Confraternity Bible: New Testament and Supplemental Commentary

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GALATIANS - Chapter 2

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Galatians 2

Supplemental Commentary:

I.  PERSONAL DEFENSE  1, 11 -- 2, 21 (continued)

2.  A Defense of His Gospel  2, 1-21

2, 1-10:  Approved by the Apostles.  Having shown that his call and his knowledge of the gospel came directly from God, St. Paul now proceeds to refute another argument of the Judaizers, namely, that he did not have the approval of the Apostles.

1.  Fourteen years after his first visit to Jerusalem (1, 18), St. Paul went to the Holy City again, accompanied by Barnabas and Titus.  It is true that he had been in Jerusalem in the meantime to bring alms as narrated in Acts 11, 29 f; but he omits any mention of that visit, because it had nothing to do with his present concern, i.e., showing his approval by the other Apostles.    2.  St. Paul was prompted to undertake the journey by divine revelation, and also because the Christians of Antioch sent him (Acts 15, 2), just as St. Peter went to Caesarea, Cornelius sending for him and the Holy Spirit bidding him go (Acts 11, 11 f).  He explained his preaching to all the faithful, but more particularly to the Apostles, the men of authority, for their approval.  He needed no assurance for himself, but he wished to guard his future labors, as well as his past against his enemies.  Run: a metaphor based on the games of those days.    3.  This is a proof that Paul's preaching was not in vain.  Not only did the Apostles not reject his gospel, but they did not even require the circumcision of Titus, his companion, notwithstanding strong pressure from the Judaizers.    4.  In spite of the Judaizers, Titus was not circumcised.  If it was a mere matter of expediency, as in the case of Timothy (Acts 16, 3), St. Paul himself could practise circumcision, for his doctrine was that such circumcision was no bar to salvation.  In the case of Titus, however, the Judaizers held that salvation was dependent upon the rite.  Brought in secretly, who slipped in: i.e., they entered the Christian Church stealthily.  Spy upon: to find some flaws in our liberty, our freedom from the Mosaic Law.    5.  An hour: i.e., a moment.

6.  In 3-5 St. Paul indulged in a digression about the case of Titus; he now returns to the thought of 2.  He states that the Apostles added nothing new to his gospel.  What they once were, etc.: i.e., although they were older in the apostolate than Paul, and had lived with the Lord, that was not of present importance.  As regards his gospel there was a complete accord between them.    7-9.  The Apostles did not correct Paul's teaching.  On the contrary, they saw that his mission too was divinely ordained, and that they and he had been assigned by Providence to different spheres of a common work.  These verses do not mean that Paul's mission was to be exclusively among the Gentiles, or that of James, Cephas, and John exclusively among the Jews.  We know from the Acts that St. Paul always began with the Jews, although his converts were principally Gentiles.  Peter and John later worked among the Gentiles, but Paul was the first Apostle to labor among them on a large scale.  The right hand of fellowship: solemn approval.  James: the Lord's cousin, and the first bishop of Jerusalem; Cephas: Peter's Aramaic name, by which he was known among the Jews.

2, 11-21:  Paul Reproves Peter.  Immediately after the Council at Jerusalem, Paul and Barnabas, accompanied by Judas and Silas, conveyed the decrees to Antioch, as related in Acts 15, 30.  It appears that St. Peter very shortly followed them there, and the occurrence here referred to took place at that time.  What Peter was blamed for was that while he associated and took food with the Gentiles, without regard to what was allowed or forbidden by the Mosaic Law, he varied this custom on the arrival of certain legates from St. James, the bishop of Jerusalem.  He then withdrew from his association with the Gentiles, fearing that he would scandalize the circumcised.  This showed a lack of consideration, and the Gentiles were seriously offended.  It was not Peter's purpose to compel the Gentile converts to adopt Jewish rites; but he over-indulged the prejudice of his countrymen against eating in common with Christians who would not add to their Christianity the extra observance of the Mosaic Law.

11.  To the face: i.e., directly to him, and perhaps openly and publicly.    12.  St. James possibly sent these legates to collect alms for the poor in Jerusalem.    13.  The authority of Peter influenced the other Jewish Christians in Antioch, and even Barnabas, to follow his example.    14.  Walking uprightly: i.e., they were not showing the courage of their convictions.  St. Paul spoke to St. Peter in a public assembly of both the Jewish and Gentile Christians, perhaps during the agape or love-feast.  Compel: the moral constraint which the example of Peter put on the Gentile Christians.  The address to Peter probably ends here.

15.  In this verse Paul showed that, notwithstanding what he had said, he was keenly sensible of the privileges of the Jews; and as a pious Jew shared in the horror felt at the idolatry and immorality of the Gentiles.    16.  The precepts of the Mosaic Law were ceremonial, such as circumcision, and moral, such as the Commandments.  The Judaizers insisted on the observance of the ceremonial precepts or works.  Such prescriptions of themselves had no power to save, as salvation depends on faith in Christ.    17.  By thus denying the efficacy of the Law, we class ourselves with those outside the Law.  If the Law were really of force, we should thus make ourselves sinners.    18.  In other words, if after abandoning the Mosaic Law to seek justification through Christ, one returns to its practice, he sins, since he knows justification is had only through faith in Christ.    19.  Cf. note to text.    20.  Christ, the source of grace and justice, who died for me, is now the source of my spiritual life, a life which I have not attained by the works of the Law.    21.  These words were directed against the Judaizers, endeavoring to lead the Galatians away from the true gospel.  For these Christ died in vain, since seeking salvation through the Law they nullified His death.

Confraternity Bible:

Approved by the Apostles  1 Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking also Titus along with me.  2 And I went up in consequence of a revelation, and I conferred with them on the gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but separately with the men of authority; lest perhaps I should be running, or had run in vain.  3 But not even Titus, who was with me, Gentile though he was, was compelled to be circumcised, 4* although it was urged on account of false brethren who were brought in secretly, who slipped in to spy upon our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into slavery.  5 Now to these we did not yield in submission, no, not for an hour, that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.  6 But from the men of authority (what they once were matters not to me; God accepts not the person of man)---the men of authority laid no further burden on me.  7 On the contrary, when they saw that to me was committed the gospel for the uncircumcised, as to Peter that for the circumcised 8 (for he who worked in Peter for the apostleship of the circumcised worked also in me among the Gentiles)--- 9 and when they recognized the grace that was given to me, James and Cephas and John, who were considered the pillars, gave to me and to Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the circumcised; 10 provided only that we should be mindful of the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.

Paul Reproves Peter  11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was deserving of blame. 12 For before certain persons came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and to separate himself, fearing the circumcised.  13 And the rest of the Jews dissembled along with him, so that Barnabas also was led away by them into that dissimulation.  14 But when I saw that they were not walking uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all: If thou, though a Jew, livest like the Gentiles, and not like the Jews, how is it that thou dost compel the Gentiles to live like the Jews?

15 We are Jews by birth, and not sinners from among the Gentiles.  16* But we know that man is not justified by the works of the Law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ.  Hence we also believe in Christ Jesus, that we may be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the Law; because by the works of the Law no man will be justified.  17 But if, while we are seeking to be justified in Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is Christ therefore the minister of sin?  By no means.  18* For if I reconstruct the things that I destroyed, I make myself a sinner.  19* For I through the Law have died to the Law that I may live to God.  With Christ I am nailed to the cross.  20 It is now no longer I that live, but Christ lives in me.  And the life that I now live in the flesh, I live in the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself up for me.  21 I do not cast away the grace of God.  For if justice is by the Law, then Christ died in vain.


4: These false brethren contended that circumcision was necessary for salvation.  Against them a definite stand was taken by the Apostles.  To spy upon: i.e., to find some weak points.  Our liberty: i.e., freedom from the Mosaic observance.  Slavery: i.e., subjection to the Law.

16: The works of the Law: i.e., the Mosaic code.  These prescriptions by themselves had no power to save, as salvation depends on faith and grace in Christ.

18: The things that I destroyed: i.e., the works of the Law.

19: The Law was intended to lead to Christ.  Therefore its purpose was accomplished, and it died, or one became dead to it, when one reached Christ.  By the cross Christ delivered us from the curse of the Law.