Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Galatians 2:16-21

This post begins with the Fr. MacEvilly’s brief analysis of chapter 2 of Galatians, followed by his notes on the reading (Gal 2:16, 19-21). Text in purple represents his paraphrase of the scripture he is commenting on.

ANALYSIS OF GALATIANS CHAPTER 2

In this chapter, the Apostle, the better to confound the false teachers, proves that the other Apostles received and sanctioned the doctrine preached by him as perfectly harmonizing with their own; and hence, that his teaching nowise differed from theirs, as was calumniously asserted regarding him. He refers to his going up to Jerusalem in order to confer with the Apostles in the Council of Jerusalem, on the question of the legal ceremonies.—(Acts, 15).

He next shows how he acted both in public and private conferences with the principal Apostles, and as a proof that they coincided in opinion with him on this subject, Titus was not subjected by them to circumcision, although an attempt was insidiously made to have it otherwise (1:5). As a second proof of the identity of his doctrine and theirs, the principal Apostles made no change, either in the way of adding or taking away, in his doctrine. They even extended the right hand of fellowship to him, and confirmed his Apostleship among the Gentiles, with the sole injunction of attending to the cause of charity towards the afflicted poor (5–11).

He next refers to a rebuke which, after the close of the Council of Jerusalem, on his return to Antioch, he was forced publicly to administer to St. Peter on account of his mode of acting in reference to the observance of the legal ceremonies; and this rebuke St. Peter received without attempting a reply, which proves the doctrine of St. Paul to be correct (11, 15)

He then adduces several reasons to prove the abrogation of the legal ceremonies. Among the rest, he shows that this inconvenience would result, viz., that Christ was the minister, nay, the moral cause of sin, and that his death was useless and unnecessary, if the legal ceremonies were not abrogated.

Gal 2:16  But knowing that man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, we also believe in Christ Jesus, that we may be justified by the faith of Christ and not by the works of the law: because by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.

Still, fully conscious, that justification does not come from the works of the law; but from quite a different source, viz., the faith in Jesus Christ; we, I say, embrace the faith in Christ, in order to obtain justification from the proper source, in preference to the works of the law; for, no man shall ever obtain justification from the works of the law.

“But knowing,” &c., that is; still fully conscious, &c.—(Vide Paraphrase). “Faith of Jesus Christ,” may also mean, the faith taught by Jesus Christ. In Paraphrase, “Jesus Christ” is made the object of this faith. This verse is to be connected with the preceding, the sense of which is kept suspended with a dependence on this, as in Paraphrase. The Apostle, in this passage, supposes two sources of man’s justification, viz., faith, and the works of the law. To the latter, the false teachers attributed justification; but the Apostle wholly excludes the works of the ceremonial law from any share in justification; for, it is to the law abolished by Christ, he refers in the following verses, and this is the ceremonial law. Hence, there is no question here of good works performed by the aid of grace and faith; for, such works enter the system of justification through faith contemplated here by the Apostle, since without them, faith is dead. The works which he excludes are those to which faith, as the foundation of a quite different system of justification, is opposed.

Gal 2:17  But if, while we seek to be justified in Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is Christ then the minister of sin? God forbid!

If, then, seeking to be justified by faith in Christ to the exclusion of the ceremonies of the law: we have failed to obtain it, and still remain in sin; in other words, if faith, without the ceremonial law, be insufficient to justify us, as the false teachers inculcate, the most inconvenient consequences would result; it would follow, that Christ was ministering to the continuance of sin, having abolished the ceremonial law, a necessary means, as they allege, for removing sin.

He points out the inconvenient results that would flow from the doctrine of the false teachers. According to them, Christ would be ministering to the continuance of sin, since, he would have abolished a necessary means for its remission, viz., the ceremonial law, which they hold to be necessary for justification.

Gal 2:18  For if I build up again the things which I have destroyed, I make myself a prevaricator.

Christ would be the minister, nay more, the moral cause of sin. For if, after holding, as a point of Christian doctrine, the ceremonial law to be unnecessary, and after ceasing to practise its precepts, thus destroying it, I have recourse to the same law for my justification—thus building it up again—do I not, by the very fact, convict myself of prevarication in my former desertion of it; and so, render Christ, whose doctrine I follow, the moral cause of sin?

He shows how Christ would be the minister and the moral cause of sin.—(Vide Paraphrase).

Gal 2:19  For I, through the law, am dead to the law, that I may live to God; with Christ I am nailed to the cross.

For, that I destroyed the law is clear, since, by the law itself pointing out its term, Christ, in whom it should cease, I am dead to the law and exonerated from its observance, so as to begin a new life to God through Christ; and this new life had commenced from my baptism, wherein I represented Christ crucified, and spiritually crucified the old man with him.

Lest it might be said, that the supposed assertion contained in the first part of the preceding verse, “for if I build up again the things which I have destroyed,” which supposes that he destroyed them, was not in itself quite clear; in this verse the Apostle plainly asserts that he did really destroy the ceremonial law—since by the very law itself, pointing out its term, Christ, in whom it should cease, he was dead to the law, and exempted from its observance, so as to begin a new life to God through Christ. He was dead to the ceremonial law, absolutely, and to the moral part of the law, so far as threats and menaces were concerned. This new life to God he commenced from baptism.—(See Paraphrase). Other Commentators make the connexion of this with the preceding verse, thus:—they say that in the preceding verse the words, but I am not a prevaricator, are understood; and they make the words of this verse (19) a proof of this proposition, which, according to them, is implied without being expressed in the foregoing; others, among whom is A’Lapide, say that this verse contains a second reason for the abrogation of the Mosaic Law.

Gal 2:20  And I live, now not I: but Christ liveth in me. And that I live now in the flesh: I live in the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and delivered himself for me.
Gal 2:21  I cast not away the grace of God. For if justice be by the law, then Christ died in vain.

20. This spiritual life which I now enjoy is not from myself, but from Christ, whom I so perfectly imitate, that he would appear to live in me, and to be the animating principle of my actions. But that I should enjoy a life so spiritual and divine in this mortal flesh, subject to so many miseries and sins, I am indebted, not to the law, but to my faith in the Son of God, who loved me quite gratuitously, while undeserving of his love, and this to such an extent, as to deliver himself up to death to purchase for me eternal life.
21. In my system of justification, I by no means cast away the great grace of Christ’s death, as is done by the false teachers, who, in recurring to the law, as sufficient for justification, regard the death of Christ as useless; for, if the law were sufficient for justification, the necessary conclusion should be, that the death of Christ was quite useless and unnecessary.

(20). “And I live,” &c. The words, “I live,” are repeated three different times, and each time they refer to spiritual life.

“Who loved me.” What a subject for gratitude to God! Who is the lover? God. The object loved? The creature. How is this love manifested? In “delivering himself” to an ignominious death, brought about by unheard of excruciating tortures, which he could not merit, to deliver me from the tortures and eternal death which my sins merited, and in which I would infallibly be involved, if he had not graciously substituted himself a vicarious offering in my place, and purchased for me everlasting life. He loved me first, before I was capable of loving him; before I was born; from eternity. Good God! what excessive, incomprehensible love. Ut servum redimeres, filium tradidisti. “Sic amantem quis non redamet?” Diligamus Dominum Deum nostrum, quoniam ipse prior nos dilexit. Every one can, with the Apostle, apply to himself by appropriation, the merits of Christ. “He loved me … delivered himself for me.”

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One Response to Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Galatians 2:16-21

  1. Pingback: Commentaries for the Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C | stjoeofoblog

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