Be Justified by Faith

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…so that it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. Galatians 2:20

The words of Paul in this passage from his letter to the Galatians express a very subtle insight. He is saying that it is not the Law (in this case, the Law of Moses) that justifies us, rather, it is our faith in Christ Jesus that does so. Paul was addressing a very divisive issue here. The Church was divided in Galatia beween Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians. The Jewish Christians were arguing that the Gentile converts must live like Jews, for example, observing circumcision in accordance with the Mosaic Law, in order to be acceptable. Paul’s argument here is that it is the truth of the gospel that determines the fellowship between Jewish and Gentile Christians, not the law. The Church in Galatia was experiencing troubling divisions over doctrinal issues based on the observance of Mosaic Law. Paul is arguing that those division are false, that we are justified by our faith in Jesus Christ alone, and not by observing the law.

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When we put our faith in Jesus Christ, and begin to live in accord with his will, the Law becomes as nothing to us. Why? As Paul says, “So far as the Law is concerned, however, I am dead–killed by the Law itself–in order that I might live for God. I have been put to death with Chirst on his cross, so that it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.” (Gal. 2:19-20) Jesus was killed by the Law. By dying on the cross, he defeated the Law. As Christians we believe that we, too, have died on the cross with Christ, that it is Christ that lives in us now. Because of this, the way we are to live now is in and through our faith in Jesus Christ alone, not in the Law. Paul ends this section by telling us, in essence, that if we think it is by obeying the law, that we are put right, then Jesus’ death was for nothing. (Gal. 2:21) In other words, if we create divisions among ourselves and our Christian brothers and sisters, simply because they do not observe of the “laws” (doctrines) of our particular denomination of Christianity, then we have not put our faith in Jesus Christ alone, but in mere laws.

Because Jesus died for us, the Law as we understood it, is dead. Christ is the fullness of the Law. The Law had death and division in it. Christ is life, and he has defeated death and division. If we live by faith in Jesus Christ alone, he will be the very life within us, and we will love one another as he loved us. Therefore, let our fellowship with all of our Christian brothers and sisters be measured no longer by divisions around doctrinal differences, but only by our faith in, and love for, Jesus the Christ alone. It is in this that we will be able to love, not just each other, but those who have not yet come to know Jesus Christ. Let the world see, then, how we love one another. Let us be one in Christ. He will do the rest.

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Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site blog.