The way to knowledge is very simple, so simple that many people despise it. It is not, however, to be despised, for, in spite of the oft-repeated statement to the contrary, there is
A Royal Road to Knowledge,
and that road is open to all. Here are the directions, laid down by the king who, to the highest degree, proved it to be the right way:--
"My son, if thou wilt receive My words, and hide My commandments with thee; so that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding; yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; if thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord giveth wisdom; out of His mouth cometh knowledge and understanding." Prov.2:1-6.
It was in a dream that God appeared to Solomon, and promised to give him wisdom, but it was not by idle dreaming that the wisdom came. Solomon did not go to sleep, and wake up to find himself the wisest man that ever lived. He longed for knowledge so much that he did, indeed, dream of it by night, but he worked for it by day. The foregoing Scripture tells his experience.
Wisdom and knowledge concerning everything are to be found in God's Word; and if you would understand the Word of God, you must study it. No man on earth can give you his knowledge. Another may aid you by his experience, so that it need not take you as long as it took him; he may direct you how and where to work; but whatever any one really knows he must acquire for himself. When you have traveled over a road a thousand times, you know every turn in it, no matter how many there are, and can see the whole way in your mind. So after you have thought through a portion of Scripture time after time, you will at last be able to see the whole of it, and every separate statement in it, at a single glance. And when you can do that, you will see in it what no man on earth can tell you.
It is useless to think to understand a detached sentence that may present special difficulty, without reference to the connection. If I should bring you a letter, and, pointing to a sentence near the close, should ask you to tell me what my correspondent means, you would at once ask, "What is he writing about? what does he say in what precedes?" If I should reply that I didn't wish you to know the subject of the letter, and would not allow you to read it from the beginning, you would say, "Then I can not help you." But if I should put the letter into your hands, asking you to help me to understand the difficult sentence, you would at once read the letter carefully from the beginning, making sure that you understood everything as you read, and then, with all that preceded the difficult sentence clearly in your mind, you would expect to understand the sentence itself. Even thus reasonably should we deal with the Bible.
Therefore, to each one I say: Study the very words of the text. Go over them again and again; and every time you begin the study of a new portion, go back to the beginning and review all that you have been over. It is a royal method, and it yields royal results.
The first chapter of Galatians gives us a brief, comprehensive view of what the Gospel is, of the condition of the Galatian brethren, and of Paul's personal experience. The second chapter refers to the meeting held in Jerusalem, seventeen years after Paul's conversion, and tells us what was the subject of controversy, and Paul's relation to it. The apostle's sole burden was to preserve "the truth of the Gospel" among the brethren. Having the first chapter clearly in mind, we may proceed to the study of the second, remembering that it is but a continuation of the first.
"Then after the space of fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus also with me. And I went up by revelation; and I laid before them the Gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately before them who were of repute, lest by any means I should be running, or had run, in vain. But not even Titus who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised; and that because of the false brethren privily 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 in the way of subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the Gospel might continue with you. But from those who were reputed to be somewhat (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man's person)--they, I say, who were of repute, imparted nothing to me; but contrariwise, when they saw that I had been intrusted with the Gospel of uncircumcision, even as Peter with the Gospel of the circumcision (for He that wrought for Peter unto the apostleship of the circumcision wrought for me also unto the Gentiles); and when they perceived the grace that was given unto me, James and Cephas and John, they who were reputed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship, that we should go unto the Gentiles, and they unto the circumcision; only they would that we should remember the poor; which very thing I was also zealous to do.
"But when Cephas came to Antioch, I resisted him to the face, because he stood condemned. For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he drew back and separated himself, fearing them that were of the circumcision. And the rest of the Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that even Barnabas was carried away with their dissimulation. But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the Gospel, I said unto Cephas before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest as do the Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, how compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews? We being Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, yet knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, save through faith in Jesus Christ, even we believed on Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ, and not by the works of the law; because by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. But if, while we sought to be justified in Christ, we ourselves also were found sinners, is Christ a minister of sin? God forbid. For if I build up again those things which I destroyed, I prove myself a transgressor. For I through the law died unto the law, that I might live unto God. I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live; and yet no longer I, but Christ liveth in me; and that life which I now live in the flesh I live in faith, the faith which is in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself up for me. I do not make void the grace of God; for if righteousness is through the law, then Christ died for naught." Galatians 2, R.V.
Another Visit to Jerusalem.
"Fourteen years after," following the natural course of the narrative, means fourteen years after the visit recorded in Gal.1:18, which was three years after the apostle Paul's conversion. The second visit, therefore, was seventeen years after his conversion, or about the year 51 A.D., which coincides with the time of the conference in Jerusalem, which is recorded in Acts 15. It is with that conference, and the things that led to it, and grew out of it, that the second chapter of Galatians deals. In reading this chapter, therefore, the fifteenth of Acts must be understood and borne in mind.
The New Gospel.
In the first chapter of Galatians (verses 6,7) we are told that some were troubling the brethren, by perverting the Gospel of Christ, presenting a false gospel, and pretending that it was the true Gospel. In Acts 15:1 we read that "certain men which came down from Judea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye can not be saved." This, we see, was the other gospel, which was not another, since there is only one, but which was being palmed off upon the brethren as the true Gospel. That these men who brought this teaching professed to be preaching the Gospel, is evident from the fact that they professed to tell the people what they must do to be saved. Paul and Barnabas would not give any place to the new preaching, but withstood it, in order, as Paul tells the Galatians, "that the truth of the Gospel might continue with you." Gal.2:5. The apostles had "no small dissension and disputation with them." Acts 15:2. The controversy was no insignificant one, but was between the real Gospel and a counterfeit. The question was a vital one for the new believers, and has no less interest for us; it concerns our salvation.
A Denial of Christ.
A glance at the experience of the church at Antioch, to whom this new gospel was brought, will show that it did in the most direct manner deny the power of Christ to save. The Gospel was first brought to them by brethren who had been scattered by the persecution that arose on the death of Stephen. These brethren came to Antioch "preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them; and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord." Acts 11:19-21. Then the apostles sent Barnabas to assist in the work; and he, "when he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord. For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith; and much people was added unto the Lord." Verses 22-24. Then Barnabas found Saul, and together they labored with the church in Antioch for more than a year. Verses 25,26. There were in the church prophets and teachers, and as they ministered unto the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost spoke to them, telling them to separate Barnabas and Saul to the work to which He had called them. Acts 13:1-3. So we see that the church there had had much experience in the things of God. They were acquainted with the Lord and with the voice of the Holy Spirit, who witnessed that they were children of God. And now after all this, these men said to them, "Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye can not be saved." That was as much as to say, All your faith in Christ, and all the witness of the Spirit, are nothing without the sign of circumcision. The sign of circumcision, without faith, was exalted above faith in Christ without any outward sign. The new gospel was a most direct assault upon the Gospel, and a flat denial of Christ.
It is no wonder that Paul styles those who presented this teaching, "false brethren," who had, as the Danish strongly expresses it, "sneaked in." Gal.2:4. To the Galatians he said of them, "There be some that trouble you, and would pervert the Gospel of Christ." Gal.1:7. The apostles and elders, in their letter to the churches, said of those men, "Certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls." Acts 15:24. And they further added that they "gave no commandment" to them. Verse 24, R.V. That is to say, these teachers were "false brethren," who were not recognized by the apostles as teachers, who were speaking perverse things to draw away disciples after themselves. There have been many such since that time. So vicious was their work that the apostle said, "Let them be accursed." They were deliberately seeking to undermine the Gospel of Christ, and thus to destroy the souls of the believers.
"The Sign of Circumcision."
These false brethren had said, "Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye can not be saved." Literally, you have not power to be saved. They made salvation only a human thing, resulting solely from the exercise of human power. They had no knowledge of what circumcision really is. "He is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God." Rom.2:28,29. There was a time, after Abraham believed God, when he listened to the voice of Sarai, instead of to God, and sought to fulfil the promises of God by the power of his own flesh. See Genesis 16. The result was a failure--a bond-servant instead of an heir. Then God appeared to him again, exhorting him to walk before Him with singleness of heart, and repeating His covenant. As a reminder of his failure, and of the fact that "the flesh profiteth nothing," Abraham received "the sign of circumcision,"--a cutting off of the flesh. This was to show that since in the flesh "dwelleth no good thing," the promises of God can be realized only by the putting off of the body of the sins of the flesh, through the Spirit. "For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the Spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh." Phil.3:3. Abraham was, therefore, really circumcised as soon as he received the Spirit through faith in God. "And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised." Rom.4:11. Outward circumcision was never anything more than a sign of the real circumcision of the heart; when this was absent, the sign was a fraud; but when the real circumcision was present, the sign could be dispensed with. Abraham is "the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised." The "false brethren" who visited the church at Antioch, subverting the souls of the disciples, and those of the same class who afterwards troubled the Galatians, perverting the Gospel of Christ, were substituting the empty sign for the reality. With them the shell of the nut without the kernel counted for more than the kernel without the shell.
"The Flesh Profiteth Nothing."
Jesus said, "It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing; the words that I speak unto you, they are Spirit, and they are life." John 6:63. The people of Antioch and Galatia had trusted in Christ for salvation; now there were some who sought to induce them to trust in the flesh. They did not tell them that they were at liberty to sin. Oh, no; they told them that they must keep the law! Yes, they must do it themselves; they must make themselves righteous without Jesus Christ. For circumcision stood for the keeping of the law. Now the real circumcision was the law written in the heart by the Spirit; but these "false brethren" wished the believers to trust in the outward form of circumcision, as a substitute for the Spirit's work; so that the thing which was given as a sign of righteousness by faith, became only a sign of self-righteousness. The false brethren would have them circumcised for righteousness and salvation; but Peter said, "Through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ we believe to be saved." Just as Paul wrote, "With the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." Rom.10:10. "Whatsoever is not of faith is sin." Rom.14:23. Therefore, all the efforts of men to keep the law of God by their own power, no matter how earnest and sincere they may be, can never result in anything but imperfection--sin. "All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags." Is.64:6.
"A Yoke of Bondage."
When the question came up in Jerusalem, Peter said to those who would have men seek to be justified by their own works, instead of by faith in Christ, "Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?" Acts 15:10. This yoke was a yoke of bondage, as is shown by Paul's words, that the "false brethren" sneaked in "to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage." Gal.2:4. Christ gives freedom from sin. His life is "the perfect law of liberty." "By the law is the knowledge of sin" (Rom.3:20), but not freedom from it. "The law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good" (Rom.7:12), just because it gives the knowledge of sin by condemning it. It is a signpost, which points out the way, but does not carry us. It can tell us that we are out of the way; but Jesus Christ alone can make us walk in it; for He is the way. Sin is bondage. Prov.5:22. Only those who keep the commandments of God are at liberty (Ps.119:45); and the commandments can be kept only by faith in Christ (Rom.8:3,4). Therefore, whoever induces people to trust in the law for righteousness, without Christ, simply puts a yoke upon them, and fastens them in bondage. When a man has been convicted by the law as a transgressor, and cast into prison, he can not be delivered from his chains by the law which holds him there. But that is no fault of the law: just because it is a good law, it can not say that a guilty man is innocent. So these Galatian brethren were brought into bondage by men who were foolishly and vainly seeking to exalt the law of God by denying Him who gave it, and in whom alone its righteousness is found.
Why Paul Went Up to Jerusalem.
The record in Acts says that it was determined at Antioch that Paul and Barnabas and some others should go up to Jerusalem about this matter. But Paul declares that he went up "by revelation." Gal.2:2. Paul did not go up simply on their recommendation, but the same Spirit moved both him and them. He did not go up to learn the truth of the Gospel, but to maintain it. He went, not to find out what the Gospel really is, but to communicate the Gospel which he had preached among the heathen. Those who were chief in the conference imparted nothing to him. He had not been preaching for seventeen years that of which he stood in doubt. He knew whom he believed. He had not received the Gospel from any man, and he did not need to have any man's testimony that it was genuine. When God has spoken, an indorsement by man is an impertinence. The Lord knew that the brethren in Jerusalem needed his testimony, and the new converts needed to know that those whom God sent spoke the words of God, and, therefore, all spoke the same thing. They needed the assurance that as they had turned from many gods to the one God, the truth is one, and there is but one Gospel for all men.
The Gospel Not Magic.
The great lesson taught by this experience, to which Paul referred the Galatians, is that there is nothing in this world that can confer grace and righteousness upon men, and that there is nothing in the world that any man can do, that will bring salvation. The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation, and not the power of man. Any teaching that leads men to trust in any object, whether it be an image, a picture, or anything else, or to trust for salvation in any work or effort of their own, even though that effort be directed toward the most praiseworthy object, is a perversion of the truth of the Gospel,--a false gospel. There are in the church of Christ no "sacraments" that by some sort of magical working confer special grace on the receiver; but there are things that a man who believes in the Lord Jesus Christ, and who is thereby justified and saved, may do as an expression of his faith. The only thing in the world that has any efficacy in the way of salvation, is the life of God in Christ. "By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before prepared that we should walk in them." Eph.2:8-10, margin. This is "the truth of the Gospel," and it was for this that Paul stood. It is the Gospel for all time.
Galatians and the Gospel.
In this chapter the apostle says that he withstood the false teaching which was now misleading the Galatian brethren, in order that "the truth of the Gospel" might remain with them. Compare this with his introduction, in the first chapter, and his vehement assertions concerning the Gospel which he had preached to them, and his astonishment that they were now forsaking it, and it will be self-evident that the epistle must contain nothing else but the Gospel in the most forcible form of expression. Many have misunderstood it, and have derived no personal gain from it, because they have thought that it was but a contribution to the "strivings about the law," against which Paul himself warned the brethren.
No Monopoly of Truth.
"Whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me; God accepteth no man's person." There is no man or body of men on earth, that has a monopoly of truth,--a corner, so to speak, so that whoever wishes it must come to him. Truth is independent of men. Truth is of God, for Christ, who is the shining of His glory, and the very impress of His substance (Heb.1:3), is the truth (John 14:6).
Whoever gets the truth, must get it from God, and not from any man, just as Paul received the Gospel. God may and does use men as instruments, or channels, but He alone is the Giver. Neither names nor numbers have anything to do with determining what is truth. The truth is no more mighty, nor to be accepted more readily, when it is presented by ten thousand princes than when maintained by a single humble, laboring man. And there is no more presumptive evidence that ten thousand men have the truth than that one has it. Every man on earth may be the possessor of just as much of the truth as he is willing to use, and no more. See John 7:17; 12:35,36. He who would act the pope, thinking to hold a monopoly of the truth, and compel people to come to him for it, dealing it out here, and withholding it there, loses all the truth that he ever had, if he ever really had any. Truth and popery can not exist together; no pope, or man with a popish disposition, has the truth. As soon as a man receives the truth, he ceases to be a pope. If the pope of Rome should get converted, and become a disciple of Christ, that very hour he would vacate the papal seat.
The Biggest Not Always the Best.
Just as there is no man who has a monopoly of truth, so there are no places to which men must necessarily go in order to find it. The brethren in Antioch did not need to go to Jerusalem to learn the truth, or to find out if what they had was the genuine article. The fact that truth was first proclaimed in a certain place, does not prove that it can be found only there, or that it can be found there at all. In fact, the last places in the world to go to with the expectation of finding or learning truth, are the cities where the Gospel was preached in the first centuries after Christ, as Jerusalem, Antioch, Rome, Alexandria, etc. Paul did not go up to Jerusalem to them that were apostles before him, but began at once to preach.
The Papacy arose in part in this way: It was assumed that the places where the apostles, or some of them, had preached must have the truth in its purity, and that all men must take it from there. It was also assumed that the people of a city must know more of it than the people in the country or in a village. So, from all bishops being on an equality, as at the beginning, it soon came to pass that the "country bishops" (chorepiscopoi) were rated as secondary to those who officiated in the cities. Then, when that spirit crept in, of course the next step was necessarily a strife among the city bishops to see which one should be greatest; and the unholy struggle went on until Rome gained the coveted place of power.
But Jesus was born in Bethlehem, a place that was "little among the thousands of Judah" (Mic.5:2), and nearly all His life He lived in Nazareth, a little town of so poor repute that a man in whom there was no guile said, "Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?" John 1:45-47. Afterward Jesus took up His abode in the wealthy city of Capernaum, but was always known as "Jesus of Nazareth." It is no farther to heaven from the smallest village or even the smallest lonely cabin on the plain, than it is from the largest city, or bishop's palace. And God, "the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy," dwells with him that is of a contrite and humble spirit. Is.57:15.
Appearances Are Nothing.
God looks at what a man is, and not at what he seems to be. What he seems to be is what men estimate him to be, and depends largely on the eyes of those who look at him; what he is, is the measure of the power and wisdom of God that is in him. God does not set any store upon official position. It is not position that gives authority, but authority that gives the real position. Many a humble, poor man on earth, with never an official title to his name, has occupied a position really higher and of greater authority than that of all the kings of the earth. Authority is the unfettered presence of God in the soul.
It Is God That Works.
"He that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles." The Word of God is living and active. Heb.4:12, R.V. Whatever activity there is in the work of the Gospel, if there is any work done, is all of God. Jesus "went about doing good," "for God was with Him." Acts 10:38. He Himself said, "I can of Mine own self do nothing." John 5:30. "The Father that dwelleth in Me, He doeth the works." John 14:10. So Peter spoke of Him as "a Man approved of God" "by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by Him." Acts 2:22. The disciple is not greater than his Lord.
Paul and Barnabas, therefore, at the meeting in Jerusalem, told "what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them." Acts 15:12. Paul declared that he labored to "present every man perfect in Christ Jesus," "striving according to His working, which worketh in me mightily." Col.1:28,29. This same power it is the privilege of the humblest believer to possess, "for it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure." Phil.2:13. The name of Jesus is Emmanuel, "God with us." God with Jesus caused Him to go about doing good. He is unchangeable; therefore, if we truly have Jesus, God with us, we, likewise, shall go about doing good.
Recognizing the Gift.
The brethren in Jerusalem showed their connection with God by recognizing the grace that was given to Paul and Barnabas. When Barnabas first went to Antioch, and saw the grace of God that was working there, he was glad, "and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord. For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost." Acts 11:21-24. Those who are moved by the Spirit of God will always be quick to discern the workings of the Spirit in others. The surest evidence that any one knows nothing personally of the Spirit is that he can not recognize His working. The other apostles had the Holy Spirit, and they perceived that God had chosen Paul for a special work among the Gentiles; and, although his manner of working was different from theirs, for God had given him special gifts for his special work, they freely gave to him the right hand of fellowship, only requesting that he would remember the poor among his own nation; and this he had already shown his willingness to do. Acts 11:27-30. So Paul and Barnabas returned to their work in Antioch.
We must not lose sight of the object Paul had in mind in referring to the meeting in Jerusalem. It was to show that there was no difference of opinion among the apostles nor in the church as to what the Gospel is. There were "false brethren," it is true, but inasmuch as they were false, they were no part of the church, the body of Christ, who is the truth. Many professed Christians, sincere persons, suppose that it is almost a matter of necessity that there be differences in the church. "All can not see alike," is the common statement. So they misread Eph.4:13, making it read that God has given us gifts, "till we all come into the unity of the faith." What the Word teaches is that "in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God," we all come "unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ." There is only "one faith" (Eph.4:5), "the faith of Jesus," as there is only one Lord; and those who have not that faith must necessarily be out of Christ. It is not at all necessary that there be the slightest difference upon any question of truth. Truth is the Word of God, and the Word of God is light; nobody but a blind man ever has any trouble to see a light that shines. The fact that a man has never in his life seen any other light used at night, except that from a tallow candle, does not in the least stand in the way of his recognizing that the light from an electric lamp is light, the first moment he sees it. There are, of course, different degrees of knowledge, but never any controversy between those different degrees. All truth is one.
"But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed." We need not magnify nor dwell upon the mistakes of Peter or any other good man, because that is not profitable for us; but we must note this overwhelming proof that Peter was never considered the "prince of the apostles," and that he never was, and never considered himself to be, pope. Fancy any priest, bishop, or cardinal, withstanding Leo XIII. to the face in a public assembly. He would be considered extremely fortunate if the papal guards allowed him to escape with his life for thus presuming to oppose the self-styled "vicar of the Son of God." But Peter made a mistake, and that upon a vital matter of doctrine, because he was not infallible, and he meekly accepted the rebuke that Paul gave him, like the sincere, humble Christian that he was. If there were such a thing as a human head to the church, it would evidently be Paul, instead of Peter, as appears from the whole narrative. Paul was sent to the Gentiles, and Peter to the Jews; but the Jews formed only a very small portion of the church; the converts from the Gentiles soon outnumbered them, so that their presence was scarcely discernible. All these Christians were largely the fruit of Paul's labors, and they naturally looked up to him more than to others, so that Paul could say that upon him daily came "the care of all the churches." 2Cor.11:28. But infallibility is not the portion of any man, and Paul himself did not claim it. The greatest man in the church of Christ has no lordship over the weakest. "One is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren." "Be subject one to another."
Making a Difference.
When Peter was at the conference in Jerusalem, he told the facts about the receiving of the Gospel by the Gentiles, through his preaching, saying, "God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as He did unto us; and put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith." Acts 15:8,9. God put no difference between Jews and Gentiles in the matter of the purification of the heart, because, knowing the hearts, He knew that "there is no difference; for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God," so that there is no other way than for all to be "justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." Rom.3:22-24. Yet, after having been shown this fact by the Lord; after having preached to the Gentiles, and after having witnessed the gift of the Holy Ghost to them, the same as to Jewish believers; after having eaten with those Gentile converts, and faithfully defending his course; after having given a clear testimony in conference, that God made no difference between Jews and Gentiles; and even immediately after himself making no difference, Peter suddenly, as soon as some came who he thought would not approve of such freedom, began to make a difference. "He withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision." This was, as Paul says, dissimulation, and was not only wrong in itself, but was calculated to confuse and mislead the disciples. The fact that this was dissimulation, which was apparent, only emphasizes the fact that there was no real difference among the brethren. It was fear, not faith, that for the moment controlled Peter.
Contrary to the Truth of the Gospel.
A wave of fear seems to have passed over the Jewish believers, for "the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation." This in itself was, of course, not walking "uprightly, according to the truth of the Gospel;" but the mere fact of dissembling was not the whole of the offense against the truth of the Gospel. Under the circumstances it was a public denial of Christ, just as much as that of which Peter had once before, through sudden fear, been guilty. We have all been too often guilty of the same sin to permit us to sit in judgment; we can only note the fact and the natural consequence, as a warning to ourselves.
See how the action of Peter and the others was a virtual, although unintentional, denial of Christ. There had just been a great controversy over the question of circumcision. It was a question of justification and salvation,--whether men were saved by faith alone in Christ, or by outward forms. Clear testimony had been borne that salvation is by faith alone: and now, while the controversy is still alive, while the "false brethren" are still propagating their errors, these loyal brethren suddenly discriminated against the Gentile believers, because they were uncircumcised, in effect saying to them, Except ye be circumcised, ye can not be saved. Their actions said, We also are in doubt about the power of faith in Christ alone to save men; we really believe that salvation depends on circumcision and the works of the law; faith in Christ is well, but there's something more to do; it is not in itself sufficient. Such a denial of the truth of the Gospel Paul could not endure, and he at once struck directly at the root of the matter.
"Sinners of the Gentiles," and Sinners of the Jews.
Paul said to Peter, "We . . . are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles." Did he mean that they, being Jews, were, therefore, not sinners?--By no means, for he immediately adds that they had believed on Jesus Christ for justification. They were sinners of the Jews, and not sinners of the Gentiles; but whatever things they had to boast of as Jews, all had to be counted loss for the sake of Christ. Nothing availed them anything except faith in Christ; and since this was so, it was evident that the Gentile sinners could be saved directly by faith in Christ, without going through the dead forms which had been of no service to the Jews, and which were given largely as the result of their unbelief.
"This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." 1Tim.1:15. "All have sinned," and stand alike guilty before God; but all, of whatever race or class, can accept this saying, "This Man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them." A circumcised sinner is no better than an uncircumcised one; a sinner who stands as a church-member, is no better than one who is outside. The sinner who has gone through the form of baptism is not better than the sinner who has never made any profession of religion. Sin is sin, and sinners are sinners, whether in the church or out; but, thank God, Christ is the propitiation for our sins, as well as for the sins of the whole world. There is hope for the unfaithful professor of religion, as well as for the sinner who has never named the name of Christ. The same Gospel that is preached to the world, must be preached to the church; for there is only one Gospel. It serves to convert sinners in the world, as well as sinners who stand as church-members, and at the same time it renews those who are really in Christ.
"Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law," "we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified," said the apostle. The meaning of the word "justified" is "made righteous." This is the exact term that appears in other languages, which are not composed of foreign terms. The Latin word for righteousness is justitia. To be just is to be righteous. Then we add the termination fy, from the Latin word, meaning "to make," and we have the exact equivalent of the simpler term, "make righteous." In an accommodated sense we use the term "justified" of a man who has not done wrong in a thing whereof he is accused. But, strictly speaking, such an one needs no justification, since he is already just; his righteous deed justified him. He was justified in his deed. But since all have sinned, there are none just or righteous before God; therefore they need to be justified, or made righteous, which God does. Now the law of God is righteousness. See Rom.7:12; 9:30,31; Ps.119:172. Therefore Paul did not disparage the law, although he declared that no man could be made righteous by the law, meaning, of course, the law written on stones or in a book. No; so highly did he appreciate the law, that he believed in Christ for the righteousness which the law demands but can not give. "For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh; that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." Rom.8:3,4. The law, which declares all men to be sinners, could not justify them except by declaring that sin is not sin; and that would not be justification, but a self-contradiction in the law.
The Law Can Not Justify.
"By the works of the law shall no flesh be justified." Shall we say, Then we will do away with the law? That is what every confirmed criminal thinks. Persistent law-breakers would gladly do away with the law which declares them guilty and will not say that wrong is right. But the law of God can not be abolished, for it is the statement of the will of God. Rom.2:18. In very fact it is the life and character of God. "The law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good." Rom.7:12. We read the written law, and find in it our duty made plain. But we have not done it; therefore we are guilty. "All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." "There is none that doeth good, no, not one." Rom.3:23,12. Moreover, there is not one who has strength to do the law, its requirements are so great. Then it is very evident that no one can be justified by the works of the law, and it is equally evident that the fault is not in the law, but in the individual. Let the man get Christ in the heart by faith, and then the righteousness of the law will be there also, for Christ says, "I delight to do Thy will, O My God; yea, Thy law is within My heart." Ps.40:8. He who would throw away the law because it will not call evil good, would reject God because He "will by no means clear the guilty." Ex.34:7. But God will remove the guilt, will make the sinners righteous, that is, in harmony with the law, and then the law which before condemned them will witness to their righteousness.
"The Faith of Christ."
Much is lost, in reading the Scriptures, by not noting exactly what they say. Here we have literally, "the faith of Christ," just as in Rev.14:12 we have "the faith of Jesus." He is the Author and Finisher of faith. Heb.12:2. God has "dealt to every man the measure of faith" (Rom.12:3), in giving Christ to every man. "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God" (Rom.10:17), and Christ is the Word. All things are of God. It is He who gives repentance and forgiveness of sins.
There is, therefore, no opportunity for any one to plead that his faith is weak. He may not have accepted and made use of the gift, but there is no such thing as "weak faith." A man may be "weak in faith," that is, may be afraid to depend on faith, but faith itself is as strong as the Word of God. There is no faith but the faith of Christ; everything else professing to be faith is a spurious article. Christ alone is righteous; He has overcome the world, and He alone has power to do it; in Him dwelleth all the fullness of God, because the law--God Himself--was in His heart; He alone has kept and can keep the law to perfection; therefore, only by His faith,--living faith, that is, His life in us,--can we be made righteous.
But this is sufficient. He is a "tried Stone." The faith which He gives to us is His own tried and approved faith, and it will not fail us in any contest. We are not exhorted to try to do as well as He did, or to try to exercise as much faith as He had, but simply to take His faith, and let it work by love, and purify the heart. It will do it; take it!
Believing Is Receiving.
"As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name." John 1:12. That is, as many as believed on His name received Him. To believe on His name is to believe that He is the Son of God; to believe that He is the Son of God, means to believe that He is come in the flesh, in human flesh, in our flesh, for His name is "God with us;" so to believe on His name means simply to believe that He dwells personally in every man,--in all flesh. We do not make it so by believing it; it is so, whether we believe it or not; we simply accept the fact, which all nature reveals to us.
It follows, then, as a matter of course that, believing in Christ, we are justified by the faith of Christ, since we have Him personally dwelling in us, exercising His own faith. All power in heaven and earth is in His hands, and, recognizing this, we simply allow Him to exercise His own power in His own way. God does "exceedingly abundantly," by "the power that worketh in us."
Christ Not the Minister of Sin.
Jesus Christ is "the Holy and Righteous One." Acts 3:14, R.V. "He was manifested to take away our sins; and in Him is no sin." 1Joh.3:5. He not only "did no sin" (1Pet.2:22), but He "knew no sin" (2Cor.5:21). Therefore, it is impossible that any sin can come from Him. He does not impart sin. In the stream of life that flows from the heart of Christ, through His wounded side, there is no trace of impurity. It is "a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal." He is not the minister of sin, that is, He does not minister sin to anybody. If in any one who has sought--and not only sought, but found--righteousness through Christ, there is afterwards found sin, it is because the person has dammed up the stream, allowing the water to become stagnant. The Word has not been given free course, so that it could be glorified; and where there is no activity, there is death. No one is to blame for this but the person himself. Let no professed Christian take counsel of his own imperfections, and say that it is impossible for a Christian to live a sinless life. It is impossible for a true Christian, one who has full faith, to live any other kind of life. "How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?" Rom.6:2. "Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for His seed remaineth in him; and he can not sin, because he is born of God." 1Joh.3:9. Therefore "abide in Him."
What Was Destroyed?
"If I build up again those things which I destroyed, I prove myself a transgressor." We ask again, What was destroyed, the building up of which will prove us to be transgressors? Remembering that the apostle is talking of those who have believed in Jesus Christ, that they might be justified by the faith of Christ, we find the answer to the question in Rom.6:6: "Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin." Also Col.2:10,11: "Ye are complete in Him, which is the head of all principality and power; in whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ." That which is destroyed is the body of sin, and it is destroyed only by this personal presence of the life of Christ. It is destroyed in order that we may be freed from its power, and may no longer need to serve it. It is destroyed for everybody, for Christ in His own flesh has abolished "the enmity," the carnal mind; not His own, for He had none, but ours. Our sins, our weaknesses, were upon Him. For every soul the victory has been gained, and the enemy has been disarmed. We have only to accept the victory which Christ has won. The victory over all sin is already a reality; our faith in it makes it real to us. The loss of faith puts us outside the reality, and the old body of sin looms up again. That which is destroyed by faith is built up again by unbelief. Remember that this destruction of the body of sin, although performed by Christ for all, is, nevertheless, a present, personal matter with each individual.
"Dead to the Law."
Many seem to fancy that "dead to the law" means the same as that the law is dead. Not by any means. The law must be in full force, else no one could be dead by means of it. How does a man become dead to the law?--By receiving its full penalty, which is death. He is dead, but the law which put him to death is still as ready as ever to put to death another criminal. Suppose, now, that the man who was executed for gross crimes should, by some miraculous power, come to life again, would he not still be dead to the law?--Certainly; nothing that he had done could be mentioned to him by the law; but if he should again commit crimes, the law would again execute him, but as another man. We say now that I, through the law, am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. By the body of Christ I am raised from the death which I have suffered by the law because of my sin, and now I walk "in newness of life," a life unto God. Like Saul of old, I am by the Spirit of God "turned into another man." 1Sam.10:6. This is the Christian's experience. That this is the case is shown by what follows.
Crucified with Christ.
"I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me." Christ was crucified; He was "delivered for our offenses, and raised again for our justification." Rom.4:25. But unless we are crucified with Him, His death and resurrection profit us nothing. If the cross of Christ is separated from us, and outside of us, even though it be but by so much as a moment of time and an hair's breadth of space, it is to us all the same as if He were not crucified. No one was ever saved simply by looking forward to a cross to be erected and a Christ to be crucified at some indefinite time in the future, and no one can now be saved simply by believing that at a certain time in the past Christ was crucified. No; if men would see Christ crucified, they must look neither forward nor backward, but upward; for the arms of the cross that was erected on Calvary reach from Paradise lost to Paradise restored, and embrace the whole world of sin. The crucifixion of Christ is not a thing of but a single day. He is "the Lamb that hath been slain from the foundation of the world" (Rev.13:8, R.V.); and the pangs of Calvary will not be ended as long as a single sin or sinner exists in the universe. Even now Christ bears the sins of the whole world, for "in Him all things consist;" and when at the last He is obliged to cut off the irreclaimably wicked in the lake of fire, the anguish which they suffer will be only that which the Christ whom they have rejected suffered on the cross.
Where the Cross Is.
Christ bore our sins in His own body on the tree. 1Pet.2:24. He was "made a curse for us," in that He hung on the tree. Gal.3:13. On the cross He bore not only the weakness and sin of humanity, but also the weakness of the earth. Thorns are the sign of the curse, the weakened, imperfect condition of the earth (Gen.3:17,18; 4:11,12); and on the cross Christ bore the crown of thorns. Therefore, all the curse, every trace of it, is borne by Christ,--by Christ crucified. Wherever, therefore, we see any curse, or wherever there is any curse, whether we see it or not, there is the cross of Christ. This can be seen again from the following: The curse is death, and death kills; the curse is in everything, yet everywhere we see life. Here is the miracle of the cross. Christ suffered the curse of death, and yet lived. He is the only one that could do it. Therefore, the fact that we see life everywhere, also in ourselves, in spite of the curse which is everywhere, is positive proof that the cross of the Crucified One is there bearing it. So it is that not only every blade of grass, every leaf of the forest, and every piece of bread that we eat has the stamp of the cross of Christ on it, but, above all, we have the same. Wherever there is a fallen, sin-scarred, miserable human being, there is also the Christ of God crucified for him and in him. Christ on the cross bears all things, and the sins of that man are on Him. Because of unbelief and ignorance the man feels all the weight of the heavy burden, but the load is on Christ, nevertheless. It is easy for Christ, but heavy for the man; if the man will believe, he may be relieved of the load. In short, Christ bears the sins of all the world on the cross. Therefore, wherever sin is found, there we may be sure is the cross of Christ.
Where Sin Is.
Sin is a personal matter. A man is guilty only of his own sins, and not of those which another has committed. Now I can not sin where I am not, but only where I am. Sin is in the heart of man; "for from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness; all these evil things come from within." Mark 7:21-23. "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked." Jer.17:9. Sin is in every fiber of our being by nature. We are born in sin, and our life is sin, so that sin can not be taken from us without taking our life. What I need is freedom from my own personal sin,--that sin which not only has been committed by me personally, but which dwells in the heart,--the sin which constitutes the whole of my life.
"His own iniquities shall take the wicked himself, and he shall be holden with the cords of his sins." Prov.5:22. "For though thou wash thee with niter, and take thee much soap, yet thine iniquity is marked before Me, saith the Lord." Jer.2:22. My sin is committed by myself, in myself, and I can not separate it from me. Cast it on the Lord? Ah, yes, that is right, but how? Can I gather it up in my hands, and cast it from me, so that it will light upon Him?--I can not. If I could separate it but a hair's breadth from me, then I should be safe, no matter what became of it, since it would not be found in me. In that case I could dispense with Christ; for if sin were not found on me, it would make no matter to me where it was found. If I could gather up my sins so as to lay them upon Christ crucified apart from me, then I would not need to put them on Him. They would then be away from me, and that would clear me. But no works of any kind that I can do can save me; therefore, all my efforts to separate myself from my sins are unavailing.
Christ Bears the Sin in Us.
It is evident from what has been said that whoever bears my sins must come where I am, yea, must come into me. And this is just what Christ does. Christ is the Word, and to all sinners, who would excuse themselves by saying that they can not know what God requires of them, He says, "The Word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it." Deut.30:11-14. Therefore, He says, "If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved." Rom.10:9. What shall we confess about the Lord Jesus?--Why, confess the truth, that He is nigh thee, even in thy mouth and in thy heart, and believe that He is there risen from the dead. "Now that He ascended, what is it but that He also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?" Eph.4:9. The risen Saviour is the crucified Saviour. As Christ risen is in the heart of the sinner, therefore, Christ crucified is there. If it were not so, there would be no hope for any. A man may believe that Jesus was crucified eighteen hundred years ago, and may die in his sins; but he who believes that Christ is crucified and risen in him, has salvation.
All that any man in the world has to do in order to be saved, is to believe the truth, that is, to recognize and acknowledge facts, to see things just as they actually are, and to confess them. Whoever believes that Christ is crucified in him, which is the fact in the case of every man, and confesses that the crucified Christ is also risen, and that He dwells in him by and with the power of the resurrection, is saved from sin, and will be saved as long as he holds fast his confession. This is the only true confession of faith.
What a glorious thought that, wherever sin is, there is Christ, the Saviour from sin! He bears sin, all sin, the sin of the world. Sin is in all flesh, and so Christ is come in the flesh. Christ is crucified in every man that lives on earth. This is the word of truth, the Gospel of salvation, which is to be proclaimed to all, and which will save all who accept it.
Living by Faith.
In the tenth chapter of Romans, as already noted, we learn that Christ is in every man, "a very present help in trouble." He is in the sinner, in order that the sinner may have every incentive and facility for turning from sin to righteousness. He is "the way, the truth, and the life." John 14:6. There is no other life than His. He is the life. But, although He is in every man, not every man has His righteousness manifested in his life; for some "hold down the truth in unrighteousness." Rom.1:18, R.V. Now Paul's inspired prayer was that we might be strengthened with might by the Spirit of God in the inner man, "that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith;" "that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God." Eph.3:16-19. The difference, then, between the sinner and the Christian is this: that, whereas Christ crucified and risen is in every man, in the sinner He is there unrecognized and ignored, while in the Christian He dwells there by faith.
Christ is crucified in the sinner, for wherever there is sin and the curse, there is Christ bearing it. All that is needed now is for the sinner to be crucified with Christ, to let Christ's death be his own death, in order that the life of Jesus may be manifested in his mortal flesh. Faith in the eternal power and Divinity of God, that are seen in all the things that He has made, will enable any one to grasp this mystery. The seed is not quickened "except it die." 1Cor.15:36. "Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit." John 12:24. So the one who is crucified with Christ, begins at once to live, but it is as another man. "I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me."
The Life of the World.
"But Christ was actually crucified eighteen hundred years, and more, ago, was He not?"--Certainly. "Then how can it be that my personal sins were upon Him? or how can it be that I am now crucified with Him?"--Well, it may be that we can not understand the fact, but that makes no difference with the fact. But when we remember that Christ is the life, even "that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us" (1Joh.1:2), we may understand something of it. "In Him was life; and the life was the light of men,"--"the true light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world." John 1:4,9.
Christ is larger than the Man Jesus of Nazareth, whom the eyes of all men could see. Flesh and blood,--that which the eyes can see,--can not reveal "the Christ, the Son of the living God." Matt.16:16,17. "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him. But God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit." 1Cor.2:9,10. So no man, no matter how well acquainted he was with the Carpenter of Nazareth, could call Him Lord but by the Holy Ghost. 1Cor.12:3. By the Spirit, His own personal presence, He can dwell in every man on earth, and fill the heavens as well, a thing which Jesus in the flesh could not do. Therefore, it was expedient for Him to go away, and send the Comforter. "He is before all things, and in Him all things consist." Col.1:16,17, R.V. Jesus of Nazareth was the manifestation of Christ in the flesh; but the flesh was not Christ, for "the flesh profiteth nothing." It is the Word which was in the beginning, and whose power upholds all things, that is the Christ of God. The sacrifice of Christ, so far as this world is concerned, dates from the foundation of the world. While Christ was going about doing good in Judea and Galilee, He was in the bosom of the Father making reconciliation for the sins of the world.
The scene on Calvary was the manifestation of what has taken place as long as sin has existed, and will take place until every man is saved who is willing to be saved: Christ bearing the sins of the world. He bears them now. One act of death and resurrection was sufficient for all time, for it is eternal life that we are considering; therefore, it is not necessary for the sacrifice to be repeated. That life pervades and upholds all things, so that whoever accepts it by faith has all the benefit of the entire sacrifice of Christ. By Himself He "made purification of sins." Whoever rejects the life, or is unwilling to acknowledge that the life which he has is Christ's life, loses, of course, the benefit of the sacrifice.
The Faith of the Son of God.
Christ lived by the Father. John 6:57. His faith in the word that God gave Him was such that He repeatedly and positively maintained that when He died He should rise again the third day. In this faith He died, saying, "Father, into Thy hands I commend My Spirit." Luke 23:46. That faith which gave Him the victory over death (Heb.5:7), because it gave Him the complete victory over sin, is the faith which He exercises in us, when He dwells in us by faith; for He is "the same yesterday, and today, and forever." It is not we that live, but Christ that lives in us, and uses His own faith to deliver us from the power of Satan. "What have we to do?"--Let Him live in us in His own way. "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus." How can we let Him?--Simply by acknowledging Him; by confessing Him. We can not understand, so as to explain the mystery of Christ in us the hope of glory, but everything in nature that serves to sustain our life teaches us the fact. The sunlight that shines upon us, the air that we breathe, the food that we eat, and the water that we drink, are all means of conveying life to us. The life that they convey to us is none other than the life of Christ, for He is the life, and thus we have constantly before us and in us evidence of the fact that Christ can live in us. If we allow the Word to have free course in us, it will be glorified in us, and will glorify us.
The Gift for Me.
"Who loved me, and gave Himself for me." How personal this is. I am the one whom He loved. Each soul in the world can say, "He loved me, and gave Himself for me." Leave Paul out of the question in reading this. Paul is dead, but the words that he wrote are yet alive. It was true of Paul, but no more so than of every other man. They are the words which the Spirit puts in our mouths, if we will but receive them. The whole gift of Christ is for each individual me. Christ is not divided, but every soul gets the whole of Him, just the same as if there were not another person in the world. Each one gets all the light that shines. The fact that there are millions of people for the sun to shine upon, does not make its light any the less for me; I get the full benefit of it, and could not get more if I were the only person in the world. It shines for me. So Christ gave Himself for me, the same as if I were the only sinner in the world; and the same is true of every other sinner. When you sow a grain of wheat, you get many more grains of the same kind, each one having the same life, and just as much of it, as the original seed had. So it is with Christ, the true Seed. In dying for us, that we may also become the true seed, He gives to every one of us the whole of His life. "Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift."
Christ Not Dead in Vain.
"I do not frustrate the grace of God; for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain." This is the summing up of the case. It is the substance of what has preceded. If righteousness came by the law, then there would have been no use for the death of Christ. The law itself can do nothing except point out men's duty; therefore, to speak of righteousness coming by the law, means by our works, by our individual effort. So the text is equivalent to the statement that if we could save ourselves, Christ died for nothing; for salvation is the one thing to be gained. Well, we can not save ourselves; and Christ is not dead in vain; therefore there is salvation in Him. He is able to save all that come unto God by Him. Some must be saved, else He has died in vain; but He has not died in vain; therefore, the promise is sure: "He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand, He shall see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied." Is.53:10,11. "Whosoever will," may be of the number. Since He died not in vain, see to it "that ye receive not the grace of God in vain."