Galatians 2:15-18 The word is but a bridge to Christ, who alone can transform us towards a glorious destiny
Galatians 2:15-18 The word is but a bridge to Christ, who alone can transform us towards a glorious destiny
15 “We are Jews by nature and not sinners from among the Gentiles; 16 nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified. 17 But if, while seeking to be justified in Christ, we ourselves have also been found sinners, is Christ then a minister of sin? May it never be! 18 For if I rebuild what I have once destroyed, I prove myself to be a transgressor.
The Law or knowledge of the word is useful in bringing order to society but it has no power to transform the hearts of men. The Law can teach us something about approaching God through its rituals, but it can never reconcile us to God. A legalistic mindset is one that suppose by meeting the demands of the Law, one can find God to be accepted by Him. It is a phenomenon that affects not only the Jews, but also all humanity. Here, Paul is showing the Jewish Christians that the Torah Law (a legalistic mindset) cannot coexist with faith in Christ to bring about righteousness. On the contrary, it breeds sin and a false sense of righteousness. Today, there are so-called Christians who worship God with a legalistic mindset, who supposed by their baptism and theological commitment are released from continual sanctification towards Christ-likeness. Such possess little interest in encountering God and to be led the Spirit. And despite their knowledge, they are unable to overcome the bondages of sin to live abundantly. For today’s devotion, we learn: The word is but a bridge to Christ, who alone can transform us towards a glorious destiny. The mindset in which we use to read the word will either justifies us or corrupts us.
We are Jews by nature and not sinners from among the Gentiles;
Paul calls the “Jewish Christian” as Jews by birth and practice, who recognise Jesus as the Messiah. And they consider Gentiles as “Sinners”. By stating the above, Paul establishes a common stand and bias among Jewish Christians. Their beliefs require adoption of the Torah Law as well as the Messiahship of Jesus Christ. Paul proceeds to unpack their model of faith to show its inherent sinfulness and contradiction to the spirit of Jesus Christ. Indeed, faith in Christ cannot coexist with a legalistic mindset to make one righteous.
Nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus.
The more literal and preferred translation will be, “and who know that a person is not justified by the works of the law but only the faithfulness of Jesus Christ.” And to be justified (to make one righteous) is synonymous to being accepted as a child of God having access to God’s kingdom.
The works of the Law
Here, Paul addresses the limitations of the Torah Law (works of the Law) which the Jews practises. ”Works of the law” pertains not only to circumcision or the Torah dietary laws but the mindset that is inherent in it. The works of the Law is originally given by Moses to prepare the people to receive Christ when He comes, but never to make them righteous. It serves to restrain evil, to maintain order in society, but never to regenerate the human heart towards righteousness. On the contrary, the Torah Law breeds a legalistic mindset which hinders men from attaining righteousness through faith in Christ. In view of the Torah Law’s flaws, the practices of the Torah Law as well as its mindset must be abolished to make way for faith in Christ.
What are the flaws of the Torah Law?
- The Law accords false righteousness to men who follow its rules and rituals without considering their hearts’ posture. Thus, the Law is instrumental in projecting a false righteousness that is based on appearance. And false righteousness breeds selfish pride.
- The Law constrains men to behave lawfully by imposing a punishment on whomever who violates it. Thus, men are moved primarily by fear and the immediate consequence of a transgression, not by love and truth.
- The Law is tied to superficial behaviour where men only need to depend on themselves to fulfil it. Thus, the Law breeds self-reliance and self-rule apart from divine grace and wisdom to live life.
The faithfulness of Jesus Christ
The above text says that men is justified only by the faithfulness of Jesus Christ. Now, we will discuss what “the faithfulness of Jesus Christ” stands for and how it results in the believer’s justification and salvation. The faithfulness of Jesus Christ pertains to the perfect life of love and obedience that Jesus rendered to God when he was a toddler right up to the point of his death on the cross. Indeed, it is Christ’s faithfulness that paved the way of salvation for sinners to approach God and be accepted by Him. Now, the faithfulness of Jesus Christ does not stop at the cross, it continues throughout the believer’s journey in bringing him towards perfection. Believers, in the course of being justified experience Christ’s faithfulness firstly, through an immediate change in identity (from sinner to child of God) and thereafter, a progressive transformation towards Christ-likeness.
What are the distinctive of faith in Jesus?
- Faith regenerates the heart in truth and love leading to true righteousness. Faith does not look at appearance or performance but at the virtues of the heart. True righteousness bears humility that seeks to bring out the best in others.
- Faith changes behaviour by first regenerating men’s heart to love and to do what is right. Their actions are not compelled by fear of consequences but by love and truth.
- As Law is tied to behaviour, faith is tied to the heart; which causes believers to look to God continually for regeneration. Thus, faith leads to a God-centred life.
But if, while seeking to be justified in Christ, we ourselves have also been found sinners, is Christ then a minister of sin?
Here, Paul surfaces the flaws of Jewish Christianity. The Law is not only ineffectual for making one righteous, it breeds sin, lust, pride and a false sense of righteousness. Those who supposed they can hold both law and faith in tandem (But if, while seeking to be justified in Christ) inevitably find themselves predisposed to sin (we ourselves have also been found sinners). Paul often associate Law (a legalistic mindset) with sin as a duality, “the power of sin is the law” (see 1 Corinthians 15:56).
Paul concludes with the question: is Christ then a minister of sin? He responds with an emphatic No! He puts forth a simple equation: To continue in the practice of the Law together with faith is tantamount to making Christ a promoter of sin. The Jewish Christians, being so used to the Law supposed that without the Law, one has no way to restrain licentious living. But such have not come to experience the power of Christ that destroys the root of sin and regenerates men towards Christ-likeness.
That said, the greatest transgressor is one who seeks to rebuild the practice of the Torah Law which Christ has put to an end through His death. By upholding the Torah tradition, they have nullified the grace of God by breeding sin, making themselves the ultimate transgressor.
God blesses the worshiper who worships not out of fear, but in Spirit and truth
Paul’s statement, “a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus…” appeals to the worshiper to worship God not by the works of the Law, but through faith in Christ Jesus. The works of the Law details the steps to be taken by both the priests and the people if their worship is to be accepted by God. However, God has revealed through Paul’s gospel that such worship detailed by the works of the Law can never be accepted by Him (a man is not justified by the works of the Law…). Why is it so? For the reason that the man who worships by the works of the Law worships out of obligation or fear; lest God gets angry and removes His favour from Him.
But for the one who is justified through faith in Christ Jesus, he worships out of gratitude because he is released from the bondage of sin and death. For such a worshiper, whose life is regenerated by the Spirit, who walks in the truth, God accepts him. Indeed, his fear is removed when he turns away from a life of sin towards Christ, his righteousness.
Therefore, it all boils down to the mindset: One who seeks to be justified by the works of the Law places himself above God. His worship is merely a means to obligate God towards fulfilling his personal agenda. But one who seeks to be justified by faith in Christ Jesus places God above himself, and above all relationships and things. His worship is a means to express his unreserved dedication to God’s agenda.
That said, we see another phenomenon today: We see people who place themselves above God, who neither love Him nor fear Him worship God in a heartened fashion. They are taught that God will never withhold His favour or get angry at impenitent sinners. For such mocks at the cross by using the blood of Christ to cleanse their casual sins of debauchery.
The word is but a bridge to Christ, who alone can transform us towards a glorious destiny
The Law or the knowledge of the word comprises disciplines and principles that show men the way towards God. The Law also shows men the way to live abundantly. That said, the Jews despite knowing the Law could not live it out. Indeed, unless a man is transformed by Christ, he cannot overcome his sinful nature to live abundantly. And he cannot by his own corrupted nature live out the righteousness of God. Many find themselves in the same bondage of sin, lust and pride despite attending church for decades. Such are what Paul described as, “while seeking to be justified in Christ, we ourselves have also been found sinners.”
The mindset in which we use to read the word will either justifies us or corrupts us. If a man reads the word with a legalistic mindset, it breeds self-reliance causing him to depend predominantly on himself to live out God’s righteousness. Legalism also causes him to idolise the knowledge of the word and miss out on encountering the Spirit of Christ. Such are always learning but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth (see 2 Timothy 3:7). The works of the Law are rituals and men with legalistic mindsets operate in them.
But if a man reads the word with the desire to draw near to Christ, he encounters Christ who sets him free. The knowledge of the word is but a bridge, a means to an end which is Christ. It is here that Christ leads us into His world in the heavenlies; at the right hand of God. In a nutshell, the knowledge of the word prepares us to enter into the spirit world where Christ and the angels are. While we study the word, we also draw near to Christ. For the word is the bridge through which we encounter Christ. And it is through Christ that believers are continually transformed towards a glorious destiny.
Do you have a legalistic mindset? Or are you justified by Christ alone? The below is a checklist:
What are the distinctive of one having a legalistic mindset?
- He is complacent concerning his relationship with God being deceived by a false sense of security.
- He makes decisions based on personal agenda, not by divine directives.
- He is egoistic and does not listen to godly counsel. Although he knows the word but he cannot live it out.
- He is prideful.
What are the distinctive of one justified by Christ?
- He struggles with temptations, but does not give up. Thus, he constantly depends on Christ’s faithfulness to justify him. He progresses in divine wisdom, love and authority.
- He is motivated not by personal agenda, but by divine love and truth in all his decisions.
- He acknowledges his weaknesses and readily receives divine grace to overcome challenges. He walks with Christ moment by moment.
- He is humble, always seeking to bring out the best in others.
In addition to studying the word, do you seek to encounter God at a more profound level? We can encounter Christ by going beyond knowledge and by constantly drawing close to God with our hearts.
Dear Lord, I desire to go beyond mere knowledge to encounter you in a tangible way. Cause me to experience all the things as promised in your word: your divine wisdom, love, authority and miracles. I trust in your faithfulness to carry me through all my tribulations and temptations. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.