Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Galatians 2:11 - 21

Before we go into some depth regarding this particular Scripture, I think it would be helpful to look at Simon Peter a little more closely, concerning his former days. I speak of his denial of Christ, for in some way this has a bearing on Peter’s action at this particu­lar time as it regarded Paul. And yet, what­ever we say, is only meant for instruction that we may learn from the great Apostle’s per­sonal experiences.
No man is perfect, even the greatest have had great problems. But they overcame these things and that’s what made them great. Whatever we might say about this man as we attempt to learn from his mistakes, which the Holy Spirit intends for us to do, the fact remains, that Simon Peter was one of the greatest men of God who ever lived. Nothing can change that.
Recently a prominent Religious Leader im­plied that Peter’s sin of denying Christ was only an impulsive act spawned by fear while he was temporarily backslidden. What does the Bible reveal about Peter’s problem? It is, after all, the final authority on this and all other matters.
We obviously cannot draw a conclusion about this issue by just taking a few Verses out of context. The Scriptures reveal a rather con­sistent pattern in Peter’s life. We view this pat­tern during the approximately three years that he physically walked with Jesus. So it is safe to assume that the same basic way of life existed before he became a Disciple.
He lived up to the name Jesus ascribed to him (Jn. 1:42). Both the Aramaic “Cephas” and the Greek “Peter” mean “Rock.” It does not take much reading about this Fisherman to re­alize that he was an extremely self-confident individual. Because of this pride in his own ability, he constantly made rash statements and performed impetuous acts that revealed his overconfidence.
Peter, for example, was the only one of the Disciples that asked to be allowed by Jesus to walk on the water; however, he soon began to sink and the Lord had to rescue him and rebuke him for his lack of Faith (Mat. 14:28-31). How­ever, despite the sinking, it must as well be re­membered that he did walk on the water — twice.
In one breath this same man could announce his spectacular confession of Jesus as the Mes­siah, even as the Son of God, yet in another breath acquiesce as a mouthpiece of Satan who adamantly opposed the concept of Jesus suf­fering for the sins of mankind (Mat. 16:13-23).
Peter could reject the Lord’s offer to wash His Feet, then suddenly leap to the opposite extreme and ask Jesus to wash his feet, his hands, and his head (Jn. 13:6-10). He could
rashly endeavor to rescue the Lord by attempt­ing to decapitate the High Priest’s servant (Mat. 26:50-51), yet shortly after cringe in terror when asked by a servant girl if he was one of the Lord’s Disciples (Mat. 26:69-75). It does not take very much imagination to realize that his denial of Christ was the culmination of a consistent and longstanding pattern of pride.
The Lord obviously attempted at different times and in a variety of ways to get Peter to recognize his problem. To illustrate, the inter­esting story in Luke 5:1-11, definitely contains a far more important Message than just the fact that Peter, James, and John caught a draught of fish. After fishing all night and catching noth­ing, these Disciples were instructed by Christ to cast their nets once more. Peter obeyed and as a result of their great catch fell before the Lord, acknowledging his own utter sinfulness.
Another step in the Lord’s patient dealing with Peter can be seen in conjunction with the Disciple’s boastful proclamation of his willing­ness to go with Christ to prison and even to death (Lk. 22:33). Just before this haughty pro­nouncement, Jesus told Peter that Satan de­sired (literally, “begged earnestly”) permission to sift him as wheat. He also assured Peter that He had prayed for him, and that he should strengthen his Brethren after his predicted re­turn (Lk. 22:31-32). The Greek word Jesus used for “converted,” or “return,” is in the Greek “epistrepsas.” It means “a change in the course of action,” so it does not in itself imply that Peter backslid.
Among other things, this incident shows that the Devil must obtain permission from God before he can try a Believer. More importantly, it points us to the fact that God many times accomplishes His purpose by actually using the Devil as His instrument in sifting Christians.
In other words, the Devil probably thought he had gained the upper hand in this situation, while all the time the Lord was using him to awaken Peter to his underlying problem. He may never have recognized his own pride if he had not failed in such a dramatic fashion.
We know that this event caused Peter to change from a man who depended on his own
ability to a man who depended on God’s Grace. This is evident from his dialogue with Jesus after the Lord’s Resurrection (Jn. 21:15-19). When Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him more than “these,” He could have been referring to the fishing implements or to the other Dis­ciples. I believe He was talking about the lat­ter to remind Peter of his former boast that the others might desert the Lord, but he would not (Mk. 14:29).
More importantly, Jesus used the verb “agapao,” which refers to unconditional Love, or the Love that God Himself is (I Jn. 4:16). Pe­ter, however, responded with the Greek verb for a less lofty type of love, “phileo,” which means, “the love of friends.”
Jesus, in the second question, again used the Greek “agapas,” and Peter again used “phileo.” In the third question Jesus shifted to “phileis,” and Peter responded with the same basic word.
Some people might say these two words are used interchangeably. It is true in some cases, but it is not likely that Jesus would use the two different terms in the same context to mean the same thing, especially in the configuration in this Passage.
Is this just a play on words? No. I sincerely believe it indicates Peter’s refusal now to mani­fest the former confidence in his own ability. He had fallen into that trap once, he was deter­mined not to do so again.
Furthermore, it indicates that his entire life has turned to a total dependence on God’s Grace. That fact was evidenced a few days later when God miraculously used him on the Day of Pentecost. He finally was truly qualified to be God’s instrument.
Peter had the willingness before, and he mani­fested that desire many times and in a multitude of ways. It was he who exclaimed that there was no one else to whom they could go because Jesus had the Words of Eternal Life. This transpired after many Disciples ceased to follow the Lord (Jn. 6:68).
Despite his pride, Peter possessed a sin­cere desire to do God’s Will; therefore, the Lord did not cast him aside but lovingly worked in his life until he finally came to that place of humility and dependence on
God’s Grace. Perhaps Peter’s desire was one reason the Lord accorded him the privilege of participating in events that only two other Dis­ciples, James and John, were allowed to share (Mat. 17:1; 26:37; Mk. 5:37).
In conclusion, it seems quite obvious from the total picture that Peter’s betrayal was not just the result of one rash act. More impor­tantly, the entire scenario of Peter’s life in the Gospels clearly indicates the way the Lord pa­tiently worked with him until he finally came to that place of throwing himself utterly on the Grace of God. The Book of Acts reveals the glorious results!
Are you allowing the Lord to conquer self in you so that He truly can manifest Himself through you? (Rossier).
The phrase, “But when Peter was come to Antioch,” presents this city as the one used by God to spearhead World Evangelism. In fact, the spiritual emphasis had shifted from Jerusa­lem to Antioch, and possibly because of the in­sistence of the Christian Jews in Jerusalem to continue the Law of Moses, which of course, was an untenable situation, considering that Jesus had already fulfilled the types and sym­bolisms of the Law.
There were several cities named Antioch,” but this city was situated on the River Orontes, and was long the capital of Syria. Hence, it was known as Antioch, Syria. It was built by Seleucus Nicanor, and was called Antioch in honor of his Father Antiochus. It was founded about 300 years before Christ. It was long the most pow­erful city of the East, and was inferior only to ­Seleucia and Alexandria.
It was famous for the fact that the Right of Citizenship was conferred by Seleucus on the Jews, as well as the Greeks and Macedonians, so that here they had the privilege of worship in their own way without molestation. It is prob­able that the Christians were regarded merely as a Sect of Jews, even though it seems that most in the Church were Gentiles, and would be here suffered to celebrate their worship with­out interruption.
This city was honored as a Roman colony, a metropolis, and an asylum. It was large; was almost square; had many gates; was adorned with fountains; and was a city of great opulence.
THE JEWS AND THE MOSAIC LAW In this Verse Paul opens the question as to whether the Jew himself is still bound by the Mosaic Law, which of course they were not. In the Jerusalem Council, the question was as to whether the Rite of Circumcision should be re-­quired of the Gentiles? The particular Mosaic Legislation to which Paul had reference here and which he presented as a test case before the Galatians, had to do with the Levitical Legisla­tion regarding the eating of certain foods. While one purpose of the giving of this Legislation permitting the eating of certain foods and the prohibition regarding other foods, was a dietary one to promote the physical well-being of the Jews, yet another was that of keeping the Jews a separate people from the Gentiles, thus preserv­ing clean the channel which God was using to bring Salvation to the Earth. The forbidden foods were found on the tables of the Gentiles. Hence, a Jew could never accept a dinner invita­tion of a Gentile. This was one of the factors which kept the nation of Israel apart from the Gentile world. THE CROSS
God had made clear to Peter that this Legis­lation was set aside at the Cross, by the vision He gave him while he was on the housetop of Simon the Tanner, with the result that Peter was willing to go to the home of the Gentile Cornelius (Acts Chpt. 10). This occurred before the incident to which Paul refers in these Verses.
When Peter came to Antioch, he saw Jews and Gentiles eating together, enjoying their fel­lowship. Then, when certain Jews from the Jerusalem Church came as representatives of James, and saw Peter eating with the Gentiles, they contended that he was going against Lev­itical Legislation. They brought pressure to bear upon Peter, and he discontinued his fellowship in this manner.
This caused the Jews in the Church at Antioch to cease eating with the Gentiles, and brought about a division in the Church. Thus, Paul, in resisting Peter, showed that he not only refused to take orders from the Jerusalem Apostles, but on the other hand felt that his Apostolic position gave him the right to stand openly against them in matters which he con­sidered to be wrong conduct. In no way could he have better demonstrated his independence
as an Apostle, than this which he did regarding Peter at Antioch (Wuest).
The design for which Paul introduces this statement here is evident. It is to show that he regarded himself as on a level with the chief Apostles, and that he did not acknowledge his inferiority to any of them. Peter was the eldest, and no doubt the most honored of the Apostles. Yet Paul says that he did not hesitate to resist him in a case where Peter was manifestly wrong, and thus showed that he was an Apostle of the same standing as the others.
Besides, what he said to Peter on that occa­sion was exactly pertinent to the strain of the argument which he was pursuing with the Gala­tians, and he, therefore, introduces it (vss. 14­21) to show that he had held the same Doctrine all along, and that he had defended it in the presence of Peter, and with Peter not contra­dicting Paul.
The time of this journey of Peter to Antioch cannot be ascertained; nor the occasion on which it occurred. There are some who feel this incident took place before the Council in Jerusa­lem, and others after. I personally believe it oc­curred after that Council, but there is no proof, I think, either way.
In this narrative which Paul gives, several points here, were definitely meant by him, I think, to be directed toward the Galatians.
He shows to these Gentile Galatians who were wavering in their attachment to him and to the Gospel which he had preached to them, how he had successfully asserted their rights and their equal standing with Jewish Believers, when the Gentiles were assailed by “certain who came from James.”
In contrast with his own unflinching champi­onship of their cause, were here seen vacillation and inconsistency on the part of Peter. Were, then, any justified in exalting these “Pillars, James and Peter,” as certain were disposed to do, for the sake of disparaging him? (Disparag­ing Paul).
In fact, this experience at Antioch should lead them to regard with suspicion the Jewish Brethren, who were setting themselves to tamper with the Truth of the Gospel. Crooked
conduct was sure to accompany such darken­ing of the Truth, as on that occasion was most palpably evinced in the case of even Barnabas, and was in open encounter before the whole Church exposed and rebuked.
And especially, there was the grand principle that the Law of Moses was for the Christian Believer annihilated through the Crucifixion of Christ; which principle Paul had then held aloft in the view of the Church, and here takes occa­sion to enlarge upon, because it was so directly relevant and helpful in respect to the trouble now springing up in Galatia (Huxtable).
The manner in which Peter’s coming to Antioch is introduced seems to proclaim that his coming was not felt to have been at all an extraordinary circumstance. In other words, it seems to be obvious, that he had possibly visited the Church at Antioch several times. It is even thought that he traveled often, taking his wife with him (I Cor. 9:5).
Actually, there is a tradition, which gained early acceptance in the Church (Eusebius), that Peter ultimately became the Bishop (Pastor) of the Church at Antioch. There is little proof as to whether or not that is true.
The phrase, “I withstood him to the face,” means that Paul openly opposed him, and re-­proved him. Thus, Paul showed that he was equal with Peter in his Apostolic authority and dignity.
The instance before us is one of faithful pub­lic reproof; and every circumstance in it is wor­thy of special attention, as it furnishes a most important illustration that at times there must be reproof, and the manner in which such re-­proof should be conducted:
1. Peter allowed the opinions of others to influence him, and by his action overturned the Truth. Paul lived in the light and power of the Gospel of which a Glorified Christ is the Center, and being both firm and ardent as well as clear-sighted, he did not spare Peter, but rebuked-him in the presence of all.
2. Paul did this openly. It was reproof addressed to the offender himself. Paul did not go to others and whisper his suspicion; he did not seek to undermine the influence and
authority of another by slander; he did not vilify Peter, and then attempt to justify him­self on the ground that what he had said was no more than true: he went to him at once, and evidently before others, frankly stating his views, and reproved him in a case where he was manifestly wrong.
3. The word “but” as it introduces Verse 11, presents the contrast between the fellowship of Paul with the Jerusalem Apostles and his atti­tude against them respecting that which he thought was wrong.
The word “withstood” means “to set oneself against, to withstand, resist, oppose.” This verb implies that the initial attack came from the other side.
It was Peter in Paul’s mind, who was the ag­gressor. Although not intentional, yet in effect, it was an attack on the position which Paul was maintaining at Antioch. Actually, what Peter did, undercut Paul in all that he had taught, even as we shall see.
We see Peter and Paul here in open antago­nism: the rebuke coming from Paul, and the blame resting unequivocally on Peter, and this on a question very seriously affecting Christian Faith and conduct in all future ages.
Here we have no trifling matter at hand, but the chief article of all Christian Doctrine. We are speaking of “Justification by Faith” or oth­erwise, when in reality, there is no otherwise.
The utility and majesty of this of which we speak, and which Paul addressed, is of such sig­nificance, that it beggars description.
Who is Peter?
Who is Paul?
Who is and what is an Angel from Heaven?
What are all the creatures together, to the article of Justification, which Paul saw here in danger by the conduct of Peter. Wherefore he is obliged to put aside the dignity of Peter for the Truth’s sake.
Wherefore we must not be ashamed for the defense of the Truth, to pay whatever price must be paid, be we called proud, obstinate, or what they will, we must hear none of this. We must give place to none when it comes to the
Truth. Only here are we allowed to be obsti­nate and inflexible.
For this cause we offend man, that is if we have to do so, even tread down the majesty of his person, or the entirety of the world for that matter, simply because, the only avenue of the soul, “Justification by Faith,” must never be hin­dered, weakened, or compromised.
When it says that Paul “withstood Peter to his face,” he makes points against the Apostles of Satan, who slander those who are absent, and in their presence dare not open their mouths. Paul did not do that, he frankly and openly withstood him to his face, not for any ambition or other carnal affection, but because he was to be blamed.
I think it is here obvious that Apostles, even though their Calling is from God, and even though it is the highest rank there can be under the New Testament Economy, are not infallible. It is possible for an Apostle to be wrong, even as Peter here was. In fact, the Prophets them­selves have sometimes erred, and been deceived.
Nathan said unto David that he should build an house unto the Lord (II Sam. 7:3). But this Prophecy was shortly corrected by Revelation from God. So did the original Twelve err also, for they imagined that the Kingdom of Christ should be carnal and of this world, saying, “Lord, wilt Thou at this time restore the King­dom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6).
And again Peter, although he heard the Command of Christ, “To go into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature”” (Mk. 16:15), still, had not gone, and would not go to Cornelius, if he had not been admonished and compelled by a Vision (Acts Chpt. 10).
And in this matter of Paul’s rebuke, Peter did not only err in judgment, but committed a great sin; and if Paul had not resisted him, all the Gentiles which did believe, would have been constrained to receive Circumcision, and to keep the Law of Moses, which would have destroyed their Salvation.
The believing Jews would have been con­firmed that these things were necessary to Salvation, and by this means would have re­ceived again the Law instead of the Gospel, Moses instead of Christ. And of all this great enormity, Peter, by his dissimulation, had been
the occasion. Therefore, we may not attribute to the Saints such perfection, as though they could not sin.
In this entire scenario it is plainly obvious that the Word of God is to be the Standard, the Foundation, the Guiding Light of all that is done, and not men.
However, the Catholic Church would proclaim ­the opposite, demanding that the people heed the Pope, Bishops, and Priests, with the Word of God given no place at all.
All too often, even in Protestant circles, men demand obedience even at the expense of the Word of God, men incidentally who refer to themselves as “Spiritual Leaders,” but in fact, have been given that position by elective ballot, and not by God. In other words, they occupy a man-devised position.
Even though all Preachers of the Gospel have some spiritual authority, still, the only binding “spiritual authority” so-called, is the Word of God. It is infallible, unchangeable, and is to be the rule of conduct, thought, decision, and di­rection respecting all things.
I think we should see from this scenario given by Paul, actually prompted by the Holy Spirit, as to how significant all of this is. As we’ve al­ready stated, we are speaking here of the single most important thing there is, the Salvation of the soul. Satan would love to compromise that Message. In fact, he does all within his power to compromise it, and has succeeded in many if not most religious circles.
I do not at all enjoy taking the stand that I feel we must take respecting my own personal Ministry. I have suffered much for that stand.
I have watched the Church drift into Hu­manistic Psychology, into what has actually ceased to be a drift, but rather a speedy slide downward, and I have lifted my voice as strongly as possible against this direction. It has not endeared me to the Leadership of the Assem­blies of God, the Church of God, the Charismatics, or others.
I personally consider this problem, “The Psychological Way versus the Biblical Way,” to be little less significant, if any at all, than the “Law/Grace” issue of Paul’s day. As Believers
could not have both Law and Grace then, they cannot have the Psychological Way and the Biblical Way” at the same time presently.
As well, it has not endeared us regarding many to take a stand against the “Prosperity Gospel,” which in fact, is no prosperity at all. The same can be said for the music of the world brought into the Church, which affects worship, and above all, substitutes an ungodly direction for the Holy Spirit respecting the winning of people to God.
The list could go on. It is not pleasant to be looked at as a pariah, to have every type of lie that Satan can devise told about one’s per­son, and even have so-called Religious Lead­ers aid and abet the Evil One in the spreading of these lies.
However, and irrespective, as a Minister of the Gospel, I have but one duty, one obligation, one responsibility. That is to hear from Heaven, and to deliver to the people exactly that which I have heard. Consequently, I lay on my face before God day after day, asking Him to give me leading and guidance, that I may be anointed to proclaim His Word, and which He has done. By His Grace, He has helped us to see untold thousands brought to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. We give Him all the Praise and all the Glory.
Yes, the Truth is worth defending, and at whatever price.
The phrase, “Because he was to be blamed,” indicates that Peter’s action had aroused the indignation of the Antioch Christians. The in­trigue of the Jerusalem Jews who had come to Antioch, their purpose of which was to affix the stigma of uncleanness on the uncircum­cised Gentile Christians, was countenanced by Peter and Barnabas. Consequently, the public judgment had turned against Peter. Paul could not, therefore, keep silent, but was forced to rebuke Peter.
Here the argument for Paul’s Apostolic in­dependence has come to the highest level yet attained. In Jerusalem Paul faced Peter as an equal in rank and in the Gospel Ministry. At Antioch he faced him as his superior in char­acter and courage.
It is clear that these men were sent by James, and not that they merely claimed such. They were men of importance as is shown by the def­erence with which Peter treated them, and the manner with which he bowed to their request (or demands).
As well, they were not from the ranks of the Judaizers who Paul had castigated. James would not send men of that stamp, but rather Jewish Christians of Jerusalem who like James were still most scrupulous in their obedience to the Mosaic Law. James, even after the deci­sion of the Council at Jerusalem regarding the relation of the Law to Gentile converts to Chris­tianity, still held to the view that the Jewish converts were under the Law.
So, we have here Paul’s statement as it re­garded the lapse of James regarding the Jews, when he gave his decision concerning Gentiles and the Law recorded in Acts 15:19-29.
Whereas James lapsed there, which caused great difficulties, some Scholars believe that Paul himself lapsed in Faith, when the Apostle at the request of James took upon himself a Jewish Vow to show the Jews in Jerusalem that he was still a strict Jew (Acts 21:18-26).
Actually, I have taken the position that Paul did not at that time lapse, with Commentary on that particular Chapter in Acts, hopefully explaining the situation to a greater degree.
And here we have the occasion of Peter’s lapse when James sent this mission to Antioch with the purpose of enforcing the Mosaic Law so far as the Jewish Christians were concerned. News had reached Jerusalem that Jewish and Gentile Christians were mixing together and even eat­ing together, hence the mission from James.
The phrase, “For before that certain came from James,” gives us all too well another ex­ample as to why Apostles or anyone else for that matter, are not to be the final word, but rather the Word of God itself. As we’ve already stated, this is one of Satan’s greatest efforts, to demand that men follow man instead of God. While Apostles and all others as well, are to be loved, respected and appreciated, as it regards the Call
of God upon their lives, with the Believer glean­ing all that is possible from the Ministries of these particular individuals, still, it is always the Word of God which is the final authority on all things.
As we have said a number of times, if James had included the Jews in his decision respect­ing Acts Chapter 15, it would have been a tre­mendous boon to the Work of God. It should be obvious to the Reader, that the Lord did not and does not, have one Salvation for Gentiles and another for Jews.
I think it is obvious as to why he said noth­ing at that time. He was very thankful to the Lord, considering this decision by James re­specting the Gentiles as a tremendous victory. In fact, Paul held very little status in that par­ticular Council; consequently, his position of authority would have counted for little at that particular time. However, if Peter had come out strongly for this cause, that the ruling should apply to Jews as well, it would have car­ried great weight, no doubt carrying the day; however, even though Peter did stand strongly for the Gentiles not having to abide by Mosaic Law, he said nothing respecting Jews (Acts 15:7-11). Considering the great Vision the Lord had given him concerning this very problem, even as recorded in Acts Chapter 10, should have been sufficient ground on which he could have stood respecting this issue. Nevertheless, he took no stand except for the Gentiles, for which Paul regarding that much, was no doubt, extremely thankful.
The phrase, “He did eat with the Gentiles,” shows that Peter knew the right way, especially considering the remarkable Vision which he had as recorded in Acts Chapter 10. He had learned that God designed to break down the wall of partition between the Jews and the Gentiles, and he, consequently, familiarly as­sociated with them, and partook with them of their food.
This means that he evidently disregarded the peculiar Laws of the Jews about meats and drinks, and partook of the common food which
was in use among the Gentiles, whatever that may have been. Thus, he showed his belief that all the race was henceforward to be regarded as on the same level, and that the peculiar insti­tutions of the Jews, which were now fulfilled in Christ anyway, were not to be considered as binding, or to be imposed on others.
The words “eat with” in the Greek implies close fellowship or cooperation. In the Greek, this tells us that it was a practice of Peter to eat with the Gentiles. In other words, he held not at all with the old Jewish rituals.
The preposition speaks of the fact that in the act of joining in their meals, not only in the Christian Love-Feasts which were connected with the Worship Program of the Local Church, but also held the same in their homes. In other words, Peter was on terms of the greatest inti­macy with these Gentiles. In fact, at that par­ticular time, the Love-Feasts were recognized as the bond of fellowship in the infant Church.
Some hold that this Council of Acts Chap­ter 15 was held after the situation at Antioch of which Paul speaks; however, it is my personal thought that evidence points in the other di­rection — that the Council was conducted be­fore this incident.
That being the case, the probable origin of the Antioch practice of Jews and Gentiles eat­ing together, was that the Church argued that since the Jerusalem Council had upheld the position of Paul on the freedom of the Gentiles from the obligation of Mosaic Law, in this case Circumcision among other things, that all the restrictions of the Mosaic Economy had been set aside, which was of course correct. This would as well include the Levitical Legislation regarding foods. In other words, the foods pre­viously forbidden the Jew and found on Gen­tile tables, now could be included in his menu.
Accordingly, the Jewish and Gentile Chris­tians welcomed the opportunity of Christian fellowship at meals. This practice could not have been in force before the Jerusalem Coun­cil, for, had it been, that question would also have been dealt with. Peter, finding this situa­tion at Antioch, fell in with it in his usual im­petuous way. The Church at Jerusalem, hear­ing of his actions, sent this deputation it seems
to investigate. These men sent by James, found Peter eating with the Gentiles (Wuest).
The Reader may be somewhat confused re
garding this great to-do concerning food. We have already explained in previous Commentary the dietary laws contained in Mosaic Legisla­tion. As stated, all of this was given by God for a particular purpose, which in effect, pertained to the coming of the Messiah, which were all fulfilled when Jesus came. In other words, these things were no longer necessary when Jesus came and died on the Cross, such having ful­filled its purpose.
However, the Jews desired to continue these Laws and Regulations of old, some of them even claiming that one had to do these things in order to be saved. In fact, eating or not eating certain foods did not make any differ­ence, unless one construed that it had some­thing to do with one’s Salvation, which is ex­actly what was happening.
It is the same presently. Let’s use jewelry for instance.
One particular Pentecostal Denomination for years, forbade the wearing of any type of jew­elry by women in that particular Church. Now, the wearing or not wearing of jewelry had noth­ing to do with anything for that matter; how­ever, if they claimed, which some did, that such had to do with one’s Salvation, then it falls un­der the same category of this of which we are discussing here.
People are saved by Faith in Christ, and not because they do or don’t do certain things of this nature, which in fact, have no moral bear­ing on anything, just as the food or Circumci­sion, of which Paul spoke. In other words, when these type of things are done, religion is the result and not relationship with Christ. As a result, all of this contains some very important lessons for us about the difference between re
ligion and relationship.
Even though we will discuss this further, please notice a few facts presently about this incident:
1. It was such a serious issue that Paul “op­posed” Peter against, or to, his face.
2. Paul twice labeled Peter’s conduct “hy­pocrisy” and added that the remaining Jews and even Barnabas were led away by it.
3. Peter apparently knew he was wrong be­cause he did not attempt to defend his action. At least we have no record of any defense.
What makes this encounter so serious? The key is in Verse 14, which begins with a very strong, “but.” Paul followed this contrasting term with “When I saw that they walked not straight with the Truth of the Gospel.”
“Walking straight with” or “conforming to” the Truth of the Gospel was paramount in Paul’s life, and thank God it was, or Salvation in Christ may have at that time been destroyed, which was Satan’s intention.
The simple but profound fact that Jesus died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures was the Message that Paul gave “first priority” (I Cor. 15:3-4).
Peter knew that acceptance of the Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross was the only thing that would bring Salvation to a life (Acts 2:38; 4:12). Why then did he temporarily fail to act in con­formity to the Truth of the Gospel?
When he segregated himself from the Gen­tile Believers in Antioch and fellowshipped only with Jewish Believers, he was turning his back on the Gospel by showing his preference for the religion in which he participated before his con­version to Christ. However, as we shall see, he did this out of fear instead of conviction.
Paul learned about religion the hard way. Be­fore his conversion to Christ (Acts 9:1-19), his entire life was absorbed in Religion, yet he did not have a relationship with Jesus. Some people do not seem to realize that he was not con­verted until he was in his thirties, or at least in his late twenties. In fact, he lived nearly half of his earthly life as a zealous self-righteous Phari­see (Phil. 3:4-6).
At a particular time, though, God allowed him to hear the Testimony of a person, Stephen, who did have a living relationship with Jesus (Acts 7:54-60). The attitude and words of Stephen while being martyred must have had a profound impact on Saul of Tarsus.
Anyhow, the time arrived when he ex
changed those 25 or 30 years of empty religion for a personal relationship with Jesus Christ (Phil. 3:7-14), the same kind of relationship that Stephen enjoyed.
Is it any wonder that he was so disturbed when he viewed the hypocrisy of Peter, Barnabas, and the other Jews in Antioch? This matter was­serious because their action was implying that Justification could come from practicing reli­gion. I know that is why he stated unequivocally “that a person is not justified by works of Law but through Faith in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 2:16).
Religion deals with “doing,” but relationship is concerned with “being.” Religion attempts to gain merit with God by doing good things. On the other hand, a person with a genuine rela-­tionship with Christ will also perform good works, but those deeds will emanate from the relationship (James 2:18-26).
In other words, we are facing a battle be­tween what is “good,” and what is “best.” Reli­gion constantly involves itself in doing good things. This is commendable, but it is not “best.” God’s Way is the only “best” Way because it em­phasizes a living relationship with Christ, and out of this relationship will come good works.
Paul was distressed with any theosophy that even suggested Salvation could result from good works. He had tried that approach for approxi­mately half of his earthly life, and he knew it did not work.
Why did it not work? Because God willed that Salvation would be granted to people “by Grace through Faith” (Eph. 2:8) and not “by works” (Eph. 2:9).
Why did the Lord design the receiving of Salvation in this manner?
In brief, God’s justice could never have been satisfied by man’s works, inasmuch as the sin debt was so great, that man could never hope to settle the account in this manner. Consequently, the only way for people to be saved, was for Jesus Christ to settle that account, which He did at Calvary’s Cross, and the believing sinner having Faith in that, what Christ did at Calvary, instantly, wondrously, even miraculously, insures Salvation (Jn. 3:16).
Once Paul realized these things of which we have just said, which were actually given to
him by Jesus Christ through Revelation, Paul “died to the Law . . . in order to live to God” (Gal. 2:19). This is a way of saying that he rejected the religion of trying to gain merit with God by performing good works. Instead, he accepted Christ and was thereby granted a living rela­tionship with God.
This great Truth does not end there, though. You see, God does not just want us to experience the initial victory over sin that comes at conversion. “He has provided a continuous life of victory for us, as we appropriate on a daily basis the benefits of the Cross.” That’s what Jesus was talking about, respecting the taking up of the Cross daily and following Him (Lk. 9:23).
It is because of this that Paul’s discourse on relationship contains three definite aspects:
1. The historical basis, or the Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross.
2. The initial experience of conversion that occurs when a person accepts Christ as Saviour.
3. The continuous aspect of living the overcoming Christian life. All three are based on God’s Grace, and come through the Cross of Christ.
We continue to enjoy a constant relation­ship with Christ because of the process de­scribed in Galatians 2:20, which we will arrive at momentarily. Unfortunately, some people fail to live overcoming Christian lives because they shift from relationship to religion after they become Christians, which in fact, is a prob­lem I think for every Believer. In other words, they seem to think they are living proper Chris­tian lives because of their works. The Bible teaches no such thing!
If we are “trying” to live overcoming Chris­tian lives by practicing good works, we need to stop “trying” and start allowing Christ to live through us. The good works will be present, but they will result from relationship and not from religion.
According to Verse 20, which we will address to a greater degree momentarily, this is the way the process works. “I have been crucified with Christ” comes from a perfect tense verb in the Greek, so it relates to the process that begins
at conversion and continues throughout this earthly life. In other words, the sinful Adamic nature is constantly being put to death, by our constant trust in what Jesus did for us at Cal­vary and the Resurrection. In other words, our victorious overcoming is not a one time affair, but rather a continuing, daily process. We must exhibit Faith daily in the Cross.
In addition, “And I no longer live” shows that the human nature or sin nature is no longer in control. “But Christ lives in me” indicates a new source of control.
How does the Life of Christ operate through us?
The phrase, “I live by Faith in the Son of God,” shows that Faith must not only be exer­cised at conversion but throughout our lives.
But Faith in what?
Faith in what Jesus did for us at Calvary and the Resurrection. There He paid the terrible sin debt and as well, He broke the grip of sin within our hearts and lives. However, even as we have stated, it takes a continuous Faith, which means continuous believing even on a daily basis, which is what Jesus referred to in taking up the Cross daily and following Him, in order for us to maintain this victory.
To be frank, the key is in the word “maintain.”
In fact, every single Believer is already an overcomer and victorious in Christ, through his Faith in Christ. In other words, there is noth­ing the Believer can do in the form of works, to make himself victorious or an overcomer, that already having been done in Christ. In other words, Jesus defeated Satan on our behalf, con­sequently becoming victorious. As well, He overcame every rudiment of Satan, sin, and darkness, and did such on our behalf. Our Faith in Him, and what He did, grants us the status of “victory” and “overcomer.”
However, Satan does all within his power to shove us away from that position we have in Christ. He makes us believe that we have to do something, perform good works, become very religious, etc., in order to be an “overcomer,” which he knows will never work, and in fact, is an insult to Christ. Such action portrays, whether we realize it or not, that Jesus did not finish the Work at Calvary and consequently, needs our help.
In fact, I think I can say that most every Christian has fallen into this trap in one way or
the other. We should understand, that it makes no difference as to how sincere we are, how hard we try, if we’re trying to gain victory outside the legal confines of Calvary and the Resurrec­tion, in other words what Jesus did for us, we will fail every time.
That which makes this process work is the Grace of God. In other words, the Holy Spirit works on our behalf, which He will do only within the legal confines of Calvary and the Resurrection, which alone will gain us victory through the Grace of God. We did not earn such as we cannot earn such, it being given to us freely by the Lord upon our Faith.
That is why Paul closed the Passage with the affirmation, “I do not set aside the Grace of God.” The Truth is, if we do not permit the Grace of God to operate in us, we will not be overcoming Christians.
Religion says, “I can do it.” Relationship says, “Christ can do it through me.” Take your pick!
Do you want religion that operates by works — or a relationship that operates by Grace?
Religion guarantees failure, while the Grace of God, which all of us desperately need, and can have through Christ, guarantees victory.
The phrase, “But when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself,” suggests a retreat on the part of Peter from motives of caution. The Greek Text indicates that Peter did not start his withdrawal from the Gentile tables at once, but gradually, under the pres­sure of the criticism of those sent from James. It gives a graphic picture of Peter’s irresolute and tentative efforts to withdraw from an in­tercourse that gave offense to these visitors.
The word “withdrew” also was used of furl­ing the sails of a boat. Peter, the former Fish­erman, was expert at that. Now, he was trim­ming his sails in a controversy that involved Jewish freedom from the Mosaic Law which had been set aside at the Cross.
The word “separated” also speaks of a gradual separation. The whole incident is characteris­tic of Peter.
It seems he was always the first to recognize great Truths and the first to draw back from these Truths. Witness his great confession of the De­ity of the Lord Jesus, and so soon after, his repu­diation of the prediction of our Lord to the effect
that He would die at Jerusalem and be raised again (Mat. 16:13-23); also his call to preach (Mat. 4:18-20), and his action of returning to his fishing business instead of fulfilling his Commission of preaching the Gospel (Jn. 21:3). And of course, the greatest failure of all, in his proclamation of faithfulness to the Lord, and then a few hours later, his denial (Lk. 22:31-34).
It is much to be marvelled that Peter, being so excellent an Apostle, should fall into this er­ror, for at the Council in Jerusalem, he was very bold in defense of this very article, when the Pharisees which believed, held that it was nec­essary to circumcise the Gentile converts, and command them to keep the Law of Moses. Pe­ter then protested vehemently against putting a yoke upon the Gentiles, “which neither our Fathers nor we were able to bear” (Acts 15:5-11).
“Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (I Cor. 10:12). No one would think what danger there is in traditions and ceremonies. Of the Law and good works comes a trust in such, and where that is, there can be no proper trust in Christ.
Peter knew the article of Justification bet­ter than we do, and yet how easily he gave great occasion of offense, that is, if Paul had not with­stood him (Luther).
Peter allowed the opinions of others to in­fluence him, and by his action overturned the Truth. Consequently, the weakness and poverty of man are seen in Peter’s conduct. A man is weak in proportion to his importance before men.
When he accepts the position of being noth­ing he is independent of public opinion and can do everything. A Christian exercises an evil in­fluence over the world to the degree in which it influences him; and the potential for evil is in­creased if the Christian has a reputation for God­liness. In fact, it is a great snare for the heart to seek to maintain a reputation among men; and when this is a motive, the esteem, even though just in itself, becomes an agency for evil. So Pe­ter drew away all the Hebrew Christians, and even Barnabas with him, into his dissimulation.
The phrase, “Fearing them which were of the Circumcision,” presents Peter’s problem
— man fear.
It is not known exactly when Peter came to Antioch, but the flow of events suggests that it was after the Council of Acts Chapter 15. It is true that the verb “had come” allows the view that Paul is here reverting to an earlier inci­dent, i.e., before the Council. If this is so, then Peter’s defense of Paul at Jerusalem in Acts Chapter 15 naturally reflects their earlier con­frontation and conversation at Antioch. Some have defended this view on the basis that Pe­ter could not have acted as he did following the Council.
However, this overlooks both the reality of human inconsistency (even among the best people) and the fact that the Antioch incident reflects an entirely new situation. Actually, this was a new issue:
1. Foods rather than circumcision.
2. A new area of the Faith — Christian liv­ing rather than the basis of Salvation.
3. A new subject — Jewish liberty rather than the liberty of Gentile Christians. This dispute could have fallen naturally upon the compro­mise reached at the Council. Here is the reason why Peter was in the wrong or stood condemned.
It must be noted that Peter did not simply make an honest mistake. The Peter who had received the Vision prior to going to the house of Cornelius and who had defended Paul at the Council was not fooled by the arguments of the Legalizers.
The difficulty was that he gradually gave in to pressure exerted by the Legalizers, even though he knew what was right. In other words, Peter played the hypocrite. “The same Peter who had denied his Lord for fear of a maidser­vant now denied Him again for fear of the Cir­cumcision party.” As this problem was acute, it is acute now. Most Preachers, and I think I speak without exaggeration, are not free in their own spirit to preach what they know in their heart to be true. They fear what certain people in the Church will say, or what denomi­national heads may say or think, or other of their peers in some way.
As well, there is something in all men that desires to be accepted, or even applauded by other men. So, when “fear” is coupled with self-will, there are very few who will Preach “Thus saith the Lord,” irrespective as to what others
think. To be sure, there will be adverse results from some quarters.
In the early 1980’s, we had the largest Televi­sion audience in the world relative to Gospel. In prayer one particular morning, the Lord spoke to my heart with a great Moving of the Holy Spirit, telling me certain things He desired that I address. It concerned the Catholics and their gospel of works, the Denominational world and their denial of the Holy Spirit, the Pentecostals and their abandoning the Holy Spirit, the Char­ismatics and their false doctrine.
This was something which went on for many weeks regarding the Moving of the Holy Spirit upon my heart. The Holy Spirit was perfectly open with me, telling me exactly what would hap­pen. “Your own will turn against you!” He said.
Even though I understood that readily, I am glad that at the time I did not fully understand the implications of what was being said. If so, I am not certain if I would have been strong enough to have obeyed.
Dealing with the Catholics at first, to be frank, I knew absolutely nothing about Catholic doc­trine at that particular time. Besides that, Catho­lic Charismatics were giving to our Ministry mil­lions of dollars each year in donations. However, when I began to study Catholic doctrine, I began to realize what the Holy Spirit was saying to me.
The conventional wisdom at that particu­lar time among Pentecostals and Charismat­ics was that Catholics who had truly been saved, with many being Baptized with the Holy Spirit, were to stay in the Catholic Church. That was the message that was being propagated. To be frank, I knew very readily as to what was being preached about this particular situation, but I thought little about its direction.
When I began to study Catholic doctrine, I began to realize that there was no way the Holy Spirit could condone Catholics, who had truly been saved staying in this error. Such was not Scripturally or Spiritually possible (Jn. 16:13­15). If they were truly saved, they had to come out of this false way.
I little dreamed the furor which would erupt upon my first Message. Having the ear at that
time of most of the Church world, my Message came across like a bombshell.
To be sure, I did everything to be diplomatic and kind, but yet, I unequivocally stated, at least as it regards Catholics, that if they were truly saved, they were going to have to come out of the Catholic Church. I made no bones about it, I pulled no punches, I stated it just like I be­lieved it to be.
Almost instantly, the giving from Catho­lic Charismatics dried up, with my Pentecos­tal and Charismatic friends castigating me in no uncertain terms for my particular stand. I mean that my Message aroused an anger from those quarters which I little expected, at least to that degree.
Whether it was true or not I had no way to prove, but I was told that the leader of a major Pentecostal Denomination stated that he wished he could publicly apologize to the Catholics for my stand. In other words, he was greatly displeased at my Message. As stated, whether this man actually said this or not I am not sure; however, I do know that the policy of the leadership of that particular Denomi­nation, at least for the most part, was defi­nitely opposed to my Message. There was no doubt about that!
By the way, and I think I can say without fear of exaggeration, we saw untold thousands of Catholics brought to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ all over the world.
One particular Pastor of a very large Pente­costal Church, very angry about my stand, and confronting me in the presence of other Preach­ers, I quietly asked him as to how many Catho­lics he had seen saved under his Ministry?
He sat there for a few moments, and then fi­nally said, “None, of which I am aware.”
I answered and said, “By the Grace of God, I have seen thousands brought to Christ.”
His ridiculous answer was, “If you had not told them to come out of the Catholic Church, you would have seen many more saved.”
In other words, he was saying that if we preached a lie, that would get people saved. To be frank, I really did not know how to answer such stupidity. I guess I would have to say with Jesus, “Can the blind lead the blind? Shall they not both fall into the ditch?” (Lk. 6:39).
The man-fear which Peter experienced, and which millions of other Preachers have experi­enced down through the centuries, has been one of Satan’s greatest weapons against the “Truth.” Most are not willing to pay the price demanded in order to take a proper stand. It is much easier to compromise the Message, and thereby gain the plaudits of the crowd. Of course, when this happens, the Preacher then becomes a “hireling.”
There is every evidence that Peter repented regarding this thing, but the facts are, most never do repent.
Unfortunately, conduct such as that of Pe­ter is not inconsequential, neither in his day nor now. So one is not surprised to read that other Jews, including Barnabas, were led away by his dissimulation. If Peter had been a lesser man or less prominent, the defection might have been less serious. Of course, I speak of influence and not of the individual. It is always serious with the individual, irrespective as to whom they may be.
But this was Peter, the pillar Apostle, the companion of the Lord during His earthly Ministry!
What Peter did moved others. It is obvious that any Christian must give heed to his actions and the greater the position or responsibility, the more important those actions become.
The phrase, “And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him,” gives the result of Peter’s action in the Church at Antioch.
The Jewish Christians there refused to eat anymore with their Gentile Brethren in the Lord. In fact, the Church was split wide open on the issue.
The Love-feast, the bond of fellowship ex­pressive of Christian Love amongst the Breth­ren, was now divided into two groups. The friendly groups of Jews and Gentiles in the fel­lowship of the homes were discontinued. The fact that the Jews of the Antioch Church fol­lowed Peter in his withdrawal from the Gen­tiles, shows that the entire group had previously eaten with the latter. In other words, they had
all been one, which is what was intended by the Holy Spirit.
“Dissembled” in the Greek is, “hupokrinomai,” and speaks “of the act of concealing one’s real character under the guise of conduct implying something different.” The word itself means literally “to answer from under,” as an actor who speaks from under a mask. Our word “hypo­crite” comes from this Greek word.
In this present case, the knowledge, judg­ment, and feelings which were concealed, were worse only from the viewpoint of those who had come from Jerusalem of whom Peter and the Antioch Jews were afraid. From Paul’s view­point, it was their better knowledge which they covered up by their misconduct, the usual type of hypocrisy that proceeds from fear.
Paul, by characterizing their actions as hy­pocrisy, implied that there had been no real change of conviction on the part of Peter and the rest of the Jews, but only conduct that mis­represented their true convictions.
In other words, Peter and the other Jews at Antioch did not really believe in what they were doing, but succumbed to this false position be­cause of fear of the Jews who had come from James in Jerusalem.
Although Peter’s concern about his visit to the home of Cornelius was expressed in terms of that which was “unclean,” it involved more than the actual eating of food. Certainly the central issue was fellowship which was typified in Semitic culture by the common table.
There is no evidence, however, that the Jerusalem Church understood the incident (Peter’s Vision) as a new general policy of Jew­ish-Gentile fellowship. Instead, there is every indication that it’s significance was simply the recognition that the Gospel had been given to the Gentiles as well as the Jews. In fact, the decision of the Jerusalem Council further in­dicates that the two groups would continue to be separate, with the Jews continuing un­der the Law.
This presented a critical problem for Paul, as should be obvious, because his Churches in Macedonia and Achaia, as well as Asia Minor, were in great part made up of both groups. How was Christian fellowship possible if the Jewish Believers were separated from their Gentile
Brethren because of the restrictions of their Law? So it becomes obvious here as to what Paul had done.
In Antioch, as no doubt was the case else­where as well, Paul had taught the Jewish Be­lievers to place the unity of their Christian fel­lowship above the limitations of the Law. In other words, all were one, which meant that the Jews were to ignore the restrictions of the Law, which were fulfilled in Christ and set aside anyway.
Considering the tremendous influence of the Antioch Church, it seems that James had sent a delegation to that city to check on the proceedings respecting the mingling of Jews and Gentiles. Every indication is, that this delegation made a serious consequence out of this matter. So serious in fact, that Peter along with Barnabas and the other Jews defected.
As we have repeatedly stated, if James had included the Jews in his decision of Acts Chap­ter 15, this problem would never have arisen. As well, any error if not corrected, always leads to greater error, until it finally engulfs the whole. How could there be one Gospel, if Jews were not free to have fellowship with Gentiles? In fact, what kind of Gospel would that be?
Paul completely ignored the Law-keeping demands of the Jewish Leadership in Jerusa­lem as it referred to Jews, which is what he should have done. However, it did not endear him with that particular Leadership, as should be obvious.
The problem was one of basic insincerity — either while participating in the table fellow­ship or by separation from that fellowship in the interests of the Law. Paul concludes that at one time or the other the action was a sham.
It will be seen, as the Apostle proceeds, that it was this duplicity that was the great wrong
— not simply the refusal of Jews to share table fellowship with the Gentiles.
In the strictest Scriptural sense hypocrisy is the direct opposite of sincerity. Hypocrisy is duplicity, and insincerity in purity or singleness of motive. Thus, such profession is hypocritical only to the degree that it re­flects insincerity. But to the extent that one’s words or actions are not sincere he is being hypocritical.
The phrase, “Insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation,” once again uses the word “hypocrisy,” i.e., “dis­simulation.”
But now regarding Barnabas, and the fact that he was swept off his feet and carried away with their hypocrisy. It was hard enough for Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles and the cham­pion of Gentile liberty from the Law, to have Peter act as he did. But the hypocrisy of Barna­bas was the cruel blow.
With the single exception of Paul, Barna­bas had been the most effective Minister of the Gospel in the conversion of the Gentiles. He had been deputed with Paul by the Antioch Church to the Council at Jerusalem as its rep­resentative. He had come back with the news that the position held by Paul and himself with regard to Gentile freedom from Circumcision had been sustained by the Jerusalem Apostles.
Now, his withdrawal from social fellowship with the Gentiles, came with the force of a be­trayal to Paul and the Church at Antioch. The defection of Barnabas was of a far more serious nature with regard to Gentile freedom even than the vacillation of Peter.
Barnabas was Paul’s chief colleague in the evangelization of the Gentiles, and now to have him play the hypocrite and deserter, was a bit­ter blow to the great Apostle. This may well have prepared the way for the dissention be­tween them which shortly afterwards led to their separation (Acts 15:39). Barnabas, the foremost champion of Gentile liberty next to Paul, had in a sense, become a turncoat (Wuest).
Incidentally, all of these matters lend great credence to the contention that this situation occurred after the Jerusalem Council and in­stead of before, as contended by some. If this matter had taken place before the Jerusalem Council, there would not have been near the furor. As well, I seriously doubt that Paul pre­vious to that Council, would have felt nearly as free as he did to take the steps he took, after the Council.
Peter knew the Truth. So, we know that hypocrisy, at least as it is entertained in this capacity, is not a sin of ignorance, but rather
the very opposite. Considering the defection of all the other Jews, even Barnabas, we begin to get the picture as to how serious the situa­tion actually was.
It is a wonderful matter to consider that God preserved the Church being yet young, and the Gospel itself one might say, by one person only. Paul alone stood, it seems, for the Truth.
Paul then reproved Peter for no small mat­ter, but for the chiefest article of all Christian Doctrine, which by Peter’s dissimulation (hy­pocrisy) was in great danger. Certainly it is much to be marvelled that such excellent men as Peter, Barnabas, and others, should so sud­denly and so lightly fail, especially in that thing which they had before held, and taught unto others. It is a perilous thing to trust to our own strength, for in that we think ourselves most sure, we may err and fail, and bring ourselves and others into great danger.
Thus, we see that we are nothing with all our gifts be they ever so great, except God as­sist us. When he leaves us to ourselves, our wisdom and knowledge are nothing. For, in the hour of temptation, it may suddenly come to pass, that, by the subtlety of the Devil, all the comfortable places of the Scriptures shall be taken away out of our sight, and such places only as contain threatenings, shall be set be­fore our eyes, which shall oppress us, and ut­terly confound us. Consequently, let no man glory of his own righteousness, wisdom, and other gifts; but let him humble himself, and pray with the Apostles, “Lord increase our Faith” (Lk. 17:5) (Luther).
Paul has already shown that he opposed Pe­ter to his face because he was wrong, but we are not to think that he did this because he loved exposing error or, even less, because he loved an argument or desired to enhance his own prestige. To be frank, there was nothing of that in this. Paul’s real concern was for the Truth of the Gospel. It was not a matter of personalities.
To the Corinthians he wrote, “What after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul?” (I Cor. 3:5). As well, it is not a matter of trivial forms or cer­emonies. What was at stake was the Gospel it­self. Hence, Paul acted out of the very concern that Peter lacked.
This is the second time that Paul has spo­ken of “the truth of the Gospel” (vss. 5, 14) — the good news that men and women do not be­come accepted with God because of anything they have done, or can do, but solely on the ba­sis of God’s Grace shown in the Death and Res­urrection of Jesus Christ. Moreover, on the ba­sis of this Death all who believe become fully accepted by God and are accepted equally. Peter’s conduct compromised this principle for it implied that there could be a superiority in some Christians based on race or traditions.
It is not enough merely to understand and accept the Gospel, as Peter did, nor even to de­fend it, as he amply did at Jerusalem. A Chris­tian must also practice the Gospel consistently, allowing it to regulate all areas of his conduct.
The phrase, “But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the Gospel,” presents the idea that Paul may not have been present when all of this began.
Could he have been present in Antioch and yet have failed to see what was happening be­fore such tragic consequences developed?
Is it possible that, even though seeing it, Paul hesitated to take drastic action? But this hardly fits his personality. Thus, it has been suggested that he was absent from Antioch when the situation was developing and saw it only when he returned.
So Paul confronted Peter before them all. His primary concern was to defend the Truth of the Gospel, but he was also convinced that the hypocrisy should be clearly revealed. To accomplish this it was necessary for him to pub­licly rebuke Peter, the recognized and highly respected leader of the Church. Such action was indeed a bold step, but Paul was convinced that the enormity of the error justified it. Now, at this later time, he could refer back to it as evidence that he had Divine authority for the Gospel which he preached.
“Uprightly” in the Greek is “orthopodeo,” and means “to walk with straight feet,” thus “to
walk a straight course.” It speaks of straight­forward, unwavering, sincere conduct in con­trast to a crooked, wavering, and more or less insincere course such as Paul had said Peter and the other Jews were guilty of.
The words “according to” are from the Greek “pros,” and put definite limitations upon the words “walked uprightly.” The sense here is not that Peter failed to walk in conformity to the precepts of Evangelical Truth, but that his attitude towards the Truth of the Gospel was not straightforward.
The idea is, “He did not pursue a straight course in relation to the Truth of the Gospel.” He did not deal honestly and consistently with it. His was an attitude that led him to juggle with its Sacred Truth, to warp it, to misrepre-­sent it, to deal crookedly with it. What an in­dictment of Peter (Wuest).
The “Truth of the Gospel” is the Truth which the Gospel embodies, with special reference to the Doctrine of “Justification by Faith.” Peter and Barnabas were acting in a manner which both were inconsistent with their holding of that great Truth, and, thusly, by their actions con­travened its advancement in the world.
Peter knew that acceptance of the Sacri­fice of Christ on the Cross was the only thing that would bring Salvation to a life (Acts 2:38; 4:12). So, Satan would use some of the great­est men in the Church to hinder the great av­enue of Salvation, which is “Justification by Faith,” even though it is certain that they did not intend to do that. Nevertheless, that’s ex­actly what they did!
Was this constituted as sin on their part by God?
The Scripture plainly says, “For whatsoever is not of Faith is sin” (Rom. 14:23).
It also says, “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin” (James 4:17).
Yes, what they did was sin, and a very griev­ous sin at that!
This matter was so serious because their ac­tion was implying that Justification could come from practicing religion. Peter knew better!
Called by the ascended Christ Himself, Paul never forgot the great meaning of this call and its implications for his total life as
Christ’s Apostle to the Gentiles. He never com-­promised the Truth of the Gospel and its tre­mendous possibilities for Faith and Life. This becomes very apparent when studying his four­teen Epistles.
In fact, his firm refusal to compromise the Truth of God’s Word can be seen in his reac­tions to this very disturbing situation.
The phrase, “I said unto Peter before them all,” means that Paul’s rebuke was in the pres­ence of everybody, the whole Antioch Church.
This means that the rebuke was not given before the Officers of the Church only, or be­fore a specially convened and restricted number of people, but right in open Church meeting and before all the members of the Antioch Church who were present.
Evidently, Paul felt he had no choice in this matter, and was no doubt led by the Holy Spirit. The situation had become the discussion throughout the entirety of the Church, there­fore, if Paul confronted it at all, he had to con­front it publicly, which he did.
This case was of such significance, that it was necessary to establish fixed and just prin­ciples; consequently, Paul took occasion to do exactly that.
In fact, if the situation had not been cor­rected at Antioch, it would soon have spread to all the other Churches as well.
The fact that Paul reproved Peter before “them all,” proves several things:
1. That he regarded himself, and was so re-­garded by the Church at Antioch, as on an equal­ity with Peter, and as having equal authority with him.
2. Public reproof is right when an offense has been public, and when the Church at large is interested, or is in danger of being led into error.
3. It is a duty to reprove those who err. It is a painful duty, and one much neglected for that very reason; still it is a duty often enjoined in the Scriptures, and one that is of the deepest im­portance to the Church. He does a favor to another man, who in a kind and gracious spirit, admonishes him of his error, and reclaims him from a course of sin.
He does another the deepest injury, who suf­fers sin unrebuked to lie upon him, and who sees him injuring himself and others, and who is at no pains to admonish him for these faults.
4. It is the duty of one Christian to admonish another who is an offender, and to do it in a kind spirit. It is also the duty of him who has of­fended to receive the admonition in a gracious spirit and with thankfulness.
Excitable was Peter by nature, yet there is no evidence that he became angry here, or that he did not receive the admonition of his Brother Paul with perfect good temper, and with an acknowledgement that Paul was right and that he was wrong.
Indeed, the case was so plain — as it usually is, if men would be honest — that he seems to have felt that it was right, and to have received the rebuke as became a Christian. In fact, Peter at heart, was too good a man to be offended when he was admonished that he had done wrong.
A good man is willing to be reproved when he has erred, and it is usually proof that there is much that is wrong when we become ex­cited and irritable if another admonishes us of our faults.
As well, it may quickly be added here, that nothing should be inferred from this in regard to the inspiration or Apostolic authority of Pe­ter. The fault was not that he taught error of Doctrine, but that he sinned by his actions.
Even though we ask this question, actually it should not even be necessary. However, due to the erroneous thoughts of many, it is best that it be addressed.
None of the Apostles, or Patriarchs, or Proph­ets, were perfect. Paul himself said, “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the Mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:13-14).
The Calling and Apostleship of these Breth­ren were not effected as it could not be effected. Of course, this predisposes repentance and cor­rection of the situation.
The Word plainly says that the “Gifts and Calling of God are without repentance” (Rom.
11:29). In other words, if God calls an individual, that Calling remains irrespective as to what hap­pens in the future. While it may be true that the individual may fail, with some even ceasing to function in that which the Lord has called them to do; still, they will answer to God for that call­ing when they stand before Him.
The situation for Apostles who do wrong, at least as far as God is concerned, is the same as with anyone else. They have to repent of the situation and put it behind them, and then func­tion as God has called them. This is what Peter and Barnabas did, and which all Apostles must do, that is if such a situation occurs, in fact, which all must do.
There has never been a perfect human being other than Christ. All have had to go before the Lord, asking for Mercy and Grace, which He al­ways gives without reservation. There is no such thing, at least in Scripture, of someone forfeit­ing their Calling, that is, if they will humble them­selves before the Lord, seeking to follow Him in all His ways. Sinless perfection does not exist in any, even Apostles, and such is not the idea as taught in Scripture. However, a broken and con­trite spirit is that which the Lord demands of all (Ps. 51; Lk. 18:9-14; I Jn. 1:9).
God does not have one requirement for Lay­persons and another for Apostles, etc. The penalty for sin is the same for all, and the solu­tion for sin is the same for all, as should be obvious. As well, when God forgives, it is total and complete. There is no such thing as a par­tial justification. ­
The moment that Peter and Barnabas re­pented of this situation, at that moment they were fully restored and in every capacity.
As well, all sin is put in the same category. The Lord does not have one type of repentance for one type of sin and another type of repentance for other types of sin. Such thinking is silly. When Jesus died on Calvary, paying the price for man’s Redemption, that price sufficed for all.
So, Preachers who run around claiming that certain ones are not qualified because of some­thing which happened in the past, which has been duly and Scripturally repented of, simply don’t know what they are talking about. They should understand, that if they attempt to ap­ply such to others, they have at the same time
applied such to themselves, which means they have automatically condemned themselves (James 4:11-12).
The question, “If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?”, points out graphically so, the apostasy of the Apostle. (Apostasy is a depar­ture from Truth.)
“Compellest” means here moral compulsion or persuasion. The idea is, that the conduct of Peter was such as to lead the Gentiles to the belief that it was necessary for them to be cir­cumcised in order to be saved. So this tells us, that Peter’s defection went much further than the mere dietary laws, but included the basic content of Mosaic legislation.
The word “live” or “livest” as Paul used it here, does not refer to the moral living accord­ing to Gentile or Jewish fashion, but to the shap­ing of the life with reference to the external social observances in the Christian fellowship, such as Levitical restrictions on eating.
The present tense of “live” must not be pressed to the point of teaching that Peter at the time of this rebuke, was living as the Gen­tiles do, for he was not. It describes a mental attitude or habit which had in times past shown itself in outward actions, and which was still enforced, but which was being hypocriti­cally covered up by his action of withdrawing from fellowship with the Gentiles. In other words, Peter though continuing to live as a Jew, knew in his heart that all of these things, Levitical Law, Circumcision, Sabbath keeping, etc., had all been fulfilled in Christ. In other words, he now placed no spiritual attachment to these things.
So, what he did here was to trim his sails according to the sudden change of wind that came from Jerusalem, while not in principle abandoning his convictions.
Paul, in his rebuke, forcibly sets forth Peter’s inconsistency, for that’s what it was, in compel­ling the Gentiles to obey the Levitical Legisla­tion regarding foods, for the Gentiles had only one of two choices in this matter, either to refuse to obey the Law in this respect and thus cause a split in the Christian Church, or to pre­serve harmony by coming under the Law.
Worse yet, Peter did all of this with a full understanding of the Vision God had given him, which clearly taught him that the Levitical Legislation for the Jew was now a thing of the past (Acts 10:28), and that the line of separa­tion had been broken down between Jew and Gentile by the Cross.
Peter’s action of refusing to eat with the Gentiles, did not merely have the affect of main­taining the validity of the Law for Jewish Chris­tians, but it involved the forcing of that Law upon the Gentile Christians, that, or creating a wide-open division in the Church. This latter was what concerned the Apostle Paul.
He deemed it of utmost importance to main­tain the unity of the Christian Church as against any division into Jewish and Gentile groups. At the Jerusalem Council he had agreed to a terri­torial division of the Missionary field into Gen­tile and Jewish divisions, but to create a divi­sion respecting Doctrine between Jew and Gen­tile in a Gentile community and Church, was out of the question and was something not to be done.
In effect, at the Jerusalem Council, it was agreed that the Jewish Christians should con­tinue to keep the Law, which of course was wrong, and that the Gentile Christians were to be free from the Law, which was right. But as is obvious, this arrangement left the question undecided as to which decision of the Council should take precedence when an issue arose such as we see at Antioch where Peter’s action brought pressure to bear upon the Gentiles. Paul insists that in such an instance, the Jews were not obligated to keep the Law (Wuest).
This shows us the problems which arise, when the right thing is not done to begin with. When James made his decision in Acts Chap­ter 15 concerning this matter, Scripturally, the Jews should have been included with the Gen­tiles. In fact, the failure to do this, ultimately destroyed the Jewish segment of the Church.
Going back to the word “compelled,” then adding the word “thou,” i.e., “compellest thou,” means “settest thyself to compel.” In other words, the “compulsion” applied by Peter was a moral compulsion; he was, in effect, withhold­ing from the Gentiles, Christian fellowship, unless they Judaized.
Put into words, his conduct said this: “If you will Judaize, I will have fellowship with you; if you will not, you are not qualified for full fra­ternal recognition from me.”
Consequently, this was an outrage upon what Paul here refers to as “the Truth of the Gospel.” It is at our peril that we grieve, by a cold or unbrotherly bearing towards him, one whom we have reason to believe God has “re­ceived” (Rom. 14:3; 15:7). If God in Christ owns and loves him as a Son, we ought to frankly own and love him as a brother (Huxtable).
Martin Luther said, “Many have the Gospel, but not the Truth of the Gospel.”
So Paul says here of Peter, Barnabas, and other Jews, they “went not the right way of the Gospel,” that is to say, they had the Gospel, but they walked not uprightly according to the Gospel.
They preach the Gospel, but through their hypocrisy (dissimulation), they establish the Law: but the establishing of the Law, is the abolishing of the Gospel.
Is it any wonder that Paul was so disturbed when he viewed the hypocrisy of Peter, Barna­bas, and the other Jews at Antioch? This mat­ter was serious because their action was imply­ing that Justification could come from prac­ticing religion.
Neither Peter nor Barnabas had changed their views about the fact that God did not re­quire Gentile Believers to become Jewish pros­elytes. That can be seen from Paul’s use of the Greek word for hypocrisy.
The problem was that they had been follow­ing Gentile customs, in other words, there was no discrimination between Jews and Gentiles, until they gradually retreated because of the presence of certain Jews who had come from James in Jerusalem, who emphasized legalism. As stated, Peter and Barnabas were suggest­ing by their actions that Gentile Believers had “to Judaize” or become Jewish proselytes. Con­sequently, it is easy to see the seriousness of their offense.
The Verses that conclude this Chapter con­tain capsule statements of some of the most sig­nificant Truths of Christianity. In particular,
Paul clearly states the Doctrine of Justification by Grace through Faith and defends it over against the traditional objection that Justifi­cation by Faith leads to lawlessness. Actually, the words “justify” and “justification” occur in these Verses for the first time, at least as it re­spects this great issue. Consequently, Paul now begins to develop the Message that is central to this Epistle, to his Gospel, and indeed to Christianity in general. This statement flows out of the situation at Antioch and anticipates the fuller argument of the same Doctrine oc­curring in Chapters 3 and 4.
Ramsay states, “After working through the rest of the Epistle, one turns back to these Verses and finds in them the whole Truth in embryo.”
The phrase, “We who are Jews by nature,” pre­sents Paul here speaking to Peter on the com­mon ground of their former Judaism and in an ironical fashion using the language of Judaism.
In using the word “we,” Paul includes him­self, Peter, and the Jewish Christians at Antioch in contrast to the Gentile Christians. In effect, he is saying that he and they are Jews by birth, not only not Gentiles, but not even Gentile proselytes. He implies that as such, the Jews have special privileges and prerogatives.
It has been argued as to whether Verses 15­21 are part of Paul’s words to Peter in the hear­ing of the Antioch Church, or whether Paul’s words in Verse 14 are all that is reported of what he said to him on that occasion, and that Verses 15-21 are specially written to the Galatians as an answer to the question of Paul. The matter is not that important, but most probably, the entirety of the balance of the Chapter was spo­ken to Peter. In fact, in Galatians 3:1, Paul re­sumes his direct words to the Galatians in the expression “O foolish Galatians” (Wuest).
The idea of Paul’s statement concerning “Jews by nature,” is that both (Peter and Paul) have felt the force of hereditary prejudice. Both had overcome this prejudice. Both had upheld Christian freedom, alike in theory and in practice.
The phrase, “And not sinners of the Gen­tiles,” means that the Jews were not born un­der the disadvantages of the Gentiles in regard
to the true knowledge of the way of Salvation. Paul does not mean that he does not regard the Jews as sinners, for his views on that subject were fully expressed in Romans Chapters 2 and 3. However, whereas the Jews did have the knowledge of God, the Gentiles had none at all. In fact, the Jews, even from their very begin­ning as it regarded the Abrahamic Covenant, knew about Justification by Faith as it per­tained to Salvation (Gen. 15:6). That they veered from this, was not through ignorance, but rather because of their own obstinacy and self-will; however, the Gentiles, as stated, had no knowledge of God whatsoever.
By using this phraseology as he did, Paul puts himself for the moment in the position of the most prejudiced Jew, uses his language, and thus makes his argument as strong as possible.
Admitting to the full of all the religious ad­vantages of Judaism, and all the moral degra­dation of the Gentiles, yet, “even we” have re­nounced this hope of being justified through Judaism. Actually, this manner of speaking of the Heathen was customary and proverbial among the Jews. We may even refer to the lan­guage of the Sermon on the Mount (Mat. 6:7, 32).
In this Verse and those that follow in this Chapter, Paul brings out the fact that for all the privileges of the Jew, it was found that there was no Justification whatsoever from the Law; and this sent them to Christ, or rather was in­tended to.
In effect, Paul says, “We thus abdicated our privileged position; we put ourselves on the same level as the Gentiles, and became ‘in the eye of the Law’ sinners like them. Sinners?
“Must we then admit that all Christ has done for us is to make us sinners? Far be so irrever­ent a thought.
“Our sin consists not in quitting the Law, but in returning to that which has been aban­doned. The function of the Law was prepara­tory and transitional. The Law itself taught me to expect its own abrogation. It was a stage on the way to Christ. To Him have I given in a complete adhesion. In His Death I am severed from ancient ties. In His Death I cease to have any life of my own. All the life I have, man as I am, I owe to Christ, my Saviour. Thus, I ac­cept and do not reject and frustrate the Gift
so freely offered me: whereas, by going back to the Law for Justification, I should be prac­tically declaring the Death of Christ useless and unprofitable.”
This is one of the most important Verses in the Epistle as already noted, it contains the first mention of the words “justify” or “Justifica­tion.” “Law” is mentioned for the first time. This is also the first place in the Letter in which “Faith” is brought forward as the indispensable channel of Salvation.
“Justify” is a forensic term borrowed from the law courts. It means “to declare righteous or innocent.” The opposite of “to justify” is “to condemn” or “to pronounce guilty.” Such a term involves an objective standard, and since Righteousness is understood to be the unique characteristic of God, that Standard must be the Divine Standard. In ourselves, all persons fall short of this Standard — “For all have sinned and come short of the Glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).
But in Christ, God declares all righteous who believe, that is believe in Christ and what He did at Calvary and the Resurrection, imputing Divine Righteousness to them. In this sense, Justification does not express an ethical change or influence (though ethical changes follow); rather, it expresses the Judicial action of God apart from human merit according to which the guilty are pardoned, acquitted, and then rein­stated as God’s children and as fellow heirs with Jesus Christ.
This experience does not happen automati­cally. It is true that God justifies, but He does so only as He unites a man or woman to Christ, a union that takes place only through the chan­nel of human faith. In other words, Faith in Christ and what He did is a requirement, an absolute requirement. Faith is the means, not the Source, of Justification, that being Jesus.
Faith is trust. It begins with knowledge, so it is not blind. It builds on facts, so it is not speculation. It stakes its life on the outcome, so it is not impractical. Faith is trusting Christ and proving His Promises. The expression in the middle of Verse 16, literally “we have be­lieved into Christ,” implies an act of personal commitment, not just assenting to the facts concerning Christ, but actually running to Him for refuge and seeking mercy.
It is also implied in this commitment that a person will turn his back on the only other ap­parent possibility — the attempt to be justified by works done in obedience to formal statutes from whatever source. It is important to note that the Greek article is not present in the phrases “observing Law” or “works of Law.” This means that Paul’s emphasis is not really on the Jewish Law, the Law of Moses, though it includes it, “but rather on any system of attempting to please God by good deeds of any nature.”
“Works of Law” are literally “deeds of men,” and of whatever nature.
So, the introduction of the Greek article “the” as “the works of the Law,” should not have been included in the translation, because it is not in the original.
The threefold repetition of the Doctrine of “Justification by Faith” in this one Verse is important, because it shows the importance the Holy Spirit through the Apostle gives to the Doctrine.
Besides, the three phrases increase in em­phasis. They are as follows:
1. Paul says, “A man is not justified by ob­serving . . . Law, but by Faith in Jesus Christ.” “A man” is any man, anyone.
2. The second phrase is particular and per­sonal. “We, too, have put our Faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by Faith in Christ and not by observing the Law.” This phrase in­volves Paul himself, as well as all who stand with him in the Faith.
3. The final statement is universal: “By ob­serving the Law no one will be justified.” The words are literally “all flesh,” i.e., mankind with­out exception.
This universal application of the teaching is heightened by the fact that Paul apparently quotes from Psalms 143:2 (as he also does in Rom. 3:20), thereby, adding the stamp of a more general, Biblical principle to his statements (Gaebelein).
The phrase, “Knowing that a man is not jus­tified by the works of the Law, but by the Faith of Jesus Christ,” in effect, as one might say, is speaking of himself and Peter. This is what rendered the conduct of Peter and the other Jews who “dissembled” with him, so entirely inexcusable. Peter knew better and so did Barnabas, and for that matter, so did all the other Jews in the Church at Antioch, who had been beneficiaries of the teaching of Paul. They could not plead ignorance on this vital subject, and yet they were pursuing a course the ten­dency of which was to lead the Gentile converts to believe that it was necessary to observe the Law of Moses, or any other laws for that mat­ter, in order to be justified and saved — in other words, a Salvation of works.
The Apostle plainly intends here to make the categorical affirmation that no man gains Justification save through Faith in Christ. In fact, the way he states the case, works of the Law (any law) can never have any part whatso­ever in procuring Justification. In fact, “works of the Law” in attempting to gain Justification, actually has the opposite effect, succeeding only in nullifying one’s Salvation (Gal. 5:4).
As we have already stated, however, Faith is, strictly speaking, only the means, not the Source of Justification, that being Jesus Christ, and more specifically, that which He did at Cal­vary and the Resurrection.
The phrase, “Even we have believed in Jesus Christ,” refers to taking upon oneself all the qualities, attributes, and life of the one in whom is believed, in this case Christ. So, it is far more than mere mental affirmation. It concerns giv­ing one’s heart and life in totality to Christ, in essence, making Him the Lord of one’s life.
Even though the “believing” refers to all things about Jesus, His Person as the Son of God, His Virgin Birth, His sinless, perfect life, but more than all it refers to what He did for
sinful humanity, which included the entirety of the human race and for all time, at Calvary and the Resurrection. He in effect, became our Substitute and identification with Him, which comes by Faith, meaning to simply believe in Him and what He did, guarantees Salvation (Jn. 3:16).
In essence, Paul is saying here, “We, i.e., you and I, Peter, who are Jews by natural birth, even we — you and I — have believed in Christ Jesus in order that we might be declared righteous upon the principle of Faith in Him and not on the principle of legal works.”
Even as we have already stated, the literal translation is, “We have believed into Christ,” which implies an act of personal commitment, not just assenting to the facts concerning Christ, but actually running to Him for refuge and seeking mercy.
The phrase, “That we might be justified by the Faith of Christ,” presents the act of God in justifying a believing sinner which consists of taking away his guilt and its penalty, since Christ bore both on the Cross, which also in­cludes the imputation of Righteousness, even Christ Jesus Himself, in Whom the Believer stands not only guiltless and uncondemned for time and eternity, but also positively righteous in the sight of the eternal Laws of God (Wuest).
The word “by” as it speaks of the “Faith of Christ,” means “through,” and indicates the channel through which one secures Salvation, namely Christ.
The phrase, “And not by the works of the Law: for by the works of the Law shall no flesh be justified,” makes the statement as emphatic as is possible for a statement to be made.
As we have already stated, the word “the” should not have been included in any of the three cases where the word “Law” is used. While the Holy Spirit through Paul is definitely re­ferring to the Law of Moses, He is not referring just to the Law of Moses, but actually to any type of Law devised by men, in order to achieve Justification by God. This is very important!
While the Jews of Paul’s day and previous, attempted to gain Salvation by merit or works of the Law as it pertained to Moses, this is not
the problem with most Gentiles. In fact, most of the Gentiles who came to Christ during the time of Paul and even thereafter knew and know almost nothing about the Law of Moses. The idea is this:
The concept of trying to earn one’s Salva­tion, or approval by God, or Justification, had its origin in the thought and practice of man all down through the ages since its inception in the heart of Cain. The whole world in one way or the other, thinks it can earn Salvation by a system of good works, etc. In fact, the world, at least for the most part, whatever it is they believe about life after death, or eternity, etc., pretty well judges everything on the basis of what I refer to as a “brownie point system.” In other words, if their good deeds outweigh their bad deeds, which they always do in their own eyes, this constitutes Salvation, etc.
Actually, just last night over Television, I heard a Movie Actor say, “I know when I die that I will go to Heaven.”
He was asked by the man interviewing him, as to how he knew that.
“Because I am good,” was his reply!
What he constituted as “good,” I have no idea; however, whatever it was, is not, and in fact, can never be recognized by God.
This Word “works of the Law,” reaches far; it extends to all that is contrary to Grace. Whatsoever is not Grace, is the Law, whether it be Judicial, Ceremonial, or the Ten Com­mandments, or any type of Law of one’s own making, which constitutes works.
In fact, the entirety of the Catholic Religion bases its so-called Salvation, upon works. Mar­tin Luther called it “the divinity of the anti-Christian kingdom.”
He then went on to say, “And moreover, that all men may see how far from the Truth these blind guides, and leaders of the blind, have wan­dered, and how by this wicked and blasphemous doctrine they have not only darkened the Gos­pel, but have taken it clean away, and buried Christ utterly.”
The Truth is, if anyone can earn Salvation by “good works” of any nature, why did Christ have to come down to this Earth and die on a cruel Cross? The facts are, a person can have one or the other, he cannot have both. Its either
works or Christ. To attempt to co-mingle the two, automatically nullifies Christ.
Please allow us to plainly define what a deadly sinner actually is.
He is such an unholy and bloody hypocrite as Paul was, when he was on the way to Damascus, to persecute Jesus of Nazareth, to stamp out the Doctrine of the Gospel, to murder the faithful, and utterly to overthrow the Church of Christ.
And who will not say, but that these were horrible sins? Yet Paul could not see them. He was blinded by a perverse zeal for God, so that he thought these things were perfect righteous­ness, and high service unto God.
Wherefore with Paul, we utterly deny the merit of self-worthiness, and affirm that these speculations are nothing else but mere deceits of Satan. For God never gave to any man Grace and Everlasting Life for the merit of self-righ­teousness or personal worthiness. Dependence on these things, rather than drawing men to­ward God, have a tendency to have the oppo­site effect.
These “good works” fool people, simply be­cause they are “good.” Inasmuch as they are “good,” surely, at least as human nature thinks, this will earn or merit something with God, etc. Consequently, we are deceived.
This feeling and spirit which affects all men everywhere and for all time, comes from the “good side” of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (Gen. 2:17).
The “evil” part of that tree is obvious, and opposed by all the world. I speak of stealing, murder, hatred, racism, etc. However, the “good” part fools people and deceives them.
That’s the reason that the doing of religion is the most powerful narcotic there is. Notice what I said, “the doing of religion.” I speak of “good works,” and the involvement with “re­ligious ceremonies and rituals,” etc.
The “doing” of these things, assuages some­what the guilt of man, thereby making him be­lieve that all is well spiritually, when in fact, nothing is well spiritually, that is if he trusts in such.
The way to True Christianity is this, that a man do first acknowledge himself by the Law, to be a sinner and that it is impossible for him to do any good work. For the Law says that man is a corrupt tree (Mat. 7:17), and a corrupt tree cannot bring forth good fruit. In fact, all that one does in this category, despite the ef­forts otherwise, thinks and speaks against God, whether they realize such or not. There is no way a person can deserve Grace by works. In fact, if one thinks he deserves Grace, this great attribute of God is instantly nullified. Grace can only go to one who is undeserving, and who knows it.
The trouble with the human race is that it doubles its offense. First of all, it is an evil tree, and then second, it tries to deserve Grace by works or merit, which does the very opposite, actually heaping sin upon sin, which mocks God, and guarantees His Wrath.
The first part then of Christianity is the preaching of repentance, and the knowledge of ourselves, of what we are, namely sinners.
The second part is: if one is to be saved, he must forsake salvation by works, understand­ing that God has sent His Only-begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. He was crucified and died for us, actually offer­ing up Himself as a Sin-Offering. In other words, the Wrath of God which should have been poured out upon us who rightly deserved it, instead was poured out upon Him, as He took our place.
So, the whole thing of Salvation is wrapped up in Jesus and what He did at Calvary, and our Faith in Him. In other words, we simply believe what He did, and Salvation is instantly given to the believing sinner.
By this means we are delivered from sin, jus­tified, and made inheritors of Everlasting Life, not by our own works and deserts, but for our Faith, whereby we lay hold upon Christ.
Christ, according to His true definition, is no Law-giver, but a forgiver of sins and a Sav­iour. And yet, many in the Church look at Him as though he were a Law-Giver.
That’s the reason when He came that He did not condemn, for that is what Law-givers
do. Instead, He redeemed sinful men, for that’s what a Saviour does.
Jesus had to pay for our sins, for God could accept nothing less. He paid for them by the shedding of His Own Life’s Blood, for the life is in the blood. That’s the reason the Cross is so very, very important.
The shedding of His innocent Blood, Blood incidentally that was never tainted by sin, not a product of Adam’s Fall, was an absolute ne­cessity as it regards our Salvation. The price had to be paid, and that was the price — the offering up of a spotless, pure, sinless body and life. That He did, and it was done at the Cross.
When we speak of Justification, there is no time or place to speak of the Law: but the ques­tion is, what Christ is, and what benefit He has brought unto us. Christ is not the Law; He is not my work, or the work of the Law; He is not my charity, my obedience, my poverty; but He is the Lord of life, a mediator, a Saviour, a Re­deemer of those who are under the Law and sin. In Him we are by Faith, and He in us.
We must learn to discern all Laws, even the Law of God, and all works, from the Promise of the Gospel, and from Faith, that we may define Christ rightly. That’s the problem with the world, and even the problem with the Church, we do not know how to properly define Christ.
For Christ is no Law and, therefore, He is no exacter of the Law and works, but “He is the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1:29).
In the last part of the 16th Verse, Paul uses the word “flesh.” What does he mean?
Flesh does not signify here manifest and gross sins, for these Paul calls by their proper names, as adultery, fornication, uncleanness and such like: but by flesh, he means here, as Christ says in the Third Chapter of John, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh.”
Flesh, therefore, signifies the whole nature of man, with reason and all other powers what­soever do belong to man. Flesh, therefore, ac­cording to Paul, signifies all the righteousness, wisdom, devotion, religion, understanding, and will, that is possible to be in a natural man.
He is saying that all of this, can never be jus­tified according to works, merits, devotion, and religion, etc.
The idea is this, if no flesh can be justified by the works of the Law of Moses, which is the True Law of God, how much less shall it be jus­tified by puny Laws made up by religious men or even by the individual!
In Commentary on this Verse, we have men­tioned in effect, two types of Laws. I speak of the Law of Moses, and then all other Laws, irre­spective as to what they might be, or who origi­nates them — Laws, devised in order to secure righteousness in one way or the other, etc.
Inasmuch as the “Law of Moses” is the only true Law of God, and especially considering if that cannot justify, and it can’t, then how in the world does anyone think they can be justified by Laws or works of their own making?
Inasmuch as the “Law of Moses” sets the standard, let us look at this a little more closely, which will hopefully help us to understand moreso what Paul is saying.
Is the Believer under the Law, under Grace, or under both?
This is a question which was settled al­most 2000 years ago, and yet millions of Chris­tians are still confused, and fail to understand the clear distinction between the Ministry of the Law (the Law of Moses) and the Ministry of Grace.
The Bible, however, leaves no question about the matter. The Law was never given to save anyone. Not one single sinner, be they Israelites or otherwise, in all the history of the human race, has ever been saved by keeping the Law of God. In fact, God never gave the Law that it would bring about Salvation. He knew, before He ever gave Israel the Law, and commanded them to obey it, that no one (ex­cept the Lord Jesus Himself) would ever keep the Law of God perfectly; yea, more, He never expected anyone to keep it perfectly, for the simple reason that He gave no power in order for men to keep the Law, without which they were helpless.
We might multiply Scriptures by the score to prove that the Bible teaches the absolute inability of the Law to save a single sinner, or keep a single Saint saved. However, we do not wish to weary the Reader with the recitation
of Scriptural Passages, feeling that the 16th Verse of Galatians Chapter 2 is sufficient. However, if desired, the Reader may peruse the following: (Rom. 3:19-20, 28; Gal. 2:21; 3:10-11, 13).
If these Verses mean anything at all, they teach the utter hopelessness of attempting to be saved by human works or keeping the Law of God.
To be saved by the Law, the Law must be kept perfectly and continuously without inter­ruption. And it applies to everyone. The Bible says, “Cursed is everyone that continues not in all things.”
There are no exceptions, for it says, “every­one.” There must be unbroken obedience. One single transgression places man under the Law’s curse. There must be obedience in all things, without one single interruption or fail­ure. The Bible is crystal-clear, that the Law was never given to save a person, never given to jus­tify the sinner, or sanctify the Saint. We re­peat, therefore, God never expected a single sin­ner to keep the Law, for He knew when He gave the Law that this was impossible.
We come, therefore, to the question: “Why did God give the Law anyway, if it could not save man or make him better or change his heart?”
First, we must clear up some misunder­standing about the word, “Law,” itself. What are we to understand by the expressions, “The Law of God,” or “The Law of Moses”? There are many people who think only of the Decalogue (the Ten Commandments), when­ever they read the word “Law” in the Bible. But the Bible uses the word “Law” to describe dif­ferent things.
Sometimes the word “Law” refers to the whole Word of God. Sometimes the word “Law” is used to distinguish the Books of Moses (Gen­esis through Deuteronomy) from the rest of the Scriptures. Jesus speaks of “the Law and the Prophets” (Mat. 7:12).
The Jews of Jesus’ day divided the Old Tes­tament into: A. the Law; B. the Psalms; and,
C. the Prophets. The Law thus referred to, con­sists of the five Books of Moses. In a general sense the first five Books of the Old Testament
are referred to as “the Law,” as distinguished from the Prophetic Books of the Old Testament.
In a more narrow sense, the instructions God gave to Israel through Moses on Mount Sinai are also referred to as the Law.
This Law which God gave to Israel at Mount Sinai after their deliverance from Egypt was a “unit,” yet consisted of different Command­ments. Most people imagine that the only Law Moses brought down from the mountain was the Tables of Stone — the Ten Commandments
— but this was not all. God gave also to Moses the Laws concerning the Feast Days, Holy Days, Sacrifices, Offerings, Dietary Laws, Civil Laws, and the Pattern of the Tabernacle.
This Law, consisting of all these different Commandments and Ordinances, which Moses received on the Mountain, was given at the same time that he received the Ten Command­ments, and is described in detail in Exodus from Chapters 20 through 34. All these Laws
— Civil, Dietary, Sacrificial, and Moral — to­gether constitute the Books of the Law. And this Law of God is a unit. There are many Com­mandments but they are all a part of the Book of the Law.
There are also those who, because they do not understand the Grace of God and the pur­pose of the Law, make a distinction between the “Law of Moses” and the “Law of the Lord,” or the “Law of God.” They seem to think that the “Ten Commandments” are the “Law of the Lord,” while the Laws concerning Ordinances, Offerings, Feast Days, and the Dietary Laws are the “Law of Moses.”
They tell us that Christ fulfilled the “Law of Moses,” consisting of Ordinances, but His Fin­ished Work did not include the “Ten Command­ments.” However, the “Law of Moses” and the “Law of God” are one and the same, and to state that the “Law of Moses” was fulfilled and abol­ished at Calvary, and not the “Law of the Lord,” is a complete misunderstanding of the Bible. The expressions in the Bible “Law of Moses,” and “Law of the Lord,” etc., are used inter­changeably.
In this very connection we could say that the Law is divided into two parts, the “Moral”
and the “Ceremonial”; however, to divide it into three areas would probably make it more understandable. These three parts of the Law are:
1. The Commandments, “the Moral Law” (Ex. 20:1-26).
2. The Judgments, “Civil Laws” (Ex. 21:1-24).
3. The Ordinances, “the Sacrifices and Feast Days, etc.,” (Ex. Chpts. 24-31).
The Law of Commandments dealt with Israel’s moral conduct, and is set forth in the Ten Commandments. The second area (the Judgments) dealt with the social conduct of the people, and Civil Laws for the Nation; and the third area (the Ordinances) dealt with the Cer­emonial and Religious Obligations of the Na­tion of Israel. These included the Holy Days, the Offerings, and Sacrifices. But all of these are part of “The One Law” given by the One Same God, at One and the same place, at One and the same time, to One and the same Na­tion, by One and the same Moses, and for One and the same purpose.
To show the error of making a difference between the Laws of Moses and the Law of the Lord contained in the Ten Commandments, we would point out a most convincing fact. The Bible makes no distinction but uses the terms “Law of Moses” and “Law of God” interchange­ably. As an example let me quote from Luke
2:22. It records the observance of the Law by Mary, the Mother of Jesus:
“And when the days of her (Mary’s) purifica­tion according to the Law of Moses were accom­plished, they brought him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord;
“(As it is written in the Law of the Lord, ev­ery male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;)
“And to offer a Sacrifice according to that which is said in the Law of the Lord . . .” (Lk. 2:22-24).
Notice in this Passage that Mary is said to have taken the Baby Jesus to the Temple to present Him to the Lord, in obedience to the “Law of the Lord” and to offer a Sacrifice ac­cording to the “Law of the Lord.” Where, I ask you, does it say in the Ten Commandments that she was to bring a Sacrifice? That is found in
the Ceremonial Law of Moses, but it is called the “Law of the Lord.”
Again in Luke 2:39 we read:
“And when they had performed all things according to the Law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee. . . .”
To make a distinction, therefore, between the Law of Moses and the Law of God or the Lord, for our own convenience, to prove our own point, is man-made and artificial, and is a vio­lation of the Scriptures. If Christ fulfilled part of the Law, then He fulfilled all the Law, and now the Believer is not under the Law but un­der Grace (Rom. 6:14). We are delivered from the Law (Rom. 7:6), free from the Law (Rom. 8:2), and dead to the Law (Gal. 2:19).
(Actually, even as we’ve just stated, the Law is not dead, but we are dead to the Law. In brief, this means that Jesus fulfilled all the Ceremo­nial Law, thereby with it not anymore needed, and as well perfectly kept the Moral Law, which He in turn keeps through us. So, the Moral Law is still binding on Christians, for Moral Law cannot change. And yet, it is all kept in Christ, which is a Work of the Holy Spirit within our lives — Rom. Chpt. 8).
Now an important question arises which I am sure has been suggested by the statement that the Law cannot justify, sanctify, or satisfy. Consequently, the question is, then why did God give a Law which no man could keep, but in­stead only condemned the sinner?
Paul, the great exponent of Grace, antici­pated that question, and says in Galatians 3:19, “Wherefore then serveth the Law?” Or in today’s language, “What good is the Law?”
It was an inevitable question, for Paul had proved in the previous Chapters that the Law was helpless to save a man or change a man. So the question, “Then why did God give the Law?” “What good is it?” “What purpose does it serve?”
Paul immediately gives the answer in one of the most condense, concise, yet comprehen­sive statements in the Word of God. Read care­fully the inspired answer:
“It was added (necessary) because of trans­gressions (to explain sin), till the Seed (Jesus) should come to whom (Israel) the Promise was made; and it (the Law) was ordained by
Angels in the hand of a mediator (Moses)(Gal. 3:19).
Notice three things which are clearly stated in this answer of Paul, “It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come.” Notice these three parts of the answer:
1. The beginning of the Law — it was added
— added, of course, to something which must have existed before, which was sin. The Law explained what sin was, the transgres­sion of a Commandment, and explained the different types of sin, stealing, adultery, ly­ing, etc.
2. The end of the Law — it was added (nec­essary) till the Seed (Jesus) should come.
The Law had not only a beginning, but its Ministry was until the Seed should come. It was for a period of time beginning when it was added, and lasting till the Seed should come. Now Paul tells us what he means by the Seed. In Verse 16 of this Chapter he says:
“Now to Abraham and his seed were the Promises made. He saith not, and to seeds, as of many; but as of One, and to thy Seed, which is Christ” (Gal. 3:16).
The “Seed” in our Verse is “Christ,” and so we may substitute the Name “Christ” for “the Seed” and thus we read that the Law “was added . . . till Christ should come to whom the Prom­ise was made.”
The Ministry of the Law was dispensa­tional, meaning that it was to exist only for a period of time. John the Baptist clears up the question as to the length of this Dispensation of Law. He says in introducing Jesus:
“For the Law was given by Moses, but Grace and Truth came by Jesus Christ” (Jn. 1:17).
Now let’s give the third thing mentioned by Paul as to “Why then the Law?” The first was the beginning of the Law; the second, the end of the Law; and now number three:
3. The purpose of the Law. It was added because of transgressions. Literally we may read this, “in order to reveal sin as a transgres­sion.” Before the Law was given, there was no transgression of the Law. There was sin and there was rebellion, but it was not a “trans­gression” of the Law which had not yet even been given. Clearly and plainly Paul asserts this in Romans 4:15:
“Because the Law worketh wrath: for where no Law is, there is no transgression.”
The statement is clear, “Before the Law came, there was no transgression.” We then ask the question, “Was there then no sin before the Law came in?”
Yes, there was sin before the Law and it was just as wicked and wrong then as now; how­ever, Paul also says:
“For until the Law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed (as a transgression) when there is no Law” (Rom. 5:13).
What did Paul mean by that statement?
Does it mean that God did not hold people accountable for sin before the Law was given to Moses?
No! As stated, sin and rebellion were the same then as now. The people then were guilty of the fact of sin, even though sin was not specified or then properly identified.
When the Law came, it gave to sin a new meaning — it specified what sin was and dif­ferentiated between types of sin. Then sin became a transgression of the Law. The idea is this:
If there is no speed limit posted on a road and a man is driving his car at 100 miles an hour, while he might not be breaking a Law, for the simple reason that no Law exists re­specting this situation, he still is speeding, and if continuing in that capacity, will ulti­mately be engaged in a wreck.
Not having a speed limit does not lessen the responsibility of the driver, or the dan­ger of speeding. Likewise, even though there was no specific Law of God against sin be­fore the Law of Moses was given, men were still sinners, and answered to its wages which was death.
The purpose of the Law then was to reveal sin as rebellion against God, as a transgres­sion against better light, for by the Law is the knowledge of sin. There is not one Verse in the Bible which says that by the Law is Salva­tion from sin.
This is the first thing a sinner must learn, that no man can be saved by trying to keep the Law. The only remedy for sin is to plead guilty before the Law, and flee to the Lord Jesus Christ for Salvation by the Grace of God.
“Not the labors of my hands,
“Can fulfill Thy Law’s demands;
“All for sin could not atone;
“Thou must save, and Thou Alone.”
(The statement on the definition of the Law was provided by the material of M. R. De Haan, M.D.)
Inasmuch as this subject is so weighty, so necessary as it regards understanding on the part of Believers, I personally feel the follow­ing also given by Dr. De Haan, would be a bless­ing. I would encourage you to study it care­fully. Some questions I think, will be answered for you. As well, the same problems the Early Church had, prevail presently.
The first Church Council in the city of Jerusa­lem, as recorded in Acts Chapter 15, was neces­sitated by a question concerning the relation­ship of the Believer to the Law of Moses. Paul the Apostle had on his first Missionary Jour­ney preached the Gospel of the Grace of God, which referred to Salvation without the works of the Law. Upon his return he had rehearsed to the Church at Antioch “all that God had done with them, and how He had opened the door of Faith unto the Gentiles” (Acts 14:27).
Paul reported to the Church how Gentiles had been saved, without becoming Jewish Pros­elytes, or submitting to Circumcision, or Sab­bath keeping, or any part of the Law of Moses for that matter. Actually, these Gentiles did not even know anything about the Law of Moses. The Christians at Antioch rejoiced at the good news of the free Grace of God.
These reports of Gentiles being saved by Grace without the Law, reached Jerusalem, where a group of legalistic Jews insisted that Salvation necessitated placing these Believers under the Law. In other words, they were teach­ing that these Gentiles in order to be saved, had to become Proselyte Jews. These legalists came to Antioch and began to teach the Believers, “Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, you cannot be saved” (Acts 15:1).
This started a real dispute between Paul and Barnabas on the one hand, and this group of “Law Preachers” on the other. A real row broke out. Luke reports it as follows:
“Paul and Barnabas had no small dissention and disputation with them” (Acts 15:2).
(These legalists were Jews who did believe in Christ and believed in accepting Him as Sav­iour; however, they also believed that you had to keep the Law of Moses as well in order to be saved, which of course is wrong.)
Unable to settle the question, they decided to submit the problem to the Apostles and El­ders at Jerusalem. A Committee, including Paul and Barnabas, was appointed to go to Jerusalem. Upon their arrival in the city they were welcomed by the Church, to whom they reported all that the Gospel of God’s Grace had accomplished among the Gentiles. However, they were immediately opposed by the legal­istic Pharisees who insisted, “that it was need­ful to circumcise them (the Gentiles), and to command them to keep the Law of Moses” (Acts 15:5).
The Apostles called the Church together and tried to settle the controversy, but instead disorder broke out and the meeting resulted in a heated debate. There was much disputing between the two factions which we might well designate as the “Grace party” and the “Law party.” Peter is the first to testify of his expe­rience, and rehearses his visit to the Gentile household of Cornelius, saying that God “put no difference between us (Jews) and them (Gen­tiles), purifying their hearts by Faith (Faith only and not by any type of works, etc.)(Acts 15:9).
Peter calls the Law of Moses a yoke which they themselves (the Jews) were unable to bear (couldn’t live up to) (Acts 15:10), and then con­cludes with his judgment of the matter:
“But we believe that through the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ we (Jews) shall be saved (saved by Faith only), even as they (the Gentiles) (Acts 15:11).
Peter’s speech came somewhat as a surprise to the legalists, the champions of the Law; and without any more disputing, the Assembly lis­tened quietly to the Testimony of Paul, and Barnabas, corroborating the views of Peter. It was now time for James (the Lord’s Brother) and the Senior Pastor at the Church at Jerusa­lem (apparently the chairman of the meeting) to speak. The silence which followed the Tes­timonies of Peter, Paul, and Barnabas, left the
opposition speechless. However, it raised a se­rious question.
If the Lord was now building a Church, the Body of Christ, consisting of both Jews and Gentiles, while Jesus was in Heaven, then what about the Promises of the Scriptures concern­ing the Kingdom, and the reign of the Messiah on Earth? All the Prophets had clearly fore­told that when the Messiah should come, He would restore the Kingdom of Israel, deliver them from the Gentile yoke of bondage, and Israel as a Nation would dwell in her repos­sessed land.
Were all these Prophecies to be cast aside? Must we spiritualize these Promises and apply them now to the Church? If God is now call­ing out a Church, a Body from among the Gen­tiles, does that mean that God is through with National Israel? These were the questions which needed to be answered, and James rises to the occasion.
The explanation James gives is the essence of simplicity, yet Scholars have little been able to grasp it, it seems.
James says that all the Promises to Israel concerning the Kingdom will be literally ful­filled, but not at that time. First, the Lord is going to carry out a part of His Plan, which until now had been a mystery, and then after that, the Kingdom Promises to Israel shall be real­ized. The words of James are clear:
“Simeon (Peter) hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, did take out of them a people for His Name” (Acts 15:14).
This is what God was now doing. The King­dom (respecting Israel) had been set aside, and God is now “calling out” from among the Gen­tiles a people for His Name — the Body of Christ
— the Church. This, says James, was in full agreement with the Prophecies concerning the Kingdom.
“. . . as it is written, after this (after the Church) I will return, and will build again the Tabernacle of David, which is fallen down (which it had been and fell completely in A.D. 70); and I will build again the ruins thereof (The Second Coming), and I will set it up” (Acts 15:15-16; Amos 9:11). (James was quoting Amos.)
After this I will return! After what? After He has gathered out from among the Gentiles
a people for His Name. After this Body of the Church is complete, and the fullness of the Gentiles be come in, then the Lord will return and restore the Nation of Israel, and will set up the Kingdom here on Earth, and all the Proph­ecies of the Messiah’s reign will be fulfilled to the Letter.
Now comes the answer to the question which had brought them together. Are the Believers of this Church Age under the Law of the King­dom? Is the Believer in this Dispensation of Grace subject to the Laws laid down by Moses for the Nation of Israel? James gives his sen­tence in the following words:
“Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God:
“But that we write unto them, that they ab­stain from pollutions of idols, and from forni­cation, and from things strangled, and from blood” (Acts 15:19-20).
Not a word about keeping the Law of Moses, not a word about Circumcision, but they were advised against four things: idolatry, fornica­tion, things strangled, and eating of blood. The first two are obvious as to their meaning, but the last two which pertain to blood, also have a deep spiritual meaning, which we will not at this time explain.
Abstinence from these things, was advised, not on the basis of Law, but Grace. These Gen­tiles had been idolaters; fornication was ram­pant; and they not at all respected the sanctity of blood. Because these things, so common among the Gentiles and so abhorrent to the Jews, were to be especially guarded against, they are warned about them.
A letter is addressed to the Gentiles at Antioch, and sent by the hand of Paul, Barna­bas, and a company of others. The letter is in answer to the question, “Are the Believers (es­pecially of the Gentiles) under the Law of Moses?” Here is a copy of the letter sent by the Jerusalem Elders to Antioch:
“Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye
must be circumcised, and keep the Law . . .”
(Acts 15:24).
Notice again the problem. The legalists from Jerusalem had claimed that the Gentile Christians at Antioch must become Jews by submitting to Circumcision, and to keep the Law. Now notice the decision:
“. . . to whom we gave no such Command­ment” (Acts 15:24).
Those who teach that Christians are under the Law are perverters of the Grace of God. “We never gave any such Commandments,” wrote the Apostles and Elders to the Church at Antioch.
The legalistic sabbatarians were unautho­rized, and we now repudiate their demand for “We gave no such Commandment.” This was the message relayed to Antioch — “The Gen­tile Believers are not under the Law of Moses.”
The letter was delivered to the Church, “Which when they had read, they rejoiced for the consolation” (Acts 15:31). The matter should have been settled, but the Law Teach­ers continued their practice of following Paul everywhere he went, trying to undo the Grace preached by the Apostle.
Everywhere he traveled he was opposed. No less than three Books of the New Testament were written to combat errors concerning the Law, with other Epistles dealing somewhat with these subjects.
There were three errors present from the very beginning of the Apostolic Age, which in fact, continue with us unto this hour. They are as follows:
1. Legalism: Legalism teaches that men must be saved by keeping the Law, whether the Law of Moses, or a Law of one’s own making.
This error is answered in Paul’s Epistle to the Romans.
2. Antinomianism: This word actually means “conflicting Laws.” This second error is the exact opposite of the first, teaching that it makes no difference how one lives, for it is all of Grace. In other words, after one is saved, it really doesn’t matter how much one sins, for it is all covered by the Grace of God. This error is answered in the Epistle of James. Of course, Paul addresses it in Romans as well and also in his other Epistles.
3. Galatianism: This third and the most subtle of the errors is the teaching that we are saved by Grace, and then we are kept in victory by obeying the Law perfectly — a Law of our own making, etc. It teaches that we are saved by Faith alone, but then our ultimate Salvation depends on our works. As stated, this error is called Galatianism because it was so prevalent in the Galatian Churches, and Paul wrote the entirety of this Epistle to refute this error — the Epistle to the Galatians.
As stated, these three errors are still with us today. Nevertheless, the Word continues to say, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is lib­erty” (II Cor. 3:17).
In Paul’s day, as today, arguments were di­rected against this way of Salvation, i.e., “Jus­tification by Faith.” So in this Verse and the ones following Paul begins to answer these ob­jections, first noting the main argument of his opponents and then revealing the argument by which he refutes theirs.
Paul refers to the standard objection to the Doctrine of “Justification by Faith” which, he also deals with elsewhere. He is answering the objection that to eliminate the Law entirely as he is doing, is to encourage Godless living. The argument would go in this fashion:
“Your Doctrine of Justification by Faith is dangerous (as the Judaizers would say), for by eliminating the Law you also eliminate a man’s sense of moral responsibility. If a per­son can be accounted righteous simply by be­lieving that Christ died for him, why then should he bother to keep the Law, or, for that matter, why should he bother to live by any standard of morality? There is no need to be good. The result of your Doctrine is that men will believe in Christ but thereafter do as they desire.”
Paul’s reply is abrupt. His expression sug­gests that he was aware of the possibility that a Christian can in fact sin, and on occasion all do. But this is not the result of the Doctrine of Justification by Faith and, therefore, Christ is not responsible for it. Such a thought is ab­horrent. “Absolutely not!” “God forbid!”
If there is sin, as Paul acknowledges indi­rectly in the next Verse, man himself is respon­sible and not God.
Why is it that Paul can reply so vigorously to the objection that his Gospel promotes “Antinomianism (Christians can sin all they desire because Grace covers it),” especially since he seems to admit that those who have been Justified by Faith do at times sin?
The answer is that the objection totally mis­understands the nature of man’s Justification. In the eyes of legalizers, Justification by Faith is nothing more than a legal fiction by which men and women are accounted righteous when in fact they are not. But Justification is not a legal fiction.
It is true that men are accepted by God as righteous when in actuality they are not, but this takes place only because God has first joined them to Christ, which was carried out by Faith on their part, and this in turn implies a real transformation. They are “in Christ,” says Paul.
Consequently, they are “a new creation” (II Cor. 5:17; Gal. 6:15). Obviously, to return to the old way of life after such a change is in­conceivable.
The phrase, “But if, while we seek to be jus­tified by Christ,” means that the Jews needed Justification exactly as the Gentiles, because they all were sinners.
In fact, when they (the Jews) sought Justifi­cation in Christ and thus by Grace, it was an ad­mission on their part that there is no Justifica­tion by works, that the seeker is not justified by such, and is, therefore, a sinner. He would not be seeking Justification were he not a sinner.
The attempt to be justified in Christ awak­ens the consciousness of sin, which of course is why Justification is sought in the first place. This compels the Jew to put himself on the plain of the Gentile. The Jew who calls the Gen­tile a sinner, and seeking to be justified by Faith, is forced to admit that he is a sinner also. He has found that the Law of Moses had failed him as a justifying agency, which in fact, it was never meant to do to begin with.
The whole contention was, that Jews were better than Gentiles, which Paul refutes. His argument is, if we Jews need Justification which we certainly do, then that means we are no bet­ter than the Gentiles. All are on the same level, sinners without God, and all must come to Christ, whether Jew or Gentile, in order to be saved. Many Jews had a problem with that, sim­ply because they had the Law of Moses which was the Word of God, and the Gentiles had no such thing, and in fact, were idolaters. Never­theless, the Holy Spirit puts all on the same level.
Paul repudiates the false assumption of the Judaizers who charge that Christ is the pro­moter and encourager of sin in that He causes the Jew to abandon the Law as a justifying agency, and in doing so, causes himself to be put on the same plain of a Gentile whom the Judaizers call sinners and dogs.
The Judaizers argued that in view of the fact that violation of the Law is sin, therefore, aban­donment of the Law in an effort to be justified in Christ is also sin. Thus Christ, they deduced, is the promoter of sin.
It is amazing at the lengths that men will go to in order to promote their erroneous doctrines.
The phrase, “We ourselves also are found sin­ners,” refers to the fact that Jews also were sin­ners, even though this they did not like to admit, and, therefore, needed Justification. The Jews would quickly admit that Gentiles were sinners and even grievous sinners, but they did not want to place themselves in the same category. How­ever, Paul is saying that the Jews are sinners like the Gentiles and are in desperate need of Justi­fication, which they can only receive by Faith in Christ, which they were loathe to admit.
In Romans 3:9 Paul put all on the same level. He said, “What then? Are we (Jews) better than they (Gentiles)? No, in no wise: for we have be­fore proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin.”
The question, “Is therefore Christ the Min­ister of sin?”, refers to Christ being totally un­like the Law. The Law of Moses was designed
to be a “Minister of sin,” in that it defined sin, and specified different types of sin. Speaking of the Law, Paul said, “But if the ministration of death . . .” (II Cor. 3:7).
He also said, and continuing to speak of the Law, “For if the ministration of condemnation . . .” (II Cor. 3:9).
Christ is not the minister of sin, but rather Salvation. He does not deal in death, but rather Life. He is not the minister of condemnation, but rather Justification.
Paul is actually stating the fact that if any­one attempts to force the Law into Justifica­tion by Faith, they are actually making Christ a “minister of sin,” because that’s all the Law can do. In effect, that’s what Peter was doing along with Barnabas, in dragging the Law into the great Gospel of Grace which had brought Salvation to the Jews and Gentiles alike at Antioch. The answer to that is:
Christ did not come to define sin, to specify different types of sin, even as the Law did, but rather to get rid of sin. He came to cleanse people from sin, to set the captive free from sin, to break its stranglehold upon the human life and heart, and He succeeded in doing exactly what He set out to do. Mixing Law with Grace, irrespective as to whether it’s the Mosaic Law or a Law of one’s own devising, presents a trag­edy of the highest order. It is like attempting to mix oil with water, or light with darkness, or salt with sugar. To understate the case dramati­cally so, it won’t work!
When Paul said, “Is Christ therefore the min­ister of sin?”, he used a type of terminology which was known to the Jews. For instance, in II Corinthians 3:6, he spoke of two ministers, the “Letter and the Spirit,” of which the former kills while the latter gives Life. That is the Law kills, which it was designed to do, but the Gos­pel gives Life. Paul is accustomed to giving reproachful names to the Law, and for the simple reason that the Jews were attempting to make something out of the Law that God never intended. Consequently, it is necessary that we understand his manner of speech.
It is impossible for the nature of man to keep the Law, for it is simply not in him to do such.
Yes, even in those who are justified and Bap­tized with the Holy Spirit, even they cannot keep the Law. Paul found this out himself, in­cidentally the hard way, and gives us the ac­count in Romans Chapter 7. So, the question is, if those who are truly justified cannot do this, how in the world can the wicked do it, who do not have the Holy Spirit? Wherefore he that teaches that Righteousness comes by Law-keeping, which much of the Church world be­lieves presently, whether they understand such or not, doesn’t actually understand what he is saying, or what he is affirming. If he will be honest, he will admit that he cannot even keep the Law himself, much less trying to impose it upon others.
The right use and end of the law is to accuse and condemn as guilty, in order to show man what he actually is, that man may see himself to be in danger of sin, wrath, and death, thereby to be brought to trembling desperation. The Law requires perfect obedience unto God, and condemns all who do not accomplish that, which in fact, includes everyone. In fact, there is no man living or who has lived, except Jesus Christ, who accomplished this which God re­quires of us.
So, when Paul used the Word “God forbid,” he was answering the question, “Is Christ the minister of sin?” Jesus Christ is rather the Giver of Righteousness and Eternal Life.
Consequently, Christ keeps the Law through us and in us, which is done by our Faith in Him. Wherefore when we fly to Him, Moses and his Law vanishes away, so that his sepulchre can nowhere be found of sin and death, which can hurt us no more (Deut. 34:5). For Christ our Instructor is Lord over the Law, sin, and death: so that they which believe in Him are delivered from the same.
The Law of Moses was designed to show man exactly where he was spiritually, which in fact, was and is a sad state. Even though God com­manded man to keep the Law, He gave man no power to do so, and this was done for purpose.
Man’s problem all along has been and is, pride. Consequently, if God had given man the power to keep the Law, it would have only re­sulted in man being lifted up more in his own pride, with the situation then being worse than
ever. So God gave no power for man to keep the Law and for the obvious reason.
Man was supposed to realize his inability, his lack of strength, and thereby to throw himself on Christ. Before Calvary, this was done through the Sacrifices. To be sure, the Sacrifices could not take away sin and could not afford any type of Salvation; nevertheless, the sinner in the of­fering up of Sacrifices, was to have Faith in what those Sacrifices represented, which was the coming Redeemer, which all Jews knew about, or were supposed to know about. Faith in that would save them (Gen. 15:6).
The whole idea is, that man cannot make it without Jesus Christ. He must look to Jesus for Salvation. He must look to Jesus as the Bap­tizer with the Holy Spirit. He must look to Jesus for overcoming strength and power. It is Jesus all the way and what he did at Calvary and the Resurrection.
The Holy Spirit works only in the legal con­fines of Jesus Christ, and what He did for us with His One Atoning Sacrifice. The Holy Spirit will not function outside of that capacity, will not help us in other ways as religious as they may be, but only through the Sacrifice of Christ (Rom. 8:1-3).
The interpretation of this Verse is not diffi­cult if our interpretation of Verse 17 is valid. The legalizers had accused Paul of encourag­ing sin because Paul’s Doctrine, they say, throws over the Law for God’s Grace. This Paul denied.
Nevertheless, he replies, sin could be encour­aged if having once come to God by Faith in Jesus Christ, the one coming should then re­turn to Law as a basis for victory or relation­ship. Actually, it refers to a situation precisely like the one into which Peter had fallen. How is it that returning to Law promotes sin?
The simple reason is, that the Holy Spirit Whose help the Believer must have, that is if we are to maintain our position as an overcomer, simply will not help us to keep the Law, whether the Law of Moses, or a religious Law of our own devising. He will only help us as we depend on the Sacrifice of Christ (Rom. 8:1-3).
The phrase, “For if I build again the things which I destroyed,” in its strict sense is referring
to Peter’s action of declaring the Levitical Leg­islation regarding the eating of certain foods, as null and void, which was Scripturally correct, which he proved by eating with the Gentiles, and then turning around and declaring these things valid by his act of withdrawing from that fellowship, which presented a total turnabout. Consequently, what he did was sin, i.e., “made himself a transgressor.” It is the same with modern Christians.
When the Believer through ignorance or otherwise, turns away from Christ, i.e., “the Grace of God,” to a Law of his own devising in order to overcome sin, instead of victory he will actually find the direct opposite, more sin. Let me explain:
Let’s say that a Believer has a problem with an uncontrollable temper. It could be ciga­rettes, alcohol, jealousy, lust, envy, greed, pride, etc. In other words it could be anything, but we will use the temper problem.
He is now a Christian with the Divine nature within his heart and life; consequently, he in­stantly knows this is wrong, it is hurting his Testimony, and causing all types of problems. In other words, him losing control is sin.
Loving Jesus as he does, and woefully ashamed of his actions, he sets about to obtain victory over this problem. Oftentimes he will attempt to do so in many and varied ways. He’ll think that he must pray more, or perhaps fast one or two days a week. Perhaps he must wit­ness to more people about Christ. Surely, he must study his Bible more, and these things will solve his problem.
If he is a Pentecostal or Charismatic, he will get in a prayer line somewhere in order for a Preacher to lay hands on him, and if the Power of God comes upon him, and he is “slain in the Spirit,” etc., he will think surely that this is the answer to his problem.
In fact, all of these things we have mentioned such as prayer, etc., are excellent in their own right; however, these things were never in­tended by the Lord to give us victory over sin. It is somewhat like using a handsaw as a ham­mer. While the handsaw does an excellent job at what it is built to do, it does not serve too well as a hammer.
So, in effect, the Believer has now made a “Law” out of these good and wonderful things, thinking surely that he will be helped.
In fact, he will be helped, because prayer and fasting, as well as the study of the Word, and other such like things are always a great help; nevertheless, it will not be the help he’s look­ing for, which is victory over sin. He will find to his dismay, that not only does he still have this problem of an uncontrollable temper, but in fact, it’s even worse.
It is worse simply because he has resorted to “Law” whether he realizes it or not, thereby abandoning the Grace of God. Consequently, he doesn’t have the Holy Spirit to help him, which the Holy Spirit will not do under those circumstances. As a result, he is doomed to fail­ure irrespective of all of these things he is do­ing in order to bring about victory.
You see, there is something in man, even Believers, that wants to “do something.” And the doing is always wrong because it is outside of Christ. No matter how much willpower he uses, no matter how much effort he makes, the end result is going to be failure and despite all these other things he is doing.
Many Believers become frustrated at this stage, simply not knowing what to do. They’ve tried everything they know, and the problem is not getting better but rather worse.
None of us think of prayer, or fasting, or the study of the Bible as Laws. In fact, they aren’t Laws; however, the Truth is, we make a Law out of these things, that is if we depend upon them for victory which has already been won in Christ. I pray the Reader can understand that of which I say.
By no means are we denigrating prayer or a study of the Word of God, but only stating that it must be done for the proper reasons. Then it brings good, beautiful, and wonderful results.
By us adding these good things, as wonder­ful and helpful as they are in other capacities, in our efforts to overcome sin, we are in effect, whether we realize it or not, saying that Christ did not finish the task at Calvary and needs our additions. This is what I mean by our efforts being an insult to Christ.
The Truth is, Jesus paid it all. He defeated every demon and power of darkness at the Cross. He satisfied the claims of the broken
Law, thereby satisfying God. He also broke the grip of sin whenever those claims were satis­fied; consequently, Satan has no more hold upon the Believer. The following in brief is the answer for victory over sin.
The Believer should not try to be victorious or to be an overcomer. If he tries such, he will fail for the simple reason that he is frustrating the Grace of God. The Truth is, the Believer is already a victorious overcomer in Christ. It is given to us freely upon Salvation. We don’t have to do anything to receive it but simply main­tain it. It is ours, a free Gift from Christ. It comes with Salvation.
The Believer should study Romans Chapters 6, 7, and 8. In the Sixth Chapter of Romans, he will find that we were literally baptized into the death of Christ when He died at Calvary. We will also find in that Chapter that we were bur­ied with Him, and then raised with Him in New­ness of Life. Consequently, we are now a “new creature in Christ Jesus,” and Satan has no more hold over us. In other words, exactly as Romans
6:14 says, “Sin shall not have dominion over us: for we are not under the Law, but under Grace.”
This means, that the Cross of Christ was not only the necessary vehicle for our Salvation, but as well, it pertains to our everyday victory in Christ.
So, the Believer must understand what hap­pened at Calvary, which we have just given in brief, and must have Faith in this which Jesus did, literally “reckoning himself to be dead in­deed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 6:11).
Once again, it’s all a matter of Faith. The Believer is to believe that Jesus paid the sin debt, and that He also broke the grip of sin.
When the Believer understands this and then believes it and keeps believing it, actually confessing it (Rom. 6:11), victory is his.
When our Faith and Confidence is in what Christ did at Calvary and the Resurrection, the Holy Spirit will then help us overcome this “temper problem,” or any other problem we may have (Rom. 8:1-3). What we found to be impos­sible for us, is no problem whatsoever to the Holy Spirit, for He is God.
The idea is, that our Faith and Confidence is now in the Price paid by Jesus at Calvary, which the Holy Spirit always honors. So, the answer is not greater willpower, or dependence on anything else for that matter, but rather on the Finished Work of the great Sacrifice of Christ, which guarantees not only our Salva­tion, but perpetual victory. This is the only answer for the sin problem.
Then, we will actually pray more, study the Word more, and all these other things, which will now have even a greater purpose and meaning, because all of this now is in the right context.
The phrase, “I make myself a transgressor,” is exactly what happens when we revert to Law, thereby taking ourselves away from the Grace of God.
The very term “Grace of God,” means that we as human beings need something that we cannot supply for ourselves, and in fact, are not worthy of it at all, but upon Faith it is freely given to us by God. As someone has said, Grace is “unmerited favor.” We do not merit such, we are not worthy of such, but upon Faith in Christ, God gives us all the Grace we need in order for whatever is needed.
There are enough problems in the Christian life for the simple reason that we live one might say, in an alien society, without us ignorantly or otherwise, making ourselves a transgressor. But yet, this is exactly what many Christians do, in fact, I think most!
The problem is, most Believers simply do not properly understand what they should under­stand about the great Sacrifice of Christ at Calvary. Please don’t misunderstand, this sub­ject is so vast, so great, with such height and depth, that it would literally be impossible for it to be exhausted; nevertheless, about all that most Believers know about this greatest of all acts, is that “Jesus died for my sins.” That is about all they know, and to be sure, Satan takes full advantage of our ignorance.
There are hundreds of millions of unbeliev­ers at present, who are attempting to quit drink­ing, quit cigarettes, or a host of other things that one might name, which they know are kill­ing them. They use willpower, secure the help
of a Psychologist, or whatever — but with no satisfactory results.
However, when the believing sinner comes to Christ, thereby becoming a new creature, his dependence is then totally to be in Christ. And if one were to ask Believers that question, most all would claim that their dependence is in Christ, when in fact, it isn’t, at least for many.
We are fooled so easily, because these things which we select such as prayer, etc., which we think will get victory over sin for us, are in ac­tuality very good things. They are spiritual things. So, we think surely that is the answer. In Truth these things are definitely answers for many things, but as we’ve already stated, not for victory over sin.
When we start depending on these things, we are in effect, not depending on Christ whether we think so or not. We are then de­pending totally on willpower, which is the same thing we depended on before coming to Christ. Just as surely as we failed then, we will fail now. Paul said this himself, “For to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not” (Rom. 7:18).
In other words, willpower is not sufficient, even for the Believer.
Paul found the answer, which he gave to us in Romans Chapters 6 and 8.
(For a greater treatment of this very impor­tant subject, please see our Commentary on Romans, Chapters 6-8.)
The argument of Verses 17 and 18 is: Man is guilty and needs a spotless Righteousness. This Righteousness can be obtained, not through Law-keeping, but through Christ-be­lieving. A professor of the Doctrine of Salva­tion by Faith who preaches Salvation by works, reerects the legal structure which he himself cast down when he came to Christ, whether he realized it or not, and so proves himself to be a transgressor in having thrown it down. In other words, if the Law could not save us, which it couldn’t, why do we return to the Law in order to obtain victory over sin, which in fact, can­not give any victory. To do so, makes us a trans­gressor both ways. We are abandoning Grace which is a sin, and reverting to Law, which is another sin.
The Law is Divinely perfect; man is hope­lessly impotent, hence it is useless for him to seek Righteousness by the Law. Christ Who is the Righteousness envisaged by the Law, be­comes such to whosoever believes upon Him; and thus He glorifies the Law and at the same time redeems the sinner, which God intends. Please understand, only Christ can glorify the Law, because He Alone kept the Law. Man can­not do such, I don’t care how hard he tries.
Man delights to return to those things which gratify the flesh. Consequently, he eagerly ac­cepts whatever appeals to him. Hence, the popularity of “Religious Ceremonies and Ordi­nances.” But to rest upon them, even though they may be good within themselves, is to rest upon the “flesh.”
If Christ be everything then there is neither room nor necessity for Ordinances. Those who occupy themselves with these find in them a fatal sustenance. Their effect is to veil the per­son and the perfections of the Great High Priest, The Lord Jesus Christ.
Do you understand what we are saying?
This does not mean that Ceremonies or Or­dinances such as the Lord’s Supper or Water Baptism, or Prayer, etc., are wrong within them­selves, for they aren’t. They definitely have a purpose, but they are not to be used outside of that purpose. Once again, we go back to tak­ing a handsaw and trying to make a hammer of that instrument. It won’t work!
If we improperly use these things, or improp­erly look to these things, those things become larger and larger, and Christ becomes smaller and smaller.
Man likes to have some credit and some po­sition. He likes that which he can see and handle. He refuses to be treated as vile and in­capable of good, and is angered that he and his religious efforts should be condemned to anni­hilation. He will willingly practice efforts to punish himself, for that ministers to his own importance; but to accept the absolute judg­ment of death upon his nature, his religious energies and his moral virtues, and to be com­manded to be silent, and, as a dead sinner, to
trust the life-giving Saviour and to find in Him all that is needful for Righteousness and Wor­ship, is distasteful and repelling. But this is the Doctrine of Verses 19 and 20, which we will ar­rive at now (Williams).
The “we” of Verse 17 (which included both Paul and Peter) has changed to the “I” of Verse
18. This personal form of expression now con­tinues as Paul begins to unfold the full nature of the Justification that is his because of his being “in Christ.” In this Verse “I” is emphatic by being in the first position in the sentence. It contrasts with the similar position given to “in Christ,” which begins in Verse 20. (The Greek Text says in Verse 20, “In Christ,” instead of “With Christ.”)
Paul has argued that if he should return to the Law after having come to God through Faith in Christ, he would make himself a trans­gressor, which is exactly what Peter had done, and all will do who go that route. But this Paul does not do.
Actually, the opposite is true, because in com­ing to God in Christ he died to the Law so com­pletely that he could not possibly return to it. “Through the Law” probably justifies seeing in this brief sentence a capsule version of Paul’s explanation of the Law’s purpose and developed in greater length in Romans Chapter 7.
The Law cannot bring life, for no one has ever fulfilled it, except Christ. The Law brings death, which it was designed to do, for by it all stand condemned. Nevertheless, even in doing this, Law performs a good function. For in the very act of destroying all hope for Salvation by human works, Law actually opens the way to discovering New Life in God, which it was in­tended to do. It is only when a man will die to his own efforts to achieve Salvation, that he will receive the Gift of Salvation that God offers (Gaebelein).
The phrase, “For I through the Law am dead to the Law,” does not mean that Paul is a law­less individual. He still holds to the great ethi­cal principles of love and justice, for instance, which are eternal in their significance. These are the great underlying moral principles
that inhere in God’s Character and in His Government.
When Paul says that he has died to a thing he means that he has ceased to have any rela­tion to it, so that it has no further claim upon or control over him. It is Law as conceived of as a body of legalistic statutes, to which he has died.
Paul’s attempt (and all others as well) to ful­fill the requirements of the Mosaic Legislation as a means of Salvation, had taught him his own inability to meet its demands, and its inability to make him righteous. Thus, he finally aban­doned it as a means of Justification, and ac­cepted Salvation in Christ.
He found that what the Law did was to re­veal sin, to provoke sin, in a certain sense, to create sin, for where there was no Law sin was not reckoned. He found that the Law provided no remedy for sin, and neither was it meant by God to be a remedy. It was rather meant by the Lord to condemn man hopelessly, for no one can fulfill its requirements, with him thereby throwing himself on Christ. It exercised a double power over him, for it made him a sin­ner and punished him for being one.
Even though the Law of Moses was set aside, and for the simple reason that it was all ful­filled in Christ, in no way does that mean that the moral requirements of the Law are not in­cumbent upon all men everywhere. God’s re­quirements, and that’s what they are, do not change. Even though the Ceremonial part of the Law is now rendered unnecessary by Christ, the moral part of the Law does not change sim­ply because moral absolutes cannot change. However, the Law, morally and otherwise, was totally satisfied in Christ, and by Faith in Christ, the Believer is judged as a Law-keeper instead of a Lawbreaker.
The false apostle said, “Except you live to the Law, you are dead to God.” But Paul says the contrary, “Except you be dead to the Law, you cannot live unto God.”
When the word “Law” is used, it is confus­ing to many Believers or professing Believers. If they think of the “Law of Moses” they have
little knowledge of that. So, they brush it aside as not pertaining to them.
However, what they do not realize is, Paul was definitely speaking of the “Law of Moses,” but as we explained in Commentary on Verse 16, it can refer to any kind of “Law.” By that we mean this:
Anything, the Church, Water Baptism, our own good works in any capacity, can all be made into a “Law.” The idea is this:
If the “Law of Moses” which was definitely given by God and, therefore, perfect, at least in what it was designed to do, could not save any­one or afford Salvation in any capacity, how in the world do we think or believe that puny Laws of our own making can do any better?
Christians brush this aside, simply because they think it applies to Israel of old, or possibly to Paul, but not to them. Please believe me, it applies to you.
Whether we realize it or not, almost all of Catholic Teaching is nothing but “Law.” The same can be said for some Protestant Denomi­nations, it is all “Law.” In other words, they are saying do this (something other than Christ) and you will be saved. The Truth is, if we trust in anything other than the Finished Work of Christ, we are unsaved. To be sure, that Fin­ished Work does not include Religious Ceremo­nies or Ordinances, or anything else of that nature. It is complete within itself, the death of Christ on the Cross, and His Resurrection, and our Faith in that (Jn. 3:16).
What did Paul mean by the statement, “Through the Law”?
This phrase could probably be explained by Paul’s explanation given in Romans Chapter
7. Even after his conversion to Christ and be­ing Baptized with the Holy Spirit, he tried to find victory “through the Law.” In other words, he thought that since he was now in Christ, and had the Holy Spirit, that surely he could keep the Law, which he had never been successful in doing.
In his own thinking, he now understands surely as to why he could not keep the Law be­fore conversion, but he now finds after conver­sion, that he still cannot keep the Law. In other words, he cannot find victory over sin “through the Law,” and no matter how hard he tried,
irrespective of the fact that he is now Born-Again and Spirit-filled. So he asks the great question, “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”
(Rom. 7:24).
However what he could not find “through the Law,” he found “through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 7:25).
Therefore, his trust in Christ now makes him dead to the Law, even though the Law is not dead. He is saying that the Law has no more control over him, makes no more demands on him, is not hanging over his head as a sword of Damocles. He is dead to its demands, be­cause they were all fulfilled in Christ. He is dead to its threat, because Jesus pulled its teeth by meeting its demands. He is no longer subject to its curse, for Jesus took that pen­alty upon Himself.
Isn’t that beautiful!
The phrase, “That I might live unto God,” presents such being done through Christ, which could never be done through the Law. The Christian lives unto Christ in order that he may live unto God. The ultimate object of the Chris­tian scheme is that he may be presented righ­teous before God. By the Law he could not ob­tain this Righteousness, it is obtained in Christ, and Christ Alone.
Faith in Christ was the means whereby Paul’s complete and irreparable break with the Law was effected. The Lord Jesus lived under the Law, fully obeyed that Law, assumed the guilt and penalty which the human race incurred by having violated the Law, and in dying under the Law satisfied its requirements.
Thus, He passed out of the realm where Law in its legalistic aspect had control over Him. All Believers are identified with Christ in His Death and also in His Resurrection, and thus have passed out of the realm of Divine Law so far as its legalistic aspect is concerned.
Consequently, Paul says that he has thus died to the Law that he might live unto God. Subjection to the Law as a means of accep­tance with God, in reality prevented him (and us) from living a life of unreserved devotion to God. This is one of the most grievous vices of legalism, that it comes between the soul and God (Wuest).
The Christian is a paradox, an apparent con­tradiction, for he is said to be both dead and alive; not half-dead or half-alive, but completely dead and completely alive. The True Believer is dead to sin, and alive unto Righteousness; dead to self and alive unto Christ; and as Paul states it, “dead to the Law but alive unto God.” This fact Paul declares without apology.
Dead to the Law! What a startling, amaz­ing statement, “dead to the Law!” Paul does not say that the Law is dead. Far be it from Paul to claim the Law is dead. Full well he knew its power over him before his conversion. The Law is very much alive today, even at this present time, in cursing and in condemning sin and threatening judgment to the transgressor. The Law is still the ministry of wrath upon the sinner. All-conclusive are the Words of Eph­esians 5:6:
“Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things (the sins mentioned in the previous Verse), cometh the Wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.”
No, the Law is not dead, but Paul says, “I am dead to the Law.” The Law does not recognize me as even existing anymore. It cannot touch me, for I am dead and the Law cannot touch dead men.
To understand what Paul meant by this startling statement, we must see the occasion on which it was said.
In the Verses preceding Paul’s statement, he tells how Peter had come to Antioch, even as we’ve already addressed, and had entered fully into the fellowship of Gentile Christians, by eating with them, having fellowship with them, which was strictly forbidden by the Law for a Jew. But when certain legalistic Law-Teachers from Jerusalem came up, Peter withdrew him­self from the Gentile Christians and placed himself back under the Law. This so incensed Paul that he severely rebuked Peter for his double standard, and now he concludes with the statement, “For I through the Law am dead to the Law.”
As far as I am concerned, my relationship to the Law is ended. Now just what is Paul saying?
He says that in the eyes of the Law I am dead, I am nonexistent. An illustration will serve to show what Paul meant.
Imagine a man who has committed murder. According to the Law, if found guilty he must be put to death. He is arrested, charged with murder, and brought to trial. The Court is in session, and the Judge is on the Bench. The accused man hears the accusation and charge read to him. But before the trial is concluded, the accused man suffers a heart attack and drops dead in the Courtroom.
A Doctor declares him dead, and signs his Death Certificate. Now what does the Judge do?
After the commotion is over, does he call the Court to order, and say, “Let us proceed with the trial of this dead man”?
Of course not!
You cannot try a dead man, or condemn him to death, for he is already dead. So the Judge dismisses the case. It is closed forever, and he proceeds to the next case.
In the case of the criminal in our illustra­tion, he cheated the Law, he circumvented the Law. It was the prerogative of the Law to ex­ecute the man, but he died before the Law could put him to death.
But, says Paul, it was not thus in my case. I did not cheat or beat the Law, but the Law it­self put me to death. Notice, therefore, three important words in our text:
“I through the Law am dead to the Law.”
Through or by the Law I was put to death. The Law itself found me guilty and executed me. The Law slew me. Again allow me to illustrate.
Imagine again the criminal before the Bar of Justice. The witnesses are called and all testify to the guilt of the murderer. The Judge declares him guilty and sets the day for sen­tencing. When that day comes, the Judge reads from the Law the penalty for murder.
It is death for the criminal, and the Judge orders the man to be hanged by the neck until he is dead, and sets the date for execution. The sentence is carried out, and on the appointed day the man is led to the gallows and hanged.
The Physician declares the man dead, and the case is closed. Now this man is not only
dead to the Law, but dead through the Law. The Law put him to death. It can do no more. The Law is satisfied. This, says Paul, happened to me — “I through the Law am dead to the Law.”
This is not the end of the story, however. Three days after this guilty man was executed, you meet this same man one early morning, walking down the street. At first you can’t be­lieve your eyes. You look more closely, but there is no doubt about it. The criminal is alive.
You rush to the home of the Judge, arouse him from his bed, and excitedly exclaim, “Judge, Judge, remember the man who was executed three days ago. Well, he is alive! I saw him with my own eyes! Call the Police, call the Sheriff, call out the National Guard, and pick up this dangerous criminal! Hurry, Judge!”
The Judge is not impressed at all, and says, “Now just calm down, and we will look at the record.”
He takes down the record of the trial, the verdict of guilty, the account of the execution, the Doctor’s Death Certificate, and finally the words “case closed.”
He looks at you and says, “That man is dead.” But you say to him, “He is alive! I saw him!” “I’m sorry,” says the Judge, “according to the Law this man died three days ago. According to the Law the man is dead. He has paid the extreme penalty.”
The man is legally dead, and the Law can­not punish a man twice for the same crime. If the man is alive again, it is of no concern to the Law. The Law did not anticipate a resurrec­tion. There is no provision in the Law as to what to do in such a case.
According to the Law the man is dead, and since the Law cannot punish twice for the same crime, he is free — dead to the Law — through the Law and in the eyes of the Law. Now, says Paul, that is what happened to me. I was ex­ecuted by the Law, but was raised again.
Paul, will you please tell us when this hap­pened to you, where this took place, and how were you put to death? Paul has the answer ready. It is found in this Verse:
“I am (have been) crucified with Christ: nev­ertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me . . .” (Gal. 2:20).
You want to know where I died — it was at Calvary. When did I die? — when Christ died. How did I die? — by crucifixion. That is the meaning of Paul’s words, “Crucified with Christ.”
Now to understand this strange statement of Paul, we must turn to the Word of God con­cerning the members of the Body of Christ. When Christ hung on the Cross, people saw only a physical, human body, nailed to a Cross by the hands and feet. But when God looked down upon Jesus on the Cross, He saw another body, a spiritual body united to its Head. God saw in Christ the mystical body of Believ­ers, who are members of Christ and called His Body.
God saw the Head, Christ, and He saw the Body of Christ, consisting of individual mem­bers, which make up the Church, which is His Body. What happened to the Head of the Church that day on Calvary, God reckons as having happened to all His members, for the Church is a spiritual body.
“For by one Spirit are we baptized into one Body . . .” (I Cor. 12:13).
God foreknew everyone of His chosen ones from eternity as members of the Body of Christ.
“According as He hath chosen us in Him (Christ) before the foundation of the world . . .” (Eph. 1:4).
“For we are members of His Body, of His Flesh, and of His Bones” (Eph. 5:30).
As the Body of Jesus hung upon the Cross, God looked down from Heaven and saw the Spiritual Body of Christ, the Church, hanging there “in Christ.” This is Paul’s meaning when he says, “I was crucified with Christ.” As a mem­ber of the Body of Christ in the Mind of God I was nailed with Jesus to the Tree. But this was not all. When they took Jesus down from the Tree, they buried Him, the Head with the Body, and since we are members of His Body, . . . “we are buried with Him by baptism into death” (Rom. 6:4).
This does not refer to Water Baptism, but rather the Baptism into His Death, which in the Mind of God this is what happened. We obtain its results by Faith.
But that is not all, for that same Body arose. After three days and nights, the tomb was found empty, and not one member was left behind. Since we are members of His Body, we too arose with Him, and Paul says:
“If (since) ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above . . .” (Col. 3:1).
But there is still more. Forty days later Jesus ascended into Heaven, and took that Body along, at least in a spiritual sense. In Christ, therefore, in the Mind of God every Believer is already seated in Heaven. In our physical bod­ies we are still here on Earth, but positionally and spiritually in Christ, we are already in Heaven seated with Christ. Listen to Paul’s statement:
“But God, Who is rich in Mercy, for His Great Love wherewith He loved us,
“Even when we were dead in sins, hath quick­ened us (made us alive again) together with Christ, (by Grace ye are saved;)
“And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:4-6).
Remember then that “we are members of the Spiritual Body of Christ,” and what happened to Him happened to every member of His Body. Yes, with Paul, every Believer can say:
“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live . . .” (Gal. 2:20).
The Law has been satisfied by the Lord Jesus Christ, and, therefore, as members of Him, God reckons it as though we ourselves had paid the penalty. Yes, indeed, “dead to the Law, through the Law!”
We must again answer the charge of some who say this freedom from the Law is a danger­ous Doctrine, and will result in looseness of liv­ing and practicing sin without restraint.
Anyone who makes this charge does not understand the Grace of God. In fact, it is the opposite of that contention. If we go back to Law, it will only guarantee sin and failure; whereas, if we depend on the Grace of God, it guarantees victory over sin — and that alone can guarantee victory over sin.
“For I through the Law am dead to the Law, that I might live unto God” (Gal. 2:19).
Free from the Law — yes, free from the Law of Moses, but now under the “Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus,” an entirely dif­ferent Law altogether (Rom. 8:2). This Law of Christ, makes me “free from the Law of sin and death.”
Deliverance from the Law which could only condemn, gives liberty — not liberty to sin, but liberty to serve Christ without fear.
The Law demanded Holiness — the Grace of God produces it. If one is looking to the Law to improve one, as so many of us have tended to do, it will never do such, but in fact, have the opposite result. Only the Grace of God can give us that which we must have, Righteousness and Holiness in Christ.
The Law of God is holy, eternal, perfect, and good. It is the Divine Pattern of Righteousness which God demands of those who would be saved by their own works, merits, and efforts. The Law of God is powerful, demanding pun­ishment for each transgression. It is absolutely just in treating all alike, and there is no respect of persons under the Law of God.
There are no exceptions, for “the soul that sinneth, it shall die.” It is inflexible, and rigid, so that it makes no allowance for effort, no matter how sincere, if that effort fails to mea­sure up to every single demand of the Perfect Law of God.
The Law condemns and curses every sinner, even as it is designed to do. It knows no dis­tinction between little sins and big sins as far as guilt is concerned. The demands of the Law of God are absolute.
“. . . Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the Book of the Law to do them” (Gal. 3:10).
It recognizes neither wealth nor influence nor position nor station, but says:
“. . . there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the Glory of God” (Rom. 3:22-23).
The Law of God is eternal and stands today as the pronouncer of Wrath upon all who refuse to accept, by simple Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, God’s means of deliverance from its power and condemnation and curse.
We re-emphasize these assertions concern­ing the Law, because we who preach Grace and freedom from the Law for Believers in Christ are constantly accused of making void the Law, as though it did not exist anymore, or had no application to this Age of Grace.
This is a false accusation, but it was already answered by the Apostle Paul nearly 2000 years ago.
He too had been slandered and condemned for preaching liberty and deliverance from the Law. We, therefore, would answer our critics in the words of Paul himself in Galatians 2:21:
“I do not frustrate the Grace of God: for if Righteousness came by the Law, then Christ is dead in vain.”
Paul had been accused of making void the Law. In Romans 3:31 he answers the critics:
“Do we then make void the Law through Faith? God forbid: Yea, we establish the Law” (Rom. 3:31).
Stop and think about these momentous Verses for a moment. Paul says, “If man could obtain Righteousness by keeping the Law, then it was unnecessary for Christ to die, and He, therefore, died for nothing.” Consider carefully the implications.
If any human being could possibly be saved by the Law of God, then why did Jesus have to die for those who were able to save themselves? It certainly would be a tragic mistake if God should demand the death of His Son to save those who could save themselves without the Sacrifice of Jesus. And this holds true even for the Believer after he is saved.
If the Believer, once saved, were able to keep himself saved by the works of the Law, which all of us I think have tried to do at one time or the other, then why do we need Him to intercede daily for us at the Right Hand of God?
What a terrible accusation to bring against God, to say He wasted the Work of Christ on the Cross for those who were able by their own works to attain Righteousness. If that is so, and even as we have already stated, then “Christ died in vain.” His death was wholly unneces­sary and uncalled for, which is the most ridicu­lous thought or idea that one could ever begin to contemplate.
WE ESTABLISH THE LAW Now notice the same Truth as expressed in that other Verse:
“Do we then make void the Law through Faith? God forbid: Yea, we establish the Law” (Rom. 3:31).
By confessing that the Law cannot be kept by us, we are not debasing or downgrading the Law or weakening it, but instead we establish the Law. By our admission that we were unable to meet the demands of the Law of God, we prove its perfection, and that it has succeeded in doing what God intended for it to do. We elevate it high above man’s fallible efforts and works. To say that man can keep God’s Holy Law, is to drag it down to our own imperfect level, which would mean that the Law is really not very much.
However, I confess that God’s Holy Law is so high, so good, so perfect, so holy, that I, a poor, weak, depraved sinner cannot in myself meet its high standards, irrespective of how hard that I try.
I extol the Holiness of the Law and exalt it, and so establish its perfection by not lowering it to the depths of my imperfection. I establish the Law by admitting that its Standards can­not be attained by me, a depraved sinner, and that I, therefore, must turn to another for Mercy, Pardon, and Forgiveness. It must ever be:
“Nothing in my hand I bring;
“Simply to Thy Cross I cling;
“Not the labor of my hands,
“Can fulfill Thy Law’s demands;
“Could my zeal no respite know,
“Could my tears forever flow,
“These for sin could not atone;
“Thou must save, and Thou Alone.”
This is Bible Salvation. How conclusive the words of Paul:
“But to him that worketh not (doesn’t try to earn his Salvation), but believeth on Him (Jesus) that justifieth the ungodly, his Faith is counted for Righteousness” (Rom. 4:5).
We have seen that the Law is powerful in condemning the sinner, but at the same time the Law is also powerless to save the sinner. It is also powerless to condemn the Believer in Christ.
The Child of God is forever free from its con­demnation, for the simple reason that we are dead to that condemnation, having died in Christ. After Paul has given us a picture of the struggle between the two natures within him, he cries out for deliverance:
“O wretched man that I am! Who shall de­liver me from the body of this death?” (Rom. 7:24).
Paul does not claim sinless perfection even unto Grace. He is still conscious of the pres­ence of his old nature, and admits his defeat. Listen to his Testimony:
“For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.
“For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do” (Rom. 7:18-19).
Now remember, this is Paul’s Testimony af­ter he was saved, not before as many teach. He still acknowledges the presence of his old na­ture and confesses his defeat, if depending upon works of the Law for victory, etc. He continues to tell us of his earnest striving to please God, but how he fails in his own strength, as all will fail in their own strength:
“I find then a Law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.
“For I delight in the Law of God after the inward man:
“But I see another Law in my members, war­ring against the Law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the Law of sin which is in my members.
“O wretched man that I am! Who shall de­liver me. . . ?” (Rom. 7:21-24).
Notice Paul says, “I delight in the Law of God after the inward man.” This inward man is the new man, the new nature, the Life of Christ which the Believer received at conversion. This new nature (Divine Nature) delights in the Law of God. It is the perfect desire of Paul to keep God’s Law perfectly. The new nature seeks to keep God’s Commandments. But alas! Paul says, I have to contend with another Law — the Law of sin and of death which is in my members.
As much as Paul’s inward man desired to measure up to the Law’s perfection, he found his old nature opposing him at every turn, or as he puts it:
“But I see another Law in my members, war­ring against the Law of my mind (the inward man), and bringing me into captivity to the Law of sin which is in my members” (Rom. 7:23).
And then, recognizing the futility, the hope­lessness of gaining victory in his own strength, and the utter defeat which results from his try­ing to keep God’s Perfect Law by himself as long as the old nature is within him, he turns from his own efforts, and cries out:
“. . . who shall deliver me from the body of this death (the old nature)?” (Rom. 7:24).
And then he finds the answer. He gives up all confidence in his own efforts, his own willpower, his own machinations, and turns the whole mat­ter over to another, and so he concludes:
“I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord”
(Rom. 7:25).
Jesus is our Victory; and even when we fail, it is His Victory which is credited to our account. Romans Capter 7 closes with this confession:
“. . . So then with the mind (my desire) I my­self serve the Law of God; but with the flesh (if I depend on the flesh) the law of sin (I will fail)(Rom. 7:25).
This is the answer to the Verse with which we began:
“For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing” (Rom. 7:18).
But, thank God, that is not the end of the story. The Eighth Chapter of Romans should follow the Seventh without a break. After Paul admits his failure he cries out in Romans 8:1:
“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”
Some have claimed that there is no condem­nation for the Believer irrespective as to what he does after conversion, how much he fails, how much he sins, etc. However, that is really not what Romans 8:1 is saying.
The condemnation is taken away from all those “who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” If the Believer reverts back to walk­ing after the flesh, there definitely will be fail­ure and we speak of sin, which brings with it automatic condemnation. All sin must be con­demned by God, it simply cannot be otherwise.
Some claim that Jesus took all their sins, which in fact He did. They then claim that sin no longer affects them in a negative way.
There is nothing in the Word of God that remotely states such a thing. Sin is just as nega­tive to the Believer as it is to the unbeliever. If committed, it has to be repented of, confessed, and forsaken (I Jn. 1:9).
What does Paul mean by the word “walk”?
He is speaking of our everyday living for the Lord. It is referred to as a “walk.” This is where the rubber meets the road, where the pedal meets the metal. If this Christian experience doesn’t play out victoriously in our everyday life, in other words changing us for the better, then it is no different than the philosophies of the world. However, it definitely does change us and for the better, in fact continuing to do so, but only if we “walk after the Spirit.”
First of all, every Believer has the Holy Spirit. He is given to us to perform a particular task, and that is to make us into the “Image of the Heavenly” (I Cor. 15:49). However, this is not an automatic process. In other words, He cannot do this without our cooperation.
To “walk after the Spirit” means to have the Help of the Spirit, the Leading of the Spirit, the Power of the Spirit, etc. To have all of that guarantees total victory.
Just because the Believer has the Holy Spirit, and all Believers do, doesn’t mean at all, that the Holy Spirit is able to do all these grand and won­derful things we have mentioned. He can do them, even as He desires to do them, but will do so only according to one particular direction.
In Romans 8:1, Paul is speaking about an overcoming, victorious Christian life, which all of us surely want to have, and in fact do have. However, it can only be obtained in one manner.
The Holy Spirit will not help us overcome the flesh, the world, and the Devil, outside the legal confines of Calvary. In other words, He functions solely on the Sacrifice of that occa­sion. Paul gave us these legal parameters in Romans 8:2, “For the Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the Law of sin and death.”
Those are the legal confines of which I speak. It is “in Christ Jesus,” which means what He did at Calvary and the Resurrection.
We are to understand that we were “in Christ” when He died on Calvary’s Cross, at least this was what was in the Mind of God. By Faith Christ’s victory becomes ours.
When we are trusting in what Jesus did there, and solely trusting in that, the Holy Spirit will then do for us what we cannot do for ourselves, totally defeating the efforts of Satan in every capacity. The demands of the Law of Moses were met in Christ, and that means His Sacrifi­cial, Atoning Death on the Cross. Consequently, this “Law of sin and death” has no more hold over me.
However, if we look away from the Cross to our own abilities, willpower, strength, or a regi­men of Laws of our own making, or the making of another man, the Holy Spirit will not help us in this, and we are doomed to failure, and thereby, condemnation.
So, the key is trusting in what was done at the Cross, and to keep trusting in that on a daily basis, and then the Holy Spirit will do the work, which the Christian cannot do within himself and on his own, which was proven by Paul’s ex­perience in Romans Chapter 7.
When we trust in what Christ did at the Cross, God then sees us in Christ as perfect and sinless, and accepts us not on the basis of our own righ­teousness which is unacceptable anyway, but on the basis of the Righteousness of Christ. This Righteousness the Law could not give us. It was way beyond our reach, and the Scripture, therefore, says:
“For what the Law could not do, in that (be­cause) it was weak through the flesh, God send­ing His Own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:
“That the Righteousness of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Rom. 8:3-4).
The fact then that the Law cannot save the sinner, nor keep the Saint, is not the fault of the Law, but of sinful flesh. That which the Law could not do, was because of man’s sinful na­ture, which makes man weak. And because we could not attain unto Righteousness by our own efforts, God sent His Son into the world to do
for us what we could not do for ourselves, which was to satisfy the Law for us, by paying its pen­alty on the Cross, and then by our evidencing Faith in that, He offers His spotless, Righteous­ness — all of this, that the Righteousness of the Law might be fulfilled in us.
Notice, it does not say that it might be ful­filled by us, but in us. This is all done by the Holy Spirit.
Have you been trying to earn your own vic­tory in your own way? Have you been trying to seek God’s favor by doing your best?
Oh, Friend, your best is not good enough, and in fact, can never be good enough. Why not accept His freely-offered Righteousness and be able to say:
“I’ve tried in vain a thousand ways,
“My fears to quell, my hopes to raise;
“But what I need, the Bible says,
“Is ever, only Jesus.”
This same point Paul now repeats in greater detail, with the Name of Christ prominent. He has died to Law so that he might live for God, but this is true only because he has been joined to the Lord Jesus Christ by God the Father. Jesus died; so did Paul. Jesus rose again, so did Paul, and so have we.
The Resurrection Life he is now living he is living through the Presence of the Lord Jesus Christ within him.
There are different ways in which Paul’s ref­erences to having died and come to life in Christ can be taken; he himself uses the images in dif­ferent ways, even as we have previously stated.
At times, he refers to the participation of Christians in the benefits of Christ’s experiences. This means that Christians experience death and new life because Jesus experienced death and new life for them.
As well, he refers to an actual participation of the Believer in Christ’s Death and Resurrec­tion conceived on the basis of the mystical union of the Believer with the Lord (Rom. 6:4-8; Col. 2:12-14, 20; 3:1-4). This last view is the hardest to understand, but it is the one involved here.
It means to be so united to Christ by Faith that all the experiences of Christ become the Christian’s experiences, which are intended by the Holy Spirit. Thus, His Death for sin was the
’Believer’s death; His Resurrection was (in one sense) the Believer’s Resurrection; His Ascen­sion was the Believer’s ascension, so that the Believer is (again in one sense) seated with Christ “in the heavenly realms” even as we have previ­ously stated (Eph. 2:6).
This thought is particularly evident in Paul’s use of the manner in which he speaks of having been crucified with Christ. In other words, it is evident in the Greek Text.
He is referring to something which has hap­pened in the past but which influence continues into the present.
Paul died with Christ, and so did we; that is, his “old man” died with Christ. This was ar­ranged by God so that Christ, rather than the old Paul, and the old us, might live in us.
Paul is still living, but he adds that the life he lives now is lived “by Faith.” It is a different type of life altogether than that which he was striv­ing to live under the Law. In another sense, it is not Paul who is living at all, but rather Christ Who lives in him.
The phrase, “I am crucified with Christ,” is as stated in the Greek in the perfect tense, which speaks of a past completed action having present continuing results. Paul uses it to show that his identification with Christ at the Cross was a past fact, and that the spiritual benefits that have come to him through his identifica­tion are present realities with him.
By this statement, he also shows how he died to the Law, namely by dying with Christ Who died under its penalty. The Law’s demands were satisfied, as stated, and, therefore, have no more hold on Paul.
But thus being crucified with Christ, meant also to Paul, death to self. When Paul died with Christ, it was the Pharisee Saul who died. What he was and did up to that time passed away so far as he was concerned. The old Saul was bur­ied, and the old life with him. Consequently, the dominating control of the Adamic nature had its power over him broken.
PRESENT RESULTS Even as we have already stated, the phrase, “I am crucified with Christ,” as given in the Greek stipulates something which happened in the past, but continues to have a present effect upon our daily walk with God. This is what many in the Church do not understand. They think the Cross pertains only to their Salvation experience, in other words, when they got saved. They do not realize, that the effects of what Jesus did at Calvary, continues to have visible results in our everyday lives, that is if we have Faith in that which was done, and under­stand what was done. In essence, that’s what Jesus was speaking about when He said that we are to “take up our Cross daily and follow Him” (Lk. 9:23). First of all, the taking up of the Cross, re­fers to our trusting in what was done there for our Salvation and our continued everyday vic­tory in Christ. This, the Cross, is the answer to the difficulties, problems and ills of man. In fact, it is the only answer. Humanistic psychol­ogy holds no answers and neither do the hea­thenistic religions of the world. Only what Jesus did on the “Cross.” Through Faith in the Cross alone, can vic­tory be had over the sins of the flesh, whatever those sins may be. As well, Jesus used the word “daily,” as it-referred to taking up the Cross, and meant for it to be a daily affair. In other words, we are to trust on a daily basis for our victory, in what Christ did at Calvary now nearly 2,000 years ago. Please allow me to say this again, that this is the only avenue of victory provided for us, and the only avenue in which the Holy Spirit will work. This means, that the Charismatic Churches who teach that the Cross only pertains to our Salvation, and has no more bearing on our present living, are completely off base. Many of these Churches, and regrettably they number into the thousands, will not even sing any songs about the Cross in their Services, or the Blood of Christ, calling such “past miseries.” Consequently, by such thinking, Satan has succeeded in cutting them off from the only victory possible. THE CROSS
That of which Paul speaks, is something more than that of merely “dying with Christ”
— i.e., imitating the Death of Christ after a spiritual manner: it involves, as well, a spe­cial reference to the Cross.
It is through the Power of the Cross, through contemplating the Cross and all that is associ­ated with it, that the Christian is enabled to mortify the promptings of sin within him, and reduce such to a state of passiveness (power­lessness) like that of death.
This is one of the most significant theologi­cal concepts. When a man enters into Christ he literally enters into His Death. In effect, and as stated, he dies with Christ. This is more than a figure of speech, merely describing a psycho­logical separation or deliverance from sin. It means that by Faith a man makes Christ’s death his own. The future result is that he does not face eternal death for his sins.
Even as we have stated, there is also a present benefit. The power of sin is broken in a man’s life, because he died to sin with Christ. Of particular significance to the present con­text is the fact that death with Christ is the only way (Faith in what was accomplished at the Cross) that those enslaved by the Law can find freedom.
It is imperative that the sinner’s death with Christ not be confused with Crucifixion of one’s essential selfhood or what is often termed self-crucifixion. It is rather the old, inner self, helplessly and hopelessly depraved by sin, that dies. Paul’s terminology is strange to modern ways of thinking, yet it depicts a truth that is well known in human experience.
In reality, the new self in Christ, is not to be destroyed, but rather remains in Christ. That is the ideal and what the Holy Spirit intends (Lk. 9:23-26).
The execution of Jesus on the Cross is a his­torical event. We may debate the exact con­figuration of the Cross and dispute the precise location of Jerusalem’s public execution grounds. But we cannot debate the clear teach­ing of the Bible about the meaning of the Cross in God’s Plan and in our lives today.
The story of the Crucifixion is told in all of the Gospels (Mat. Chpt. 27; Mk. Chpt. 15; Lk. Chpt. 23; Jn. Chpt. 19). What at first seemed
to the Disciples to be a tragedy was recognized after the Resurrection as the Source of Salva­tion and Hope.
In his first recorded Evangelistic Sermon after the Ascension, Peter presented Jesus’ Crucifixion as something determined “by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge” (Acts 2:23). Forgiveness can be found only in the Crucified and risen Lord (Acts 2:38-39; 4:10-12).
That first Message called on the people of Jerusalem to put their trust in the person of the Crucified and risen Saviour. Later Paul explained that the Cross is God’s means for rec­onciling “all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through His Blood, shed on the Cross” (Col. 1:20).
Through the Crucifixion, we have been of­fered life, and those who put their trust in Christ have been forgiven for all their sins. All that could condemn us was washed away at Calvary (Col. 2:13-17).
In addition, the barriers that divide human­ity and create hostilities were abolished, for people of every culture are brought to God through the Cross (Eph. 2:16). Because of the Crucifixion we have peace with God and access to the Father and have become members of God’s Own household (Eph. 2:17-19).
Jesus’ Crucifixion and Resurrection were God’s only way to bring all these benefits to humanity.
In view of all that Jesus has accomplished, it is no wonder that the writer of Hebrews con­fronts Jews who did not grasp it all and were tempted to turn back to an Old Testament Faith to find in Old Testament Law the means for completing their Salvation.
Will they crucify Jesus again? Are they shamelessly implying that the Cross did not accomplish all that God says it has? (Heb. 6:6).
When the Apostle Paul evangelized Corinth, he refused to rely on his training and rhetori­cal skills. He preached the Gospel simply and plainly and relied on the Divine Power inher­ent in the Message of the Cross (I Cor. 1:17; Rom. 1:16).
Those who perish will think the Cross is fool­ishness, but those who are being saved will rec­ognize it as the Message that bears the stamp of God’s Own Authority (I Cor. 1:18).
Because the Cross is central to the Chris­tian Gospel, Paul often uses “the Cross” as a term for the Gospel itself (I Cor. 1:18; Gal. 5:11; 6:12, 14; Phil. 3:18).
The New Testament speaks of our Crucifix­ion with Jesus (Rom. 6:6; Gal. 2:20; 5:24; 6:14).
The key to understanding the reference is the concept of Identification. The union that each Believer has with Jesus is so close that everything that happened to Jesus is consid­ered to have happened to us. Through our union with Jesus and by the Divine Power that raised Jesus from the dead, we experience not only Crucifixion but also renewal and keep­ing power (Rom. 6:1-14; 8:1-4).
Marriage provides an illustration of Identi­fication. A poverty-stricken woman who mar­ries a millionaire becomes a millionaire when the wedding takes place. Even if the couple divorced later, the law treats his millions as though she had participated in earning them, and that participation will be reflected in the divorce settlement.
But God will never divorce us. All that Christ has done and all that He now is, are ours through our relationship with Him.
This enigmatic concept must be important, for all three Gospels report Jesus’ encourage­ment to His Disciples to take up their Cross and follow Him (Mat. 10:38; 16:24; Mk. 8:34; Lk. 9:23; 14:27).
In all of these reports the word “Cross” is used symbolically. When Jesus was faced with imminent Crucifixion, He prayed in Gethse­mane, “Father . . . take this cup from Me. Yet not what I will, but what You will” (Mk. 14:36).
Here the Cross is the ultimate symbol of Jesus’ commitment to do the Will of God, what­ever suffering that might bring for Him. Tak­ing up our Cross to follow Jesus simply means that we are to imitate daily Jesus’ total willing­ness to do the Will of the Father, whatever that Will may hold for us. As well, and to which we have already alluded, it speaks of trusting fully in that which was accomplished at the Cross, thereby receiving its afforded victory paid for by Christ.
The world little believes this great Truth, and sadly much of the Church follows suit. Con­sequently, it is a reproach in their eyes for one to trust solely in the Cross for life and victory; nevertheless, this is the only thing in history that affords life and victory. Such comes from no other source (Richards).
The phrase, “Nevertheless I live,” presents Saul the self-righteous Pharisee as having died, at least in Christ, but Paul the Great Apostle, lives.
The counterpart of death with Christ is al­ways Resurrection and a new life in Him. The man of Faith walks in “newness of life” (Rom. 6:4), in the “likeness of His Resurrection” (Rom. 6:5), and “lives unto God” (Rom. 6:11). He “brings forth fruit unto God” (Rom. 7:4), and serves Him in “newness of spirit” (Rom. 7:6).
It is vital to grasp the full impact of this wondrous Truth. Death to sin is significant only because it makes the new life possible. Deliverance from sin is the opening of the door to a glorious new life in Christ.
The phrase, “Yet not I,” presents a life that is no longer self-centered, which characterizes all unbelievers, but a Christ-centered one. His new life is a Person, the Lord Jesus living in Paul. And through the Ministry of the Holy Spirit, the Lord Jesus is manifest in His life.
The new life is no longer, like the former one, dependant upon the ineffectual efforts of a man attempting to draw near to God in his own Righteousness. The new life is a Person within a person, living out His life in that person.
Instead of attempting to live his life in obedience to a set of rules in the form of the legal enactments of the Mosaic Law, Paul now yields to the indwelling Holy Spirit and coop­erates with Him in the production of a life pleasing to God, energized by the Divine Life resident in him through the regenerating Work of the Spirit. Instead of a sinner with a totally depraved nature attempting to find acceptance with God by attempted obedience to a set of outward laws, it is now the Saint living his life on a new principle, that of the indwelling Holy Spirit manifesting forth the Lord Jesus (Wuest).
The phrase, “But Christ liveth in me,” pre­sents Christ as the Source of all the life now enjoyed. Of course, Christ does not physically dwell in the Believer as should be obvious. How
ever, this of which Paul says is of far greater dimension than a mere philosophic idea. The Truth of what Paul says is this:
When Jesus died on the Cross, the believing sinner died in Him, which means that Jesus be­came our Substitute. Our Identification with Him through Faith, grants us all the privileges which the Cross affords, which speaks of Salva­tion and Victory.
When that is done, the Believer exhibits Faith in the Cross, in turn Jesus comes to live in the person. The idea is, as the believing sinner was in Christ when He died, at least in the Mind of God, upon continued Faith by the Believer, Jesus now lives in the Believer. The Holy Spirit is given to the Believer to guarantee the positive effects of Calvary.
While it is a guaranteed fact that all believing sinners were in Christ when He died, at least in the Mind of God, which is a necessity if one is to be saved, hypothetically, Christ is not allowed to live in the hearts and lives of many Believers. While that is not literally correct, for it cannot be literally correct, still, the great benefits of Jesus living in the Believer are not realized in the hearts and lives of most Christians. The reason is simple:
Many Believers while having accepted the Cross as it regards their Salvation, however, try to maintain a life of victory after Salvation by reverting back to works. Consequently, Christ is made of no effect, with the Believer living his life as if though Christ did not reside within him. That being the case, the Holy Spirit will not function, and the Believer is doomed to failure, which probably characterizes most Christian lives.
Most all Christians are clear on the Salva­tion process, but unclear on the continued victory process, thereby reverting back to works. The secret is to keep trusting in the Cross on a daily basis, believing that it not only afforded Salvation for our “born again” experience, but as well continues to provide
power and strength for our daily walk before God, guaranteeing continued victory.
“Liveth” in the Greek is “zao,” and means “to live,” or literally, “to live a life.”
Jesus is in us in order to live through us the kind of life we must live and desire to live. He is not there as an idle bystander, but sadly, is re­duced to that at times by our lack of Faith in the Cross.
The phrase, “And the life which I now live in the flesh,” refers to being in the flesh because that’s what we are, but not living according to the flesh, but according to Christ.
Between the old life under sin and the new way of living, there is the “no-man’s-land” of life under self. Although the Believer has been freed from the grip of sin, he is still lord of his own life. Thus, Paul uses his personal example to set forth the ideal that God expected of them. Such a life involves a crisis capitulation, as the Believer surrenders his sovereignty to God.
This is returning to God what man usurped in the Garden of Eden. Elsewhere it is described graphically in the imagery of a “love slave” pre-­senting himself voluntarily to his master (Rom. 6:19), and as a Priest presenting his sacrifice on the Altar (Rom. 12:1).
The implications of this crisis must be lived out in a lifelong process, which Paul often refers­to as walking or marching by the Spirit.
This new life under the Spirit is lived in the flesh, which here means in the present, earthly body — with all of its limitations, weaknesses, and temptations. It is also lived by . . . Faith.
The phrase, “I live by the Faith of the Son of God,” presents to us a part of this great Truth which is at times ignored, and as a consequence, causes great problems.
Paul witnesses that, as he was justified by Faith, so he lives the new life of the Spirit by Faith in the Son of God as well!
The Believer’s surrendered sovereignty must not be confused with the sinner’s death with Christ. Also Paul never uses Death or Crucifixion as a metaphor of destruction of man’s God-given selfhood. In Pauline terms man’s will does not die, but is surrendered or-presented to God.
All the way the Believer’s life must be one of total dependence upon Christ, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.
It was by Faith in Christ that I first became partaker of this life; it is by Faith in Christ that I continue to partake of it; letting go my Faith in Christ, I then instantly lose this life in Christ, i.e., “His Victory.” There are three things the Be­liever must do as it regards continued victory in one’s life. They are as follows:
1. The Believer must understand that the Cross was not only for his Salvation, but his con­tinued victory as well.
2. He must appropriate the benefits of the Cross on a “daily” basis, trusting in what Jesus did there (Lk. 9:23).
3. He must have Faith on a continuing basis, that this which Jesus did, in fact, has a present result in his life, and will overcome every power of darkness. In other words, this is not auto­matic, even as Paul says, it requires “Faith.”
In respect to all of this, Paul refers to Jesus in His role of Deity as “the Son of God,” the mag­nificent title by which he recites Christ’s Per­sonality. Consequently, Jesus possesses as such an absolutely commanding claim to His people’s adherence, which we dare not decline.
The phrase, “Who loved me, and gave Him­self for me,” presents the acknowledgement that everything in the Christian’s life finds its Source in the Love of Christ, which caused Him to die for us. There is no other motivation of Grace. This emphasis upon Love became a veri­table creedal confession.
Christ died for the whole world, proving that He loved the whole world, but each individual Christian has a right to appropriate His death to himself. The death of Christ was prompted by love, not for the abstraction of humanity, but for men as individuals.
This great love evidenced in such a manner is completely beyond the comprehension of mor­tal men. In fact, the entirety of the basis of Christianity is built upon the foundation of Love which spawns Grace, which of necessity Grace must have, that is if it is to be Grace.
As well, and as we’ve already stated, this state­ment as given by the Holy Spirit through Paul, presents this great Gift of God on a very per­sonal basis. In other words, He personally gave
Himself to each one of us as individuals, even as sinful and wicked as we were, but thank God, through Him, no longer are.
The last sentence of this Chapter is intro-­duced abruptly and from a new point of view. In the preceding Verses Paul has answered the ob­jections of his critics. Now he objects to their doctrine, showing that if they are right, then Christ has died in vain. The heart of Christian­ity lies in the Grace of God and in the Death of Jesus Christ.
So, as Stott notes, “If anybody insists that Justification is by works, and that he can earn his Salvation by his own efforts, he is under­mining the foundations of the great Christian Salvation in Christ. He is nullifying the Grace of God (because if Salvation is by works, it is not by Grace) and he is making Christ’s death superfluous (because if Salvation is our own work, then Christ’s work was unnecessary).”
Paul’s logic is incontrovertible. Yet many still pursue the fallacious logic of the legalizers. They suppose that to earn their Salvation is somehow praiseworthy and noble, when actu­ally it is vainglorious and ignoble. True nobil­ity (and humility) is to accept what God offers. One must either receive God’s offer of Salva­tion, which can only be received in His Way, or insult Him (Gaebelein).
The phrase, “I do not frustrate the Grace of God,” presents the fact that there is no Salva­tion for the sinner who depends in the least upon good works as a means of acceptance with God.
“Frustrate” is from the Greek “atheteo,” which means “to do away with something laid down, presented, or established, to act towards anything as though it were annulled, to thwart the efficacy of anything, to nullify, to make void.” ”
All these meanings could be applied here to the act of adding law-works to Faith as the ground of a sinner’s Justification. One may preach that Christ died for our sins, but if he adds works to Faith as the means of the ac­ceptance of the Salvation Christ procured for lost sinners at the Cross, he has thwarted the
efficacy of Grace, for the fundamental mean­ing of Grace is that Salvation is given free, without money and without price (Isa. 55:1).
The idea is, that if we do not permit the Grace of God to operate in us, we will not be overcom­ing Christians. Religion says, “I can do it.” Re­lationship says, “Christ can do it through me.”
If the sinner attempting to be saved, tries to bring about such results through his own good works, he automatically frustrates the Grace of God, and Salvation is forfeited as well.
As well, if the Believer after coming to Christ, attempts to maintain his life of victory by reverting to works, he automatically frus­trates the Grace of God, which means to stop its effectiveness, which means that he is doomed to failure in whatever it is that’s trou­bling him.
I suspect that most Christians would claim that they readily know and understand this, but at the same time, I greatly suspect that most Christians do not know and understand this of which we speak. In fact, I don’t think that most Preachers fully understand it, and so not know­ing what to do for those who are troubled by the powers of darkness, they recommend a Psy­chologist, etc.
The Truth is, and as negative as it may sound, the Church world as a whole is little at­tempting to properly divide the Word of Truth anymore, but is rather looking to other things.
The Denominational Church World has pretty well denied the Holy Spirit. Conse­quently, there’s very little left but the “letter.”
The Pentecostal World is pretty well chas­ing after miracles and signs, whatever their origin.
The Charismatic Church World is pretty well seeking riches, i.e., “the prosperity gospel.”
Consequently, Satan is having a field day. Admittedly and thankfully, there are excep­tions to all of this which we have stated above, but I think the majority falls into this sphere.
Our answer for all things is in the Word of God and that means rightly dividing the Word, and not corrupting its contents (II Pet. 1:3-4).
The phrase, “For if Righteousness come by the Law, then Christ is dead in vain,” presents
the simple meaning as is obvious, that if we can effect Salvation on our own, by our works and efforts, then what Jesus did, at such awful price, was completely unnecessary.
As well, if humanistic psychology is the an­swer for the ills of man, even as the modern Church proclaims, again, why did Jesus have to come down and die on a Cross?
If Justification can be secured by the obser­vance of any law — Ceremonial or Moral — then there was no need of the death of Christ as an Atonement. This is clear and plain. If man by conformity to any law, by any effort, by any wis­dom, could be justified before God, what need was there of an Atonement?
It follows from these statements as given by Paul, which are overly obvious, that man can­not be justified by his own morality, or his good deeds, or his forms of religion, or his honesty and integrity. If he can, he needs no Saviour — he can save himself, which is the contention of Satan and most of the world anyway.
It follows, also, when men depend upon their own morality, and good works, they feel no need of a Saviour; and this is the true reason why the mass of humanity rejects the Lord Jesus. They suppose that they do not deserve to be sent to Hell. They have no deep sense of guilt. They confide in their own integrity, and feel that God ought to save them.
Confiding in their own righteousness, they reject the Grace of God, and despise the Plan of Justification through the Redeemer.
To feel the need of a Saviour, it is necessary to feel that we are lost and ruined sinners; that we have no merit on which we can rely; and that we are entirely dependent on the Mercy of God for Salvation. Thus feeling, we shall receive the Salvation of the Gospel with thankfulness and joy, and show that in regard to us Christ did not “die in vain.”
Almost 3500 years ago God gave to Israel, at Mt. Sinai, two tables of a Law, which no one since then has ever kept perfectly. This Law was the faultless expression of the Holy Will of God, and sinful man was unable to keep it.
Some 1500 years after God gave this Law to Israel there had not been one single person who
could claim complete obedience to this Law. This meant that all men were and are Lawbreak­ers, for one transgression was enough to bring a person under its curse. We repeat without apology, the all-inclusive indictment as given by the Apostle Paul:
“For as many as are of the works of the Law are under the curse: for it is written, cursed is everyone that continueth not in all things which are written in the Book of the Law to do them” (Gal. 3:10).
This Verse universally and individually con­demns every man, for the demands of this Law are entirely out of reach of the best human who has ever lived. It was impossible for a sinner born with a depraved heart to please God by obedience to His Perfect, Holy Law. Again and again the Bible states that no flesh can be jus­tified by the Works of the Law. In fact, the Law was never intended by God to justify anyone.
Paul says in Galatians:
“. . . if there had been a Law given which could have given life, verily Righteousness should have been by the Law.
“But the Scripture hath concluded all un­der sin . . .” (Gal. 3:21-22) (All were found to be unrighteous).
It is well to ponder those words: if it were possible for a sinner to have made himself ac­ceptable in the sight of God by a life of perfect obedience to God’s Law, then there would have been no need, no occasion, for the Grace and the Mercy of God. It would have made the Death of Christ wholly unnecessary. For this reason Paul says:
“I do not frustrate the Grace of God: for if Righteousness come by the Law, then Christ is dead in vain” (Gal. 2:21).
What a charge to hurl against a Righteous God! If it were possible for man to attain Righ­teousness by keeping the Law, then God made a colossal mistake in sending His Son to die on the Cross. We repeat, if it were possible to be saved by his own merit, works, and obedience to God’s Law, or any other Law or effort for that matter, then there was no need of sacrificing the Son of God to save those who could have been saved by those other means. This is the force of these words:
“. . . if Righteousness come by the Law, then Christ is dead in vain” (Gal. 2:21).
Then the Death of Christ on the Cross was wholly unnecessary and uncalled for. The ques­tion, therefore, arises over and over again: if the Law could neither Justify, Sanctify, or sat­isfy, then why did God give a Law which He knew no one would be able to keep?
Is it not debasing to the Law to say that it could not save the sinner? What is wrong with the Perfect Law of God, if it can do absolutely nothing for the sinner as it regards the obtain­ing of Salvation?
Listen! There is nothing wrong with the Law. The trouble is with the sinner. The stan­dard of the Law is perfection and holiness. Paul says in Romans Chapter 7:
“Wherefore the Law is Holy, and the Com­mandment Holy, and just, and good” (Rom. 7:12).
The Law of Moses is Holy; therefore, unholy sinners cannot keep it. The Law is just; there­fore, it condemns the unjust sinner. The Law is good; therefore, it condemns the evil, wicked heart of the natural man.
The Law of Moses or the Law of God, which­ever one would prefer, for both are the same, was given for a particular purpose. That pur­pose was to reveal the sinfulness of sin, not to enable man to get rid of his sin. The Law makes us see sin, but it cannot take away sin. It was Moody who used the illustration of the mirror.
He compared the Law of God to a mirror in which he might behold himself as he really is. Without a mirror one is unable to have an ac­curate picture of himself. No one has ever seen his own face. Because our eyes are set back in sockets and can only look forward and side­ways, but not backward, no one has ever seen his own face, unless we see it in a mirror of some nature.
When we look into a mirror, however, we actually do not see our face; we see only the reflection of it. A photograph is a picture of one’s face, but one doesn’t actually see one’s face. Now a perfect mirror will give a perfect reflection. Without a mirror one might imag­ine his face to be perfectly clean, when in re­ality it is the opposite. However, when he looks into the mirror he sees that it is dirty, soiled, and even filthy.
Before God gave His Holy Law, man was un­able to see just how he actually looked in the sight of God. He knew something was wrong, for his conscience told him that. But he had no idea of just how sinful and filthy he really was. He had no conception of the real sinful­ness of sin.
At Sinai, at the giving of the Law, they said, “All that the Lord hath said, we will do.” Poor, blinded, deluded souls!
They had no realization of how depraved they actually were, how utterly helpless to keep the Law which they were about to receive. So, in order to show them their real condition, God gave them a perfect Law, as the Standard of God’s requirements for Holiness. It was a Revelation of how short they had become be­fore God.
The Law then, instead of showing them how good they were, or how good they should be, or how good they might be by obedience to the Law, only increased the sinfulness of sin, by expos­ing what was actually in the heart of all men.
The Apostle Paul had to learn by experience this great lesson, that the Law, instead of giv­ing life, was a minister of death. In other words, it only defines sin, which told man how sinful he actually was, and as well as to how helpless he is, in trying to overcome within his own strength, which in fact, was and is impossible.
It seems strange to refer to the perfect, Holy, Law of God, as a minister of death, but that’s exactly what it was and was designed to be.
In fact, before his conversion, Paul was a zeal­ous Law-keeper, at least he thought to be such. In fact, as touching the outward observance of the Law, he was blameless. No one could point the finger of accusation at him, at least as it regarded his zeal in this effort.
But then Paul came face to face with Jesus Christ, thereby seeing in a moments time what true Righteousness really looked like, and in a flash Paul saw that all his Righteousness which he claimed under the Law was only filthy rags, and, therefore, he says in Romans 7:10:
“And the Commandment, which was or­dained to life (meaning, the perfect life and liv­ing demanded by God), I found to be unto death (meaning that the Commandments could not be kept)(Rom. 7:10).
Paul found that the Law which he so dili­gently sought to keep in order to earn Salva­tion, was instead his executioner, and con­demned him to death. It means that the Law of Moses, even as all laws, had a penalty, and in this case, the penalty was death, i.e., “spiritual death,” which means “separation from God.”
In view of that, he says that the Law, instead of giving life, slew him:
“For sin, taking occasion by the Command­ment (the Ten Commandments), deceived me (sin deceived me), and by it (the Commandment or the Law) slew me (its penalty of death was upon me, because despite my efforts I actually was not keeping the Law)(Rom. 7:11).
And it is then that Paul realized the high Standard of God’s Law and adds in Verse 12:
“Wherefore the Law is Holy, and the Com­mandment Holy, and just, and good” (Rom. 7:12).
The purpose of the Law was to show the real, the awful nature of sin. It did not manufacture sin, but it revealed the true nature of man’s heart which was depravity, and, therefore, a built-in helplessness. Continuing Paul’s argu­ment in Romans Chapter 7 we read:
“Was then that which is good made death unto me? (Is the Law the cause of my sin?) God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin (the Law defined what sin was), working death in me (condemned me because I could not keep its precepts) by that which is good (the Law was good); that sin by the Commandment might become exceed­ing sinful (the Law showed me just exactly how bad and awful that sin actually was and as well that I was a sinner, and could by no means by my own efforts change myself)(Rom. 7:13).
Notice that last phrase, “that sin by the Com­mandment might become exceeding sinful.”
Before the Law, man might claim ignorance, but once the Law came, it showed man exactly what God required and how helpless man was to obey those requirements, which stops self-justification in its tracks. Paul stated the same truth in Romans Chapter 5.
“Moreover the Law entered (was given by God), that the offense (sins) might abound (to show me how sinful I actually was and had been all along)(Rom. 5:20).
The Law then became like a mirror to reveal the true condition of the sinner as he actually
is. As stated, without the mirror man could not see himself as he really is. But that is all a mir­ror can do — show the filthiness of the face, and the need for cleansing. It cannot do the wash­ing. To take the mirror and try to use it for a washcloth will only smear the dirt and spread it all over one’s face.
To rub the mirror over your soiled complex­ion will only make matters worse. We must turn from the mirror to soap and water.
So, too, with the ministry of the Law — it was given to show man his true condition and his need for cleansing, but beyond this it can­not go.
We must now turn to the Grace of God and in true repentance and confession of our guilt seek for cleansing by the Water of the Word and the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit.
We repeat and shall repeat: the ministry of the Law is not to save, but to show the need of Salvation. When God gave the Law to Israel, they did not yet know the gravity of their sin. They imagined they were capable and able to earn and merit the favor of God by their own behavior and good works. So God gave them a set of conditions, a set of rules, in other words a pattern for living, to be observed if they were to merit God’s favor. For 1600 years Israel lived under this Law, and yet in all those 1600 years, not one single Israelite was saved by keeping that Law, because they all failed as to its re­quirements.
Without exception, all who were saved were saved by Grace, through Faith in God’s Aton­ing Sacrifice. When God gave the Law on Mt. Sinai, he also gave the pattern of the Taber­nacle and the Ordinances for the bloody Sac­rifices. These Sacrifices and the Tabernacle pointed to the Coming Redeemer. Had God given only the Law on Sinai, without His Pro­visions for Pardon in the Pattern of the Tab­ernacle with it’s bloody atoning Sacrifices, not a single Israelite would have been saved.
To the Believer who comes to Christ and abandons all hope of saving himself, Christ be­comes the end of the Law, meaning that He to­tally kept the Law in every respect, thereby ful­filling it all with His Life and Death on Calvary.
Perfect obedience to the Law is not to Him the condition of Salvation, but rather confession of failure and acceptance of Grace resulting in one’s Salvation.
“For Christ is the end of the Law for Righ­teousness to everyone that believeth” (Rom. 10:4). He perfectly kept the Law, actually do­ing it for us. Accepting Him by Faith, God grants to us the status of Law-keepers instead of Lawbreakers, which we actually are.
Notice well, “Christ is the end of the Law for Righteousness” to the Believer. He does not say that the Law ceases to exist, but for the Believer the Law is ended as a means of obtain­ing Righteousness through obedience to it. He is now saved by Grace. So today we are not un­der Law, but under Grace. The Believer is not under the Law, its threatenings, or its penal­ties. We are “dead to the Law” (Gal. 2:19), free from the Law, and delivered from the Law — all by Christ.
“Free from the Law, Oh happy condition!
“Jesus has died, and there is remission;
“Cursed by the Law, ruined by the fall,
“Christ hath redeemed us, Once for all.”
“Once for all, Oh sinner, receive it;
“Once for all, Oh doubter, believe it;
“Look to the Cross, your burden will fall,
“Christ hath redeemed us, once for all.”
With the death and resurrection of Christ, the Dispensation of Law ended, and when Jesus cried, “It is finished,” He had met all the de­mands of the Holy Law, paid its penalty, and to us who believe, “the Righteousness of the Law is imputed to us and fulfilled in us.”
But someone will ask the question, “Do we not need the Law today to show us what sin re­ally is?”
My friend, may I ask you honestly, do we need to go to the Law to see what sin is and does? To be sure, the Moral part of the Law still stands to condemn the sinner, but we now have a much more convincing demonstration of the true nature of sin. It is seen not at Sinai, but at Cal­vary. After 1600 years of the thunderings of the Law, not one single individual to whom the Law was given ever kept it, but instead at the end of those 1600 years they committed the capital crime of the ages by nailing the only
One Who ever kept the Law perfectly, to the Cross of Calvary and condemned Him to die as a criminal and a Law-breaker.
Mark this fact well — after living for centu­ries under the Law, they ended up by commit­ting the crime of all crimes, crucifying the Son of God. Ah, my friend, if you really want to see what sin is in all its naked depravity, then come with me to Calvary. See the perfect, sinless Son of God bleeding, dying in agony and shame, because of our sin.
There is the picture of sin. There we see what sin really is, and what sin deserves, for He bore our sin on that Cross. If you want to know what sin is, go to that scene at Calvary. You will never truly repent of your sin until you see what your sin did to the Saviour on the Cross (De Haan).
“I saw One hanging on a tree,
“In agony and blood.
“He fixed His loving eyes on me,
“As near His Cross I stood.”

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