Saturday

“If justification comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing” (v. 21)

Galatians 2:15 – 3:5 Saturday 25 June 2016

Psalm: Psalm19


Background

Today's passage is arguably one of themost important in the New Testament, and has had a very significantimpact on Christian theology. Paul's argument that we are justifiedby faith alone was particularly important during the ProtestantReformation in the sixteenth century, when it became a crucial boneof contention between reformers like Martin Luther and some in theCatholic Church.

The essential argument that Paul ismaking here must be read in the context of the whole letter and thedispute within the Galatian, and indeed the wider early, church. Akey word here is 'justification', which may be understood asmeaning 'placed in a right relationship with God' - something towhich the first readers of this letter and indeed all Christiansaspire. Paul wants his readers to understand very clearly that thishappy state does not come about because of anything that they do.In particular, it does not come about because they have beencircumcised or they follow Jewish dietary rules. The phrase "theworks of the law" (eg vv. 2:16; 3:2, 5) may be understood here asPaul's shorthand for these practices. Instead, Paul argues, we arejustified solely because of what God has done through the person ofhis crucified and risen son, Jesus Christ, and our faith in him.Paul tries to make this clear to his first audience by remindingthem that they first experienced the free love, or grace, of Godnot through their own actions but by the generous gift of God, inthe person of the Holy Spirit.

It is important to remember here,though, that Paul is arguing a case and trying to persuade hisaudience that his interpretation is correct. This means that heuses powerful language (eg "You foolish Galatians!" (v. 3:1)) andmay exaggerate some of the differences between himself and hisopponents. In particular, it is very clear that no faithful Jewbelieved that they were made right with God solely by performingritualistic acts like avoiding pork or keeping the Sabbath.Instead, such practices were merely symbolic of Israel's gratefulresponse to God's gracious calling of the nation to be God's ownpeople (Deuteronomy 10:12 - 11:32).


To Ponder

  • Why do you think that this passage became so important forlater generations of Christians?
  • What does it mean for you for Christ to 'live in' a person(v.20)?
  • How can you see the impact of being justified with God in youreveryday lives life?
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