The greeting.

Greetings beloved of God called to be saints, holy ones in Christ the Holy One. Grace, peace, and mercy and every other blessing of God be to you this morning as we gather together to worship the Lord God, the only living and true and Triune God.

The scripture.

Please open up your Bibles to Galatians chapter two. I will read the same passage as last week, Galatians 2:11-21. But our focus this morning will be on verses 16-21. Hear the holy and perfect word of our holy and perfect God. Read.

Galatians 2:11. But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision. 13 The rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of all, “If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews? 15 “We are Jews by nature and not sinners from among the Gentiles;

Now here is the section we will examine this morning.

Galatians 2:16.  nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified. 17. But if, while seeking to be justified in Christ, we ourselves have also been found sinners, is Christ then a minister of sin? May it never be! (same language of Romans 6:1-10) 18 “For if I rebuild what I have once destroyed, I prove myself to be a transgressor. 19 “For through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live to God. 20 “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. 21 “I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.”

The prayer.

Beloved, let’s pray and ask God to help us worship Him today. Pray.

The outline.

I want us to look at two people here this morning from our passage. The first man is represented in V.17 by the criticism of the truth that men are justified or accounted righteous in the sight of God only by the righteousness of Christ imputed to them and received by faith alone and not by the addition of works of the law. As implied by the statement, is Christ a minister of sin?

The second man we will look at is represented by Paul himself, in V.18-21. How a person that believes the truth of the gospel of justification by faith alone responds and lives.

So we will learn the truth in two ways. One, by the negative example. Do not be like the critic of justification by faith alone. This is a fairly common way to teach the truth, by showing the error. (I Cor.10:1-14) Two, believe what Paul believed about Christ. Always a good option. (2 Cor.11:1) 😊 

The truth.

Beloved, does religious truth matter? Does it matter if we believe in the true Christ and the true gospel of salvation? Or can we still go to heaven if we believe in a false Christ and a false gospel? (WCF 7.3, 10.4, 28.5)

I promise I am not being silly. I am convinced many professing Christians do not think it is necessary to believe in the true gospel of Christ in order to be saved of their sin and to be admitted into the presence of holy God in heaven. I am convinced many professing Christians believe that if you are good enough and try hard enough, or follow your conscience, or try to obey whatever religion you believe in, then at last God will receive you into heaven.

To use the language of the apostle Paul in V.21, then Christ died in vain if this is true.

So no matter that we find ourselves in an atheistical age and we dwell among a people that do what is right in their own eyes, we know that the Bible does teach that the truth of Christ matters for this life and for the next. The truth of Christ sets us free. Lies about Christ keep us in spiritual bondage. 

V.16. Paul opens in chapter one by stating that he is defending the true gospel of salvation against all those that preach a different gospel.  The Holy Spirit inspires him to pronounce “anathema” on those that corrupt the gospel of grace. (Gal.1:6-9, I Cor.16:22)

The idea is, if you believe the truth of Christ and His gospel then you have the blessings of God. (Jn.3:36) But if you corrupt or pervert the true message of salvation then you have the wrath and curse of God abiding on you because you are still in your sins. That is what the word anathema means, cursed by God.

Now last week we read this section and we saw that Paul connects the doctrine of justification with the truth of the Gospel.

Let me say this, the word to justify or justified is not always used in the same sense in Scripture. The apostle Paul says we are not justified before God by our works. That is to say, our person is not reckoned before God to be righteous by our good works.  Our person is justified before God by faith in Jesus. Christ’s righteous is our righteous. His merit is imputed to us.

The apostle James uses ‘justified’ in a different sense. He says that Abraham and Rahab were not justified by faith alone but also by their good works. In this sense, James is speaking about being justified before men (and not God). That is to say, the faith in Christ we profess is shown to be right or true or just by our good deeds. (Jas.2:21-23)

Beloved, Paul is dealing with the legalist that makes the law the gospel, that good work are how we are saved, at least in part. And James is dealing with the antinomian, that says the gospel negates the law, that the gospel deny the necessity of good works. (Jas.2:14) Both are wrong.

The Roman Catholic church teaches that you are justified by baptism, which they call the sacrament of faith. This is to be justified, past tense. But you can lose this justification by baptism by committing a mortal sin. But you can get it back by the second plank of justification the sacrament of penance. And they also teach that ongoing sanctification is part of the ongoing justification – to which our cooperation with God’s grace further helps our justification. Then they teach a future justification which will in part be based on our graced-works, or graced-merit. I trust I have represented their view correctly.

Whereas the Protestant view of justification is this.

WLC 70. Justification is an act of God’s free grace unto sinners,(1) in which he pardons all their sins, accepts and accounts their persons righteous in his sight;(2) not for any thing wrought in them, or done by them,(3) but only for the perfect obedience and full satisfaction of Christ, by God imputed to them,(4) and received by faith alone.(5)

(1) Rom. 3:22,24,25; Rom. 4:5 (2) 2 Cor. 5:19,21; Rom. 3:22,24,25,27,28 (3) Tit. 3:5,7; Eph. 1:7
(4) Rom. 5:17-19; Rom. 4:6-8 (5) Acts 10:43; Gal. 2:16; Phil. 3:9

The Protestant Reformers believed that the truth of justification is the gospel.

Galatians 2:16. nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified.

Galatians 3:5. So then, does He who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? 6 Even so Abraham BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS. 7 Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham. 8 The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “ALL THE NATIONS WILL BE BLESSED IN YOU.” 9 So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer. 10 For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, “CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO DOES NOT ABIDE BY ALL THINGS WRITTEN IN THE BOOK OF THE LAW, TO PERFORM THEM.” 11 Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, “THE RIGHTEOUS MAN SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.” 12 However, the Law is not of faith; on the contrary, “HE WHO PRACTICES THEM SHALL LIVE BY THEM.” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us– for it is written, “CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE “– 14 in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. Gal.3:20-31, Gal.5:4, Rom.4:1-25, Rom.5:1-18, Titus 3:4-7, Eph.2:1-9, Jn.5:24, Rom.11:6, Jn.1:12)

Paul says this in Galatians chapter three and five. The apostle does the very same thing in the letter to the Romans in chapter 2, 3, 4, and 5. And in Ephesians chapter 2. Again James 2:21-23 does not negate this. Paul and James uses justify in two different senses.

As an aside the Council of Trent pronounces “anathema” on those that believe we are justified by faith alone in Christ alone and also deny the merit of graced-works. And the Reformed confessions and creeds likewise condemn the Roman view of justification. These are two different gospels of salvation. Two different Christ’s. Beloved, be a good Berean. Which Christ and Gospel of Christ does the Bible present?

The critic.

You would think that this good news would be amazing news to sinners and to saints that still sin. And to those that are the called and chosen it is great news. (Mt.22:14) But to the called and not chosen the free and full gift of salvation in and by Christ alone, by His work, and none of ours is actually quite offensive. 

V.17. Here is the common objection brought forth by the legalist against the truth of justification by faith alone apart from our deeds of the law. Paul states the objection he hears to his gospel.

As an aside, faithful preachers of the gospel out to expect to be opposed. Christ was. Paul was. The Flesh is opposed to the Spirit.

The legalist says this, well if you teach a person that simply by believing in Jesus Christ and His atoning work and God imputes all of Christ’s righteousness to him or her and that this righteousness of Jesus cannot be lost. Well then, that would encourage that person to live in sin and not live unto holiness. To use Paul language here, is Christ then a minister of sin? Does this all sufficient Christ by His sufficiency actually promote our sinfulness? No.

But this was the objection that Paul mentions in the book of Romans. Paul was out preaching believe in Jesus and you shall be saved. The Jews said, oh great! If this is the case, why not go out and sin some more so that grace may abound! (Rom.6:1-15) Free gift always offends legalists. Legalist always accuse the faithful presenter of the true gospel of being anti-law or antinomian – just “believe” in Jesus and then live in filthy sin and be admitted into heaven! They say we say. But we do not say this. (see Rom.3:31, Rom.6:1, Gal.2:17, Heidelberg Q.63-64)

As regards to self.

Well that is the critique by the legalist. Why does he criticize that our righteousness before God is all the righteousness of Christ and His merit and none of our own?

It is because he believes a false gospel is the true gospel. He does not know the truth about God. He does not know the truth about himself.

The legalist is the person that thinks the gospel of Jesus is trust partly in the work of Jesus and then trust partly in their own good works. He thinks well if it is all Jesus then I do not have to fear hell. If it is all Jesus then I do not have to do good works. If it is all Jesus then I can enjoy my sin.

But thinking this way reveals the true nature of his heart. It reveals what he really thinks of God, of Christ, of Christ’s atoning work. Not much. He is full of himself. Even though he may make speeches declaring himself to be a humble sinner, his offense with the sufficiency of Christ proves otherwise.

As regards to others.

But the interesting thing about the legalist is while they like to think high thoughts about themselves, magnifying their gifts and minimizing their sins, they spend a great deal of time thinking ill about other people. The legalist minimizes the gifts of others and magnifies their sins. The legalist is easy on himself and hard on others. This is the Pharisee spirit.

Listen to Christ describe the heart of a Judaizer legalist, ancient or modern.

Luke 15:17. But when he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with hunger! 18 ‘I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight; 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men.”‘ 20 “So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 “And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 “But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; 23 and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; 24 for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’ And they began to celebrate. 25 “Now his older son was in the field, and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 “And he summoned one of the servants and began inquiring what these things could be. 27 “And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has received him back safe and sound.’ 28 “But he became angry and was not willing to go in; and his father came out and began pleading with him. 29 “But he answered and said to his father, ‘Look! For so many years I have been serving you and I have never neglected a command of yours; and yet you have never given me a young goat, so that I might celebrate with my friends; 30 but when this son of yours came, who has devoured your wealth with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him.’ 31 “And he said to him, ‘Son, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 ‘But we had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found.'”

Along these lines, the legalist teaches that you must threaten people with hell to spur them away from sin and on to do good works. Yes, they admit this is a lower motive for the lesser Christian. And they teach that you must promise meritorious rewards for good works otherwise the concept of reward for good behavior is lost and thus the positive motive for good works is lost.

I want to point out a few things here. One, the gospel of salvation in Christ by pure grace alone through faith alone is hated by the natural man. You can be sure if the flesh likes the so-called gospel being presented then it is a fleshly gospel and thus no gospel at all. Tell a man to do all sorts of hard meritorious good works for their justification and salvation and they will love you. Make it very difficult and obscure and intricate and their flesh will flog themselves onward and upward for the glory of purchasing their own salvation.

Again, this is in the face of outward statements of humility and deference and love to Christ. Oh beloved, the Judaizers said they loved Christ. They said they believed. But they also said to be justified you must be circumcised. The modern Judaizer says that you are justified by your baptism. They call it the sacrament of faith. Do you do see how very tricky and confusing the legalist can be. Oh, yes you are justified by faith in Jesus. Then they pour a different meaning into “faith”. It is not your faith in Jesus, it is faith conveyed to you in the sacrament.

The Judaizer of Paul’s day said yes you are justified by your faith in Jesus but you must also keep the law of Moses. The modern Judaizer says, oh we know that no man is justified by the deeds of the law. But if God gives you grace then you can be justified by “graced” works of the law. Then you can call your merit for your own salvation of “grace”.

Oh beloved, once you leave the simplicity of the gospel of real grace and justification by real faith alone in Christ alone you will be ensnared by 1,000 intricate lies of the legalist. Once you begin to travel down the road of any kind of your merit for your salvation you enter a labyrinth with no way out. You are doomed to failure in this life. That is why the modern Judaizer-legalist invented an after-life where you can be burned in a purging fire to pay for the temporal penalties of your sins, sins that you did not do enough “graced” work to expiate.

The legalist always criticizes the merit of Christ alone received by faith alone as being too easy. That is because they do not admit their sin problem with God is too hard for them.

Beloved, no man is justified by works of the law. Graced works or ungraced works. No man is justified or saved by graced merit or ungraced merit. Only by Christ alone, Faith alone.

The believer.

V.18-21. Now let’s look at the positive example of the apostle Paul. Paul believed that he was justified before God by faith in Jesus Christ and not by any of his law-keeping. So, Paul believed and taught that Christ merited all our salvation and he (and we) merit none of it. And he taught that we receive all of Christ, all of Christ’s merits for our justification and salvation by faith alone. And even the faith to believe is a gift of God the Holy Spirit.

And Paul believed that believing in Jesus is personal assent to and trust in Jesus as the Christ. Paul did not teach that baptism was a sacrament of faith. Abraham believed in the promised Messiah and was justified before God long before he was circumcised. (Rom.4:9-12)

Circumcision being the OT counterpart of NT baptism. So, water baptism does not spiritually join us to Christ and justify us in Christ. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ. (Rom.10:1-17)

Think of Paul. He believed and was justified by faith before he received water baptism. Paul said Christ sent him to preach the gospel and not to baptize. (I Cor.1:13-19)

Look at what Paul says next about those that believe that by faith in Christ they are forever forgiven of their sins.

DEATH.  I died to the law (as a covenant of works) V.19. He says, through the law that I died to the law that I might live to God.  

Acts 13:39. Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, 39 and through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses.

Romans 8:1. Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 3 For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh,

Paul when he was a Pharisee he looked to the law for his justification for his salvation. But all the law did was condemn him as a law-breaker. (Phil.3:1-14) The Law cannot condemn us. It has already condemned Christ for us. We are free!

But then the gospel came and promised life to him. Therefore he died to the law as a way of salvation. He died to the law as a covenant of works, to use the language of the theologians.

This is how he put this truth later in chapter three.

Galatians 3:21. Is the Law then contrary to the promises of God? May it never be! For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law. 22 But the Scripture has shut up everyone under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. 23 But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. 24 Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. 26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.

However, the law still is of use to us as Believers as a rule or guide for life as an expression of our thankfulness for our salvation.

I John 2:1. we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; 2 and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world. 3 By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. 4 The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; 5 but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: 6 the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.

This is how our confession summarizes the Bible in this use of the moral law for the Believer. And I would say that this is the good works of Abraham and Rahab spoken of in James chapter two, they are fruits and evidences of true and saving faith. (WCF 16.2)WLC 97  What special use is there of the moral law to the regenerate? A. Although they that are regenerate, and believe in Christ, be delivered from the moral law as a covenant of works,(1) so as thereby they are neither justified(2) nor condemned;(3) yet, besides the general uses thereof common to them with all men, it is of special use, to show them how much they are bound to Christ for his fulfilling it, and enduring the curse thereof in their stead, and for their good;(4) and thereby to provoke them to more thankfulness,(5) and to express the same in their greater care to conform themselves thereunto as the rule of their obedience.(6)

(1) Rom. 6:14; Rom. 7:4,6; Gal. 4:4,5 (2) Rom. 3:20 (3) Gal. 5:23; Rom. 8:1 (4) Rom. 7:24,25; Gal. 3:13-14; Rom. 8:3,4 (5) Luke 1:68-75; Col. 1:12-14 (6) Rom. 7:22; Rom. 12:2; Tit. 2:11-14

DEATH. I have been crucified with Christ. Here Paul brings in the truth of Christ’s federal headship. Jesus is our Surety. Jesus is our Kinsman Redeemer. (Rom.5:12-19, Rom.6:3-5)

You see those with true faith in Christ see their newness of life as the price of Christ’s cross (not their own deeds).  The Believer sees Christ’s death on Calvary’s cross to pay for all of their sins – just as if they had died on the cross. Christ’s death for their sins is reckoned to them. (I Cor.6:9-11)  

Galatians 2:20. I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.

You see the moment we believe in Christ then the (offended) law no longer has a claim on us. Christ has satisfied the law on our behalf. As Paul then says in Romans, we are died to Law so as to be married to Christ (in the gospel). Rom.7:1-3)

RESURRECTION. I no longer live. Now by faith in Christ Paul reckons his prior life as an unbeliever to be dead. By faith in Christ Paul is a new creature. He is born again. He has spiritual life out of spiritual death.

2 Corinthians 5:17. Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.

Christ lives in me. Oh beloved, do you see that Paul does not present justification by faith alone in Christ alone as some dry and dusty bit of theory? No. Paul is joined to a real Person, the God-Man Christ Jesus.

We are spiritually alive because Christ lives and we live in Christ. Death has lost its hold on us. Death has lost its sting. Death for the Believer will be the gate through which we enter to live forever with our Christ.

I live by faith – who loved me and gave Himself for me.

Beloved, do you see what the charge that justification by faith alone in Christ alone as promoting sin is foolish?

As Believers in Christ the old man has died. We are new people. Yes we still fight the flesh. But that does not negate that we are NOT what we once were. We are washed by Christ’s blood. We are no longer fornicators or liars. Christ has changed us.

It is impossible for a lamb of Christ to go back and habitually live like a pig or a wolf.  Oh, I am not saying, we cannot oink or growl from time to time. But our new standing and new nature must prevail. Christ is inside of us. His Spirit governs us.

Christ has set us free to serve Him in holiness and love. Oh Beloved, live according to your high calling in Christ. To God be the Glory.




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