Galatians 2:18
For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor.
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(18) But Christ is not a minister of sin. The thought is not to be tolerated. For, on the contrary, the sin is seen, not in leaving the Law for Christ, but in going back from Christ to the Law. The sin is seen doubly: for on one theory—the theory that the Law is valid—it was wrong to give it up; while on the other theory, that Christianity has taken its place, it is still more wrong to restore the fabric that has once been broken down.

For.—The connection is with the words immediately preceding: “God forbid that Christ should be the minister of sin.” The idea is absurd as well as profane. For, instead of the Pauline Christian (who follows Christianity to its logical results) being the sinner, it is really the Judaising Christian who stands self-condemned—i.e., in returning to what he has forsaken.

If I build again.—The first person is used out of delicate consideration for his opponents. The Apostle is going to put a supposed case, which really represents what they were doing; but in order to soften the directness of the reference he takes it, as it were, upon himself.

St. Paul is fond of metaphors taken from building. Comp. Romans 15:20 (building upon another man’s foundation), 1Corinthians 3:10-14 (Christ the foundation), Ephesians 2:20-22 (the Church built on the foundation of Apostles and prophets), and the words “edify” and “edification” wherever they occur. The idea of “pulling down” or “destroying” is also frequently met with. So in Romans 14:20 (“for meat destroy not the work of God,” the same word as here used, in opposition to “edify,” immediately before); 2Corinthians 5:1 (“if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved”—pulled down or destroyed); 2Corinthians 10:4 (“mighty to the pulling down of strongholds”)—a different word in the Greek, but similar in meaning.

We may compare with the whole verse the well-known saying, “Burn what you have adored, and adore what you have burned.”

The things which I destroyedi.e., the Mosaic law, the binding obligation of which had been done away in Christ.

Make myself.Show, or prove myself to be: the same word as that translated “commend” in Romans 3:5; Romans 5:8.

A transgressor.—Hitherto the Apostle had kept up a sort of studied ambiguity in his use of the words “sin,” “sinner.” The Jews called the Gentiles “sinners,” simply from the fact of their being Gentiles. The Pauline Christian placed himself on the same footing with the Gentiles, so far as the Law was concerned, and therefore he, too, in the same phraseology, was a sinner. But now the Apostle uses a word that could not be mistaken. A sinner the Christian might be, in the Judaising sense of the word, but the Judaiser himself was the real sinner: it was he who offended against the immutable principles of right and wrong.

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.For if I build again the things which I destroyed - Paul here uses the first person; but he evidently intends it as a general proposition, and means that if anyone does it he becomes a transgressor. The sense is, that if a man, having removed or destroyed that which was evil, again introduces it or establishes it, he does wrong, and is a transgressor of the Law of God. The particular application here, as it seems to me, is to the subject of circumcision and the other rites of the Mosaic law. They had been virtually abolished by the coming of the Redeemer, and by the doctrine of justification by faith. It had been seen that there was no necessity for their observance, and of that Peter and the others had been fully aware. Yet they were lending their influence again to establish them or to build them up again. They complied with them, and they insisted on the necessity of their observance. Their conduct, therefore, was that of building up again that which had once been destroyed, destroyed by the ministry, and toils, and death of the Lord Jesus, and by the fair influence of his gospel. To rebuild that again; to re-establish those customs, was wrong, and now involved the guilt of a transgression of the Law of God. Doddridge supposes that this is an address to the Galatians, and that the address to Peter closed at the previous verse. But it is impossible to determine this; and it seems to me more probable that this is all a part of the address to Peter; or rather perhaps to the assembly when Peter was present; see the note at Galatians 2:15. 18. Greek, "For if the things which I overthrew (by the faith of Christ), those very things I build up again (namely, legal righteousness, by subjecting myself to the law), I prove myself (literally, 'I commend myself') a transgressor." Instead of commending yourself as you sought to do (Ga 2:12, end), you merely commend yourself as a transgressor. The "I" is intended by Paul for Peter to take to himself, as it is his case, not Paul's own, that is described. A "transgressor" is another word for "sinner" (in Ga 2:17), for "sin is the transgression of the law." You, Peter, by now asserting the law to be obligatory, are proving yourself a "sinner," or "transgressor," in your having set it aside by living as the Gentiles, and with them. Thus you are debarred by transgression from justification by the law, and you debar yourself from justification by Christ, since in your theory He becomes a minister of sin. By the things which he destroyed, some understand the state of sin; and from hence conclude the mutability of a state of justification: but there is no need of that, it may as well be understood of a constant course and voluntary acts of sin. If I teach a doctrine that shall encourage a sinful life, or if I should live in a course of sin, these are the things which I, as a minister of Christ, have in my preaching and doctrine destroyed, teaching you, that not only the guilt of your sins was removed upon your justification by Christ, but the dominion of sin also destroyed: and they are things which justification destroyeth; God never saying to any soul: Thy sins are forgiven thee, without adding, sin no more. So as, if a justified state would admit of a going on in a settled course of sin, it would build what it destroyed.

I make myself a transgressor; now should I, or any one, do any such thing, we should thereby make ourselves great transgressors. So as the apostle’s argument here seemeth to be the same with that, Romans 6:2: How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? He strives at the same thing here, viz. to prove that the doctrine of justification by faith in Christ, could not give a liberty to any to sin, because it shows persons made partakers of that grace, that they are freed, not only from the guilt, but also from the power and dominion of sin, so as that none can from it receive any comfort as to the former, nor find the latter wrought in them.

For if I build again the things which I destroyed,.... Which must be understood not of good things, for formerly he destroyed the faith of the Gospel, at least as much as in him lay, and now he built it up, established, and defended it; in doing which he did no evil, or made himself a transgressor, but the reverse; he showed himself a faithful minister of Christ: but of things not lawful, such as the rites and ceremonies of the law of Moses, which were now abrogated, and he had declared to be so all over the Gentile world; and therefore should he go about to establish these things as necessary to salvation, or teach men to join the observance of them with Christ's righteousness for justification, then, says he,

I make myself a transgressor: for he could not be otherwise, be the case how it would with respect to the abrogation, or non-abrogation of the law; for if the law was not abolished, then he made himself a transgressor of it; by neglecting it himself, and teaching others to do so; and if it was abolished, then it must be criminal in him to enforce the observance of it as necessary to a sinner's justification before God. Now though the apostle transfers this to himself, and spoke in his own person to decline all invidious reflections and characters; yet he tacitly regards Peter, and his conduct, who had been taught by the vision the abrogation of the ceremonial law, and acted accordingly by conversing and eating with the Gentiles, and had declared that law to be an insupportable yoke of bondage, which the Gentiles were not obliged to come under; and yet now, by his practice and example, built up and established those very things he had before destroyed, and therefore could not exculpate himself, from being a transgressor: or these things may regard sins and immoralities in life and conversation; and the apostle's sense be, that should he, or any other, take encouragement to sin from the doctrine of free justification by the righteousness of Christ, as if he was the author and minister of sin, and allowed persons in it; this would be to establish sin, which the righteousness of Christ justifies from, and engage in a living in sin, to which, by Christ's righteousness, they are dead unto; than which, nothing can be, a greater contradiction, and which must unavoidably make them not only transgressors of the law, by sinning against it, but apostates, as the word here used signifies, from the Gospel; such must act quite contrary to the nature, use, and design of the Gospel in general, and this doctrine in particular, which teaches men to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and that being dead to sin, they should live unto righteousness.

For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor.
Galatians 2:18. Ground assigned for the μὴ γένοιτο: No! Christ is not a minister of sin; for—and such is the result, Peter, of the course of conduct censured in thee—if I again build up that which I have pulled down, I show myself as transgressor; so that Christ thus by no means appears, according to the state of the case supposed in Galatians 2:17, as the promoter of sin, but the reproach—and that a reproach of transgression—falls upon myself alone, as I exhibit myself by my own action.

Remark the emphasis—energetically exposing the great personal guilt—which is laid first on παραβάτην (in contrast to ἁμαρτίας διάκονος), then on ἐμαυτόν (in contrast to Χριστός), and jointly on the juxtaposition of the two words.

In the building up of that which had been pulled down Paul depicts the behaviour of Peter, in so far as the latter previously, and even still in Antioch (Galatians 2:12), had pronounced the Mosaic law not to be obligatory in respect of justification on the Christian who has his righteousness in Christ and not in the law, and had thus pulled it down as a building thenceforth useless, but subsequently by his Judaizing behaviour again represented the law as obligatory for righteousness, and thus, as it were, built up anew the house which had been pulled down.[103] Paul is fond of the figure of building and pulling down. See Romans 15:20; 1 Corinthians 8:1; 1 Corinthians 10:23; Ephesians 2:20 f.; Romans 14:20; 2 Corinthians 5:1, et al. Comp. Talmud, Berach. 63. 1, in Wetstein: “jam aedificasti, an destruis? jam sepem fecisti, an perrumpes?”

The first person veils that, which had happened with Peter in concreto, under the milder form of a general proposition, the subject of which (= one, any one) is individualized by I (comp. Romans 7:7).

ταῦτα] with emphasis: this, not anything else or more complete in its place.

παραβάτην] not sinner generally, as Wieseler, according to his interpretation of the whole passage, is forced to explain it (see on Galatians 2:17), but transgressor of the law (Romans 4:15; Romans 2:25); so that, in conformity with the significance of the figure used, νόμου is obviously supplied from the context (Galatians 2:16; Galatians 2:19),—and that as the Mosaic law, not as the νόμος τῆς πίστεως, the gospel (Koppe, Matthies). But how far does he, who reasserts the validity of that law which he had previously as respects justification declared invalid, present himself as a transgressor of the same? Not in so far as he proves that he had wrongly declared it invalid and abandoned it (Ambrosius, Oecumenius, Erasmus, Vorstius, Baumgarten, Zachariae, Rosenmüller, Borger, Usteri, de Wette, Hilgenfeld, Ewald), or as he has in the pulling down sinned against that which is to him right, as Hofmann interprets it,[104] but, as Galatians 2:19 shows, because the law itself has brought about the freedom of the Christian from the law, in order that he may live to God; consequently he that builds it up again acts in opposition to the law, and thus stands forth as transgressor, namely, of the law in its real sense, which cannot desire, but on the contrary rejects, the re-exchanging of the new righteousness for the old. Comp. Romans 3:31. See the fuller statement at Galatians 2:19. Comp. Chrysostom and Theophylact (αὐτὸς γὰρὁ νόμοςμε ὡδήγησε πρὸς τὴν πίστιν καὶ ἔπεισεν ἀφεῖναι αὐτόν). Bengel, moreover, well says: “Vocabulum horribile, legis studiosioribus.” The word is purposely chosen, and stands in a climactic relation to ἁμαρτωλοί (Galatians 2:17),—the category which includes also the Gentiles without law.

ΣΥΝΙΣΤΆΝΩ] I show. See Wetstein and Fritzsche, ad Rom. iii. 5; Munthe, Obss. p. 358; Loesner, p. 248. But Schott explains it as commendo, laudo (2 Corinthians 3:1; 2 Corinthians 5:12; 2 Corinthians 10:12), making it convey an ironical reference to the Judaists, who had boasted of their Judaizing behaviour. This idea is not in any way indicated;[105] and the ironical reference must have rather pointed at Peter, who, however, had not made a boast of his Judaizing, but had consented to it in a timid and conniving fashion. Hence Bengel’s explanation is more subtle: “Petrus voluit commendare se Galatians 2:12 fin.; ejus commendationis tristem Paulus fructum hic mimesi ostendit.” But according to the connection, as exhibited above, between Galatians 2:18 and Galatians 2:17, the idea of commendation is so entirely foreign to the passage, that, in fact, ἐμαυτὸν συνιστάνω expresses essentially nothing more than the idea of εὑρέθημεν in Galatians 2:17; bringing into prominence, however, the self-presentation, the self-proof, which the person concerned practically furnishes in his own case: he establishes himself as a transgressor.

[103] Comp. Holsten, z. Evang. d. Paul. u. Petr. p. 283.

[104] The application to be made of the general proposition is said to be this: “Whosoever desires and seeks to become righteous in Christ would not do so, unless he recognised the matter in which he sinned as a breach of the law, which he has again to make good, and that which he does to make it good is self-confession as a transgressor.” This forced perversion should have been precluded by the very consideration that καταλύειν in reference to the law cannot be understood in the sense of breaking it, like λύειν τὸ σάββατον, John 5:18 (comp. John 7:26), but only in the sense of Matthew 5:17, according to which, of course, the building up again is no making good again. Comp. on καταλύειν τοὺς νόμους, Polyb. iii. 8. 2.

[105] Schott should not have appealed to the form συνιστάνω. Both forms have the same signification. Hesychius: συνιστάνειν, ἐπαινεῖν, φανεροῦν, βεβαιοῦν, παρατιθέναι. Only the form συνιστάνω is less frequent and later, Polyb. iv. 5, 6, xxviii. 17. 6, xxxii. 15. 8; 2 Corinthians 3:1; 2 Corinthians 5:12.

Galatians 2:18. “If, indeed, I do reestablish the authority of the Law over Christian life, it becomes true that Christ did lead me to transgression.” So argues the Apostle as he turns to his own life for an illustration of the incompatibility of allegiance to Christ with the continued supremacy of the Law.

18. The edifice which St Paul had pulled down was not, as some suppose, the Levitical law of meats, or the Mosaic ceremonial law, in themselves considered. It was not, as a rule of life, but as a ground of justification, that he utterly repudiated and swept them away.

I make myself] Rather, I prove, I conclude myself to be; nearly = I convict myself.

a transgressor] nearly equivalent to ‘sinner’ above, which had primary reference to the Gentiles. Sin is the transgression or violation of the law. If I am now trying to build up again the system of justification by legal obedience, I by that very attempt convict myself of having been a transgressor, when instead of obeying the law, I sought to destroy its obligation.

Galatians 2:18. Κατέλυσα, I destroyed) By the faith of Christ.—πάλιν οἰκοδομῶ, I build again) by subjection to the law.—παραβάτην) a prevaricator,[15] a transgressor of the law, while I seem to observe it, [retracting, as it were, my former change (abandonment) of Judaism.—V. g.] The word (παραβάτης) was dreadful in the eyes of those who were more zealous for the law. [This was, to wit, to transgress the law of faith.—V. g.]—συνίστημι, I commend) Peter had wished to commend himself, Galatians 2:12, at the end; Paul shows by this mimesis,[16] the sad fruit of that commendation.

[15] Prævaricator, a shuffler, one guilty of collusion, a sham-defender, as Peter here seeming to be a maintainer of the law, though being a transgressor against it.—ED.

[16] Imitation of the word characterising Peter’s aim, viz. to commend himself.—ED.

Verse 18. - For if I build again the things which I destroyed (εἰ γὰρ α} κατέλυσα ταῦτα πάλιν οἰκοδομῶ); for if I am building up again the things which I pulled down. I make myself a transgressor (παραβάτην ἐμαυτὸν συνίστημι [or, συνιστάνω another form of the same verb]); a transgressor is what I am showing my own self to be. I must be wrong one way or the other; if I am right now, was wrong then; and from the very nature of the case now in hand, wrong exceedingly; no less than an absolute transgressor. This word "transgressor" denotes, not one who merely happens to break, perchance inadverdently, some precept of the Law, but one who, perhaps in consequence of even one act of wilful transgression, is to be regarded as trampling upon the authority of the Law altogether (comp. Romans 2:25, 27; James 2:9, 11, which are the only places of the New Testament in which the word occurs; it is therefore a full equivalent to the word "sinner" of ver. 17). The Greek verb συνιστάνω, "to put forward in a clear light," is used similarly in 2 Corinthians 6:4; 2 Corinthians 7:11. It is much debated, and is certainly nowise clear, how far down in the chapter the rebuke addressed to St. Peter extends. If it does not reach to the end of the chapter, as some think it does, the break may be very well placed at the end of this verse. For this verse clearly relates to St. Peter, whether actually addressed to him or not; notwithstanding that the verbs are in the hypothetical first person singular, they cannot be taken as referred to St. Paul, not being at all applicable to his case. On the other hand, with the nineteenth verse the first person is plainly used by St. Paul with reference to his own self, which is indeed marked by the emphatic ἐγὼ with which it opens. Galatians 2:18I build again the things which I destroyed (ἃ κατέλυσα ταῦτα πάλιν οἰκοδομῶ)

Peter, by his Christian profession, had asserted that justification was by faith alone; and by his eating with Gentiles had declared that the Mosaic law was no longer binding upon him. He had thus, figuratively, destroyed or pulled down the Jewish law as a standard of Christian faith and conduct. By his subsequent refusal to eat with Gentiles he had retracted this declaration, had asserted that the Jewish law was still binding upon Christians, and had thus built again what he had pulled down. Building and pulling down are favorite figures with Paul. See Romans 14:20; Romans 15:20; 1 Corinthians 8:1, 1 Corinthians 8:10; 1 Corinthians 10:23; 1 Corinthians 14:17; Ephesians 2:20 f. For καταλύειν destroy, see on Romans 14:20; see on 2 Corinthians 5:1.

I make myself (ἐμαυτὸν συνιστάνω)

Better, prove myself. The verb originally means to put together: thence to put one person in contact with another by way of introducing him and bespeaking for him confidence and approval. To commend, as Romans 16:1; comp. Romans 5:8; 2 Corinthians 3:1; 2 Corinthians 4:2; 2 Corinthians 5:12. As proof, or exhibition of the true state of a case is furnished by putting things together, the word comes to mean demonstrate, exhibit the fact, as here, Romans 3:5; 2 Corinthians 6:11.

A transgressor (παραβάτην)

See on James 2:11, and see on παράβασις transgression, Romans 2:23. In reasserting the validity of the law for justification, which he had denied by seeking justification by faith in Christ, he proves himself a transgressor in that denial, that pulling down.

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