Bible Verse Explanations and Resources


Galatians 2:21

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

I do not frustrate - Ουκ αθετω· I do not contemn, despise, or render useless, the grace of God - the doctrine of Christ crucified; which I must do if I preach the necessity of observing the law.

For if righteousness - If justification and salvation come by an observance of the law, then Christ is dead in vain; his death is useless if an observance of the law can save us; but no observance of the law can save us, and therefore there was an absolute necessity for the death of Christ.

  1. The account of the prevarication of Peter in the preceding chapter teaches us a most useful lesson. Let him who assuredly standeth take heed lest he fall. No person in a state of probation is infallible; a man may fall into sin every moment; and he will, if he do not walk with God. Worldly prudence and fleshly wisdom would have concealed this account of the prevarication of Peter; but God tells truth. This the fountain of it; and from him we are to expect not only nothing but the truth, but also the whole truth. If the Gospel were not of God we had never heard of the denial and prevarication of Peter, nor of the contention between Paul and Barnabas. And these accounts are recorded, not that men may justify or excuse their own delinquencies by them, but that they may avoid them; for he must be inexcusable who, with these histories before his eyes, ever denies his Master, or acts the part of a hypocrite. Had the apostles acted in concert to impose a forgery on the world as a Divine revelation, the imposture would have now come out. The falling out of the parties would have led to a discovery of the cheat. This relation, therefore, is an additional evidence of the truth of the Gospel.
  • On, I through the law am dead to the law, etc., pious Quesnel makes the following useful reflections:
  • "The ceremonial law, which is no more than a type and shadow of him, destroys itself by showing us Jesus Christ, who is the truth and the substance. The moral law, by leaving us under our own inability under sin and the curse, makes us perceive the necessity of the law of the heart, and of a Savior to give it. The law is for the old man, as to its terrible and servile part; and it was crucified and died with Christ upon the cross as well as the old man. The new man, and the new law, require a new sacrifice. What need has he of other sacrifices who has Jesus Christ? They in whom this sacrifice lives, do themselves live to God alone; but none can live to him except by faith; and this life of faith consists in dying with Christ to the things of the present world, and in expecting, as co-heirs with him, the blessings of the eternal world. And who can work all this in us but only he who lives in us? That man has arrived to a high degree of mortification, who can say Christ liveth in me, and I am crucified to the world. Such a one must have renounced not only earthly things, but his own self also."

    1. Is there, or can there be, any well grounded hope of eternal life but what comes through the Gospel? In vain has the ingenuity of man tortured itself for more than 5000 years, to find out some method of mending the human heart: none has been discovered that even promised any thing likely to be effectual. The Gospel of Christ not only mends but completely cures and new makes infected nature. Who is duly apprised of the infinite excellency and importance of the Gospel? What was the world before its appearance? What would it be were this light extinguished? Blessed Lord! let neither infidelity nor false doctrine rise up to obscure this heavenly splendor!
    Albert Barnes
    Notes on the Whole Bible

    I do not frustrate the grace of God - The word rendered “frustrate” ( ἀθετῶ athetō) means properly to displace, abrogate, abolish; then to make void, to render null; Mark 7:9; Luke 7:30; 1 Corinthians 1:19. The phrase “the grace of God,” here refers to the favor of God manifested in the plan of salvation by the gospel, and is another name for the gospel. The sense is, that Paul would not take any measures or pursue any course that would render that vain or inefficacious. Neither by his own life, by a course of conduct which would show that it had no influence over the heart and conduct, nor by the observance of Jewish rites and customs, would he do anything to render that inefficacious. The design is to show that he regarded it as a great principle that the gospel was efficacious in renewing and saving man, and he would do nothing that would tend to prevent that impression on mankind. A life of sin, of open depravity and licentiousness, would do that. And in like manner a conformity to the rites of Moses as a ground of justification would tend to frustrate the grace of God, or to render the method of salvation solely by the Redeemer nugatory. This is to be regarded, therefore as at the same time a reproof of Peter for complying with customs which tended to frustrate the plan of the gospel, and a declaration that he intended that his own course of life should be such as to confirm the plan, and show its efficacy in pardoning the sinner and rendering him alive in the service of God.

    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. It follows from this, that man cannot be justified by his own morality, or his alms-deeds, or his forms of religion, or his honesty and integrity. If he can, he needs no Saviour; he can save himself. It follows also that when people depend on their own amiableness, and morality, and good works, they would feel no need of a Saviour; and this is the true reason why the mass of people reject the Lord Jesus. They suppose they do not deserve to be sent to hell. 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 Saviour; for why should a person 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 need of a Saviour it is necessary to feel that we are lost and ruined sinners; that we have no merit upon 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 thankfulness and joy, and show that in regard to us Christ is not “dead in vain.”

    Matthew Henry
    Concise Bible Commentary
    Here, in his own person, the apostle describes the spiritual or hidden life of a believer. The old man is crucified, Ro 6:6, but the new man is living; sin is mortified, and grace is quickened. He has the comforts and the triumphs of grace; yet that grace is not from himself, but from another. Believers see themselves living in a state of dependence on Christ. Hence it is, that though he lives in the flesh, yet he does not live after the flesh. Those who have true faith, live by that faith; and faith fastens upon Christ's giving himself for us. He loved me, and gave himself for me. As if the apostle said, The Lord saw me fleeing from him more and more. Such wickedness, error, and ignorance were in my will and understanding, that it was not possible for me to be ransomed by any other means than by such a price. Consider well this price. Here notice the false faith of many. And their profession is accordingly; they have the form of godliness without the power of it. They think they believe the articles of faith aright, but they are deceived. For to believe in Christ crucified, is not only to believe that he was crucified, but also to believe that I am crucified with him. And this is to know Christ crucified. Hence we learn what is the nature of grace. God's grace cannot stand with man's merit. Grace is no grace unless it is freely given every way. The more simply the believer relies on Christ for every thing, the more devotedly does he walk before Him in all his ordinances and commandments. Christ lives and reigns in him, and he lives here on earth by faith in the Son of God, which works by love, causes obedience, and changes into his holy image. Thus he neither abuses the grace of God, nor makes it in vain.
    Ellen G. White
    God's Amazing Grace, 66.4

    Were it not for Christ's atoning sacrifice, there would be nothing in us in which God could delight. All the natural goodness of man is worthless in God's sight. He does not take pleasure in any man who retains his old nature, and is not so renewed in knowledge and grace that he is a new man in Christ. Our education, our talents, our means, are gifts entrusted to us by God, that He may test us. If we use them for self-glorification, God says, “I cannot delight in them; for Christ has died for them in vain”.... AG 66.4

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    Ellen G. White
    Our High Calling, 53.4

    The more perfectly the Lord sees the character of His beloved Son revealed in His people, the greater is His satisfaction and delight in them. God Himself and the heavenly universe rejoice over them with singing, because Christ has not died for them in vain. The believing sinner is pronounced innocent, while the guilt is placed on Jesus Christ. The righteousness of Christ is placed on the debtor's account, and against his name on the balance sheet is written, Pardoned. Eternal Life. OHC 53.4

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    Ellen G. White
    This Day With God, 320.6

    We must search the Scriptures for ourselves. As we search them as for hidden treasure, the truths that we find will give us strength to stand in the day of God. God holds us responsible for those around us. There are sinners to save, souls to be won. Shall we allow iniquity to separate us from Christ, from the work that He has given us? Let each one of us say, I will not disappoint the Saviour. He shall not have died for me in vain. I want to praise Him through all eternity. I must have heaven at any cost. TDG 320.6

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