VERSE 1.Then fourteen years after I went up again to Jerusalem.
Paul taught justification by faith in Christ Jesus, without the deeds of the Law. He reported this to the disciples atAntioch. Among the disciples were some that had been brought up in the ancientcustoms of the Jews. These rose against Paul in quick indignation, accusinghim of propagating a gospel of lawlessness.
Great dissension followed. Paul and Barnabasstood up for the truth. They testified: "Wherever we preached to theGentiles, the Holy Ghost came upon those who received the Word. This happenedeverywhere. We preached not circumcision, we did not require observance of theLaw. We preached faith in Jesus Christ. At our preaching of faith, God gave tothe hearers the Holy Ghost." From this fact Paul and Barnabas inferredthat the Holy Ghost approved the faith of the Gentiles without the Law andcircumcision. If the faith of the Gentiles had not pleased the Holy Ghost, Hewould not have manifested His presence in the uncircumcised hearers of theWord.
Unconvinced, the Jews fiercely opposed Paul,asserting that the Law ought to be kept and that the Gentiles ought to becircumcised, or else they could not be saved.
When we consider the obstinacy with whichRomanists cling to their traditions, we can very well understand the zealousdevotion of the Jews for the Law. After all, they had received the Law fromGod. We can understand how impossible it was for recent converts from Judaismsuddenly to break with the Law. For that matter, God did bear with them, as Hebore with the infirmity of Israel when the people halted between tworeligions. Was not God patient with us also while we were blindfolded by thepapacy? God is longsuffering and full of mercy. But we dare not abuse the patience of the Lord. We dare no longer continue in errornow that the truth has been revealed in the Gospel.
The opponents of Paul had his own example toprefer against him. Paul had circumcised Timothy. Paul defended his action onthe ground that he had circumcised Timothy, not from compulsion, but fromChristian love, lest the weak in faith should be offended. His opponents wouldnot accept Paul's explanation.
When Paul saw that the quarrel was gettingout of hand he obeyed the direction of God and left for Jerusalem, there toconfer with the other apostles. He did this not for his own sake, but for thesake of the people.
VERSE 1.WithBarnabas, and took Titus with me also.
Paul chose two witnesses, Barnabas andTitus. Barnabas had been Paul's preaching companion to the Gentiles. Barnabaswas an eye-witness of the fact that the Holy Ghost had come upon the Gentilesin response to the simple preaching of faith in Jesus Christ. Barnabas stuckto Paul on this point, that it was necessary for the Gentiles to be botheredwith the Law as long as they believed in Christ.
Titus was superintendent of the churches inCrete, having been placed in charge of the churches by Paul. Titus was aformer Gentile.
VERSE 2.AndI went up by revelation.
If God had not ordered Paul to Jerusalem,Paul would never have gone there.
VERSE 2.Andcommunicated unto them that gospel.
After an absence of fourteen years,respectively eighteen years, Paul returned to Jerusalem to confer with theother apostles.
VERSE 2.WhichI preach among the Gentiles.
Among the Jews Paul allowed Law andcircumcision to stand for the time being. So did all the apostles.Nevertheless Paul held fast to the liberty of the Gospel. On one occasion hesaid to the Jews: "Through this man (Christ) is preached unto you forgiveness of sins; and by him all that believe arejustified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law ofMoses."(Acts 13:39.) Always remembering the weak, Paul did not insist that they breakat once with the Law.
Paul admits that he conferred with theapostles concerning his Gospel. But he denies that the conference benefited ortaught him anything. The fact is he resisted those who wanted to force thepractice of the Law upon the Gentiles. They did not overcome him, he overcamethem. "Your false apostles lie, when they say that I circumcised Timothy,shaved my head in Cenchrea, and went up to Jerusalem, at the request of theapostles. I went to Jerusalem at the request of God. What is more, I won theindorsement of the apostles. My opponents lost out."
The matter upon which the apostlesdeliberated in conference was this: Is the observance of the Law requisiteunto justification? Paul answered: "I have preached faith in Christ tothe Gentiles, and not the Law. If the Jews want to keep the Law and becircumcised, very well, as long as they do so from a right motive."
VERSE 2.Butprivately to them which were of reputation.
This is to say, "I conferred not onlywith the brethren, but with the leaders among them."
VERSE 2.Lestby any means I should run, or had run, in vain.
Not that Paul himself ever thought he hadrun in vain. However, many did think that Paul had preached the Gospel invain, because he kept the Gentiles free from the yoke of the Law. The opinionthat obedience to the Law was mandatory unto salvation was gaining ground.Paul meant to remedy this evil. By this conference he hoped to establish theidentity of his Gospel with that of the other apostles, to stop the talk of his opponents that he had been running around invain.
VERSE 3.Butneither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to becircumcised.
The word "compelled" acquaints uswith the outcome of the conference. It was resolved that the Gentiles shouldnot be compelled to be circumcised.
Paul did not condemn circumcision in itself.Neither by word nor deed did he ever inveigh against circumcision. But he didprotest against circumcision being made a condition for salvation. He citedthe case of the Fathers. "The fathers were not justified by circumcision.It was to them a sign and seal of righteousness. They looked upon circumcisionas a confession of their faith."
The believing Jews, however, could not getit through their heads that circumcision was not necessary for salvation. Theywere encouraged in their wrong attitude by the false apostles. The result wasthat the people were up in arms against Paul and his doctrine.
Paul did not condemn circumcision as if itwere a sin to receive it. But he insisted, and the conference upheld him, thatcircumcision had no bearing upon salvation and was therefore not to be forcedupon the Gentiles. The conference agreed that the Jews should be permitted tokeep their ancient customs for the time being, so long as they did not regardthose customs as conveying God's justification of the sinner.
The false apostles were dissatisfied withthe verdict of the conference. They did not want to rest circumcision and thepractice of the Law in Christian liberty. They insisted that circumcision wasobligatory unto salvation.
As the opponents of Paul, so our ownadversaries [Luther's, the enemies of the Reformation] contend that thetraditions of the Fathers dare not be neglected without loss of salvation. Ouropponents will not agree with us on anything. They defend their blasphemies.They go as far to enforce them with the sword.
Paul's victory was complete. Titus, who was with Paul, was not compelled to becircumcised, although he stood in the midst of the apostles when this questionof circumcision was debated. This was a blow to the false apostles. With theliving fact that Titus was not compelled to be circumcised Paul was able tosquelch his adversaries.
VERSES 4,5. And thatbecause of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy outour liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us intobondage:
To whom we gave place bysubjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continuewith you.
Paul here explains his motive for going upto Jerusalem. He did not go to Jerusalem to be instructed or confirmed in hisGospel by the other apostles. He went to Jerusalem in order to preserve thetrue Gospel for the Galatian churches and for all the churches of theGentiles.
When Paul speaks of the truth of the Gospelhe implies by contrast a false gospel. The false apostles also had a gospel,but it was an untrue gospel. "In holding out against them," saysPaul, "I conserved the truth of the pure Gospel."
Now the true Gospel has it that we arejustified by faith alone, without the deeds of the Law. The false gospel hasit that we are justified by faith, but not without the deeds of the Law. Thefalse apostles preached a conditional gospel.
So do the papists. They admit that faith isthe foundation of salvation. But they add the conditional clause that faithcan save only when it is furnished with good works. This is wrong. The trueGospel declares that good works are the embellishment of faith, but that faithitself is the gift and work of God in our hearts. Faith is able to justify,because it apprehends Christ, the Redeemer.
Human reason can think only in terms of the Law. It mumbles: "This I havedone, this I have not done." But faith looks to Jesus Christ, the Son ofGod, given into death for the sins of the whole world. To turn one's eyes awayfrom Jesus means to turn them to the Law.
True faith lays hold of Christ and leans onHim alone. Our opponents cannot understand this. In their blindness they castaway the precious pearl, Christ, and hang onto their stubborn works. They haveno idea what faith is. How can they teach faith to others?
Not satisfied with teaching an untruegospel, the false apostles tried to entangle Paul. "They wentabout," says Paul, "to spy out our liberty which we have in ChristJesus, that they might bring us into bondage."
When Paul saw through their scheme, heattacked the false apostles. He says, "We did not let go of the libertywhich we have in Christ Jesus. We routed them by the judgment of the apostles,and we would not give in to them, no, not an inch."
We too were willing to make all kinds ofconcessions to the papists. Yes, we are willing to offer them more than weshould. But we will not give up the liberty of conscience which we have inChrist Jesus. We refuse to have our conscience bound by any work or law, sothat by doing this or that we should be righteous, or leaving this or thatundone we should be damned.
Since our opponents will not let it standthat only faith in Christ justifies, we will not yield to them. On thequestion of justification we must remain adamant, or else we shall lose thetruth of the Gospel. It is a matter of life and death. It involves the deathof the Son of God, who died for the sins of the world. If we surrender faithin Christ, as the only thing that can justify us, the death and resurrectionof Jesus are without meaning; that Christ is the Savior of the world would bea myth. God would be a liar, because He would not have fulfilled His promises.Our stubbornness is right, because we want to preserve the liberty which wehave in Christ. Only by preserving our liberty shall we be able to retain the truth of the Gospel inviolate.
Some will object that the Law is divine andholy. Let it be divine and holy. The Law has no right to tell me that I mustbe justified by it. The Law has the right to tell me that I should love Godand my neighbor, that I should live in chastity, temperance, patience, etc.The Law has no right to tell me how I may be delivered from sin, death, andhell. It is the Gospel's business to tell me that. I must listen to theGospel. It tells me, not what I must do, but what Jesus Christ, the Son ofGod, has done for me.
To conclude, Paul refused to circumciseTitus for the reason that the false apostles wanted to compel him tocircumcise Titus. Paul refused to accede to their demands. If they had askedit on the plea of brotherly love, Paul would not have denied them. But becausethey demanded it on the ground that it was necessary for salvation, Pauldefied them, and prevailed. Titus was not circumcised.
VERSE 6.Butof those who seemed to be somewhat, whatsoever they were, it maketh no matterto me.
This is a good point in Paul's refutation.Paul disparages the authority and dignity of the true apostles. He says ofthem, "Which seemed to be somewhat." The authority of the apostleswas indeed great in all the churches. Paul did not want to detract from theirauthority, but he had to speak disparagingly of their authority in order toconserve the truth of the Gospel, and the liberty of conscience.
The false apostles used this argumentagainst Paul: "The apostles lived with Christ for three years. They heardHis sermons. They witnessed His miracles. They themselves preached andperformed miracles while Christ was on earth. Paul never saw Jesus in theflesh. Now, whom ought you to believe: Paul, who stands alone, a mere discipleof the apostles, one of the last and least; or will you believe those grand apostles who were sent and confirmed by Christ Himselflong before Paul?"
What could Paul say to that? He answered:"What they say has no bearing on the argument. If the apostles wereangels from heaven, that would not impress me. We are not now discussing theexcellency of the apostles. We are talking about the Word of God now, and thetruth of the Gospel. That Gospel is more excellent than all apostles.
VERSE 6.Godaccepteth no man's person.
Paul is quoting Moses: "Thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honor the person ofthe mighty."(Lev. 19:15) This quotation from Moses ought to shut the mouths of the falseapostles. "Don't you know that God is no respecter of persons?"cries Paul. The dignity or authority of men means nothing to God. The fact isthat God often rejects just such who stand in the odor of sanctity and in theaura of importance. In doing so God seems unjust and harsh. But men needdeterring examples. For it is a vice with us to esteem personality more highlythan the Word of God. God wants us to exalt His Word and not men.
There must be people in high office, ofcourse. But we are not to deify them. The governor, the mayor, the preacher,the teacher, the scholar, father, mother, are persons whom we are to love andrevere, but not to the extent that we forget God. Least we attach too muchimportance to the person, God leaves with important persons offenses and sins,sometimes astounding shortcomings, to show us that there is a lot ofdifference between any person and God. David was a good king. But when thepeople began to think too well of him, down he fell into horrible sins,adultery and murder. Peter, excellent apostle that he was, denied Christ. Suchexamples of which the Scriptures are full, ought to warn us not to repose ourtrust in men. In the papacy appearance counts for everything. Indeed, thewhole papacy amounts to nothing more than a mere kowtowing of persons and outward mummery. But God alone is to befeared and honored.
I would honor the Pope, I would love hisperson, if he would leave my conscience alone, and not compel me to sinagainst God. But the Pope wants to be adored himself, and that cannot be donewithout offending God. Since we must choose between one or the other, let uschoose God. The truth is we are commissioned by God to resist the Pope, for itis written, "We ought to obey God rather than men."(Acts 5:29)
We have seen how Paul refutes the argumentof the false apostles concerning the authority of the apostles. In order thatthe truth of the Gospel may continue; in order that the Word of God and therighteousness of faith may be kept pure and undefiled, let the apostles, letan angel from heaven, let Peter, let Paul, let them all perish.
VERSE 6.Forthey who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me.
The Apostle repeats: "I did not soconfer with the apostles that they taught me anything. What could theypossibly teach me since Christ by His revelation had taught me all things? Itwas but a conference, and no disputation. I learned nothing, neither did Idefend my cause. I only stated what I had done, that I had preached to theGentiles faith in Christ, without the Law, and that in response to mypreaching the Holy Ghost came down upon the Gentiles. When the apostles heardthis, they were glad that I had taught the truth."
If Paul would not give in to the falseapostles, much less ought we to give in to our opponents. I know that aChristian should be humble, but against the Pope I am going to be proud andsay to him: "You, Pope, I will not have you for my boss, for I am surethat my doctrine is divine." Such pride against the Pope is imperative,for if we are not stout and proud we shall never succeed in defending thearticle of the righteousness of faith.
If the Pope would concede that God alone by His grace through Christ justifiessinners, we would carry him in our arms, we would kiss his feet. But since wecannot obtain this concession, we will give in to nobody, not to all theangels in heaven, not to Peter, not to Paul, not to a hundred emperors, not toa thousand popes, not to the whole world. If in this matter we were to humbleourselves, they would take from us the God who created us, and Jesus Christwho has redeemed us by His blood. Let this be our resolution, that we willsuffer the loss of all things, the loss of our good name, of life itself, butthe Gospel and our faith in Jesus Christ--we will not stand for it thatanybody take them from us.
VERSES 7, 8. Butcontrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision wascommitted unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter;
[For he that wroughteffectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same wasmighty in me toward the Gentiles.]
Here the Apostle claims for himself the sameauthority which the false apostles attributed to the true apostles. Paulsimply inverts their argument. "to bolster their evil cause," sayshe, "the false apostles quote the authority of the great apostles againstme. I can quote the same authority against them, for the apostles are on myside. They gave me the right hand of fellowship. They approved my ministry. Omy Galatians, do not believe the counterfeit apostles!"
What does Paul mean by saying that thegospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto him, and that of thecircumcision to Peter? Did not Paul preach to the Jews, while Peter preachedto the Gentiles also? Peter converted the Centurion. Paul's custom was toenter into the synagogues of the Jews, there to preach the Gospel. Why thenshould he call himself the apostle of the Gentiles, while he calls Peter theapostle of the circumcision?
Paul refers to the fact that the other apostles remained in Jerusalem untilthe destruction of the city became imminent. But Paul was especially calledthe apostle of the Gentiles. Even before the destruction of Jerusalem Jewsdwelt here and there in the cities of the Gentiles. Coming to a city, Paulcustomarily entered the synagogues of the Jews and first brought to them asthe children of the kingdom, the glad tidings that the promises made unto thefathers were fulfilled in Jesus Christ. When the Jews refused to hear theseglad tidings, Paul turned to the Gentiles. He was the apostle of the Gentilesin a special sense, as Peter was the apostle of the Jews.
Paul reiterates that Peter, James, and John,the accepted pillars of the Church, taught him nothing, nor did they commitunto him the office of preaching the Gospel unto the Gentiles. Both theknowledge of the Gospel and the commandment to preach it to the Gentiles, Paulreceived directly from God. His case was parallel to that of Peter's, who wasparticularly commissioned to preach the Gospel to the Jews.
The apostles had the same charge, theidentical Gospel. Peter did not proclaim a different Gospel, nor had heappointed his fellow apostles. They were equals. They were all taught of God.None was greater than the other, none could point to prerogatives above theother. To justify his usurped primacy in the Church the Pope claims that Peterwas the chief of the apostles. This is an impudent falsehood.
VERSE 8.Forhe that wrought effectually in Peter.
With these words Paul refutes anotherargument of the false apostles. "What reason have the false apostles toboast that the Gospel of Peter was mighty, that he converted many, that hewrought great miracles, and that his very shadow healed the sick? Thesereports are true enough. But where did Peter acquire this power? God gave himthe power. I have the same power. I received my power, not from Peter, butfrom the same God. The same Spirit who was mighty in Peter was mighty in me also." Lukecorroborates Paul's statement in the words: "And God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul, so that from hisbody were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseasesdeparted from them, and the evil spirits went out of them."(Acts 19:11, 12.)
To conclude, Paul is not going to beinferior to the rest of the apostles. Some secular writers put Paul's boastingdown as carnal pride. But Paul had no personal interest in his boasting. Itwas with him a matter of faith and doctrine. The controversy was not about theglory of Paul, but the glory of God, the Word of God, the true worship of God,true religion, and the righteousness of faith.
VERSE 9.Andwhen James, Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the gracethat was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands offellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto thecircumcision.
"The fact is, when the apostles heardthat I had received the charge to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles fromChrist; when they heard that God had wrought many miracles through me; thatgreat numbers of the Gentiles had come to the knowledge of Christ through myministry; when they heard that the Gentiles had received the Holy Ghostwithout Law and circumcision, by the simple preaching of faith; when theyheard all this they glorified God for His grace in me." Hence, Paul wasjustified in concluding that the apostles were for him, and not against him.
VERSE 9.Theright hands of fellowship.
As if the apostles had said to him:"We, Paul, do agree with you in all things. We are companions indoctrine. We have the same Gospel with this difference, that to you iscommitted the Gospel for the uncircumcised, while the Gospel for thecircumcision is committed unto us. But this difference ought not to hinder our friendship, since we preach one and thesame Gospel."
VERSE 10.Onlythey would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forwardto do.
Next to the preaching of the Gospel, a trueand faithful pastor will take care of the poor. Where the Church is, theremust be the poor, for the world and the devil persecute the Church andimpoverish many faithful Christians.
Speaking of money, nobody wants tocontribute nowadays to the maintenance of the ministry, and the erection ofschools. When it comes to establishing false worship and idolatry, no cost isspared. True religion is ever in need of money, while false religions arebacked by wealth.
VERSE 11.Butwhen Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was tobe blamed.
Paul goes on in his refutation of the falseapostles by saying that in Antioch he withstood Peter in the presence of thewhole congregation. As he stated before, Paul had no small matter in hand, butthe chief article of the Christian religion. When this article is endangered,we must not hesitate to resist Peter, or an angel from heaven. Paul paid noregard to the dignity and position of Peter, when he saw this article indanger. It is written: "He that loveth father or mother or his own life, more than me, is notworthy of me."(Matt. 10:37.)
For defending the truth in our day, we arecalled proud and obstinate hypocrites. We are not ashamed of these titles. Thecause we are called to defend, is not Peter's cause, or the cause of ourparents, or that of the government, or that of the world, but the cause ofGod. In defense of that cause we must be firm and unyielding.
When he says, "to his face," Paulaccuses the false apostles of slandering him behind his back. In his presencethey dared not to open their mouths. He tells them, "I did not speak evil of Peter behind his back, but I withstood himfrankly and openly."
Others may debate here whether an apostlemight sin. I claim that we ought not to make Peter out as faultless. Prophetshave erred. Nathan told David that he should go ahead and build the Temple ofthe Lord. But his prophecy was afterwards corrected by the Lord. The apostleserred in thinking of the Kingdom of Christ as a worldly state. Peter had heardthe command of Christ, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospelto every creature." But if it had not been for the heavenly vision andthe special command of Christ, Peter would never have gone to the home ofCornelius. Peter also erred in this matter of circumcision. If Paul had notpublicly censured him, all the believing Gentiles would have been compelled toreceive circumcision and accept the Jewish law. We are not to attributeperfection to any man.
Luke reports "that the contentionbetween Paul and Barnabas was so sharp that they departed asunder one from theother." The cause of their disagreement could hardly have been smallsince it separated these two, who had been joined together for years in a holypartnership. Such incidents are recorded for our consolation. After all, it isa comfort to know that even saints might and do sin.
Samson, David, and many other excellentmen, fell into grievous sins. Job and Jeremiah cursed the day of their birth.Elijah and Jonah became weary of life and prayed for death. Such offenses onthe part of the saints, the Scriptures record for the comfort of those who arenear despair. No person has ever sunk so low that he cannot rise again. On theother hand, no man's standing is so secure that he may not fall. If Peterfell, I may fall. If he rose again, I may rise again. We have the same giftsthat they had, the same Christ, the same baptism and the same Gospel, the sameforgiveness of sins. They needed these saving ordinances just as much as wedo.
VERSE 12.For before that certain camefrom James, he did eat with the Gentiles.
The Gentiles who had been converted tofaith in Christ, ate meats forbidden by the Law. Peter, visiting some of theseGentiles, ate meat and drank wine with them, although he knew that thesethings were forbidden in the Law. Paul declared that he did likewise, that hebecame as a Jew to the Jews, and to them that were without law, as withoutlaw. He ate and drank with the Gentiles unconcerned about the Jewish Law. Whenhe was with the Jews, however, he abstained from all things forbidden in theLaw, for he labored to serve all men, that he "might by all means savesome." Paul does not reprove Peter for transgressing the Law, but fordisguising his attitude to the Law.
VERSE 12.Butwhen they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them whichwere of the circumcision.
Paul does not accuse Peter of malice orignorance, but of lack of principle, in that he abstained from meats, becausehe feared the Jews that came from James. Peter's weak attitude endangered theprinciple of Christian liberty. It is the deduction rather than the fact whichPaul reproves. To eat and to drink, or not to eat and drink, is immaterial.But to make the deduction "If you eat, you sin; if you abstain you arerighteous"--this is wrong.
Meats may be refused for two reasons.First, they may be refused for the sake of Christian love. There is no dangerconnected with a refusal of meats for the sake of charity. To bear with theinfirmity of a brother is a good thing. Paul himself taught and exemplifiedsuch thoughtfulness. Secondly, meats may be refused in the mistaken hope ofthereby obtaining righteousness. When this is the purpose of abstaining frommeats, we say, let charity go. To refrain from meats for this latter reasonamounts to a denial of Christ. If we must lose one or the other, let us lose afriend and brother, rather than God, our Father.
Jerome, who understood not thispassage, nor the whole epistle for that matter, excuses Peter's action on theground "that it was done in ignorance." But Peter offended by givingthe impression that he was indorsing the Law. By his example he encouragedGentiles and Jews to forsake the truth of the Gospel. If Paul had not reprovedhim, there would have been a sliding back of Christians into the Jewishreligion, and a return to the burdens of the Law.
It is surprising that Peter, excellentapostle that he was, should have been guilty of such vacillation. In a formercouncil at Jerusalem he practically stood alone in defense of the truth thatsalvation is by faith, without the Law. Peter at that time valiantly defendedthe liberty of the Gospel. But now by abstaining from meats forbidden in theLaw, he went against his better judgment. You have no idea what danger thereis in customs and ceremonies. They so easily tend to error in works.
VERSE 13.Andthe other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also wascarried away with their dissimulation.
It is marvelous how God preserved theChurch by one single person. Paul alone stood up for the truth, for Barnabas,his companion, was lost to him, and Peter was against him. Sometimes one loneperson can do more in a conference than the whole assembly.
I mention this to urge all to learn howproperly to differentiate between the Law and the Gospel, in order to avoiddissembling. When it come to the article of justification we must not yield,if we want to retain the truth of the Gospel.
When the conscience is disturbed, do notseek advice from reason or from the Law, but rest your conscience in the graceof God and in His Word, and proceed as if you had never heard of the Law. TheLaw has its place and its own good time. While Moses was in the mountain wherehe talked with God face to face, he had no law, he made no law, he administered no law. But when he came down from the mountain,he was a lawgiver. The conscience must be kept above the Law, the body underthe Law.
Paul reproved Peter for no trifle, but forthe chief article of Christian doctrine, which Peter's hypocrisy hadendangered. For Barnabas and other Jews followed Peter's example. It issurprising that such good men as Peter, Barnabas, and others should fall intounexpected error, especially in a matter which they knew so well. To trust inour own strength, our own goodness, our own wisdom, is a perilous thing. Letus search the Scriptures with humility, praying that we may never lose thelight of the Gospel. "Lord, increase our faith."
VERSE 14. But whenI saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel.
No one except Paul had his eyes open.Consequently it was his duty to reprove Peter and his followers for swervingfrom the truth of the Gospel. It was no easy task for Paul to reprimand Peter.To the honor of Peter it must be said that he took the correction. No doubt,he freely acknowledged his fault.
The person who can rightly divide Law andGospel has reason to thank God. He is a true theologian. I must confess thatin times of temptation I do not always know how to do it. To divide Law andGospel means to place the Gospel in heaven, and to keep the Law on earth; tocall the righteousness of the Gospel heavenly, and the righteousness of theLaw earthly; to put as much difference between the righteousness of the Gospeland that of the Law, as there is difference between day and night. If it is aquestion of faith or conscience, ignore the Law entirely. If it is a questionof works, then lift high the lantern of works and the righteousness of theLaw. If your conscience is oppressed with a sense of sin, talk to yourconscience. Say: "You are now groveling in the dirt. You are now alaboring ass. Go ahead, and carry your burden. But why don't you mount up to heaven? There the Law cannot follow you!"Leave the ass burdened with laws behind in the valley. But your conscience,let it ascend with Isaac into the mountain.
In civil life obedience to the law isseverely required. In civil life Gospel, conscience, grace, remission of sins,Christ Himself, do not count, but only Moses with the lawbooks. If we bear inmind this distinction, neither Gospel nor Law shall trespass upon each other.The moment Law and sin cross into heaven, i.e., your conscience, kick themout. On the other hand, when grace wanders unto the earth, i.e., into thebody, tell grace: "You have no business to be around the dreg and dung ofthis bodily life. You belong in heaven."
By his compromising attitude Peter confusedthe separation of Law and Gospel. Paul had to do something about it. Hereproved Peter, not to embarrass him, but to conserve the difference betweenthe Gospel which justifies in heaven, and the Law which justifies on earth.
The right separation between Law and Gospelis very important to know. Christian doctrine is impossible without it. Letall who love and fear God, diligently learn the difference, not only in theorybut also in practice.
When your conscience gets into trouble, sayto yourself: "There is a time to die, and a time to live; a time to learnthe Law, and a time to unlearn the Law; a time to hear the Gospel, and a timeto ignore the Gospel. Let the Law now depart, and let the Gospel enter, fornow is the right time to hear the Gospel, and not the Law." However, whenthe conflict of conscience is over and external duties must be performed,close your ears to the Gospel, and open them wide to the Law.
VERSE 14. I saidunto Peter before them all, If thou being a Jew, livest after the manner ofGentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live asdo the Jews.
To live as a Jew is nothing bad. To eat or not to eat pork, what differencedoes it make? But to play the Jew, and for conscience' sake to abstain fromcertain meats, is a denial of Christ. When Paul saw that Peter's attitudetended to this, he withstood Peter and said to him: "You know that theobservance of the law is not needed unto righteousness. You know that we arejustified by faith in Christ. You know that we may eat all kinds of meats. Yetby your example you obligate the Gentiles to forsake Christ, and to return tothe Law. You give them reason to think that faith is not sufficient untosalvation."
Peter did not say so, but his example saidquite plainly that the observance of the Law must be added to faith in Christ,if men are to be saved. From Peter's example the Gentiles could not help butdraw the conclusion that the Law was necessary unto salvation. If this errorhad been permitted to pass unchallenged, Christ would have lost outaltogether.
The controversy involved the preservationof pure doctrine. In such a controversy Paul did not mind if anybody tookoffense.
VERSE 15. We whoare Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles.
"When we Jews compare ourselves withthe Gentiles, we look pretty good. We have the Law, we have good works. Ourrectitude dates from our birth, because the Jewish religion is natural to us.But all this does not make us righteous before God."
Peter and the others lived up to therequirements of the Law. They had circumcision, the covenant, the promises,the apostleship. But because of these advantages they were not to thinkthemselves righteous before God. None of these prerogatives spell faith inChrist, which alone can justify a person. We do not mean to imply that the Lawis bad. We do not condemn the Law, circumcision, etc., for their failure tojustify us. Paul spoke disparagingly of these ordinances, because the falseapostles asserted that mankind is saved by them without faith. Paul could not let thisassertion stand, for without faith all things are deadly.
VERSE 16. Knowingthat a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of JesusChrist.
For the sake of argument let us supposethat you could fulfill the Law in the spirit of the first commandment of God:"Thou shalt love the Lord, thy God, with all thy heart." It would doyou no good. A person simply is not justified by the works of the Law.
The works of the Law, according to Paul,include the whole Law, judicial, ceremonial, moral. Now, if the performance ofthe moral law cannot justify, how can circumcision justify, when circumcisionis part of the ceremonial law?
The demands of the Law may be fulfilledbefore and after justification. There were many excellent men among the pagansof old, men who never heard of justification. They lived moral lives. But thatfact did not justify them. Peter, Paul, all Christians, live up to the Law.But that fact does not justify them. For I know nothing by myself," says Paul, "yet am I not herebyjustified."(I Cor. 4:4.)
The nefarious opinion of the papists, whichattributes the merit of grace and the remission of sins to works, must here beemphatically rejected. The papists say*1that a good work performed before grace has been obtained, is able to securegrace for a person, because it is no more than right that God should reward agood deed. When grace has already been obtained, any good work deserveseverlasting life as a due payment and reward for merit. For the first, God isno debtor, they say; but because God is good and just, it is no more thanright (they say) that He should reward a good work by granting grace for the service. But when grace has already been obtained, they continue, God is inthe position of a debtor, and is in duty bound to reward a good work with thegift of eternal life. This is the wicked teaching of the papacy.
Now, if I could perform any work acceptableto God and deserving of grace, and once having obtained grace my good workswould continue to earn for me the right and reward of eternal life, why shouldI stand in need of the grace of God and the suffering and death of Christ?Christ would be of no benefit to me. Christ's mercy would be of no use to me.
This shows how little insight the pope andthe whole of his religious coterie have into spiritual matters, and how littlethey concern themselves with the spiritual health of their forlorn flocks.They cannot believe that the flesh is unable to think, speak, or do anythingexcept against God. If they could see evil rooted in the nature of man, theywould never entertain such silly dreams about man's merit or worthiness.
With Paul we absolutely deny thepossibility of self merit. God never yet gave to any person grace andeverlasting life as a reward for merit. The opinions of the papists are theintellectual pipe-dreams of idle pates, that serve no other purpose but todraw men away from the true worship of God. The papacy is founded uponhallucinations.
The true way of salvation is this. First, aperson must realize that he is a sinner, the kind of a sinner who iscongenitally unable to do any good thing. "Whatsoever is not of faith, issin." Those who seek to earn the grace of God by their own efforts aretrying to please God with sins. They mock God, and provoke His anger. Thefirst step on the way to salvation is to repent.
The second part is this. God sent Hisonly-begotten Son into the world that we may live through His merit. He wascrucified and killed for us. By sacrificing His Son for us God revealedHimself to us as a merciful Father who donates remission of sins,righteousness, and life everlasting for Christ's sake. God hands out His gifts freely unto all men. That is thepraise and glory of His mercy.
The scholastics explain the way ofsalvation in this manner. When a person happens to perform a good deed, Godaccepts it and as a reward for the good deed God pours charity into thatperson. They call it "charity infused." This charity is supposed toremain in the heart. They get wild when they are told that this quality of theheart cannot justify a person.
They also claim that we are able to loveGod by our own natural strength, to love God above all things, at least to theextent that we deserve grace. And, say the scholastics, because God is notsatisfied with a literal performance of the Law, but expects us to fulfill theLaw according to the mind of the Lawgiver, therefore we must obtain from abovea quality above nature, a quality which they call "formalrighteousness."
We say, faith apprehends Jesus Christ.Christian faith is not an inactive quality in the heart. If it is true faithit will surely take Christ for its object. Christ, apprehended by faith anddwelling in the heart, constitutes Christian righteousness, for which Godgives eternal life.
In contrast to the doting dreams of thescholastics, we teach this: First a person must learn to know himself from theLaw. With the prophet he will then confess: "All have sinned, and comeshort of the glory of God." And, "there is none that doeth good, no,not one." And, "against thee, thee only, have I sinned."
Having been humbled by the Law, and havingbeen brought to a right estimate of himself, a man will repent. He finds outthat he is so depraved, that no strength, no works, no merits of his own willever deliver him from his guilt. He will then understand the meaning of Paul'swords: "I am sold under sin"; and "they are all undersin."
At this state a person begins to lament:"Who is going to help me?" In due time comes the Word of the Gospel,and says: "Son, thy sins are forgiven thee. Believe in Jesus Christ who was crucified for your sins. Remember, your sins have been imposedupon Christ."
In this way are we delivered from sin. Inthis way are we justified and made heirs of everlasting life.
In order to have faith you must paint atrue portrait of Christ. The scholastics caricature Christ into a judge andtormentor. But Christ is no law giver. He is the Lifegiver. He is the Forgiverof sins. You must believe that Christ might have atoned for the sins of theworld with one single drop of His blood. Instead, He shed His blood abundantlyin order that He might give abundant satisfaction for our sins.
Here let me say, that these three things,faith, Christ, and imputation of righteousness, are to be joined together.Faith takes hold of Christ. God accounts this faith for righteousness.
This imputation of righteousness we needvery much, because we are far from perfect. As long as we have this body, sinwill dwell in our flesh. Then, too, we sometimes drive away the Holy Spirit;we fall into sin, like Peter, David, and other holy men. Nevertheless we mayalways take recourse to this fact, "that our sins are covered," andthat "God will not lay them to our charge." Sin is not held againstus for Christ's sake. Where Christ and faith are lacking, there is noremission or covering of sins, but only condemnation.
After we have taught faith in Christ, weteach good works. "Since you have found Christ by faith," we say,"begin now to work and do well. Love God and your neighbor. Call uponGod, give thanks unto Him, praise Him, confess Him. These are good works. Letthem flow from a cheerful heart, because you have remission of sin inChrist."
When crosses and afflictions come our way,we bear them patiently. "For Christ's yoke is easy, and His burden islight." When sin has been pardoned, and the conscience has been eased ofits dreadful load, a Christian can endure all things in Christ.
To give a short definition of a Christian: A Christian is not somebody who hasno sin, but somebody against whom God no longer chalks sin, because of hisfaith in Christ. This doctrine brings comfort to consciences in serioustrouble. When a person is a Christian he is above law and sin. When the Lawaccuses him, and sin wants to drive the wits out of him, a Christian looks toChrist. A Christian is free. He has no master except Christ. A Christian isgreater than the whole world.
VERSE 16. Even wehave believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified.
The true way of becoming a Christian is tobe justified by faith in Jesus Christ, and not by the works of the Law.
We know that we must also teach good works,but they must be taught in their proper turn, when the discussion isconcerning works and not the article of justification.
Here the question arises by what means arewe justified? We answer with Paul, "By faith only in Christ are wepronounced righteous, and not by works." Not that we reject good works.Far from it. But we will not allow ourselves to be removed from the anchorageof our salvation.
The Law is a good thing. But when thediscussion is about justification, then is no time to drag in the Law. When wediscuss justification we ought to speak of Christ and the benefits He hasbrought us.
Christ is no sheriff. He is "the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world."(John 1:29.)
VERSE 16. That wemight be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the Law.
We do not mean to say that the Law is bad.Only it is not able to justify us. To be at peace with God, we have need of afar better mediator than Moses or the Law. We must know that we are nothing.We must understand that we are merely beneficiaries and recipients of thetreasures of Christ.
So far, the words of Paul were addressed to Peter. Now Paul turns to theGalatians and makes this summary statement:
VERSE 16. For bythe works of the law shall no flesh be justified.
By the term "flesh" Paul does notunderstand manifest vices. Such sins he usually calls by their proper names,as adultery, fornication, etc. By "flesh" Paul understands whatJesus meant in the third chapter of John, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh".(John 3:6.) "Flesh" here means the whole nature of man, inclusive ofreason and instincts. "This flesh," says Paul, "is notjustified by the works of the law."
The papists do not believe this. They say,"A person who performs this good deed or that, deserves the forgivenessof his sins. A person who joins this or that holy order, has the promise ofeverlasting life."
To me it is a miracle that the Church, solong surrounded by vicious sects, has been able to survive at all. God musthave been able to call a few who in their failure to discover any good inthemselves to cite against the wrath and judgment of God, simply took to thesuffering and death of Christ, and were saved by this simple faith.
Nevertheless God has punished the contemptof the Gospel and of Christ on the part of the papists, by turning them overto a reprobate state of mind in which they reject the Gospel, and receive withgusto the abominable rules, ordinances, and traditions of men in preference tothe Word of God, until they went so far as to forbid marriage. God punishedthem justly, because they blasphemed the only Son of God.
This is, then, our general conclusion:"By the works of the law shall no flesh be justified."
VERSE 17.Butif, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are foundsinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid.
Either we are not justified by Christ, or we are not justified by the Law. Thefact is, we are justified by Christ. Hence, we are not justified by the Law.If we observe the Law in order to be justified, or after having been justifiedby Christ, we think we must further be justified by the Law, we convert Christinto a legislator and a minister of sin.
"What are these false apostlesdoing?" Paul cries. "They are turning Law into grace, and grace intoLaw. They are changing Moses into Christ, and Christ into Moses. By teachingthat besides Christ and His righteousness the performance of the Law isnecessary unto salvation, they put the Law in the place of Christ, theyattribute to the Law the power to save, a power that belongs to Christonly."
The papists quote the words of Christ: "If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments."(Matt. 19:17.) With His own words they deny Christ and abolish faith in Him.Christ is made to lose His good name, His office, and His glory, and isdemoted to the status of a law enforcer, reproving, terrifying, and chasingpoor sinners around.
The proper office of Christ is to raise thesinner, and extricate him from his sins.
Papists and Anabaptists deride us becausewe so earnestly require faith. "Faith," they say, "makes menreckless." What do these law-workers know about faith, when they are sobusy calling people back from baptism, from faith, from the promises of Christto the Law?
With their doctrine these lying sects ofperdition deface the benefits of Christ to this day. They rob Christ of Hisglory as the Justifier of mankind and cast Him into the role of a minister ofsin. They are like the false apostles. There is not a single one among themwho knows the difference between law and grace.
We can tell the difference. We do not hereand now argue whether we ought to do good works, or whether the Law is anygood, or whether the Law ought to be kept at all. We will discuss these questions some other time. We are now concernedwith justification. Our opponents refuse to make this distinction. All theycan do is to bellow that good works ought to be done. We know that. We knowthat good works ought to be done, but we will talk about that when the propertime comes. Now we are dealing with justification, and here good works shouldnot be so much as mentioned.
Paul's argument has often comforted me. Heargues: "If we who have been justified by Christ are counted unrighteous,why seek justification in Christ at all? If we are justified by the Law, tellme, what has Christ achieved by His death, by His preaching, by His victoryover sin and death? Either we are justified by Christ, or we are made worsesinners by Him."
The Sacred Scriptures, particularly thoseof the New Testament, make frequent mention of faith in Christ."Whosoever believeth in him is saved, shall not perish, shall haveeverlasting life, is not judged," etc. In open contradiction to theScriptures, our opponents misquote, "He that believeth in Christ iscondemned, because he has faith without works." Our opponents turneverything topsy-turvy. They make Christ over into a murderer, and Moses intoa savior. Is not this horrible blasphemy?
VERSE 17.Istherefore Christ the minister of sin?
This is Hebrew phraseology, also used byPaul in II Corinthians, chapter 3. There Paul speaks of two ministers: Theminister of the letter, and the minister of the spirit; the minister of theLaw, and the minister of grace; the minister of death, and the minister oflife. "Moses," says Paul, "is the minister of the Law, of sin,wrath, death, and condemnation."
Whoever teaches that good works areindispensable unto salvation, that to gain heaven a person must sufferafflictions and follow the example of Christ and of the saints, is a ministerof the Law, of sin, wrath, and of death, for the conscience knows howimpossible it is for a person to fulfill the Law. Why, the Law makes trouble even for those whohave the Holy Spirit. What will not the Law do in the case of the wicked whodo not even have the Holy Spirit?
The Law requires perfect obedience. Itcondemns all do not accomplish the will of God. But show me a person who isable to render perfect obedience. The Law cannot justify. It can only condemnaccording to the passage: "Cursed is every one that continueth not in allthings which are written in the book of the law to do them."
Paul has good reason for calling theminister of the Law the minister of sin, for the Law reveals our sinfulness.The realization of sin in turn frightens the heart and drives it to despair.Therefore all exponents of the Law and of works deserve to be called tyrantsand oppressors.
The purpose of the Law is to reveal sin.That this is the purpose of the Law can be seen from the account of the givingof the Law as reported in the nineteenth and twentieth chapters of Exodus.Moses brought the people out of their tents to have God speak to thempersonally from a cloud. But the people trembled with fear, fled, and standingaloof they begged Moses: "Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but letnot God speak with us, lest we die." The proper office of the Law is tolead us out of our tents, in other words, out of the security of ourself-trust, into the presence of God, that we may perceive His anger at oursinfulness.
All who say that faith alone in Christ doesnot justify a person, convert Christ into a minister of sin, a teacher of theLaw, and a cruel tyrant who requires the impossible. All merit-seekers takeChrist for a new lawgiver.
In conclusion, if the Law is the ministerof sin, it is at the same time the minister of wrath and death. As the Lawreveals sin it fills a person with the fear of death and condemnation.Eventually the conscience wakes up to the fact that God is angry. If God isangry with you, He will destroy and condemn you forever. Unable to stand the thought of the wrath and judgment of God, many a person commits suicide.
Christ is not the minister of sin, but theDispenser of righteousness and the Giver of life. Christ is Lord over law, sinand death. All who believe in Him are delivered from law, sin and death.
The Law drives us away from God, but Christreconciles God unto us, for "He is the Lamb of God, that taketh away thesins of the world." Now if the sin of the world is taken away, it istaken away from me. If sin is taken away, the wrath of God and Hiscondemnation are also taken away. Let us practice this blessed conviction.
VERSE 18.Forif I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor.
"I have not preached to the end that Ibuild again the things which I destroyed. If I should do so, I would not onlybe laboring in vain, but I would make myself guilty of a great wrong. By theministry of the Gospel I have destroyed sin, heaviness of heart, wrath, anddeath. I have abolished the Law, so that it should not bother your conscienceany more. Should I now once again establish the Law, and set up the rule ofMoses? This is exactly what I should be doing, if I would urge circumcisionand the performance of the Law as necessary unto salvation. Instead ofrighteousness and life, I would restore sin and death."
By the grace of God we know that we arejustified through faith in Christ alone. We do not mingle law and grace, faithand works. We keep them far apart. Let every true Christian mark thedistinction between law and grace, and mark it well.
We must not drag good works into thearticle of justification as the monks do who maintain that not only goodworks, but also the punishment which evildoers suffer for their wicked deeds,deserve everlasting life. When a criminal is brought to the place ofexecution, the monks try to comfort him in this manner: "You want to diewillingly and patiently, and then you will merit remission of your sins and eternallife." What cruelty is this, that a wretched thief, murderer, robbershould be so miserably misguided in his extreme distress, that at the verypoint of death he should be denied the sweet promises of Christ, and directedto hope for pardon of his sins in the willingness and patience with which heis about to suffer death for his crimes? The monks are showing him the pavedway to hell.
These hypocrites do not know the firstthing about grace, the Gospel, or Christ. They retain the appearance and thename of the Gospel and of Christ for a decoy only. In their confessionalwritings faith or the merit of Christ are never mentioned. In their writingsthey play up the merits of man, as can readily be seen from the following formof absolution used among the monks.
True, the merit of Christ is mentioned inthis formula of absolution. But if you look closer you will notice thatChrist's merit is belittled, while monkish merits are aggrandized. Theyconfess Christ with their lips, and at the same time deny His power to save. Imyself was at one time entangled in this error. I thought Christ was a judgeand had to be pacified by a strict adherence to the rules of my order. But nowI give thanks unto God, the Father of all mercies, who has called me out ofdarkness into the light of His glorious Gospel, and has granted unto me thesaving knowledge of Christ Jesus, my Lord.
We conclude with Paul, that we arejustified by faith in Christ, without the Law. Once a person has beenjustified by Christ, he will not be unproductive of good, but as a good tree he willbring forth good fruit. A believer has the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spiritwill not permit a person to remain idle, but will put him to work and stir himup to the love of God, to patient suffering in affliction, to prayer,thanksgiving, to the habit of charity towards all men.
VERSE 19.ForI through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God.
This cheering form of speech is frequentlymet with in the Scriptures, particularly in the writings of St. Paul, when theLaw is set against the Law, and sin is made to oppose sin, and death isarrayed against death, and hell is turned loose against hell, as in thefollowing quotations: "Thou hast led captivity captive,"Psalm 68:18. "O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thydestruction,"Hosea 13:14. "And for sin, condemned sin in the flesh,"Romans 8:3.
Here Paul plays the Law against the Law, asif to say: "The Law of Moses condemns me; but I have another law, the lawof grace and liberty which condemns the accusing Law of Moses."
On first sight Paul seems to be advancing astrange and ugly heresy. He says, "I am dead to the law, that I mightlive unto God." The false apostles said the very opposite. They said,"If you do not live to the law, you are dead unto God."
The doctrine of our opponents is similar tothat of the false apostles in Paul's day. Our opponents teach, "If youwant to live unto God, you must live after the Law, for it is written, Do thisand thou shalt live." Paul, on the other hand, teaches, "We cannotlive unto God unless we are dead unto the Law." If we are dead unto theLaw, the Law can have no power over us.
Paul does not only refer to the CeremonialLaw, but to the whole Law. We are not to think that the Law is wiped out. Itstays. It continues to operate in the wicked. But a Christian is dead to the Law. For example, Christ by His resurrection becamefree from the grave, and yet the grave remains. Peter was delivered fromprison, yet the prison remains. The Law is abolished as far as I am concerned,when it has driven me into the arms of Christ. Yet the Law continues to existand to function. But it no longer exists for me.
"I have nothing to do with theLaw," cries Paul. He could not have uttered anything more devastating tothe prestige of the Law. He declares that he does not care for the Law, thathe does not intend ever to be justified by the Law.
To be dead to the Law means to be free ofthe Law. What right, then, has the Law to accuse me, or to hold anythingagainst me? When you see a person squirming in the clutches of the Law, say tohim: "Brother, get things straight. You let the Law talk to yourconscience. Make it talk to your flesh. Wake up, and believe in Jesus Christ,the Conqueror of Law and sin. Faith in Christ will lift you high above the Lawinto the heaven of grace. Though Law and sin remain, they no longer concernyou, because you are dead to the Law and dead to sin."
Blessed is the person who knows how to usethis truth in times of distress. He can talk. He can say: "Mr. Law, goahead and accuse me as much as you like. I know I have committed many sins,and I continue to sin daily. But that does not bother me. You have got toshout louder, Mr. Law. I am deaf, you know. Talk as much as you like, I amdead to you. If you want to talk to me about my sins, go and talk to my flesh.Belabor that, but don't talk to my conscience. My conscience is a lady and aqueen, and has nothing to do with the likes of you, because my consciencelives to Christ under another law, a new and better law, the law ofgrace."
We have two propositions: To live unto theLaw, is to die unto God. To die unto the Law, is to live unto God. These twopropositions go against reason. No law-worker can ever understand them. Butsee to it that you understand them. The Law can never justify and save a sinner. The Law can only accuse,terrify, and kill him. Therefore to live unto the Law is to die unto God. Viceversa, to die unto the Law is to live unto God. If you want to live unto God,bury the Law, and find life through faith in Christ Jesus.
We have enough arguments right here toconclude that justification is by faith alone. How can the Law effect ourjustification, when Paul so plainly states that we must be dead to the Law ifwe want to live unto God? If we are dead to the Law and the Law is dead to us,how can it possibly contribute anything to our justification? There is nothingleft for us but to be justified by faith alone.
This nineteenth verse is loaded withconsolation. It fortifies a person against every danger. It allows you toargue like this:
"I confess I havesinned."
"Then God will punish you."
"No, He will not do that."
"Why not? Does not the Law say so?"
"I have nothing to do with the Law."
"I have another law, the law of liberty."
"What do you mean--'liberty'?"
"The liberty of Christ, for Christ has made me free from the Law thatheld me down. That Law is now in prison itself, held captive by grace andliberty."
By faith in Christ a person may gain suchsure and sound comfort, that he need not fear the devil, sin, death, or anyevil. "Sir Devil," he may say, "I am not afraid of you. I havea Friend whose name is Jesus Christ, in whom I believe. He has abolished theLaw, condemned sin, vanquished death, and destroyed hell for me. He is biggerthan you, Satan. He has licked you, and holds you down. You cannot hurtme." This is the faith that overcomes the devil.
Paul manhandles the Law. He treats the Lawas if it were a thief and a robber He treats the Law as contemptible to the conscience, in order that those who believe in Christ may take courageto defy the Law, and say: "Mr. Law, I am a sinner. What are you going todo about it?"
Or take death. Christ is risen from death.Why should we now fear the grave? Against my death I set another death, orrather life, my life in Christ.
Oh, the sweet names of Jesus! He is calledmy law against the Law, my sin against sin, my death against death.Translated, it means that He is my righteousness, my life, my everlastingsalvation. For this reason was He made the law of the Law, the sin of sin, thedeath of death, that He might redeem me from the curse of the Law. Hepermitted the Law to accuse Him, sin to condemn Him, and death to take Him, toabolish the Law, to condemn sin, and to destroy death for me.
This peculiar form of speech sounds muchsweeter than if Paul had said: "I through liberty am dead to thelaw." By putting it in this way, "I through the law am dead to thelaw," he opposes one law with another law, and has them fight it out.
In this masterly fashion Paul draws ourattention away from the Law, sin, death, and every evil, and centers it uponChrist.
VERSE 20.Iam crucified with Christ.
Christ is Lord over the Law, because He wascrucified unto the Law. I also am lord over the Law, because by faith I amcrucified with Christ.
Paul does not here speak of crucifying theflesh, but he speaks of that higher crucifying wherein sin, devil, and deathare crucified in Christ and in me. By my faith in Christ I am crucified withChrist. Hence these evils are crucified and dead unto me.
VERSE 20.NeverthelessI live.
"I do not mean to create theimpression as though I did not live before this. But in reality I first livenow, now that I have been delivered from the Law, from sin, and death. Being crucified with Christ and dead unto the Law, I may now rise untoa new and better life."
We must pay close attention to Paul's wayof speaking. He says that we are crucified and dead unto the Law. The fact is,the Law is crucified and dead unto us. Paul purposely speaks that way in orderto increase the portion of our comfort.
VERSE 20.Yetnot I.
Paul explains what constitutes trueChristian righteousness. True Christian righteousness is the righteousness ofChrist who lives in us. We must look away from our own person. Christ and myconscience must become one, so that I can see nothing else but Christcrucified and raised from the dead for me. If I keep on looking at myself, Iam gone.
If we lose sight of Christ and begin toconsider our past, we simply go to pieces. We must turn our eyes to the brazenserpent, Christ crucified, and believe with all our heart that He is ourrighteousness and our life. For Christ, on whom our eyes are fixed, in whom welive, who lives in us, is Lord over Law, sin, death, and all evil.
VERSE 20.ButChrist liveth in me.
"Thus I live," the Apostle startsout. But presently he corrects himself, saying, "Yet not I, but Christliveth in me." He is the form of my perfection. He embellishes my faith.
Since Christ is now living in me, Heabolishes the Law, condemns sin, and destroys death in me. These foes vanishin His presence. Christ abiding in me drives out every evil. This union withChrist delivers me from the demands of the Law, and separates me from mysinful self. As long as I abide in Christ, nothing can hurt me.
Christ domiciling in me, the old Adam hasto stay outside and remain subject to the Law. Think what grace,righteousness, life, peace, and salvation there is in me, thanks to thatinseparable conjunction between Christ and me through faith!
Paul has a peculiar style, a celestial way of speaking. "I live," hesays, "I live not; I am dead, I am not dead; I am a sinner, I am not asinner; I have the Law, I have no Law." When we look at ourselves we findplenty of sin. But when we look at Christ, we have no sin. Whenever weseparate the person of Christ from our own person, we live under the Law andnot in Christ; we are condemned by the Law, dead before God.
Faith connects you so intimately withChrist, that He and you become as it were one person. As such you may boldlysay: "I am now one with Christ. Therefore Christ's righteousness,victory, and life are mine." On the other hand, Christ may say: "Iam that big sinner. His sins and his death are mine, because he is joined tome, and I to him."
Whenever remission of sins is freelyproclaimed, people misinterpret it according to Romans 3:8, "Let us do evil, that good may come."As soon as people hear that we are not justified by the Law, they reasonmaliciously: "Why, then let us reject the Law. If grace abounds, wheresin abounds, let us abound in sin, that grace may all the more abound."People who reason thus are reckless. They make sport of the Scriptures andslander the sayings of the Holy Ghost.
However, there are others who are notmalicious, only weak, who may take offense when told that Law and good worksare unnecessary for salvation. These must be instructed as to why good worksdo not justify, and from what motives good works must be done. Good works arenot the cause, but the fruit of righteousness. When we have become righteous,then first are we able and willing to do good. The tree makes the apple; theapple does not make the tree.
VERSE 20.Andthe life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God.
Paul does not deny the fact that he isliving in the flesh. He performs the natural functions of the flesh. But he says that this is not his real life. His life in the flesh is not a lifeafter the flesh.
"I live by the faith of the Son ofGod," he says. "My speech is no longer directed by the flesh, but bythe Holy Ghost. My sight is no longer governed by the flesh, but by the HolyGhost. My hearing is no longer determined by the flesh, but by the Holy Ghost.I cannot teach, write, pray, or give thanks without the instrumentality of theflesh; yet these activities do not proceed from the flesh, but from God."
A Christian uses earthly means like anyunbeliever. Outwardly they look alike. Nevertheless there is a greatdifference between them. I may live in the flesh, but I do not live after theflesh. I do my living now "by the faith of the Son of God." Paul hadthe same voice, the same tongue, before and after his conversion. Before hisconversion his tongue uttered blasphemies. But after his conversion his tonguespoke a spiritual, heavenly language.
We may now understand how spiritual lifeoriginates. It enters the heart by faith. Christ reigns in the heart with HisHoly Spirit, who sees, hears, speaks, works, suffers, and does all things inand through us over the protest and the resistance of the flesh.
VERSE 20.Wholoved me, and gave himself for me.
The sophistical papists assert that aperson is able by natural strength to love God long before grace has enteredhis heart, and to perform works of real merit. They believe they are able tofulfill the commandments of God. They believe they are able to do more thanGod expects of them, so that they are in a position to sell their superfluousmerits to laymen, thereby saving themselves and others. They are savingnobody. On the contrary, they abolish the Gospel, they deride, deny, andblaspheme Christ, and call upon themselves the wrath of God. This is what theyget for living in their own righteousness, and not in the faith of the Son ofGod.
The papists will tell you to do the best you can, and God will give you Hisgrace. They have a rhyme for it:
scripRefScripRefThis may hold true inordinary civic life. But the papists apply it to the spiritual realm where aperson can perform nothing but sin, because he is sold under sin.
Our opponents go even further than that.They say, nature is depraved, but the qualities of nature are untainted. Againwe say: This may hold true in everyday life, but not in the spiritual life. Inspiritual matters a person is by nature full of darkness, error, ignorance,malice, and perverseness in will and in mind.
In view of this, Paul declares that Christbegan and not we. "He loved me, and gave Himself for me. He found in meno right mind and no good will. But the good Lord had mercy upon me. Out ofpure kindness He loved me, loved me so that He gave Himself for me, that Ishould be free from the Law, from sin, devil, and death."
The words, "The Son of God who lovedme, and gave Himself for me," are so many thunderclaps and lightningbolts of protest from heaven against the righteousness of the Law. Thewickedness, error, darkness, ignorance in my mind and my will were so great,that it was quite impossible for me to be saved by any other means than by theinestimable price of Christ's death.
Let us count the price. When you hear thatsuch an enormous price was paid for you, will you still come along with yourcowl, your shaven pate, your chastity, your obedience, your poverty, yourworks, your merits? What do you want with all these trappings? What good arethe works of all men, and all the pains of the martyrs, in comparison with thepains of the Son of God dying on the Cross, so that there was not a drop ofHis precious blood, but it was all shed for your sins. If you could properlyevaluate this incomparable price, you would throw all your ceremonies, vows,works, and merits into the ash can. What awful presumption to imagine thatthere is any work good enough to pacify God, when to pacify God required the invaluable price ofthe death and blood of His own and only Son?
Who is this "me"? I, wretched anddamnable sinner, dearly beloved of the Son of God. If I could by work or meritlove the Son of God and come to Him, why should He have sacrificed Himself forme ? This shows how the papists ignore the Scriptures, particularly thedoctrine of faith. If they had paid any attention at all to these words, thatit was absolutely necessary for the Son of God to be given into death for me,they would never have invented so many hideous heresies.
I always say, there is no remedy againstthe sects, no power to resist them, except this article of Christianrighteousness. If we lose this article we shall never be able to combat errorsor sects. What business have they to make such a fuss about works or merits?If I, a condemned sinner, could have been purchased and redeemed by any otherprice, why should the Son of God have given Himself for me? Just because therewas no other price in heaven and on earth big and good enough, was itnecessary for the Son of God to be delivered for me. This He did out of Hisgreat love for me, for the Apostle says, "Who loved me."
Did the Law ever love me? Did the Law eversacrifice itself for me? Did the Law ever die for me? On the contrary, itaccuses me, it frightens me, it drives me crazy. Somebody else saved me fromthe Law, from sin and death unto eternal life. That Somebody is the Son ofGod, to whom be praise and glory forever.
Hence, Christ is no Moses, no tyrant, nolawgiver, but the Giver of grace, the Savior, full of mercy. In short, He isno less than infinite mercy and ineffable goodness, bountifully giving Himselffor us. Visualize Christ in these His true colors. I do not say that it iseasy. Even in the present diffusion of the Gospel light, I have much troubleto see Christ as Paul portrays Him. So deeply has the diseased opinion thatChrist is a lawgiver sunk into my bones. You younger men are a good dealbetter off than we who are old. You have never become infected with thenefarious errors on which I suckled all my youth, until at the mention of thename of Christ I shivered with fear. You, I say, who are young may learn toknow Christ in all His sweetness.
For Christ is Joy and Sweetness to a brokenheart. Christ is a Lover of poor sinners, and such a Lover that He gaveHimself for us. Now if this is true, and it is true, then are we neverjustified by our own righteousness.
Read the words "me" and "forme" with great emphasis. Print this "me" with capital lettersin your heart, and do not ever doubt that you belong to the number of thosewho are meant by this "me." Christ did not only love Peter and Paul.The same love He felt for them He feels for us. If we cannot deny that we aresinners, we cannot deny that Christ died for our sins.
VERSE 21.Ido not frustrate the grace of God.
Paul is now getting ready for the secondargument of his Epistle, to the effect that to seek justification by works ofthe Law, is to reject the grace of God. I ask you, what sin can be morehorrible than to reject the grace of God, and to refuse the righteousness ofChrist? It is bad enough that we are wicked sinners and transgressors of allthe commandments of God; on top of that to refuse the grace of God and theremission of sins offered unto us by Christ, is the worst sin of all, the sinof sins. That is the limit. There is no sin which Paul and the other apostlesdetested more than when a person despises the grace of God in Christ Jesus.Still there is no sin more common. That is why Paul can get so angry at theAntichrist, because he snubs Christ, rebuffs the grace of God, and refuses themerit of Christ. What else would you call it but spitting in Christ's face,pushing Christ to the side, usurping Christ's throne, and to say: "I amgoing to justify you people; I am going to save you." By what means? By masses, pilgrimages,pardons, merits, etc. For this is Antichrist's doctrine: Faith is no good,unless it is reinforced by works. By this abominable doctrine Antichrist hasspoiled, darkened, and buried the benefit of Christ, and in place of the graceof Christ and His Kingdom, he has established the doctrine of works and thekingdom of ceremonies.
We despise the grace of God when we observethe Law for the purpose of being justified. The Law is good, holy, andprofitable, but it does not justify. To keep the Law in order to be justifiedmeans to reject grace, to deny Christ, to despise His sacrifice, and to belost.
VERSE 21.Forif righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.
Did Christ die, or did He not die? Was Hisdeath worth while, or was it not? If His death was worth while, it followsthat righteousness does not come by the Law. Why was Christ born anyway? Whywas He crucified? Why did He suffer? Why did He love me and give Himself forme? It was all done to no purpose if righteousness is to be had by the Law.
Or do you think that God spared not HisSon, but delivered Him for us all, for the fun of it? Before I would admitanything like that, I would consign the holiness of the saints and of theangels to hell.
To reject the grace of God is a common sin,of which everybody is guilty who sees any righteousness in himself or in hisdeeds. And the Pope is the sole author of this iniquity. Not content to spoilthe Gospel of Christ, he has filled the world with his cursed traditions,e.g., his bulls and indulgences.
We will always affirm with Paul that eitherChrist died in vain, or else the Law cannot justify us. But Christ did notsuffer and die in vain. Hence, the Law does not justify.
If my salvation was so difficult toaccomplish that it necessitated the death of Christ, then all my works, allthe righteousness of the Law, are good for nothing. How can I buy for a penny what cost a million dollars? The Law is a penny's worth whenyou compare it with Christ. Should I be so stupid as to reject therighteousness of Christ which cost me nothing, and slave like a fool toachieve the righteousness of the Law which God disdains?
Man's own righteousness is in the lastanalysis a despising and rejecting of the grace of God. No combination ofwords can do justice to such an outrage. It is an insult to say that any mandied in vain. But to say that Christ died in vain is a deadly insult. To saythat Christ died in vain is to make His resurrection, His victory, His glory,His kingdom, heaven, earth, God Himself, of no purpose and benefit whatever.
That is enough to set any person againstthe righteousness of the Law and all the trimmings of men's own righteousness,the orders of monks and friars, and their superstitions.
Who would not detest his own vows, hiscowls, his shaven crown, his bearded traditions, yes, the very Law of Moses,when he hears that for such things he rejected the grace of God and the deathof Christ. It seems that such a horrible wickedness could not enter a man'sheart, that he should reject the grace of God, and despise the death ofChrist. And yet this atrocity is all too common. Let us be warned. Everyonewho seeks righteousness without Christ, either by works, merits,satisfactions, actions, or by the Law, rejects the grace of God, and despisesthe death of Christ.
1* Luther hereaccurately outlines the Roman doctrine of grace de congruo and decondigno.