FROM BARNES' NOTES ON THE NEW TESTAMENT
CHAP.2:19 For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might
live unto God.
....and that the meaning is, that by contemplating the true
character the law of Moses itself; by considering its nature and
design; by understanding the extent of its re requisitions,
he had become dead to it; that is, he had laid aside all ex-
pectations of being justified it. This seems to me to be the
correct interpretation; Paul had formerly expected to be
justified by the law. He had endeavoured to obey it. It had been
the object of his life to comply with all its requisitions, in
order to be saved by it, Phil.3: 4-6. But all this while he had
not fully understood its nature; and when he was made fully to
feel and comprehend its spiritual requirements, then all his
hope of justification by it died, and he became dead to it. See
this sentiment more fully explained in the Note on Rom.7:9.
End quote from Albert Barnes
I am reminded how Paul used the same type of expression when
writing to the church at Rome (chap.7:4). He explained to them
(v.5-11) that when he fully understood what the law was saying to
him - namely, "you have sinned by transgressing my commands and
your fruits of doing so have earned for you the penalty of the
law, he realized that death was his sentence. Although, he knew
the law of God was holy, just and good, when the consciousness of
the perfect law came to his mind, he realized that because he had
not attained to its perfectness, he was under its penalty of
death (ROM 6:23). He knew the law was saying "I claim your life -
you must die." But he explained to those in Rome (see chap.5:8)
that Jesus died in our stead - He took the penalty of the law for
us. When Jesus was crucified it was as if all sinners were
The law's claim on our lives was met through the death of Christ.
We sinners are now dead to the law's penalty by the body (death)
of Jesus. So we can walk in the new life of not serving sin, but
"as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as
instruments of righteousness unto God" (Rom.6:13)
Through the law we find the knowledge that we are sinners and
sentenced to death, but we also are have had, in God's great
mercy, our death sentence carried for us by the Son of God, who
loved us and gave himself for us "that whosoever believeth in Him
should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).
Through the Saviour (which the law - the five books of Moses and
the Old Covenant) had repeatedly pointed towards, we had died.
The law is saying, to all repentant believers in the justifying
work of Jesus, "you have died - the penalty of death that I
demanded for your sins has been met - you are dead to me."
So, Paul could say in Gal.2:20 that he was crucified with Christ,
nevertheless he lived, yet not him (the old man of sin: Rom.6:6)
but Christ lived in him. He could now truly say he was "dead to
the law, that I might live unto God." Not that he was free to
wilfully sin and break the law of God through faith in Jesus, for
he himself told those in Rome that he delighted in and served the
law of God, and that through faith we ESTABLISH the law. (Rom.
CHAP.2:21 I do not frustrate the grace of God, for if
righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.
.....For if righteousness come by the law. If justification can
be secured by the observance of ANY law - ceremonial or moral -
then there was no need of the death of Christ as an atonement.
This is plain. If man by conformity to ANY law could be justified
before God, what need was there of an atonement? The work would
then have been wholly in his OWN power, and the merit would have
been HIS. If follows from this, that MAN CANNOT be justified by
his OWN morality, or his armsdeeds, or his forms of religion, or
his honesty and integrity. If he can, he needs no savior - he can
They have no deep sense of guilt. They confide in their own
integrity, and feel that God OUGHT to save them. Hence they feel
no need of a Savior; for why should a man in health employ a
physician? And confiding in their OWN righteousness, they REJECT
the GRACE of God, and despise the plan of justification through
the Redeemer. To feel the deed of a Savior, it is necessary to
feel that we are LOST and ruined SINNERS; that we have NO MERIT
on which we can rely; and that we are entirely dependent on the
MERCY of God for salvation. Thus feeling, we shall receive the
salvation of the gospel with thanksgiving and joy, and show that
in regard to us Christ is not "dead in vain".....
CHAP.3:2,3. This only would I learn of you, received you the
Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are
you so foolish having begun in the Spirit, are you now made
perfect by the flesh ?
.....'Received ye the Spirit.'
The Holy Spirit. He refers here, doubtless, to ALL
manifestations of the Spirit which had been made to them, in
renewing the heart, in sanctifying the soul, in comforting them
in affliction, and in his miraculous agency among them. ThE Holy
Spirit had been conferred on them at their conversion, (compare
Acts 10:44; 11:15) and this was to them proof of the favour of
God, and of their being accepted by him.
'By the works of the law.'
By obeying the law of Moses or of ANY law. It was in no way
connected with their obeying the law. This must have been so
clear to them that no one could have any doubt on the subject.
The inestimably rich and precious gift of the Holy Spirit had NOT
been conferred on them in consequence of their obeying the law.
'Or by the hearing of faith.' In connexion with hearing the
gospel, requiring faith as a condition of salvation.....
'Are ye so foolish!'
Can it be that you are so unwise? The idea is, that Paul
hardly thought it credible that they could have pursued such a
course. They had so cordially embraced the gospel when he
preached to them, they had given such evidences that they were
under its influence, that he regarded it as hardly possible that
they should have so far abandoned it as to embrace such a system
as they had done.
'Having began in the Spirit.'
That is, when the gospel was first preached to them. They
had commenced their professedly Christian life under the
influence of the Holy Spirit, and with the pure and spiritual
worship of God. They had known the power and spirituality of the
glorious gospel. They hall been renewed by the Spirit;
sanctified in some measure by him and had submitted themselves to
the spiritual influences of the gospel.
'Are you now made perfect.'
Tindal renders this, 'ye would now end.' The word here used
means, properly, to bring through to an end, to finish; and the
sense here has probably been expressed by Tindal. The idea of
perfecting, in the sense in which we now use the word, is not
implied in the original. It is that of finishing, ending,
completing; and the sense is, 'You began your Christian career
under the elevated and spiritual influences of Christianity, a
system so pure and so exalted above the carnal ordinances of the
Jews. Having begun thus, can it be that you are finishing your
Christian course, or carrying it on to completion by the
observance of those ordinances, as if they were more pure and
elevating than Christianity? Can it be that you regard them as an
advance on the system of the gospel?'
'By the flesh'.
By the observance of the carnal rites of the Jews, for so
the word here evidently means. This has not been an uncommon
thing. Many have been professedly converted by the Spirit, and
have soon fallen into the observance of mere rites and
ceremonies, and depended mainly on them for salvation. Many
CHURCHES have commenced their career in an elevated and spiritual
manner, and have ended in the observance of mere forms. So many
Christians begin their course in a spiritual manner, and end it
'in the flesh' in another sense. They soon conform to the world.
They are brought under the influence of worldly appetites and
End quotes from "Barnes' Notes on the New Testament"
The way to receive GOD'S SPIRIT was given IMMEDIATELY by Peter on
the 1st DAY of the start of the New Testament Church of God, (see
Acts 2:38; 5:3-2; Notice also - Luke 13:3,5; Mark 1:14,15;
Luke 4:16-19; Isaiah 55:1-3,6-9; 56:1-7; 58:13,14; 59:1-15;
57:15; 66:1-2; 53). We have seen how Paul was COMBATTING those
who were preaching JUSTIFICATION by your own WORKS. Being
CIRCUMCISED in the FLESH was one of those works that was said to
be necessary to be saved (Acts 15:1-6). Some were saying that
performing the LAW of Moses - the Old Covenant and physical
CIRCUMCISION was all that was required to get favor and
justification with God, and be saved. They were teaching a
justification and salvation WITHOUT the need of the shed
blood of Christ - without a REDEEMER, a Saviour! They were
teaching a salvation WITHOUT having to have FAITH in a redeemer -
namely Jesus Christ.
BY THE FLESH: Specifically referring to those who taught that
physical circumcision was necessary to justification and being
saved (See Acts 15:1-6).
The way of JUSTIFICATION (the forgiveness of sins and being
declared righteous) and salvation had been declared by God to
Abraham 430 years before the OLD COVENANT was established.
God the Father had determined LONG BEFORE the OLD COVENANT was
given, that the way to JUSTIFICATION was going to be through a
REDEEMER - a Saviour who would come from Abraham's seed and die
for the sins of all mankind. It was NOT going to be through a
person WORKING at DOING something and EARNING God's favor and
The way of JUSTIFICATION had been FORMULATED BEFORE the
foundation of the earth - 2 Timothy 1:9; I Peter 1:18-20.
THEY WHICH BE OF FAITH: As Paul said later to the Ephesians,
"For by GRACE are you saved, through FAITH and that not of
yourselves, it is the gift of God. Not of works, least any man
should boast." (Eph.2:8,9).
No amount of performance at anything, no works of law, any
law - ceremonial or moral can forgive or justify sins already
done, as Albert Barnes so well understood. And as he has
elsewhere stated, the design of law is not to forgive but to
condemn. So none can be saved through law, unless one would never
break the law - never sin. That Paul says has never ever been
done except by one man - Christ Jesus (see Romans 3:23; Hebrews
It was obvious then, to Paul, that all others can only be saved
by GRACE, the corner stone of which is FAITH - faith to believe
that Jesus did live, die and was resurrected, to secure
justification for all who will repent of sin and believe. This
was ever the only way of salvation - there was never any other
way, and Paul shows this from the example of Abraham who lived
BEFORE the Old Covenant was ever entered into and given to
Israel. Abraham was saved through FAITH not by circumcision or
any ceremonial rites or any deeds of law, but by BELIEF in the
promise of God that of his seed would come the Saviour of mankind
- the one who would bear the sins of the world, thus securing
justification for all who would be of the same FAITH as Abraham.
We do well to take heed to what the word of the Eternal gives us
as to the KIND of faith Abraham had. The father of the faithful
had a LIVING - ACTIVE faith. It was evidenced in his loving
obedience to all that the Lord commanded him (see James 2:10-26;
ALBERT BARNES' NOTES ON THE NEW TESTAMENT
CHAP.3:6,7,9 Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted
to him for righteousness. Know you therefore, that they which are
of faith, the same are the children of Abraham ... So then they
which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.
'Even as Abraham believed'
See this passage fully explained in the Notes on Rom.4:3.
The passage is introduced here by the apostle to show that the
most eminent of the patriarchs was not saved by the deeds of the
law. He was saved by faith, and this fact showed that it was
possible to be saved in that way, and that it was the design of
God to save men in this manner. Abraham believed God, and was
justified, before the law of Moses was given. It could not,
therefore, be pretended that the law was necessary to
justification; for if it had been, Abraham could not have been
saved. But if not necessary in his case, it was in no other; and
this instance demonstrated that the false teachers among the
Galatians were wrong even according to the Old Testament.
'Know ye therefore' etc.
Learn from this case. It is an inference which follows, that
all they who believe are the children of Abraham.
'They which are of faith.'
Who believe, and who are justified in this manner.
'Are the children of Abraham.'
Abraham was the 'father of the faithful,' The most
remarkable trait in his character was his unwavering confidence
in God. They who evinced the same trait, therefore, were worthy
to be called his children. They would he justified in the same
way, and in the same manner meet the approbation of God. It is
implied here, that it was sufficient for salvation to have a
character which would render it proper to say that we are the
children of Abraham. If we are like him, if we evince the same
spirit and character, we may be sure of salvation.
'So then they which be of faith.'
They whose leading characteristic it is that they believe.
This was the leading trait in the character of Abraham; and this
is the leading thing required of those who embrace the gospel,
and in the character of a true Christian.
'Are blessed with faithful Abraham.'
In the same manner they are in interested in the promises
made to him, and they will be treated as he was. They are
justified in the same manner, and admitted to the same privileges
on earth and in heaven.....
End Quotes from Albert Barnes
TO BE CONTINUED