Galatians 2

But we have a good deal more. He tells us that fourteen years after he again went up to Jerusalem. He went up with Barnabas, taking Titus with him It was by revelation, not by summons from Jerusalem, or to acquire a title thereby. And “Titus,” as he says here, “who was with me, being a Greek,” and so forth. So far from this being the smallest allowance of Jewish prejudice, it was itself a powerful blow against it. Thus, going up with Barnabas, he took Titus, a Gentile, along with him; and even so by revelation. It was rather to have Gentile liberty secured by the twelve apostles, and that the Judaizers should be condemned by the church at Jerusalem. It was the very reverse of deriving his authority from either. He went up by revelation for the purpose of getting a condemnation in Jerusalem itself of those who would force Jewish principles on the church of God at large. The legal mischief had emanated from Jerusalem: the remedy of grace must be applied by the apostles, elders, and brethren there. It was a misuse of the respect naturally accorded to some who came from Jerusalem; and so God took care to correct the evil by a formal, public, authoritative sentence of the body there, instead of a pure and simple rejection of the error among the Gentile churches, which might have looked like a schism, or at least a divergence of feeling between them and the Apostle Paul. It might have been inferred that Paul was to do what he could with the Gentile churches, but that the twelve exclusively cared for the churches in Judea, he consequently having nothing to do with them. But it is not so. The Apostle goes up to Jerusalem, not only with Barnabas, who had come from thence, but taking with him Titus, who seems not to have been there before—Titus, his own valued companion in labor, but a Gentile. In fact, what Jerusalem had done, as far as this was concerned, was to let slip men that would impose circumcision—evil workers, as he in a later epistle contemptuously calls such like of the concision; for they were corrupting the Gentile churches by Judaism, instead of helping them in Christ.
Thus, then, God directed and ruled that the Apostle should go up and have the evil condemned on the spot, and at the center from which it had emanated. And when he went there, was it a question of receiving aught from the twelve? Nay; he communicated unto them the gospel which he preached among the Gentiles. It was not that they communicated to him the gospel they had learned from Jesus here below, but he communicated to them that gospel he was in the habit of preaching among the Gentiles. But it was in no vain glory, in no tone of superiority, though, no doubt, it was a far fuller and higher testimony than theirs; for he adds, “privately to them which were of reputation, lest by any means I should run or had run in vain.” He granted that persons might indulge in some such thoughts about him. It was for the chiefs at Jerusalem to judge for themselves, and they did judge to the confusion of the Apostle’s adversaries. “But neither Titus [he takes occasion to say parenthetically], being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised.” And what was the result of all this? Why, that though there were “false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage,” Paul did not give place by subjection even for an hour, “that the truth of the gospel might continue with them.” For the foundation was at stake. “But of these who seemed to be somewhat.” Here he takes up, not the mischievous troublers of the Gentiles, whom he does not hesitate to call “false brethren,” but the highest in office he found there. “Of these who seemed to be somewhat (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me).” It is interesting to note the earnestness and strength with which the Apostle speaks, now the question had been fairly raised. Pungent, abrupt, indignant, he none the less was led of God. “But of these who seemed to be somewhat, (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man’s person:) for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me; but contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter,” and so forth. A different issue ensued from their settling down in the mutual independence of the Gentile churches and the Jewish. “They gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision.” They thus acted and pronounced according to the evident intention of God conveyed in the character of their apostolates respectively.
Thus, it is seen, the truth was established. The Apostle Paul interferes in no way with the work which God had given the others to do. He owned and valued, in its own place, the difficult, weighty, and momentous work which God had assigned to Peter, James, and the rest; but at the same time he stood firmly—humbly, of course, and lovingly, but firmly—for that which the Lord had assigned to Himself and his colleagues among the Gentiles; and, so far from Christ’s liberty having been in the least weakened, the apostolic conclave put their seal, with the whole church at Jerusalem, upon it most heartily. (Acts 15) As it is said here, “They gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship, that we should go unto the heathen and they unto the circumcision. Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do.” But this was not all. He mentions another fact, and of the greatest gravity, closing this part of his argument—that when Peter subsequently came down into the Gentile quarters, he had been himself affected by the subtle spirit of Judaism, that is, the chief of the twelve!
How little is man to be accounted of! And Paul, far from deriving his apostleship or aught else from Peter, was obliged to rebuke him, and this publicly. “When Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed: for before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles; but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation. But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, 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?” I call your attention particularly to this, brethren, that an act apparently so simple as Peter’s ceasing to eat with the Gentiles had such a solemn character in the eye of the Apostle Paul, that he considered it a question of the truth of the gospel. Are you prepared for this searching judgment of what looked a small and indifferent matter? Do your souls go along with Paul’s decision? Or are you inclined toward the easy-going yieldingness of Peter? Can you seize the gravity of this?
Remember what it must have been to one like Paul to censure the most honored of the twelve. For Peter is not said to have withdrawn from the Lord’s table where the uncircumcised met, but from the simple matter of eating with the Gentiles. The truth of the gospel, to the Apostle Paul’s mind, was at stake. Need it be added that he was right and Peter wrong? The gospel had brought in before God this double conclusion, founded on the first Adam and the last. It supposed, and went forth to every creature on the ground of the total ruin of Jew and Gentile. There was no difference: all had sinned. And it proclaimed the full and equally blessed standing of those who received Christ. There was no difference in the blessing of Christ: man’s guilt and God’s grace were alike indiscriminate. There was no difference either way (Rom. 3, 10). But the act of Peter went to maintain a difference. The truth of the gospel, therefore, was compromised. And there were reasons why Peter was grievously in fault, particularly as he did no longer adhere to the law, but lived as one conscious of the freedom from it which the gospel gives those who believe in a risen Christ. Why then did he want the Gentiles to live as did the Jews?
The Apostle accordingly now turns to the great argument of his epistle, and the discussion of those grand principles that are characteristic to Christianity, and in full agreement with the facts that have already been brought before you. “We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we may be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” But then he goes farther. He says, “If, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is Christ therefore the minister of sin?” This would have flowed from Peter’s conduct. Had Peter been right, it was evident that the gospel had put Peter in the wrong. The gospel had led Peter to treat the Jews and Gentiles all alike. The gospel had given him to sanction in his ways and words the overthrow of the partition wall. If Peter was acting rightly now, this had all been a mistake, and consequently the gospel—nay, solemn to say, Christ Himself—would be thus a minister of sin. Such was the serious but necessary import of Peter’s act. Peter would have been horrified at such a conclusion. This shows us the exceeding seriousness of a step apparently so trifling as his abstaining from further intercourse with the Gentiles in mere ordinary life. The Apostle’s discerning eye at once judged by Christ and by that gospel which he had learned from Him. He habitually measured things not so much by their bearing on Jews or Gentiles as by their effect on Christ’s glory. In point of fact, to bring in Christ is also best of all to secure the blessing, the privileges, the glory that God has in His grace for every one that believes. Paul was pleading for the real interests of the Jew just as much as of the Gentile; but he presses this most clenching argument—that Peter’s conduct involved the making Christ Himself the minister of sin; “for if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor.”
Then the Apostle at once explains, as annexed to this, the real state of the case. “I through the law am dead to the law.” As you know, he had been under law as a Jew. And what was the effect of God’s giving him to have an application of law in his own conscience? Why, to feel himself a dead man. As it is reasoned out in Romans 7, the law came, and he died. “I through law am dead to law, that I might live unto God.” The law in itself never produces such a result. All that the law can do, even when yielded by the might of the Spirit of God, is to force on a soul the consciousness of being dead before God. The law is never life to the dead, but kills morally those who seem alive. “I through law am dead to law.” It is thus, then, that grace uses it to give me death in my conscience before God. Thus I am dead through the law. The Spirit of God can employ it to make a man feel that all is over with him; but He goes farther in grace, and by that very law brings the man in dead to the law, and not merely condemned. He through law died to law, that he might live to God Here he comes to the positive blessing; for the Spirit cannot rest in what is but negative. But it is life after death to law, and consequently in another sphere.
He next announces the true secret of it all: “I am crucified with Christ.” It is not merely that I have found in Christ a Saviour, but I am crucified with Christ. My very nature is dealt with. All that I have as a living man in the world is gone,—not, of course, as a mere matter of fact, but, what is far more important, as a matter of faith. The history of the flesh—its sad and humbling history—is soon over; but the history that faith opens into never closes. “I am crucified with Christ.” This terminates all for me as a living man here below. “Nevertheless”—astonishing to say, for it could not be natural life—“nevertheless, I live.” And what sort of life can this be? “Yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.” How precious to have done with one’s sinful self and to begin a life so perfect as Christ’s “And the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.”
I have nothing to do with the law any more, even if I had been once under it as a Jew. For the law was used with killing power; and, slain as it were in my conscience, I found in that very place Christ Himself by the grace of God,—Christ that died for me; and not merely this, but Christ in whom I died. I am crucified with Christ: consequently all that remains for me is living this new life which Christ is in me. And this life is sustained by the very same person who is its source. “The life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me,” and so forth. It is not a question of my loving Him, though this is and must be true of the saints; but this would tend to throw the soul on self, and it is not the reckoning of grace. What comforts the soul, what strengthens and keeps it up, is that He “loved me, and gave Himself for me.”
Thus, as he says most emphatically, “I do not frustrate the grace of God”; they did, everyone who substituted aught but Christ and His cross. Everyone who went back from such a gospel as this was, as far as it went, frustrating the grace of God. “If righteousness come by the law,” (he does not merely say, “come of the law,” but come by it,) “then Christ is dead [died] in vain”. Not so; it is exclusively of grace by Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. It is wholly apart from works of law.