Galatians 3:21-22

Law and gospel are two different words. They bring different news. This is for sure. Paul notes, however, that this does not make them incongruous or contrary. They have a chronological and logical relationship to each other in the lives of believers. They each serve a purpose. One diagnoses, the other heals. One exposes, the other absolves. One speaks wrath, the other consolation. Importantly, none of this is an abstraction. It happens concretely in the life of the believer. The law sets forth the sad reality and consequences of sin. The gospel forgives sin. And because this side of the casket we remain sinner-saints, both words remain necessary for the Christian. The baptized in their weakness daily sin and their sins are daily drowned. Continue reading “Galatians 3:21-22”

Galatians 3:19-20

The law is God’s will. It is unchangeable. It is good. And yet, as sinners, our relationship to it this side of heaven is forever tied to our fall, to our sinful nature, to our transgressions. While the law was written on human hearts, it was written on stone as well to curb sin, to accuse and threaten, to show sinners’ need for a substitute. Continue reading “Galatians 3:19-20”

Galatians 3:15-18

God wants us to take Him at His Word. He wants us to hold Him to His promises. As sure as Jesus hung on the cross, so surely God means what He’s said in the Scriptures. And yet, as fallen human beings, trust doesn’t come easy for us. We’re used to people breaking promises. We realize not everyone and everything deserves our confidence, let alone the benefit of the doubt. Continue reading “Galatians 3:15-18”

Galatians 3:10-14

Have you been a good Christian this week? I like to ask my students that sometimes. Where their minds go reveal a lot. Almost always, their minds go to their works, to their behavior, to the law. And that’s not bad. We should examine ourselves. That’s a most Christian and confessional thing. We do so before Absolution. We do so before taking the Supper. That being said, a good Christian, when all is said and done, isn’t measured by the law. Why? Because all who rely on the law to measure their standing with God—to assess whether or not they are Christian, are saved, are justified—are under a curse. Continue reading “Galatians 3:10-14”

Galatians 3:7-9

Christ saves. Christ justifies. And yet He does so through faith. Faith, however, is not our work, but His gift. Faith is the beggar’s hand that receives unearned merits, divine charity. Faith is not our decision. We do not become children of God by human will, as we are reminded in John 1. Faith is the product of God’s decision, His election, His choice. We are the beneficiaries. And this faith is not restricted by race, gender, age, or anything else. Jew and Gentile (all non-Jews) alike have been saved by grace through faith in Christ, and thus been sons of Abraham and sons of God. What a wonder! What a reason to support the ministry of the Word here among us as well as throughout the world through missions! Continue reading “Galatians 3:7-9”

Galatians 3:1-6

The Galatians made a good start. They had been properly taught and rightly believed that they were saved, forgiven, justified, only for Christ’s sake. And yet with the infiltration of false teachers and the arrogant nagging of the old Adam, they wavered. Yes, surely they were saved by grace and through faith in Christ, but they could play some part, even a small one, in that process, right? Continue reading “Galatians 3:1-6”

Galatians 2:17-21

In other words, if you could have saved yourself, there was no need for God to be on a cross. But God was on a cross, wasn’t He? Why? To save you, because you could not save yourself. And so we do well not to believe, live, or proceed as if God were not on a cross. Christians do not live under law and we do not live in sin. Christ has fulfilled the former and absolved the latter. We now love because He first loved us, serve because He served us, keep the Commandments, not because they are a guide to heaven, but rather because they are an expression of what pleases Him who has granted us heaven as a free gift, though not a cheap gift, costing Jesus His very life. It is, as Paul says, “no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me,” so that “the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Christ does not make us sinners by dying and rising for us, making plain our inability to keep the law perfectly, which is how it must be kept if it is to give life. No, we were already and have been sinners from conception. The law had plenty of which to accuse us and for which to condemn us even had Christ not exposed the depths of our fallen race’s and our own personal sin through His passion. What Christ has done, then, is stopped its mouth and pardoned us, justified us, declared us not guilty, all for His sake. He has become one with us, dwelling in us, working through us, renewing our will and bringing forth fruits of repentance in our actions. It’s all Christ or no Christ. There is no in-between, and comfort is found only in the Christ who is all in all, Alpha and Omega, advocate and judge, all for us. And so, may Christ and His Word dwell in your richly so that all things in your lives abound in Him, for Him, and through Him, to His glory, and sanctified in His name. Continue reading “Galatians 2:17-21”

Galatians 2:15-16

Harsh much, Paul? We were Jews from birth and not Gentile sinners? Well, isn’t that good for you, but what of the Gentile sinners? Who were the Gentile sinners? They were the very people whose freedom in Christ and whose justification by grace, through faith, without the works of the Old Testament Mosaic law, he is defending. So why call them that? Were not the Jews sinners? Surely they were. In fact, they were better sinners, because, while the law cannot save us—not because of its deficiency, but our own—it can certainly reform and refine us, so that we become reformed and refined sinners, better at hiding our impiety and putting up appearances. At this Paul’s foes were professionals. Paul is not looking down on the Gentiles whose salvation he defends and will in no way allow to be compromised with works of the law. No, Paul here is adopting the language of the legalistic Jews who were attacking the gospel and the Gentile’s legitimacy as Christians and children of God. These “Gentile sinners,” as such people would call them, Paul says are in fact the better Christians, not because they are any less sinners, but because they confess it and abandon themselves on Christ, His Word, and His righteousness for hope and salvation. Continue reading “Galatians 2:15-16”

Galatians 2:11-14

Didn’t we just discuss how a church ought to conduct itself, how brothers and sisters ought to address possible differences in love? And now what do we have here but Paul acting unlovingly? Or was he? Why didn’t Paul take Peter (Cephas) aside privately? Why embarrass him in front of everyone? That doesn’t sound very nice, does it? Continue reading “Galatians 2:11-14”

Galatians 2:1-10

Here we have a good example of how the church ought to conduct itself. There was a concern that there was contradiction in the doctrine and practice of the churches of Christ. What did they do? Did they ignore it in the hope that it would just go away? Did they excuse any possible aberrations as quibbling over minor things? Did they refuse to discuss it in pride, certain that if there were error, it certainly couldn’t be on their end? Did they broadcast the potential heterodoxy of their colleagues far and wide and abroad? No, they met with each other, even when meeting together was not easy, when there were no high speed trains, jets, or cell phones, or email addresses. And then what happened? They confessed what they preached and taught and they listened, each in turn. And when it was evident that their doctrine and practice were not inconsistent with the Scriptures and the gospel of Jesus Christ and that each confessed one and the same Christ with the same pattern of sound words and according to the same revelation of the Word, they extended the right hand of fellowship, and in so doing, reminded each other that Christian faith goes hand in hand with Christian love, expressing their concern for the poor, those who had lost family and livelihood for the faith especially. Continue reading “Galatians 2:1-10”