Questions for Littles: By what is a man not justified (v16)? By what is a man justified? Into whom have we believed? Who shall be justified by the works of the law? What are we ourselves found to be, even while we seek to be justified by Christ (v17)? Does this make Christ a servant (minister) of sin? If we build again what we destroyed, what do we make ourselves into (v18)? What did we do through the law (v19a)? Why did we die to the law (v19b)? With whom have we been crucified (v20)? Who no longer lives? Who lives in us? How do we live the life that we now live in the flesh? What has the Son of God done for us? What must we not then set aside (v21)? Through what do those who set aside grace say that righteousness comes? If righteousness does come through the law, then what else is true (end of v21)?This week’s Call to Worship, Invocation, and Confession of sin came from Galatians. This was one of the passages from which they came. False teachers had come to the Galatian church and insisted that believers had to maintain their right standing with God by keeping God’s law, and particularly circumcision.
In this passage, Peter had come up to Galatia and at first would eat with the Gentiles. But then, when some men came from the primarily Jewish church in Jerusalem (pastored by James the brother of Jesus, v12), Peter all of a sudden separated himself—not wanting to appear to be rejecting the law of circumcision by eating with the uncircumcised.
What a mess—and not just because feelings might be hurt. No, this was a much worse than that. He was making a mess of the gospel! Paul saw this happening, and rebuked Peter to his face, and today’s verses come from that speech.
We know that a man is made right with God only by what Jesus has done. That’s why, in order to be right with God, we believed into Jesus Christ (v16)! Apparently, some had come along and said that if that’s our theology, then Christ just gives us an excuse to sin and becomes a servant (minister, v17) of sin.
Paul announces that that is hogwash on two counts. First of all, hoping that the works of the law will maintain our right standing with God is “rebuilding what I had destroyed” (v18). That would be to set back up again a standard that we will never in this life keep. It would only result in making ourselves back into transgressors before God.
After all, it was the law that demanded that we be executed for our transgression. It was the law that refused to allow us to have spiritual life. It was the law that said, “Being made able to live unto God is a privilege that you don’t even deserve!” We had to die unto the law in order to live to God (v19)!
But it is faith that joins us to Jesus so that we are crucified with Him (20a). It is faith that joins Jesus to us, so that our new life is lived by His life in us and through us (20b). It is faith that clings to the love of Jesus and knows that it has Him (20c).
So, maintaining a righteous standing with God by works doesn’t work. And even worse, it doesn’t treasure Christ and cling to Him. In fact, it says, “I don’t need grace; He died for no reason.” What a terrible thing it is to try to maintain our standing with God by works!
What obedience to God are you most tempted to think is maintaining your right standing with Him?Suggested songs: ARP32A-B “What Blessedness / Instruction I Will Give to You” or HB275 “Amazing Grace”