Galatians 2:15-21 “Jesus Loves Me, this I know, for the Bible Tells Me So”

Posted: August 20, 2010 by Rick Hogaboam in Biblical Studies, Galatians, Grace, Justification, Law, Theology, Union With Christ
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Galatians 2:15-21 “Jesus Loves Me, This I know, for the Bible Tells Me So”

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.

 1. Justification by Faith, apart from works of the law

  •  “justified” – ethical-moral-relational (righteous living) or legal-judicial-forensic (righteous standing). The implications are both, however theologians prefer to use justification in relation to our judicial standing, which requires faith alone. Sanctification is the relational outworking of righteousness, which requires faith. The same faith receives, believes, and obeys.

–          “but through faith in Jesus Christ” – after telling us how we’re not justified, Paul offers a contrastive affirmation of how we are justified…faith in Christ.

  • “faith in Christ” – objective Genitive, emphasizing the object of our faith? Means of justification
  • “faith of Christ, Christ’s faithfulness” – subjective genitive, emphasizing Christ’s faithfulness, Christ is the source of justification.
  • “Proof that is Christ” – appositive genitive, pistis could be understood as evidence.
    • 3x mentioned
    • 1 and 3 refer to Christ’s faithfulness or faith of Christ, referring either to His character in being faithful to us or His faith in securing righteous standard (active righteousness of Christ), or all 3 is objective genitive. Let’s apply all options, for all 3 ideas are present in Scripture as a whole and apply systematically.
    • Either way, the emphasis is a union with Christ that is based on judicial pardoning for sin, relational union wrought by our “mystical” union with Him.
    • All of these acts are received by the instrument of faith, whereby we enter into His faithfulness and His righteousness!!!

–          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.

  • Paul is turning the tables on the Judiazers right here. It is in fact these believing Gentiles that are right with God. The “we” still refers to Jewish believers. Their right standing, righteousness depends completely on Jesus Christ, His righteousness, and being brought into that union by faith alone…not faith plus circumcision, not faith plus law, but faith!!!

 

–          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.

  • Paul is referring to accusations that he is not being a good Jew, a true Jew, he is called a sinner, a term used generally of Gentiles at this time.
  • Is Christ accommodating sin, taking it lightly? Paul says NO!!!
  • Rebuilding what he tore down is reference to Jewish nationalistic zeal and pride. The irony here is that it is not the “sinners” who are the real sinners, but rather the “Jews”. What makes a transgressor is one who trusts in anything other than the cross, or anything in addition to the cross.

 

2. Our relationship to the law, dead to it, alive to God, 3 uses of law (to Christ, civil, didactic)

–          19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God.

  • Paul is referencing here what we call the 1st use of the law, that it teaches us to rely on mercy, to look outside of the law for right standing with God. The law shows us our sin and inability to rely on anything but God’s grace
    •  
  • The 3rd use of the law is the normative use, didactic sense, in which the law is a guide for our life after having been brought into union with Christ.
  • There is a lot of debate today in how exactly the law applies, some say it doesn’t at all, some say that it mostly does, with varying views inbetween.
  • What Paul says is that he had to die to the law, or his sinful prideful sinful distorted approach to the law in order to be made alive to Christ. You gain life by first dying. He had to die to the law as the grounds for righteousness in order to be alive to God.
  • Paul explains it this way in Romans:

–          Romans 8:1–8 (ESV) — 1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

3. Union with Christ, Christ living in us

–          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.

  • The dying/living contrast continues here in v. 20. He died with Christ, in order to be united to Him, to then be made alive in Christ.
  • Christ lives in you…”mystical union”.
  • Romans 6:3–4 (ESV) — 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
  • This new life (“life I now live”) is by “faith in the Son of God”. Ongoing emphasis on faith in Christ!!!

4. Jesus’ love and sacrifice, necessary for salvation

  •  “who loved me and gave himself for me” – I love how Paul, in the midst of theological dispute, doesn’t just deconstruct his enemies, but positively states the good news that he does believes.
  • Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so
    • Jesus tells me: John 3:16,
  • John 15:9–15 (ESV) — 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. 12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.
  • Circumcision and works of the law will not save us, only Jesus can save us, because of His love!!!
  • This is the source of our justification, our right standing, our acceptance, our unity, our everything!!!
  • Jesus loved me, and compelled by this love, gave himself for me.
  • Paul was being accused on nullifying grace and he responds by simply claiming this pure, amazing, sovereign grace shown us in the loving Jesus, who saved us!!!

5. Grace of God

–          21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.

  • Jesus death was absolutely necessary; He died for no purpose if we can be made right with God by any other means, even something as sacred as the law. We are lawbreakers. We are sinners. Grace is given in the righteous one who kept the law perfectly on our behalf, who loved us, who did it joyously; so that we can die to ourselves, die to any other striving in establishing our own righteousness.
    • He loved us
    • Died for us that we might be made right and have life
    • Is united to us and lives in us
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