Galatians 2:15-17

In Galatians 2:15-17 Paul continues his direct confrontation with Peter. He reminds Peter that they all grew up as observant Jews but that alone did not make them right in God’s eyes. They were not justified by works or how they lived. No one will be saved by what they do. The only way to get right with God is through faith in Jesus Christ. It’s a very simple test – do you have faith in Christ? If the answer is yes, we will be justified when we stand before God. If the answer is no, we’ll stand before Him accused and falling short of what is required no matter how we have lived our lives to that point.

Paul is clear that while both he and Peter were Jews from birth – that didn’t cut it. “We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also 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.” Paul knew and preached that even a strictly observant Jew such as he was could never be considered right before God by what he did under the Law of Moses. It was Christ alone that could deliver salvation.

Stott explains “It would be hard to find a more forceful statement of the doctrine of justification than this. It is insisted upon by the two leading apostles (‘we know’), confirmed from their own experience (‘we have believed’), and endorsed by the sacred Scriptures of the Old Testament (‘by works of the law shall no one be justified’). With this threefold guarantee we should accept the biblical doctrine of justification and not let our natural self-righteousness keep us from faith in Christ.”  Peter’s refusal to accept the Gentile salvation based on faith in Christ alone was plain wrong, and Paul calls him on it.

Paul makes it real personal to all those who were sitting on the side of the room apart from the Gentile believers. “But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not!” As Peter and others made the case that it took more than Jesus to be saved, Paul winds up and says “NO”. Paul’s answer was brilliant.

  • First, yes, we seek to be justified by Christ and not by Jesus plus our own works.
  • Second, yes, we ourselves also are found sinners, that is, we acknowledge that we still sin even though we stand justified by Christ.
  • But no, this certainly does not make Jesus the author or approver of sin in our life. He is not a minister of sin.

Luther explains “To give a short definition of a Christian: A Christian is not somebody who has no sin, but somebody against whom God no longer chalks sin, because of his faith in Christ. This doctrine brings comfort to consciences in serious trouble.”

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