Justified by Faith
Galatians 2:15-21; 3:21-29
INTRODUCTION Salvation by grace through faith without or apart from any human works or merit is a Biblical doctrine brazenly denied by most of professing Christendom, and little believed in practice even among "evangelical Christians" who profess to believe it. Sinful human nature is reluctant to renounce prideful pretensions to self-righteousness. Yet there can be no genuine experience of salvation until sinners recognize and confess themselves to be nothing but sinners, and come to trust in nothing at all for their salvation except the grace of God in Jesus Christ. This lesson includes two passages of Scripture emphasizing the doctrine of justification by faith. Note the following points: 1. Consistency, Galatians 2:15-18. a. Response for salvation, 15-16. b. Responsibility for sin, 17-18. 2. Crucifixion, Galatians 2:19-21. a. Identification in purpose, 19. b. Identification in practice, 20. c. identification in perfection, 21. 3. Connection, Galatians 3:21-23. a. Righteous promises, 21. b. Reserved promises, 22. c. Revealed promises, 23. 4. Conductors, Galatians 3:24-26. a. Led by the law, 24. b. Schooled to the Spirit, 25. c. Fathered through faith, 26. 5. Concordance, Galatians 3:27-29. a. Salvation symbolized, 27. b. Salvation synthesized, 28. c. Salvation summarized, 29. NOTES ON THE TEXT: CONSISTENCY, Galatians 2:15-18. Read the context. These verses are either a part of Paul's rebuke to Peter at Antioch or a comment on that rebuke. In either case, Paul here calls for consistency of practice with profession. Response for Salvation, 15-16. "Jews by nature" would have been justified by works of the law rather than "sinners of the Gentiles," if anyone could have been so justified. But the first believers in Christ were Jews who knew that "by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified," and so they found their only hope in Him. Objective genitives in the phrases "faith of Jesus Christ" and "faith of Christ" refer to faith of which He is the Object. Responsibility for Sin, 17-18. Genuine saving faith in Christ obtains complete justification from sin [Romans 4:3-8]. The true believer has forever disposed of the sin problem by agreeing to God's judgment in Christ. Only a weak or faulty faith could doubt the sufficiency of Christ's righteousness and turn again, even for a moment, to the law as a means of righteousness. Christ is not the minister of sin, and His followers must not insult Him by making themselves transgressors.
CRUCIFIXION, Galatians 2:19-21. Again let it be clearly stated: our salvation does not depend in the least degree upon our own efforts; it is found only in an identifying faith in Jesus Christ. Identification in Purpose, 19. By faith, we identify with the purpose of God. Through the law we died spiritually to the law that we might live unto God. We did so by personal identification with Christ our Substitute in His death and resurrection. Identification by Practice, 20. By faith we identify with the practice of divine life exemplified in Christ and imparted to us. This is the normal continuing experience of true children of God living by faith. Identification in Perfection, 21. By faith we identify with the perfection of divine righteousness in Christ freely imputed to us [Romans 4:20-25; Philippians 3:9]. To attempt to add to that perfection the self-righteousness of our feeble efforts to obey the law would be to frustrate the grace of God. If our poor righteousness could satisfy God, then Christ died in vain. No -- we must identify with His perfection; it is only in Him that we are accepted [Ephesians 1:6].
CONNECTION, Galatians 3:21-23. What then is the connection between the law and the gospel? Are they antagonistic or contradictory to each other? Not at all antinominianism has completely missed the point. Righteous Promises, 21. Divine promises appeared even in the law of God. If the law was unable to give life, it was not fault of the law; the fault really was in the sinners who were unable to render the perfect obedience required [Romans 7:10-14]. Reserved Promises, 22. However, mingled with the commands and warnings of God's holy law were promises of better things to come, promises reserved for fulfillment in the Messiah. True, the Scriptures concluded all under sin, but it was for the gracious purpose "that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe." Revealed Promises, 23. Promises more or less obscure in the types and shadows of the Old Testament are clearly revealed in the New Testament by the Messiah, Who "brought life and immortality to light through the gospel" [II Timothy 1:10].
CONDUCTORS, Galatians 3:24-26. Man in his fallen state is lost and cannot of himself find the way to God; but God is His mercy has made provision to conduct us to Himself. Led by the Law, 24. So the law of God was never designed to save anyone, but rather to serve as a schoolmaster to teach us our need of salvation, and so to bring us to Christ to be justified by faith. Schooled to the Spirit, 25. When we have properly learned the lessons of law, we turn from the letter to the Spirit for personal guidance [II Corinthians 3:2-18]. This does not mean that the Spirit will lead contrary to law: the Author will not contradict His own Word. Fathered through Faith, 26. "As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God" -- and have the witness of His Spirit within [Romans 8:14-16]. Note that it is by or through faith that we are children of God.
CONCORDANCE, Galatians 3:27-29. Justification by faith, in a genuine experience of salvation, is in perfect concordance with other doctrines of God's Word. There never was a sinner justified by faith without also experiencing regeneration and sanctification. Salvation symbolized, 27. Biblical baptism symbolizes the identification of the believer with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection. See Romans 6:3-11. Salvation Synthesized, 28. All kinds of sinners come together in Christ. There are all kinds of sinners, but there is only one kind of (eternal) salvation, and only one Savior. Salvation Summarized, 29. To belong to Christ in the saving sense is to be the spiritual seed of Abraham, "and heirs according to the promise." That pretty well sums up our salvation.
CONCLUSION [Romans 4:16] Verses 13 of context states the promise referred to: "that he should be the heir of the world." Verses 3, 9 and 20-25 of the same chapter makes it clear that the promise also involves the blessedness of having our faith "counted," "reckoned," or "imputed" (all the same Greek word) to us for righteousness. So in this relationship every Jewish AND Gentile believer in Christ is a spiritual descendant of Abraham. =====================
[From AAB, July 23, 1976, pp. 2-3. -- jrd]
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