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.
19. Here Paul seems to pass from his exact words to Peter, to the general purport of his argument on the question. However, his direct address to the Galatians seems not to be resumed till Ga 3:1, "O foolish Galatians," &c.
For—But I am not a "transgressor" by forsaking the law. "For," &c. Proving his indignant denial of the consequence that "Christ is the minister of sin" (Ga 2:17), and of the premises from which it would follow. Christ, so far from being the minister of sin and death, is the establisher of righteousness and life. I am entirely in Him [Bengel].
I—here emphatical. Paul himself, not Peter, as in the "I" (Ga 2:18).
through the law—which was my "schoolmaster to bring me to Christ" (Ga 3:24); both by its terrors (Ga 3:13; Ro 3:20) driving me to Christ, as the refuge from God's wrath against sin, and, when spiritually understood, teaching that itself is not permanent, but must give place to Christ, whom it prefigures as its scope and end (Ro 10:4); and drawing me to Him by its promises (in the prophecies which form part of the Old Testament law) of a better righteousness, and of God's law written in the heart (De 18:15-19; Jer 31:33; Ac 10:43).
am dead to the law—literally, "I died to the law," and so am dead to it, that is, am passed from under its power, in respect to non-justification or condemnation (Col 2:20; Ro 6:14; 7:4, 6); just as a woman, once married and bound to a husband, ceases to be so bound to him when death interposes, and may be lawfully married to another husband. So by believing union to Christ in His death, we, being considered dead with Him, are severed from the law's past power over us (compare Ga 6:14; 1Co 7:39; Ro 6:6-11; 1Pe 2:24).
live unto God—(Ro 6:11; 2Co 5:15; 1Pe 4:1, 2).