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Summary: “How should man be just with God?” was a very important question, because the answer had eternal consequences. “The just shall live by His faith” is God’s answer; and it was this truth that has liberated so many from religious bondage and fear.

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September 29, 2013

The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Galatians

Tom Lowe

Chapter II.B.4.c: The Principle Involved (2.15-21)

Galatians 2.15-21 (KJV)

15 We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles,

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 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.

17 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.

18 For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor.

19 For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God.

20 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.

21 I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.

Commentary

15 We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles,

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 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.

Verses 15 and 16 are connected together in most of the oldest manuscripts, and read as one sentence.

But how far did Paul’s rebuke of Peter extend? Considerable discussion has centered on the question of whether Paul’s direct remarks to Peter were limited to verse 14 or whether, as in the NIV, they continued to the end of the chapter. While it is impossible to determine, it would seem that Paul uttered more than one sentence in reproving Peter. The remaining verses of the chapter develop, then, the inconsistency between Peter’s behavior and his beliefs.

We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles,

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 lawgiving—how foolish it was.

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,

This is the first appearance of the important word “Justified,” in this letter, and probably in Paul’s writings (if, as we believe, Galatians was the first letter he wrote). “Justification by faith” was the watchword of the Reformation, and it is important that we understand this doctrine.

“How should [a] man be just with God?” (Job 9.2) was a very important question, because the answer had eternal consequences. “The just shall live by His faith” (Hab. 2.4) is God’s answer; and it was this truth that has liberated so many, down through the ages, from religious bondage and fear. This concept is so important that three New Testament books explain it to us

1. Romans explains the meaning of “the just”—“For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "The just shall live by faith." "A just", or righteous man is not someone who thinks he is so, or who is thought by others to be so; nor are any made so by their obedience to the law of works; but he is one that is made righteous by the righteousness of Christ imputed to him.

2. Galatians explains “shall live”—“But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for "the just shall live by faith." (Gal.3.11). The man who is justified by faith, that is, by the object of his faith, Christ and his righteousness, and not by works; he shall live a life of justification, through that righteousness that his faith receives; he shall live contentedly, with peace and joy in the Holy Ghost, as the result of his being justified by faith; and this makes a clear point, that he is not justified by the law, for if he was, he would not live by faith in Christ, but in and by the deeds of the law.

3. Hebrews explains “by faith”—“Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him" (Hebrews 10.38). The meaning is that the righteous should live by "continued confidence" in God. They should live their lives not in doubt, and fear, and trembling anxiety, but by exercising a calm trust in God. They should not confide in their own merits, works, or strength. They should exercise constant reliance on their Maker. The sense is, that a persevering confidence or belief in the Lord will preserve us amidst all the trials and calamities to which we are exposed.

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