This is the sermon for Sunday, August 8th, 2010.

Galatians part 5

The issue of sin.

Galatians 2:17-21 ESV – 17But 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! 18For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. 19For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. 20I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And 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. 21I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.

INTRODUCTION: This morning’s sermon is going to be quite difficult.  It is a very difficult passage to interpret, though part of the passage is well known and quoted.  Today, we are going to take this well known passage and interpret it in it’s context.

Before we do, let’s remind ourselves of what we studied last week.  Peter had been fellowshipping with the Gentile Christians of Galatia.  Judaizers from Jerusalem came and Peter broke fellowship with the Gentiles and started eating the kosher foods of the Judaizers.  This caused others to break away as well and division set in.  Paul confronted Peter and used this episode to promote justification by faith in Christ alone.

Now Paul continues with this theme and quickly visits the issue of sin.

It is safe today for me to say that each and every one of us struggle with sin.  Many times we succumb.  Does this struggle destroy the doctrine of justification by faith through Jesus Christ alone?  Does it make Jesus a servant of sin?  These are some of the issues that we will cover.  Let’s begin unpacking out text.

Found to be sinners.

Galatians 2:17-18 ESV – 17But 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! 18For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor.

This is a very difficult passage to interpret.  Let’s look at a couple of possible interpretations.

Possible interpretations:

  • The Judaizers viewed Paul, Peter, and Gentile Christians as sinners. They felt that they must keep the Law perfectly in order to be sin free; and here are Paul, Peter, and the Gentile believers breaking the ceremonial law by eating non-kosher food.
  • Peter believed in justification by faith alone, but when he broke fellowship with the Gentiles and went back to the ceremonial food laws, he sinned by rebuilding what Christ had tore down (verse 18). This is the interpretation I lean too most.  What the Judaizers perceived to be sin, breaking the ceremonial food laws, was tore down by Christ.  Paul would be a sinner if he went back to those food laws and expected the Gentile believers to keep them.
  • Paul, admitting that that though he is in Christ and is justified by God through faith in Him, still struggles with sin.

All three interpretations are valid.  It shows the fact that justification is not about living a sin-free life, for that is impossible; but it is about trusting in the sin-free sacrifice for our sins – Jesus Christ.

Dying to the Law and living for Christ.

Galatians 2:19-21 ESV – 19For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. 20I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And 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. 21I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.

Let’s break these verses down.

The breakdown:

  • Through the Law I died to the Law (verse 19). Notice that it is not the Law that dies, but the person who breaks it.  All of us stand under the Law condemned to death.  But Christ became our substitute.  When He died in our place, we died to the Law – which is renouncing that we can find favor with God by perfect obedience to it.  The Reformation Study Bible says concerning verse 19, “Death to the Law does not violate the Law, for Christ met the Law’s demands.  It is therefore ‘through the law’ that believers are released from the bondage and condemnation of the Law.”
  • We now live to God (verse 19). Christ, our substitute, rose from the grave – alive.  We who are in Christ do not live according to the Law, but are made alive in Christ for the purpose of living for Him.  This explains the popular passage found within this morning’s text.
  • We have been crucified with Christ (verse 20).
  • The life we now live is through the resurrected life of Christ in us (verse 20).
  • The life we live in the flesh is through continued faith in Jesus Christ who loves us and gave Himself for us (verse 20). This means we don’t live for Christ only when we perfectly keep the Law, but through continued faith in Him.
  • So when we do sin, we don’t nullify God’s grace (verse 21). Why?  Because each time we do sin, it points back to our need for Jesus Christ and His grace.  We would not need grace if we didn’t sin!
  • If we could be righteous by keeping the Law perfectly, then Christ died in vain (verse 21).

CONCLUSION: We will struggle with sin.  That is a fact.  But our struggles do not nullify the grace of God, but proves we still need His grace.  Thank the Father that we are justified before Him through Christ alone, not our works of righteousness.

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