Year 3 Day 51
Read - Galatians 2
Message - Scott Woodburn
We know that the Apostle Paul visited Jerusalem on at least four occasions in the Scriptures. Once when he visited Peter (Galatians 1v18), later when he took a collection for the poor (Acts 11v30), again when the Jerusalem Council took place (Acts 15) and later still when eventually he would be arrested.
Paul tells the Galatians about one of these visits (probably the second one) when he travelled to Jerusalem and set before the other Apostles the gospel he had been preaching. Paul wanted to be sure that he was not running in vain, he wanted to be certain that he had got the Gospel right (v2). Paul met with James, Peter and John amongst others (v9) and these men did not insist upon circumcision to be saved. Titus was with Paul and he came from a Greek background but still the Apostles did not require Titus to be circumcised (v3).
The Apostles instead extended the right hand of fellowship to Paul and Barnabas and encouraged them to continue preaching to the Gentiles and to remember the poor (v9-10). The Apostles did not change Paul's Gospel or add anything to it (v6). Paul's Gospel was the Gospel. It was authentic and true and did not require circumcision as a necessity for salvation.
That was the issue settled...but not quite. Peter visited Antioch and happily ate with the Gentiles (v12) but later when others from the "circumcision party" arrived, Peter withdrew from the Gentiles and acted hypocritically (v13). Indeed even Barnabas was led astray by their actions. Paul could not abide this state of affairs and he confronted Peter about his hypocrisy (v11). Peter was a Jew who lived like a Gentile but was forcing the Gentiles to live like Jews (v14). That's certainly a tongue twister but more importantly, it was dangerous hypocrisy.
The issue at stake was justification. What is justification? Justification is an act of God’s free grace, wherein he pardons all our sins, and accepts us as righteous in his sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone. There is no room for works in justification. Peter's actions suggested that righteousness before God also depended upon our works.
A person cannot be justified before God by works of the law (v16). It doesn't matter if you are the best person in your street or even if you are an elder in a church - your works cannot save you. Instead a person is only justified through faith in Christ (v16). Circumcision and other works of the law justify no one (v16). Only faith in Christ will see an individual declared righteous.
As the chapter comes to a close Paul answered an objection of his opponents. Essentially they had accused Paul of making Christ a servant of sin (v17). How could this be? Their argument was that Paul had been saved but was still living like a sinner. He was bringing the Gospel into disrepute. Paul answered with the statement "certainly not!" Every sinner is saved by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone. We are declared righteous but the old sinful life is still there. If a Christian falls into sin is this Christ's fault? Certainly not! Christ does not require good works for salvation but this does not free the Christian to a life of sin.
Paul was now a man who would live to God (v19). He refused to rebuild his days of devout obedience to the law (v18). Such an activity would only prove him to be a sinner. The law cannot save us but instead it shows us our sin and our need of a Saviour. The law used rightly causes us to die to the law - it makes us run from it and run to Jesus (v19).
The Christian has been crucified with Christ. Our sins are no longer held against us, but now it is Christ Himself who lives in the hearts of believers (v20). We will still know days of failure and sin but our weakness does not nullify the grace of God (v21). We are not declared righteous because of our good ongoing works but instead because we have Christ's righteousness credited to us.
The Gospel is one of freedom. Certainly not freedom to sin but certainly freedom to know that God Himself has declared us righteous through faith in Christ. Who you have dinner with does not change your status with the Lord - in Christ we are free!
Q52 What are the reasons annexed to the second commandment? The reasons annexed to the second commandment are, God’s sovereignty over us, his propriety in us, and the zeal he hath to his own worship.