Commentary on Galatians chapter 2

Compiled by Eric Johnson

5 questions for chapter 1 (to answer before you study chapter 2)

  1. In verse 2, Paul says he wanted “to make sure I was not running or had not run in vain.” It appears he was doing a self-check. In what ways have you in the past done a periodic review to make sure you are not “running in vain”? How do you evaluate yourself? Perhaps you haven’t done this, take a few minutes to ask yourself, “Am I where the Lord wants me to be?”
  2. According to verse 12, Paul says that Peter acted one way with one group of people (the Christians) and another way with the Judaziers, who thought it was important to be circumcised. Paul says he was two-faced, or what we call hypocritical. Even Barnabas was swayed by Peter’s action. Do you know a situation where you or another person acted hypocritically and caused others to stumble in their faith? What can be the fallout when we as Christians act hypocritically?
  3. Paul is adamant when he says in verse 15 that “by works of the law no one will be justified.” Why is this such an important issue with Paul? How would you answer the argument that “faith without works is dead,” so belief is only the starting point to pleasing God?
  4. Paul says in verse 20 that he was “crucified with Christ.” What does the look like in a person’s life in the 21st century?
  5. Finally, in verse 21, Paul says that if salvation came by works, then Christ would have died for nothing. Explain what you think Paul meant by making this statement.

Commentary on chapter 2

Highlighted parts are key quotes that may have been used on the radio shows

Galatians 2

Paul Accepted by the Apostles

2 Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along with me.

The NIV Study Bible: “fourteen years later: Probably from the date of Paul’s conversion.”

Barnabas: Means “one who encourages,” a Levite from the island of Cyprus and Paul’s companion on the first missionary journey (Acts 13:1-14:28).

Titus: A Gentile Christian who served as Paul’s delegate to Corinth and later was left in Crete to oversee the church there.


2 I went up because of a revelation and set before them (though privately before those who seemed influential) the gospel that I proclaim among the Gentiles, in order to make sure I was not running or had not run in vain.

“Them” is probably referring to the apostles James, Peter, and John.

“Run in vain”:

1 Cor. 15:58: “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”

Phil 2:16: holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.”

Keller: “On the one side of this dispute we have Paul, who is saying: The gospel of faith in Christ is for people of all cultures. On the other we have his opponents, claiming: Not all Jewish people are Christians, but all Christians must become Jewish. If the Jerusalem apostles had sided with, or even merely tolerated, those who were teaching against Paul, this would have split the church in two. Neither side would have accepted the other fully, and would have questioned if the others were saved! Paul’s Gentile churches would doubt that the Jewish churches really had faith in Christ, and the Jewish churches would also doubt the salvation of the Gentiles” (38-39).

“It would have felt natural for them to say: Of course all Christians should eat kosher! or something similar. But the ramifications of such a ‘small’ mistake would have been enormous. There would have been two opposing parties within Christianity that were hostile to each other on the fundamental point of whether we need to add external behaviors to internal belief in Christ to be saved” (39).


 3 But even Titus, who was with me, was not forced to be circumcised, though he was a Greek.

Moo: “Paul intends to deny that Titus was circumcised at all. Paul may be hinting that the Jerusalem apostles at first wanted to circumcise Titus but were dissuaded by Paul’s arguments, but this is not clear. . . .The decision not to circumcise Titus, then, has great symbolic significance; it signals the fact that the Jerusalem apostles essentially endorsed Paul’s version of the law-free gospel for the Gentiles. . . . In light of the reason why Paul circumcised Timothy, then, he might be saying, in effect, ‘True, I circumcised Timothy to advance his work among Jews, but I did that because he was, in fact, Jewish. But not even for the sake of his ministry among the Jews would I agree to let Titus be circumcised, because he was a Gentile.’”

Keller: “It was crucial that Paul ‘took Titus along also. Titus ‘was a Greek’—a flesh-and-blood, uncircumcised Christian. . . . Would they require Titus to be circumcised, or not?” (40)

Martin Luther: “Paul did not condemn circumcision as if it were a sin to receive it. But he insisted, and the (Acts 15 Jerusalem) conference upheld him, that circumcision had no bearing upon salvation and was therefore not to be forced upon the Gentiles.”


 4 Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in—who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery—

The NIV Study Bible: false brothers. Judaizers who held that Gentle converts should be circumcised and obey the law of Moses.”

Acts 15:5: But some believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees rose up and said, ‘It is necessary to circumcise them and to order them to keep the law of Moses.’”


 5 to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you.

Eric’s commentary: When it may have been easy to “give in,” Paul stands up for the truth. Truth is more important than popularity.

Moo: “Paul succinctly summarizes what, for him, was at stake in this Jerusalem meeting: ‘the truth of the gospel’ . . . Titus, the test case before the council, is a Gentile who has believed the gospel, and he need not add circumcision (or by derivation, obedience to the law of Moses) to that step of faith. By extension, then, the ‘truth of the gospel’ refers to the inherent power of the gospel, by God’s grace, to justify and vindicate at the last judgment any human being. Grace is the critical matter” (130).

Keller: “First, the gospel leads to cultural freedom. Moralistic religion tends to press its members to adopt some very specific rules and regulations for dress and daily behavior. Why? If your salvation depends upon obeying the rules, then you want your rules to be very specific, doable and clear. You don’t want: Love your neighbor as yourself, because that’s an impossibly high standard which has endless implications! You want: Don’t go to movies or Don’t drink alcohol or Don’t eat this type of food” (42)

“Second, the gospel leads to emotional freedom.  Anyone who believes that our relationship with God is based on keeping up moral behavior is on an endless treadmill of guilt and insecurity. As we know from Paul’s letters, he did not free Gentile believers from the moral imperatives of the Ten Commandments. Christians could not lie, steal, commit adultery, and so on. But though not free from the moral law as a way to live, Christians are free from it as a system of salvation. We obey not in the fear and insecurity of hoping to earn our salvation, but in the freedom and security of knowing we are already saved in Christ. We obey in the freedom of gratitude” (42).

Martin Luther: “To conclude, Paul refused to circumcise Titus for the reason that the false apostles wanted to compel him to circumcise Titus. Paul refused to accede to their demands. If they had asked it on the plea of brotherly love, Paul would not have denied them. But because they demanded it on the ground that it was necessary for salvation, Paul defied them, and prevailed. Titus was not circumcised.”


6 And from those who seemed to be influential (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)—those, I say, who seemed influential added nothing to me.

Moo: “Paul went to Jerusalem to consult with ‘those who appeared to be important’ about the gospel he was preaching among the Gentiles; and the result of that consultation was that these people who ‘appeared to be important’ did not call into question Paul’s gospel by trying to add anything to it” (131).

Keller: “Paul says ‘they added nothing to my message’ (v. 6). The Jerusalem apostles agreed that it is faith in Christ alone, and not any other performance or ritual, that is necessary for salvation. Their acceptance of Titus was proof that they had accepted Paul’s ministry and these radical implications of the gospel” (40).

“The implications of this are fundamental to our understanding of what the Christian faith is. The countless regulations for ‘cleanliness’ in the laws of Moses were designed (among other things) to show us how impossible it was to make ourselves perfectly acceptable before a holy God. But these ‘false brothers’ had used the regulations in order to teach the exact opposite: that we could make ourselves pure and more acceptable to God through strict compliance with them” (41).

Martin Luther: “If Paul would not give in to the false apostles, much less ought we to give in to our opponents.. . . If the Pope would concede that God alone by His grace through Christ justifies sinners, we would carry him in our arms, we would kiss his feet. But since we cannot obtain this concession, we will give in to nobody, not to all the angels in heaven, not to Peter, not to Paul, not to a hundred emperors, not to a thousand popes, not to the whole world.”


 7 On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel to the circumcised 8 (for he who worked through Peter for his apostolic ministry to the circumcised worked also through me for mine to the Gentiles), 9 and when James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. 10 Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.

The NIV Study Bible: “to the Gentiles. Paul’s ministry was not exclusively to the Gentiles. In fact, he regularly went first to the synagogue when arriving in a new location. He did, however, consider himself to be foremost an apostle to the Gentiles (see Rom 11:13).”

Keller: “Though Peter and Paul were preaching ‘the [same] gospel,’ they recognized that there are different ways to go about it. Some people have a gift and ability to communicate the gospel to one group of people, and others to a different group” (45).

“Peter and Paul may have been called to different mission fields, but they were both constrained to look after the poor. The Jerusalem apostles wanted to insist on this, and they met a willing worker in Paul, who was ‘eager’ to do this anyway . . . The Jerusalem apostles were therefore urging that the Gentile and Jewish churches stay tightly interconnected, sharing their resources with each other just as they were shared within the local congregation (Acts 4:32)” (46).

Martin Luther: “Next to the preaching of the Gospel, a true and faithful pastor will take care of the poor. Where the Church is, there must be the poor, for the world and the devil persecute the Church and impoverish many faithful Christians. Speaking of money, nobody wants to contribute nowadays to the maintenance of the ministry, and the erection of schools. When it comes to establishing false worship and idolatry, no cost is spared. True religion is ever in need of money, while false religions are backed by wealth.”


Paul Opposes Peter

11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned.

The NIV Study Bible:stood condemned. For yielding to the pressure of the circumcision party (the Judaizers), thus going against what he knew to be right.”

Moo: (Regarding “stood condemned”): “But the only way this phrase makes sense in its context (e.g. as the basis for Paul’s strong resistance to Peter) is if we assume that Paul means ‘condemned by God’” (145).

“The disagreement in this text between the two in the matter of association between Jewish and Gentile believers should not be minimized: Paul does think that the truth of the gospel is at stake. Yet the difference is not fundamentally over theology but over the implications for a specific form of conduct that arises from theology. And Paul’s inclusion of Peter with himself in expressing that theology in 2:15-18 demonstrates the fundamental agreement between the two at that level” (146).


12 For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party.

Eric’s Commentary: Hypocrisy is to be avoided at all cost, and here Paul points out how those who were supposed to be more mature in the faith were not walking in the right way and allowed others to control their beliefs and actions. Paul will stand up to error, no matter if his brothers in the Lord are committing the error.

Moo: “The envoys from James were probably sent to investigate and convey concern about the degree to which Jewish believers were associating with Gentiles. From James’s perspective, nothing in the agreement hammered out between the ‘pillars’ and Paul suggested that Jewish believers would be free to put aside the traditional, torah-based barriers to fellowship (and potential moral contamination) with Gentiles. And fueling his concern was the larger social-political situation. Persecution (esp. at the time of the Maccabees) and exile (the Diaspora) led many Jews to erect or insist on careful barriers between themselves and the Gentiles as means of preserving their religious identity. … The enjoys from James would, on this reading of the situation, have urged Peter and other Jewish Christians in Antioch to refrain from close contact with Gentiles, out of fear that their behavior would bring disrepute to Christians in Jerusalem and elsewhere. For James and Peter, then, separating from the Gentile believers would have been perceived as an accommodation to facilitate Jewish evangelism. But Paul rightly sees that such an accommodation cannot be allowed because of what it would say about the Gentiles’ status within the community” (148-149).

Martin Luther: “Paul does not accuse Peter of malice or ignorance, but of lack of principle, in that he abstained from meats, because he feared the Jews that came from James. Peter’s weak attitude endangered the principle of Christian liberty. It is the deduction rather than the fact which Paul reproves. To eat and to drink, or not to eat and drink, is immaterial. But to make the deduction ‘If you eat, you sin; if you abstain you are righteous’—this is wrong.”

“Jerome, who understood not this passage, nor the whole epistle for that matter, excuses Peter’s action on the ground ‘that it was done in ignorance.’ But Peter offended by giving the impression that he was endorsing the Law. By his example he encouraged Gentiles and Jews to forsake the truth of the Gospel. If Paul had not reproved him, there would have been a sliding back of Christians into the Jewish religion, and a return to the burdens of the Law.”


 13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy.

Moo: “The focus of Paul’s narrative is on Peter; but now he indicates that Peter was not the only one to succumb to the pressure brought to bear by the emissaries of James” (149).

Keller: “When Peter withdrew from the Gentiles, he was guilty of ‘hypocrisy.’ He had not changed his convictions—he knew the food and dress laws were only ‘Jewish customs,’ and he didn’t keep to all of them. But when it came to Gentiles, he had simply stopped acting in accord with those convictions. And this hypocrisy was infectious . . . What caused this hypocrisy? Likely, Peter was afraid of criticism from those who belonged to the ‘circumcision group’—which is Paul’s way of describing ‘salvation-through-Christ-plus-something’ teachers” (52).


14 But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?”

The NIV Study Bible: “you live like a Gentile. You do not observe Jewish customs, especially dietary restrictions (see v. 12).”

Moo: “In verse 13, Paul accused Peter, Barnabas, and the other Jewish Christians of failing to live out their own convictions (‘hypocrisy’); now he accused them, ore seriously, of failing to act in accordance with the gospel. . . . Because Paul is convinced of the seriousness of the matter, he takes the bold step of rebuking Peter ‘in front of everyone.’ The reference is probably to a public meeting of the Christians in Antioch, perhaps called at Paul’s request to hash out this issue in particular” (149-150).

“But in addition, racial pride must have entered into it. It had been drilled into Peter, and all the Jews, since their youth that Gentiles were ‘unclean.’ While hiding beneath the facade of religious observance, Peter and other Jewish Christians were probably still feeling disdain for Christians from ‘inferior’ national and racial backgrounds. Peter was allowing cultural differences to become more important than gospel unity” (53).

“The most subtle way to lapse into Peter’s sin is simply to take our own preferences too seriously and endow with moral significance what is only cultural. For example, it is very hard for Christians from churches with emotional expressiveness and modern music not to feel superior to churches with emotional reserve and classical music, and vice versa. We cannot see that we are just different; we believe that our style and customs are spiritually better. This leads to all sorts of divisions in the body of Christ” (55).

Martin Luther: “Peter did not say so, but his example said quite plainly that the observance of the Law must be added to faith in Christ, if men are to be saved. From Peter’s example the Gentiles could not help but draw the conclusion that the Law was necessary unto salvation. If this error had been permitted to pass unchallenged, Christ would have lost out altogether.”


Justified by Faith

15 We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.

Eric’s Commentary: Perhaps the key verse for the entire epistle. It’s not based on our keeping the law that gets a person forgiveness but rather faith. Try as hard as you may, your works will never earn you God’s favor. It is, after all, a gift and can never be earned or repaid.

The NIV Study Bible: “by works of the law. Paul is not depreciating the law itself, for he clearly maintained that God’s law is ‘holy, righteous and good’ (Rom 7:12). He is arguing against an illuminative use of the OT law that made the observance of that law the grounds of acceptance with God.”

Moo: “The people to whom Paul was responding were not ‘legalists’ in the sense of people insisting on doing works to become saved; they were ‘nomists,’ insisting that faith in Christ had to be combined with law obedience in order to secure ultimate salvation” (159)

“Paul is certainly concerned to show that his gospel provides entry for the Gentiles into the people of God, so that they can, for instance, eat with Jews. But Paul’s point in 2:16, while deeply significant for each of these situations, is slightly different and more basic. Here he wants to establish the bedrock principle that all people—with the focus in this verse, as we have seen, on Jewish Christians—can be pronounced ‘just’ before God through faith in Christ alone and not on the basis of ‘works of the law.’ And because this is so, it is wrong for the Jerusalem authorities to impose circumcision on Gentile believers, it is wrong for Peter to refuse to eat with Gentiles, and it is wrong for the agitators to insist that the Galatian Christians submit to the law. Justification, one’s legal standing before God, is fully secured by faith in Christ. Nothing should be added; nothing can be added; nothing must be added” (161-162).

Keller: “But the opposite of ‘justified’ is ‘condemned.’ Justification means that in Christ, though we are actually sinners, we are not under condemnation. God accepts us despite our sin. We are not acceptable to God because we actually become righteous: we become actually righteous because we are acceptable to God” (59).

Martin Luther: “Peter and the others lived up to the requirements of the Law. They had circumcision, the covenant, the promises, the apostleship. But because of these advantages they were not to think themselves righteous before God. None of these prerogatives spell faith in Christ, which alone can justify a person. We do not mean to imply that the Law is bad. We do not condemn the Law, circumcision, etc. for their failure to justify us. Paul spoke disparagingly of these ordinances, because the false apostles asserted that mankind is saved by them without faith.”

“The papists say that a good work performed before grace has been obtained, is able to secure grace for a person, because it is no more than right that God should reward a good deed. When grace has already been obtained, any good work deserves everlasting life as a due payment and reward for merit. For the first, God is no debtor, they say; but because God is good and just, it is no more than right (they say) that He should reward a good work by granting grace for the service. But when grace has already been obtained, they continue, God is in the position of a debtor, and is in duty bound to reward a good work with the gift of eternal life. This is the wicked teaching of the papacy.”

“Either we are not justified by Christ, or we are not justified by the Law. The fact is, we are justified by Christ. Hence, we are not justified by the Law. If we observe the Law in order to be justified, or after having been justified by Christ, we think we must further be justified by the Law, we convert Christ into a legislator and a minister of sin.”


17 But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! 18 For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor.

Moo: “By seeking to be justified in Christ, Peter and Paul appear to be placing themselves in the same position as the Gentiles (v. 15): they themselves have also become ‘sinners,’ that is, people who, like the Gentiles, show no allegiance to the torah by which God’s people were to be defined” (165).

“The transgressions that Paul has in view would be the disobedience of those parts of the law that in various ways segregated Jews from Gentiles. If Jewish Christians tacitly reestablish (e.g. through behavior such as Peter’s at Antioch) those parts of the law, their earlier flouting of those very provisions would mean that they would be turning themselves into ‘transgressors’ of those provisions. It would not be Christ who is leading them to sin (v. 17b); they themselves would be the ones responsible for turning themselves into transgressors” (167).

Martin Luther: “The Sacred Scriptures, particularly those of the New Testament, make frequent mention of faith in Christ. ‘Whosoever believeth in him is saved, shall not perish, shall have everlasting life, is not judged,’ etc. In open contradiction to the Scriptures, our opponents misquote, ‘He that believe in Christ is condemned, because he has faith without works.’ Our opponents turn everything topsy-turvy. They make Christ over into a murderer, and Moses into a savior. Is not this horrible blasphemy?”

“I myself was at one time entangled in this error. I thought Christ was a judge and had to be pacified by a strict adherence to the rules of my order. But now I give thanks unto God, the Father of all mercies, who has called me out of darkness into the light of His glorious Gospel, and has granted unto me the saving knowledge of Christ Jesus, my Lord.”

“We conclude with Paul, that we are justified by faith in Christ, without the Law. Once a person has been justified by Christ, he will not be unproductive of good, but as a good tree he will bring forth good fruit. A believer has the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit will not permit a person to remain idle, but will put him to work and stir him up to the love of God, to patient suffering in affliction, to prayer, thanksgiving, to the habit of charity towards all men.”


19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God

Moo: “We should not overlook how shocking is the claim—particularly for first-century Jewish ears—that Paul makes here: he could only truly live ‘for God’ by dying to the law that God himself gave to his people! But this claim is part and parcel of the radical antinomies that Paul works with throughout Galatians, as he tries to persuade the Galatians to understand the epochal shift of focus that the cross of Christ has introduced into salvation history” (170).

Keller’s loose translation of verse 19: “The law itself showed me that I could never make myself acceptable through it. So I stopped ‘living to it.’ I died to it as my savior. Though I obeyed God before, it was simply to get something from Him; it was for my own sake. Now I obey Him simply to please Him. I now live for Him” (61).

Keller: “Verse 19 is Paul’s brief commentary on how someone who is truly justified by faith will view life. Because Paul died to the law, he can now ‘live for God.’ The implication is that before he came to faith, while he was trying to save himself through keeping the law, Paul never really lived for God. He was being very moral and good—but it was all for Paul, never for God. When Paul was obeying God without knowing he was accepted, he was obeying to get a reward—for what he could get from God, not out of sheer love for God Himself. Now that he is justified and accepted, Paul has a new motive for obedience that is far more wholesome and powerful.  He wants simply to live for the one ‘who loved me and gave himself for me’” (60).

Martin Luther: “Blessed is the person who knows how to use this truth in times of distress. He can talk. He can say: ‘Mr. Law, go ahead and accuse me as much as you like. I know I have committed many sins, and I continue to sin daily. But that does not bother me. You have got to shout louder, Mr. Law. I am deaf, you know. Talk as much as you like, I am dead to you. If you want to talk to me about my sins, go and talk to my flesh. Belabor that, but don’t talk to my conscience. My conscience is a lady and a queen, and has nothing to do with the likes of you, because my conscience lives to Christ under another law, a new and better law, the law of grace.’”

“By faith in Christ a person may gain such sure and sound comfort, that he need not fear the devil, sin, death, or any evil. ‘Sir Devil,’ he may say, ‘I am not afraid of you. I have a Friend whose name is Jesus Christ, in whom I believe. He has abolished the Law, condemned sin, vanquished death, and destroyed hell for me. He is bigger than you, Satan. He has licked you, and holds you down. You cannot hurt me.’ This is the faith that overcomes the devil.”


20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Eric’s Commentary: When a person becomes a true Christian believer, something radical happens. A new creature is produced; it required supernatural intervention and not natural ability. The believer can never point to anything he or she had done to produce such a radical transformation. And it’s not something that can be paid back. Good works are thus a result of one’s relationship with Jesus and can never be pointed to as some type of payment–in part or in whole–for the wonderful gift provided.

Crucified with Christ:

  • Galatians 5:24: ”And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”
  • Galatians 6:14: ”But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”
  • Romans 6:8-10: ”Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.”
  • Romans 7:6: “But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.”

Martin Luther: “Faith connects you so intimately with Christ, that He and you become as it were one person. As such you may boldly say: ‘I am one with Christ. Therefore Christ’s righteousness, victory, and life are mine.’”

“Whenever remission of sin is freely proclaimed, people misinterpret it according to Romans 3:8, ‘Let us do evil, that good may come.’ As soon as people hear that we are not justified by the Law, they reason maliciously: “Why, then let us reject the Law. If grace abounds, where sin abounds, let us abound in sin, that grace may all the more abound.’ People who reason thus are reckless. They make sport of the Scriptures and slander the sayings of the Holy Ghost.”

“Good works are not the cause, but the fruit of righteousness. When we have become righteous, then first we are able and willing to do good. The tree makes the apple; the apple does not make the tree.”

“The papists will tell you to do the best you can, and God will give you His grace. They have a rhyme for it: ‘God will no more require of man, Than of himself perform he can.’ This may hold true in ordinary civic life. But the papists apply it to the spiritual realm where a person can perform nothing but sin, because he is sold under sin.”

“Did the Law ever love me? Did the Law ever sacrifice itself for me? Did the Law ever die for me? On the contrary, it accuses me, it frightens me, it drives me crazy. Somebody else saved me from the Law, for sin and death unto eternal life. That Somebody is the Son of God, to whom be praise and glory forever.”


21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.

Eric’s Commentary: If it is possible to earn favor with God, then why did Jesus come in the first place?

The NIV Study Bible: Christ died for no purpose. To mingle legalist with grace distorts grace and makes a mockery of the cross.”

John Calvin: “For, if we do not renounce all other hopes, and embrace Christ alone, we reject the grace of God.”

Martin Luther: “To keep the Law in order to be justified means to reject grace, to deny Christ, to despise His sacrifice, and to be lost.”

Keller: “Imagine that your house were burning down but your whole family had escaped, and I said to you: Let me show you how much I love you! and ran into the house and died. What a tragic and pointless waste of a life, you would probably think. But now imagine that your house was on fire and one of your children was still in there, and I said to you: Let me show you how much I love you!, ran into the flames, and saved your child but perished myself. You would think: Look at how much that man loved us. If we could save ourselves, Christ’s death is pointless, and means nothing. If we realize we cannot save ourselves, Christ’s death will mean everything to us. And we will spend the life that He has given us in joyful service of Him, bringing our whole lives into line with the gospel” (63).