Galatians 2

This chapter contains some details of the conflict between the Judaizers and Paul.

The chapter break here is unfortunate, for Paul continues in his defense of his authority he started in 1:16, proving that the gospel message he preached to the Gentiles about the finished work of Christ for salvation was in total conformity with what the Apostles taught at Jerusalem.

Vv. 1, 2, 3. Seventeen years after Paul's conversion / and fourteen years after he went to Jerusalem to see Peter, Paul went back to Jerusalem with Barnabas and Titus, a Gentile believer. Though Titus was a Gentile convert, the Christian Church, under the leadership of the Apostles, did not insist that Titus be circumcised and become a "Jew," as the false teachers were insisting of Christians.

V. 4, it seems that the false teachers were sending spies to try to find something they could use to bring the new Christians back under the mediation laws. Christian liberty is dealt with in the Confession, ch. 19,

V. 5. Paul recognized the spies, and met them with the truth of the Gospel, as found in the Old Testament. Galatians is Paul's response to what was taking place in his day.

Pastors need to keep abreast of false teaching to which their people will be exposed, and prepare them with the truth in those areas.

V. 6. The false teachers were lifted up with great pride, yet their self-importance did not impress Paul. Their false message that did not emphasize Christ's finished work for sinners identified them as ministers of Satan. (2 Corinthians 11:15.)

2:4, has been terribly misused and abused. It has been used to level unfounded and unbiblical charges against those who say that the moral laws of Moses are still binding after Christ.

First, we are accused of trying to steal away Christian Liberty which comes from a misuse of,

4 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:

Second, we are accused of being Legalistic or Legalism, which comes from a misuse of,

Galatians 2:4 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:
Galatians 2:21 I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.
Galatians 5:4 Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.
Romans 6:14 For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.

Modern Christianity has wrested these two terms completely from their Scriptural meaning. It has given both a modern, non-Christian meaning that has nothing to do with Biblical Christianity.


By Legalistic, the modern, unbiblical understanding is that we are trying to place others under the Ten Commandments as a rule of life, saying that Christians are still required to obey them. Actually, Legalistic means that one is looking to the law, including baptism, in addition to Christ for justification, but that is not how the word is perceived today.

By Christian Liberty, the modern, unbiblical understanding is that one is basically permitted by Scripture to do whatever does not violate the Christian's conscience, since the indwelling Holy Spirit will guide properly in various areas. (Of course, this is a very basic doctrine of dispensationalism, Darbyism/Scofieldism.)

Some years ago, a Christian tabloid was republishing some of my articles, until one of the readers called the editor's attention to the fact that I was a Calvinist. The editor wrote a nasty letter to me, accusing me of deceiving him. However, I never asked him to publish my articles. I had simply added him to my mailing list since I was on his. From that time on, about every piece of material I have sent out, particularly on letterheads, I have made it clear that The London Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689 is my "doctrinal statement" and stand. In fact, I reprinted it for the folks of my church in Linden, and taught through it in SS class.

Thus my stand has not changed over the years, except it might have become stronger. Maybe people just have not paid attention to where I have stood nor what I have been teaching since the middle ‘80s.

Let's look at Legalistic and Christian Liberty from the historic Baptist stand, the London Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689, and in the order given there.

I realize the social climate today has forced good men to depart from the old paths established by our godly forefathers. Sometimes, the justification is that times have changed. However, the apparent reason for change is because the people demand a change from a strict understanding of God word to a much looser and thus more social acceptable understanding of God. They demand leaders who will change with the times. The logical conclusion is that God and his standards change with the times, though he clearly tells that it is because of his unchangeableness that his mercy endures forever, and his people are not consumed. (Malachi 3:6.)

You have a copy of the Confession, and you need to study the passages for yourself. So we will not take the time to look up the passages.

Using the London Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689, let us now examine the Bible definition of Christian Liberty, which is chapter 21. I am skipping over Chapter 20, Of the Gospel, and of the Extent of the Grace Thereof.

Those of us who say that Christians are still required to honour and obey the ten commandments are many times accused of legalism and of trying to rob Christians of their liberty in Christ.

The unfounded charge of legalism is answered in chapter 19 of the Confession. Now let us examine the unfounded charge of trying to rob Christians of their Christian Liberty:

Chapter 21: Of Christian Liberty and Liberty of Conscience

1. The liberty which Christ hath purchased for believers under the gospel, consists in their freedom from the guilt of sin, the condemning wrath of God, the rigour and curse of the law, {#Ga 3:13} and in their being delivered from this present evil world, {#Ga 1:4} bondage to Satan, {#Ac 26:18} and dominion of sin, {#Ro 8:3} from the evil of afflictions, {#Ro 8:28} the fear and sting of death, the victory of the grave, {#1Co 15:54-57} and everlasting damnation: {#2Th 1:10} as also in their free access to God, and their yielding obedience unto Him, not out of slavish fear, {#Ro 8:15} but a child- like love and willing mind. {#Lu 1:73-75; 1Jn 4:18} All which were common also to believers under the law for the substance of them, {#Ga 3:9,14} but under the New Testament the liberty of Christians is further enlarged, in their freedom from the yoke of a ceremonial law, to which the Jewish church was subjected, and in greater boldness of access to the throne of grace, and in fuller communications of the free Spirit of God, than believers under the law did ordinarily partake of. {#Joh 7:38-39; Heb 10:19-21}

Biblically, Christian Liberty which was purchased by Christ consists of freedom or liberty from:

1. The guilt of sin.
2. The condemning wrath of God.
3. The rigour and curse of the law.

The key word in Galatians 3:13 is redeemed. Thus, Christ has rescued us from the consequences of transgression in the world of woe; he has saved the redeemed from the punishment so richly deserved for their sins, being made an atonement for our sins. (Barns' Notes, Adam Clarke.) In other words, the work of Christ does not free us from reaping what we sow here in this life, as the antinomians would have us believe. Christian liberty here consists of liberty and freedom for the redeemed from the eternal wrath of God against their sins.

4.The power of this present evil world.
5. The bondage of Satan, and from fear, we might add. (2 Timothy 1:7.)
6. The dominion and power of sin.
7. The evil of afflictions. That is, we now see God's hand in the afflictions that come our way, so we can rejoice in them, rather than be beaten down by them. We now know those afflictions form us into the image of Christ. (Romans 8:29.)

8. The fear and sting of death, and the victory of the grave.
9. Everlasting damnation.
10. Christian Liberty means we have free access to God; it means that we willingly yield obedience unto him (obey his law-word, the commandments).
11. Christian Liberty means we lovingly obey his commandments that are both written in our hearts and in his law-word. (Exodus 20:6, Proverbs 3:1, 4:4, 7:2, John 14:15, 15:10, &c.) We obey with child-like love and willingness, and without "slavish fear" – that is, fear of being beaten with many stripes if we do not obey his every word. However, we are required to obey every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God regardless of how we feel about it. (Matthew 4:44.)

The above points of liberty and freedom were common to the believers from the time of Adam, but Christian Liberty has been expanded in the New Testament. Christians now have "freedom from the yoke of a ceremonial law, ... with greater boldness of access to the throne of grace" with "fuller communications of the free Spirit of God," which believers before Christ did not "ordinarily partake of."

2. God alone is Lord of the conscience, {#Jas 4:12; Ro 14:4} and hath left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men which are in any thing contrary to His Word, or not contained in it. {#Ac 4:19,29; 1Co 7:23; Mt 15:9} So that to believe such doctrines, or obey such commands out of conscience, is to betray true liberty of conscience, {#Col 2:20,22-23} and the requiring of an implicit faith, an absolute and blind obedience, is to destroy liberty of conscience and reason also. {#1Co 3:5; 2Co 1:24}

Liberty of Conscience is defined as the conscience being free from the doctrines and commands of men that are contrary to God's Word, or are not contained in it. (Matthew 15:6, Mark 7:13, 1 Peter 1:18.) Christian Liberty certainly does not free us from the requirements found in God's law, e.g., modest apparel on both men and women, women finding a career outside of their homes, women filling men's occupations (Deuteronomy 22:5), and other violations of the instructions found in his law-word.

Example: Several years ago when my oldest daughter was in a Christian school, her volleyball team went to a neighboring town for a game. Before they were permitted into the building where the game was being played, they were handed a list of about 25 conditions that had to be met before they could go into the building. I do not recall what Carol said was on the list, but I do remember that she said that very few of the points could be supported from Scripture. That Christian school was trying to be holier than God.

Christian Liberty frees one from trying to be more holy than required by his word.

My dad was a work-a-hollic. (He was an excellent welding and fabricating contractor, and a lay pastor.) I can count on one hand the number of times I can remember the took time to really be with his family. However, he did always have a work-shop at the house, and always had some kind of a project going. From that home environment I went into the service where we usually worked 5½ - 6½ days a week, 12 hour days. When I got out of the military, I united with the Mega-Church movement, 1965-1983. In this movement, we were taught that if we would spend all our time "serving God" (that is, building numbers for the local church), then God would take care of our families. That philosophy fit right in with the way I was raised, so I got caught in that trap.

Obviously, that is a great lie of the devil, and seeing families fall apart in that movement, the Lord opened my eyes. When I tried to shorten my days in the "ministry work" to maybe 10 to 12 hours, 6 days a week, and then to maybe 5 or 5½ days so I could spend time with my family, my conscience troubled me greatly.

Christian Liberty consists of being freed from the corrupted conscience that tries to place things upon us that are not in the word of God, or that dismisses the "general equity" of the laws found in his law-word. Christian Liberty consists of being freed from the doctrines and traditions of men – "any thing contrary to His Word, or not contained in it." Sadly, many consider areas they do not want to submit to the law-word of God as no more than the "commands of men". Thus freeing their conscience to do what seems best to them under the guise of Christian Liberty.

However, the Confession deals with the problem:

3. They who upon pretense of Christian liberty do practice any sin, or cherish any sinful lust, as they do thereby pervert the main design of the grace of the gospel to their own destruction, {#Ro 6:1-2} so they wholly destroy the end of Christian liberty, which is, that being delivered out of the hands of all our enemies, we might serve the Lord without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him, all the days of our lives. {#Ga 5:13; 2Pe 2:18,21}

We are told here that those who, under the pretense of Christian liberty, pursue the fallen desires of the heart have actually perverted the design of grace to their own destruction. Actually, "they wholly destroy the end of Christian liberty".

The purpose of Christian liberty is to free us from our enemies—that is, the world, the flesh and the devil. Its purpose is to enable us to serve the Lord by obeying his law-word without fear, and to live a righteous life according to that law-word all the days of our lives.

Legalism: God's requirements upon man to keep the law does not go contrary to the grace of the Gospel. Rather, God's requirements comply with that grace. The Spirit of Christ working in us gives us the desire to freely and cheerfully do the will of God as required by the law. (Philippians 2:13.) However, whether we have that free and cheerful desire or not does not change God's requirements to keep his law.

Christian Liberty: It is not New Testament Scriptural support to do whatever does not violate the Christian's conscience. Christian Liberty is the freedom from the power and control of sin that would hinder our doing those things pleasing in his sight – that would hinder our loving obedience to the ten commandments.

My, how far Christianity has departed from what is given in his holy word. Sadly, the "Reformed" community has falling victim to the same error as have the Antinomians — that is, let your Christian conscience be your guide.

Paul had not been sent by those apostles, for they had no authority over him. He answered only to Christ.

When the church leaders at Jerusalem heard how God had called him and used him, they rejoiced and glorified God. They received him as a fellow-laborer. Nor did they consider him a lesser apostle, but recognized his authority to rebuke the lead apostle in Jerusalem, Peter.

Galatians 2:7ff

False brethren had quietly made their way into this group of believers, and were insisting that believers had to follow the Old Testament Jewish rights and rituals which made up the holy days and the new moons and even the Sabbaths.

Paul tells the believers here that the work of Christ on the cross has liberated them from all those Old Testament ceremonies and rituals. In fact, he expresses great surprise that they were so easily influenced to give up the Christian liberty they had from those things and to be brought back into bondage again to them.

These false brethren had been accusing Paul of simply repeating what he had learned from the Apostles at Jerusalem. However, Paul has been showing that it was not possible that he had learned the gospel he now preached from anyone but Christ Jesus himself. He has shown that he had not been sent by those apostles at Jerusalem, and that they had no authority over him. He answered only to Christ.

Then when the church leaders at Jerusalem heard how God had called him and used him, they rejoiced and glorified God. They received him as a fellow-laborer. Nor did they consider him a lesser apostle, but recognized his authority to rebuke the lead apostle in Jerusalem, Peter.

Vv. 7-10. Paul explains his position to the Church leaders.

Paul tells them that he had been trained by the Lord Jesus Himself. In 1:18 Paul had told them that he could not have received his message from Peter, only being with him fifteen days . Nor could he have received it from the other apostles at Jerusalem, for he saw none of them, save James the Lord's brother.

And then in 2:8, he says that the reason his and Peter's gospel message is the same is that the same Spirit is at work in them both.

Faith and the Old Testament

Anyone could join the Old Testament Jewish religion and the Israelite nation simply by committing themselves to the God of Abraham by faith. Such as, RAHAB, RUTH. Gentile proselytes showed their commitment by doing what was required of them by the mediation laws at Jerusalem, which pointed to the future work of Christ, including circumcision.

Today, anyone can become what is considered a "Jew" by adapting the rites and rituals that the modern Jews say are important, which would include denying Christ, because Christ brought an end to the law for righteousness.

Romans 10:4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.

There are three true understandings of this verse:

1) the end purpose or design of the law was to make men righteous before God. But man could live in perfect obedience, so that is now accomplished by faith in Christ.

2) the end purpose of the law was and is to draw men to Christ by showing revealing their sins.

3) end could refer to the end of the ceremonial law, the blood offerings and sacrifices. these cermonial laws for righteousness under the Jew's religion were ended by Christ.

The last meaning fits best for Paul's message in Galatians.

There are so called, "Messianic Jews" who claim to be Jewish believers. They glean great amounts of money from gullible Christians, for to claim to be a "Christian" Jew is like claiming to be a "Christian" Muslim.

No person had remission of sins in the Old Testament by offering a sacrifice. Their remission came because they looked forward by faith to the coming sacrifice of the Lamb of God, Christ Jesus. The work of Christ changed nothing of the "Jewish" faith once delivered to the saints:

Jude 3 Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.

The saints spoken of by Jude were the Old Testament saints. God tells us that the gospel today is the same as was delivered to the saints of old. The work of Christ only removed the parts of the genuine Jewish religion that spoke of the sacrificial work of Christ. The rest of the Old Testament religion remains.

Therefore, the Gentiles were and are still brought into the faith which was once delivered unto the saints as they were before Christ. The saints followed the religion delivered to Adam, followed by Abraham and developed more fully by Moses.

In other words, the gospel message was the same after Christ as it was before Christ. Those who make up the people of God are of the same faith today as they were before Christ — faith in Christ's atoning work for them.

Galatians 2:8 it was the same God and salvation by faith for both the Jews and Gentiles before and after Christ.

Romans 11. The unbelieving Jews were broken off from the root, Israel, and replaced by believing Christians, whether natural born Hebrews/Israelites or natural born Gentiles.

The freedom from the old mediation laws brought about by the work of Christ upset the false teachers, who evidently were well respected, big conference speakers. Their power and influence was being destroyed, so they used every means at their disposal to bring the new Christians back into bondage to the Jewish mediation rituals. 2:4.

I BELIEVE THAT MORE OFTEN THAN NOT, WE WILL FIND AT THE ROOT OF FALSE TEACHING A LOVE OF MONEY AND POWER. I is probably safe to say that the root of the false teaching here was money and power.

Galatians 2:9, 10 When the Jewish/Israelite church leaders at Jerusalem saw that God was using Paul to call the Gentiles into the faith once delivered to the Old Testament saints, they gave him their blessings.

They did not change the Paul's message, reminding him only to remember the poor. Paul agreed, for he was already doing it. (We will not go into the implications of this exhortation to Paul at this time.)

They understood that Paul's calling was to the Gentiles, and Peter's to the Jews.

Galatians 2:11-17

Paul's message was very much against the Jewish message of the false teachers. That message said that the Jewish nation, or Israeli nation, was God's special nation.

They said that nation was the apple of God's eye, and heir to the promise of Genesis 12.

They said that those who wanted to be among God's chosen people had to continue in (or join) the nation by continuing in the Jewish rites and rituals.

On the other hand, Paul preached that the believers in Christ were God's chosen people.

He preached that the promises to Abraham were inherited by grace through faith.

He preached that through the work of Christ, the promises were just as accessible to the Gentiles as they were to the Jews.

He preached that the wall between Jews and Gentiles was now down through Christ's atoning work, and the distinction was only between believers and unbelievers.

In other words, there are only two classes of people in the world since Christ: those who are in Christ by faith, and those who are not in Christ. The dividing line was now Christ, not the rites and rituals of the Jewish religion.

Not liking Paul's message at all, these false teachers followed him everywhere, challenging his authority to teach such a message so contrary to the Jewish tradition of the elders.

Vv. 11-21, Paul defends his authority from Christ to teach contrary to Jewish tradition.

In this case, he tells the Galatians that the Church at Jerusalem recognized his authority to rebuke the Apostle Peter at Antioch. The issue over which Paul rebuked Peter was not a moral problem of the Ten Commandments. Rather, it was over the old distinction between Jews and Gentiles. There was no Old Testament law forbidding contact with Gentiles. Rather, the "separation" law was added by the Jewish muckity mucks, v. 6. They are the ones who made it into a binding custom.

Peter quoted this custom to Cornelius. (Acts 10:28.)

In fact, speaking to his rebellious people, God condemned the idea of separation: Which say, Stand by thyself, come not near to me; for I am holier than thou. These are a smoke in my nose, a fire that burneth all the day. Isaiah 65:5

When Peter went up to Jerusalem, the Jews called him into question for associating with a Gentile, Cornelius, saying that he had violated that custom. (Acts 11:1-4.)

Peter explained to the church what happened to him in Acts 10 when the Lord sent him to Cornelius. The Lord make it clear that in Christ, the wall of separation had been removed by God Himself: Christ had sent his disciples into all the world to preach the gospel.

The Church accepted Peter's explanation, and rejoiced that God had removed the distinction. The first Church at Jerusalem recognized that the only separation between people is now separation between believers and unbelievers, not between "Israelites" and "non-Israelites."

Paul did say that God forbids close relationship with those outside God's new covenant people, the new Israel of God. 2 Corinthians 6:14-18.

** My dad was a very trusting man. He and his brother had a welding and fabricating business. The problem was that he would enter into partnerships with unsaved men with simply verbal agreements. The men would back out of those agreements and leave him holding the bag. In one instance, he and his brother had to sell a 110 acre farm to pay the bill the man left him with.

He would have been rich man if he had learned not to enter into partnerships with the unsaved.

Vv. 12-14.

V. 14, according to the truth of the gospel...

Obviously, neither Peter nor the false teachers denied the redemptive work of Christ. The truth that Paul is referring to here is found in Ephesians:

2:11 ¶ Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; 12 That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: 13 But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. 14 ¶ For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; 15 Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; 16 And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: 17 And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. 18 For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. 19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; 20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; 21 In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: 22 In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.

The truth Paul is holding them accountable to here is that Christ removed the Jew-Gentile distinction that the false teachers were trying to maintain.

Those from the house of James understood that the dividing line was now Christ and not the Jewish rituals. So they were eating with the Gentiles when those who though they were someone special showed up. V. 6.

In order not to offend those who thought they were someone, Peter and Barnabas separated from the Gentiles in order to please the muckity mucks.

Galatians 2:16-21, records a public rebuke given specifically to Peter, dealing with Peter' specific sin — rebuilding the separation Peter had removed as a result of his vision.

The context of vv. 18-21 must not be overlooked. The problem being dealt with by Paul is the desire of the new Christians to follow the old Jewish laws that separated the Jews from the world around them. Those laws cannot be considered the Ten Commandments, for all the world was and is responsible to the moral laws as given by God in those Commandments.

(Obviously, an application here is that the moral laws cannot bring justification any more than the ceremonial laws could.)

The context is clearly speaking of the ceremonial laws that were common with the Jewish religion – that is, circumcision and special times of the year. Galatians 4:8-11.

Vv. 15-17 Paul told Peter:

"You know we are justified by grace through faith in Christ. You know that Christ removed the distinction between the Jews and Gentiles, and they are now one body in Him. In fact, Peter, you are the one who saw the vision when the Lord sent you to the first Gentile convert. Now you are again making the distinction between the Jews and Gentiles by eating with the Gentiles, and then removing from them when the MUCKITY MUCKS come around. When you did that, you rebuilt the very thing you worked to destroy — the distinction between Jews and Gentiles. When you made the separation, you made Christ a minister of sin. The sin was rebuilding the distinction that you destroyed when you were faithful to the vision and went to Cornelius."

Notice how intimidated we can become when someone we consider important is around. We then try to impress that man. Even Peter was intimidated by those he felt were important.

We should observe that there are those today who make good livings rebuilding a supposed distinction between Jews and Gentiles. They travel the world saying that if the Christian will be right with God, he must support that supposed distinction.

2:18. The false brethren had tremendous influence, influencing even Peter to reestablish the Jew/Gentile distinction that had been destroyed through him in Acts 10.

V. 18, Paul had strong words for Peter, telling him he was a transgressor because he, under the pressure of the Jews from Jerusalem, honoured the distinction he had destroyed when he went to Cornelius. The problem was not over the moral and social laws destroyed by Christ.

The flesh of Christ abolished the law of commandments contained in ordinances, clearly saying that the work of Christ did away with the sacrificial laws required of sinners in the Old Testament. The "rending" of Christ's flesh resulted in the rending of the Temple veil that separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies. The rending said that the distinction was destroyed, and way to the Father was now open to all without the need of a blood sacrifice.

Those who seek to rebuild or maintain an Old Testament distinction between Jews and Gentiles are heirs to the strong rebuke issued by Paul against Peter's efforts to rebuild a supposed Jew/Gentile distinction.

Peter, no doubt, did not rebuild the distinction intentionally. He probably though nothing of his separation at the time. Our inadvertent actions give impressions whether we mean for them to or not.

Those who teach in the name of Christ in order to rebuild a supposed distinction make Christ a minister of sin, and themselves transgressors of the law, just as sure as was Peter, 2:17, 18. The efforts of the false teachers were so effective that even Barnabas, Paul's right hand man, was carried away with their dissimulation (hypocrisy, condemnation), v. 13.

The rebuke of Peter, 2:9-14 pretty well sums up Paul's complete argument is in this letter to the Galatians — that is, the false teachers were insisting the new Christians keep the Jewish rites and rituals. The argument is not over the moral law as found in the Ten Commandments.

1:7, Paul is dealing with the perversion of the gospel here in Galatians, as well as in all his epistles. That perversion was the addition of the Jewish rites and rituals to the work of Christ.

2:18, the things which Peter destroyed were the Old Testament distinction between the Jews and the Gentiles. Acts 10 (vv. 34-34) & 11.

And then Paul rebuked Peter for reestablishing the distinction that he had destroyed.

V. 19, the old Jewish rites and rituals represented bondage, as we will see in 4:22ff.

Vv. 19, 20 is explained by Colossians 2:13-23:

The Geneva notes identify these ordinances as the Jewish rites and ceremonies, as we see in the second half of Exodus. As we saw in Ephesians 2:15, the flesh of Christ abolished the law of commandments contained in ordinances, clearly implying that the work of Christ did away with the sacrificial laws required of sinners in the Old Testament.

Remember that Paul is not writing to 21st century Christians, though his writings certainly apply to us. He is writing to people who are being pressured to either return to, remain with or adapt the Old Testament rites and rituals in order to be right with God.

To these people, he says:

Colossians 2:16, let no man judge...
V. 18, let no man beguile...
V. 20, they are dead to the rudiments of the world. See 2:8. Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.

That is to say: Paul is telling the new first century Christians of his day that they are dead to the superstitious observances that had been connected with Divine worship by the Jews.

Colossians 2:20, Paul questions them. If you are dead to those things through Christ, why do you want to be subject to those things again?

You are dead to those observances through Christ's work, so now you can live unto Christ with a clear conscience.

Notice Philippians 3:1-14.

3:8, what did Paul count as dung? All of the works of the Pharisees. The Pharisees were not known for their moral purity, but for their strict adherence to the traditions of the elders. Matthew 15:6, Mark 7:13.

The dung of v. 8 cannot be his strict moral purity, for he was committing murder.

According to v. 8 then, the righteousness he had to lay aside in v. 9 was the righteousness he was attempting to obtain by following to the letter the Jews' method of Divine worship, and the traditions of the elders, as well as any moral goodness he had. Paul had not been seeking life through moral purity, but by being blameless in the eyes of the Jews, v. 6, a Pharisee of the Pharisees.

Though the work of the Spirit of God, Paul saw the hopelessness of what he had been taught, as well as the hopelessness of the of moral purity in order to please God.

Galatians 2:19, the new law of Christ made them dead to the old Jewish laws that were needed to approach the Father.

Galatians 2:20, though Paul is speaking of the ceremonial laws, his words can justly be applied to any effort to obtain life everlasting through good works as defined by the moral law of God. Conformity to any law cannot bring justification. Only Christ can do that.

The issue in Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians is over the people being influenced to adapt the Jewish traditions of Divine Worship. And the books must be read and understood in that context.

They were not written to counter the influence of believing that good works would save a person, though much of what is said can be applied that way.


2:21. The context of the theme of Galatians requires that the primary understanding of this verse to be that if the Old Testament rites and rituals were still binding as the false teachers were saying, then Christ died in vain. If the Jewish rites and rituals could make one right before God, as the false teachers were claiming, then Christ was unnecessary. Certainly, an application is that obedience to the Commandments cannot make one righteous.

From the time of Adam, it was never taught that obedience to the law as found in the Ten Commandments produced life. The hope the Old Testament saints had was through the very oppressive rites and rituals given by the God in order to approach himself.


First, the Old Testament law clearly foresaw that justification by grace alone through faith alone would come equally to both Jews and Gentiles (sinners were never justified by keeping the law) through God's promised seed, Christ alone, the Messiah.

Second, the new church after Christ no longer recognized the old distinction between the Jews and the Gentiles that had been so well maintained by Jewish law.

Third, those who today seek to change the simple gospel of trust in Christ's work are intentionally or unintentionally tools of the devil.

Forth, those who try to maintain the traditional Old Testament Jewish (Israelite)/Gentile distinction are teachers of a false message. They are attempting to rebuild what Christ clearly destroyed through Peter.