International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday February 5, 2012
Purpose: To celebrate God's work through Jesus Christ and our place in God's plan
Scripture Text: Galatians 2:15-21
Galatians 2:15-21 (NRSV)
(15)We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; (16)yet we know that a person is justified not by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we might be justified by faith in Christ, and not by doing the works of the law, because no one will be justified by the works of the law. (17)But if, in our effort to be justified in Christ, we ourselves have been found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! (18)But if I build up again the very things that I once tore down, then I demonstrate that I am a transgressor. (19)For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ;(20)and it is no longer I who live, but it is 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. (21)I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing.
My Thoughts by Burgess Walter
For the rest of this quarter we will be looking at the Book of Galatians. Galatians is only six chapters long, but it contains some great theology and teachings. The overall theme of Galatians is “freedom.”
Our text is part of an argument Paul is making concerning Peter and Barnabas, who slipped back into the Jewish traditions when visitors from Jerusalem came calling. There was present a faction of converted Jews that thought it necessary for Gentiles to first become Jews if they were going to call themselves Christians. Our lesson argues against such a practice.
The opening lines of our text sounds rather harsh, in calling those that were not Jews by birth “sinners.” However, it should be noted this is not a moral judgment against the Gentiles, but a simple statement of fact according to Jewish tradition. Since they did not follow Jewish law they were considered to be sinners, just as all of us are considered sinners when we are compared to the Holiness of our Creator God.
Paul's argument contends that everyone is “justified” (acquitted), not by the works of the “law,” “but through faith in Jesus Christ.” Believing by faith that Jesus was The Christ,” or promised Messiah. Paul is impressing upon those that had come to believe that Jesus was The Christ, simply believing and trust that belief is all that is required to obtain the “justification” or to be acquitted of all of our transgressions.
Regardless of how good we think we are, or how much we try to live a life that follows all of the rules laid down by ourselves and others, we are incapable of obtaining an acquittal from condemnation by following a set of rules. This fact is often hard for some Christians today that try and live a sacrificial life and a life of self denial. Paul says, “no one will be justified by the works of the law.” All salvation comes by way of faith in Jesus The Christ.
Paul's new found freedom comes from living a life that is grounded in Jesus Christ, the life he lives now is not Paul's life but Christ living in Paul. Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah, has taken up residency in Paul. Paul's actions are no longer his but Christ living in him. The life now being lived by Paul is a life of faith, not a life being lived by a set of rules established by men. Paul is able to live this new life with Christ abiding in him because of the grace of God that has made it available to all humankind, that puts there trust and confidence in the one that was willing to die the cruel death of the cross in order that we might obtain eternal life in Him. Paul closes this portion of his argument by stating, “if justification comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing.”
Paul inserts a warning in the middle of his argument, you can not go back and destroy what has been revealed to you, once you have seen the light of the gospel, (justification by faith) returning to your old ways condemns you as a “transgressor.”
God went to great lengths, to provide us with a way whereby we can be acquitted, or justified. The plan He chose was sending His Holy Son to die in our place. That is why out of gratitude for the grace extended to each of us we try and live a life that reflects that Son of God (Christ in us) in our daily lives. God, who knows us best, and loves us the most, deserves our best.