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An Exposition Of the Epistles Of Saint Paul And Of The Catholic Epistles Volumes 1&2

Analysis

In this chapter, the Apostle, the better to confound the false teachers, proves that the other Apostles received and sanctioned the doctrine preached by him as perfectly harmonizing with their own; and hence, that his teaching nowise differed from theirs, as was calumniously asserted regarding him. He refers to his going up to Jerusalem in order to confer with the Apostles in the Council of Jerusalem, on the question of the legal ceremonies.—(Acts, 15).

He next shows how he acted both in public and private conferences with the principal Apostles, and as a proof that they coincided in opinion with him on this subject, Titus was not subjected by them to circumcision, although an attempt was insidiously made to have it otherwise (1:5). As a second proof of the identity of his doctrine and theirs, the principal Apostles made no change, either in the way of adding or taking away, in his doctrine. They even extended the right hand of fellowship to him, and confirmed his Apostleship among the Gentiles, with the sole injunction of attending to the cause of charity towards the afflicted poor (5–11).

He next refers to a rebuke which, after the close of the Council of Jerusalem, on his return to Antioch, he was forced publicly to administer to St. Peter on account of his mode of acting in reference to the observance of the legal ceremonies; and this rebuke St. Peter received without attempting a reply, which proves the doctrine of St. Paul to be correct (11, 15)

He then adduces several reasons to prove the abrogation of the legal ceremonies. Among the rest, he shows that this inconvenience would result, viz., that Christ was the minister, nay, the moral cause of sin, and that his death was useless and unnecessary, if the legal ceremonies were not abrogated.

Paraphrase

1. Then, after an interval of fourteen years, during which I preached the Gospel to the Gentiles, I went up again to Jerusalem, accompanied by Barnabas, and we took Titus also with us.

2. But I went up, after having been admonished by a Divine revelation; and, in public, I conferred with the faithful of Jerusalem, respecting the Gospel which I preached among the Gentiles. But, in private conferences, I communicated with the principal Apostles, not from any feeling of doubt I had of the truth of my doctrine, but in order to insure the success of my past and future labours, by avoiding even the shadow of difference between the principal Apostles and myself.

3. And as a proof that their views perfectly coincided with mine, on the question of the necessity of extending the Jewish ceremonies to the converted Gentiles, Titus, who accompanied me, being a Gentile, was not subjected by them to circumcision.

4. Even at the instigation of certain false brethren, surreptitiously admitted into the Church, acting in the capacity of spies, with a view of examining into the liberty from Jewish ceremonies into which Christ asserted us; they had only in view, to enslave us under the weight of these multiplied precepts, which neither they nor their fathers could bear.

5. To these false brethren we did not yield for an instant, in order that the truth of the Gospel might be preserved intact amongst you.

6. Another proof of the conformity of my doctrine, with that of the principal Apostles is derived from this fact, that they had added nothing to my knowledge of the Gospel. I derived no knowledge from them (what they were formerly, viz., illiterate, ignorant fishermen, has nothing to do with my present purpose, since, in the distribution of his gifts, God regards not the person or exterior accomplishments of man, but dispenses them as he pleases).

7. But on the contrary, far from making any change in my doctrine, when they saw that the commission of preaching the Gospel among the Gentiles was confided to me, as that of preaching among the Jews was to Peter:

8. (For, the same God who manifested his power in Peter for the conversion of the Jews, by the wonderful success that attended his preaching among them, manifested the same power in me for converting the Gentiles, by the abundant success of my preaching among the latter).

9. And when, from undoubted evidence, they became convinced of the special grace of Apostleship, among the Gentiles, which was confided to me, James, Peter, and John, the three Apostles who were in most repute, extended to myself and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship in the apostleship, which we were to exercise among the Gentiles, and they among the Jews.

10. With this sole injunction, that we would be mindful of the poor of Jerusalem, who, by voluntary cession, or by confiscation of their property, were reduced to want—a duty, which we discharged with the utmost solicitude.

11. But when, after the close of the Council of Jerusalem, Peter came to Antioch, whither I had returned (Acts, 16); I publicly and openly resisted him, because he was deserving of reprehension.

12. For, before the arrival of certain Jews from Jerusalem, where James presided as bishop, Peter had eaten with the Gentiles without any distinction of meats: but when the Jews arrived, he withdrew and separated himself from the company of the Gentiles, fearing to offend or scandalize the Jews.

13. And the other Jews dissembled along with him; and so great was the force of their example, that even Barnabas, the partner of my journeys and labours, was led to join in the same course of dissimulation.

14. But when I saw, that, by this mode of acting, they were not conforming to the truth of the Gospel, I said publicly in the hearing of all to Peter: If you, although a Jew, and of Jewish extraction, avail yourself of the Gospel liberty of using all kinds of meat without distinction, why invite and force the Gentiles by your example to embrace and live up to the forms of the Mosaic law, which by our own former conduct you have pronounced unnecessary, even for the Jews themselves?

15. We ourselves, although Jews by birth, and not merely proselytes from among the sinful idolatrous Gentiles.

16. Still, fully conscious, that justification does not come from the works of the law; but from quite a different source, viz., the faith in Jesus Christ; we, I say, embrace the faith in Christ, in order to obtain justification from the proper source, in preference to the works of the law; for, no man shall ever obtain justification from the works of the law.

17. If, then, seeking to be justified by faith in Christ to the exclusion of the ceremonies of the law: we have failed to obtain it, and still remain in sin; in other words, if faith, without the ceremonial law, be insufficient to justify us, as the false teachers inculcate, the most inconvenient consequences would result; it would follow, that Christ was ministering to the continuance of sin, having abolished the ceremonial law, a necessary means, as they allege, for removing sin.

18. Christ would be the minister, nay more, the moral cause of sin. For if, after holding, as a point of Christian doctrine, the ceremonial law to be unnecessary, and after ceasing to practise its precepts, thus destroying it, I have recourse to the same law for my justification—thus building it up again—do I not, by the very fact, convict myself of prevarication in my former desertion of it; and so, render Christ, whose doctrine I follow, the moral cause of sin?

19. For, that I destroyed the law is clear, since, by the law itself pointing out its term, Christ, in whom it should cease, I am dead to the law and exonerated from its observance, so as to begin a new life to God through Christ; and this new life had commenced from my baptism, wherein I represented Christ crucified, and spiritually crucified the old man with him.

20. This spiritual life which I now enjoy is not from myself, but from Christ, whom I so perfectly imitate, that he would appear to live in me, and to be the animating principle of my actions. But that I should enjoy a life so spiritual and divine in this mortal flesh, subject to so many miseries and sins, I am indebted, not to the law, but to my faith in the Son of God, who loved me quite gratuitously, while undeserving of his love, and this to such an extent, as to deliver himself up to death to purchase for me eternal life.

21. In my system of justification, I by no means cast away the great grace of Christ’s death, as is done by the false teachers, who, in recurring to the law, as sufficient for justification, regard the death of Christ as useless; for, if the law were sufficient for justification, the necessary conclusion should be, that the death of Christ was quite useless and unnecessary.

Commentary

1. “Then after fourteen years.” The more probable opinion is, that these fourteen years are to be computed, not from his going up to Jerusalem the first time (chap. 1 verse 18), as St. Jerome maintains, but from his conversion, which is the opinion of St. Thomas and. Baronius. From the Acts it appears, that St. Paul went up five different times to Jerusalem. The present refers to his third visit, when he assisted at the Council of Jerusalem, the occasion of which is referred to (Acts, chap. 15). With no other visit could the matter referred to here correspond. “I went up to Jerusalem.” Jerusalem was built on hilly ground; hence, our Lord says in the Gospel—“Behold we go up to Jerusalem.”

2. “According to revelation.” Is it not said (Acts, 15), that he was delegated by the people of Antioch to confer with the Apostles referring the necessity of imposing the observance of the legal ceremonies on the converted Gentiles? Both assertions are perfectly reconcilable, inasmuch as the revelation from God may have tended to the same object with the delegation on the part of the people of Antioch and would only confirm St. Paul in his resolve to carry it out.

“And conferred with them”—that is, the brethren at Jerusalem. Others understand “them” to have the same meaning as the following words: “but apart with them who seemed,” &c. It is better, however, with Estius and others, to understand the word as in the Paraphrase; for, there seems to be a manifest difference between this word and the following words, “who seemed to be something.” Probably, the subject about which he conferred in private with the principal Apostles, regarded the propriety of exempting not only the Gentiles from the legal ceremonies, which was publicly discussed and authoritatively decided, but the Jews also. Regarding this latter point of doctrine, it was not deemed prudent to hold discussions in public. “I conferred.” The Greek word, ανεθεμην, does not imply any doubt on his part (as in Paraphrase). “Who seemed to be something.” “Something,” is not in the Greek, which simply is, τοῖς δοκοῦσιν, but the Vulgate expresses the meaning, viz., who were of consideration or repute. “Run in vain,” by giving any grounds for believing that his labours were either without fruit or his mission not duly accredited.

3. The Apostles were aware that Titus was not circumcised (verse 4); and still, they did not subject him to circumcision—a convincing proof that they coincided in opinion with St. Paul, respecting the inutility of the Jewish ceremonies for salvation.

4. “But because of false brethren.” Which means, even at the instigation of certain false brethren. Hence, it appears, that the Apostles were urged to have Titus circumcised. Some Interpreters reject the particle “but,” as redundant, others insert the word, not, after it in the text, thus: “but he was not circumcised at the instigation,” &c. It is better, however, to give it the signification of “even” (as in Paraphrase).

5. If the Apostle allowed Titus, a Gentile, to be circumcised, the faith of the Gentiles might be weakened. Timothy was circumcised, but he was, by the mother’s side, of Jewish origin.

6. We have here an example of what grammarians term, anacoluthon; owing to the intervening parenthesis, the sentence concludes in a different case from that with which it began, although the same word is repeated. The ablative case, απο τῶν δοκουντῶν, “but of them” is changed into the nominative form, οἱ δοκουντες, “they that seemed to be something added nothing” (“what they were some time,” &c.) He refers to the former condition of the other Apostles, before their vocation to the apostleship, for the purpose of refuting the objection raised against himself, as being formerly a persecutor of the Church; or, for, the purpose of showing how much, humanly speaking he was their superior.

7, 8. By the abundant success which attended the preaching of St. Paul among the Gentiles, and the preaching of St. Peter among the Jews, together with the miracles and other gifts of the Holy Ghost, with which they were favoured, God showed that the Apostleship of St. Paul was to be chiefly exercised among the Gentiles, and that of St. Peter among the Jews.

9. From the miraculous success with which the labours of St. Paul were blessed among the Gentiles, the Apostles became convinced of the special grace of apostleship among the Gentiles, which was confided to him. They admitted him, therefore, into fellowship, and parcelled out the Gentile world, as the theatre of his future labours. This passage does not furnish even the shadow of an argument against the Primacy over the entire Church, “lambs and sheep,” i.e., pastors and people, divinely accorded to St. Peter. For, the latter did preach among the Gentiles also, in fulfilment of the command, “kill and eat.”—(Acts, 10). And St. Paul was a vessel of election to carry the name of Christ not only “before the Gentiles” but also “before the children of Israel”—(Acts, 9:15).

10. The poor referred to here, are the faithful of Jerusalem, of whom some voluntarily surrendered their goods to be enjoyed in common; others were unjustly deprived of them, and were, in consequence, in great want. The care of the poor specially devolves on the minister of religion—they are the dearest portion of His flock, who is, “the father of orphans and the judge of widows.” Woe to him, who, through either pusillanimity, or a cowardly fear of the countenance of the mighty, or a feeling of selfish complaisance, with a view of gaining the favour, and of becoming the accepted minister at the tables of their oppressors, shall sacrifice the interests, or neglect the defence, of the afflicted poor of Jesus Christ! And this holds particularly true, if the unjust persecution of the poor be traceable, as it generally is, in this unhappy country, to religious rancour and hatred of their faith. If the poor of this unhappy country professed any other than the true faith—nay, if they were Pagans or Mahommedans—they would not be treated with the inhuman and heart-rending cruelty, which is daily exercised in their regard. Woe, eternal woe, to the pastor and ecclesiastic who turns a deaf ear to their cries, and from motives of selfishness, or worldly prudence, or love of self-ease, neglects to adopt all peaceful and constitutional means to ameliorate their unhappy condition! If they were of any other religion they would not put up with the treatment they are enduring, nor would their oppressors dare to treat them so. But they are taught to look forward for other possessions in store for “the meek,” and for those who “possess their souls in patience.”

11, 12. St. Peter silently submitted to the rebuke here dealt out to him; which was another proof that St. Paul was correct in his views on the subject of the legal ceremonies—the question at issue. St. Peter did at first, by his mode of acting, acknowledge the abolition of the legal ceremonies (verse 12). But, afterwards, by an act of inconsiderateness, which rendered him really reprehensible, he abstained from the society of the Gentiles—with whom he partook of all kinds of meats without distinction—for fear of giving offence to certain Jews, who came down from Jerusalem. This mode of acting was calculated to leave the Gentiles under an erroneous impression. Hence, the rebuke dealt out to him by St. Paul.

“Because he was blameable.” The Greek is, ὅτι κατεγνωσμενος ἦν, because he was blamed or reprehended, which is employed for “reprehensible” or “blameable,” by a Hebrew idiom, according to which the passive participle is used for the verbal adjective. The Hebrews, we are told by St. Jerome, have no verbal adjective ending in bilis.

13. “And to his dissimulation the rest of the Jews consented.” The Greek word, συνυπεκριθησαν, means, dissembled together with him.

14. Their mode of acting was not walking directly or strictly in conformity with the truth of the gospel, it was rather staggering between the Gospel and the Old Law; and so, it elicited this strong reproof from St. Paul.

It was a matter of grave dispute between St. Jerome and St. Augustine, whether the Apostle really reprehended St. Peter, or only affected to do so, as the result of a preconcerted arrangement between them, in order that by a public apparent reproof of this kind, the Jews might be taught the inutility of the Mosaic ceremonies. St. Augustine, whose opinion St. Jerome appears to have afterwards adopted, maintained, that St. Peter, by such conduct, committed a sin, not of heresy, but of inconsiderateness, which was, of its own nature, venial, and that so, he was really censured by St. Paul. The words of this verse favour the opinion of St. Augustine, who holds that it was real and not pretended reproof: and although it is maintained by many that the Apostles were confirmed in grace, this still does not exclude the possibility of their falling into venial sins.

15. After having proved by several arguments the perfect agreement, or rather identity of his own doctrine with that of the other Apostles, St. Paul proceeds to show the cause of the abolition of the Mosaic ceremonies, namely: their utter insufficiency and inutility for justification; hence, his reason for having recourse to another means of justification, viz., faith in Christ. It is not quite clear who they are, to whom these words are addressed; whether to St. Peter, or the other Jews, or the Galatians. The argument is in either case the same, being founded on the absurd consequences resulting from the doctrine of the false teachers. “We by nature,” &c., that is, although by birth Jews, and accustomed to Jewish ceremonies, “and not Gentiles,” &c., not merely Gentiles, without the benefit of the law.

16. “But knowing,” &c., that is; still fully conscious, &c.—(Vide Paraphrase). “Faith of Jesus Christ,” may also mean, the faith taught by Jesus Christ. In Paraphrase, “Jesus Christ” is made the object of this faith. This verse is to be connected with the preceding, the sense of which is kept suspended with a dependence on this, as in Paraphrase. The Apostle, in this passage, supposes two sources of man’s justification, viz., faith, and the works of the law. To the latter, the false teachers attributed justification; but the Apostle wholly excludes the works of the ceremonial law from any share in justification; for, it is to the law abolished by Christ, he refers in the following verses, and this is the ceremonial law. Hence, there is no question here of good works performed by the aid of grace and faith; for, such works enter the system of justification through faith contemplated here by the Apostle, since without them, faith is dead. The works which he excludes are those to which faith, as the foundation of a quite different system of justification, is opposed.

17. He points out the inconvenient results that would flow from the doctrine of the false teachers. According to them, Christ would be ministering to the continuance of sin, since, he would have abolished a necessary means for its remission, viz., the ceremonial law, which they hold to be necessary for justification.

18. He shows how Christ would be the minister and the moral cause of sin.—(Vide Paraphrase).

19. Lest it might be said, that the supposed assertion contained in the first part of the preceding verse, “for if I build up again the things which I have destroyed,” which supposes that he destroyed them, was not in itself quite clear; in this verse the Apostle plainly asserts that he did really destroy the ceremonial law—since by the very law itself, pointing out its term, Christ, in whom it should cease, he was dead to the law, and exempted from its observance, so as to begin a new life to God through Christ. He was dead to the ceremonial law, absolutely, and to the moral part of the law, so far as threats and menaces were concerned. This new life to God he commenced from baptism.—(See Paraphrase). Other Commentators make the connexion of this with the preceding verse, thus:—they say that in the preceding verse the words, but I am not a prevaricator, are understood; and they make the words of this verse (19) a proof of this proposition, which, according to them, is implied without being expressed in the foregoing; others, among whom is A’Lapide, say that this verse contains a second reason for the abrogation of the Mosaic Law.

20. “And I live,” &c. The words, “I live,” are repeated three different times, and each time they refer to spiritual life.

“Who loved me.” What a subject for gratitude to God! Who is the lover? God. The object loved? The creature. How is this love manifested? In “delivering himself” to an ignominious death, brought about by unheard of excruciating tortures, which he could not merit, to deliver me from the tortures and eternal death which my sins merited, and in which I would infallibly be involved, if he had not graciously substituted himself a vicarious offering in my place, and purchased for me everlasting life. He loved me first, before I was capable of loving him; before I was born; from eternity. Good God! what excessive, incomprehensible love. Ut servum redimeres, filium tradidisti. “Sic amantem quis non redamet?” Diligamus Dominum Deum nostrum, quoniam ipse prior nos dilexit. Every one can, with the Apostle, apply to himself by appropriation, the merits of Christ. “He loved me … delivered himself for me.”








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