Galatians 2:11-21 and Waldenström’s Commentary

by Paul Peter Waldenström and translated by Tommy Carlson

11. Howevera, when Cephas had come to Antiockb, I placed myself against him openlyc because he was guiltyd.

a) Here the Apostle states a proof of the apostolic independence in which he appeared toward Cephas (Peter) himself. b) This is not talked about in Acts, but has in all probability taken place during the time that includes Acts 15:35. After meeting in Jerusalem, Paul and Barnabus travelled to Antiock where they stayed awhile. c)Verbatim: in the face (not with slander, backbiting) but openly. d) Guilty of a false (misleading) conduct. In the original text the word means actually condemned (damned). See 1 John 3:20, where the same word is written. If it is translated so, the meaning should be: while he of the believers in Antiock was sentenced as a criminal. About the word condemned in this meaning see Rom. 2:1; 8:34; Luke 6:37.

12. Because, before some had come from Jamesa, he ate together with the gentilesb, but after they had come he withdrew himself and isolated (secluded) himself being afraid of those (that were) for circumcisionc.

a) Sent to Antiock from James, the Lord's brother, the head of the Jerusalem parish. For what reasons James had sent them there is not mentioned. Antiock was at that time the place for the most important gentile Christian congregation, such as Jerusalem was the most important for the Jewish Christians, and this is perhaps to explain the lively contact between the two. b) The converted gentile, see, comments to Rom. 1:6. c) 11irough the recently described meeting of the apostles in Jerusalem it was decided that the converted gentiles should not be forced to follow (hold to) the law of Moses. On the other hand nothing was decided about the converted Jews. They observed as a rule, still the law and considered it binding (see comments on Acts 16:3). In that respect, the apostles and especially James set a good example for them.

In Antiock the Jewish Christians had nevertheless, at least for awhile, given the law of Moses, ate together with gentile Christians. To that Paul had naturally consented, convinced as he was, that not just the believing gentile but also the believing Jew was free from Moses' law. Now Peter comes there. He allowed himself the same freedom and there is so much more that the congregation in Antiock had accepted of the apostles' meeting's decisive instructions about forbidden food (see Acts 10:28; 11:3). But then came the messengers from James. They refused to eat together with the converted gentiles. Then Peter became afraid and withdrew himself, even he.

13. Even the other Jewsa were hypocriticalb towards him, so that even Barnabusc was drawn in by theird hypocrisy.

a)Although in their hearts they were convinced of the Christian freedom they behaved themselves nevertheless because of fear of m an, such as if they had an opposite view (opinion). They acted accordingly, against knowing better. In that respect existed their hypocrisy. b) The converted Jews in Antiock. c) Even including him, from whom one would least expect that, since he was my apostolic assistant. d) Peter and the others.

14. But when I had seen that they did not walk correctlya, even according to the Gospel truthb, I said to Cephas in the presence of allc, "If you, who is a Jew, lives according to Gentile and not Jewish waysd, for what reason do you thene compel the gentiles to live according to Jewish waysf?"

a) In the original text, the expression means really to go with straight (not crooked or sideways) feet. b) That truth which constitutes the gospel's content, namely that justification is by faith (belief) not works of the law. c) A false step that causes public inquiry should not be privately punished. d) That is to say, live such that you do not observe the Jewish law. When Peter ate with the gentiles, he placed himself in such a position as if he was by birth a gentile and had nothing to do with the Jewish law — when Paul says live, he describes Peter's act like it was in the present, although it was in the past Exactly the same mode of expression even we use, when for example, to one who has sinned we say: "If you do such, what shall others then do?" His act is thereby placed in the present. e) Through your own example. f) To subject self to Moses' law. That Peter withdrew from eating with the gentile Christians must have necessarily awakened the thought in them that it was necessary after all to keep the law of Moses, if they wanted to be perfect Christians, and therein lay a spiritual coercion.

15. Wea are by nature Jews and not sinners as gentilesb.

a) There is a strong emphasis on the word we: you and I and those like us. b) The Jews were by circumcision a holy people; to them belonged the covenant, the law, the promises, being God's children (Rom. 9:). That many among them were non-believers, that could not change this fact (Rom. 3:3). Gentiles, ho~ever, were without God, without hope, unknown to the promises of the covenant (Eph. 2:12). They were an unholy people. Hereby is not everything said, that the Jews were in truth righteous before God. The following verse proves the opposite.

16. However knowinga, that a person is not justified by works of the lawb but through belief on (faith in) Christ Jesus, have even we become believersc on Jesus Christ that we may become justified by belief on Christ and not the works of the law, because no flesh shall be justified works of the lawd.

Acts 13:38; Gal. 3:ll; Rom. 1:17; 3:20; 8:3; Ps. 143:2. a) Because we know. b) And that we consequently are not righteous before God because we are Jews. But the works of the law mean works, that the law describes, and that a person follows the threats and constraints of the law, to be righteous before God. About the differences between works of the law and good works see comments to Rom. 3:20. c) Abandon the law and become a believer. d) See Rom. 3:20 where the same word is used. Compare Rom. 2:23, 4:25.

17. But if we, searching to be justified in Christa having discovered even ourselves (as being) sinners, (is) then Christ a servant of sin? Away with that!b

a) That is to say, righteous by the way of being in Christ, which happens through faith (belief). b) Paul is saying: If we now by leaving the law and seeking our righteousness in Christ, not in actually having been made righteous but quite opposite, sinners, then Christ is the servant of sin, that is to say one who makes people sinners. Should we really think that? Away with that! To the words "servant of sin" see comments to 2 Cor. 3:6; compare also 2 Cor. 11:15; 3:6-9; 5:18.

18. Because if I again build up that which I have torn down I portray (present) myself as a transgressora.

a) And that is just what Peter had done. By eating with the converted gentiles he had torn down the Mosaic law, which did not allow such. When he then withdrew he built up again this same law and declared thereby, that he had been a transgressor when he tore it down. In that way he portrayed Christ as a servant of sin, since he through faith in him had not been made righteous, but quite opposite, a transgressor.

19. Because Ia have through the law diedb from the law, on that I shall live for Godc.

a) There is a strong emphasis on the word I; I for my part. Paul explains here what concerns his own person, how completely the law for him is tom down. This is in contrast to Peter's own tottering, who sometimes tore down, sometimes built up. b) The Mosaic law had worked in Paul so that he completely and totally abandoned himself, like he was dead from himself. This had happened in part that the law for him had shown its absolute inability to make righteous (Rom. 7:7) and although he, like other Jews, had not seen it before the "veil" was removed from his heart (2 Cor. 3:14). Certain biblical interpreters, among them Luther, understood the meaning this way: "I have through Christ's law (gospel) died from Moses' law." Here is an illustration: A Russian that becomes a Swedish citizen is thereby subject to Swedish law. At that moment he dies from the Russian because he had nothing more to do with it than if he were dead. The first interpretation appears nevertheless to be preferable. c) To be subject to the law and live for God are opposite things. To live for God is to live holy (see Rom. 6:11). But the law produces only sin, death and damnation (Rom. 5:20; 2 Cor. 3).

20. I am cruciJied together with Christa; I no longer liveb but Christ lives in me; but what I now live in the fleshc, that I now live in faithd in God's son, who has loved mee and given himself up for me.

a) Through the union with Christ Paul had died away from the law. This death he compares here, as in Rom. 6:6, with a crucifiction with Christ, because Christ's death came on a cross. One who is dead is at the same time free from all conditions under which he previously lived. The dead Jew has nothing more to do with Moses' law. Compare Rom. 7:6. And the Jew in Paul died through in Christ. b) Paul had with Christ stood up to new life. See comments to Rom. 6:6. About this death and this life see 2 Cor. 5:15; Rom. 6:11. And now he no longer lived but Christ lived in him, that is to say, Christ was the authority in his life. Christ's spirit lived in him (Rom. 8:9 f; Eph. 3:16 f), Christ's mind reigned in him (1 Cor. 2:16), Christ's power was at work in him (2 Cor. 12:9; Col. I:29) and so on. c) Since I came to faith (belief) the body lives. d) Faith in Christ was now the area in which his whole life revolved. And through his faith it was that Christ lived in him. e) See comment to Rom. 8:27. With the word "love" Paul refers to that manner of Christ's which consisted of his giving himself for his sins (Gal. 1:4, 2:20). So the word "love" is used very often to express not the love itself (as quality) but a conduct whereby love is prominent.

21. I do not consider God's grace as nothinga, because if righteousness is through the law, then Christ has without reason diedb.

a) Same words in Luke 7:30, 1 Cor. 1:19. When someone seeks righteousness through the law, he does not worry (or care) about God's grace, that is to say he acts as though grace was nothing. b) And then God's grace is invalidated. God has in his grace given out Christ in death was redundant. And then it is not grace that justiTies (makes one righteous). Grace and work cancel each other. See Rom. 11:6. Additional comments to verses 14-21. Paul's talk to Peter at the time in question includes all verses 14-21. What it did to Peter is not mentioned. Without doubt it had good consequences both for Peter's own standing and the relationship between Paul and Peter. On the other hand Paul would only have had to give the enemies weapons in hand by telling the whole story. Because nothing would be dearer to them than to show that between Paul and Peter existed a strained relationship.

Paul Peter Waldenström was a Swedish revival preacher, and served as editor of Pietisten from 1868-1917.

See all articles by Paul Peter Waldenström

Tommy Carlson remodels homes and is an editor of Pietisten.

See all articles by Tommy Carlson