Galatians 2:16-20
16 Brethren, 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 man 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 not live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Christ is in our midst! He is and shall be! The Epistle reading this morning from St. Paul’s letter to the Galatians strikes at the heart of what it means to be a Christian. What it means to live in Christ. We often hear the first part of this reading quoted—“knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ”—but the rest of the verses that explain what that means are often left out. But what St. Paul really does is posit that if we accept the Christian faith, if we believe in this Christ—God become man, dying on a cross and rising again on the third day and ascending into Heaven for our salvation. If this is the Gospel I accept, then what do with it? This is what St. Paul’s Epistle is telling us this morning…what should life be like as a follower of Jesus Christ. So this morning we’ll do a bit of Biblical exegesis—what is St. Paul teaching in this Epistle reading. He begins by saying: “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 man be justified.” (Galatians 2:16) We cannot be justified, made right in the sight of God, made holy, saved, we cannot be justified by the works of the law. We can’t become holy by fulfilling outward laws and observations. The people of God, the Hebrew people, had proved that time and time again—in other places St. Paul even says that the law became a curse, because the people couldn’t do it and condemned themselves in trying and failing. Man can be made right in the sight of God only by the faith of Jesus Christ. And St. Paul says this three times in that one verse—the law will justify no one, only by faith in Jesus Christ can man be justified. St. Paul continues: “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. For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor.” (Galatians 2:17-18) St. Paul says, if we are found in sin while we are seeking to be justified by Christ—not after we were justified, but while we are seeking to put off the old man and be clothed with the mind of Christ. This is very important, as is this entire passage, for our understanding of salvation. We seek constantly to be growing in Christ—our Christian journey isn’t over once we’ve been led to believe, or we’re baptized or once we join a Church or whatever. This process of growing, of seeking to be justified in Christ (Paul writes), this seeking is ongoing. And St. Paul says that while we’re actively seeking Christ, we can still be found in sin. “If…we ourselves also are found sinners.” (Galatians 2:17) Our free will is always active, we can always choose other than Christ, no matter what. And this doesn’t involve God with sin, my sin is my choice to separate myself from Christ. St. Paul the explains how it is that we can be found sinners while seeking to follow Christ, “For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor”—In choosing Christ I have abandoned the way of sin and death. The way of sin has been destroyed in me, by my choice to follow Christ. And if I return to sin while seeking to be justified by Christ, then I destroy the work that God is doing in me. Christ is clothing the old man with the new; He’s giving me a new mind. But I can choose to abandon and destroy this work if I return to my old ways, to the law of sin and death. This places a lot of weight on our free will. God preserves very carefully our freedom—for the offering of our lives to Christ to have any real meaning, it must be an offering in freedom. St. Paul ends this section by writing: “For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. 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.” (Galatians 2:19-20) Christ is the fulfillment of the law—through the fulfillment of the law in Christ we are now dead to the law and alive in Christ. The Gospel of Christ has replaced the law for Christians. We are crucified with Christ—all of the things that the law was meant to control, the unruliness of our fallen human nature, the control our passions have over us dies in the font of baptism. The old man is crucified in Christ, and a new man is born. We are re-born as a new creation in Christ. A creation dead to the law of works, and dead to the law of sin. But as St. Paul reminded us a moment ago, we can still be found sin. We can still make the choice to build again the things which were destroyed. All of this weight on our free will and our decision to follow Christ is now balanced by St. Paul. I don’t have to try and live this new reality in Christ by my own might. Rather I’m filled with the grace of the Holy Spirit, “Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God.” (Galatians 2:20) I still have to avoid sin, but now my strength comes from Christ, and not from myself. “Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God.” (Galatians 2:20) My life flows from the one “who loved me, and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20) While we were yet sinners, haters of God, He loved us, and died so that we could live. The rules and regulations that we sometimes bind ourselves with…St. Paul’s reminding us that we’re free in Christ. We’re no longer slaves to these obligations. St. Augustine has a wonderful quote—Love, and do what you will. In other words, when we’re filled with the love and the life of God, we won’t do anything that would separate ourselves from our Redeemer. Our obligation to fulfill the Word of God is not lessened in Christ. In fact, if we’ll remember the NT, our Lord often makes the letter of the law more strict. And He says to His apostles, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15). The commandments of Christ are life, they’re unto our healing and our eternal salvation. If we love our Saviour, then our desire will be to do the things He wants us to do. Like in any relationship—if I don’t care what my wife wants, then how can I claim to love her, or to have a meaningful relationship with her? But law is no longer our slave-master, we belong to another, to Christ. St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost…ye are not your own, for ye are bought with a price” (1 Corinthian 6:19-20) The most complete statement of the Christian life, perhaps anywhere, is found in these verses, and will end with this. As we said at the beginning, the question really is what does it mean to accept the Gospel of Christ? What does it look like? St. Paul has been very clear that man cannot be saved by his works. But he’s also made it very clear that sin separates us from God, and destroys the work that God is trying to do in us. The bottom line, so to speak. St. Paul writes, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me” (Galatians 2:20a). This is what it means to be a follower of Christ. To be crucified with Him, so that He might live in us. My will, my mind, my passions, my desires, all of these things are crucified with Christ, so that the mind of God can be born within us. As a follower of Christ, I don’t want my will to reign in me—my way leads to sin and death. I want the mind of Christ—which leads to health and salvation. I want Christ to live in me. By true and active faith in Him, by the in-dwelling of the Holy Spirit, my sinful desires will be crucified, and Christ will live in me. And my justification, as St. Paul says, will be in Christ and of Christ, who loves me, and gave His life so that I might be saved (cf. Galatians 2:20). Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!

Advertisements