Galatians 2


The apostle mentions his journey to Jerusalem with Barnabas and

Titus, 1.

Shows that he went thither by revelation; and what he did while

there, and the persons with whom he had intercourse, 2-8.

How the apostles gave him the right hand of fellowship, 9, 10.

Here he opposes Peter at Antioch, and the reason why, 11-14.

Shows that the Jews as well as the Gentiles must be justified by

faith, 15, 16.

They who seek this justification should act with consistency,

17, 18.

Gives his own religious experience, and shows, that through the

law he was dead to the law, and crucified with Christ, 19, 20.

Justification is not of the law, but by the faith of Christ, 21.


Verse 1. Then fourteen years after] There is a considerable

difference among critics concerning the time specified in this

verse; the apostle is however generally supposed to refer to the

journey he took to Jerusalem, about the question of circumcision,

mentioned in Ac 15:4-5, &c. These years, says Dr. Whitby, must be

reckoned from the time of his conversion, mentioned here Ga 1:18,

which took place A.D. 35 (33;) his journey to Peter was A.D. 38

(36,) and then between that and the council of Jerusalem,

assembled A.D. 49 (52,) will be fourteen intervening years. The

dates in brackets are according to the chronology which I follow

in the Acts of the Apostles. Dr. Whitby has some objections

against this chronology, which may be seen in his notes.

Others contend that the journey of which the apostle speaks is

that mentioned Ac 11:27, &c., when Barnabas and Saul were sent by

the Church of Antioch with relief to the poor Christians in Judea;

there being at that time a great dearth in that land. St. Luke's

not mentioning Titus in that journey is no valid objection against

it: for he does not mention him in any part of his history, this

being the first place in which his name occurs. And it does seem

as if St. Paul did intend purposely to supply that defect, by his

saying, I went up with Barnabas, and took Titus with me also. The

former St. Luke relates, Ac 11:30; the latter St. Paul supplies.

Verse 2. I went up by revelation] This either means, that he

went up at that time by an express revelation from God that it was

his duty to do so, made either to the Church of Antioch to send

these persons to Jerusalem, or to these persons to go according to

the directions of that Church; or the apostle here wishes to say,

that, having received the Gospel by revelation from God, to preach

Christ among the Gentiles, he went up according to that

revelation, and told what God had done by him among the Gentiles:

or it may refer to the revelation made to certain prophets who

came to Antioch, and particularly Agabus, who signified by the

Spirit that there would be a dearth; in consequence of which the

disciples purposed to send relief to their poor brethren at

Jerusalem. See Ac 11:27-30.

But privately to them which were of reputation] τοιςδοκουσι.

To the chief men; those who were highest in reputation among the

apostles. δοκουντες, according to Hesychius, is οιενδοξοι,

the honourable. With these the apostle intimates that he had some

private conferences.

Lest by any means] And he held these private conferences with

those more eminent men, to give them information how, in

consequence of his Divine call, he had preached the Gospel to the

Gentiles, and the great good which God had wrought by his

ministry; but they, not knowing the nature and end of his call,

might be led to suppose he had acted wrong, and thus laboured in

vain; and that, if he still continued to act thus, he should

labour in vain. It was necessary, therefore, that he should give

the apostolic council the fullest information that he had acted

according to the Divine mind in every respect, and had been

blessed in his deed.

Verse 3. But neither Titus, who was with me] The apostle

proceeds to state that his account was so satisfactory to the

apostles, that they not only did not require him to insist on the

necessity of circumcision among the Gentiles, but did not even

require him to have Titus, who was a Greek, circumcised; though

that might have appeared expedient, especially at Jerusalem, to

have prevented false brethren from making a handle of his

uncircumcision, and turning it to the prejudice of the Gospel in


To spy out our liberty] The Judaizing brethren got introduced

into the assembly of the apostles, in order to find out what was

implied in the liberty of the Gospel, that they might know the

better how to oppose St. Paul and his fellows in their preaching

Christ to the Gentiles, and admitting them into the Church without

obliging them to observe circumcision and keep the law. The

apostle saw that while such men were in the assembly it was better

not to mention his mission among the Gentiles, lest, by means of

those false brethren, occasion should be given to altercations and

disputes; therefore he took the opportunity, by private

conferences, to set the whole matter, relative to his work among

the Gentiles, before the chief of the apostles.

Verse 5. To whom we gave place by subjection] So fully

satisfied was he with his Divine call, and that he had in

preaching among the Gentiles acted in strict conformity to it,

that he did not submit in the least to the opinion of those

Judaizing teachers; and therefore he continued to insist on the

exemption of the Gentiles from the necessity of submitting to

Jewish rites; that the truth of the Gospel-this grand doctrine,

that the Gentiles are admitted by the Gospel of Christ to be

fellow-heirs with the Jews, might continue; and thus the same

doctrine is continued with you Gentiles.

Verse 6. Those who seemed to be somewhat] τωνδοκουντωνειναι

τι. Those who were of acknowledged reputation; so the words

should be understood, see Ga 2:2.

The verb δοκειν, to seem, is repeatedly used by the best Greek

writers, not to call the sense in question, or to lessen it, but

to deepen and extend it. See Clarke on Lu 8:18.

Perhaps this verse had best be translated thus, connecting διαφερει with

αποτωνδοκουντων: But there is no difference between those who were

of acknowledged reputation and myself; God accepts no man's

person; but, in the conferences which I held with then, they added

nothing to me-gave me no new light; did not attempt to impose on

me any obligation, because they saw that God had appointed me my

work, and that his counsel was with me.

Verse 7. But contrariwise] They were so far from wishing me to

alter my plan, or to introduce any thing new in my doctrine to the

Gentiles, that they saw plainly that my doctrine was the same as

their own, coming immediately from the same source; and therefore

gave to me and to Barnabas the right hand of fellowship.

The Gospel of the uncircumcision] They saw, to their utmost

satisfaction, that I was as expressly sent by God to preach the

Gospel to the Gentiles, as Peter was to preach it to the Jews.

Verse 8. For he that wrought effectually] οενεργησαςπετρο

ενηργησεκαιεμοι. He who wrought powerfully with Peter, wrought

powerfully also with me. He gave us both those talents which were

suited to our work, and equal success in our different departments.

Verse 9. James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars] οι

δοκουντεςστυλοιειναι. Who were known to be very eminent, and

acknowledged as chief men among the apostles.

See Clarke on Lu 8:18, for the meaning of the verb

δοκειν, and See Clarke on Ga 2:6.

Among the Jews, persons of great eminence and importance are

represented as pillars and foundations of the world. So Abraham

is said to be ammud heolam, "the pillar of the

universe; for by him to this day are the earth and heavens

supported." Yalcut Rubeni, fol. 29. "Rabbi Simeon said, Behold,

we are the pillars of the world." Idra Rabba, s. 23.

"When Rabbi Jochanan ben Zachai was near death, he wept with a

loud voice. His disciples said unto him, O Rabbi, thou high

pillar, thou light of the world, thou strong hammer, why dost thou

weep?" Aboth. R. Nathan, chap. 24.

So, in Sohar Genes, fol. 5, it is said: "And he saw that Rab.

Eleazar went up, and stood there, and with him shear

ammudin, the rest of the pillars (eminent men) who sat there."

Ibid., fol. 13: "These are the seven righteous men who cleave to

the holy blessed God with a pure heart, and they are the seven

pillars of the world."

Ibid., fol. 21, on the words bearing fruit, Ge 1:11, it is

said: "By this we are to understand the just one, who is the

pillar of the world." See Schoettgen, who adds: "These pillars

must be distinguished from the foundation. The foundation of the

Church is Jesus Christ alone; the pillars are the more eminent

teachers, which, without the foundation, are of no value."

The right hands of fellowship] Giving the right hand to another

was the mark of confidence, friendship, and fellowship.

See Le 6:2:

If a soul-lie unto his neighbor in that which was delivered him to

keep, or in fellowship, bithsumeth yad, "in giving

the hand."

Verse 10. Only they would that we should remember the poor]

They saw plainly that God had as expressly called Barnabas and me

to go to the Gentiles as he had called them to preach to the Jews;

and they did not attempt to give us any new injunctions, only

wished us to remember the poor in Judea; but this was a thing to

which we were previously disposed.

Verse 11. When Peter was come to Antioch] There has been a

controversy whether πετρος, Peter, here should not be read κηφας,

Kephas; and whether this Kephas was not a different person from

Peter the apostle. This controversy has lasted more than 1500

years, and is not yet settled. Instead of πετρος, Peter, ABCH,

several others of good note, with the Syriac, Erpenian, Coptic,

Sahidic, AEthiopic, Armenian, later Syriac in the margin, Vulgate,

and several of the Greek fathers, read κηφας. But whichsoever of

these readings we adopt, the controversy is the same; for the

great question is, whether this Peter or Kephas, no matter which

name we adopt, be the same with Peter the apostle?

I shall not introduce the arguments pro and con, which may be

all seen in Calmet's dissertation on the subject, but just mention

the side where the strength of the evidence appears to lie.

That Peter the apostle is meant, the most sober and correct

writers of antiquity maintain; and though some of the Catholic

writers have fixed the whole that is here reprehensible on one

Kephas, one of the seventy disciples, yet the most learned of

their writers and of their popes, believe that St. Peter is meant.

Some apparently plausible arguments support the contrary opinion,

but they are of no weight when compared with those on the opposite


Verse 12. Before that certain came from James, he did eat with

the Gentiles] Here was Peter's fault. He was convinced that God

had pulled down the middle wall of partition that had so long

separated the Jews and Gentiles, and he acted on this conviction,

associating with the latter and eating with them; but when certain

Jews came from James, who it appears considered the law still to

be in force, lest he should place a stumbling-block before them he

withdrew from all commerce with the converted Gentiles, and acted

as if he himself believed the law to be still in force, and that

the distinction between the Jews and the Gentiles should still be

kept up.

Verse 13. And the other Jews dissembled likewise] That is:

Those who were converted to Christianity from among the Jews, and

who had also been convinced that the obligation of the Jewish

ritual had ceased, seeing Peter act this part, and also fearing

them that were of the circumcision, they separated themselves from

the converted Gentiles, and acted so as to convince the Jews that

they still believed the law to be of moral obligation; and so

powerful was the torrent of such an example, that the gentle,

loving-hearted Barnabas was carried away by their dissimulation,

αυτωντηυποκρισει, with their hypocrisy-feigning to be what

they really were not.

Verse 14. That they walked not uprightly] ουκορθοποδουσι.

They did not walk with a straight step-they did not maintain a

firm footing.

According to the truth of the Gospel] According to that true

doctrine, which states that Christ is the end of the law for

justification to every one that believes; and that such are under

no obligation to observe circumcision and the other peculiar rites

and ceremonies of the law.

If thou, being a Jew, livest] This was a cutting reproof. He

was a Jew, and had been circumstantially scrupulous in every thing

relative to the law, and it required a miracle to convince him

that the Gentiles were admitted, on their believing in Christ, to

become members of the same Church, and fellow heirs of the hope of

eternal life; and in consequence of this, he went in with the

Gentiles and ate with them; i.e. associated with them as he would

with Jews. But now, fearing them of the circumcision, he withdrew

from this fellowship.

Why compellest thou the Gentiles] Thou didst once consider that

they were not under such an obligation, and now thou actest as if

thou didst consider the law in full force; but thou art convinced

that the contrary is the case, yet actest differently! This is


Verse 15. We who are Jews by nature] We who belong to the

Jewish nation-who have been born, bred, and educated Jews.

And not sinners of the Gentiles] αμαρτωλοι. Not without the

knowledge of God, as they have been. αμαρτωλος often signifies a

heathen, merely one who had no knowledge of the true God. But

among the nations or Gentiles many Jews sojourned; who in

Scripture are known by the name of Hellenists, and these were

distinguished from those who were termed εξεθνωναμαρτωλοι,

sinners of the Gentiles-heathens, in our common sense of the word;

while the others, though living among them, were worshippers of

the true God, and addicted to no species of idolatry. Some have

translated this passage thus: We Jews, and not Gentiles, by nature

sinners; for it is supposed that φυσει here refers to that natural

corruption which every man brings into the world. Now, though the

doctrine be true, (and the state of man, and universal experience

confirm it,) yet it can neither be supported from this place, nor

even from Eph 2:3. See Clarke on Ro 2:16. It appears,

from the use of this word by some of the best Greek authors, that φυσει

did not signify by nature, as we use the word, but expressed the

natural birth, family, or nation of a man; to distinguish him from

any other family or nation. I can give a few instances of this,

which are brought to my hand in a small elegant pamphlet, written

by Dr. Munter, the present bishop of Zealand, entitled

Observationum ex marmoribus Graecis Sacrarum Specimen, and which

has been lent to me by the right honourable Lord Teignmouth, to

whose condescension, kindness, and learning, many of my studies

have been laid under particular obligation.

The word in question is the xxviiith example in the above

pamphlet, the substance of which is as follows: In an inscription

on a Greek marble, given by Dr. Chandler, page 27, we find these

words ογαμβροςμουλεωναρτεμεισιουοεπικαλουμενοςιασων

οικονειμενμειλησιοςφυσειδειασευς. "My son-in-law, Leo, the

son of Artemisius, who is called a Jasian, is of the house of

Milesius, though by nature he is from Jaso." That is: Jaso being

a town of Caria, this Leo is said to be φυσειιασευς, by nature a

Jasian, although he sprang from the Milesian family. The

following examples will place this in a clearer light. Josephus,

Ant. Jud., lib. xi. cap. vi. sec. 5, speaking of Amanes, the

Amalekite, says: καιγαρφυσειτοιςιουδαιοιςαπηχθανετοοτικαι

τογενοςτωναμαλεκιτωνεξωνηναυτοςυπαυτωνδιεφθαρτο. "For

he was by nature incensed against the Jews, because the nation of

the Amalekites, from whom he sprang, had been destroyed by them;"

that is, he had a national prejudice or hatred to the Jewish

people on the above account. The following example from Dio

Chrysostom, Orat. xxxi., is also to the point: οιγεαθηναιοιτον

δειναμενολυμπιονκεκληκασιουδεφυσειπολιτηνεαυτων. "For

they (the Athenians) called this person an Olympian, though by

nature he was not their citizen;" that is, he was called an

Olympian, though he was not naturally of that city, or, in other

words, he was not born there. From these examples, and the scope

of the place, we may argue that the words, we who are Jews by

nature, mean, we who were born in the land of Judea, and of

Jewish parents. And hence the passage in Eph 2:3, which speaks

most evidently of the heathens, "and were by nature the children

of wrath, even as others," may be thus understood: Being Gentiles,

and brought up in gross darkness, without any knowledge of God,

abandoned to all sensual living, we were, from our very condition,

and practical state, exposed to punishment. This sense is at

least equally good with that given of the words in Ro 2:16, where

it is proved that φυσει, in several connections, means truly,

certainly, incontestably; "we were, beyond all controversy,

exposed to punishment, because we had been born among idolaters,

and have lived as they did. Here both senses of the word apply.

Verse 16. Knowing that a man is not justified] See the notes

on Ro 1:17; 3:24, 27; 8:3. And see on Ac 13:38, 39, in which

places the subject of this verse is largely discussed. Neither

the works of the Jewish law, nor of any other law, could justify

any man; and if justification or pardon could not have been

attained in some other way, the world must have perished.

Justification by faith, in the boundless mercy of God, is as

reasonable as it is Scriptural and necessary.

Verse 17. But if while we seek to be justified] If, while we

acknowledge that we must be justified by faith in Christ, we

ourselves are found sinners, enjoining the necessity of observing

the rites and ceremonies of the law, which never could and never

can justify, and yet, by submitting to circumcision, we lay

ourselves under the necessity of fulfilling the law, which is

impossible, we thus constitute ourselves sinners; is, therefore,

Christ the minister of sin? Christ, who has taught us to renounce

the law, and expect justification through his death?. God forbid!

that we should either act so, or think so.

Verse 18. For if I build again the things which I destroyed]

If I act like a Jew, and enjoin the observance of the law on the

Gentiles, which I have repeatedly asserted and proved to be

abolished by the death of Christ, then I build up what I

destroyed, and thus make myself a transgressor, by not observing

the law in that way in which I appear to enjoin the observance of

it upon others.

Verse 19. For I through the law am dead to the law] In

consequence of properly considering the nature and requisitions of

the law, I am dead to all hope and expectation of help or

salvation from the law, and have been obliged to take refuge in

the Gospel of Christ. Or, probably the word νομος, LAW, is here

put for a system of doctrine; as if he had said, I through the

Gospel am dead to the law. The law itself is consigned to death,

and another, the Gospel of Christ, is substituted in its stead.

The law condemns to death, and I have embraced the Gospel that I

might be saved from death, and live unto God.

Verse 20. I am crucified with Christ] The death of Christ on

the cross has showed me that there is no hope of salvation by the

law; I am therefore as truly dead to all expectation of

justification by the law, as Christ was dead when he gave up the

ghost upon the cross. Through him alone I live-enjoy a present

life, and have a prospect of future glory.

Yet not I] It is not of my natural life I speak, nor of any

spiritual things which I myself have procured; but Christ liveth

in me. God made man to be a habitation of his own Spirit: the law

cannot live in me so as to give me a Divine life; it does not

animate, but kill; but Christ lives in me; he is the soul of

my soul; so that I now live to God. But this life I have by the

faith of the Son of God-by believing on Christ as a sacrifice for

sin; for he loved me, and because he did so he gave himself for

me-made himself a sacrifice unto death, that I might be saved from

the bitter pains of death eternal.

Verse 21. I do not frustrate] ουκαθετω. I do not contemn,

despise, or render useless, the grace of God-the doctrine of

Christ crucified; which I must do if I preach the necessity of

observing the law.

For if righteousness] If justification and salvation come by

an observance of the law, then Christ is dead in vain; his death

is useless if an observance of the law can save us; but no

observance of the law can save us, and therefore there was an

absolute necessity for the death of Christ.

1. THE account of the prevarication of Peter in the preceding

chapter teaches us a most useful lesson. Let him who assuredly

standeth take heed lest he fall. No person in a state of

probation is infallible; a man may fall into sin every moment; and

he will, if he do not walk with God. Worldly prudence and fleshly

wisdom would have concealed this account of the prevarication of

Peter; but God tells truth. This the fountain of it; and from him

we are to expect not only nothing but the truth, but also the

whole truth. If the Gospel were not of God we had never heard of

the denial and prevarication of Peter, nor of the contention

between Paul and Barnabas. And these accounts are recorded, not

that men may justify or excuse their own delinquencies by them,

but that they may avoid them; for he must be inexcusable who, with

these histories before his eyes, ever denies his Master, or acts

the part of a hypocrite. Had the apostles acted in concert to

impose a forgery on the world as a Divine revelation, the

imposture would have now come out. The falling out of the parties

would have led to a discovery of the cheat. This relation,

therefore, is an additional evidence of the truth of the Gospel.

2. On, I through the law am dead to the law, &c., pious Quesnel

makes the following useful reflections:

"The ceremonial law, which is no more than a type and shadow of

him, destroys itself by showing us Jesus Christ, who is the truth

and the substance. The moral law, by leaving us under our own

inability under sin and the curse, makes us perceive the necessity

of the law of the heart, and of a Saviour to give it. The law is

for the old man, as to its terrible and servile part; and it was

crucified and died with Christ upon the cross as well as the old

man. The new man, and the new law, require a new sacrifice.

What need has he of other sacrifices who has Jesus Christ? They

in whom this sacrifice lives, do themselves live to God alone; but

none can live to him except by faith; and this life of faith

consists in dying with Christ to the things of the present world,

and in expecting, as co-heirs with him, the blessings of the

eternal world. And who can work all this in us but only he who

lives in us? That man has arrived to a high degree of

mortification, who can say Christ liveth in me, and I am crucified

to the world. Such a one must have renounced not only earthly

things, but his own self also."

3. Is there, or can there be, any well grounded hope of eternal

life but what comes through the Gospel? In vain has the ingenuity

of man tortured itself for more than 5000 years, to find out some

method of mending the human heart: none has been discovered that

even promised any thing likely to be effectual. The Gospel of

Christ not only mends but completely cures and new makes

infected nature. Who is duly apprised of the infinite excellency

and importance of the Gospel? What was the world before its

appearance? What would it be were this light extinguished?

Blessed Lord! let neither infidelity nor false doctrine rise up to

obscure this heavenly splendour!

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