SUMMARY.--Paul's Later Journey to Jerusalem. The Object of the Visit, Titus with Him, but Uncircumcised. Peter, James and John Apostles to the Circumcision; Paul and Barnabas to the Uncircumcision. The Right Hand of Fellowship. The Rebuke of Peter at Antioch. Justified by Faith in Christ; Not by Works of the Law.
NOTE--In order to understand this epistle and parts of others, the reader must keep in mind the two great divisions of apostolic Christianity, the Jew and the Gentile. Of the Jewish, Peter, James and John were leaders; of the Gentile, Paul and Barnabas. These leaders were in full harmony, but the two sections of the church were not equally harmonious. The Jewish Christians, as a rule, still kept the Jewish law, and hoped for the conversion of the whole Jewish nation, until the destruction of Jerusalem; one extreme wing of them insisted that the Gentiles should keep the Jewish law, also. It is with this wing that Paul comes in conflict. Here in this chapter , and also in Acts 15 , we have accounts of the conflict. After Jerusalem was destroyed, the temple in ruins, and the church removed elsewhere, the Jewish Christians gradually gave up the Jewish law, and the two divisions welded into one body in which there was neither Jew nor Gentile, but all one in Christ.
11-14. But when Peter came to Antioch. It is not certainly known when this event occurred, but probably not far from A. D. 51. Paul narrates it to show that Peter had no superiority over him, as the Judaizers claimed, and as the Romanists still assert. Peter did a wrong thing, and Paul rebuked him for it. 12. Before certain came from James. Men sent from Jerusalem by James, who stood now at the head of that church. He did eat with Gentiles. See Acts 11:3 . Peter had no scruples about eating with Gentile Christians, but many of the Jewish Christians did. Hence he did before the messengers came from James what he refused to do after they came, "separating himself" from the Gentile Christians at Antioch. 13. And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him. The other Jewish Christians at Antioch. To change their course thus, because of fear of these men from Jerusalem, was to dissemble. Even Barnabas, Paul's long-time companion in labor, was infected. 14. But when I saw. It was time to act decisively. Antioch was a great center. It was important that no wrong influences go forth from that center. Hence Paul administered the stern rebuke to Peter which follows. Before them all. The rebuke was on a public occasion. If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles. He had, right there in Antioch, lived with the Gentile Christians according to their customs ( verse 12 ). Why compellest thou the Gentiles, etc. Now, he insisted, at least by his example, that the Gentile Christians should become Jews. He virtually refused to fellowship them.
15-21. We. You and I. Both Paul and Peter were Jews by birth, and not Gentiles sinners. As Jews were wont to call the Gentile heathen. 16. Knowing. There were certain facts that both of them knew. One of them was that men were justified (that is, forgiven) not by the works of the law (of Moses), but by the faith of Jesus Christ; that is, by the gospel. Both had believed on Christ in order that they might be justified. For by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. This passage, quoted in Rom. 3:20 , is found in Psalm 143:2 . 17. But if . . . we were found sinners. We, Paul and Peter. We came to Christ for justification, because the gospel revealed to us that we were sinners, though professing to keep the law of Moses. Is therefore Christ the minister of sin? Did Christ make us Jews sinners? No, but when the knowledge of the gospel comes, they find that they are and have been sinners like the Gentiles. Christ only reveals to them their sinful state. 18. If I build up again the things which I destroyed. Go back from Christ to Moses, and teach others to do the same. I make myself a transgressor. For thus I teach men to trust in the works of the law which cannot justify. 19. For I through the law am dead to the law. Compare Rom. 7:4-6 , and see notes there; also Col. 2:20. When the knowledge of Christ came, and he saw his faulty obedience to the law, he realized that he was dead in sin, slain by the law. But having died, he was freed from the law, when he became a new creature in Christ. 20. I have been crucified with Christ. By faith Paul was crucified at his conversion, crucified in the flesh, died to the old life with Christ. Now he lives, or rather, Christ liveth in him. The old life is laid aside, and the new life is a Christlike life, due to the spirit of Christ. He is now merged in Christ. Live by faith. Faith is the bond that binds him to Christ and enables him to live the new life. 21. I do not frustrate the grace of God. He would do so, if he went back to the Jewish law, and trusted in it. If it gave righteousness, then the gospel was not needed, and Christ died in vain.
NOTE--The account in this chapter of Paul's visit to Jerusalem, and of his controversy with Peter, is utterly inconsistent with the Romish doctrine of the supremacy of Peter. No Pope could or would allow a bishop or cardinal to "rebuke him openly," as Paul did Peter. So, too, the reference of the controversy in Acts 15 , to "the apostles and elders," instead of to Peter, and the final judgment of James, which was received, contradict the Vatican system. Indeed, the doctrine of popedom is utterly inconsistent with the whole tenor of the Acts, and the Pauline Epistles. . . . This meeting at Antioch is the last between Peter and Paul of which the New Testament gives record. Early church tradition, however, reports that they met once in Rome, where they were tried and condemned on the same day, and then parted, Peter to be crucified on the hill of the Janiculum, and Paul, the Roman citizen, to be beheaded at the Three Fountains on the Ostian Way. Could we rely upon this tradition it would seem fitting that the two greatest apostles, of the Circumcision and of the Uncircumcision, should lay down their burdens together and go side by side to report their work to their common Lord.