Summary: This is part four in a series on Galatians.
The Triumph of Grace
June 18, 2000
This Morning’s Text – Galatians 2:15-21
“We are Jews by nature and not sinners from among the Gentiles; nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified. But if, while seeking to be justified in Christ, we ourselves have also been found sinners, is Christ then a minister of sin? May it never be! For if I rebuild what I have once destroyed, I prove myself to be a transgressor. For through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.”
Good works sometimes get a bad rap! Paul’s emphasis in Galatians is upon the fact that we are saved, not by the works of the law, but by faith alone. I want to quickly give you three senses of the term “good works”; find a spot on note sheet and jot these down.
1. Good works done to attempt to achieve salvation – Ask ole’ Pagan Joe next door if he thinks he might make it to heaven someday, and he might say “yes” regardless of any exterior appearance of religion. When you ask “why?”, his response might likely be something like this: “Well, I try to live a decent moral life; I do this and that; etc.” He is attempting to justify himself before God on the basis of his own good works. Of course, he has no understanding of God’s holiness and his accountability.
2. The Works of the Law – This is what Paul is talking about in Galatians. People were trying to add the strict observance of Jewish law to simple faith in Christ as the means of salvation.
3. Good works which are fitting for Christians – Ephesians 2:8-9 is a passage often quoted; we often leave off verse 10, which talks about these appropriate good works which God has recreated us in Christ Jesus to do!
A fair question which Paul is answering is, “what is the place of the O.T. law in the life of the believer?” I worked for a time, as many of you know, for Little Debbie. This right hand has shaken the hand of the little girl on the cookie box! The plant is located in a small Tennessee town which is the home of a SDA school; thus, many of the workers there are SDA. There is in that particular group a strong and, I believe, misplaced adherence to the O.T. law. I remember conversations I had with some SDA friends. One accepted me as a fellow-believer in Christ but was pretty certain that, when I reached full sanctification, I would start worshipping on the Sabbath. Over the course of the next couple of months, I hope that we can more fully answer that question.
There are no quotation marks in the Greek language. We know that verse 14 contains a quote from Paul to Peter as Paul confronts him over his vacillation. What we don’t know is whether that quotation continues, nor for how far. It is possible that the rest of the chapter represents verbatim Paul’s continuing words to Peter; it is possible that this is a summary of his words to Peter; it is possible that he is moving to a more general statement to all Galatian believers. Frankly, it doesn’t matter a whole lot for our purposes! Let’s read it!
I. The Fact of their Conversion - :15-16
Isn’t national pride just a basic human instinct? We speak of the pride we have as Americans, of the greatness of our country, of our national heritage, of the courage of our founding fathers. I believe that, objectively, there are a number of reasons why the USA might be said to be the greatest nation on earth. I also believe, objectively, that there are a lot of factors in which we clearly do not measure up so well! On balance, I am very thankful to be an American. But I believe that if you went to many nations of the earth today, even nations wracked with poverty and disease, you’d find a similar national or cultural pride.