Theology WebSite's
    Electronic Texts

Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians (1535)
by Martin Luther
Translated by Theodore Graebner

                                 CHAPTER 2

  VERSE 1. Then fourteen years after I went up again to Jerusalem.

Paul taught justification by faith in Christ Jesus, without the deeds of the
Law. He reported this to the disciples at Antioch. Among the disciples were
some that had been brought up in the ancient customs of the Jews. These rose
against Paul in quick indignation, accusing him of propagating a gospel of

Great dissension followed. Paul and Barnabas stood up for the truth. They
testified: "Wherever we preached to the Gentiles, the Holy Ghost came upon
those who received the Word. This happened everywhere. We preached not
circumcision, we did not require observance of the Law. We preached faith in
Jesus Christ. At our preaching of faith, God gave to the hearers the Holy
Ghost." From this fact Paul and Barnabas inferred that the Holy Ghost approved
the faith of the Gentiles without the Law and circumcision. If the faith of the
Gentiles had not pleased the Holy Ghost, He would not have manifested His
presence in the uncircumcised hearers of the Word.

Unconvinced, the Jews fiercely opposed Paul, asserting that the Law ought to
be kept and that the Gentiles ought to be circumcised, or else they could not
be saved.

When we consider the obstinacy with which Romanists cling to their traditions,
we can very well understand the zealous devotion of the Jews for the Law.
After all, they had received the Law from God. We can understand how
impossible it was for recent converts from Judaism suddenly to break with the
Law. For that matter, God did bear with them, as He bore with the infirmity of
Israel when the people halted between two religions. Was not God patient with
us also while we were blindfolded by the papacy? God is longsuffering and full
of mercy. But we dare not abuse the patience of the Lord. We dare no longer
continue in error now that the truth has been revealed in the Gospel.
The opponents of Paul had his own example to prefer against him. Paul had
circumcised Timothy. Paul defended his action on the ground that he had
circumcised Timothy, not from compulsion, but from Christian love, lest the
weak in faith should be offended. His opponents would not accept Paul's

When Paul saw that the quarrel was getting out of hand he obeyed the
direction of God and left for Jerusalem, there to confer with the other
apostles. He did this not for his own sake, but for the sake of the people.

  VERSE 1. With Barnabas, and took Titus with me also.

Paul chose two witnesses, Barnabas and Titus. Barnabas had been Paul's
preaching companion to the Gentiles. Barnabas was an eye-witness of the fact
that the Holy Ghost had come upon the Gentiles in response to the simple
preaching of faith in Jesus Christ. Barnabas stuck to Paul on this point, that
it was not necessary for the Gentiles to be bothered with the Law as long as
they believed in Christ.

Titus was superintendent of the churches in Crete, having been placed in
charge of the churches by Paul. Titus was a former Gentile.

  VERSE 2. And I went up by revelation.

If God had not ordered Paul to Jerusalem, Paul would never have gone there.

  VERSE 2. And communicated unto them that gospel.

After an absence of fourteen years, respectively eighteen years, Paul returned
to Jerusalem to confer with the other apostles.

  VERSE 2. Which I preach among the Gentiles.

Among the Jews Paul allowed Law and circumcision to stand for the time being.
So did all the apostles. Nevertheless Paul held fast to the liberty of the
Gospel. On one occasion he said to the Jews: "Through this man (Christ) is
preached unto you forgiveness of sins; and by him all that believe are
justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of
Moses." (Acts 13:39.) Always remembering the weak, Paul did not insist that
they break at once with the Law.

Paul admits that he conferred with the apostles concerning his Gospel. But he
denies that the conference benefited or taught him anything. The fact is he
resisted those who wanted to force the practice of the Law upon the Gentiles.
They did not overcome him, he overcame them. "Your false apostles lie, when
they say that I circumcised Timothy, shaved my head in Cenchrea, and went up
to Jerusalem, at the request of the apostles. I went to Jerusalem at the
request of God. What is more, I won the indorsement of the apostles. My
opponents lost out."

The matter upon which the apostles deliberated in conference was this: Is the
observance of the Law requisite unto justification? Paul answered: "I have
preached faith in Christ to the Gentiles, and not the Law. If the Jews want to
keep the Law and be circumcised, very well, as long as they do so from a right

  VERSE 2. But privately to them which were of reputation.

This is to say, "I conferred not only with the brethren, but with the leaders
among them."

  VERSE 2. Lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain.

Not that Paul himself ever thought he had run in vain. However, many did think
that Paul had preached the Gospel in vain, because he kept the Gentiles free
from the yoke of the Law. The opinion that obedience to the Law was mandatory
unto salvation was gaining ground. Paul meant to remedy this evil. By this
conference he hoped to establish the identity of his Gospel with that of the
other apostles, to stop the talk of his opponents that he had been running
around in vain.

  VERSE 3. But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was
  compelled to be circumcised.

The word "compelled" acquaints us with the outcome of the conference. It was
resolved that the Gentiles should not be compelled to be circumcised.

Paul did not condemn circumcision in itself. Neither by word nor deed did he
ever inveigh against circumcision. But he did protest against circumcision
being made a condition for salvation. He cited the case of the Fathers. "The
fathers were not justified by circumcision. It was to them a sign and seal of
righteousness. They looked upon circumcision as a confession of their faith."

The believing Jews, however, could not get it through their heads that
circumcision was not necessary for salvation. They were encouraged in their
wrong attitude by the false apostles. The result was that the people were up in
arms against Paul and his doctrine.

Paul did not condemn circumcision as if it were a sin to receive it. But he
insisted, and the conference upheld him, that circumcision had no bearing upon
salvation and was therefore not to be forced upon the Gentiles. The conference
agreed that the Jews should be permitted to keep their ancient customs for
the time being, so long as they did not regard those customs as conveying God's
justification of the sinner.

The false apostles were dissatisfied with the verdict of the conference. They
did not want to rest circumcision and the practice of the Law in Christian
liberty. They insisted that circumcision was obligatory unto salvation.

As the opponents of Paul, so our own adversaries [Luther's, the enemies of the
Reformation] contend that the traditions of the Fathers dare not be neglected
without loss of salvation. Our opponents will not agree with us on anything.
They defend their blasphemies. They go as far to enforce them with the sword.

Paul's victory was complete. Titus, who was with Paul, was not compelled to
be circumcised, although he stood in the midst of the apostles when this
question of circumcision was debated. This was a blow to the false apostles.
With the living fact that Titus was not compelled to be circumcised Paul was
able to squelch his adversaries.

  VERSES 4,5. 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.

Paul here explains his motive for going up to Jerusalem. He did not go to
Jerusalem to be instructed or confirmed in his Gospel by the other apostles.
He went to Jerusalem in order to preserve the true Gospel for the Galatian
churches and for all the churches of the Gentiles.

When Paul speaks of the truth of the Gospel he implies by contrast a false
gospel. The false apostles also had a gospel, but it was an untrue gospel.
"In holding out against them," says Paul, "I conserved the truth of the pure

Now the true Gospel has it that we are justified by faith alone, without the
deeds of the Law. The false gospel has it that we are justified by faith, but
not without the deeds of the Law. The false apostles preached a conditional

So do the papists. They admit that faith is the foundation of salvation. But
they add the conditional clause that faith can save only when it is furnished
with good works. This is wrong. The true Gospel declares that good works are
the embellishment of faith, but that faith itself is the gift and work of God
in our hearts. Faith is able to justify, because it apprehends Christ, the

Human reason can think only in terms of the Law. It mumbles: "This I have
done, this I have not done." But faith looks to Jesus Christ, the Son of God,
given into death for the sins of the whole world. To turn one's eyes away
from Jesus means to turn them to the Law.

True faith lays hold of Christ and leans on Him alone. Our opponents cannot
understand this. In their blindness they cast away the precious pearl,
Christ, and hang onto their stubborn works. They have no idea what faith is.
How can they teach faith to others?

Not satisfied with teaching an untrue gospel, the false apostles tried to
entangle Paul. "They went about," says Paul, "to spy out our liberty which we
have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage."

When Paul saw through their scheme, he attacked the false apostles. He says,
"We did not let go of the liberty which we have in Christ Jesus. We routed
them by the judgment of the apostles, and we would not give in to them, no,
not an inch."

We too were willing to make all kinds of concessions to the papists. Yes, we
are willing to offer them more than we should. But we will not give up the
liberty of conscience which we have in Christ Jesus. We refuse to have our
conscience bound by any work or law, so that by doing this or that we should
be righteous, or leaving this or that undone we should be damned.

Since our opponents will not let it stand that only faith in Christ
justifies, we will not yield to them. On the question of justification we
must remain adamant, or else we shall lose the truth of the Gospel. It is a
matter of life and death. It involves the death of the Son of God, who died
for the sins of the world. If we surrender faith in Christ, as the only thing
that can justify us, the death and resurrection of Jesus are without meaning;
that Christ is the Savior of the world would be a myth. God would be a liar,
because He would not have fulfilled His promises. Our stubbornness is right,
because we want to preserve the liberty which we have in Christ. Only by
preserving our liberty shall we be able to retain the truth of the Gospel

Some will object that the Law is divine and holy. Let it be divine and holy.
The Law has no right to tell me that I must be justified by it. The Law has
the right to tell me that I should love God and my neighbor, that I should
live in chastity, temperance, patience, etc. The Law has no right to tell me
how I may be delivered from sin, death, and hell. It is the Gospel's business
to tell me that. I must listen to the Gospel. It tells me, not what I must
do, but what Jesus Christ, the Son of God, has done for me.

To conclude, Paul refused to circumcise Titus for the reason that the false
apostles wanted to compel him to circumcise Titus. Paul refused to accede to
their demands. If they had asked it on the plea of brotherly love, Paul would
not have denied them. But because they demanded it on the ground that it was
necessary for salvation, Paul defied them, and prevailed. Titus was not

  VERSE 6. But of those who seemed to be somewhat, whatsoever they
  were, it maketh no matter to me.

This is a good point in Paul's refutation. Paul disparages the authority and
dignity of the true apostles. He says of them, "Which seemed to be somewhat."
The authority of the apostles was indeed great in all the churches. Paul did
not want to detract from their authority, but he had to speak disparagingly
of their authority in order to conserve the truth of the Gospel, and the
liberty of conscience.

The false apostles used this argument against Paul: "The apostles lived with
Christ for three years. They heard His sermons. They witnessed His miracles.
They themselves preached and performed miracles while Christ was on earth.
Paul never saw Jesus in the flesh. Now, whom ought you to believe: Paul, who
stands alone, a mere disciple of the apostles, one of the last and least; or
will you believe those grand apostles who were sent and confirmed by Christ
Himself long before Paul?"

What could Paul say to that? He answered: "What they say has no bearing on
the argument. If the apostles were angels from heaven, that would not impress
me. We are not now discussing the excellency of the apostles. We are talking
about the Word of God now, and the truth of the Gospel. That Gospel is more
excellent than all apostles.

  VERSE 6. God accepteth no man's person.

Paul is quoting Moses: "Thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor
honor the person of the mighty." (Lev. 19:15) This quotation from Moses ought
to shut the mouths of the false apostles. "Don't you know that God is no
respecter of persons?" cries Paul. The dignity or authority of men means
nothing to God. The fact is that God often rejects just such who stand in the
odor of sanctity and in the aura of importance. In doing so God seems unjust
and harsh. But men need deterring examples. For it is a vice with us to
esteem personality more highly than the Word of God. God wants us to exalt
His Word and not men.

There must be people in high office, of course. But we are not to deify them.
The governor, the mayor, the preacher, the teacher, the scholar, father,
mother, are persons whom we are to love and revere, but not to the extent
that we forget God. Least we attach too much importance to the person, God
leaves with important persons offenses and sins, sometimes astounding
shortcomings, to show us that there is a lot of difference between any person
and God. David was a good king. But when the people began to think too well
of him, down he fell into horrible sins, adultery and murder. Peter,
excellent apostle that he was, denied Christ. Such examples of which the
Scriptures are full, ought to warn us not to repose our trust in men. In the
papacy appearance counts for everything. Indeed, the whole papacy amounts to
nothing more than a mere kowtowing of persons and outward mummery. But God
alone is to be feared and honored.

I would honor the Pope, I would love his person, if he would leave my
conscience alone, and not compel me to sin against God. But the Pope wants to
be adored himself, and that cannot be done without offending God. Since we
must choose between one or the other, let us choose God. The truth is we are
commissioned by God to resist the Pope, for it is written, "We ought to obey
God rather than men." (Acts 5:29)

We have seen how Paul refutes the argument of the false apostles concerning
the authority of the apostles. In order that the truth of the Gospel may
continue; in order that the Word of God and the righteousness of faith may be
kept pure and undefiled, let the apostles, let an angel from heaven, let
Peter, let Paul, let them all perish.

  VERSE 6. For they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added
  nothing to me.

The Apostle repeats: "I did not so confer with the apostles that they taught
me anything. What could they possibly teach me since Christ by His revelation
had taught me all things? It was but a conference, and no disputation. I
learned nothing, neither did I defend my cause. I only stated what I had
done, that I had preached to the Gentiles faith in Christ, without the Law,
and that in response to my preaching the Holy Ghost came down upon the
Gentiles. When the apostles heard this, they were glad that I had taught the

If Paul would not give in to the false apostles, much less ought we to give
in to our opponents. I know that a Christian should be humble, but against
the Pope I am going to be proud and say to him: "You, Pope, I will not have
you for my boss, for I am sure that my doctrine is divine." Such pride
against the Pope is imperative, for if we are not stout and proud we shall
never succeed in defending the article of the righteousness of faith.

If the Pope would concede that God alone by His grace through Christ
justifies sinners, we would carry him in our arms, we would kiss his feet.
But since we cannot obtain this concession, we will give in to nobody, not to
all the angels in heaven, not to Peter, not to Paul, not to a hundred
emperors, not to a thousand popes, not to the whole world. If in this matter
we were to humble ourselves, they would take from us the God who created us,
and Jesus Christ who has redeemed us by His blood. Let this be our
resolution, that we will suffer the loss of all things, the loss of our good
name, of life itself, but the Gospel and our faith in Jesus Christ--we will
not stand for it that anybody take them from us.

  VERSES 7, 8. 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

Here the Apostle claims for himself the same authority which the false
apostles attributed to the true apostles. Paul simply inverts their argument.
"to bolster their evil cause," says he, "the false apostles quote the
authority of the great apostles against me. I can quote the same authority
against them, for the apostles are on my side. They gave me the right hand of
fellowship. They approved my ministry. O my Galatians, do not believe the
counterfeit apostles!"

What does Paul mean by saying that the gospel of the uncircumcision was
committed unto him, and that of the circumcision to Peter? Did not Paul
preach to the Jews, while Peter preached to the Gentiles also? Peter
converted the Centurion. Paul's custom was to enter into the synagogues of
the Jews, there to preach the Gospel. Why then should he call himself the
apostle of the Gentiles, while he calls Peter the apostle of the

Paul refers to the fact that the other apostles remained in Jerusalem until
the destruction of the city became imminent. But Paul was especially called
the apostle of the Gentiles. Even before the destruction of Jerusalem Jews
dwelt here and there in the cities of the Gentiles. Coming to a city, Paul
customarily entered the synagogues of the Jews and first brought to them as
the children of the kingdom, the glad tidings that the promises made unto the
fathers were fulfilled in Jesus Christ. When the Jews refused to hear these
glad tidings, Paul turned to the Gentiles. He was the apostle of the Gentiles
in a special sense, as Peter was the apostle of the Jews.

Paul reiterates that Peter, James, and John, the accepted pillars of the
Church, taught him nothing, nor did they commit unto him the office of
preaching the Gospel unto the Gentiles. Both the knowledge of the Gospel and
the commandment to preach it to the Gentiles, Paul received directly from
God. His case was parallel to that of Peter's, who was particularly
commissioned to preach the Gospel to the Jews.

The apostles had the same charge, the identical Gospel. Peter did not
proclaim a different Gospel, nor had he appointed his fellow apostles. They
were equals. They were all taught of God. None was greater than the other,
none could point to prerogatives above the other. To justify his usurped
primacy in the Church the Pope claims that Peter was the chief of the
apostles. This is an impudent falsehood.

  VERSE 8. For he that wrought effectually in Peter.

With these words Paul refutes another argument of the false apostles. "What
reason have the false apostles to boast that the Gospel of Peter was mighty,
that he converted many, that he wrought great miracles, and that his very
shadow healed the sick? These reports are true enough. But where did Peter
acquire this power? God gave him the power. I have the same power. I received
my power, not from Peter, but from the same God, the same Spirit who was
mighty in Peter was mighty in me also." Luke corroborates Paul's statement in
the words: "And God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul, so that
from his body were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, and the
diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them." (Acts
19:11, 12.)

To conclude, Paul is not going to be inferior to the rest of the apostles.
Some secular writers put Paul's boasting down as carnal pride. But Paul had
no personal interest in his boasting. It was with him a matter of faith and
doctrine. The controversy was not about the glory of Paul, but the glory of
God, the Word of God, the true worship of God, true religion, and the
righteousness of faith.

  VERSE 9. 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.

"The fact is, when the apostles heard that I had received the charge to
preach the Gospel to the Gentiles from Christ; when they heard that God had
wrought many miracles through me; that great numbers of the Gentiles had come
to the knowledge of Christ through my ministry; when they heard that the
Gentiles had received the Holy Ghost without Law and circumcision, by the
simple preaching of faith; when they heard all this they glorified God for
His grace in me." Hence, Paul was justified in concluding that the apostles
were for him, and not against him.

  VERSE 9. The right hands of fellowship.

As if the apostles had said to him: "We, Paul, do agree with you in all
things. We are companions in doctrine. We have the same Gospel with this
difference, that to you is committed the Gospel for the uncircumcised, while
the Gospel for the circumcision is committed unto us. But this difference
ought not to hinder our friendship, since we preach one and the same Gospel."

  VERSE 10. Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same
  which I also was forward to do.

Next to the preaching of the Gospel, a true and faithful pastor will take
care of the poor. Where the Church is, there must be the poor, for the world
and the devil persecute the Church and impoverish many faithful Christians.

Speaking of money, nobody wants to contribute nowadays to the maintenance of
the ministry, and the erection of schools. When it comes to establishing
false worship and idolatry, no cost is spared. True religion is ever in need
of money, while false religions are backed by wealth.

  VERSE 11. But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the
  face, because he was to be blamed.

Paul goes on in his refutation of the false apostles by saying that in
Antioch he withstood Peter in the presence of the whole congregation. As he
stated before, Paul had no small matter in hand, but the chief article of the
Christian religion. When this article is endangered, we must not hesitate to
resist Peter, or an angel from heaven. Paul paid no regard to the dignity and
position of Peter, when he saw this article in danger. It is written: "He
that loveth father or mother or his own life, more than me, is not worthy of
me." (Matt. 10:37.)

For defending the truth in our day, we are called proud and obstinate
hypocrites. We are not ashamed of these titles. The cause we are called to
defend, is not Peter's cause, or the cause of our parents, or that of the
government, or that of the world, but the cause of God. In defense of that
cause we must be firm and unyielding.

When he says, "to his face," Paul accuses the false apostles of slandering
him behind his back. In his presence they dared not to open their mouths. He
tells them, "I did not speak evil of Peter behind his back, but I withstood
him frankly and openly."

Others may debate here whether an apostle might sin. I claim that we ought
not to make Peter out as faultless. Prophets have erred. Nathan told David
that he should go ahead and build the Temple of the Lord. But his prophecy
was afterwards corrected by the Lord. The apostles erred in thinking of the
Kingdom of Christ as a worldly state. Peter had heard the command of Christ,
"Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature." But if
it had not been for the heavenly vision and the special command of Christ,
Peter would never have gone to the home of Cornelius. Peter also erred in
this matter of circumcision. If Paul had not publicly censured him, all the
believing Gentiles would have been compelled to receive circumcision and
accept the Jewish law. We are not to attribute perfection to any man.

Luke reports "that the contention between Paul and Barnabas was so sharp that
they departed asunder one from the other." The cause of their disagreement
could hardly have been small since it separated these two, who had been
joined together for years in a holy partnership. Such incidents are recorded
for our consolation. After all, it is a comfort to know that even saints
might and do sin.

Samson, David, and many other excellent men, fell into grievous sins. Job and
Jeremiah cursed the day of their birth. Elijah and Jonah became weary of life
and prayed for death. Such offenses on the part of the saints, the Scriptures
record for the comfort of those who are near despair. No person has ever sunk
so low that he cannot rise again. On the other hand, no man's standing is so
secure that he may not fall. If Peter fell, I may fall. If he rose again, I
may rise again. We have the same gifts that they had, the same Christ, the
same baptism and the same Gospel, the same forgiveness of sins. They needed
these saving ordinances just as much as we do.

  VERSE 12. For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the

The Gentiles who had been converted to faith in Christ, ate meats forbidden
by the Law. Peter, visiting some of these Gentiles, ate meat and drank wine
with them, although he knew that these things were forbidden in the Law. Paul
declared that he did likewise, that he became as a Jew to the Jews, and to
them that were without law, as without law. He ate and drank with the
Gentiles unconcerned about the Jewish Law. When he was with the Jews,
however, he abstained from all things forbidden in the Law, for he labored to
serve all men, that he "might by all means save some." Paul does not reprove
Peter for transgressing the Law, but for disguising his attitude to the Law.

  VERSE 12. But when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself,
  fearing them which were of the circumcision.

Paul does not accuse Peter of malice or ignorance, but of lack of principle,
in that he abstained from meats, because he feared the Jews that came from
James. Peter's weak attitude endangered the principle of Christian liberty.
It is the deduction rather than the fact which Paul reproves. To eat and to
drink, or not to eat and drink, is immaterial. But to make the deduction "If
you eat, you sin; if you abstain you are righteous"--this is wrong.

Meats may be refused for two reasons. First, they may be refused for the sake
of Christian love. There is no danger connected with a refusal of meats for
the sake of charity. To bear with the infirmity of a brother is a good thing.
Paul himself taught and exemplified such thoughtfulness. Secondly, meats may
be refused in the mistaken hope of thereby obtaining righteousness. When this
is the purpose of abstaining from meats, we say, let charity go. To refrain
from meats for this latter reason amounts to a denial of Christ. If we must
lose one or the other, let us lose a friend and brother, rather than God, our

Jerome, who understood not this passage, nor the whole epistle for that
matter, excuses Peter's action on the ground "that it was done in ignorance."
But Peter offended by giving the impression that he was indorsing the Law. By
his example he encouraged Gentiles and Jews to forsake the truth of the
Gospel. If Paul had not reproved him, there would have been a sliding back of
Christians into the Jewish religion, and a return to the burdens of the Law.

It is surprising that Peter, excellent apostle that he was, should have been
guilty of such vacillation. In a former council at Jerusalem he practically
stood alone in defense of the truth that salvation is by faith, without the
Law. Peter at that time valiantly defended the liberty of the Gospel. But now
by abstaining from meats forbidden in the Law, he went against his better
judgment. You have no idea what danger there is in customs and ceremonies.
They so easily tend to error in works.

  VERSE 13. And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch
  that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation.

It is marvelous how God preserved the Church by one single person. Paul alone
stood up for the truth, for Barnabas, his companion, was lost to him, and
Peter was against him. Sometimes one lone person can do more in a conference
than the whole assembly.

I mention this to urge all to learn how properly to differentiate between the
Law and the Gospel, in order to avoid dissembling. When it come to the
article of justification we must not yield, if we want to retain the truth of
the Gospel.

When the conscience is disturbed, do not seek advice from reason or from the
Law, but rest your conscience in the grace of God and in His Word, and
proceed as if you had never heard of the Law. The Law has its place and its
own good time. While Moses was in the mountain where he talked with God face
to face, he had no law, he made no law, he administered no law. But when he
came down from the mountain, he was a lawgiver. The conscience must be kept
above the Law, the body under the Law.

Paul reproved Peter for no trifle, but for the chief article of Christian
doctrine, which Peter's hypocrisy had endangered. For Barnabas and other Jews
followed Peter's example. It is surprising that such good men as Peter,
Barnabas, and others should fall into unexpected error, especially in a
matter which they knew so well. To trust in our own strength, our own
goodness, our own wisdom, is a perilous thing. Let us search the Scriptures
with humility, praying that we may never lose the light of the Gospel. "Lord,
increase our faith."

  VERSE 14. But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to
  the truth of the gospel.

No one except Paul had his eyes open. Consequently it was his duty to
reprove Peter and his followers for swerving from the truth of the Gospel. It
was no easy task for Paul to reprimand Peter. To the honor of Peter it must
be said that he took the correction. No doubt, he freely acknowledged his

The person who can rightly divide Law and Gospel has reason to thank God. He
is a true theologian. I must confess that in times of temptation I do not
always know how to do it. To divide Law and Gospel means to place the
Gospel in heaven, and to keep the Law on earth; to call the righteousness of
the Gospel heavenly, and the righteousness of the Law earthly; to put as much
difference between the righteousness of the Gospel and that of the Law, as
there is difference between day and night. If it is a question of faith or
conscience, ignore the Law entirely. If it is a question of works, then lift
high the lantern of works and the righteousness of the Law. If your
conscience is oppressed with a sense of sin, talk to your conscience. Say:
"You are now groveling in the dirt. You are now a laboring ass. Go ahead, and
carry your burden. But why don't you mount up to heaven? There the Law
cannot follow you!" Leave the ass burdened with laws behind in the valley.
But your conscience, let it ascend with Isaac into the mountain.

In civil life obedience to the law is severely required. In civil life Gospel,
conscience, grace, remission of sins, Christ Himself, do not count, but only
Moses with the lawbooks. If we bear in mind this distinction, neither Gospel
nor Law shall trespass upon each other. The moment Law and sin cross into
heaven, i.e., your conscience, kick them out. On the other hand, when grace
wanders unto the earth, i.e., into the body, tell grace: "You have no business
to be around the dreg and dung of this bodily life. You belong in heaven."

By his compromising attitude Peter confused the separation of Law and
Gospel. Paul had to do something about it. He reproved Peter, not to
embarrass him, but to conserve the difference between the Gospel which
justifies in heaven, and the Law which justifies on earth.

The right separation between Law and Gospel is very important to know.
Christian doctrine is impossible without it. Let all who love and fear God,
diligently learn the difference, not only in theory but also in practice.

When your conscience gets into trouble, say to yourself: "There is a time to
die, and a time to live; a time to learn the Law, and a time to unlearn the
Law; a time to hear the Gospel, and a time to ignore the Gospel. Let the Law
now depart, and let the Gospel enter, for now is the right time to hear the
Gospel, and not the Law." However, when the conflict of conscience is over
and external duties must be performed, close your ears to the Gospel, and
open them wide to the Law.

  VERSE 14. 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

To live as a Jew is nothing bad. To eat or not to eat pork, what difference
does it make? But to play the Jew, and for conscience' sake to abstain from
certain meats, is a denial of Christ. When Paul saw that Peter's attitude
tended to this, he withstood Peter and said to him: "You know that the
observance of the Iaw is not needed unto righteousness. You know that we are
justified by faith in Christ. You know that we may eat all kinds of meats. Yet
by your example you obligate the Gentiles to forsake Christ, and to return to
the Law. You give them reason to think that faith is not sufficient unto

Peter did not say so, but his example said quite plainly that the observance
of the Law must be added to faith in Christ, if men are to be saved. From
Peter's example the Gentiles could not help but draw the conclusion that the
Law was necessary unto salvation. If this error had been permitted to pass
unchallenged, Christ would have lost out altogether.

The controversy involved the preservation of pure doctrine. In such a
controversy Paul did not mind if anybody took offense.

  VERSE 15. We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles.

"When we Jews compare ourselves with the Gentiles, we look pretty good.
We have the Law, we have good works. Our rectitude dates from our birth,
because the Jewish religion is natural to us. But all this does not make us
righteous before God."
Peter and the others lived up to the requirements of the Law. They had
circumcision, the covenant, the promises, the apostleship. But because of
these advantages they were not to think themselves righteous before God.
None of these prerogatives spell faith in Christ, which alone can justify a
person. We do not mean to imply that the Law is bad. We do not condemn the
Law, circumcision, etc., for their failure to justify us. Paul spoke
disparagingly of these ordinances, because the false apostles asserted that
mankind is saved by them without faith. Paul could not let this assertion
stand, for without faith all things are deadly.

  VERSE 16. Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law,
  but by the faith of Jesus Christ.

For the sake of argument let us suppose that you could fulfill the Law in the
spirit of the first commandment of God: "Thou shalt love the Lord, thy God,
with all thy heart." It would do you no good. A person simply is not justified
by the works of the Law.

The works of the Law, according to Paul, include the whole Law, judicial,
ceremonial, moral. Now, if the performance of the moral law cannot justify,
how can circumcision justify, when circumcision is part of the ceremonial

The demands of the Law may be fulfilled before and after justification.
There were many excellent men among the pagans of old, men who never
heard of justification. They lived moral lives. But that fact did not justify
them. Peter, Paul, all Christians, live up to the Law. But that fact does not
justify them. "For I know nothing by myself," says Paul, "yet am I not hereby
justified." (I Cor. 4:4.)

The nefarious opinion of the papists, which attributes the merit of grace and
the remission of sins to works, must here be emphatically rejected. The
papists say that a good work performed before grace has been obtained, is
able to secure grace for a person, because it is no more than right that God
should reward a good deed. When grace has already been obtained, any good
work deserves everlasting life as a due payment and reward for merit. For
the first, God is no debtor, they say; but because God is good and just, it is no
more than right (they say) that He should reward a good work by granting
grace for the service. But when grace has already been obtained, they
continue, God is in the position of a debtor, and is in duty bound to reward a
good work with the gift of eternal life. This is the wicked teaching of the

Now, if I could perform any work acceptable to God and deserving of grace,
and once having obtained grace my good works would continue to earn for me
the right and reward of eternal life, why should I stand in need of the grace
of God and the suffering and death of Christ? Christ would be of no benefit to
me. Christ's mercy would be of no use to me.

This shows how little insight the pope and the whole of his religious coterie
have into spiritual matters, and how little they concern themselves with the
spiritual health of their forlorn flocks. They cannot believe that the flesh is
unable to think, speak, or do anything except against God. If they could see
evil rooted in the nature of man, they would never entertain such silly
dreams about man's merit or worthiness.

With Paul we absolutely deny the possibility of self merit. God never yet
gave to any person grace and everlasting life as a reward for merit. The
opinions of the papists are the intellectual pipe-dreams of idle pates, that
serve no other purpose but to draw men away from the true worship of God.
The papacy is founded upon hallucinations.

The true way of salvation is this. First, a person must realize that he is a
sinner, the kind of a sinner who is congenitally unable to do any good thing.
"Whatsoever is not of faith, is sin." Those who seek to earn the grace of God
by their own efforts are trying to please God with sins. They mock God, and
provoke His anger. The first step on the way to salvation is to repent.

The second part is this. God sent His only-begotten Son into the world that
we may live through His merit. He was crucified and killed for us. By
sacrificing His Son for us God revealed Himself to us as a merciful Father
who donates remission of sins, righteousness, and life everlasting for
Christ's sake. God hands out His gifts freely unto all men. That is the praise
and glory of His mercy.

The scholastics explain the way of salvation in this manner. When a person
happens to perform a good deed, God accepts it and as a reward for the good
deed God pours charity into that person. They call it "charity infused." This
charity is supposed to remain in the heart. They get wild when they are told
that this quality of the heart cannot justify a person.

They also claim that we are able to love God by our own natural strength, to
love God above all things, at least to the extent that we deserve grace. And,
say the scholastics, because God is not satisfied with a literal performance
of the Law, but expects us to fulfill the Law according to the mind of the
Lawgiver, therefore we must obtain from above a quality above nature, a
quality which they call "formal righteousness."

We say, faith apprehends Jesus Christ. Christian faith is not an inactive
quality in the heart. If it is true faith it will surely take Christ for its
object. Christ, apprehended by faith and dwelling in the heart, constitutes
Christian righteousness, for which God gives eternal life.

In contrast to the doting dreams of the scholastics, we teach this: First a
person must learn to know himself from the Law. With the prophet he will
then confess: "All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." And,
"there is none that doeth good, no, not one." And, "against thee, thee only,
have I sinned."

Having been humbled by the Law, and having been brought to a right estimate
of himself, a man will repent. He finds out that he is so depraved, that no
strength, no works, no merits of his own will ever deliver him from his guilt.
He will then understand the meaning of Paul's words: "I am sold under sin";
and "they are all under sin."

At this state a person begins to lament: "Who is going to help me?" In due
time comes the Word of the Gospel, and says: "Son, thy sins are forgiven thee.
Believe in Jesus Christ who was crucified for your sins. Remember, your sins
have been imposed upon Christ."

In this way are we delivered from sin. In this way are we justified and made
heirs of everlasting life.

In order to have faith you must paint a true portrait of Christ. The
scholastics caricature Christ into a judge and tormentor. But Christ is no law
giver. He is the Lifegiver. He is the Forgiver of sins. You must believe that
Christ might have atoned for the sins of the world with one single drop of His
blood. Instead, He shed His blood abundantly in order that He might give
abundant satisfaction for our sins.

Here let me say, that these three things, faith, Christ, and imputation of
righteousness, are to be joined together. Faith takes hold of Christ. God
accounts this faith for righteousness.

This imputation of righteousness we need very much, because we are far
from perfect. As long as we have this body, sin will dwell in our flesh. Then,
too, we sometimes drive away the Holy Spirit; we fall into sin, like Peter,
David, and other holy men. Nevertheless we may always take recourse to this
fact, "that our sins are covered," and that "God will not lay them to our
charge." Sin is not held against us for Christ's sake. Where Christ and faith
are lacking, there is no remission or covering of sins, but only condemnation.

After we have taught faith in Christ, we teach good works. "Since you have
found Christ by faith," we say, "begin now to work and do well. Love God and
your neighbor. Call upon God, give thanks unto Him, praise Him, confess Him.
These are good works. Let them flow from a cheerful heart, because you have
remission of sin in Christ."

When crosses and afflictions come our way, we bear them patiently. "For
Christ's yoke is easy, and His burden is light." When sin has been pardoned,
and the conscience has been eased of its dreadful load, a Christian can endure
all things in Christ.

To give a short definition of a Christian: A Christian is not somebody chalks
sin, because of his faith in Christ. This doctrine brings comfort to
consciences in serious trouble. When a person is a Christian he is above law
and sin. When the Law accuses him, and sin wants to drive the wits out of
him, a Christian looks to Christ. A Christian is free. He has no master except
Christ. A Christian is greater than the whole world.

  VERSE 16. Even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be

The true way of becoming a Christian is to be justified by faith in Jesus
Christ, and not by the works of the Law.

We know that we must also teach good works, but they must be taught in
their proper turn, when the discussion is concerning works and not the
article of justification.

Here the question arises by what means are we justified? We answer with
Paul, "By faith only in Christ are we pronounced righteous, and not by works."
Not that we reject good works. Far from it. But we will not allow ourselves
to be removed from the anchorage of our salvation.

The Law is a good thing. But when the discussion is about justification, then
is no time to drag in the Law. When we discuss justification we ought to
speak of Christ and the benefits He has brought us.

Christ is no sheriff. He is "the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the
world." (John 1:29.)

  VERSE 16. That we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by
  the works of the Law.

We do not mean to say that the Law is bad. Only it is not able to justify us.
To be at peace with God, we have need of a far better mediator than Moses or
the Law. We must know that we are nothing. We must understand that we are
merely beneficiaries and recipients of the treasures of Christ.

So far, the words of Paul were addressed to Peter. Now Paul turns to the
Galatians and makes this summary statement:

  VERSE 16. For by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.

By the term "flesh" Paul does not understand manifest vices. Such sins he
usually calls by their proper names, as adultery, fornication, etc. By "flesh"
Paul understands what Jesus meant in the third chapter of John, "That which
is born of the flesh is flesh". (John 3:6.) "Flesh" here means the whole nature
of man, inclusive of reason and instincts. "This flesh," says Paul, "is not
justified by the works of the law."

The papists do not believe this. They say, "A person who performs this good
deed or that, deserves the forgiveness of his sins. A person who joins this or
that holy order, has the promise of everlasting life."

To me it is a miracle that the Church, so long surrounded by vicious sects,
has been able to survive at all. God must have been able to call a few who in
their failure to discover any good in themselves to cite against the wrath and
judgment of God, simply took to the suffering and death of Christ, and were
saved by this simple faith.

Nevertheless God has punished the contempt of the Gospel and of Christ on
the part of the papists, by turning them over to a reprobatestate of mind in
which they reject the Gospel, and receive with gusto the abominable rules,
ordinances, and traditions of men in preference to the Word of God, until they
went so far as to forbid marriage. God punished them justly, because they
blasphemed the only Son of God.

This is, then, our general conclusion: "By the works of the law shall no flesh
be justified."

  VERSE 17. But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves
  also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God

Either we are not justified by Christ, or we are not justified by the Law. The
fact is, we are justified by Christ. Hence, we are not justified by the Law.
If we observe the Law in order to be justified, or after having been justified
by Christ, we think we must further be justified by the Law, we convert
Christ into a legislator and a minister of sin.

"What are these false apostles doing?" Paul cries. "They are turning Law
into grace, and grace into Law. They are changing Moses into Christ, and
Christ into Moses. By teaching that besides Christ and His righteousness
the performance of the Law is necessary unto salvation, they put the Law
in the place of Christ, they attribute to the Law the power to save, a power
that belongs to Christ only."

The papists quote the words of Christ: "If thou wilt enter into life, keep the
commandments." (Matt. 19:17.) With His own words they deny Christ and
abolish faith in Him. Christ is made to lose His good name, His office, and
His glory, and is demoted to the status of a law enforcer, reproving,
terrifying, and chasing poor sinners around.

The proper office of Christ is to raise the sinner, and extricate him from
his sins.

Papists and Anabaptists deride us because we so earnestly require faith.
"Faith," they say, "makes men reckless." What do these law-workers know
about faith, when they are so busy calling people back from baptism, from
faith, from the promises of Christ to the Law?

With their doctrine these lying sects of perdition deface the benefits of
Christ to this day. They rob Christ of His glory as the Justifier of mankind
and cast Him into the role of a minister of sin. They are like the false
apostles. There is not a single one among them who knows the difference
between law and grace.

We can tell the difference. We do not here and now argue whether we
ought to do good works, or whether the Law is any good, or whether the
Law ought to be kept at all. We will discuss these questions some other
time. We are now concerned with justification. Our opponents refuse to
make this distinction. All they can do is to bellow that good works ought
to be done. We know that. We know that good works ought to be done,
but we will talk about that when the proper time comes. Now we are
dealing with justification, and here good works should not be so much as

Paul's argument has often comforted me. He argues: "If we who have
been justified by Christ are counted unrighteous, why seek justification in
Christ at all? If we are justified by the Law, tell me, what has Christ
achieved by His death, by His preaching, by His victory over sin and death?
Either we are justified by Christ, or we are made worse sinners by Him."

The Sacred Scriptures, particularly those of the New Testament, make
frequent mention of faith in Christ. "Whosoever believeth in him is
saved, shall not perish, shall have everlasting life, is not judged," etc. In
open contradiction to the Scriptures, our opponents misquote, "He that
believeth in Christ is condemned, because he has faith without works."
Our opponents turn everything topsy-turvy. They make Christ over into a
murderer, and Moses into a savior. Is not this horrible blasphemy?

  VERSE 17. Is therefore Christ the minister of sin?

This is Hebrew phraseology, also used by Paul in II Corinthians, chapter 3.
There Paul speaks of two ministers: The minister of the letter, and the
minister of the spirit; the minister of the Law, and the minister of grace;
the minister of death, and the minister of life. "Moses," says Paul, "is the
minister of the Law, of sin, wrath, death, and condemnation."

Whoever teaches that good works are indispensable unto salvation, that
to gain heaven a person must suffer afflictions and follow the example of
Christ and of the saints, is a minister of the Law, of sin, wrath, and of
death, for the conscience knows how impossible it is for a person to fulfill
the Law. Why, the Law makes trouble even for those who have the Holy
Spirit. What will not the Law do in the case of the wicked who do not
even have the Holy Spirit?

The Law requires perfect obedience. It condemns all do not accomplish the
will of God. But show me a person who is able to render perfect obedience.
The Law cannot justify. It can only condemn according to the passage:
"Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in
the book of the law to do them."

Paul has good reason for calling the minister of the Law the minister of
sin, for the Law reveals our sinfulness. The realization of sin in turn
frightens the heart and drives it to despair. Therefore all exponents of the
Law and of works deserve to be called tyrants and oppressors.

The purpose of the Law is to reveal sin. That this is the purpose of the
Law can be seen from the account of the giving of the Law as reported in
the nineteenth and twentieth chapters of Exodus. Moses brought the
people out of their tents to have God speak to them personally from a
cloud. But the people trembled with fear, fled, and standing aloof they
begged Moses: "Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God
speak with us, lest we die." The proper office of the Law is to lead us out
of our tents, in other words, out of the security of our self-trust, into the
presence of God, that we may perceive His anger at our sinfulness.

All who say that faith alone in Christ does not justify a person, convert
Christ into a minister of sin, a teacher of the Law, and a cruel tyrant who
requires the impossible. All merit-seekers take Christ for a new lawgiver.

In conclusion, if the Law is the minister of sin, it is at the same time the
minister of wrath and death. As the Law reveals sin it fills a person with
the fear of death and condemnation. Eventually the conscience wakes up
to the fact that God is angry. If God is angry with you, He will destroy and
condemn you forever. Unable to stand the thought of the wrath and
judgment of God, many a person commits suicide.

  VERSE 17. God forbid.

Christ is not the minister of sin, but the Dispenser of righteousness and
the Giver of life. Christ is Lord over law, sin and death. All who believe in
Him are delivered from law, sin and death.

The Law drives us away from God, but Christ reconciles God unto us, for
"He is the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sins of the world." Now if
the sin of the world is taken away, it is taken away from me. If sin is taken
away, the wrath of God and His condemnation are also taken away. Let us
practice this blessed conviction.

  VERSE 18. For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make
  myself a transgressor.

"I have not preached to the end that I build again the things which I
destroyed. If I should do so, I would not only be laboring in vain, but I
would make myself guilty of a great wrong. By the ministry of the Gospel
I have destroyed sin, heaviness of heart, wrath, and death. I have
abolished the Law, so that it should not bother your conscience any more.
Should I now once again establish the Law, and set up the rule of Moses?
This is exactly what I should be doing, if I would urge circumcision and
the performance of the Law as necessary unto salvation. Instead of
righteousness and life, I would restore sin and death."

By the grace of God we know that we are justified through faith in Christ
alone. We do not mingle law and grace, faith and works. We keep them
far apart. Let every true Christian mark the distinction between law and
grace, and mark it well.

We must not drag good works into the article of justification as the monks
do who maintain that not only good works, but also the punishment
which evildoers suffer for their wicked deeds, deserve everlasting life.
When a criminal is brought to the place of execution, the monks try to
comfort him in this manner: "You want to die willingly and patiently,
and then you will merit remission of your sins and eternal life." What
cruelty is this, that a wretched thief, murderer, robber should be so
miserably misguided in his extreme distress, that at the very point of
death he should be denied the sweet promises of Christ, and directed to
hope for pardon of his sins in the willingness and patience with which he
is about to suffer death for his crimes? The monks are showing him the
paved way to hell.

These hypocrites do not know the first thing about grace, the Gospel, or
Christ. They retain the appearance and the name of the Gospel and of
Christ for a decoy only. In their confessional writings faith or the merit of
Christ are never mentioned. In their writings they play up the merits of
man, as can readily be seen from the following form of absolution used
among the monks.

  "God forgive thee, brother. The merit of the passion of our Lord Jesus
  Christ, and of the blessed Saint Mary, always a virgin, and of all the
  saints; the merit of thy order, the strictness of thy religion, the
  humility of thy profession, the contrition of thy heart, the good works
  thou hast done and shalt do for the love of our Lord Jesus Christ, be
  available unto thee for the remission of thy sins, the increase of thy
  worth and grace, and the reward of everlasting life. Amen."

True, the merit of Christ is mentioned in this formula of absolution. But if
you look closer you will notice that Christ's merit is belittled, while
monkish merits are aggrandized. They confess Christ with their lips, and
at the same time deny His power to save. I myself was at one time
entangled in this error. I thought Christ was a judge and had to be pacified
by a strict adherence to the rules of my order. But now I give thanks unto
God, the Father of all mercies, who has called me out of darkness into the
light of His glorious Gospel, and has granted unto me the saving
knowledge of Christ Jesus, my Lord.

We conclude with Paul, that we are justified by faith in Christ, without the
Law. Once a person has been justified by Christ, he will not be
unproductive of good, but as a good tree he will bring forth good fruit. A
believer has the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit will not permit a person
to remain idle, but will put him to work and stir him up to the love of
God, to patient suffering in affliction, to prayer, thanksgiving, to the habit
of charity towards all men.

  VERSE 19. For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live
  unto God.

This cheering form of speech is frequently met with in the Scriptures,
particularly in the writings of St. Paul, when the Law is set against the
Law, and sin is made to oppose sin, and death is arrayed against death, and
hell is turned loose against hell, as in the following quotations: "Thou
hast led captivity captive," Psalm 68:18. "O death, I will be thy plagues; O
grave, I will be thy destruction," Hosea 13:14. "And for sin, condemned sin
in the flesh," Romans 8:3.

Here Paul plays the Law against the Law, as if to say: "The Law of Moses
condemns me; but I have another law, the law of grace and liberty which
condemns the accusing Law of Moses."

On first sight Paul seems to be advancing a strange and ugly heresy. He
says, "I am dead to the law, that I might live unto God." The false apostles
said the very opposite. They said, "If you do not live to the law, you are
dead unto God."

The doctrine of our opponents is similar to that of the false apostles in
Paul's day. Our opponents teach, "If you want to live unto God, you must
live after the Law, for it is written, Do this and thou shalt live." Paul, on
the other hand, teaches, "We cannot live unto God unless we are dead
unto the Law." If we are dead unto the Law, the Law can have no power
over us.

Paul does not only refer to the Ceremonial Law, but to the whole Law. We
are not to think that the Law is wiped out. It stays. It continues to operate
in the wicked. But a Christian is dead to the Law. For example, Christ by
His resurrection became free from the grave, and yet the grave remains.
Peter was delivered from prison, yet the prison remains. The Law is
abolished as far as I am concerned, when it has driven me into the arms of
Christ. Yet the Law continues to exist and to function. But it no longer
exists for me.

"I have nothing to do with the Law," cries Paul. He could not have uttered
anything more devastating to the prestige of the Law. He declares that he
does not care for the Law, that he does not intend ever to be justified by
the Law.

To be dead to the Law means to be free of the Law. What right, then, has
the Law to accuse me, or to hold anything against me? When you see a
person squirming in the clutches of the Law, say to him: "Brother, get
things straight. You let the Law talk to your conscience. Make it talk to
your flesh. Wake up, and believe in Jesus Christ, the Conqueror of Law
and sin. Faith in Christ will lift you high above the Law into the heaven of
grace. Though Law and sin remain, they no longer concern you, because
you are dead to the Law and dead to sin."

Blessed is the person who knows how to use this truth in times of distress.
He can talk. He can say: "Mr. Law, go ahead and accuse me as much as you
like. I know I have committed many sins, and I continue to sin daily. But
that does not bother me. You have got to shout louder, Mr. Law. I am deaf,
you know. Talk as much as you like, I am dead to you. If you want to talk
to me about my sins, go and talk to my flesh. Belabor that, but don't talk to
my conscience. My conscience is a lady and a queen, and has nothing to do
with the likes of you, because my conscience lives to Christ under another
law, a new and better law, the law of grace."

We have two propositions: To live unto the Law, is to die unto God. To
die unto the Law, is to live unto God. These two propositions go against
reason. No law-worker can ever understand them. But see to it that you
understand them. The Law can never justify and save a sinner. The Law
can only accuse, terrify, and kill him. Therefore to live unto the Law is to
die unto God. Vice versa, to die unto the Law is to live unto God. If you
want to live unto God, bury the Law, and find life through faith in Christ

We have enough arguments right here to conclude that justification is by
faith alone. How can the Law effect our justification, when Paul so plainly
states that we must be dead to the Law if we want to live unto God? If we
are dead to the Law and the Law is dead to us, how can it possibly
contribute anything to our justification? There is nothing left for us but to
be justified by faith alone.

This nineteenth verse is loaded with consolation. It fortifies a person
against every danger. It allows you to argue like this:

  "I confess I have sinned."
  "Then God will punish you."
  "No, He will not do that."
  "Why not? Does not the Law say so?"
  "I have nothing to do with the Law."
  "How so?"
  "I have another law, the law of liberty."
  "What do you mean--'liberty'?"
  "The liberty of Christ, for Christ has made me free from the Law that
  held me down. That Law is now in prison itself, held captive by grace
  and liberty."

By faith in Christ a person may gain such sure and sound comfort, that he
need not fear the devil, sin, death, or any evil. "Sir Devil," he may say, "I
am not afraid of you. I have a Friend whose name is Jesus Christ, in
whom I believe. He has abolished the Law, condemned sin, vanquished
death, and destroyed hell for me. He is bigger than you, Satan. He has
licked you, and holds you down. You cannot hurt me." This is the faith
that overcomes the devil.

Paul manhandles the Law. He treats the Law as if it were a thief and a
robber He treats the Law as contemptible to the conscience, in order that
those who believe in Christ may take courage to defy the Law, and say:
"Mr. Law, I am a sinner. What are you going to do about it?"

Or take death. Christ is risen from death. Why should we now fear the
grave? Against my death I set another death, or rather life, my life in

Oh, the sweet names of Jesus! He is called my law against the Law, my sin
against sin, my death against death. Translated, it means that He is my
righteousness, my life, my everlasting salvation. For this reason was He
made the law of the Law, the sin of sin, the death of death, that He might
redeem me from the curse of the Law. He permitted the Law to accuse
Him, sin to condemn Him, and death to take Him, to abolish the Law, to
condemn sin, and to destroy death for me.

This peculiar form of speech sounds much sweeter than if Paul had said:
"I through liberty am dead to the law." By putting it in this way, "I
through the law am dead to the law," he opposes one law with another
law, and has them fight it out.

In this masterly fashion Paul draws our attention away from the Law, sin,
death, and every evil, and centers it upon Christ.

  VERSE 20. I am crucified with Christ.

Christ is Lord over the Law, because He was crucified unto the Law. I also
am lord over the Law, because by faith I am crucified with Christ.

Paul does not here speak of crucifying the flesh, but he speaks of that
higher crucifying wherein sin, devil, and death are crucified in Christ and
in me. By my faith in Christ I am crucified with Christ. Hence these evils
are crucified and dead unto me.

  VERSE 20. Nevertheless I live.

"I do not mean to create the impression as though I did not live before
this. But in reality I first live now, now that I have been delivered from
the Law, from sin, and death. Being crucified with Christ and dead unto
the Law, I may now rise unto a new and better life."

We must pay close attention to Paul's way of speaking. He says that we are
crucified and dead unto the Law. The fact is, the Law is crucified and dead
unto us. Paul purposely speaks that way in order to increase the portion of
our comfort.

  VERSE 20. Yet not I.

Paul explains what constitutes true Christian righteousness. True
Christian righteousness is the righteousness of Christ who lives in us. We
must look away from our own person. Christ and my conscience must
become one, so that I can see nothing else but Christ crucified and raised
from the dead for me. If I keep on looking at myself, I am gone.

If we lose sight of Christ and begin to consider our past, we simply go to
pieces. We must turn our eyes to the brazen serpent, Christ crucified, and
believe with all our heart that He is our righteousness and our life. For
Christ, on whom our eyes are fixed, in whom we live, who lives in us, is
Lord over Law, sin, death, and all evil.

  VERSE 20. But Christ liveth in me.

"Thus I live," the Apostle starts out. But presently he corrects himself,
saying, "Yet not I, but Christ liveth in me." He is the form of my
perfection. He embellishes my faith.

Since Christ is now living in me, He abolishes the Law, condemns sin, and
destroys death in me. These foes vanish in His presence. Christ abiding in
me drives out every evil. This union with Christ delivers me from the
demands of the Law, and separates me from my sinful self. As long as I
abide in Christ, nothing can hurt me.

Christ domiciling in me, the old Adam has to stay outside and remain
subject to the Law. Think what grace, righteousness, life, peace, and
salvation there is in me, thanks to that inseparable conjunction between
Christ and me through faith!

Paul has a peculiar style, a celestial way of speaking. "I live," he says, "I
live not; I am dead, I am not dead; I am a sinner, I am not a sinner; I have
the Law, I have no Law." When we look at ourselves we find plenty of sin.
But when we look at Christ, we have no sin. Whenever we separate the
person of Christ from our own person, we live under the Law and not in
Christ; we are condemned by the Law, dead before God.

Faith connects you so intimately with Christ, that He and you become as it
were one person. As such you may boldly say: "I am now one with Christ.
Therefore Christ's righteousness, victory, and life are mine." On the other
hand, Christ may say: "I am that big sinner. His sins and his death are
mine, because he is joined to me, and I to him."

Whenever remission of sins is freely proclaimed, people misinterpret it
according to Romans 3:8, "Let us do evil, that good may come." As soon as
people hear that we are not justified by the Law, they reason maliciously:
"Why, then let us reject the Law. If grace abounds, where sin abounds, let
us abound in sin, that grace may all the more abound." People who reason
thus are reckless. They make sport of the Scriptures and slander the
sayings of the Holy Ghost.

However, there are others who are not malicious, only weak, who may
take offense when told that Law and good works are unnecessary for
salvation. These must be instructed as to why good works do not justify,
and from what motives good works must be done. Good works are not the
cause, but the fruit of righteousness. When we have become righteous,
then first are we able and willing to do good. The tree makes the apple; the
apple does not make the tree.

  VERSE 20. And the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the
  faith of the Son of God.

Paul does not deny the fact that he is living in the flesh. He performs the
natural functions of the flesh. But he says that this is not his real life.
His  life in the flesh is not a life after the flesh.

"I live by the faith of the Son of God," he says. "My speech is no longer
directed by the flesh, but by the Holy Ghost. My sight is no longer governed
by the flesh, but by the Holy Ghost. My hearing is no longer determined by
the flesh, but by the Holy Ghost. I cannot teach, write, pray, or give thanks
without the instrumentality of the flesh; yet these activities do not proceed
from the flesh, but from God."

A Christian uses earthly means like any unbeliever. Outwardly they look
alike. Nevertheless there is a great difference between them. I may live in
the flesh, but I do not live after the flesh. I do my living now "by the faith
of the Son of God." Paul had the same voice, the same tongue, before and
after his conversion. Before his conversion his tongue uttered
blasphemies. But after his conversion his tongue spoke a spiritual,
heavenly language.

We may now understand how spiritual life originates. It enters the heart
by faith. Christ reigns in the heart with His Holy Spirit, who sees, hears,
speaks, works, suffers, and does all things in and through us over the
protest and the resistance of the flesh.

  VERSE 20. Who loved me, and gave himself for me.

The sophistical papists assert that a person is able by natural strength to
love God long before grace has entered his heart, and to perform works of
real merit. They believe they are able to fulfill the commandments of God.
They believe they are able to do more than God expects of them, so that
they are in a position to sell their superfluous merits to laymen, thereby
saving themselves and others. They are saving nobody. On the contrary,
they abolish the Gospel, they deride, deny, and blaspheme Christ, and call
upon themselves the wrath of God. This is what they get for living in
their own righteousness, and not in the faith of the Son of God.

The papists will tell you to do the best you can, and God will give you His
grace. They have a rhyme for it:

  "God will no more require of man, Than of himself perform he can."

This may hold true in ordinary civic life. But the papists apply it to the
spiritual realm where a person can perform nothing but sin, because he is
sold under sin.

Our opponents go even further than that. They say, nature is depraved,
but the qualities of nature are untainted. Again we say: This may hold true
in everyday life, but not in the spiritual life. In spiritual matters a person
is by nature full of darkness, error, ignorance, malice, and perverseness in
will and in mind.
In view of this, Paul declares that Christ began and not we. "He loved me,
and gave Himself for me. He found in me no right mind and no good
will. But the good Lord had mercy upon me. Out of pure kindness He
loved me, loved me so that He gave Himself for me, that I should be free
from the Law, from sin, devil, and death."

The words, "The Son of God who loved me, and gave Himself for me,"
are so many thunderclaps and lightning bolts of protest from heaven
against the righteousness of the Law. The wickedness, error, darkness,
ignorance in my mind and my will were so great, that it was quite
impossible for me to be saved by any other means than by the inestimable
price of Christ's death.

Let us count the price. When you hear that such an enormous price was
paid for you, will you still come along with your cowl, your shaven pate,
your chastity, your obedience, your poverty, your works, your merits?
What do you want with all these trappings? What good are the works of
all men, and all the pains of the martyrs, in comparison with the pains of
the Son of God dying on the Cross, so that there was not a drop of His
precious blood, but it was all shed for your sins. If you could properly
evaluate this incomparable price, you would throw all your ceremonies,
vows, works, and merits into the ash can. What awful presumption to
imagine that there is any work good enough to pacify God, when to pacify
God required the invaluable price of the death and blood of His own and
only Son?

  VERSE 20. For me.

Who is this "me"? I, wretched and damnable sinner, dearly beloved of
the Son of God. If I could by work or merit love the Son of God and come
to Him, why should He have sacrificed Himself for me ? This shows how
the papists ignore the Scriptures, particularly the doctrine of faith. If they
had paid any attention at all to these words, that it was absolutely
necessary for the Son of God to be given into death for me, they would
never have invented so many hideous heresies.

I always say, there is no remedy against the sects, no power to resist them,
except this article of Christian righteousness. If we lose this article we
shall never be able to combat errors or sects. What business have they to
make such a fuss about works or merits? If I, a condemned sinner, could have
been purchased and redeemed by any other price, why should the Son of
God have given Himself for me? Just because there was no other price in
heaven and on earth big and good enough, was it necessary for the Son of
God to be delivered for me. This He did out of His great love for me, for
the Apostle says, "Who loved me."

Did the Law ever love me? Did the Law ever sacrifice itself for me? Did
the Law ever die for me? On the contrary, it accuses me, it frightens me,
it drives me crazy. Somebody else saved me from the Law, from sin and
death unto eternal life. That Somebody is the Son of God, to whom be
praise and glory forever.

Hence, Christ is no Moses, no tyrant, no lawgiver, but the Giver of grace,
the Savior, full of mercy. In short, He is no less than infinite mercy and
ineffable goodness, bountifully giving Himself for us. Visualize Christ in
these His true colors. I do not say that it is easy. Even in the present
diffusion of the Gospel light, I have much trouble to see Christ as Paul
portrays Him. So deeply has the diseased opinion that Christ is a lawgiver
sunk into my bones. You younger men are a good deal better off than we
who are old. You have never become infected with the nefarious errors on
which I suckled all my youth, until at the mention of the name of Christ I
shivered with fear. You, I say, who are young may learn to know Christ in
all His sweetness.

For Christ is Joy and Sweetness to a broken heart. Christ is a Lover of poor
sinners, and such a Lover that He gave Himself for us. Now if this is true,
and it is true, then are we never justified by our own righteousness.

Read the words "me" and "for me" with great emphasis. Print this "me"
with capital letters in your heart, and do not ever doubt that you belong to
the number of those who are meant by this "me." Christ did not only love
Peter and Paul. The same love He felt for them He feels for us. If we
cannot deny that we are sinners, we cannot deny that Christ died for our

  VERSE 21. I do not frustrate the grace of God.

Paul is now getting ready for the second argument of his Epistle, to the
effect that to seek justification by works of the Law, is to reject the grace
of God. I ask you, what sin can be more horrible than to reject the grace of
God, and to refuse the righteousness of Christ? It is bad enough that we are
wicked sinners and transgressors of all the commandments of God; on top
of that to refuse the grace of God and the remission of sins offered unto us
by Christ, is the worst sin of all, the sin of sins. That is the limit. There
is no sin which Paul and the other apostles detested more than when a
person despises the grace of God in Christ Jesus. Still there is no sin more
common. That is why Paul can get so angry at the Antichrist, because he
snubs Christ, rebuffs the grace of God, and refuses the merit of Christ.
What else would you call it but spitting in Christ's face, pushing Christ to
the side, usurping Christ's throne, and to say: "I am going to justify you
people; I am going to save you." By what means? By masses, pilgrimages,
pardons, merits, etc. For this is Antichrist's doctrine: Faith is no good,
unless it is reinforced by works. By this abominable doctrine Antichrist has
spoiled, darkened, and buried the benefit of Christ, and in place of the
grace of Christ and His Kingdom, he has established the doctrine of works
and the kingdom of ceremonies.

We despise the grace of God when we observe the Law for the purpose of
being justified. The Law is good, holy, and profitable, but it does not
justify. To keep the Law in order to be justified means to reject grace, to
deny Christ, to despise His sacrifice, and to be lost.

  VERSE 21. For if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead
  in vain.

Did Christ die, or did He not die? Was His death worth while, or was it
not? If His death was worth while, it follows that righteousness does not
come by the Law. Why was Christ born anyway? Why was He crucified?
Why did He suffer? Why did He love me and give Himself for me? It was
all done to no purpose if righteousness is to be had by the Law.

Or do you think that God spared not His Son, but delivered Him for us all,
for the fun of it? Before I would admit anything like that, I would consign
the holiness of the saints and of the angels to hell.

To reject the grace of God is a common sin, of which everybody is guilty
who sees any righteousness in himself or in his deeds. And the Pope is the
sole author of this iniquity. Not content to spoil the Gospel of Christ, he
has filled the world with his cursed traditions, e.g., his bulls and

We will always affirm with Paul that either Christ died in vain, or else the
Law cannot justify us. But Christ did not suffer and die in vain. Hence, the
Law does not justify.

If my salvation was so difficult to accomplish that it necessitated the death
of Christ, then all my works, all the righteousness of the Law, are good for
nothing. How can I buy for a penny what cost a million dollars? The Law
is a penny's worth when you compare it with Christ. Should I be so stupid
as to reject the righteousness of Christ which cost me nothing, and slave
like a fool to achieve the righteousness of the Law which God disdains?

Man's own righteousness is in the last analysis a despising and rejecting of
the grace of God. No combination of words can do justice to such an
outrage. It is an insult to say that any man died in vain. But to say that
Christ died in vain is a deadly insult. To say that Christ died in vain is to
make His resurrection, His victory, His glory, His kingdom, heaven, earth,
God Himself, of no purpose and benefit whatever.

That is enough to set any person against the righteousness of the Law and
all the trimmings of men's own righteousness, the orders of monks and
friars, and their superstitions.

Who would not detest his own vows, his cowls, his shaven crown, his
bearded traditions, yes, the very Law of Moses, when he hears that for such
things he rejected the grace of God and the death of Christ. It seems that
such a horrible wickedness could not enter a man's heart, that he should
reject the grace of God, and despise the death of Christ. And yet this
atrocity is all too common. Let us be warned. Everyone who seeks
righteousness without Christ, either by works, merits, satisfactions,
actions, or by the Law, rejects the grace of God, and despises the death of

home quodlibet journal theo blog sermons theology e-texts church history forum home