Then fourteen years after I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with me also.
Many, but One.
It would seem as if in the slow progress of some men's minds the last discovery that they make is that truth is many-sided; they have gone on year after year mistaking a statement of truth for the entire truth itself, until at last, perhaps in communion with some larger-hearted disciple of another faith, they have found the statement far too narrow for the larger conceptions which have happily dawned upon them. In the text we have—
I. The very first principle of Christian charity. The Gospel is the expression of God's endeavour to bring man to His own standpoint; and what is true of character must also be true of thought: the liberal-mindedness of a truly Christian man is not the indifference of one whose hold upon his own principles is so slight that it does not seem to him to matter what a man believes, but is rather the recognition of a great circle of truth in God's purpose, of which many differing statements may be simply segments, imperfectly seen. We constantly admit this principle even in the degrees of human knowledge. Truth has its dim and limited visions in dark places and the full blaze of its day and brightness, and the whole spirit of Christ's demand upon us is that not only shall we seek always to dwell in the fullest possible light which we can see, but, much more than that, we are to bear ourselves also with the reverence and the charity of men who believe that truth is greater and broader than any vision of ours can realise, and that the statement which to us appears a full light may to another, nearer to God, be miserably imperfect and insufficient.
II. With all the variety of service in the early Church, there was one thing in which the differing parties were absolutely at one: "They would that we should remember the poor, which very thing I also was zealous to do." The ministry to the needy was something concerning which there was no cause to dispute. The Apostles, on one side, are eager to make it a condition of service; the great Apostle, upon the other side, is even more eager to fulfil that condition. It is, I think, perfectly clear that the selfsame spirit which enabled them to take the broad catholic view of the Gospel which they preached would necessarily involve this desire to minister to the poor. In the history of men's thoughts of God we may almost compare the approach to Him to the approach to a fortified city. At the outer circle are the fortresses and defences: there are the polemics, the mere theologians, those whose chief activity is about the letter and theory of their religious faith. The next circle is the city itself: those who are chiefly concerned about God's government, whose chief speech is of law and order and justice. The next circle is the temple, the religious part of the city life: these are the devout, religious souls whose religion is yet something of a restraint. But beyond the temple is the home of the city's King, and there are the beginnings and the causes of all; whatever is there must determine all the rest. Christ's great Gospel is that there is love, and that for this love He came to fulfil God's great redeeming purpose, and it is essential that all who seek in any fashion to forward that purpose should date their inspiration from there.
W. H. Harwood, Christian World Pulpit, vol. 1., p. 379.
References: Galatians 2:9.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. ii., p. 248. Galatians 2:10.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. ii., No. 99; Ibid., Morning by Morning, p. 77. Galatians 2:11.—Archbishop Thomson, Church of England Pulpit, vol. vi., p. 1; S. Pearson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. iv., p. 42. Galatians 2:11-21.—W. M. Taylor, Paul the Missionary, p. 186. Galatians 2:16.—Homilist, 4th series, vol. i., p. 214.
Galatians 2:19I. St. Paul was dead to the law in two ways. First, he no longer sought in it the motive power which should enable him to bring forth fruit to God. It had itself cured him of this delusion. Henceforth he knew a more effectual motive, the love of Christ, that should constrain him to obedience, being in itself precept and power in one. And, secondly, he was loosed from the law, dead to it, in that he no longer sought to be accepted with God through, and on the ground of, his observance of it. For he had found, by a mournful experience, that it wrought not acceptance, but rejection, a terror of God, and not a confidence toward God; that by works of the law could no flesh be justified. While yet this dying to the law, as he goes on to say, was not a dying to all law. The law of the Spirit of life took the place of a dead, yet threatening, letter. He put one yoke off him, but in the act of this he put another on him. In fact, he only could get rid of one by assuming the other, even the yoke of Him whose yoke is easy, and whose burden is light. He died to the law; but he died to it that he might live unto God.
II. For us also it stands true that we are not under the law, but under grace; and we also should be able to say with Paul, "I through the law am dead to the law." Christ's Gospel is not a law at all, but rather a new power communicated to humanity; a new hiding of the heavenly leaven in the lump of our nature; the casting of fire upon earth, the new fire of a heavenly love and of the Holy Ghost, who is love, which should enkindle the cold hearts of men and burn up in them the dross which the law indeed could make them aware of, but which it could never burn out from them. It was the coming in of new spiritual forces into the world. It demanded more from man, but it also gave more; in fact, it demanded nothing which it had not first given. The law, when regarded apart from Christ, is like that fabled Medusa's head which froze those that looked at it into stone. But Christ thaws those frozen hearts again, causes the pulses to play and the genial life-blood to flow in them once more.
R. C. Trench, Westminster and Other Sermons, p. 177.
References: Galatians 2:19.—G. E. L. Cotton, Sermons to English Congregations in India, p. 145. Galatians 2:19, Galatians 2:20.—W. B. Pope, Sermons, p. 292; S. Pearson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. iv., p. 56.
Galatians 2:20From Centre to Circumference.
I. We have, first, the great central fact named last, but round which all the Christian life is gathered: "The Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." (1) Christ's death is a great act of self-surrender, of which the one motive is His own pure and perfect love. (2) That great act of self-surrendering love which culminates on the Cross is regarded as being for man in a special and peculiar sense. (3) We have here brought into vivid prominence the great thought that Jesus in His death has regard to single souls.
II. Note the faith which makes that fact the foundation of our own personal life. True faith is personal faith, which appropriates and, as it were, fences in as my very own the purpose and benefit of Christ's giving of Himself.
III. Note the life which is built upon this faith. The true Christian life is dual. It is a life in the flesh, and it is also a life in faith. It has its surface amidst the shifting mutabilities of earth, but its root in the silent eternities and the centre of all things, which is Christ in God.
A. Maclaren, The Unchanging Christ, p. 192.
I. St. Paul's words imply two chief elements in this new life, which thus by faith he lived in the Son of God. (1) One of these two points is love, for it was our Lord's love towards him that he here dwells upon. He had embraced the love of Christ towards himself, and love in his own soul towards his Lord was the result. It is to be observed that our Lord's individualising love is what he speaks of: "The Son of God, who loved me." This individuality gives intensity to love, causing it to be a personal, as distinguished from a mere general, love. (2) The second element of life on which St. Paul dwells in the text is the consciousness of mercy in being redeemed. This consciousness is intimately connected with love; but yet they are to be distinguished: "The Son of God, who gave Himself for me." This conviction embraced in his soul was the assurance of the forgiveness of his sins. St. Paul's words assume the fact of the Atonement in the sense of a substitution of Another sacrificed and accepted for himself.
II. The text, moreover, touches on one of the deep, practical questions of Christianity, namely, whether its aim be to make Christ and His example the standard and guide of our life or to establish us in the freedom and power of an illuminated reason, which supersedes the necessity of an appeal to our Lord's life as a standard. St. Paul's words prove that Christ was to him the living mould and pattern of his life in its most advanced stage.
III. We here see one reason of the difference between the righteous men of the old and those of the new covenant, a difference manifest to every one who reads even cursorily the book of God. There is in the great men of the New Testament a completeness, a consistency, a steadfastness, a maturity of formed character, which marks a different era.
IV. There are conditions of mind which must cooperate with the grace of God in order to attain any measure of such likeness to our Lord. There must be (1) a yielded will, (2) a contrite sense of the sinfulness which is past, with (3) a rejoicing thankfulness that the precious blood has touched it and cleansed it away.
T. T. Carter, Sermons, p. 386.
Galatians 2:20I. We may see in the principles involved in the text the chief characteristic note of sanctity. What forms the spirit is the ready compliance of the soul with the influences of the indwelling presence of God. He moves the springs of life, gives them their bent, endues them with power, and directs them to their appointed end. Saintliness always exhibits a likeness to Christ. As the streams of water that gush upward are identified with the spring from which they issue, even so there is a likeness in the saint to Christ, because it is Himself reproducing Himself in the individual forms of character of the separate persons in whom He dwells.
II. We may also here learn how there exists a perpetual power of revival in the Church's life, and by what means it may be quickened. The indwelling of Christ is the source of faith. Now there is a twofold presence on which the Church's life hangs. There is a presence common to the whole body, external to every individual member, which centres in the blessed Eucharist; and there is a presence which is personal, confined to each individual soul, and centred in its own hidden life, for it is not the presence of God simply as God which constitutes the life of the Church—this is the creed of nature—but the presence of God incarnate, of God in Christ, revealing Himself according to express covenant. As faith in this twofold presence rises or falls, so may we expect that the life of the Church and its members will rise or fall also. (1) It is manifestly so with regard to the Church. Is not each revival in the Church the very awakening of the Lord in the ship on the sea of Galilee, where He had slept for awhile, but where He had never ceased to be? And is it not reasonable to believe that as faith in that presence revives, and we cry unto Him in the prayer of such a faith, we have the surest hope of the revival of the Church's life? (2) Is it not the same in each individual's life? Must it not be the looking off from all secondary motives, all intervening objects, and looking direct on the Divine will that impels us forward, and by faith in Him who commands it going forth to fulfil it?
T. T. Carter, Sermons, p. 222.
References: Galatians 2:20.—C. Vince, Christian World Pulpit, vol. v., p. 56; G. E. L. Cotton, Sermons to English Congregations in India, p. 44; Preacher's Monthly, vol. ix., p. 306; Homilist, 2nd series, vol. iv., p. 380; R. Tuck, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xix., p. 261; H. W. Beecher, Ibid., vol. xxv., p. 276; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. i., p. 24,7; vol. ii., p. 249; Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xiii., No. 781; vol. xxvii., No. 1599; Ibid., Evening by Evening, p. 351; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. i., p. 28; vol. iii., p. 113; vol. iv., p. 87. Galatians 2:21.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxvi., No. 1534; Tyng, American Pulpit of the Day, p. 364; H. W. Beecher, Plymouth Pulpit Sermons, 4th series, p. 526; Ibid., 5th series, p. 57; Parker, City Temple, vol. III., p. 373; A. Jessopp, Norwich School Sermons, p. 183; S. Macnaughton, Real Religion and Real Life, p. 50; J. Vaughan, Sermons, 13th series, p. 13. Galatians 3:1.—A. Barry, Sermons for Passiontide and Easter, p. 21; J. Irons, Thursday Penny Pulpit, vol. ix., p. 177; T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. iv., p. 254; Preacher's Monthly, vol. ii., p. 248; Christian World Pulpit, vol. v., p. 182; Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxvi., No. 1546; Homilist, 3rd series, vol. iii., p. 287; Ibid., vol. ix., p. 61. Galatians 3:2.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxix., No. 1705. Galatians 3:2-24.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iii., p. 87. Galatians 3:3.—Ibid., vol. iv., No. 178.
And I went up by revelation, and communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to them which were of reputation, lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain.
But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised:
And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage:
To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.
But of these who seemed to be somewhat, (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man's person:) for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me:
But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter;
(For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:)
And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision.
Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do.
But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed.
For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision.
And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation.
But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?
We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles,
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.
But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid.
For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor.
For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God.
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.