Galatians 2:21 MEANING

Galatians 2:21
(21) In thus attaching himself devotedly to Christ, the Christian escapes the charge of refusing and thwarting the free gift of justification which God has offered to him in His Son. He has made his choice of Christ, and not of the Law. On the other hand, if he had chosen the Law, and gone to it, and not to Christ, in his search for righteousness, he would have practically declared the death of Christ to be a useless and unnecessary sacrifice.

Frustrate.--An exactly literal translation of the Greek word, which means "to render nugatory or ineffectual." The grace of God goes forth with a certain mission to perform; but the Judaising party, by still clinging to the Law, prevented it from taking effect, and made it "return void" unto its Giver.

If righteousness come by the law.--What all men seek is justification in the sight of God. This is given to the just or righteous. But there were two ways of becoming thus just or righteous. The Law professed to make righteous those who complied with its provisions. But this was only a profession, for no one could really keep the Law. The Christian, therefore, rightly falls back upon faith in Christ, which brings him both an imputed righteousness, and also, in part, at least, a real righteousness. A deep and genuine faith in Christ is allowed to atone for the many unavoidable breaches of the Law, and that faith by degrees operates a real and vital change in the character and life of the man.

Then Christ is dead in vain.--If the Law had been enough to give actual righteousness to its votaries, and with righteousness the judicial declaration of freedom from guilt, then there would have been nothing for Christ to die for. His death would have had no object and been of no benefit to mankind.

Verse 21. - I do not frustrate the grace of God (οὐκ ἀθετῶ τὴν χάριν τοῦ Θεοῦ); I do not reject the grace of God. As I should be doing, it; instead of resting with "glorified" (1 Peter 1:8) satisfaction in the fatherly love and complacency with which God regards me in Christ, I began to give anxious heed to what the Law prescribes touching things or persons clean or unclean, and to deem it possible and needful to secure acceptableness with God through works of ceremonial performance. If it were only for one single reason alone, I do not, I cannot, thus slight and set at nought the state of grace with all its attendant blessings into which God has in Christ Jesus brought me. The "grace of God" presents that entire notion of the kingdom of grace which the apostle sets forth, and on which he descants with such glowing animation, in the fifth chapter of his Epistle to the Romans. The term of itself stands in vivid contrast to that slavish, anxious, never assured working for acceptance, which characterized the Jewish legalist, and characterizes the legalist Christian as well. As the apostle does not write ἐγὼ οὐκ ἀθετῶ, which would mean, "I do not set aside, not I," he is not to be read as if just now emphasizing a personal contrast between himself, and either St. Peter or the Judaizers with whom St. Peter was then to outward appearance taking sides; he is at present simply winding up his recital of his remonstrance at Antioch with the one terse argument, with which he then justified his own position, and, as if with a sledge-hammer, at once demolished the position of the Judaizers. The verb ἀθετῶ means "reject," "turn from as from a thing unworthy of regard;" as in Mark 7:9, "Ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your tradition;" Luke 7:30, "The Pharisees and lawyers rejected for themselves the counsel of God;" 1 Thessalonians 4:8, "He that rejecteth [our testimony touching this], rejeeteth not man, but God;" Hebrews 10:28, "A man that hath set at nought Moses' Law;" in which last passage it indicates, but without itself fully describing, a more aggressive disobedience. The rendering "made void," adopted by the Revisers, in the sense of "disannul," is doubtless fully authenticated by Galatians 3:15; 1 Timothy 5:12; Hebrews 9:18. Since even an apostle could not "disannul" the "grace of God" viewed in itself, this sense of the word, if adopted, would, as well as the perhaps questionable rendering of our Authorized Version, "frustrate," apply to the previous work of Divine grace wrought upon the apostle's own soul. But the logical connection of the following clause is more easily shown by our reverting to the sense before given to the verb, which in the New Testament is the more usual one. For if righteousness come by the Law, then Christ is dead in vain (εἰ γὰρ διὰ νόμου δικαιοσύνη ἄρα Ξριστὸς δωρεὰν ἀπέθανεν); for if through the Law is righteousness, then did Christ for nought die. This one reason is decisive. The sole reason why the Son of God came into the world to suffer death was to do away our sins and make us righteous with God. But if sin can be purged by the purifications of the Law, and cleanness before God is procurable by Levitical ceremonies, then there was no need for this; then the Crucifixion, for this one end ordained and from the beginning of time prepared for by the Father, and fur this one end, of his own free choice gone forward to, brought about, and undergone by Christ himself, was a simply superfluous sacrifice. We might have been saved, nay, have perchance saved ourselves, without it. It is impossible to find in all Scripture a more decisive passage than this in proof both of the fact of, the atonement and of its supreme importance in the Christian system. This is emphatically Christ's great work. Compared with this, all besides is either subsidiary or derivative, Δωρεάν, (as a mere gift,) "for nought;" that is, without cause, there being no call or just occasion for it; thus, John 15:25, "They hated me without cause;" 1 Samuel 19:5, Septuagint, "Slay David without a cause;" Ezekiel 6:10, Septuagint, "I have not said in vain that I would do this evil unto them;" Ecclus. 29:6, "He hath got him an enemy without cause." The apostle adds nothing as to the effect of his remonstrance. It is impossible, however, to doubt that, so instinct as it was with the power of the Holy Spirit, it proved successful, not only in the healing of the mischief which had begun to show itself in the Antiochian Church, but also in its effect upon St. Peter. Nothing has transpired of any later intercourse between the two apostles. But the thorough honesty which in the main was one of St. Peter's great characteristics, notwithstanding the perplexed action in which from time to time he got involved, through the warmth of his sympathetic affections and his sometimes too hasty impulsiveness, would be sure to make him pre-eminently tractable to the voice of a true-speaking and holy friend; and, moreover, in the present instance, St. Paul was appealing to sentiments which he had himself recently proved at Jerusalem to be deeply operative in his own bosom. How deeply operative, is further evinced in his own two Epistles, written some eight or ten years later than this Epistle, and addressed also in part to the same Galatian Churches; in which he not only weaves into his language not a few expressions and turns of thought which have all the appearance of being borrowed from Epistles of St. Paul, but also in the second of them makes direct mention of those Epistles, speaking of them as standing on the footing of "the other Scriptures," and of their author as "our beloved brother Paul;" notwithstanding that one of those very writings contains the extremely plain-spoken account of that sad fall of his at Antioch. which we have here been considering. (On St. Paul's later relations with St. Barnabas, see above on ver. 13.) ADDITIONAL NOTE.

2:20,21 Here, in his own person, the apostle describes the spiritual or hidden life of a believer. The old man is crucified, Ro 6:6, but the new man is living; sin is mortified, and grace is quickened. He has the comforts and the triumphs of grace; yet that grace is not from himself, but from another. Believers see themselves living in a state of dependence on Christ. Hence it is, that though he lives in the flesh, yet he does not live after the flesh. Those who have true faith, live by that faith; and faith fastens upon Christ's giving himself for us. He loved me, and gave himself for me. As if the apostle said, The Lord saw me fleeing from him more and more. Such wickedness, error, and ignorance were in my will and understanding, that it was not possible for me to be ransomed by any other means than by such a price. Consider well this price. Here notice the false faith of many. And their profession is accordingly; they have the form of godliness without the power of it. They think they believe the articles of faith aright, but they are deceived. For to believe in Christ crucified, is not only to believe that he was crucified, but also to believe that I am crucified with him. And this is to know Christ crucified. Hence we learn what is the nature of grace. God's grace cannot stand with man's merit. Grace is no grace unless it is freely given every way. The more simply the believer relies on Christ for every thing, the more devotedly does he walk before Him in all his ordinances and commandments. Christ lives and reigns in him, and he lives here on earth by faith in the Son of God, which works by love, causes obedience, and changes into his holy image. Thus he neither abuses the grace of God, nor makes it in vain.I do not frustrate the grace of God,.... Or "cast it away", as the Vulgate Latin version reads it; or "deny it", as the Syriac and Arabic; or "despise, reject, and make it void", as other versions; meaning either the grace of the Son of God in giving himself for him, just mentioned by him; or the particular doctrine of grace, justification, he is speaking of, as proceeding from the grace of God, upon the foot of the righteousness of Christ; or the whole Gospel, all and each of which would be denied, despised, rejected, made null and void, be in vain, fallen and departed from, should justification be sought for by the works of the law: but this the apostle did not do, and therefore did not frustrate the grace of God: which to do would be to act the most ungenerous and ungrateful part to God, and Christ, and to that love and grace which are so largely displayed in the free justification of a sinner.

For if righteousness come by the law; if a justifying righteousness is to be attained unto by the works of the law, or men can be justified by their obedience to it,

then Christ is dead in vain; there was no necessity for his dying: he died without any true reason, or just cause; he died to bring in a righteousness which might have been brought in without his death, and so his blood and life might have been spared, his sufferings and death being entirely unnecessary; which to say is to cast contempt upon the wisdom, love, and grace of God in this matter, and to offer the greatest indignity to the person, character, sufferings, and death of Christ. Wherefore it may be strongly concluded, that there is no righteousness by the law of works, nor to be attained that way, otherwise Christ had never died; and that justification is solely and alone by his righteousness.

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