Category Archives: GALATIANS 2

The gospel Paul preached was revealed to him by the Lord Jesus Himself, and as such was to be defended robustly.

GALATIANS CHAPTER 2

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Survey of the chapter

If in chapter one Paul details his movements, showing that he did not make constant contact with the apostles, except for a courtesy call on Peter, in this chapter he details the contact he did have subsequently. First of all there was the right hand of fellowship, as the other apostles recognised his call from God, then there was a confrontation, because Peter and others had been influenced by those who taught that believers should put themselves under law.

Structure of the chapter

(a)
Verses 1-2 Paul was not summoned He was sent to Jerusalem by God, not by the apostles
  Verses 3-5 Paul not subject He refused to circumcise Titus the Greek
(c)
Verses 6-9 Paul not silenced The apostles recognise his call to preach the gospel to the Gentiles
(d)
Verse 10 Paul not stony-hearted The law commanded love, grace inspires love
(e)
Verses 11-13 Peter’s change of behaviour  
(f)
Verse 14 His action was against logic  
(g)
Verses 15-16 His action was against his beliefs  
(h)
Verse 17 His action was against Christ  
(i)
Verse 18 His action was against his vision  
(j)
Verses 19-21 His action was against the gospel  

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS CHAPTER 2, VERSES 1 TO 10:

2:1 Then fourteen years after I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with me also.

2:2 And I went up by revelation, and communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to them which were of reputation, lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain.

2:3 But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised:

2:4 And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage:

2:5 To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.

2:6 But of these who seemed to be somewhat, (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man’s person:) for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me:

2:7 But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter;

2:8 (For He that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:)

2:9 And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision.

2:10 Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do.

(a) Verses 1-2 Paul not summoned

2:1 Then fourteen years after I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with me also.

Then fourteen years after I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas- Paul was saved about AD 36, and died about AD 69, so for half of his Christian life he was fairly unknown. The same is true of Moses, John the Baptist, and, pre-eminently, Christ Himself. It is salutary to think how much he achieved for the sake of Christ in a relatively short time.
And took Titus with me also- Titus provided a test-case, to demonstrate that circumcision is not necessary for the believer. Note he took Titus also, meaning that Paul took Barnabas, not vice versa. Previously Barnabas had gone to Jerusalem to assure the believers that their former persecutor was genuinely saved, see Acts 9:26-28.

2:2 And I went up by revelation, and communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to them which were of reputation, lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain.

And I went up by revelation- he was not summoned by the apostles to give account of himself, but is directed by a revelation from the Lord, showing he was in harmony with the Lord in his life. He is not behind Moses the lawgiver in this, who spake with God directly, Numbers 12:8; Deuteronomy 34:10.
There may also be the thought that he went to see the apostles to impart to them the revelation of the mystery of the church that had been given to him, as Ephesians 3:3,4 explains. It was revealed to Paul first, and then to the holy apostles and prophets, verse 5. His going up to Jerusalem as this verse tells us may be the time when he passed it on to them.
And communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles- not in the sense that he told them what they did not know, but laid it out before them in all its aspects, so they could see he was not preaching a mixed gospel. He had been preaching in the regions of Syria and Cilicia for many years without any sanction from the apostles.
But privately to them which were of reputation- Paul is concerned that those in responsible positions amongst the saints should be happy with what he was preaching. He was not intent on making a party for himself, but was in full fellowship with the apostles. He did this privately, not in a church council, which might look as if he were being called to account. When it was the truth of the gospel at risk, rather than his own service, he withstood Peter publicly, “before them all”, verse 14.
Lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain- he was concerned that his activity should be useful in the future, and if it had not been in the past, he was ready to make amends.

(b) Verses 2:3-5 Paul not subject

2:3 But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised:

But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised- those who advocated a return to law-keeping, had to require circumcision if they were to be consistent. Circumcision had become a sign of submission to the law of Moses, even though it was “of the fathers”, John 7:22.  That is, was known and practised by the patriarchs from Abraham onwards, to whom the rite was originally given. As the apostle wrote later, “Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of the God”, 1 Corinthians 7:19. The vital thing is to keep God’s commandments. To the Romans he wrote, “For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of man, but of God”, Romans 2:28,29.

2:4 And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage:

And that because of false brethren unawares brought in- if there were those who infiltrated the ranks of the believers in those early days, how careful we should be in these last days, when perilous times have come. The word unawares is used in classical Greek of enemies brought into a city by the help of traitors already within.
Who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus- the Lord could say, “In secret have I said nothing”, John 18:20, and Paul could say, “This thing was not done in a corner”, Acts 26:26. The words “spy out” are used in 2 Samuel 10:3, when the princes of Ammon said David had “Sent his servants unto thee, to search the city, and to spy it out, and to overthrow it”.
That they might bring us into bondage- they came with the intention of assessing the way Jewish believers were living, now that they were saved by grace, and far from desiring to share in this liberty, they came to persuade the Galatians to embrace the Law, and so go back to bondage.

2:5 To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.

To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not even an hour- Paul realised that the whole of God’s purpose would be frustrated if believers reverted to the law in any way.
That the truth of the gospel might continue with you- he is sure that law and gospel do not mix; sure, also, that the gospel is truth, just as much as Law.

2:6 But of these who seemed to be somewhat, (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man’s person:) for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me:

But of these who seemed to be somewhat- that is, those who were in positions of authority and influence, such as apostles who had been with the Lord when He was on earth, and others who had known the Lord when He was here on earth. Luke writes of those who were ministers of the word, having known Christ when He was on earth, Luke 1:2.
(Whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me, God accepteth no man’s person:)- this does not mean that the apostle was indifferent to the influence of these people, but simply that what they once were as disciples of the Lord before the cross, was not the point, for that did not give them any advantage over Paul, or the Galatians. God does not accept a believer because of his privileges, but because of his relationship with the risen Christ; all are equal in this connection. Peter described believers as those who had obtained like precious faith with the apostles, 2 Peter 1:1, so in that respect apostles are no different to other believers.
For they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me- this is why the former privilege of these men was not the point, for they did not add anything to Paul’s knowledge of the gospel when he conferred with them.

2:7 But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter;

But contrariwise- the reverse was the case.
When they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter- there are not two gospels, but God did give Peter special responsibility to preach to Jews, (which makes the choice of him to preach to Cornelius all the more remarkable, although the Lord did give him the keys of the kingdom of heaven, one of which he used on the Day of Pentecost, and the other in the house of Cornelius), and gave Paul special responsibility to the Gentile world, for which he was admirably fitted by upbringing and outlook.

2:8 (For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:)

(For He who wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:)- the expression “wrought effectually” is the same as “mighty”, so exactly the same power is put forward by God in the case of each servant. There is no need for either of them to add the influence of the law to their gospel preaching. Note Paul’s recognition of Peter’s leading role- there is no personal jealousy.

2:9 And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision.

And when James, Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars- there is no irony in the word “seemed”; they were recognised as prominent leaders in the testimony.
Perceived the grace of God that was given unto me- the grace is not only God’s favourable help in the exercise of gift, but the gift itself. It was obvious to these spiritual men that Paul was greatly used of God. Believers are sometimes slow to recognise the gift God has given. On the other hand, it is possible to lay hands on a believer too hastily, 1 Timothy 5:22. A balance must be maintained.
They gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship- note the plural hands, for each of these three was willing to associate with Paul and Barnabas, which is why it is the right hands of fellowship. We tend to shake hands as a formality, but this is not the case here. Greeting was by a holy kiss, Romans 16:16, whereas today in the Western world at least we use a handshake to greet one another.
That we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision- so the personal mode of service was recognised. It was not that Peter, James and John would not preach if there were no Jews in the audience, but rather, that to evangelise their own nation was their special task, always remembering the gospel must be preached to every creature.

(d) Verse 10 Paul not stony-hearted

2:10 Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do.

Only- this is the only stipulation they gave to Paul and Barnabas, for they were in total agreement on the truths of the gospel. Grace, however, might be thought of as careless of works, hence this injunction.
That we should remember the poor- this is especially relevant, given the way the Jewish believers has taken joyfully the spoiling of their goods, Hebrews 10:34.
The same which I also was forward to do- Paul was “zealous of good works”, Titus 2:14, and this suggestion from the other apostles presented no problem to him. An appreciation of the grace of God should prompt us to far exceed the stipulations of the law as regards giving. God is the God of the fatherless and the widows, but He most often supplies their needs through His people.

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS CHAPTER 2, VERSES 11 TO 21:

2:11 But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed.

2:12 For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision.

2:13 And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation.

2:14 But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?

2:15 We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles,

2:16 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.

2:17 But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid.

2:18 For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor.

2:19 For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God.

2:20 I am crucified with Christ: neverthless 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.

2:21 I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.

(e) Verses 11-13 Peter’s change of behaviour

2:11 But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed.

But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed- Antioch was the first assembly formed after regular preaching to Gentiles was established, hence the freedom of grace was specially enjoyed here, see Acts 11:19-21. The purpose of God was that the tidings of grace should flow out from Jerusalem to the nations, but here the bondage of the law is being brought from its centre, Jerusalem, Galatians 4:25. It was from Antioch that relief had been sent for the poor saints at Jerusalem, by the hands of Paul and Barnabas, Acts 11:27-30. That was the liberty of grace in operation, but Peter now, sadly, brings the bondage of law to Antioch from Jerusalem. Note that an apostle is here exposed as being in the wrong. The apostles were inspired of God to preach and write, and when they did this they were infallible, but at other times they were liable to error, in the measure in which they depended on their own strength. The idea of Papal Infallibility is completely without support in the Scriptures.

2:12 For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision.

For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles- as his vision had indicated it was permissible for him to do this, for Peter himself had said in Cornelius’s house, “Ye know how that is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company; or to come unto one of another nation; but God hath showed me that I should call no man common or unclean”, Acts 10:28.
But when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision- Peter, the ardent and forceful leader amongst the apostles, is here giving way to the influence of men. “The fear of man bringeth a snare”, Proverbs 29:25.

2:13 And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation.

And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation- dissimulation is hypocrisy, play-acting, appearing to be other than what you really are. The Christian is really delivered from the law, but if he lives as if he is not, then he is play-acting. Note the increasing consequences of Peter’s action, for no man liveth to himself, Romans 14:7. They were truly free men, but were acting as if they were in bondage.

(f) Verse 14 Peter’s action was against logic

2:14 But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?

But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel- Peter had strayed from the straight path of righteousness. That path of righteousness is now set out by the truth of the gospel, for the law of righteousness, holy and just as it is, did not supply the power to live righteously, but the gospel does.
I said unto Peter before them all- the matter was of such concern, and was so harmful to the progress of the gospel, that it could not be dealt with privately. Fresh from his commendation by Peter, James and John, and as the apostle to the uncircumcised Gentiles, Paul had a special interest in contending for the truth in this way. Sometimes, no matter how revered the brother involved, and how much temporary disturbance there might be, it is the best course to deal with matters straightforwardly and openly. Of course some matters are of such a sort that they should be dealt with privately, but this was not one of those.
If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of the Gentiles- despite his temporary change of policy, Peter was committed to the truth that those outward things of mere religion which once divided Jew from Gentile, are no longer valid. Paul no doubt had the gift of discerning of spirits, and could tell that Peter’s change of behaviour was not from conviction.
And not as do the Jews- it is not that Peter has combined a Gentile manner of life with a Jewish one, but has turned wholly from his religious observance when he turned to Christ.
Why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?- to live as do the Jews is not simply to adopt Jewish customs for the sake of a varied lifestyle, but in principle to put oneself under the law as a code of conduct for the believer. The matter of diet may seem to be of small account, but it represented a distinction between Jew and Gentile, which at a fundamental level involved commitment to the law which prescribed the diet. It was not logical, then, for Peter to renounce the law, then adopt legal customs of separation from Gentiles. Nor was it logical for him to expect Gentiles to virtually live like Jews when they were not Jews.

(g) Verses 15,16 Peter’s action was against his beliefs

2:15 We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles,

We who are Jews by nature- Peter and Paul were both born of Jewish parents, and had been brought up to live as Jews, so that it was part of their nature to live like a Jew. They were not converts to Judaism, who might be less zealous of Jewish customs.
And not sinners of the Gentiles- whilst it is true that Peter and Paul were “sinners of the Jews”, nonetheless their upbringing under the law had shielded them from the unrestrained excesses of the nations around.

2:16 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.

Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law- despite their upbringing, they had come to realise, (and the prophets would tell them this, as well as their own hearts when they failed to keep the law), that all attempts to be justified by works would fail.
But by the faith of Jesus Christ- this gospel truth had reached their ears, and they knew that for them, law and all its attendant customs and rites must be left behind.
E
ven we have believed in Jesus Christ- despite their upbringing under a God-given law, they had turned to Christ in faith.
That we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law- so their understanding of what was involved when they believed was clear, for they had no reservations about leaving “law for righteousness”, for Christ is the end of that as far as believers are concerned, Romans 10:4.
For by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified- an allusion to Psalm 143:2, which reads, “And enter not into judgement with Thy servant: for in Thy sight shall no man living be justified”. This confirms from the Old Testament that the stand they had taken when they believed the gospel was a wise one.

(h) Verse 17 Peter’s action was against Christ

2:17 But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid.

But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ- the “but if” indicates that the apostle is arguing as if he and Peter are where the Judaizers wanted them to be, and where Peter, by his change of practice, had put himself; namely, justified by Christ, but clinging to law for full salvation. See Acts 15:5, where the false teachers were saying that Christ was not enough, there must be law-works as well. This is why the apostle uses the word seek, for those who seek have not found what they are looking for, and this is the position of those who say that other things apart from Christ are necessary for justification. Peter had in fact found justification, but was acting as if he was still seeking it by keeping the law.
We also ourselves are found sinners- whenever the law tests us, it finds us wanting, even as believers. See Romans 7:7-25 for a demonstration of this. Paul, in the hypothetical situation he describes in that passage, was seeking and not finding, whereas the law was seeking to expose his sinfulness, and discovering it, hence the expression here, “found sinners”.
Is therefore Christ the minister of sin?- to understand this question we should note the following things:
1.  As the apostle Paul said in the synagogue at Antioch, “And by Him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses”, Acts 13:39.
2. Although that is true, it is also true that, until the resurrection day, believers still have the same body as before they believed. Paul describes this body as “the body of sin”, Romans 6:6. It is only to the degree that the believer applies the truth of the fact that “our old man is crucified with Him”, that the sin-principle is destroyed, or made of no effect. If it had been completely destroyed already, believers would never sin, which is clearly not the case, since John wrote “that ye sin not”, 1 John 2:1.
At this point, it would be worthwhile to note the teaching given on this matter in Romans 7:7-13. In these verses, the apostle defends the law, lest it be thought that the fact that the believer is delivered from it implied some defect in the law. The believer may be looked at from two different viewpoints; one, in accordance with God’s present reckoning of him, and the other, (because the body which he had before he was saved is still the same, even though now yielded to God), in accordance with what he was before he was saved.

Romans 7:7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.

The expression of verse 5, “the motions of sins which were by the law”, and the argument in general in the previous verses about the irrelevance of the law as an aid to Christian living, may give the impression that the apostle is condemning the law, which, after all, was given by God.

What shall we say then? This is a favourite expression of the apostle in this epistle, encouraging involvement by his readers, and causing them to think about what they are reading.
Is the law sin? If the result of the application of the law is fruit unto death, then is there some fault with the law?
God forbid- this is a strong denial, for Paul will not have it that the law is evil.
Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law- far from being sinful, the law exposes sin, so that a person knows it, and has no excuse.
For I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet- the heart of Paul and the particular command were on a collision course. The law upholds God’s standards inflexibly.

Romans 7:8 But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead.

But- introducing the true alternative to the false idea that the law is sin. Sin, taking occasion by the commandment- “occasion” is a base of operations in war. The sin-principle within us uses the command as a means of waging its war on God.
Wrought in me all manner of concupiscence- which is evil desire. Sin and concupiscence are evil, but not the law.
For without the law sin was dead the sin-principle was inactive, not being provoked into resistance to the law all the time Paul did not try to please God through the law.

Romans 7:9 For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.

For I was alive without the law once- when he was converted he had life from God apart from law-keeping.
But when the commandment came- note the prominence of the words “I” and “me”, in the remainder of the chapter, and the absence of the words “Spirit” and “Lord Jesus”, except verse 25. We note also the expression in verse 25, “I myself”, as if he was on his own in trying to please God. The most satisfactory view of these verses is that Paul is presenting a situation that was, and is, personal to him, in which he tries to please God as a believer by the use of the law. So we might think of Paul going into Arabia subsequent to his conversion, (see Galatians 1:17, and connect with 4:24,25), and finding that even when there was nothing to attract him in the surroundings, yet still the desire to covet was within. In isolation in Arabia, he would inevitably think of the law given at Sinai in Arabia.
Sin revived, and I died- the commandment “thou shalt not covet” came home to him, sin rose up from its slumbers, and dealt a death-blow to his earnest but ignorant desire to serve God by the law.

Romans 7:10 And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death.

And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death- Christ had said to the lawyer, “this do and thou shalt live”, Luke 10:28. But Paul found the law slew him, for he fell down over the “this do”, and so forfeited the right to life. Far from being the Good Samaritan, “doing” and “living”, he was like the robbed man, left half-dead by the roadside. The representatives of the ceremonial and civil law, (the priest and Levite), would not save him.

Romans 7:11 For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me.

For sin, taking occasion by the commandment- as stated in verse 8, whereas there the result was sins, but here the result is death.
Deceived me, and by it slew me- sin misled Paul into thinking that he could keep the law now that he was a believer. Thus sin used the command “Thou shalt not covet” to reduce Paul to inactivity as far as living to please God was concerned.

Romans 7:12 Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.

Wherefore the law is holy- the law considered as a whole is totally free from evil.
And the commandment holy, and just and good- the particular precepts of the law, illustrated by the one about covetousness emphasized here, partake of the character of the whole, being holy. They are just, being designed to lead to a righteous life. They are good, for the whole law is fulfilled by loving God and one’s neighbour. See Romans 13: 8-10.

Romans 7:13 Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.

Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid- the apostle anticipates an objection which will disparage the law. Was it the law itself which resulted in Paul being slain, verse 11? The answer is no, but sin within fought against the law, and forced it, so to speak, to execute judgement on Paul.
But sin, that it might appear sin- the law brought sin out into the open and exposed it for what it was.
Working death in me by that which is good- having exposed sin, the law pronounced the death penalty on Paul as a man trying to keep the law. So the goodness of the law is maintained, for it defends the honour of God in regard to sin, and the badness of sin is manifested.

With these things in mind, we return to our phrase in Galatians 2:17.

Believers owe the position they are in wholly to Christ’s ministry towards them, for they have no strength of our own. If that ministry only took them so far along the road to justification, and needed the law to supplement it and bring it to completion, and if that position is discovered to be one of sinfulness, as the verses from Romans 7 show it will be, are we to suggest that Christ is responsible for that? Such a thought would be too evil to contemplate. Such is the result if a believer puts himself under law, as Peter seemed to be doing.

Note that he does not say even in this theoretical situation that Christ was the minister of sin, but only that it might lead to that question being asked, and he does not want even that to happen.

God forbid!- the idea that Christ is the minister of sin is unthinkable, and therefore the situation Paul has imagined is not the true one, and it is otherwise with the believer than that he is in any way helped by the law.

(I) Verse 18 Peter’s action was against his vision from God

2:18 For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor.

For if I build again the things I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor- far from Christ being the minister of sin, it would be Paul who was the transgressor, for if he went back to law in any way, then that law would expose him as a transgressor of that law. Before he had his vision at Joppa, Peter would not have even gone into a Gentile’s house. He was taught by God, however, that this was not the Christian way, see Acts 9:27-29. As a result of learning this important lesson, which had far-reaching consequences, Peter was happy to have to do with Gentiles. He destroyed the old restrictions, for the best possible reason, God had destroyed them, for the word came to him, “What God hath cleansed, that call not thou unclean”. This was like breaking down the “middle wall of partition” that separated the Court of the Gentiles from the rest of the Temple enclosure, see Acts 21:27-29; Ephesians 2:11-18. By reversing his decision, Peter would be building the middle wall of partition again. But Paul uses the personal pronoun “I”, for he is not yet certain that he can include Peter in his realisation of the gravity of building again what God had pulled down.

(j) Verses 19-21 Peter’s action was against the gospel Paul believed

2:19 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- as far as Paul was concerned, (and also as far as Peter was concerned, too, in principle, but not now in practice), the law had made its demands against him as a sinner. These demands he could not meet, but Christ met them for him, accepting the consequences of Paul’s law-breaking, and paying the penalty for it. But Paul was “dead to the law by the body of Christ”, Romans 7:4. In other words, the process which Christ went through in the body, namely, of paying the penalty for other’s law-breaking on the cross, being placed in a tomb as one who was really dead, and then rising again bodily, (the sure sign that the penalty the law demanded was paid), was the means of deliverance for Paul, for God was pleased to associate him with the death burial and resurrection of Christ, Romans 6:1-11. So by the process the body of Christ went through, Paul was dead to the law, for the law only has dealings with living persons, see Romans 7:1-4, and Paul died with Christ. This position, however, came about because the law made its demands, so Paul can say that he is dead to the law through the law.
That I might live unto God- Christ lives unto God, Romans 6:10, and Paul is risen with Him, and thus also lives unto God. But the significant thing is that he lives unto God without being under the law.

2:20 I am crucified with Christ: neverthless 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.

I am crucified with Christ- the man who was born and brought up under the law is dead, for God has associated him with Christ when He died on the cross. He could not escape from the law by himself, only by Christ and His death.
Nevertheless I live- Christianity is positive, not simply death to former things, but real life through Christ. The Good Shepherd came to those in the fold of Judaism to lead them out of it, and give them life abundant, John 10:10.
Yet not I- association with Christ risen prevents a return to old things, for “if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature”, 2 Corinthians 5:17. The word “yet” as used here is a time-word. It is no longer I (emphatic), for the old person, Saul of Tarsus, is no longer alive, in God’s reckoning.
But Christ liveth in me- this is because at the moment of conversion the believer is indwelt by the Holy Spirit. This is emphasised in the following scriptures: “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His. And if Christ be in you…” Romans 8:9,10. “At that day ye shall know that I am in My Father, and ye in Me, and I in you”, John 14:20, “that day” meaning the Day of Pentecost and after. These scriptures indicate that because the Spirit of God dwells within the believer, Christ can be said to dwell, too, for Divine persons are One. Because this is so, the features of Christ may be manifest through a believer’s life and character, and thus Christ is formed in us, Galatians 4:19.
And the life which I now live in the flesh- such is the power of the gospel that a true Christian life can be lived here and now, with no need to wait until we get to heaven. The law was weak through the flesh, Romans 8:3, and used the flesh to bring a person into bondage, Romans 7:5. By the power of the indwelling Spirit, however, the believer is enabled to live a victorious life, even though the flesh is still present with him as a hindrance. We should distinguish between living in the flesh, which in this verse means living in the body on earth, and living after the flesh in the Romans 8:9,12 sense, for the believer is not in the flesh but in the Spirit.
I live by the faith of the Son of God- faith of the Son of God is first of all, faith which associates with the Son of God, then secondly, faith as expressed in the life of the Son of God down here. He was full of grace and truth, as He expressed eternal life in His person, and of His fullness have all we received, John 1:14,16. Note it is the faith of the Son of God, not of Jesus, for Paul will later show that we are sons, and have the Son of God Himself as our example of dignity and responsibility.
Who loved me, and gave Himself for me- the law demanded that man love God and his neighbour, whereas grace presents Christ loving men. This love was not theoretical, but practical, for He willingly surrendered Himself to the cross in the supreme act of grace. If Paul in any measure loves and gives, whether to God or men, it will be because Christ first loved and gave. “We love Him, because He first loved us”, 1 John 4:19.

2:21 I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.

I do not frustrate the grace of God- frustrate may either mean set aside, or think lightly of. Neither attitude is appropriate in view of what God in grace has done for us through Christ.
For if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain- the life which Paul lived by faith was a life of righteousness, but if that could have been achieved by the works of the law, then Christ need not have died. To frustrate the grace of God, then, is to suggest that the death of Christ was not necessary.