Galatians – A Call To Freedom 5. Live by faith
Key Text: Gal 2:15-21
Galatians 2:15-21New International Version
15 “We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles 16 know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in[a] Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.
17 “But if, in seeking to be justified in Christ, we Jews find ourselves also among the sinners, doesn’t that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not! 18 If I rebuild what I destroyed, then I really would be a lawbreaker.
19 “For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”[b]
So; this section of Galatians is the theological discussion that happened between Peter and Paul. Essentially, it is theological reflection of what had just happened in these two visits.
Now you might have noticed that it is full of technical language. This is why we as we read through this passage it becomes quite difficult to read and even more difficult to apply to ourselves.
So I will endeavor to explain the main point and help us apply it in out own lives.
The main point of this passage is the call to live by faith! What that means, how we do that is what we will be talking about tonight.
Paul says in verse 20
The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
So, let’s get into it.
The first thing that we need to recognize is from the context of this verse. Paul is speaking to the heads of the Jerusalem Church; the spiritual giants of Peter and James and Barnabas. Even these giants of the faith stumbled on this fundamental reality of the gospel.
You see church, the gospel is a thing that our hearts don’t easily grasp; and when we do grasp it we can very easily fall into the great enemies of the gospel.
Tertullian; As Jesus Christ was crucified between two thieves; so the gospel of justification is crucified between two opposite errors; legalism and antinomianism.
These two enemies are in theological terms; legalism and antinominalism. These can be put another way:
Those who legalist are those who think that by being good they can make themselves acceptable to God. Essentially, they think that they were sinners now they are becoming righteous.
The antinominalist thinks that everyone is essentially good and that we occasionally sin. Keller calls these people “lovist”. As long as I love and am not that bad I’m okay.
The problem with the legalist is that they think God owes them because they have been good enough; the problem with the “lovist” is that their own definition of good is self-defeating. Because essentially they themselves decide what is good enough they are always one thing better than the worst. You will hear them say; I have lied; but I have never stolen; ja maybe I’ve stolen, but I have never killed anyone, ja maybe I have I killed someone but I have never raped and so and so on.
The reality church, is that we are constantly fighting these two enemies within our own hearts, let’s be honest; even Peter and James the pillar of the church struggled with this; I guarantee that we will struggle with this reality.
So we have spend the last two weeks breaking apart the desire to understand the gospel in the light of what I do; we saw that Christ plus something equals nothing. In other words I miss the gospel if I think it is about what I do. Essentially we have disarmed the legalistic approach to destroying the gospel’s work in our lives. Tonight I want to tackle the other side.
If it is Christ plus nothing does that mean it doesn’t matter what I do anymore; cause Christ died for me? Which leads me to my first point:
1.The honest question: does Christ promote sin?
Vs 17 Paul poses this question:
17 “But if, in seeking to be justified in Christ, we find ourselves also among the sinners, doesn’t that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not! 18 If I rebuild what I destroyed, then I really would be a lawbreaker.
The interesting reality here is that Paul is addressing Peter and John. And Paul poses a very interesting question in the Greek basically he is saying while justified in Christ we find ourselves sinning does not mean Christ promotes sin?
Now this is a good and honest question; because let’s get real here tonight; most of you are Christian here; right? How many of you still sin? Does that mean that Christianity doesn’t work? Does that mean that Christ promotes sin?
I would actually suggest that many of us are practically caught in a cycle of sin shame, struggle and then sin again.
Surely Christ should free us from our sin right? We have this identity crisis because we haven’t walked the thin line of the gospel. We have fallen into either antinominalism or legalism.
The way we get this; the way we walk the thin line of the gospel is to understand ourselves rightly. We are not sinners walking to more righteousness as the legalist would argue and we are not essentially good as the “lovist” would say. We are justified.
Now justified is a beautiful world that Paul uses here. To be justified; doesn’t change what you have done it changes the outcome of the finding.
I’ll give you an example it is not my example but brilliantly explains this; there was a boy at a school who walked up to another and just knocked him out in one punch! Right in front of the Principle of the school.
So the principle calls the boy aside and promptly tells the boy that he has just got himself a suspension.
However, the boy justifies himself and his actions; he says; “that boy had a gun. Check him. So, the principle does and sees that truthfully the boy did have a gun in his pocket and his hand was on the gun when the other boy knocked him out.
The boys justification of his actions did not change what he did; it changed our view of what he did.
God does not change what we did; those actions still happened; but he changes the way he sees us: He now sees us in Christ!
He sees those actions on Jesus on the cross.
Christianity and only Christianity sees the sinner as loved. In other words we are beautiful mess-ups. Justified; not because of our motives or actions; justified because he loved us enough to die for us.
Christ’s justification does not promote sin; it calls it count for what it is; sin is still sin; our actions still count but because of grace (because Jesus died for us) we are justified.
Now understanding this leads to;
2.The two-sided answer
How do we live this out? Well Paul tells us this in verse 19 and 20:
19 “For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Do you see how Paul repeats himself here he says; I died to the law that I might live for God; I have been crucified with Christ so that I live by faith.
There are two realities the reality of death of the old life and the power of the new life both have to be kept for us to truly live by faith;
a. I died to the law
Paul argues that we are dead to ourselves, we died to the law and were crucified with Christ; in other words; I have stopped trying to win my righteousness and worth through obedience.
Christ paid it all; he fulfilled what I could not. Therefore (as William shared last week) there is now no condemnation to those in Christ Jesus.
But we cannot stop there; if we do; our hearts will descend every time into an antinominalism; lawlessness or doing whatever I want.
Tell someone there are no consequence do what want and they will descend into depravity every time. It was the genius of book like Lord of the flies and Dr Jackel and Mr Hyde. They showed honestly the natural depravity of our hearts.
That is why Paul says; I have died to my trying so now Christ lives in me or I live by faith.
b.I live by faith
What does he mean here? Well simply put; you understand your need (Christ had to die for you)(you are a sinner) but also you understand that you are deeply and eternally loved. Not in what we do, but who we are in Christ.
This humbles us profoundly and yet gives us boldness. It is an interesting combination when we get it. For, it help us see that there is a desperate need for justice; and yet grace is the only way to heal it.
I’ll explain what I mean in an example. If I have died to my doing and now I live by faith what does this look like?
Well let us look at justice and grace; the moralist or “lovist” assume everyone is innocent therefore all acts are acts of power; and you hear this in the left wing agenda; you cannot be sexist if you are a woman.
To which our heart cries out within us; no that is injust; of course you can; if you are saying that all men should be killed; that is sexist. But the assumption is grace without justice; so feelings alone matter; truth is irrelevant.
The legalist is just as wrong; for the demand justice without grace; everyone should get what they deserve is their cry; in this you hear the statements; people are poor because they don’t work! again something in our hearts cries out against that and says; there is more to the story; right?
It is only when we perceive grace (justice and love) that we are humble enough to say; I am sinful and don’t deserve what I have; yet, my heart cries out for justice to be given.
In this we see justice as a desperate reality; something we need; but we also see ourselves in that justice; and we take up our cross and die for it.
We speak the truth! But with love! Why? Because truth matters; but love matters as well.
We demand right but we walk in grace; essentially we demand right without having to be right or trying to win.
We call sin; sin; but know that people need help and the love of Christ to overcome that sin.
I’ll give you an example from this church; before I came to this church; I was under and extreme legalist Pastor; it was his way or the highway; and I remember him on a Sunday calling the church together and saying we are kicking out this man in the church for arrogance and alcoholism; you are not allow to contact this man; he is not allowed in this building.
I remember being taken aback with the harshness of it all.
Well I came to this church and right away (right after I started) was called into a meeting with all the leaders about an issue in the church; and I remember leader after leader saying hey we have all messed up; let’s walk this together. There was repentance and healing; it wasn’t perfect and it was messy; but we walked together as a family.
The difference was the middle road of grace; the difference was a life lived by faith.
It is only in the gospel that we can cry; Jesus paid it all; so all to Him I owe!
Love so amazing, so divine
Demands my soul, my life, my all
Grace and demand! As Keller puts it “Religion say I obey therefore I am accepted the gospel says; I’m accepted therefore I obey.”
So church live by faith. Live the life Christ secured for you; by faith!