Pastor Rick Hogaboam, Sovereign Grace Fellowship of Nampa, ID
August 1, The Year of our Lord 2010
Galatians 2:15–21 (ESV) — 15 We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. 17 But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! 18 For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. 19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.
5 major themes I wish to explore:
1. Justification by Faith, apart from works of the law (15-18)
2. Our relationship to the law, dead to it, alive to God (19)
3. Union with Christ in crucifixion, new life, Christ living in us (20a)
4. Jesus’ love and sacrifice, necessary for salvation (20b)
5. Grace of God (21)
v.15 – Is Paul still recording his correspondence with Peter or generalizing with the reader? Think it is an editorial plural referring to Jewish argumentation. Paul is stepping into the shoes of his Jewishness and doing some irenic explaining of how Jews and Gentiles are made right in Christ alone.
- “Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners” – Gentiles were referred to as sinners, unrighteous, despised. Part of the daily Jewish prayer was to thank God for not being a gentile.
- “yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law” – not all would share Paul’s assessment, then again most might have. Many studies on Judaism during this time have offered varied approaches to how the Jews thought of the law. Some Jews thought of the law as a gracious gift that defines their being, rooting their existence into the idea of election. Others have suggested that Jewish thought evidenced an idea of meriting salvation by adherence to the law. Some have suggested that the law was nothing more than an identity marker for nationalistic pride, etc. It is inconclusive what all the Jews were thinking, in my estimation, but these studies are conducted with the hopes of shedding light on various Pauline phrases, like the one in this verse. Paul’s argument is clear:
- Works of the law do not justify any of us. “works of the law” – the whole thing or just the ceremonial boundary markers or one of many other interpretive possibilities. Legalistic distortions of the law, merit concept of works of the law, general deeds, nationalistic works like circumcision, feast days, among others? Some see a comprehensive treatment based on Paul’s later dealings in Galatians with the Sinaitic covenant as a whole (Gal. 3 and 4). Essentially, no doctrines stand or fall completely on the reading of this one text. The fact is that circumcision doesn’t save and the law doesn’t save. That is what Paul is specifically responding to, but enlarges his argumentation to deal with “works of the law” and will later deal with the whole Sinai (Mosaic) covenant. At the end of the day, Paul basically leaves the person who bases his righteousness apart from Christ as completely bankrupt, that much is CLEAR!!!
- Theological debates on what role the law does play for those who are Christians is a discussion worth having. Clearly, feast days, circumcision, etc are no longer binding, but what about murder, adultery? We will deal with these concerns in a later sermon on Galtians. (more…)