The Expositor's Bible

Epistle to the Galatians

Rev. Prof. G. G. Findlay, B.A.

The Personal History
Chapter 1:11 - 2:21

Chapter 10


"For I through law died unto law, that I might live unto God. I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I that live, but Christ liveth in me: and that life which I now live in the flesh I live in faith, the faith which is in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself up for me. I do not make void the grace of God: for if righteousness is through law, then Christ died for nought"—Ga 2:19-21

PAUL’S personal apology is ended. He has proved his Apostolic independence, and made good his declaration, "My Gospel is not according to man." If he owed his commission to any man, it was to Peter; so his traducers persistently alleged. He has shown that, first without Peter, then in equality with Peter, and finally in spite of Peter, he had received and maintained it. Similarly in regard to James and the Jerusalem Church. Without their mediation Paul commenced his work; when that work was challenged, they could only approve it; and when afterwards men professing to act in their name disturbed his work, the Apostle had repelled them. He acted all along under the consciousness of a trust in the gospel committed to him directly by Jesus Christ, and an authority in its administration second to none upon earth. And events had justified this confidence.

Paul is compelled to say all this about himself. The vindication of his ministry is forced from him by the calumnies of false brethren. From the time of the conference at Jerusalem, and still more since he withstood Peter at Antioch, he had been a mark for the hatred of the Judaising faction. He was the chief obstacle to their success. Twice he had foiled them., when they counted upon victory. They had now set on foot a systematic agitation against him, with its headquarters at Jerusalem, carried on under some pretext of sanction from the authorities of the Church there. At Corinth and in Galatia the legalist emissaries had appeared simultaneously; they pursued in the main the same policy, adapting it to the character and disposition of the two Churches, and appealing with no little success to the Jewish predilections common even amongst Gentile believers in Christ.

In this controversy Paul and the gospel he preached were bound together. "I am set," he says, "for the defence of the gospel". (Php 1:16) He was the champion of the cross, the impersonation of the principle of salvation by faith. It is "the gospel of Christ," the "truth of the gospel," he reiterates, that is at stake. If he wards off blows falling upon him, it is because they are aimed through him at the truth for which he lives—nay, at Christ who lives in him. In his self-assertion there is no note of pride or personal anxiety. Never was there a man more completely lost in the greatness of a great cause, nor who felt himself in comparison with it more worthless. But that cause has lifted Paul with it to imperishable glory. Of all names named on earth, none stands nearer than his to that which is "above every name."

While Paul in chaps 1. and 2. is busy with his own vindication, he is meantime behind the personal defence preparing the doctrinal argument. His address to Peter is an incisive outline of the gospel of grace. The three closing verses—the Χριστῷ συνεσταύρωμαιᾔ in particular—are the heart of Paul’s theologysumma ac medulla Christianismi (Bengel). Such a testimony was the Apostle’s best defence before his audience at Antioch; it was the surest means of touching the heart of Peter and convincing him of his error. And its recital was admirably calculated to enlighten the Galatians as to the true bearing of this dispute which had been so much misrepresented. From ver. 15 onwards, Paul has been all the while addressing, under the person of Peter, the conscience of his readers,61 and paving the way for the assault that he makes upon them. with so much vigour in the first verses of chap. 3. Read in the light of the foregoing narrative, this passage is acompendium of the Pauline Gospel, invested with the peculiar interest that belongs to a confession of personal faith, made at a signal crisis in the author’s life. Let us examine this momentous declaration.

1. At the foundation of Paul’s theology lies his conception of the grace of God.

Grace is the Apostle’s watchword. The word occurs twice as often in his Epistles as it does in the rest of the New Testament. Outside the Pauline Luke and Hebrews, and 1 Peter with its large infusion of Paulinism, it is exceedingly rare.62 In this word the character, spirit, and aim of the revelation of Christ, as Paul understood it, are summed up. "The grace of God" is the touchstone to which Peter’s dissimulation is finally brought. Christ is the embodiment of Divine grace—above all, in His death. So that it is one and the same thing to "bring to nought the grace of God," and "the death of Christ." Hence God’s grace is called "the grace of Christ,"—"of our Lord Jesus Christ" From Romans to Titus and Philemon, "grace reigns" in every Epistle. No one can counterfeit this mark of Paul, or speak of grace in his style and accent.

God’s grace is not His love alone; it is redeeming love—love poured out upon the undeserving, love coming to seek and save the lost, "bringing salvation to all men". (Ro 5:1-8 Tit 2:2) Grace decreed redemption, made the sacrifice, proclaims the reconciliation, provides and bestows the new sonship of the Spirit, and schools its children into all the habits of godliness and virtue that beseem their regenerate life, which it- brings finally to its consummation in the life eternal.63

Grace in God is therefore the antithesis of sin in man, counterworking and finally triumphing over it. Grace belongs to the last Adam as eminently as sin to the first. The later thoughts of the Apostle on this theme are expressed in Tit 3:4-7, a passage singularly rich in its description of the working of Divine grace on human nature. "We were senseless," he says "disobedient wandering in error, in bondage to lusts and pleasures of many kinds, living in envy and malice, hateful, hating each other. But when the kindness and love to man of our Saviour God shone forth,"—then all was changed: "not by works wrought in our own righteousness, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, that, justified by His grace, we might be made heirs in hope of life eternal." The vision of the grace of God drives stubbornness, lust, and hatred from the soul. It brings about, for man and for society, the palingenesia, the new birth of Creation, rolling back the tide of evil and restoring the golden age of peace and innocence; and crowns the joy of a renovated earth with the glories of a recovered heaven.

Being the antagonist of sin, grace comes of necessity into contrast with the law. Law is intrinsically the opposer of sin; sin is "lawlessness," with Paul as much as with John.64 But law was powerless to cope with sin: it was "weak through the flesh." Instead of crushing sin, the interposition of law served to inflame and stimulate it, to bring into play its latent energy, reducing the man most loyally disposed to moral despair. "By the law therefore is the knowledge of sin; it worketh out wrath." Inevitably, it makes men transgressors; it brings upon them an inward condemnation, a crushing sense of the Divine anger and hostility65 That is all that law can do by itself. "Holy and just and good," notwithstanding, to our perverse nature it becomes death. (Ro 7:13 1Co 15:56) It is actually "the strength of sin," lending itself to extend and confirm its power. We find in it a "law of sin and death." So that to be "under law" and "under grace" are two opposite and mutually exclusive states. In the latter condition only is sin "no longer our lord". (Ro 6:14) Peter and the Jews of Antioch therefore, in building up the legal principle again, were in truth "abolishing the grace of God." If the Galatians follow their example, Paul warns them that they will "fall from grace." Accepting circumcision, they become "debtors to perform the whole law,"—and that means transgression and the curse. (Ga 5:1-4 3:10-12 2:16-18)

While sin is the reply which man’s nature makes to the demands of law, faith is the response elicited by grace; it is the door of the heart opening to grace.66 Grace and Faith go hand in hand, as Law and Transgression. Limiting the domain of faith, Peter virtually denied the sovereignty of grace. He belied his confession made at the Council of Jerusalem: "By the grace of the Lord Jesus we trust to be saved, even as the Gentiles". (Ac 15:11) With Law are joined such terms as Works, Debt, Reward, Glorying, proper to a "righteousness of one’s own."67 With Grace we associate Gift, Promise, Predestination, Call, Election, Adoption, Inheritance, belonging to the dialect of "the righteousness which is of God by faith."68 Grace operates in the region of the Spirit, making for freedom; but law, however spiritual in origin, has come to seek its accomplishment in the sphere of the flesh, where it "gendereth to bondage". (Ga 4:23-5:5 2Co 3:6,17)

Grace appears, however, in another class of passages in Paul’s Epistles, of which Ga 1:15,2:9 are examples. To the Divine grace Paul ascribes his personal salvation and Apostolic call. The revelation which made him a Christian and an Apostle, was above all things a manifestation of grace. Wearing this aspect, "the glory of God" appeared to him "in the face of Jesus Christ." The splendour that blinded and over whelmed Saul on his way to "Damascus, was the glory of His grace." The voice of Jesus that fell on the persecutor’s ear spoke in the accents of grace. No scourge of the Law, no thunders of Sinai, could have smitten down the proud Pharisee, and beaten or scorched out of him his strong self-will, like the complaint of Jesus. All the circumstances tended to stamp upon his soul, fused into penitence in that hour, the ineffaceable impression of "the grace of God and of our Saviour Jesus Christ." Such confessions as those of 1Co 15:8-10, and Eph 2:7,3:7,8, show how constantly this remembrance was present with the Apostle Paul and suffused his views of revelation, giving to his ministry its peculiar tenderness of humility and ardour of gratitude. This sentiment of bound less obligation to the grace of God, with its pervasive effect upon the Pauline doctrine, is strikingly expressed in the doxology of 1Ti 1:11-17, -words which it is almost a sacrilege to put into the mouth of a falsarius: "According to the gospel of the glory of the blessed God, herewith I was intrusted who was aforetime a blasphemer and persecutor But the grace of our Lord abounded even more exceedingly. Faithful is the saying, worthy to be received of all, ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’—of whom I am chief. In me as chief Christ Jesus showed forth all His long-suffering Now to the King of the ages be honour and glory for ever. Amen." Who, reading the Apostle’s story, does not echo that Amen? No wonder that Paul became the Apostle of grace; even as John, "the disciple whom Jesus loved," must perforce be the Apostle of love. First to him was God’s grace revealed in its largest affluence, that through him it might be known to all men and to all ages.

2. Side by side with the grace of God, we find in ver. 21 the death of Christ. He sets aside the former, the Apostle argues, who by admitting legal righteousness nullifies the latter.

While grace embodies Paul’s fundamental conception of the Divine character, the death of Christ is the fundamental fact in which that character manifests itself. So the cross becomes the centre of Paul’s theology. But it was, in the first place, the basis of his personal life. Faith in the Son of God, "who loved me and gave Himself up for me," is the foundation of "the life he now lives in the flesh."

Here lay the stumbling-block of Judaism. Theocratic pride, Pharisaic tradition, could not, as we say, get over it. A crucified Messiah! How revolting the bare idea. But when, as in Paul’s case, Judaistic pride did surmount this huge scandal and in spite of the offence of the cross arrive at faith in Jesus, it was at the cost of a severe fall. It was broken in pieces, -destroyed once and for ever. With the elder Apostles the change had been more gradual; they were never steeped in Judaism as Saul was. For him to accept the faith of Jesus was a revolution the most complete and drastic possible. As a Judaist, the preaching of the cross was an outrage on his faith and his Messianic hopes; now it was that which most of all subdued and entranced him. Its power was extreme, whether to attract or repel. The more he had loathed and mocked at it before, the more he is bound henceforth to exalt the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. A proof of the Divine anger against the Nazarene he had once deemed it; now he sees in it the token of God’s grace in Him to the whole world.

For Paul therefore the death of Christ imported the end of Judaism. "I died to law," he writes, -"I am crucified with Christ." Once understanding what this death meant, and realising his own relation to it, on every account it was impossible to go back to Legalism. The cross barred all return. The law that put Him, the sinless One, to death, could give no life to sinful men. The Judaism that pronounced His doom, doomed itself. Who would make peace with it over the Saviour’s blood? From the moment that Paul knew the truth about the death of Jesus, he had done with Judaism for ever. Henceforth he knew nothing—cherished no belief or sentiment, acknowledged no maxim, no tradition, which did not conform itself to His death. The world to which he had belonged died, self-slain, when it slew Him. From Christ’s grave a new world was rising, for which alone Paul lived.

But why should the grace of God take expression in a fact so appalling as Christ’s death? What has death to do with grace? It is the legal penalty of sin. The conjunction of sin and death pervades the teaching of Scripture, and is a principle fixed in the conscience of mankind. Death, as man knows it, is the inevitable consequence and the universal witness of his transgression. He "carries about in his mortality the testimony that God is angry with the wicked every day" (Augustine). The death of Jesus Christ cannot be taken out of this category. He died a sinner’s death. He bore the penalty of guilt. The prophetic antecedents of Calvary, the train of circumstances connected with it, His own explanations in chief—are all in keeping with this purpose. With amazement we behold the Sinless "made sin," the Just dying for the unjust. He was "born of a woman, born under law": under law He lived—and died. Grace is no law-breaker. God must above all things be "just Himself," if He is to justify others. (Ro 3:26) The death of Jesus declares it. That sublime sacrifice is, as one might say, the resultant of grace and law. Grace "gives Him up for us all"; it meets the law’s claims in Him., even to the extreme penalty, that from us the penalty may be lifted off. He puts Himself under law, in order "to buy out those under law". (Ga 4:4,5) In virtue of the death of Christ, therefore, men are dealt with on an extra-legal footing, on terms of grace; not because law is ignored or has broken down; but because it is satisfied beforehand. God has "set forth Christ Jesus a propitiation"; and in view of that. accomplished fact, He proceeds "in the present time" to "justify him who is of faith in Jesus". (Ro 3:22-26) Legalism is at an end, for the Law has spent itself on our Redeemer. For those that are in Him "there is now no condemnation." This is to anticipate the fuller teaching of chap. 3.; but the vicarious sacrifice is already implied when Paul says, "He gave Himself up for me—gave Himself for our sins". (Ga 1:4)

The resurrection of Christ is, in Paul’s thought, the other side of His death. They constitute one event, the obverse and reverse of the same reality. For Paul, as for the first Apostles, the resurrection of Jesus gave to His death an aspect wholly different from that it previously wore. But the transformation wrought in their minds during the "forty days" in his case came about in a single moment, and began from a different starting-point. Instead of being the merited punishment of a blasphemer and false Messiah, the death of Calvary became the glorious self-sacrifice of the Son of God. The dying and rising of Jews were blended in the Apostle’s mind; he always sees the one in the light of the other. The faith that saves, as he formulates it, is at once a faith that Christ died for our sins, and that God raised Him from the dead on the third day.69 Whichever of the two one may first apprehend, it brings the other along with it. The resurrection is not an express topic of this Epistle. Nevertheless it meets us in its first sentence, where we discern that Paul’s knowledge of the gospel and his call to proclaim it, rested upon this fact. In the passage before us the resurrection is manifestly assumed. If the Apostle is "crucified with Christ,"—and yet "Christ lives in him," it is not simply the teaching, or the mission of Jesus that lives over again in Paul; the life of the risen Saviour has itself entered into his soul.

3. This brings us to the thought of the union of the believer with Christ in death and life, which is expressed in terms of peculiar emphasis and distinctness in ver. 20. "With Christ I have been crucified; and I live no longer; it is Christ that lives, in me. My earthly life is governed by faith in Him who loved me and died for me." Christ and Paul are one. When Christ died, Paul’s former self died with Him. Now it is the Spirit of Christ in heaven that lives within Paul’s body here on earth.

This union is first of all a communion with the dying Saviour. Paul does not think of the sacrifice of Calvary as something merely accomplished for him, outside himself, by a legal arrangement in which one person takes the place of another and, as it were, personates him. The nexus between Christ and Paul is deeper than this. Christ is the centre and soul of the race, holding towards it a spiritual primacy of which Adam’s natural headship was a type, mediating between men and God in all the relations which mankind holds to God.70 The death of Jesus was more than substitutionary; it was representative. He had every right to act for us. He was the "One" who alone could "die for all"; in Him "all died". (2Co 5:14,15) He carried us with Him to the cross: His death was in effect the death of those whose sins He bore. There was no legal fiction here; no federal compact extemporised for the occasion. "The second Man from heaven," if second in order of time, was first and fundamental in the spiritual order, the organic Head of mankind, "the root," as well as "the offspring" of humanity.71 The judgment that fell upon the race was a summons to Him who held in His hands its interests and destinies. Paul’s faith apprehends and endorses what Christ has done on his behalf, "who loved me," he cries, "and gave Himself up for me." When the Apostle says, "I have been crucified with Christ," he goes back in thought to the scene of Calvary; there, potentially, all that was done of which he now realises in himself the issue. His present salvation is, so to speak, a rehearsal of the Saviour’s death, a "likeness" (Ro 6:5) of the supreme act of atonement, which took place once for all when Christ died for our sins.

Faith is the link between the past, objective sacrifice, and the present, subjective apprehension of it, by which its virtue becomes our own. Without such faith, Christ would have "died in vain." His death must then have been a great sacrifice thrown away. Wilful unbelief repudiates what the Redeemer has done, provisionally, on our behalf. This repudiation, as individuals, we are perfectly free to make." The objective reconciliation effected in Christ’s death can after all benefit actually, in their own personal consciousness, only those who know and acknowledge it, and feel themselves in their solidarity with Christ to be so much one with Him as to be able to appropriate inwardly His death and celestial life, and to live over again His life and death; those only, in a word, who truly believe in Christ. Thus the idea of substitution in Paul receives its complement and realisation in the mysticism of his conception of faith. While Christ objectively represents the whole race, that relation becomes a subjective reality only in the ease of those who connect themselves with Him in faith in such a way as to fuse together with Him into one spirit and one body, as to find in Him their Head, their soul, their life and self, and He in them His body, His members and His temple. Thereby the idea of ‘one for all’ receives the stricter meaning of ‘all in and with one."’72

Partaking the death of Christ, Paul has come to share in His risen life. On the cross he owned his Saviour—owned His wounds, . His shame, His agony of death, and felt himself therein shamed, wounded, slain to death. Thus joined to his Redeemer, as by the nails that fastened Him to the tree, Paul is carried with Him down into the grave—into the grave, and out again! Christ is risen from the dead: so therefore is Paul. He "died to sin once," and now "liveth to God; "death lords it over Him no more": this Paul reckons equally true for himself. (Ro 6:3-11) The Ego, the "old man’ that Paul once was, lies buried in the grave of Jesus.

Jesus Christ alone, "the Lord of the Spirit" has risen from that sepulchre, -has risen in the spirit of Paul. "If any one should come to Paul’s doorsand ask, Who lives here? he would answer, not Saul of Tarsus, but Jesus Christ lives in this body of mine." In this appropriation of the death and rising of the Lord Jesus, this interpenetration of the spirit of Paul and that of Christ, there are three stages corresponding to the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday of Eastertide. "Christ died for our sins: He was buried; He rose again the third day": so, by consequence, "I am crucified with Christ; no longer do I live; Christ liveth in me."

This mystic union of the soul and its Saviour bears fruit in the activities of outward life. Faith is no mere abstract and contemplative affection; but a working energy, dominating and directing all our human faculties. It makes even the flesh its instrument, which defied the law of God, and betrayed the man to the bondage of sin and death. There is a note of triumph in the words, -"the life I now live in the flesh, I live in faith!" The impossible has been accomplished. "The body of death" is possessed by the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus (Ro 6:12 7:23-8:2) The flesh—the despair of the law—has become the sanctified vessel of grace.

Paul’s entire theology of Redemption is contained in this mystery of union with Christ. The office of the Holy Spirit, whose communion holds together the glorified Lord and His members upon earth, is implied in the teaching of ver. 20. This is manifest, when in Ga 3:2-5 we find the believer’s union with Christ described as "receiving the Spirit, beginning in the Spirit"; and when a little later "the promise of the Spirit" embraces the essential blessings of the newlife.73 The doctrine of the Church is also here. For those in whom Christ dwells have therein a common life, which knows no "Jew and Greek; all are one man" in Him.74 Justification and sanctification alike are here; the former being the realisation of our share in Christ’s propitiation for sin, the latter our participation in His risen life, spent "to God." Finally, the resurrection to eternal life and the heavenly glory of the saints spring from their present fellowship with the Redeemer. "The Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead, dwelling in us, shall raise our mortal body" to share with the perfected spirit His celestial life. The resurrection of Christ is the earnest of that which all His members will attain, -nay, the material creation is to participate in the glory of the sons of God, made like to Him, the "firstborn of many brethren". (Ro 8:11,16-23,29,30 Php 3:20,21)

In all these vital truths Paul’s gospel was traversed by the Legalism. countenanced by Peter at Antioch. The Judaistic doctrine struck directly, if not avowedly, at the cross, whose reproach its promoters sought to escape. This charge is the climax of the Apostle’s contention against Peter, and the starting-point of his expostulation with the Galatians in the following chapter. "If righteousness could be obtained by way of law, then Christ died for nought!" What could one say worse of any doctrine or policy, than that it led to this? And if works of law actually justified men, and circumcision is allowed to make a difference between Jew and Greek before God, the principle of legalism is admitted, and the intolerable consequence ensues which Paul denounces. What did Christ die for, all men are able to redeem themselves after this fashion? How can any one dare to build up in face of the cross his paltry edifice of self-wrought goodness, and say by doing so that the expiation of Calvary was superfluous and that Jesus Christ might have spared Himself all that trouble!

And so, on the one hand, Legalism impugns the grace of God. It puts human relations to God on the footing of a debtor and creditor account; it claims for man a ground for boasting in himself, (Ro 4:1-4) and takes from God the glory of His grace. In its devotion to statute and ordinance, it misses the soul of obedience, the love of God, only to be awakened by the knowledge of His love to us. (Ga 5:14 1Jo 4:7-11) It sacrifices the Father in God to the King. It forgets that trust is the first duty of a rational creature toward his Maker, that the law of faith lies at the basis of all law for man.

On the other hand, and by the. same necessity, Legalism is fatal to the spiritual life in man. Whilst it clouds the Divine character, it dwarfs and petrifies the human. What becomes of the sublime mystery of the life hid with Christ in God, if its existence is made contingent on circumcision and ritual performance? To men who put "meat and drink" on a level with "righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost," or in their intercourse with fellow-Christians set points of ceremony above justice, mercy, and faith, the very idea of a spiritual kingdom of God is wanting. The religion of Jesus and of Paul regenerates the heart, and from that centre regulates and hallows the whole ongoing of life. Legalism guards the mouth, the hands, the senses, and imagines that through these it can drill the man into the Divine order. The latter theory makes religion a mechanical system; the former conceives it as an inward, organic life. 


[61] Hofmann is so far right when he makes the Apostle turn to the Galatians in ch. ii. 15, and draws at this point the line between the historical and doctrinal sections of the Epistle.

[62] What is said of χάρις, applies also to its derivatives, χαρίζομαι. κ.τ.λ.

[63] Eph. i. 5-9; 2 Tim. i. 9; Rom. iii. 24; Heb. ii. 9; 2 Cor. v. 20-vi. 1; Gal. iv. 5; Tit. iii. 5-7; ii. 11-14; Rom. v. 21.

[64] Rom. vii. 12, 14; 2 Thess. ii. 4-8; comp. 1 John iii. 4.

[65] Rom. iii. 20; iv. 15; v. 20; vii. 5, 24; Gal. ii. 16; iii. 10, 11, 19.

[66] Rom. iii. 24, 25; Eph. ii. 8; etc.

[67] Rom. iv. 1-4; xi. 6; Gal. ii. 16; iii. 12.

[68] Rom. iv. 16; viii. 28-39; xi. 5; Eph. i. 4-6; Tit. iii. 7; Acts xx. 32; Gal. iii. 18:δἰ ἐπαγγελίας‚ κεχάρισται ὁ Θεός.

[69] 1 Cor. xv. 3, 4, 11; Rom. iv. 24, 25; x. 9; 1 Thess. iv. 14.

[70] Rom. v. 14; 1 Cor. xv. 22, 45-48; 1 Tim. ii. 5.

[71] 1 Cor. xv. 45-49; comp. Col. i. 15-17; John i. 4, 9, 15, 16.

[72] Pfleiderer, Hibbert Lectures, pp. 65, 6. Dr. Pfleiderer's delicate and sympathetic interpretation of Paul's teaching (in these Lectures, and still more in his Paulinism) has made all students of the Apostle his debtors, however much they may quarrel with his historical criticism.

[73] Ch. iii. 14; iv. 6, 7; v. 5; 1 Cor., vi. 17, 19; Rom. viii. 9-16.

[74]  Ga 3:28 Col 3:11 Ro 15:5-7.