Galatians 2:16
Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(16) Is not justified.—Here the Apostle introduces, for the first time in the Epistle, the word which plays so prominent a part in the Epistle to the Romans—“pronounced just or righteous”—free from guilt, and therefore from punishment—in the sight of God. This condition could not be produced by works done in obedience to the Law.

But.—The sense of the Greek is not clearly brought out by the Authorised version. A more strict translation would be except, which is made to refer only to the word “justified,” and not to the previous negation of works, as the cause of justification. “A man is not justified by works (nor is he justified at all), except by faith in Christ.”

By the faith of Jesus Christ.—The preposition “by” occurs five times in this verse. In every case except the present it is represented by the same word in Greek. There is, however, no substantial difference of meaning; the only difference is that in the other cases stress is laid rather upon the cause, here rather upon the means. “Faith of Jesus Christ” means, as we are more accustomed to say, “faith in Jesus Christ.”

Even we.—Rather, we too. Jews as we are, in spite of all our privileges.

Have believed.—Rather, believed. This was the great motive of our conversion. We found that the Law could not justify us and that Christ could.

By the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.—This is a quotation for which no exact equivalent is to be found in the Old Testament. The nearest appears to be Psalm 143:2 : “In thy sight shall no man living be justified.” This, as written under the dispensation of the Law, naturally applied to that dispensation, so that the Apostle was justified in adding “by the works of the Law.” The same quotation, in the same words, is made in Romans 3:20.

The inability of the Law to justify comes out in two ways. (1) The only way in which the Law could justify was through a complete obedience to its provisions. But it was impossible to render a complete obedience to it: and to offend in one point was “to be guilty of all;” so that practically, as a matter of fact, no one was justified by it. (2) Nor did it help men to justify themselves. It was something dead and lifeless—a mere written letter, possessing none of those “means of grace” which are offered by Christianity. Christ Himself, through faith in Him, is the great means.

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.Knowing - We who are Jews by nature, or by birth. This cannot mean that all the Jews knew this, or that he who was a Jew knew it as a matter of course, for many Jews were ignorant of it, and many opposed it. But it means that the persons here referred to, those who had been born Jews, and who had been converted to Christianity, had had an opportunity to learn and understand this, which the Gentiles had not. This gospel had been preached to them, and they had professedly embraced it. They were not left to the gross darkness and ignorance on this subject which pervaded the pagan world, and they had had a better opportunity to learn it than the converts from the Gentiles. They ought, therefore, to act in a manner becoming their superior light, and to show in all their conduct that they fully believed that a man could not be justified by obedience to the Law of Moses. This rendered the conduct of Peter and the other Jews who "dissembled" with him so entirely inexcusable. They could not plead ignorance on this vital subject, and yet they were pursuing a course, the tendency of which was to lead the Gentile converts to believe that it was indispensable to observe the laws of Moses, in order to be justified and saved.

That a man is not justified by the works of the law - See the notes at Romans 1:17; Romans 3:20, Romans 3:26; Romans 4:5.

But by the faith of Jesus Christ - By believing on Jesus Christ; see the Mark 16:16 note; Romans 3:22 note.

Even we have believed in Jesus Christ - We are therefore justified. The object of Paul here seems to be to show, that as they had believed in the Lord Jesus, and thus had been justified, there was no necessity of obeying the Law of Moses with any view to justification. The thing had been fully done without the deeds of the Law, and it was now unreasonable and unnecessary to insist on the observance of the Mosaic rites.

For by the works of the law ... - See the notes at Romans 3:20, Romans 3:27. In this verse, the apostle has stated in few words the important doctrine of justification by faith - the doctrine which Luther so justly called, Articulus stantis, vel cadentis ecclesioe. In the notes referred to above, particularly in the notes at the Epistle to the Romans, I have stated in various places what I conceive to be the true doctrine on this important subject. It may be useful, however, to throw together in one connected view, as briefly as possible, the leading ideas on the subject of justification, as it is revealed in the gospel.

I. Justification is properly a word applicable to courts of justice, but is used in a similar sense in common conversation among people. An illustration will show its nature. A man is charged, e. g., with an act of trespass on his neighbor's property. Now there are two ways which he may take to justify himself, or to meet the charge, so as to be regarded and treated as innocent. He may:

(a) Either deny that he performed the act charged on him, or he may,

(b) Admit that the deed was done, and set up as a defense that he had a right to do it.

In either case, if the point is made out, he will be just or innocent in the sight of the Law. The Law will have nothing against him, and he will be regarded and treated in the premises as an innocent man; or he has justified himself in regard to the charge brought against him.

II. Charges of a very serious nature are brought against man by his Maker. He is charged with violating the Law of God; with a want of love to his Maker; with a corrupt, proud, sensual heart; with being entirely alienated from God by wicked works; in one word, with being entirely depraved. This charge extends to all people; and to the entire life of every unrenewed person. It is not a charge merely affecting the external conduct, nor merely affecting the heart; it is a charge of entire alienation from God; a charge, in short, of total depravity; see, especially, Romans 1; 2; 3. That this charge is a very serious one, no one can doubt. That it deeply affects the human character and standing, is as clear. It is a charge brought in the Bible; and God appeals in proof of it to the history of the world, to every man's conscience, and to the life of every one who has lived; and on these facts, and on his own power in searching the hearts, and in knowing what is in man, he rests the proofs of the charge.

III. It is impossible for man to vindicate himself from this charge. He can neither show that the things charged have not been committed, nor that, having been committed, he had a right to do them. He cannot prove that God is not right in all the charges which he has made against him in his word; and he cannot prove that it was right for him to do as he has done. The charges against him are facts which are undeniable, and the facts are such as cannot be vindicated. But if he can do neither of these things, then he cannot be justified by the Law. The Law will not acquit him. It holds him guilty. It condemns him. No argument which he can use will show that he is right, and that God is wrong. No works that he can perform will be any compensation for what he has already done. No denial of the existence of the facts charged will alter the ease; and he must stand condemned by the Law of God. In the legal sense he cannot be justified; and justification, if it ever exist at all, must be in a mode that is a departure from the regular operation of law, and in a mode which the Law did not contemplate, for no law makes any provision for the pardon of those who violate it. It must be by some system which is distinct from the Law, and in which man may be justified on different principles than those which the Law contemplates.

IV. This other system of justification is that which is revealed in the gospel by the faith of the Lord Jesus. It does not consist in either of the following things:

(1) It is not a system or plan where the Lord Jesus takes the part of the sinner against the Law or against God. He did not come to show that the sinner was right, and that God was wrong. He admitted most fully, and endeavored constantly to show, that God was right, and that the sinner was wrong; nor can an instance be referred to where the Saviour took the part of the sinner against God in any such sense that he endeavored to show that the sinner had not done the things charged on him, or that he had a right to do them.

(2) it is not that we are either innocent, or are declared to be innocent. God justifies the "ungodly," Romans 4:5. We are not innocent; we never have been; we never shall be; and it is not the design of the scheme to declare any such untruth as that we are not personally undeserving. It will be always true that the justified sinner has no claims to the mercy and favor of God.

continued...

16. not justified by the works of the law—as the GROUND of justification. "The works of the law" are those which have the law for their object—which are wrought to fulfil the law [Alford].

but by—Translate, "But only (in no other way save) through faith in Jesus Christ," as the MEAN and instrument of justification.

Jesus Christ—In the second case, read with the oldest manuscripts, "Christ Jesus," the Messiahship coming into prominence in the case of Jewish believers, as "Jesus" does in the first case, referring to the general proposition.

justified by the faith of Christ—that is, by Christ, the object of faith, as the ground of our justification.

for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified—He rests his argument on this as an axiom in theology, referring to Ps 143:2, "Moses and Jesus Christ; The law and the promise; Doing and believing; Works and faith; Wages and the gift; The curse and the blessing—are represented as diametrically opposed" [Bengel]. The moral law is, in respect to justification, more legal than the ceremonial, which was an elementary and preliminary Gospel: So "Sinai" (Ga 4:24), which is more famed for the Decalogue than for the ceremonial law, is made pre-eminently the type of legal bondage. Thus, justification by the law, whether the moral or ceremonial, is excluded (Ro 3:20).

Knowing that a man is not justified; we knowing that a man is not absolved from the guilt of sin, and declared righteous in the sight of God;

by the works of the law; by any kind of works done in obedience to the law of Moses, whether ceremonial or moral. For it is manifest that although this question about justification by works began about circumcision and works done in obedience to the ceremonial law, yet the determination of it extended further. For the apostle, by

the law, understands that law by which

is the knowledge of sin, Romans 3:20. Now the knowledge of sin, is neither only nor chiefly by the ceremonial law; nor did ever any of those, against whom the apostle argueth, think, that men could be justified by obedience only to the law contained in ordinances; nor could boasting be excluded, (which the apostle showeth, Romans 3:27, was God’s design in fixing the way of a sinher’s justification), if men might be justified by works done in obedience to the moral law; nor was it the ceremonial law only, the violation of which worketh wrath, Romans 4:15, or disobedience to which brought men under the curse, Galatians 3:10.

But by the faith of Jesus Christ; but we are justified by believing in Christ: not by faith as it is a work of ours, for that was denied before; nor by faith as a principal efficient cause, for in that sense it is God that justifieth; nor as a meritorious cause, for so we are justified by the blood of Christ; but by faith as an instrument apprehending and applying Christ and his righteousness.

Even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law; we (saith the apostle) that are Jews, knowing this, have not only assented to the truth of the gospel proposition, but accepted of this way of salvation, and received the Lord Jesus; that we so doing, not trusting to the law, or any obedience of ours to it, might be absolved from the guilt of sin, and declared righteous before God.

For by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified; for no mortal man shall ever be absolved or declared righteous upon his own personal obedience to the law of God; being in the best imperfect, and much short of what the law requireth. Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law,.... That is, Peter, Paul, Barnabas, and other believing Jews knew this, and that from the law itself, which requires perfect and sinless obedience, and accuses, holds guilty, and adjudges to condemnation and death for the least failure, both as to matter or manner of duty; and from the prophets, which declare that by the deeds of the law no flesh can be justified in the sight of God, and who bear witness to the doctrines of remission of sin, and justification by the righteousness of Christ; and from the Gospel, in which this truth is most clearly revealed; and from the illumination of the blessed Spirit, who led them into all truth; and from the revelation of Jesus Christ they were favoured with; and from their own experience, being fully convinced of the exceeding sinfulness of sin, the insufficiency of their own righteousness, and of the necessity, suitableness, and fulness of the righteousness of Christ. By "the works of the law" are meant, not only obedience to the ceremonial law, though this is included, but also to the moral law; for it can hardly be thought, that the men the apostle opposes could ever dream of justification by their compliance with the rituals of the ceremonial law if they believed there could be no justification by their obedience to the moral law; for if there is no justification by the latter, there can be none by the former: the words are therefore to be taken in the largest sense, as rejecting all works of the law, of whatsoever kind, from justification in the sight of God; and such works are designed, as are performed by sinful men in and of themselves, otherwise men are justified by the works of the law as performed by Christ in their room and stead, but not by any as performed by themselves, for at best they are very imperfect, and so cannot justify; they are opposed to the grace of God, to which the justification of a sinner is always ascribed, and therefore cannot be by works; such a scheme would disannul the death of Christ, and promote boasting in men, and indeed is impracticable and impossible:

but by the faith of Jesus Christ; not by that faith, which Christ, as man, had in God, who promised him help, succour, and assistance, and for which he, as man, trusted in him, and exercised faith upon him; but that faith of which he is the object, author, and finisher; and not by that as a cause, for faith has no causal influence on the justification of a sinner; it is not the efficient cause, for it is God that justifies; nor the moving cause, or which induces God to justify any, for that is his own free grace and good will; nor the meritorious or procuring cause, for that is the obedience and bloodshed of Christ; nor is faith the matter of justification; it is not a justifying righteousness; it is a part of sanctification; it is imperfect; as an act it is a man's own, and will not continue for ever in its present form, nature, and use; and is always distinguished from the righteousness of God, by which we are justified, which is perfect, is another's, and will last for ever. Men are not justified by faith, either as an habit, or an act; not by it as an habit or principle, this would be to confound justification and sanctification; nor as an act, for as such it is a man's own, and then justification would be by a man's works, contrary to the Scripture: but faith is to be taken either objectively, as it relates to Christ, the object of it, and his justifying righteousness; or as it is a means of receiving and apprehending Christ's righteousness; the discovery of it is made to faith; that grace discerns the excellency and suitableness of it, approves of it, rejects a man's own, lays hold on this, and rejoices in it:

even we have believed in Jesus Christ; we who are Jews by nature, being fully apprized that there is no justification by the works of the law, but by the righteousness of Christ, received by faith, have quited all confidence in our own works, and are come to Christ, and believe in him, not only as the Messiah, but as the Lord our righteousness:

that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law; not that faith, as before observed, has any causal influence on justification. These Jews did not believe in Christ, in order by their believing to procure their justification before God, and acceptance with him, but that they might receive, by faith, this blessing from the Lord in their own conscience, and enjoy the comfort of it, and all that spiritual peace which results from it, and which they could not find in the works of the law:

for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified; reference seems to be had to Psalm 143:2 and contains a reason why these believing Jews relinquished Moses in his law, in whom they formerly trusted, and looked to, and depended on for their justification, because that by obedience to the law of works no sinful mortal man can be justified in the sight of God,

Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith {q} of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall {r} no flesh be justified.

(q) In Jesus Christ.

(r) No man, and in this word flesh there is a great force, by which is meant that the nature of man is utterly corrupt.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
is usually construed so that εἰδότεςΧριστοῦ is a parenthesis; and either the sentence is made to begin with ἡμεῖς in Galatians 2:15, and this ἡμεῖς is again taken up by the subsequent καὶ ἡμεῖς (so Castalio and others, Winer, Matthies, Baumgarten-Crusius, de Wette, Holsten, Reithmayr), or sumus is supplied after ἁμαρτωλοί, a new sentence is commenced by εἰδότες, and καὶ ἡμεῖς κ

Galatians 2:16 is usually construed so that εἰδότεςΧριστοῦ is a parenthesis; and either the sentence is made to begin with ἡμεῖς in Galatians 2:15, and this ἡμεῖς is again taken up by the subsequent καὶ ἡμεῖς (so Castalio and others, Winer, Matthies, Baumgarten-Crusius, de Wette, Holsten, Reithmayr), or sumus is supplied after ἁμαρτωλοί, a new sentence is commenced by εἰδότες, and καὶ ἡμεῖς κ.τ.λ. is taken as apodosis (Beza and others; also Rückert, Usteri, Schott, Fritzsche, de conform. N.T. Lachm. p. 53, Hilgenfeld, Ewald, Hofmann, Matthias, Möller). Both forms of construction would give εἰδότεςΧριστοῦ as the motive for the ἐπιστεύσαμεν. But in this way the statement, how Paul and Peter (for these are the subject; see on Galatians 2:15) attained to faith, would not tally with history, for the conversion of these two apostles did not at all take place by means of logical process in the argumentative way of εἰδότεςἐπιστεύσαμεν. Both of them were in fact miraculously and suddenly laid hold of by Christ; and thereby, on their becoming believers, the light of the statement of purpose in the sequel dawned upon them. We must therefore consider as correct the punctuation of Lachmann,[94] who is followed by Wieseler: a comma only before εἰδότες, and a period after Χριστοῦ, “We are Jews by birth and not sinners of the Gentiles, knowing however” (εἰδότες still belonging to the ἐσμέν, which has to be supplied), that is, since we nevertheless know, that a man is not justified, etc.; so that what thou, Peter, doest (Galatians 2:15), completely conflicts with this certainty, which we have notwithstanding of our Jewish pre-eminence.

οὐ δικαιοῦται ἄνθρωπος] The emphatically prefixed δικαιοῦται is negatived: a man is not justified. As to the idea of δικαιοῦσθαι, see on Romans 1:17. Here also it appears clearly as an actus forensis, and as incompatible with the perversion of the idea by the Catholics and the followers of Osiander. See especially Wieseler in loc. From works of the law, which would be the determining ground of God’s acquittal; by means of faith, which is imputed by God as righteousness (Romans 5:5; Romans 5:21 f.),—these are the contrasted points, while the idea of δικαιοῦσθαι is the same. Comp. on Romans 3:25 f.

ἐξ ἔργων νόμου] νόμου is not subjective (works, which the law by its precepts calls forth), but objective: works, which relate to the law, that is, works by which the precepts of the law are fulfilled, which have as their opposite the ἁμαρτήματα νόμου, Wis 2:12. See on Romans 2:15. Our passage testifies also in favour of this view by the contrast of πίστεως Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, inasmuch as the one relation (ἔργων) to the one object (νόμου) stands correlatively contrasted with the other relation (πίστεως) to the other object (Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ). Schott, following the older expositors (including Theodoret, Pelagius, Erasmus), quite erroneously limits νόμος to the ceremonial law,—a limitation which never occurs in the N.T.[95] (see on Romans 3:20, and Schmid, bibl. Theol. II. p. 336), and, especially where justification is the matter in question, would be quite unsuitable; for the impossibility of justification by the law has reference to the whole law, viewed in its requirements jointly and severally, which in its full extent, and in the way willed by God, no man can fulfil. Comp. Galatians 3:10; Weiss, bibl. Theol. p. 259.

ἐὰν μή] not a compromise between justification by works and justification by faith in the Jewish-Christian consciousness (Holsten, in spite of the apodosis), but a transition to another mode of conception: A man is not justified by the works of the law; he is not justified, except by etc. Comp. Hymn. Cer. 77 f., οὐδέ τις ἄλλος αἴτιος ἀθανάτων, εἰ μὴ νεφεληγερέτα Ζεύς. Comp. on Matthew 12:4; Romans 14:14. See also on Galatians 1:7. Consequently we have here neither justification by the works, which are done by means of faith (the Catholic view), nor Christ’s fulfilment of the law, which is apprehended by faith.[96] The former is not Pauline,[97] and the latter has only its indirect truth (for the N.T. nowhere teaches the imputation of Christ’s obedience to the law), in so far as the atoning work of the Lord completed on the cross, which is the specific object and main matter of justifying faith, necessarily presupposes His active, sinless obedience (2 Corinthians 5:21), of which, however, nothing is here said. But here in ἐὰν μή we have the “sola fide” of Luther and his Church. Comp. on Romans 3:28. It is only the man justified solely by faith, who thereupon fulfils by means of the Spirit the requirements of the law; see on Romans 8:4. This is the moral completion of the relation of the law to redemption.

Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ] object: on Jesus Christ. Comp. Mark 11:22; see on Romans 3:22, and Lipsius, Rechtfertigungsl. p. 112.

ἐξ and διά denote the same idea (of causality) under two forms (that of origin and that of mediate agency), as Paul in general is fond of varying his prepositions (see on Romans 3:30; 2 Corinthians 3:11; Ephesians 1:7). In διά (comp. Galatians 3:26) faith is conceived as the subjective condition of justification—the presence of which is the necessary causa medians of the latter. Certainly the man, as soon as he believes, enters immediately into the state of justification; but the preposition has (notwithstanding what Hofmann says) nothing to do with this relation, any more than ἐξ postpones the being righteous, as the result of action, until the very end of life, whereas it may be conceived at any moment of life, as a result for the time being.

καὶ ἡμεῖς] begins a new sentence (see above). That which Paul had just laid before Peter as a point on which both were convinced,

ὅτι οὐ δικαιοῦται ἄνθρωπος ἐξ ἔργων νόμου, ἐὰν μὴ διὰ πίστ. . Χ.,—he now confirms by reminding him of the righteousness which they also had aimed at in having become believers (ἐπιστεύσαμεν); so that καὶ ἡμεῖς, even we both, supplies the special application of the foregoing general ἄνθρωπος. The order Χριστὸν Ἰησοῦν lays a greater stress on the Messianic character of the historical person who is the object of faith, than is the case in the usual order (comp. Galatians 2:4; Galatians 3:26).

ὅτι ἐξ ἔργων νόμου οὐ δικαιωθήσεται πᾶσα σάρξ] Comp. Romans 3:20. These words, ἐξ ἔργων νόμου, take up again what had just been said with solemn emphasis, by means of the confirmatory ὅτι, since indeed. Πᾶσα σάρξ conveys the idea of “all men” (comp. above, ἄνθρωπος), with the accompanying idea of moral weakness and sinfulness, on which is based both the need of justification, and also its impossibility by means of works in the sight of the justifying God. Comp. on Acts 2:17. Looking at the difference in the terms used and the absence of the usual formula of quotation, it is not to be assumed that Paul intended here to give a Scripture-proof (from Psalm 143:2), as Wieseler and others think. An involuntary echo of the language may have occurred, while the idea was more precisely defined. The negation is here also not to be separated from the verb; for it is not πᾶσα σάρξ which is negatived, but δικαιωθήσεται in reference to πᾶσα σάρξ. Fritzsche (Diss. II. in 2 Cor. p. 26) aptly says: “non probabitur per praestitum legi obsequium quicquid est carnis.” Lastly, the future denotes that which never will occur. The reference to the judgment (Romans 5:19), which is discovered here by Hofmann and the earlier expositors, is quite out of place. Comp. Galatians 2:21. It is otherwise, Galatians 5:5; 2 Timothy 4:8.

[94] In the small edition; in the larger one the usual punctuation is followed.

[95] Although, according to the context, at one time the ethical, and at another the ritual, aspect of the law preponderates. Comp. on Romans 3:20.

[96] So also Jatho, Br. an d. Gal. p. 18 f.

[97] See the constantly repeated attacks on the part of the Catholics against the evangelical doctrine of justification by faith, in Möhler, Symbol. p. 132, ed. 4; Reithmayr, p. 179 ff. More unprejudiced is Döllinger, Christenth. u. Kirche, pp. 187, 202, and elsewhere. On the other hand, Romang (in the Stud. u. Krit. 1867, 1, 2) has made too much concession to the Catholic justification by works, and has, like Hengstenberg, erroneously assumed a gradual progress of justification.Galatians 2:16. οὐ δικαιοῦται … Two methods of seeking justification in the sight of God are here distinguished. The former took account of nothing but stedfast obedience to the law of God. Before his conversion Paul knew no other: he had been taught by his legal training to base his standard of right and wrong entirely on the revealed law, to find in it the sole guide of conscience, and to measure righteousness by conformity to its commandments alone.

But his view of God’s judgment had been profoundly modified by his conversion. He had learnt on the one hand from the teaching of Christ how impossible it was for man to attain to perfect righteousness, seeing that God claims not only obedience to the letter of the law, but an allegiance of the heart too thorough to be attainable by human infirmity. But on the other hand he knew now that God is a loving Father in Christ, ever seeking out His erring children that He may win them back, ever ready to temper strict justice with infinite mercy, and waiting only for the first response of imperfect faith and imperfect repentance, so they be at all sincere, to blot out a guilty past, and pronounce a favourable judgment on the sinner. He perceived that there is room in the judgment of God for another element beside strict justice, viz., the mercy of the judge, and that a prisoner, however clear may be his guilt on the evidence of his life, may nevertheless be assured of pardon and acceptance by throwing himself in humble trust on that mercy. In the Epistles of Paul accordingly justification acquired a new meaning, becoming equivalent to acceptance before God, and the term righteousness was applied to the merciful acquittal of the guilty but penitent offender.

The clause ἐξ ἔργων νόμου defines an acquittal on the merits of the case alone, based on a life of holy obedience, while διὰ πίστεως Ἰ. Χρ. points to faith in Christ as the appointed channel of God’s mercy.—ἐπιστεύσαμεν. Here, as in Romans 13:11, this verb denotes the act of embracing the faith. Jewish Christians had by their conversion declared the hopelessness of their position under the Law without Christ. Faith in him was (they saw) the only means of obtaining justification.—διότι … This clause corroborates the verdict of conscience and experience by the authority of Scripture, for it adopts the language of Psalms 142(143) 2, οὐ δικαιωθήσεται ἐνώπιόν σου πᾶς ζῶν, with only some verbal alterations suggested by the context of the Epistle. As two kinds of justification have been mentioned, the clause ἐξ ἔργων νόμου is required here to make it clear that the justification to which the Psalm refers was legal, the words ἐνώπιόν σου are dropped as needless in this context, and πᾶσα σάρξ is substituted for πᾶς ζῶν in order to show that the Psalm referred to earthly life. The passage is quoted with corresponding verbal changes in Romans 3:20.16. The force of the prepositions is obscured by the rendering of A. V. Literally, ‘Knowing that man is not justified from (i.e. as the result of) works of the law, but through faith in Jesus Christ … even we believed on Christ Jesus, that we might be justified from (i.e. as the result of) faith in Christ, and not from works of the law; for from works of the law shall no flesh be justified.’ In the language of St Paul man is justified from faith, and through faith and by faith (dative without preposition expressed, Romans 3:28), never for or on the score of faith. In Romans 3:30, God is said to justify “the circumcision from faith and the uncircumcision through faith”, where the emphasis is not on the prepositions but on faith. This is clear from the fact that whereas in this passage God is said to justify the Jews from faith, in Galatians 3:8, He is said to justify the Gentiles from faith, comp. Hebrews 10:38, and Habakkuk 2:4 LXX. Vers. In Php 3:9, we meet with the expression ‘the righteousness which is of God upon (condition of) faith’.

but by the faith] i.e. but only through faith in Jesus Christ. The rendering of the R.V. ‘save’ is grammatically possible, but logically wrong, and, as a translation, not only incorrect, but misleading. The declaration of St Paul has its counterpart in the utterance of the believing heart—

Nothing in my hand I bring;

Simply to Thy Cross I cling.

A shipwrecked sailor was trying to save his life by swimming, employing one hand for that purpose, while with the other he clutched a bag of provisions which he had rescued from the sinking ship. When his strength was nearly exhausted, a vessel came in sight. He was descried and a rope thrown to him. He seized it with one hand. ‘Lay hold with both hands, or we cannot save you’. He let go the bag of provisions and was hauled safely on board the friendly vessel. His life was saved apart from his provisions. But he found that it could not be maintained without them. See Appendix III. p. 87.

of Jesus Christ] that faith which has Christ Jesus for its object, and nearly = in Jesus Christ. It is explained by the words which follow immediately, “We also ourselves believed in Christ Jesus”. The transposition of the names of our Blessed Lord in this verse is doubtless ‘not arbitrary’, though it is not easy to explain its force. It must be remembered that Proper names which are now mere designations to distinguish one person from another were originally descriptive. To those who thus regarded the name Christ as meaning the Anointed or Messiah, there would be conveyed a different thought according as it preceded or followed the more personal name Jesus. Any one who will read the passage aloud, substituting ‘Messiah’ or ‘the Anointed’ for ‘Christ’, will perceive, if he does not fathom the difference.

even we] Better, we also, as well as Gentile converts.

for by the works … justified] This is a quotation, not quite literal, from Psalm 143:2. It is made also in Romans 3:20, being there introduced for a special purpose, as referring to Jews, by the words, “We know that whatsoever things the law saith, it saith to them that are under the law”. It is here used for a similar purpose, and as a decision from which no appeal was possible. See note on c. Galatians 3:22.

no flesh] a Hebraism = no human being.

Note on Ch. Galatians 2:16The Revised Version renders, ‘knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, save through faith in Jesus Christ’, giving in the margin ‘but only’, as an alternative of ‘save’. Alford translates ‘except’. Though a full discussion of the use of the Greek particles here employed is beyond the scope of this work, yet the question involved is of such momentous issues, that the correct rendering of the passage must be not only stated, but maintained. Two particles, of which the literal English equivalent is ‘if not’, occur in combination about 150 times in the New Testament. In the large majority of passages in which they are found, there can be on difference of opinion as to their force or proper translation, viz. ‘if not’, ‘unless’, ‘except’, In a few passages, however, it is impossible to adopt one of these renderings without sacrificing either sense or truth, and reducing the statement to an absurdity. To the instance quoted in the note on ch. Galatians 1:19 (Luke 4:26-27, where the A.V. is of course wrong), may be added Matthew 12:4, and Revelation 21:27, where it is right in rendering ‘but only’ and ‘but’. It may be observed that the question is not whether these particles ever lose their exceptive force (see Bp Lightfoot, note on ch. Galatians 1:19, and Prof. Scholefield, Preface to 3rd edition of Sermons on Justification by Faith, pp. 35–37). Nor again is it here necessary to explain the refinements of Greek idiom by reference to the subtleties of Greek thought. The transition from the exceptive, ‘save’, to the exclusive, ‘but only’, is in certain passages undoubted and may be logically deduced. It is clear that for the purposes of correct translation (i.e. if we would convey to an English reader the true sense of the original), we must employ ‘but’, or ‘but only’ in certain passages as the equivalent of particles which are elsewhere rendered by ‘save’ or ‘except’. It remains to determine which is the just rendering in the passage under consideration. Now, if words have any meaning, the R.V. (which is ex hypothesi a correction of the A.V.) teaches what has been termed “a mixed justification by faith and works”, the efficacy of works for justification being conditional on the addition or admixture of faith. This, however, is in direct contradiction of what immediately follows—“we believed Christ that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law”. Had the Apostle allowed works any place as a ground of the justification of a sinner, he would either have omitted the last clause or have written, “and (or, together with) the works of the law”. But this would have been to contradict his plainest assertions in another Epistle. In Romans 3:21 we read, “But now apart from law the righteousness of God has been manifested, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ, unto all and upon all them that believe”; and, Romans 3:28, “We reckon then that a man is justified by faith apart from the works of the law (perhaps, works of law, i.e. acts of obedience to any law, ceremonial or moral)”. Compare Romans 4:4-6. In all these passages St Paul uses an adverb which means ‘apart from’, ‘independently of’, rather than ‘without’. The sinner is justified through faith only, apart from any works of his own. Christ’s fulfilment of the law—His perfect obedience and His atoning death—needs not and admits not any supplement on the part of the sinner to satisfy the righteousness of God. We who believe “are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by faith, and not for our own works or deservings”, Art. xi. But though “the works of the law” have absolutely no part in our justification, because the faith through which we are justified is ‘apart from’ them, yet St Paul nowhere asserts that we are justified without works. That would be sheer antinomianism. Good works are “the fruits of faith”, and “by them a lively faith may be as evidently known as a tree discerned by the fruit”, Art. xii. For a further illustration of St Paul’s teaching on the relation of faith and works, compare Ephesians 2:8-10, and for his doctrine of justification by faith ‘apart from’ works, Php 3:9.

It is certain then, that the true rendering is, ‘not justified by the works of the law, but (or, but only) through faith in Jesus Christ.’Galatians 2:16. Εἰδότες, knowing) i.e. since we have come to know.—ἄνθρωπος, a man) every man, whether Jew, or Greek.—ἐξ ἔργων νόμου, by the works of the law) The followers of Galatism, from not clearly understanding and not rightly interpreting the nature and end of the moral law, earnestly maintained the ceremonial law; and, acknowledging little or no distinction between the moral and ceremonial law, they comprehended both under one word, the law, and therefore sought to be justified in the observance of the whole law. The apostle therefore in a similar manner refuting them, includes the two in one word; or, where he uses the word law more strictly, he means the moral law itself; he calls the ceremonial law by a different appellation, elements, etc. But the state of the controversy came more prominently under notice, in so far as it regarded the ceremonial law, than in so far as the same regarded the moral law: since the matter of the former being about times, circumcision, meats, etc., met the eye more than that of the latter; and the abrogation of the former, which was complete, was more conspicuous, than that of the latter, which was only abrogated in some one respect. Hence it happens that some arguments serve particularly against justification by the ceremonial law; there are more, however, which serve against justification by the law taken universally, including even the moral law. The whole is more clearly evident from the economy of the epistle to the Galatians; for in ch. 1 and 2 the apostle shows that he was sent and taught by God, and was in no respect inferior to the other apostles, as his conferences for promoting peace, nay even his controversial debates, held with them, and with Peter himself, plainly evince. In the third chapter, there is the discussion on the moral law; whence at ch. Galatians 4:1-11, arguments are deduced regarding the ceremonial law, and, after an allegory has been interposed in reference to both, in ch. 5 the question is raised respecting circumcision in particular. This is the sum: Moses and Jesus Christ; the law and the promise; doing and believing; works and faith; wages and the gift; the curse and the blessing,—are represented as diametrically opposed to each other. And the Decalogue is left by Paul either altogether untouched, or it is included under the term law; nay, the Decalogue is properly that law, which, though it is declared, that it cannot justify, is yet established by faith; for, truly the ceremonial law is entirely abolished: [2 Corinthians 3:13]; Romans 3:31. But Sinai, Galatians 4:24, is much more celebrated for the Decalogue than for the ceremonial law. Nor was the ceremonial law a yoke intolerable in itself, but it derived its strength from the moral law, Acts 15. Therefore the moral law is, so to speak, more legal than the ceremonial, which was at the same time, as it were, an elementary and preliminary Gospel. See also Romans 3:20, note.—ἐὰν μὴ, [but by] if not) a particle to be resolved into ἀλλὰ, but, though with greater force. Man is not justified by the works of the law, and therefore in no other way save by faith. We find the same meaning attached to the particles, and not, which occur presently after.—διὰ, by) by is used concerning the Gentiles; from [ἐκἐξ] presently after, concerning the Jews, Romans 3:30, note.—Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, of Jesus Christ) i.e. in Christ Jesus, as the expression follows presently after with the names transposed.[14] The name Jesus was the name that became known first to the Gentiles; the name Christ to the Jews. Wherefore the order is not always indiscriminate, where both names are used as here; Romans 15:5-6; 1 Timothy 1:15-16; 1 Timothy 2:5; 1 Timothy 6:13-14; 2 Timothy 1:9-10, notes: and generally in more solemn discourse Christ Jesus is used; in that which is more ordinary, Jesus Christ.—καὶ ἡμεῖς) we ourselves also; how much more the Gentiles.—ἐπιστεύσαμεν, we have believed) i.e. we began to believe long ago.—διότι, because that) The consequence is proved in reference to the Jews.

[14] Engl. Vers. has We have believed in Jesus Christ. But ACD(Δ)Gg Vulg. have the order Χριστὸν Ἰησοῦν. Bf Memph. and later Syr. support the order Ἰης, Χριστ.—EDVerse 16. - Knowing (εἰδότες δέ: see note on ver. 15); yet knowing. That a man is not justified by the works of the Law (ὅτι οὐ δικαιοῦται ἄνθρωπος ἐξἔργων νόμον); or, by works of Law; or, by works of the Law. That is, works prescribed by the Law of Moses. The verb δικαιοῦται is in the present tense, because the apostle is stating a general principle. The sentence, Οὐ δικαιοῦται ἐξ ἔργων νόμου, if regard be had to the exact sense of the proposition ἐξ, may be supposed to mean "does not derive righteousness from works of the Law;" does not get to be justly regarded as holy, pure from guilt approvable, in consequence of any things done in obedience to God's positive Law. The precise meaning and bearing of the aphorism will appear presently. But by the faith of Jesus Christ (ἐὰν μὴ διὰ πίστεως Ἰησοῦ Ξριστοῦ); but only through faith of Jesus Christ. Ἐὰν μή, like εἰ μή, properly means "except," "save;" but St. Paul would have betrayed his own position if he had allowed that "works of the Law" could ever have any part whatever in procuring justification. Ἐὰν μὴ must, therefore, be understood here in that partially exceptive sense remarked upon in the note on Galatians 1:7 as frequently attaching to εἰ μή, that is, it means "but only." The apostle plainly intends to make the categorical affirmation that no man gains justification save through faith in Christ; οὐ δικαιοῦται ἄνθρωπος εἰ μὴ διὰ πίστεως Ἰησοῦ Ξριστοῦ. The variation of the proposition, διὰ in this clause for ἐκ in the preceding clause, we find again in Philippians 3:9, "Not having a righteousness which is mine own, that which is (ἐκ νόμου) of the Law [i.e. derived from the Law], but that which is (διὰ πίστεως) through faith of Christ." That no real difference is here intended in the sense is shown by the use immediately after of ἐκ in the clause, ἵνα δικαιωθωμεν ἐκ πίστεως Ξριστοῦ. For the apostle's present argument it is immaterial whether we are said to gain righteousness through faith or from it. As Bishop Lightfoot, however, observes, "Faith is, strictly speaking, only the means, not the source of justification. The one proposition (διὰ) excludes this latter notion, while the other (ἐκ) might imply it. Besides these, we meet also with ἐπὶ πίστει (Philippians 3:9), but never διὰ πίστιν, 'propter fidem,' which would involve [or, might perhaps suggest] a doctrinal error. Compare the careful language in the Latin of our Article XI., per fidem, non propter opera.'" The genitive Ἰησοῦ Ξριστοῦ after πίστεως is paralleled by ἔξετε πίστιν Θεοῦ in Mark 11:22, and by πίστεως αὐτοῦ in Ephesians 3:12. Possibly the genitive was preferred here to saying εἰς Ἰησοῦν Ξριστόν, as verbally presenting the sharper antithesis to ἔργων νόμου. Even we (καὶ ἡμεῖς); just as any sinful outcast of a Gentile would have to do. Have believed in Jesus Christ (εἰς Ξριστὸν Ἰησοῦν ἐπιστεύσαμεν); did in Christ Jesus believe. The aorist of the verb points to the time of first making Christ the object of trust. The changed order, in which our Lord's proper name and his official designation appear in this clause compared with the preceding, and which, somewhat strangely, is ignored in our Authorized Version, does not seem to have any real significance; such variation frequently occurs in St. Paul, as e.g. 1 Timothy 1:15, 16; 2 Timothy 1:8, 10; Ephesians 1:1, 2. In the present instance it may have been dictated by the reversal of the order of the ideas, πίστεως and Ἰησοῦ Ξριστοῦ. That we might be justified by the faith of Christ (ἵνα δικαιωθῶμεν ἐκ πίστεως Ξριστοῦ). Renouncing all thought of gaining righteousness by (or from) doing works of the Law, we fixed our faith upon Christ, in order to gain righteousness by (or from) believing in him. The form of expression does not determine the time when they expected to become righteous; but the whole complexion of the argument points to their justification following immediately upon their believing in Christ. That full recognition of fellow-believers, which is the hinge on which the discussion turns, presupposes their being already righteous through their faith. And not by the works of the Law (καὶ οὐκ ἐξ ἔργων νόμον). This is added ex abundanti, to clench more strongly the affirmation that works of the Law have no effect in making men righteous. For by the works of the Law shall no flesh be justified (διότι [or rather, ὅτι] οὐ δικαιωθήσεται ἐξ ἔργων νόμου πᾶσα σάρξ). This simply repeats the affirmation in the first clause of the verse, with only an intensified positiveness; the future tense, "shall be justified," expressing, not the time at which the act of justification takes place, but the absoluteness of the rule that no human being is to expect ever to be justified by works of the Law. In Romans 3:20 we have identically the same sentence with the addition of "in his sight." Instead, however, of the διότι, found in that passage, many recent editors here give ὅτι, there being no more difference between διότι, and ὅτι, than between "because that" and "because." In both passages it looks as if the apostle meant to be understood as citing a locus probativus; and the addition of the words, "in his sight," in Romans indicates that the authoritative passage referred to is Psalm 143:2, which in the Septuagint reads, Ὀτι οὐ δικαιωθήσεται ἐνώπιόν σου πᾶς ζῶν. The clause, ἐξ ἔργων νόμου, added in both, is a comment of the apostle's own, founded as it should seem upon the case of the people of Israel, whom the psalmist manifestly included in his universal statement; those who had the Law yet lacked justification before God, every one; those even of them who more or less were doing its works. This verse, viewed as a statement of the individual experience of the two apostles Peter and Paul themselves, is verified with respect to the latter by the accounts given in the Acts of his conversion. With respect to St. Peter, its verification is supplied to the reflective student of the Gospels by his realizing the process of feeling through which that apostle's mind passed in the several situations thus indicated: "This day thou shalt deny me thrice;" "He went out and wept bitterly;" "Go and tell his disciples and Peter, he goeth before you into Galilee;" "The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon;" "Simon, son of John, lovest thou me?" "They worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy." Further, the highly animated language with which, in their writings, each of these apostles - St. Paul, for instance, in the Romans (5. and 8.) and Ephesians, and St. Peter in several passages of his First Epistle - portrays the peace and exulting joy which Christ's disciples experience through faith in him, is evidently drawn from their own mental history. And this happy experience of theirs was, most palpably, in no degree whatever derived from works of the Law, but solely from the grace of Christ As St. Peter had recently intimated at Jerusalem, their hearts, as truly as the hearts of their fellow-believers of the Gentiles, "God had cleansed" from the sense of guilt and pollutedness before him "by faith" (Acts 15:9). It is necessary here to be quite clear as to the nature of those "works of the Law" which the apostle has now in his view. This is determined by the preceding context. The works of the Law now in question were those, the observance of which characterized a man's "living as do the Jews" and their non-observance a man's "living as do the Gentiles." It was the disregard of these works on the part of the Gentile believers which the Jewish Christians, whom St. Peter would fain stand well with, considered as disqualifying them from free association with themselves. So, again, when St. Peter was "living as do the Gentiles," he was viewed as setting at nought, not the moral precepts of the Law, but its positive ceremonial precepts only. It is the making that distinction between believers living as do the Gentiles and believers living as do the Jews, which Peter and the brethren from James were in effect making, that the apostle here sets himself so sternly to reprobate. It is with this view that he here asserts the principle that through faith in Christ a man is made righteous, and that through faith in Christ only can he be, these works having nothing whatever to do with it. "You Cephas," he says, "and I were living as do the Jews; no unclean sinners of Gentiles were we! And both you and I have been made righteous. And how? Not through those works of the Law, but through believing in Christ Jesus. And these Gentile brethren, from whom you are now shrinking back as if they were not good enough for us to associate with, - they believe in Christ as truly as we do; they are therefore as truly righteous as we are. It is absurd for you to try to thrust upon them those works of the Law; by the works of the Law can neither they be made righteous nor yet we. So neither, on the other hand, by disregarding the works of the Law can either they or we be made sinners." This last position, that the neglect of the works of the Law does not disqualify a fellow-Christian for brotherly recognition, is plainly essential to his present argument. But this is true only of the neglect of the positive Levitical precepts of the Law; the neglect of its moral precepts does disqualify him (1 Corinthians 5:11). Does it not seem a just inference from this course of argument, that no man whom we have reason to believe to be justified by faith in Christ is to be refused either Christian association or Church fellowship? Justified (δικαιοῦται)

See on Romans 3:20, Romans 3:26. The meaning to declare or pronounce righteous cannot be consistently carried through Paul's writings in the interest of a theological fiction of imputed righteousness. See, for example, Romans 4:25; 1 Corinthians 6:11; and all passages where the word is used to describe justification by works of the law, as here, Galatians 3:11; Galatians 5:4. If one is a real righteousness, founded upon his conformity to the law. Why is the righteousness of faith any less a real righteousness?

By the works of the law (ἐξ ἔργων νόμου)

Lit. out of the works, etc. Comp. Romans 3:20. Works are characteristic of a legal dispensation. Paul often puts "works" alone as representing legal righteousness. See Romans 4:2, Romans 4:6; Romans 9:11, Romans 9:32; Romans 11:6; Ephesians 2:9.

But by faith (ἐὰν μὴ)

As the Greek stands, it would read, "Is not justified by the works of the law save through faith." So, unfortunately, Rev. This would mean, as the Romish interpreters, not through works of the law except they be done through faith in Christ, and would ascribe justification to works which grow out of faith. Paul means that justification is by faith alone. The use of ἐὰν μὴ is to be thus explained: A man is not justified by the works of the law: (he is not justified) except by faith in Jesus Christ. Ἑὰν μὴ retains its exceptive force, but the exception refers only to the verb. Comp. εἰ μὴ in Matthew 12:4; Luke 4:26, Luke 4:27; Galatians 1:19; Revelation 21:27.

Flesh (σάρξ)

See on Romans 7:5. For no flesh see on Romans 3:20.

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