. The great transaction is done, and we are asked to believe it.

Paul rests his argument on this as an axiom in theology, referring to Psalm 143.2 which says, And enter not into judgment with thy servant: for in thy sight shall no man living be justified.” Justification by keeping the law is excluded by Romans 3.20: “Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.” There is no mincing of words here. Simply stated, you cannot be saved by keeping the Law; no one, to date, was ever saved that way, because it is impossible for a human man or woman to do it. This is the conclusion of this verse and it is so clear I feel anyone can understand it: “for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” Let’s not depreciate the work of the Lord Jesus by saying we didn’t get everything from Him. I was a hell-doomed sinner. I trusted Him as my Savior, and I received a perfect salvation from Him.

17But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid

This verse is much more difficult to understand than the verses that come before it

But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ,

The word here translated as “justified” means, “to declare a person right,” or “to make him right.” We are declared to be right by our faith in Jesus Christ. It means that a sinner who is guilty before God, who is under condemnation and judgment is declared to be right with God on the basis of his faith in the redemption which we have in Christ. It is not only forgiveness of sins, which is subtraction; it is the addition of the righteousness of Christ. He is declared righteous. The righteousness I have is not my own righteousness, but I have the perfect righteousness which is Christ.

Paul is getting to the very heart of the Gospel, which says that we are justified by faith alone (faith in Christ plus nothing else). In the Gospel, we discover that Christ has fulfilled the Law for us. But from the Jewish standpoint, which Paul is well acquainted with, he declares that we, by our association with Gentiles have cast aside the Law and put ourselves in the same category as the Gentiles (who are without the Law), which is the category of “sinner” (see verse 15), in the Jewish view. The conclusion from this, is that “Christ is the minister of sin.” (Should we admit that in this case the conclusion is inevitable, that Christ having failed to justify us by faith, has become to us “the minister of sin?” by putting us into the position of “sinners,” according to the Jewish theory?) If their theory is correct, we should be identified with all others who are “without the Law,” with whom we have identified ourselves by eating with them. This theory may be stated thus: “Though seeking Christ, we have not found salvation [which contradicts Christ’s own words—“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” (Matt. 7.7).], but have been ourselves (like the Gentiles) also made to be sinners by having fellowship with Gentiles (See Gal. 2.12). The Christian mind revolts from so shocking a conclusion, and from the conclusion which would result from it. The sin lies not with Christ, but with all those who would propose such a blasphemous theory.  

we ourselves also are found sinners,

Paul’s opponents argued that since justification by faith eliminated the Law, it encouraged sinful living. A person could believe in Christ for salvation and then do as he pleased, having no need to do good works. Paul hotly denied the charge, especially noting that this made Christ the promoter of sin. On the contrary, if a person would return to the Law, after trusting Christ alone for salvation, that Law would only demonstrate that he was a sinner, a lawbreaker. Though Paul used the first person here, it is clear he had Peter in mind, who by his act of withdrawing from Gentile fellowship was returning to the Law.

If the Judaizers doctrine was correct, then Paul, Peter, and Barnabas, and the other Jewish believers fell back into the category of sinners because they had been eating and fellowshipping with Gentiles, who according to the Judaizers were unclean. This lowering of the Jew to the level of the Gentile seemed to involve Christ, making Him a minister of sin in that He released man from bondage to the Law, since faith in Christ for both Jew and Gentile is the condition of salvation. But Paul rejected the conclusion, because it rested on a false premise, namely the farcified superiority of Jew over Gentile.

is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid.

If the Judaizers were right, then Christ was wrong and had been teaching people to sin, because He taught that food could not contaminate a person—So He said to them, "Are you thus without understanding also? Do you not perceive that whatever enters a man from outside cannot defile him, because it does not enter his heart but his stomach, and is eliminated, thus purifying all foods?" And He said, "What comes out of a man, that defiles a man” (Mark 7.19). He also declared that all who belong to Him are one with him and therefore with one another—“that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me” (John 17.21-23). Paul’s airtight logic condemned Peter, because by his actions he had in effect made it appear as if Christ was lying. This thought is utterly objectionable and caused Paul to use the strongest Greek negative (God forbid).

The question that Paul is posing is this: “If the Gospel made the Jew’s privilege under the Law empty and meaningless, reducing them to the same status as the Gentiles who are without the Law, was not Christ the agent of their reduction to the status of sinners?” Paul answered this question at a later date in Romans 3, with the bold assertion that there is no difference.” The Jews and Gentiles stand on equal footing before God; both are saved through placing their faith in Jesus Christ.

At the Jerusalem conference, Peter had compared the Mosaic Law to a burdensome yolk—Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?” Now he had put himself under that impossible yolk.

Paul’s argument goes like this: “Peter, you and I did not find salvation through the Law; we found it through faith in Christ. But now, after being saved, you go back into the Law! This means that Christ alone did not save you; otherwise you would not have needed the Law. So, Christ actually made you a sinner! 

Furthermore, you have preached the Gospel of God’s grace to both Jews and Gentiles, and have told them they are saved by faith, and not by keeping the Law. By going back into legalism, you are building up what you tore down!  This means you sinned by tearing it down in the first place.

In other words, Paul is arguing from Peter’s own experience of the grace of God. To go back to Moses is to deny everything that God had done for him and through him.

18 For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor

For if I build again the things which I destroyed,

When Paul indicated “The things which I destroyed” he meant the false system of legalism, done away with by the preaching of salvation by grace alone through faith alone. Legalism puts salvation on the basis of doing good works, but if salvation is by works as they claimed, it is not of “grace” and cannot result in “peace,” since no one can be sure he has done enough good works to be secure. Paul states his position this way: If I attempt to justify myself by keeping the Law, I would, in effect, be attempting to rebuild the standard of judgment which I by my sin have destroyed, and which itself condemns me.” Should I now begin to drive out Christ which I have planted by preaching the Gospel, and begin to build up again the Law, and set up again the kingdom of Moses? I should certainly do this, if I teach that circumcision and observing the Law are necessary for salvation, as the false apostles do: and by this means, in the place of righteousness and life, I would restore again sin and death.

I make myself a transgressor.

Paul intends for the “I” here and in the previous clause to be taken by Peter and applied to himself, though Paul seems to assign it to himself, since it is his situation, not Paul’s that is described. A “transgressor” is another word for “sinner” (v. 17), because “sin is the transgression of the law.” “You Peter, by now asserting that the Law is mandatory are proving you are a “sinner,” or “transgressor,” because you have essentially set it aside by living like the Gentiles, and with them. Thus, you have disqualified yourself from justification by keeping the Law by this transgression, and you bar yourself from Justification by faith in Christ, since in your theory He becomes a minister of sin.” The real transgressor, is not Christ, but the one who, like Peter, builds up again a distinction that has in effect been destroyed. Peter was doing just that by withdrawing himself from Gentile fellowship, making it appear that Jewish believers were a superior breed.

We conclude, along with Paul, that we are justified by faith only in Christ, without the works of the Law. Now, after a man is justified, and saved by faith in Christ, he knows He is his righteousness and life; and he is no longer likely to be idle, but as a good tree he will bring forth good fruit. Because the believing man has the Holy Spirit, and where the Holy Spirit dwells He will not permit a man to be idle, but will stimulate him to do all the exercises of piety and godliness, of true religion, to the love of God, to the patient suffering of afflictions, to prayer, to thanksgiving, to exercise charity towards all men.

19 For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God.

For I through the law am dead to the law,

“For” connects this verse with the clause that comes before—“but I am not a transgressor by forsaking the Law”; and to verse 17 to the denial that “Christ is the minister of sin.” Christ is so far from being the minister of sin and death, that He is the establisher of righteousness and life.

Paul is no longer speaking about Peter, but of himself, which is indicated by the “l.”  The Law was Paul’s schoolmaster to bring him to Christ—Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith” (Gal. 3.24). It drove him by its terror to find refuge in Christ from God’s wrath against sin, and when he spiritually understood this he realized that the Law must give place to Christ, and he said “I am dead to the Law”—lit., “I died to the Law,” am dead to it, that is, I am no longer under its power in respect to non-justification or condemnation. So, by believing union with Christ in his death, we, being considered dead with Him, are severed from the Law’s past power over us—“But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been Crucified to me, and I to the world” (Gal. 6.14).

When a person is convicted of a capital crime and executed, the law has no further claim on him. It is the same with the Christian who has died in Christ (who paid the penalty for his sins in full) and rises to a new life in Him. Justice has been satisfied, and he is forever free from any further penalty.

In Romans 7 and 8, there is a detailed explanation of what it means, not to be under Law, but under grace; Paul teaches that:

      1.    The Law no longer condemns a believer (Romans 7.1-6).

      2.    It convicts unbelievers (and believers) of sin (Romans 7.7-13).

      3.    It cannot deliver a believer from sin (Romans 7.14-25).

      4.    Believers who walk in the power of the Spirit can fulfil the Law (Romans 8.1-4).

There are two important points that need to be emphasized about being “dead to the Law;”

      1.    This death happened at a point in time, with results that are complete and fina

      2.    Someone else—in this case God Himself—initiated this death (lit. “You were made to die.”).

 In response to faith in His Son, God makes the believing sinner forever dead to the condemnation and penalty of the Law (Romans 8.1).

“Dead to the law” does not mean freedom to do what God’s Law forbids—What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! (Romans 6.15)—but freedom from the spiritual liabilities and penalties of God’s Law. Because we died with Christ when He died, the Law with its condemnation and penalties no longer has jurisdiction over us—“There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh” (Romans 8.1-3).

that I might live unto God.

The sentence of death has been executed—but executed in the body of Christ on the Cross—“Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another—to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God” (Romans 7.4).  Therefore, if I live now, it can only be by right of Christ and in freedom from the condemnation of the Law. My life now can be nothing but the life of Christ, maintained by the continuation of the once-for-all act of faith in Him.

The Law had done a service for Paul, even if it had not brought him justification. Through the Law, he had become dead to that very Law, because the Law had brought a conciseness of sin which prepared him to accept Christ. It had also brought Christ to the Cross in order to redeem those who had broken that Law. The Law killed Him, and those joined to Him by faith were freed to be joined to another, to live for GodTherefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another--to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God” (Romans 7.4).

If a man is justified by the works of the Law, then why did Jesus Christ die? His death, burial, and resurrection are the key points of the Gospel (1 Cor 15.1-8). We are saved through faith in Christ (He died for us), and we live by faith in Christ (He lives in us). Furthermore, we are so identified with Christ by the Spirit that we died with Him (See Rom. 6). This means we are dead to the Law. To go back to Moses is to return to the graveyard! We have been “raised to walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6.4); and since we live by His resurrection power, we do not need the “help” of the Law.

What a marvelous explanation Paul has given in this verse. He says, I died in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, through faith I was identified with him, so that God imputes to me everything that happened to the Savior in whom I have placed my trust, and since He met all the demands of the law, paid the penalty and died under the curse, I (because I was represented in Christ through grace) suffered the same penalty and God today considers me as though I actually, personally, hung on the Cross myself, and met the full penalty of the Law, which is eternal death. That is Paul’s testimony, and every believer in Christ can truly say, I too am Crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live.

In verse 20, Paul enlarges on what he says here.

20 I am Crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live ; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

21 I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.

Verse 20 states a fact which is true of every believer

I am Crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live;

The old Paul, who sought to be to be justified to God by obedience to the Law was no more, because that very Law had succeeded in convincing him of his sin, and had prepared him to accept Christ as his Savior—which he did when he met Christ on the Damascus Road. Christ was Paul’s representative in the old Paul’s death to the Law. The result was Paul’s new life in Christ. In the statement he makes, “I am Crucified with Christ,” the emphasis is on both the past event and its continuing effects. This death brought life, not the same old life in the feebleness of the natural man, but an entirely new life; not simply divine life impersonally granted, but rather the living Christ Himself taking up His abode in the redeemed one. When a person trusts in Christ for salvation, he participates spiritually with the Lord in His Crucifixion and in His victory over sin and death.

There are many people today who talk about wanting to live the “Crucified” life. That is not what Paul is talking about in this verse. We are not to seek to be Crucified with Christ. We have already been Crucified with Him. The principle of living is not by the Law which has slain us, because it found us guilty. Now we are to live by Faith. Faith in what? Faith in the Son of God. You see, the death of Christ on the Cross was not only penal (that is, paying the penalty for our sins), but it was substitutionary also. He was not only the sacrifice for sin; He was the substitute for all who believe. Paul declares, therefore, that under the Law, he was tried, found guilty, condemned, and in the person of his substitute he was slain. When did that take place? It took place when Christ was Crucified. Paul was Crucified with Christ. But “nevertheless I live.” How do I live? In Christ! He is alive today at God’s right hand. We are told that we have been put in Christ. You cannot improve on that. That ought to get rid of that foolish idea that we can crucify ourselves.

In Romans 6 we are told that we have been buried with Christ by baptism, by identification. We have been raised with him in newness of life, and are now joined to the living Christ. Paul says we do not know Him any longer after the flesh. He is not the Man of Galilee walking around the Sea of Galilee. He is at God’s right hand. He is the glorified Christ.

Paul is saying, “I am Crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live.” You see, the Law executed us. The Law could not give us life. Who gave us life? “I am Crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live.” How do you live? “Yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.” That is the important thing. He died for me down here so that I might live in Him up yonder and so that He might live in me down here. “And the life,” Paul says, “which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God.” What kind of life is this? It is a life of faith—saved by faith, lived by faith, walk by faith. This is what it means to walk in the Spirit. “I live by the faith of the Son of God—how tender this is—“who loved me, and gave himself for me.” Christ loved me, but He could not love me into heaven. He had to give Himself for me. The content of this verse makes me believe that Paul was present at the crucifixion. Now, after Paul came to know the Crucified Christ he could remember that day and say, “While I was there ridiculing Him, shooting out the lip at Him, expressing my hatred for Him, He loved me and gave himself for me.” “He gave Himself”—the supreme sacrifice. Paul called himself the “chief of sinners,” and from what I know about him I would have to agree with him; he was the chief of sinners.

You can tread underfoot the blood of Christ, ignoring Him, turning away from Him, and turning against Him as Paul did. But it was for that crowd that Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them: for they know not what they do…” (Luke 23.34). Even if you hate Him, He was loving you, and giving Himself for you

yet not I, but Christ liveth in me:

He is no longer that old man, Saul, the Jew—And those who are Christ's have Crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Gal. 5.24), but another man—Then the Spirit of the Lord will come upon you, and you will prophesy with them and be turned into another man” (1 Sam. 10.6).   He “died to the Law”, because he was “Crucified with Christ;” he was able “to live for God” because Christ lived in him. In order to understand this verse it is necessary to know the meaning of union with Christ. This doctrine is based on such passages as Romans 6.1-6 and 1 Corinthians 12.13 which explain that believers have been baptized by the holy Spirit into Christ and into the church, the body of all true believers. Having been just united to Christ, believers share in His death, burial, and resurrection. Paul could therefore write, “I have been “Crucified with Christ” (lit., “I have been and am now “Crucified with Christ”). This brought death to the law. It also brought a change in regard to one’s self: “I am Crucified with Christ.” The self-righteous, self-centered Saul died. Furthermore, death with Christ ended Paul’s enthronement of self, he yielded the throne of his life to Another, to Christ. But it was not in his own strength that Paul was able to live the Christian life; the living Christ Himself took up His abode in Paul’s heart; “Christ lives in me.” But Christ does not operate automatically in a believer’s life; it is a matter of living the new live “by faith in the Son of God.” It is then faith and not works or legal obedience that releases divine power to live a Christian life. This faith, says Paul, builds on the sacrifice of Christ “who loved” us “and gave Himself” for us. In essence, Paul affirmed, “If He loved me enough to give himself for me, then He loves me enough to live out his life in me.” The believer’s old self is dead, having been Crucified with Christ. The believer’s new man has the privilege of the indwelling Christ empowering Him and living through him.

and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

The new life (as contrasted with his life before his conversion) is lived on the principle of faith in Christ (v. 16), rather than on the principle of obedience to the Law of Moses. This faith builds on the fact of the personal love of the Savior for those on whose behalf He died—“And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savour” (Eph. 5.2). Anyone who does not trust Christ in this way would frustrate (set aside) the grace of God. If righteousness could be obtained by keeping the Law (Which is something that has never been done.) the death of Christ would not have been required; it would be a wasted gesture.

“In the flesh” describes Paul’s life before his conversion, which was a mere animal life, but this was not his true life; “it is but the mask of life under which lives another, namely, Christ, who is my true life” (Luther).

The phrase “Son of God” reminds us that His Divine Sonship is the source of His life-giving power.

I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.

The Judaizers wanted to mix Law and grace, but Paul tells us this is impossible. To go back to the Law involves “setting aside” the grace of God.

Peter had experienced God’s grace in his own salvation and he had proclaimed God’s grace in his own ministry. But when he withdrew from the GENTILE Christian fellowship, he openly denied the grace of God.

Grace says, “There is no difference! All are sinners, and all can be saved through faith in Jesus Christ!” But Peter’s actions had said, “There is a difference! The grace of God in not sufficient; we also need the Law.” Returning to the Law nullifies the Cross: “if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain” (Gal. 2.21). Law says DO! Grace says DONE! “It is finished,” (John 19.30) was Christ’s victory cry—“For by grace are ye saved through faith” (Eph. 2.8).

The clear implication of Paul’s words is that Peter and the others who followed him were setting aside God’s grace. The essence of grace is for God to give people that which they have not worked for—“Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt” (Romans 4.4). To insist on justification or sanctification by works is to nullify the grace of God. Furthermore, such insistence on obedience to the law also means that Christ died for nothing. If righteousness comes by keeping the law, the Cross was a futile gesture, the biggest mistake in the universe.

We have no record of Peter’s reply to Paul’s rebuke, but scripture would indicate that he admitted his sin and was restored to the fellowship once again. Certainly, when you read his two letters (1 and 2 Peter) you detect no deviation from the gospel of the grace of God. In fact the theme of 1 Peter is “the true grace of God” (1 Peter 5.12); and the word grace is used in every chapter of the letter. Peter is careful to point out that he and Paul were in complete agreement, just in case anyone should try to “rob Peter to pay Paul”—“Also, regard the patience of our Lord as [an opportunity for] salvation, just as our dear brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you. He speaks about these things in all his letters, in which there are some matters that are hard to understand. The untaught and unstable twist them to their own destruction, as they also do with the rest of the Scriptures” (2 Peter 3.15, 16).

The main thought of this verse is simply that if there had been any other way to save sinners, then God would have used that method. If a law or religion could have been given that could save sinners, God would have given it. The only way that an infinite God could save you and me was to send His Son to die. He was willing to make the supreme sacrifice.


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