Roger's Postings

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Galatians 2:11-21. How are we put right with God?? 13/6/10

(Gal 2:11-21) When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. {12} Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. {13} The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray. {14} When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, "You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs? {15} "We who are Jews by birth and not 'Gentile sinners' {16} know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified. {17} "If, while we seek to be justified in Christ, it becomes evident that we ourselves are sinners, does that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not! {18} If I rebuild what I destroyed, I prove that I am a lawbreaker. {19} For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. {20} I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. {21} I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!"

Here in this reading Paul is addressing the whole area of inconsistency in the Christian life of Peter and some of the Christians in Galatia. They were separating themselves from the Gentile Christians, and demanding that they be circumcised before they would be acceptable.

This surely is also a very real and important message here for us today, in light of the inconsistency that is there in Christian circles today, and even in our own lives. By that, I mean; how often don’t we confess one thing, but then go ahead and live another: We say we are Christians, but then rarely attend worship, read the Scriptures, or act in accord with what we say we believe. We think we can live as we please, without any real consideration of God and what he has to say on the matter. Others say that Jesus is our Lord and Saviour, but then say we must accept Jesus, or must speak in tongues, or do whatever. Today there is a big focus placed on what we do, if we are to be truly Christian. Here I could also add many other examples, but as you can see, there is often an inconsistency between what we say we believe and what we actually believe and act.

Now in a lot of ways, it simply comes down to how and what we believe makes us right with God. If we are right with God through Jesus Christ and his death and resurrection, then we will want to live as he would have us and not as we please. We also will not want to add anything extra to how God says we are saved. Nor will we want take anything away from what he says is right and true. At the same time, we will not look anywhere else for our salvation other than Jesus Christ and what he has done for us. Everything we see, hear and are involved in will be judged, questioned, and examined in light of God's Word. As we look there, the Holy Spirit will point us to the heart of the Bible’s message - the Gospel – the Good News of Jesus Christ and the forgiveness that is available through his death and resurrection.

Here in this reading God gives us a very important message by which we can evaluate what we see and hear, being taught and done, and by what we are tempted to think and do. Now here we are reminded that no one is justified by observing the Law, but by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. That is, we do not find favour with God and find our way into a right relationship with God by the law: that is by the things that we say and do; by outward signs; or by good intentions. No, it is by God's grace alone: By the goodness that he has extended to us alone.

Yes, it is because of Jesus Christ alone that we are saved. It is because of his death on the cross that we have salvation. It is there that we have forgiveness and acceptance by God. It is there that we have all the assurance that we need in order to know that we are loved and cared for by our God, and that we have peace, joy and all the rest. All we are called on to do is to trust that this is the case: to trust that it is there and there alone in Jesus Christ, that we find that we are right with God.

Here in this reading Paul strongly makes the point that anyone or anything that takes away from this central truth of Scripture has to be opposed. We must stand up against anything that is not in accord with the truth of the Gospel. Paul had to oppose Peter, so that the people were not led down the wrong track. Today of course, we have many people who would say that, ‘you have your way, and I will have mine, and we will all get to the same place in the end.’ We are told, that we must be open and tolerant of all positions: However here Paul says that this is not the case. In fact, he says quite clearly that this thinking must be opposed.

Here God says through Paul, that no one is justified by any other way, other than through faith in Jesus Christ: other than trusting in what he has done for us on the cross. There are no exceptions to this. You will not find true and lasting salvation or peace through any other means. It is through Jesus’ death on the cross and his resurrection alone that we find true and lasting peace, happiness and eternal life.

Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians says that, some of his day were demanding signs; others were looking for wisdom and great knowledge, but he was determined to preach nothing except Christ and him crucified. He also said that this message is a stumbling block for those who are looking for signs and wonders, and it is foolishness to those who think that they have or need great knowledge. This is also ho-hum to those who couldn’t care less.

But again, the message is clear: the most important thing for us to focus our attention on when it comes to our salvation and the things that are important, is on Jesus Christ and his death and resurrection. He also makes it quite clear that those who go looking elsewhere for peace, happiness and a right relationship with God, are on the wrong track and are destined for disaster.

Paul goes on to say that if we have to keep trying to find our own assurances that we are saved, we are in trouble. Yes, he says, we will fail not only to know of the salvation that is there for us, but also to live out the Christian life every day. Now that does not mean that Christ's death and resurrection is ineffective or that we need something extra; as appears to be the suggestion by many today. But, when we look to be involved in something more and to do something extra in order to be sure that we are OK with God; then look out. Paul says we are just proving that we are in big trouble. For those who are promoting these things then, Paul clearly says they are leading others down wrong track, and must be opposed.
Now of course the opposite situation is equally wrong. We cannot sit back and think ‘she's right mate’, I'm baptized; I believe in Jesus; but then make no effort to live and be the people God wants us to be. That again is setting aside the grace of God; and is really saying that Christ died for nothing. Paul reminds us here that we have died with Christ, and so we no longer live our lives to and for ourselves, but that they are now lived in, for and with Christ. He is the reason and purpose that we now live out each and every day of our lives, and they are lived according to his directions that we find in the Scriptures.

So here we have a very important message that we need to keep in the forefront of our thinking and living: Particularly when we are faced with people and groups who come forward with all kinds of faddish thinking, or who want to lead us into thinking that we have to do something more. Here is a clear message of the Gospel that has to be kept before us, and seen as central and basic to our faith.

We have been crucified with Christ. At our baptism we died and rose again with Christ, and there we have our proof: there we have our assurance that we have been connected to Christ's death and resurrection. There we are assured that we are now a part of God's family, fully forgiven and accepted by him. Then when we come to the Lord's Table we receive Christ's body and blood so that there again we might be reassured that we have forgiveness of sins, life and salvation: and that Christ now lives in and with us. So every day we now can go out and seek to live and act as Christ would have us. Now we can seek to live every moment, knowing that Jesus suffered and died for us, and that he now has a better way for us to live.

Yes, we now know that he loves us and has given himself for us; and so surely there is no way that we will want to set that grace of God aside again, and go back to the striving and uncertainty of looking for extras that are not really there, and are definitely not needed. So let us continue to look to our Lord Jesus Christ and his death on the cross, and we will never go wrong. Then also may all glory and honour go to him who truly is our Lord and Saviour; Jesus Christ. Amen.

Pastor Roger Atze
Glandore/Underdale Lutheran Parish

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