Thursday in the Thirty-First Week of Ordinary Time

Galatians 2:11-16

By Works of the Law No One Will Be Justified

Paul has one more addition to make to the itinerary he was narrating, and that was when the Apostle Peter (Cephas) made a visit to the mostly Gentile church in Antioch.  Paul doesn’t say what the occasion was but we should assume that the churches, which at that time were few, would naturally communicate, especially the apostles.  The way Paul tells it, Peter was eating with the Gentile Christians UNTIL Jewish Christians came from Jerusalem, prompting him to then separate from the Gentiles and eat only with the Jews.  (We are reminded in this sad episode that even the apostles could be caught in wrongdoing, our sinful natures being ever with us.)  Paul confronted the titular head of the apostolic band with his hypocrisy for which I am sure Peter humbly repented. 

By now Paul has already proven that his gospel was by no man’s design.  His purpose in sharing this story was to move into what this entire letter to the churches in Galatia was about: The gospel of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.  Paul had been the quintessential lawman.  He was a Pharisee among Pharisees, a Jew among Jews.  Yet, when he was taken captive by the grace of Christ, he discovered that his law-keeping would avail him nothing before the throne of the Holy One; both Jew and “Gentile sinner” were on the same footing at the foot of the cross.  And so law had to give way to grace.

And here Paul introduces a word in this letter which may indeed have been his first letter to any church, that word being, “justified.”  (We saw this word and its cognates [e.g., “justification”] in his letter to the Romans.)  The word comes from the forensic or legal sphere and has to do with the courtroom.  In the New Testament, it means to “make right” to “give a right standing to,” or to simply acquit.  Those who are justified by faith in Jesus Christ are those who have been made right, given a right standing, and acquitted before God by faith in Jesus Christ.  But how does faith in Christ justify?  By his work on the cross.  It was on the cross that the Father made the gracious exchange whereby He traded His Son’s righteousness for our sinfulness so that we may be forgiven and cleansed by His Son’s blood.  Thus, this right standing cannot be earned by good works or law-keeping; it is solely a gift of grace as our Lord’s forgiveness of sin and gift of justification can only be received.  And this is the gospel, the good news, that neither Paul nor we can ever compromise, for to do so is to forfeit grace, forgiveness, salvation, heaven, and God Himself.  Cling to the gospel of grace whereby God clings to you.

Author: The Reformed Baptist

My name is Stephen Taylor, ordained Baptist minister of eighteen years pastoral experience with a Ph.D. in Historical Theology from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Better than that, I am married to a godly woman, Karla, who has been very patient with me since 1989. I have two daughters, both of whom I homeschooled for extended periods of time, who became godly young women, and who ran off and married godly young men, all of which is very proper. The oldest daughter has even seen fit to bless me with a grandson and a granddaughter, and my youngest daughter with a grandson, all three of whom are bundles of exceeding joy. As you can see, I am quite blessed. This website is dedicated to helping people grow in the wisdom and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ through the gift of writing that the Lord has given to me. It is specifically about helping His people grow in godliness, the theme you see repeated above. I write devotions with this aim and hope that they might be of some help to God’s people. Full disclosure: I am of a Reformed bent, meaning that my understanding of Scripture is primarily informed by the Reformers and their successors of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. However, as a student of church history and theology, I strive to remain true to that teaching handed down once for all unto the saints through every age of the Church. I like to think of myself as a “catholic” Christian, as the Reformers thought of themselves. At any rate, feel free to read, pray, and contact me if you wish, or correct me if need be. As you can see, I tend to follow the church year. Of course, I make no special claims about these devotions. I know very well that others have written better and plumbed the depths of God’s word with greater insight. But if my musings help someone draw closer to the Lord, well then, I have my reward. Blessings to you and may the God and Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ speak to you that word which He knows you especially need to hear. Grace & peace, Stephen Taylor

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