Monday, September 5, 2022

Galatians Words ~ Word 3: Justified


Galatians Words ~ Word 3: Justified

We have seen so far that Paul is passionate about the gospel of grace. That gospel message is salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Today’s word, justified appears first in 2:15-21, as do our next four words. So, we will be camping in this passage for a while.

Before we dive into our word let’s briefly fill in what has taken place between the beginning of chapter one, where we found our first two words in 1:6-7, and the passage we will look at today. That way we will have a full picture of Galatians as we go.

In 1:11-24, Paul clearly expresses his apostolic calling from God and the validity of his gospel message. Remember the Judaizers are trying to subvert both Paul’s authority and his teaching. So, he reminds them that the gospel he preaches was “received through a revelation of Jesus Christ” (1:12). He also reminds them of his former way of life as a Pharisee (1:13-14), but through a divine intervention of grace God revealed the Son to him, transformed his life, and called him to preach the gospel to the Gentile (1:15-24).  He then shares about his earlier journeys and about how Titus, a Gentile, was not forced to be circumcised, but then some ‘false brothers’ got upset about their freedom in Christ – i.e., they were not observing Jewish customs and laws – but Paul did not give in and was commissioned as a preacher to the Gentiles (2:1-10). Finally, in 2:11-14, Paul shares about a disagreement he had with the way Peter was openly eating with Gentiles (this was against Jewish customs) in Antioch until some Jews visited and Peter separated himself from the Gentiles to save face with the Jews. Paul called Peter out in front of everyone for his hypocrisy. The New Living Translation gives us an easy to understand version of what Paul says to Peter:

“When I saw that they were not following the truth of the gospel message, I said to Peter in front of all the others, “Since you, a Jew by birth, have discarded the Jewish laws and are living like a Gentile, why are you now trying to make these Gentiles follow the Jewish traditions?Galatians 2:14

So, with this background Paul will now begin to talk about justification in 2:15-21.

If grace is the heart of Paul’s gospel, then justification is the backbone.

A simple definition of justification is that one is made righteous and accepted by God. When one is made righteous in the eyes of God, they are declared not guilty of their sin. God is a holy, just, and righteous God, and He desires that His people will pattern their lives after Him, therefore they will live righteous lives. But throughout the history of the Old Testament God’s people struggled to live as God called them to. By the time Jesus was born the Pharisees had developed a system of laws (over 600 of them!), that required one to live by them to be declared a righteous person. But the burden of trying to follow so many laws to earn God’s favor was too much for the people to carry. So, imagine the relief that people felt when Paul began to share the good news that they could be justified with God through faith in Jesus Christ alone.

In our passage Paul uses the word 'justified', or its synonym 'righteousness', five times. When we see a word used so many times in a small passage, we know that the author is trying to get a point across. This is one of the values of marking repeated words in Bible study. When they are marked, we are more likely to notice a pattern that leads to revealing a significant biblical truth. Let’s see what Paul tells us with his repeated use of 'justified'.

In 2:16, Paul says that “a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Christ”. This is the backbone of the Christian faith. We do not need to work hard to earn God’s favor. We don’t have to try hard to follow a bunch of laws to prove that we are good enough for God. God, in His mercy, sent His Son into the world and then gave His Son up as a sacrifice – an atonement for our sins – and through faith in the risen work of Christ on the cross we are justified before God. Jesus paid all our debts! And God now calls those who believe in Jesus Christ debt free from the penalty of sin – we are now justified before God. Paul continues in verse 16 that those who know this to be true,

“…have believed in Christ Jesus in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.”

This is the gospel: We believe in Christ Jesus. Why? In order to be justified before God by faith in Christ. Why not in works of the law? Because by works of the law no one will be justified. It just doesn’t work. We will see in chapter 3 what the purpose of the law was and why it did not serve to justify people.

Justification or justified are not words that are used often in our modern times. But as Christ-followers it is a term we should become very familiar with, for in understanding this word and sharing it’s message of hope and freedom, we can help others become justified with God as well.

We will continue on in this passage Wednesday when we look at the word faith.

Share how you respond in the Words Challenge Facebook group. You can also share on social media using #galatianswords.





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