Tonight, we are continuing our study in the book of Galatians. And what a blessed time it is going to be as we come into that 2nd chapter again. In Galatians chapter 2, we are considering the portion of Scripture that goes from verse 11 through verse 21. We began two weeks ago with our first look at these verses and this is our second one. And we're calling this little series within the book "Salvation by Faith Alone."
Now, our generation has been asking in its own way the very same question that Bildad asked centuries ago, in Job 25:4. He said this: "How, then, can man be righteous before God?" It's a very important question. How, then, can man be righteous before God? One of the universal human hurts is guilt. Every man feels it, every man, in some way or another, tries to alleviate his guilt. He may salve it over with self-confidence and positive thinking, and he may endeavor to escape from it in drugs or drink or some other escape. But every man deals, in one way or another, with guilt. Primitive man, for example, endeavors to look for relief in religious rites. And in attempting to pacify some god that he assumes exists, he somehow feels that he is thus atoning for his sin and gains a measure of relief from guilt. The cultured man is a little different. Maybe cultured man looks for his “out” in psychoanalysis. But both ends of the pole, whether cultured or primitive, shout that something is wrong. They need love, they need acceptance, and they need forgiveness. And it's at that point that the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ rings true to the heart of the aborigine and the heart of the university professor, and everybody in between. And the voice of God comes and says, "There is love, and there is acceptance, and there is forgiveness for all who come to God through Jesus Christ."
Perhaps the key verse or verses in the book of Galatians boil down to verses 16; "Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ," and verse 20; "I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I but Christ liveth in me." This is really the message of Christianity: That a man can be just before God so that God will literally come and dwell within that man and live his life through Him. This is the heart of Galatians. This is the heart of Paul's gospel. This is the heart of the New Testament, as well as the key to the particular rebuke of Paul against Peter as Peter attacked the doctrine of salvation by faith alone.
Now remember, as we said last time, the apostle Paul was the apostle of grace. He was the great preacher of salvation by faith. It was he who said, "For by grace are you saved through faith, that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast." It was he who laid down the tremendous doctrinal statement of grace that’s defined so capably in Romans 3,4 and following.
And because Paul was the apostle of grace and because he was such a dominant figure and because he was so powerful, Satan knew that he must destroy his work. Satan knew that he had to do all that he could to undermine the message of Paul, to destroy the efforts that Paul was busily working on. And Satan had some false teachers to try to do his work for him, and he sent them along. And as we've seen all through our study of Galatians, they dogged the steps of Paul and they were the Judaizers. And they would come running along behind Paul and they would say, "No! You can't be saved through faith alone, you have to have works. You have to be circumcised, you have to keep the law, you have to obey the ceremonies, you've got to become a Jew first, then you can get into Christianity." And they imposed upon the freedom of grace and faith a system of rules and ceremonies.
Paul had shed blood, and almost given up his life, in Galatia, stoned and left for dead on the dump outside of the city. It was at great peril and great cost that he and Barnabas had founded those little churches in Lystra, Iconium, Derbe and Antioch of Pisidia. And now he was gone, and now he had heard about what happened. And the Judaizers had come in and troubled the sheep, troubled the flock, stirred up problems in the church with their heresy. And they had attacked Paul on three fronts. First, they denied his authority. They denied his authority and substituted theirs. Secondly, they denied his gospel of grace and substituted theirs of works. Thirdly, they denied his life of liberty and substituted their own life of legalism. So they hit him on his authority, his gospel, and his pattern of the Christian life. And he writes Galatians to counteract those three things. Chapters 1 and 2 defend his authority, chapters 3 and 4 defend his grace salvation, chapters 5 and 6 defend his liberty living.
Now we're in the first section. We're in the section dealing with the defense of his authority, and we have seen three ways in which he defends his authority. First, he gives his apostolic credentials. He says, "What I got, I got directly from Jesus." Remember that? Chapter 1 verses 10-24. Secondly, he says that, "I have not only apostolic credentials, but I have apostolic commendation." And in verses 1-10 of chapter 2, he shows that he went to Jerusalem and the leaders of the Jerusalem church commended him. So he defends his authority on the basis of his credentials and his commendation. And thirdly, and this is where we are, on the basis of his apostolic confidence. You say, "What do you mean by that?" I mean that when it came to a clash with Peter, who was considered number one among the apostles, Paul did not hesitate to take a position of authority over Peter. So he establishes his authority on the basis of his credentials, his commendation by the apostles, and his confidence in handling a heretical situation propagated by the leader of the twelve, Peter himself.
Now verses 11-21 is our consideration in the framework of his defense. And we see the passage falling into two sections: verses 11-13 deal with Peter's deviation, verses 14-21, with Paul's doctrine. Peter's deviation comes in three sections, and we saw those last time you remember. First of all, the clash came in verse 11.
"When Peter came to Antioch, I withstood him to the face because he was to be condemned." Paul sets himself against Peter's aggressive attack on grace. That was the clash. The cause for the clash in verse 12: "For before certain men came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles." He was doing fine. He was up here, and he wasn't hung up on dietary laws. He realized that the dietary laws of Leviticus 11 were gone, that the Lord had rubbed those out, that Jesus had Himself said in Mark 7, "It’s not what goes into a man that defiles him, it’s (what?) what comes out of him." And also when, prior to his meeting with Cornelius, he had tried to take a nap on the roof of his house. He found himself caught in a trance in which he saw a vision through which God showed him there were no more ceremonial dietary laws. Everything was to be taken, "Rise, Peter, kill and eat." And Peter said, "I can't, I can't, I can’t, I can’t touch that stuff. It's against the Jewish ceremony. It's established that we cannot touch it, I've never eaten it in my life!" And God says, "Don't you dare call 'unclean' what God has cleansed." It's a new game, it’s a new ballgame, it’s a new world, it’s a new day, Peter. So Peter understood that he could eat with Gentiles.
But watch. "But when they came from James," they came from the Jerusalem church, not under the authority of James, they just came from the church where James was sort of the leader, "he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them who were of the circumcision." That's another term for the Judaizers who wanted to impose a legal salvation on everybody, you get saved by works. But when they arrived, all of a sudden he withdrew from the Gentiles and started acting like a legalist. And the reason he withdrew? It says simply in verse 12, "He feared them." In other words, he was holding his reputation. He didn't want to lose his reputation among the legalists. And the implication of the verbs here in the Greek tense is he gradually withdrew himself and isolated himself with the Jews. And what the fear that Paul had in his mind was here is two churches; we've created a monster here. We’ve got all the Jews pulling out, and we’re going to have this terrible fractioning of the church.
Well the consequence came in verse 13. "The other Jews dissembled in like manner with him." He was a leader, insomuch that Barnabas, who was co-pastor of the church at Antioch, also was carried away with their hypocrisy. You say, why does he call it hypocrisy? Because they knew better; they knew they were free to eat what they wanted to eat. They knew that. They played the part of a hypocrite to gain a reputation with the legalists. They didn't want to offend them. Well, the hypocrisy spread and it split the church. This is a church over which Paul again had labored and labored, so had Barnabas and so had three other pastors, indicated in the 13th chapter of Acts. This was the... This was the fountainhead of Gentile churches. And Paul was really upset, and in verses 14-21, we find the reaction and we'll call it Paul's doctrine. First he reacts; and then he teaches. Look at verse 14. Let’s go into it.
"But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before all, 'If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?'"
Now let's untangle that statement. What Paul is saying is this. Listen. And you need to get this or you'll miss the whole point of his argument. He's saying, "Peter, you shared the table with Gentiles, you had no hang-ups. You ate in their homes. You shared the Lord's Table as well as meals with them. There wasn't any problem. You ate, you lived like a Gentile. You no longer showed any inclinations to legalism, to Judaizing, to the necessity of law for salvation or for the Christian life. Therefore, Peter, you approved of it. You approved of it. You agreed that it was right. You agreed that this was truth. You, inasmuch as saying so, you have stated by your pattern that there is no more ceremonial, there is no more dietary separation, but we're one in grace. OK? That's what you said, Peter." And that's implied in the statement that he says, "If thou be a Jew and livest after the manner of Gentiles." In other words, "Peter, by the way you live, you approved of this. Now, how in the world can you reverse yourself and make everybody think that the only way to go is the way the Jews go? You were willing to live like a Gentile, now you want all Gentiles to live like Jews. And how did you reverse so suddenly?"
Now I don't think Paul's motive was to lord it over Peter. I think Paul was fighting for the purity of the church. He was fighting for the truth of grace salvation and of liberty. Now, notice the verse. Let's look at it in particular. "But when I saw that they walked not uprightly."
Boy, if that isn’t an interesting Greek word, fascinating word, orthopodeō, from which we get “orthopedics.” What it means is, orthos means “straight” and pous has to do with the foot. "You didn't walk with straight feet." In other words, here is the line of truth, and here's you. See. You didn't stay parallel to the truth. You didn't walk a straight course. You didn’t walk an unwavering, sincere course in conduct according to truth. And that's what he says, "You did not walk uprightly according to the truth of the gospel. You started drifting off from the line of truth." Now the amazing thing about it is Peter knew the truth, didn't he? Sure he did, he believed it. He played the part of a hypocrite in order to gain popularity with the legalistic section of the Jerusalem church.
Now Peter believed he could eat, he had no problem with that. And now he pretends that he doesn't believe it. What a hypocrite! He pretends "Oh, you Judaizers are so right. I'm going to come and eat with you." See. Phony. You know better than that. He didn't deal honestly, played the hypocrite. What an indictment.
And look what Paul does. He says this. I like this. He said unto Peter "before them all." You say, "But you just don't do that! Before everybody?" That's what he did. Augustine said this, this statement: "It is not advantageous to correct in secret an error which occurred publicly." Augustine was right. Unless you deal with the public sin on a public basis, you haven't fairly dealt with it and you haven't let the people know that you deal with sin. That's important.
Let me show you an interesting verse that talks about this as a little footnote. First Timothy 5 verse 1, It says, "Rebuke not an elder" — we don't have apostles today, but we do have elders — "Rebuke not an elder but exhort him as a father, the younger man, his brother." In other words, be careful how you talk about elders. You say, "What about if they deserve it?" OK, go to verse 19. "Against an elder, receive not an accusation but before (what?) two or three witnesses." In other words, be sure that it's confirmed. Why? Because men who are in positions of spiritual leadership are targets for criticism, and much of it unfounded, and it should be substantiated before it’s made an issue. But notice the next verse. Verse 20, when you do find out that it is true what that elder is accused of, “them that sin rebuke before all that others also may fear." In other words, you don't try to hide the rebuke of a person in a position of leadership, you make it just as public as was the display of his sin, in order that people might know that you truly believe what you say you believe.
I talked to a young man today about the situation in the church that we believe is so important, and that is that if we do not discipline within the church, there’s a credibility gap in our preaching. In other words, our elders are convinced that if we preach against sin and we preach for holiness, and godliness, and purity, and don't enact discipline when we see sin, then people are soon going to think that we really don't mean what we say. It's like if you tell your child all the time you don't want him to do something, you don’t want him to do something, but you never do anything about it when he does it. Pretty soon, he knows you're just woofing him when you say you don't want him to do it. There’s got to be credibility established on the basis of discipline.
And in this case, Paul set down a tremendous pattern in the church, and that is, "I don't care who you are, when you're out of line and your out-of-line activity is public, it's going to get rebuked publicly, that others may know the church doesn't tolerate that." It's a great reminder. It’s like Ananias and Sapphira. They sinned and what happened? They didn't disappear secretly. They dropped dead in front of the whole church. And you can imagine the reaction. I imagine there was a revival. And you know what it says later on in chapter 5 that "none dared join himself to them." In other words, you keep the tares out if you discipline. The... The rumor running around Jerusalem was, "Don't join that outfit. One false move and it's over." That’s right.
Now Paul then unmasks the hypocrisy of Peter. Nobody is beyond the discipline of the body, understand that. And Paul unmasks hypocrisy in one who is really a supreme...supremely important individual in the eyes of the people. Notice the word “live.” "He said unto them...unto Peter, before them all, that “thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles." There the word is from zaō, and that doesn't mean “life” like the word bios, or biological life. It has to do with all of the...just the externals of life. He was externally living like a Gentile and now he was going to trade that in. It’s simply talking about not so much moral issues as it is just externals. Peter was... He was doing great with the externals of the change, he had transferred his...his patterns into what was the one, single identity of the church with no hang-up, and now, he had all of a sudden turned his sails to pick up the sudden wind that blew in from Jerusalem, and was violating that which he had already established in his own mind and the minds of other people. And Paul shot right at his inconsistency.
Everybody in Antioch knew Peter. Everybody knew what he’d done. Everybody knew he was living like a Gentile and having a great time. And now, the whole thing was very confusing and Paul could see this, a serious, serious rift. So Paul flat-out shoots both barrels at him in verse 14.
Now this becomes a...a premise on which Paul bases a tremendous theological statement. And that’s in verses 15-21. Paul really takes off in this little passage from 15-21, which could be studied and studied and studied and perhaps never plumbed, very, very difficult to untangle what he's saying for the reason that he’s emotional, especially in the first part of Galatians. He's so emotionally involved that his grammar and his word choice is horrendous from just a physical standpoint, although we know it was the Spirit's design all the way through. Humanly speaking, he was emotional at this point and that comes through.
But in this little section from 15-21, we're introduced to some tremendous Pauline terms. For example, we run into the term pistis, or “faith,” which becomes such a dominating word in the vocabulary of Paul. Then we run into the word nomos, which translates “law,” another dominating word. But above and beyond those words, we run into another word, a word that becomes a cardinal word not only in Christianity, but in Paul's mind, and his heart and his writing. And that is the word “justification.” And I believe this, that no one understands Christianity who does not understand justification. Now you may not understand what that term means, but you’ve got to understand that concept or you could never understand Christianity or be saved. The verb form of justification appears three times in verse 16, one time in verse 17, and the noun form appears in verse 21. So justification is at least five times in these verses stated.
Now this is very important, because here we have then, a statement regarding justification. The great doctrine of justification by faith alone is introduced here. And notice, friends, it is introduced in the context of his rebuke to Peter because this is the reason he rebukes Peter. He says, "Peter, I'm rebuking you because you're violating the cardinal doctrine of Christianity. By what you're doing, you're condoning legalism. You're condoning a faith-works system." And he is saying, in effect, "Now, Peter, listen. I'm not just asking you a question; I'm going to tell you why I'm posing this question to you." And the why, of course, is based on the doctrine of justification. Martin Luther said, "If the article of justification be once lost, then all Christian doctrine is lost." You say, what is the doctrine of justification? It is the good news that sinful men, sinful women can be brought into the acceptance of God, not because of their works, but simply through faith in Jesus Christ. That's the doctrine of justification. The word comes in many forms: dikaios, dikaioō, verb, dikaiosunē, but it's the same thing. It's translated in the Bible justification, just, right, righteous, righteousness, justify, justified. All those terms translate the same word for the most part.
Now let me give you a definition of it. It is a legal term, and stay with me because this is going to get somewhat theological, but it is a legal term. It comes from the law courts. To give you a...a definition, I perhaps would best start with a contrast. The opposite of justification is condemnation. Now does that help you understand it? The opposite of justification is condemnation. For example, to condemn is to declare someone guilty. To justify is to declare someone not guilty, innocent, righteous. Now in the Bible, justification refers to God's free and gracious act by which He puts a sinner right with Him, forgiving him, pardoning him and accepting him not on the basis of anything that sinner does but solely and only on the basis of the perfect work of Jesus Christ. That's justification.
This is the core, really, folks, of the Scripture because this is the core of the human dilemma. The human dilemma is this: God is righteous and I’m sinful. How do I get to Him? That's what Bildad said: "How, then, can man be righteous before God?" Job 25:4. That was the pain that was eating at him. How, then? How can a condemned sinner be declared righteous and accepted by the God of the universe? How? We know that it's by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and Peter had adulterated and prostituted that fact, and Paul was attacking back, and his attack was premised on the doctrine of justification.
Now let me give you two thoughts on this. First of all, he makes the statement of justification in verses 15 and 16. He simply states what it is. Then, in verses 17-21, he defends it. This is powerful, this is clear, and it’s potent. The words are a contrast in verse 15 and 16 between the Judaizers' doctrine of salvation by law-works and the apostles' doctrine of justification by faith. Now the argument is Jewish. We have to think of it in that context. Look at verse 15 and we'll unscramble some things that are probably running around loose in your head.
Verse 15: "We being” or who are “Jews by nature,” and not sinners of the Gentiles “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” what? “no flesh be justified."
Now, in case you didn't get it, he said the same thing three times, three times. Now let's back up to the beginning. First word: We. Say, who's he talking about? Jewish Christians such as Paul, Peter and the other Jews at Antioch, Jewish Christians. "We, though Jews by nature." And you say, what is he making that for? Well you see, look, he's saying that though we are Jews by nature — skip down to the middle of verse 16 — even we have believed in Jesus Christ. And that's the point. He's saying this: We’re Jews by nature, right? We know the law as a way of life from the time we were born, circumcised the eighth day, that whole thing. We know what it is to live under the system of law. We know what it is to...to endeavor to gain approval. We know what it is to be restrained by certain forbidden things under the Mosaic economy. We know what it is to obey ceremonial ritual. We're not, verse 15, like the sinners of the Gentiles. And there, the word “sinners,” hamartōloi, is not so much a moral term as it is a legal one. We’re... The word “sinners” is synonymous with “Gentiles.” In the sense that the Gentile had no law, not that he's a moral sinner but that from a legal standpoint, the Gentile, not having law, therefore lived in violation of it, at least in the mind of the Jew. For example, if a Gentile didn't have all the ceremonial laws, he couldn't obey them, right? So in the Jew's mind, he was automatically a sinner, legally. Not... It's not a moral thing, it's a legal thing.
And so, Paul's saying, look, we're Jews by nature, we're not even like Gentiles, we're...we’re not apart from law, we know the law. We’ve lived by the law. Gentiles were born without the law. They didn't have the Mosaic system, so legally, they're violators of it. We don't expect them to put confidence in the law; they never had the law. Right? But we Jews who — listen now — who all our lives had the law, found out there's only one way to be saved and that is to (do what?) believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. That's what he's saying, “even we.” Look at the middle of verse 16: Even we, who all our lives had the law, who know all about the law, unlike the Gentiles who don't even know. With all the law we've had, we find out that we believe in Jesus Christ that we might be justified by the faith of Christ and not (by what?) by the works of the law. Now he says, we're legalistic experts and we found out one thing through our law: It doesn't work. It doesn't bring you to God.
Remember what happened in the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15? Peter was up, and Peter was the preacher there, defending grace. Oh, Peter, Peter, the apostle with the foot-shaped mouth. Acts 15, he says in verse 10: Now, he says, look, we don't want to put law on the Gentiles. Listen. "Now, therefore, why put God to the test, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?"
Peter admits that the legal system never got anybody to God. Boy, Paul is setting up his argument. We Jews, we've always had the law, always obeyed the law, always known what it does, unlike those Gentiles; “Nevertheless,” verse 16, “knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law." The position of the Judaizers was that the only way to be saved was hard work. That's right, hard work; you sweat it out and someday you’ll may find out whether you made it or not. You say, "Did the Jews believe that?" Yes, they did believe that. Remember the rabbi I read from a few weeks back who died crying because he didn't know whether God would accept him? He spent all his life trying to obey the law. The Judaizers say, "You've got to work at it. If you love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength," and I don't know how you grunt and groan and conjure that up, "if you keep the commandments, if you're circumcised, if you accept Judaism, if you fast and pray and give your alms, if you do all those things, you'll make the grade. Then you'll be justified by the works of the law." And Paul said they were doing this, Romans 10:3, he says, "Yes, they're going about seeking to establish” what? “their own righteousness." Paul says it's a lie. A man is not made right with God by his own works. It can't be done, no way.
Jesus pointed that out — didn’t he? — in the Sermon on the Mount. They were all there sort of basking in their law-keeping and Jesus said, oh, that's real good; you haven't killed anybody, you haven't committed adultery. “But I say to you, if you've ever lusted after a woman, you've committed adultery." Zap. "I say to you, if you ever hated anybody, you're a murderer." Now, that shot down their... that shot down their little ivory tower mighty fast. He destroyed legalism as a way to God in the Sermon on the Mount. No. murderous thoughts make us murderers, adulterous thoughts make us adulterers. It's astonishing that anybody could ever think that he could get to an absolutely holy and perfect God by his good deeds. I mean, you can't be that good!
So Paul admits, with all the racial superiority of Judaism, with all the legal benefits of having the law that the one thing the Jews have found out is that it doesn't work to get you saved. You say, "Well if it isn't by the works of the law,” verse 16, “what is it?" It's by "the faith of Jesus Christ." On the cross, He died for our lawbreaking; He paid the penalty of death for us. And all that is required for a man to be justified is to accept what Jesus did, to acknowledge his sin, his helplessness, to repent, to cast himself at the feet of Jesus Christ who alone can save.
And you know it’s not just a — and I should make this point — it's not just an intellectual conviction, but it has to be a personal commitment. Notice verse 16. "Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed." And then the little preposition in the Greek is eis. It means “into.” "We have believed into Jesus Christ." There’s an act of commitment, of committal, not just agreeing that Jesus lived and died for you and saying, "That's fine, I believe it all," but believing into Christ, committing yourself to Him.
Well, let me give you another little look at this same doctrine in Romans 3 for just a second, because I think it's important. Romans 3 verse 20. I'm just going to pick out a few verses here at random. Paul says the same thing, essentially, just to give you some Scripture to compare with it. Romans 3:20. Well, we ought to read 19. He says, "We say that whatever things the law saith, it saith to them that are under the law” — In order to save them? No. — “that every mouth may be” what? “stopped and all the world would become guilty before God." The law is around to show you what a sinner you’re are... you are. Verse 20. "Therefore, by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight." Nobody gets right with God by his good deeds. "For by the law is the knowledge of sin." The law is the thing that makes you a sinner. As I've said before, the law is like a mirror. The mirror can't help you, it only reveals you. You look in the mirror and it's sad, you can do all you want to change the position of the mirror and it won't help. The mirror isn't the problem, you are.
Verse...well, let’s look at verse 24: "Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." Verse 26, "The justifier of him who believeth in Jesus." Verse 28, "Therefore, we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law." Verse 30, "Seeing it is one God who shall justify the circumcision by faith," that is Jews, "and the uncircumcision through faith," that is Gentiles. There is no other way. Verse 3 of chapter 4, "For what saith the Scripture? Abraham believed God and it was counted unto him for righteousness." Chapter 5 verse 1, "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." Verse 9, "Much more then, being justified by His blood." This is Paul's theme, over and over again in that little section in Romans, that justification comes through faith in Jesus Christ.
You say, what about James? What about where James says that a man is justified by works? James is talking about a totally different issue, looking at it from a totally different side. He is saying that, in the eyes of the world, a man's salvation is validated by his life. Right? That if you're really saved, there is going to be some way that the world is going to see that through the way you live. Now verse 16 again: Three times Paul tells us that God's way is by faith in Jesus Christ, not the law. The first statement is general; it's just a general statement: "Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ." That's general. Second one is personal, very personal. "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." The third statement is universal. "For by the works of the law shall (what?) no flesh be justified." And that friends, is a quote from Psalm 143 verse 2. And the Greek is a very strong term referring to all flesh, all mankind, without exception. Now listen to this. You will never find one verse in the Bible anywhere that’s as forceful a statement on the salvation doctrine as that. That's it, that's the most forceful verse. Why? Because it's repetitious; let me give you a look at it from the three-sided angle.
First, Paul establishes it by insisting it...insisting on it as an apostle. He insists on it as an apostle. "We know," he says, "that a man is not justified by the works of the law." Secondly, he confirms it by experience. One, he uses authority; two, he uses experience; three, he quotes Scripture. So the doctrine of justification is nailed down from the standpoint of apostolic authority, apostolic experience, and the Scripture itself. It is a tri-fold testimony, a three-fold guarantee that justification is by faith. And every time you see somebody coming along who says, "Well, yes you are saved by believing in Jesus Christ, and...," that's a lie right out of hell, whatever the “and” is. You say, "Well you didn't even hear what the “and” was." I don't care what the “and” was. There isn't any “and.” Paul says, irrespective of special privileges as Jews, we believe on the Lord Jesus Christ because that's the only way to be saved. You say, "That's quite a statement. Can he defend it?" Sure.
Let's look at his defense, verses 17-21, and this is potent, too. And it's difficult to untangle this little bit, so keep your mind glued in. It won't take long, but we'll do the best we can, try to get words that’ll make it clear to you. Now Paul is still firing away at the inconsistency of Peter and Barnabas. By their behavior, they’ve implied, you know, that...that you’ve got to be a legalist. And they've also implied that Gentiles are second-rate Christians, if they're Christians at all. They're really acquiesced to the Judaizers. They really fell into their camp. But notice verse 17 and watch how Paul defends it.
Incidentally, this verse could be interpreted five or six ways, but I'll give you the one that I lean to.
"But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves are also found sinners, is therefore Christ a minister of sin? God forbid." Now watch this. Again you see the word “we” and it's important to interpret that properly. The word “we” is the same as verse 15, it's the Jewish Christians. "If we Jewish Christians seek to be justified by Christ," OK, we understand that. In other words, if we buy grace salvation, OK? That's fine. "But we ourselves are also found sinners; is therefore Christ a minister of sin?" What does he mean by that? This: If the Judaizers, in demanding that we keep the law, now listen, and demanding that we can't really be saved apart from works, if they in demanding that draw us into that, then, in effect, what we did prior to that was sin. Right? In other words, while we enjoyed our liberty, we were sinning, if they're right. OK? If the Judaizers are right, all the time we were eating together, fellowshipping together, enjoying our liberty, we were sinning, before they got here and straightened us out.
And then comes the crusher. "Is therefore Christ the minister of sin?" Say, why does he throw that in? Because who was it that taught them they were to be one? Christ Himself. Did Christ, then, lead us into the sin of eating with Gentiles? If the Judaizers are right, Jesus did that, and He's the minister of sin. Boy, that is a potent argument; Jesus, who taught us so to live, promoted sin, and the Judaizers have not only straightened us out, they've straightened out Jesus, too. Jesus has become hamartia diakonos, “a minister of sin." What a blasphemous statement! And I'm telling, you can imagine Peter just, his teeth just went nnnnnnn like that. By your action, Peter, you're condemning Jesus Christ Himself. You see, Jesus taught that it's not what enters a man that defiles him; it's what comes out of him. He taught that all things are clean. He taught that you could be saved by simply coming to Him. He taught all of that. And when you obeyed Him, and you ate with Gentiles, and accepted Gentiles, and accepted a free grace salvation, and you accepted faith as the only way, that was fine! You were obeying Christ. But now, if you say the Judaizers are right, then Christ was wrong. And if they say eating with Gentiles is sin, Christ made you sin; therefore He is a minister of sin. Gulp. That’s pretty serious. And in fact, Paul would say, but when Christ taught you grace, He made you a greater sinner than you were before. Well, what's Paul's answer? "God (what?) forbid," which, in the Greek, is like saying, “a thousand times no,” no, strongest negative.
On the contrary, verse 18, and here he makes it a personal pronoun, implying it’s himself because he could be in the same situation. There’s a little bit of gentleness in this, he softens the blow by pulling himself into it. "For, if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a sinner, a transgressor." In other words, if...if by what you're doing, you certainly aren't making Christ a minister of sin. He couldn't be that. What you're doing is declaring yourself a sinner. And your sin is the sin of hypocrisy and legalism. Instead of committing sin like the Judaizers say — the Judaizers say you commit sin if you abandon law for grace — what you've done is commit sin by abandoning grace for law. You're a transgressor by returning to the law which you once abandoned in Christ. And as I said, he uses the word “I” and softens a little bit by even including himself. Paul says, in effect, "I would prove myself a sinner if I forsook the law, established grace, accepted grace, then turned back to the law. I would prove myself a hypocrite and a sinner.” Paul says, “But I can't do it! I can't do it. I can't go back." Why, Paul? "Well, for one thing, it clashes with my deepest conviction."
Verse 19: "Died to the law” and dead to the law. Secondly, it cancels the cross. Verse 21: "Christ is dead in vain." Now let's look at what this means. Verse 19, he says, "I could never do it. Peter, I couldn't do what you're doing." Why? "For I, through the law, am dead to the law that I might live unto God. I can't go back to the law. I've come to grace! I've come to God through faith. I can't go back to a system of legalism." Now believe me, if ever there was a man who could have been saved by strict obedience to the law, it might have been Paul, right? Philippians 3:4-6, boy, he was more zealous than all of his contemporaries. His zeal went so far as to persecuting the church. But he couldn't be saved that way. Now notice in verse 19 he says, "I through the law, the only thing I got was death. The only thing the law did was kill me!" Notice the words,” I am dead.” That really should be translated, “I died.” It’s a historic fact. You say, "Paul, you look all right. What do you mean you died?" "Well, I died." In what way did you die?
Verse 20, "I am (what?) crucified with Christ." Oh, man, what a powerful statement. Let me show you what he means by that by just giving you a comparative look at Romans 6, one of the most powerful passages in the Bible. And you're getting some heavy theology tonight, but it's really basic. Romans 6:23: "For the wages of sin is (what?) death." Are you a sinner? You don't have to raise your hand. We know you are. That's a rhetorical question. Am I a sinner? Of course. Then if I'm a sinner, what am I going to have to do? Die. Die. That's what it says. In fact, verse 1 of 7 says, "Don't you know, brethren, how the law has dominion over man as long as he lives?" Once you die, beloved, listen this is so fantastic. Once you die does the law have any claim on you? No!
And to illustrate it simply this way, if you committed a crime, let's say you kill six people, just to multiply the crime. How many times can the law kill you? Once. And the... If they put you in the gas chamber, and they do whatever they do, and whoosh comes the gas and zap you're done, and the gas dissipates, and it’s sucked out, and the guy opens the door, and walks in, and unstraps you. And, just at the moment that you're finally unstrapped, you just rub your eyes and, "Boy, it's good to be back!" and then the guy faints obviously, and you walk out of there, do you know something? The law can make no claim on you. All the law could do was kill you. It's the law's tough luck that you rose from the dead. The law lays no more claim on you; the claim of the law is finished. Now, as...as long as you live, the law has a claim on you. But when you die, the law's claim is canceled.
Beloved, when did you die? When did you die? "I am (what?) crucified with Christ.” I died 2,000 years ago on the cross. I was there, spiritually. That's when — in Christ — the penalty was paid for my sin. The law has no dominion over me. It can't claim John MacArthur. That's what he's saying. And that's what he says all through Romans 6. Verse 2, look at this, Romans 6:2, tremendous statement. "How shall we that have died to sin live any longer in it?" In other words, if...if we died to sin, there's no sense in fooling around with it anymore. Go down to verse 11, terrific. He says, "Likewise, reckon yourselves to be dead to sin and alive unto God." You know, the beautiful thing is, you died with Christ but you know what you also did with Him? You rose with Him, and that's the law's tough luck, hasn't got a claim it can lay on you, because you paid the penalty in Christ. That's better than paying the penalty yourself, you know that? Because if you pay it yourself, it takes all eternity and it never gets paid.
Well, verse 14, "For sin shall not have dominion over you." Does that mean you never sin after you're saved? No, it just means the law can lay no ultimate claim to your life. Verse 18, "Being then made free from sin." You say, "Wait a minute. What do you mean 'free from sin'?" I mean free from the consequence of sin, which is death. That's what Paul meant, free from sin's ultimate consequence. Verse 22, "Now being made free from sin." Why are we freed from sin? “For the wages of sin is death,” but beloved, verse 4 chapter 7, "You also are become (what?) dead to the law by the body of Christ." In other words, by His perfect sacrifice, you died. Oh, fantastic! Just fabulous!
Look at verse 3 of 6. We may never get back to Galatians. Verse 3, "Know ye not that as many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death?" You know, when you were placed in Christ at the moment of salvation, you died with Him. "As we were buried with Him by baptism into death," — and that's not water there, that's just the spiritual placing of you into Christ — "as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also walk in newness of life." We died with Him, we rose with Him. Verse 5, we have been planted together in the likeness of His death; we'll be in the likeness of His resurrection. Verse 6, “Our old man is crucified with Him and the body of sin destroyed." Sin can lay no claim on us. Verse 7, "He that is dead is freed from sin." Beloved, it does not mean that you’re insensitive to sin. You’re probably more sensitive to sin as a Christian than you ever were. It means that sin has no claim on you. That's exciting! And Christ, in His death, provided that. What a fantastic thing.
Go back now to Galatians. So what's he saying? He's saying, "Look!” He’s saying, “What do I want to go back to the law for?" Romans 7, remember what he said? "I... I died. That old marriage is over and I’ve married a new partner. I'm not going to go back to the old one." Remember what he said in chapter 6? He says, look, I've yielded myself as a servant to God, I'm not about to go back and serve my old master, the law. Paul is saying here, man, I'm in grace. What would I want to do going back to the law? All the law did was cause me to die. I died, that deal's over with. I am crucified with Christ, I paid it's penalty, I live unto God. And the verb is in the perfect tense here. What it literally speaks of is a past, completed action with present results. I have been crucified with Christ, and the consequences are still going on. I love this, look at this: "Nevertheless, (what?) I live." Isn't it exciting that even though you died, there’s still a you? That ego is still there, that “I” has been transformed, but it's still you. You're not some ethereal, floating fog, you're not some spiritual entity, you're the same you you were. The only thing that has happened is a great theological transformation, and the practical part of it takes time as you grow.
“And yet,” look at this, "I live," he says. Fantastic. "Yet not I, but (what?) Christ lives in me." Beloved, can you get a grip on that? I mean, can you just get a grip on what that says? That Jesus Christ lives in this body? Staggering! Unbelievable! True. In fact, 1 Corinthians 6:17 says, "He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit." Oh, what a blessed thought.
I entered into Christ by faith when I received Him as Savior. I died on the cross with Him, I rose in newness of life, and nothing has ever changed since. I live, yet, not I, Christ living in me. Oh, fantastic. A new life. You know something? You don't need to work to get near God. You don't need to struggle to get near God. You know where God is? You're a believer, He's inside. It's only a question of yielding to His presence. What a tremendous truth. Christ living in me. Colossians 1:27, I love this. "Christ in you, the hope of glory." “What?” Paul says, "Know you not that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit?" First Corinthians 6:19, so many statements. Listen to this one, Colossians 2 and talking about Christ. “Christ in you the hope of glory.” And listen to this, Colossians 2:9, "In Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily." Now beloved, if all the fullness of the Godhead bodily dwelled in Jesus Christ, and Jesus dwells in you, then God, in His fullness, dwells in you, all because of the cross. So he says, "I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me. And the life which I now live in the flesh, I live because of the faith of the son of God who loved me, and gave Himself for me.” Do you know where I got this life I live? I didn't earn it. You know where I got it? By faith, right? That's what he's saying. "This life that I now live is Him living in me and I received it by faith. One who loved me and gave Himself for me, and I just took the gift. That's all."
Oh, it's so sad that all around the world, people are earning...trying to earn their salvation, doing forty-nine spiritual gymnastics and sit-ups and push-ups and jumping jacks every day, trying to gain God's favor. “How shall a man be righteous before God?” Faith in Jesus Christ. The life I live, I live simply because I put my faith in Him. I didn't earn it; I accepted it as a gift. Because of the cross, all this is so, Paul says.
“Therefore,” verse 21, "I do not make void the grace of God." He says, "I will... You may, Peter, you may, Barnabas; I will never set aside grace for law. Never. No." Why? "For if righteousness comes by the law, then (what?) Christ died needlessly." Can you imagine that? Remember what Jesus said to His disciples, Matthew 16? He said, "I must die." Remember when He said later on, "I must needs to go Jerusalem.” I have to go there. Remember in Matthew 16, He said He had to go and die and Peter said, "No! No, let it not be, let it not be," you know and Jesus said, "Get thee behind me, Satan." You mean to tell me that Jesus had all that desire to go and die and He was all wrong? My friend, if you can be saved by your works, Jesus died needlessly. Paul says, "I'll never go back to the law. If I do that, I admit that righteousness comes by the law, and if that's true, Christ died in vain."
Well I hope tonight somehow you feel the power and the...the potency of Paul's words. Let me give you this thought. The two pillars of the Christian faith are the grace of God and the death of Christ. Get that? For, the grace of God was always there, but the death of Christ made it something that we could receive. If anybody insists that he can earn his salvation by his own efforts, he undermines the very foundations of Christianity, he nullifies the cross. Martin Luther was a perfect example of discipline, perfect example of penance, a perfect example of self-denial, and even of self-torture. He said this about himself, Martin Luther, quote: "If ever a man could be saved by monkery, monkery, that man was I." I mean, he did it all. Climbed the Scala Sancta, you know, on his knees, up and down the stairs, up and down the stairs, up and down the stairs, getting years off purgatory. Toiled in seeking merit, he worked, slaved for his justification. Finally, God blasted through all the walls of legalism and said, "The just shall (what?) live by faith." And all the walls came tumbling down. Beloved, that's the message, and it's to you. Let's pray.
Thank you Father, that we do not need to earn our salvation. We thank You that Paul rebuked his erring brothers, not on the basis of just a little behavior deviation, but on the basis of a violation that was so serious, it actually threatened to destroy the doctrine of justification by faith. God, help us to catch something of the...of the fiery, flaming heart of Paul and his zealous protection of this doctrine. Father, if there is anyone in this place tonight who’s counting on their own good works, their own good deeds, their own good thoughts about God to gain them Thy favor, shatter that confidence, God. Destroy that hope. Cause them to fall at the feet of Jesus Christ in penitence, acknowledging themselves as hopeless, helpless sinners completely at His mercy.
Father, may we realize that no one is ever justified, accepted in Thy sight, on the basis of his own good deeds, but only through faith in Jesus Christ. And may we have the same kind of zeal as Paul. Whenever we see that doctrine violated, may we fight for its purity. Thank you, Lord, for the free salvation that is ours. May there be some here tonight, Father, who take the gift, who quit struggling, and just believe, and accept it. We pray in Jesus name, amen.