|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
2:15-19 Paul, having thus shown he was not inferior to any apostle, not to Peter himself, speaks of the great foundation doctrine of the gospel. For what did we believe in Christ? Was it not that we might be justified by the faith of Christ? If so, is it not foolish to go back to the law, and to expect to be justified by the merit of moral works, or sacrifices, or ceremonies? The occasion of this declaration doubtless arose from the ceremonial law; but the argument is quite as strong against all dependence upon the works of the moral law, as respects justification. To give the greater weight to this, it is added, But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is Christ the minister of sin? This would be very dishonourable to Christ, and also very hurtful to them. By considering the law itself, he saw that justification was not to be expected by the works of it, and that there was now no further need of the sacrifices and cleansings of it, since they were done away in Christ, by his offering up himself a sacrifice for us. He did not hope or fear any thing from it; any more than a dead man from enemies. But the effect was not a careless, lawless life. It was necessary, that he might live to God, and be devoted to him through the motives and grace of the gospel. It is no new prejudice, though a most unjust one, that the doctrine of justification by faith alone, tends to encourage people in sin. Not so, for to take occasion from free grace, or the doctrine of it, to live in sin, is to try to make Christ the minister of sin, at any thought of which all Christian hearts would shudder.
Verse 19. - For I through the Law am dead to the Law (ἐγὼ γὰρ διὰ νόμου μόμῳ ἀπέθανον,); for I, for my part, through the Law died unto the Law. This ἐγὼ is not the hypothetical "I" of ver. 18, which in fact recites the personality of St. Peter, but is St. Paul himself in his own concrete historical personality. And the pronoun is in a measure antithetical; as if it were: for whatever may be your feeling, mine is this, that I," etc. The conjunction "for" points back to the whole passage (vers. 15-18), which has described the position to which St. Paul had himself been brought and on which he still now, when writing to the Galatians, is standing; he here justifies that description. "Through the Law;" through the Law's own procuring, through what the Law itself did, I was broken off from all connection with the Law. From the words, "I have been crucified with Christ," in the next verse, and from what we read in Galatians 3:13, most especially when taken in connection with the occurrences at Antioch which at any rate led to the present utterance, and with the hankering after Judaical ceremonialism in Galatia which occasioned the writing of this letter, we may with confidence draw the conclusion that St. Paul is thinking of the Law in its ceremonial aspect, that is, viewed as determining ceremonial purity and ceremonial pollution. He is here most immediately dealing with the question, whether Jewish believers could freely associate without defilement in God's sight with Gentile believers who according to the Levitical Law were unclean, and could partake of the like food with them. The notion of becoming dead to the Law through the cross of Christ has other aspects besides this, as is evinced by Romans 7:1-6; a fact which is indeed glanced at by the apostle even here; but of the several aspects presented by this one and the same many-faced truth, the one which he here more particularly refers to is that which it bore towards the Law as a ceremonial institute. That which the Law as a ceremonial institute did in relation to Christ was this - it pronounced him as crucified to be in the intensest degree ceremonially accursed and polluting; to be most absolutely cherem. But Christ in his death and resurrection-life is appointed by God to be the sinner's only and complete salvation. It follows that he who by faith and sacrament is made one with Christ, does, together with the spiritual life which he draws from Christ, partake also in the pollution and accursedness which the Law fastens upon him; he is by the Law bidden away: he can thenceforth have no connection with it, - the Law itself will have it so. "But (the apostle's feeling is) the Law may curse on as it will: I have life with God and in God nevertheless." This same aspect of the death of Christ as disconnecting believers from the Law viewed as a ceremonial institute, through the pollutedness which the Law attached to most especially that form of death, is referred to in Hebrews 13:10-13. The phrase, "I died unto the Law," is similar to that of "being made dead to the Law" (ἐθανατώθητε τῷ νόμῳ), and being "discharged [or, 'delivered'] from the Law (κατηργήθημεν ἀπὸ τοῦ νόμου)," which we have Romans 7:4, 6; though the particular aspect of the fact that the cross disconnects believers from the Law is not precisely the same in the two passages, since in the Romans the Law is viewed more in its character as a rule of moral and spiritual life (see Romans 7:7-23). That I might live unto God (ἵνα Θεῷ ζήσω); that I might become alive unto God. It is not likely that ζήσω is a future indicative, although we have καταδουλώσουσιν after ἵνα in ver. 4, and the form ζήσομεν in Romans 6:2; for the future would most probably have been ζήσομαι, as in Galatians 3:11, 12; and Romans 1:17; Romans 8:13; Romans 10:5. It is more likely to be the subjunctive of the aorist ἔζησα, which, according to the now accepted reading of ἔζησεν for ἐνέστη καὶ ἀνέζησεν, we have in Romans 14:9; where, as well as the ζήσωμεν of 1 Thessalonians 5:10, it means "become alive." In verbs denoting a state of being, the aorist frequently (though not necessarily) means coming into that state, as for example, ἐπτώχευσε, "became poor" (2 Corinthians 9:9). "Living unto God" here, as in Romans 6:10, does not so much denote any form of moral action towards God as that spiritual state towards him out of which suitable moral action would subsequently flow. The apostle died to the Law, in order that through Christ he might come into that vital union with God in which he might both serve him and find happiness in him; this service to God and joy in God being the "fruit-bearing" in which the "life" is manifested (Romans 7:5, 6).
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
For I through the law am dead to the law,.... The apostle further replies to the objection against the doctrine of justification, being a licentious one, from the end of his, and other believers, being dead to the law: he owns he was dead unto it, not in such sense as not to regard it as a rule of walk and conversation, but so as not to seek for life and righteousness by it, nor to fear its accusations, charges, menaces, curses, and condemnation: he was dead to the moral law as in the hands of Moses, but not as in the hands of Christ; and he was dead to it as a covenant of works, though not as a rule of action, and to the ceremonial law, even as to the observance of it, and much more as necessary to justification and salvation: and so he became "through the law"; that is, either through the law or doctrine of Christ; for the Hebrew word to which answers, signifies properly doctrine, and sometimes evangelical doctrine, the Gospel of Christ; see Isaiah 2:3 and then the sense is, that the apostle by the doctrine of grace was taught not to seek for pardon, righteousness, acceptance, life, and salvation, by the works of the law, but in Christ; by the doctrine of the Gospel, which says, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shall be saved; he became dead to the law, which says, do this and live: or through the books of the law, and the prophets, the writings of the Old Testament, which are sometimes called the law, he learnt that righteousness and forgiveness of sins were only to be expected from Christ, and not the works of the law; things, though manifested without the law, yet are witnessed to by the law and prophets: or through the law of his mind, the principle of grace formed in his soul, he became dead to the power and influence of the law of works, he being no longer under the bondage of that, but under grace, as a governing principle in his soul: or the word law, here twice used, may signify one and the same law of works; and the meaning be, either that through Christ's fulfilling the law in his room and stead, assuming an holy human nature the law required, and yielding perfect obedience to it, and submitting to the penalty of it, he became dead to it; that is, through the body of Christ, see Romans 7:4 and through what he did and suffered in his body to fulfil it; or through the use, experience, and knowledge of the law, when being convinced of sin by it, and seeing the spirituality of it, all his hopes of life were struck dead, and he entirely despaired of ever being justified by it. Now the end of his being dead unto it, delivered from it, and being directed to Christ for righteousness, was, says he,
that I might live unto God; not in sin, in the violation of the law, in neglect and defiance of it, or to himself, or to the lusts of men, but to the will of God revealed in his word, and to his honour and glory; whence it most clearly follows, that though believers are dead to the law, and seek to be justified by Christ alone, yet they do not continue, nor do they desire to continue in sin, or indulge themselves in a vicious course of living, but look upon themselves as under the greater obligation to live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
19. Here Paul seems to pass from his exact words to Peter, to the general purport of his argument on the question. However, his direct address to the Galatians seems not to be resumed till Ga 3:1, "O foolish Galatians," &c.
For—But I am not a "transgressor" by forsaking the law. "For," &c. Proving his indignant denial of the consequence that "Christ is the minister of sin" (Ga 2:17), and of the premises from which it would follow. Christ, so far from being the minister of sin and death, is the establisher of righteousness and life. I am entirely in Him [Bengel].
I—here emphatical. Paul himself, not Peter, as in the "I" (Ga 2:18).
through the law—which was my "schoolmaster to bring me to Christ" (Ga 3:24); both by its terrors (Ga 3:13; Ro 3:20) driving me to Christ, as the refuge from God's wrath against sin, and, when spiritually understood, teaching that itself is not permanent, but must give place to Christ, whom it prefigures as its scope and end (Ro 10:4); and drawing me to Him by its promises (in the prophecies which form part of the Old Testament law) of a better righteousness, and of God's law written in the heart (De 18:15-19; Jer 31:33; Ac 10:43).
am dead to the law—literally, "I died to the law," and so am dead to it, that is, am passed from under its power, in respect to non-justification or condemnation (Col 2:20; Ro 6:14; 7:4, 6); just as a woman, once married and bound to a husband, ceases to be so bound to him when death interposes, and may be lawfully married to another husband. So by believing union to Christ in His death, we, being considered dead with Him, are severed from the law's past power over us (compare Ga 6:14; 1Co 7:39; Ro 6:6-11; 1Pe 2:24).
live unto God—(Ro 6:11; 2Co 5:15; 1Pe 4:1, 2).
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