Justification by Faith
This brings us to the doctrinal section of this marvelous epistle, which deals with justification by faith. In this section Paul shows his perspective as a Jew.
We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles [Gal. 2:15].
The Jew in that day looked upon the Gentile as a sinner. In fact, Gentile and sinner were synonymous terms. Therefore, the rebuke that Paul gave shows the folly of lawkeeping -- how really foolish it is to try to be good enough to go to heaven, and how ridiculous to consider others to be sinners when you keep failing at your own lawkeeping.
Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified [Gal. 2:16].
This is a clear-cut and simple statement of justification by faith. Believe me, the legalist has trouble with this verse. This verse will upset every legal system there is today. To say that you have to add anything to faith in Christ absolutely mutilates the gospel.
Notice what Paul says here. If a Jew had to leave the Law behind -- that is, forsake it -- in order to be justified by faith, Paul's question is, "Why should the Gentile be brought under the Law?" That was the great argument at the council of Jerusalem in Acts 15; "Should the Gentile be brought under the Law?" Thank God, the answer, guided by the Spirit of God, was that the Gentile was not under the Law for salvation -- not for his daily living, as he was called to a much higher plane.
Could the Gentile find justification under the Law when the Jew had already proven that it was impossible? The Jews had had the Law for almost fifteen hundred years and had not been able to keep the Law at all. Why force the Gentile under that which had not saved even one Israelite? Gentile believers were already justified by grace. It would be folly for the Gentiles to turn from grace to the Law which had been unable to justify the Jew.
"Knowing that a man." Now let's pick this verse apart. This is something you can know -- you can know whether you are saved or not. What kind of "man" is this verse speaking about? Anthropos is the Greek word, a generic term meaning "mankind." It speaks of the solidarity of the race, the common humanity that we all have. This breaks the social barrier of color. It breaks the barrier of race.
ill.--There is only 1 race, in truth. We all are brown. Some have more dominant brown and some of us less. Racism will always be with us, but it has no real basis. We are all the product of our environment, our choices, etc.
There is no social barrier. All men are on one level before the Cross, and that level happens to be "sinner." You are a sinner. I am a sinner. I don't care who you are, you are a sinner in God's sight.
"Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law" -- the word 'the' is not in the original; so it should read "not justified by works of law." This includes the Mosaic system, and it includes any legal system. This is what I mean: if you say that you have to join a certain church, or that you have to have a certain experience, or that you have to be baptized to be saved, you are contradicting this verse. "Knowing that a man is not justified by works of law" -- any law. Paul embraces the whole legal system that is found in every religion. This makes Christianity different from every religion on topside of the earth. Every religion that I know anything about -- and I have studied many of the cults and religions of this world -- instruct us to do something.
Christianity is different. It tells us that we are justified by faith; that is, faith is an accomplished act. Every other religion says do. Christianity says done. The great transaction is done, and we are asked to believe it.
Let me call your attention to an important verse in 1 Corinthians: "Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed..." (1Cor. 12:3). Now the question for you and me is: how can we call Jesus accursed? If you say to me, "Jerry, when you came to Christ and accepted Him as your Savior, you didn't get all that was coming to you. The Holy Spirit can give you something that you didn't get in Christ, and you ought to seek that today?" To do that depreciates the work of the Lord Jesus on the cross when He came to this earth to die for you and work out a salvation so perfect that when He went back to heaven He sat down at the right hand of God (see Heb. 1:3). He sat down because there was nothing else to be done. If there had been anything else, He would have done it before He sat down. When you say that He didn't do it all for me, you are saying that Jesus is accursed. And you can't say that by the Holy Spirit of God. When you came to Christ, He gave you everything you will need in this life. He is the Alpha and the Omega. He is the Amen -- and when you say "amen," you are through, my friend. Christ did it all.
This verse is so clear it is impossible to misunderstand it. "Knowing that a man (any human being -- man or woman, black or white, rich or poor, Roman, American, Chinese) is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ." It is not faith plus something; it is faith plus nothing.
The verse continues: "even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ." Who does Paul mean by "we"? He includes himself, meaning we Israelites. He is saying that he and his fellow Jews had to leave the Law, come to Christ, and trust Him in order to be justified by the faith of Christ rather than by the works of law.
The conclusion of this verse is so clear I feel that anybody can understand it: "for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified." Now the next verse is a little more difficult to understand.
But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid [Gal. 2:17].
The word justified is the Greek dikaioo, which means "to declare a person right," or "to make him right." We are declared to be right by our faith in Jesus Christ. It means that a sinner who is guilty before God, who is under condemnation and judgment, is declared to be right with God on the basis of his faith in the redemption which we have in Christ. It is not only forgiveness of sins, which is subtraction; it is the addition of the righteousness of Christ. He is declared righteous. The righteousness I have is not my own righteousness, because my righteousness is not acceptable; but I have a perfect righteousness which is Christ.
The sense of this verse seems to be this: Since the Jew had to forsake the Law in order to be justified by Christ and therefore take his place as a sinner, is Christ the One who makes him a sinner? Paul's answer is, "Of course not." The Jew, like the Gentile, was a sinner by nature. He could not be justified by the Law, as he demonstrated. This same thought was given by Peter in his address before the great council at Jerusalem: "Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they" (Acts 15:10-11). You see, Peter and Paul were in agreement on the doctrine of justification by faith.
For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor [Gal. 2:18].
In other words, Paul is saying, "If I go back under law, I make myself a transgressor." However he is free from the Law. How did he become free from the Law?
For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God [Gal. 2:19].
Paul is saying, "When Christ died, He died for me. He died in my stead because the Law had condemned me." You see, the Law was a ministration of condemnation; a ministration of death is what Paul calls it in 2 Corinthians 3:7. It condemns me. Under the legal system God would have had to destroy the nation Israel. But He gave the sacrificial system -- five sacrifices -- all of them pointing to Christ. God, by His marvelous grace, was able to save. Therefore the mercy seat was a throne of grace where a nation could find forgiveness of sins.
The Law, therefore, condemned me. The Law has accused man. We stand guilty before the Law. So the Law actually is responsible for Jesus' dying for us. The Law condemned us -- said we had to die. All right now, if I am dead to the Law, then I am no longer responsible to the Law. The Law has already killed me. It has executed me, and I am dead -- dead to the Law. Therefore, the Law could not do for me what Christ has done for me. He not only took my place and died for me, but He also did something else. He was able to give me life. He came back from the dead. You see, the Law arrested, condemned, sentenced, and slew us -- that is all the Law could do for us. If you want to come by the Law route, you'll get death. Only Christ can give you life. And, after all, life is what we need today.
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me [Gal. 2:20].
This verse states a fact which is true of every believer. We are not to seek to be crucified with Christ. I have also heard many people quote verse 20 and talk about carrying their cross. They are sincerely mistaken in this case. There are many people today who talk about wanting to live the "crucified" life. That is not what Paul is talking about in this verse. We are not to seek to be crucified with Christ. We have already been crucified with Him. The death of Christ upon the cross was not only penal (that is, paying the penalty for our sins), but it was substitutionary also. He was not only the sacrifice for sin; He was the substitute for all who believe.
Paul declares, therefore, that under the Law he was tried, found guilty, was condemned, and in the person of his Substitute he was slain. When did that take place? It took place when Christ was crucified. Paul was crucified with Christ. But "nevertheless I live." How do I live? In Christ. He is alive today at God's right hand. We are told that we have been put in Christ. You cannot improve on that. It is a foolish notion that we can crucify ourselves. Sure, we all have our cross to bear, and we should daily put our flesh to death, but all glory for the crucifixion goes to the One Who was crucified there!
You can commit suicide in many different ways. You can hang yourself, shoot yourself, take poison, jump off a high building, or jump in front of a truck. There are many ways to end your life, but you cannot crucify yourself. When you nail one hand to the cross, who is going to nail your other hand to the cross? You cannot do it yourself. You must understand what Paul is talking about when he says, "I am crucified with Christ."
Paul was crucified with Christ when Christ died. Christ died a substitutionary death. He died for Paul. He died for you. He died for me.
In Romans 6 we are told that we have been buried with Christ by baptism, by identification. We have been raised with Him in newness of life, and now we are joined to the living Christ.
Paul is saying, "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live." He died for me down here that I might live in Him up yonder and that He might live in me down here. "And the life," Paul says, "which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God." What kind of life is this? It is a life of faith -- saved by faith, live by faith, walk by faith. This is what it means to walk in the Spirit.
"I live by the faith of the Son of God" -- look how tender this is -- "who loved me, and gave himself for me." Christ loved me, but He could not love me into heaven. He had to give Himself for me. The gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus. You can receive a gift only by faith. This applies to any gift, for that matter. You have to believe that the giver who holds out the gift to you is sincere. You must believe that he is telling the truth when he holds it out to you and says, "It is yours." You have to reach out in faith and take it before it belongs to you. God offers you the gift of eternal life in Christ Jesus.
The content of this verse leads some to believe that Paul was present at the crucifixion of Christ. Paul was a Pharisee, and they were the ones who led in the Crucifixion. Paul was a leader in the persecution of the church. He was also one who hated the Lord Jesus Christ. He probably was attending school in Jerusalem, in the school of Gamaliel, at the time of the Crucifixion. It’s difficult to believe this zealous young man would stay home on the day Jesus was crucified. The Scriptures tell us that the Pharisees ridiculed Jesus. They told Him to come down from the cross. Then they sat down and watched Him die -- you cannot sink any lower than that. I believe Paul may have been there that day doing those things.
Now after Paul came to know the glorified Christ, the One who died down here, the One who rose again and is at God's right hand, Paul could remember that day and say, "While I was there ridiculing Him, shooting out the lip at Him, expressing my hatred for Him, He loved me and He gave Himself for me!" He gave Himself -- the supreme sacrifice. Paul called himself the chief of sinners, which was not hyperbole...he wasn't just saying it for impact. It was an actual fact; he was the chief of sinners.
You can tread underfoot the precious blood of Christ by ignoring Him, turning away from Him, or turning against Him as Paul did. But it was for that crowd that Jesus prayed, "...Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do..." (Luke 23:34). Even if you hate Him, He was loving you and giving Himself for you. He loves the atheist who today denies Him. He loves the tribesman who has never yet heard of Him. And He loves the worldly person who has no time to consider Him.
I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain [Gal. 2:21].
The main thought in this verse is simply that if there had been any other way to save sinners, then God would have used that method. If a law or a religion could have been given that would save sinners, God would have given it. The only way that an infinite, holy God could save you and me was to send His Son to die. He was willing to make the supreme sacrifice.
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