Chapter # 2 Paragraph # 2 Study # 8
August 7, 2011
17 But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is
therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid.
18 For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor.
19 For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God.
20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
21 I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come
by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.
1901 ASV Translation
17 But if, while we sought to be justified in Christ, we ourselves also were found sinners, is Christ a minister of sin? God forbid.
18 For if I build up again those things which I destroyed, I prove myself a transgressor.
19 For I through the law died unto the law, that I might live unto God.
20 I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I that live, but Christ living in me: and that life
which I now live in the flesh I live in faith, the faith
which is in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself up for me.
21 I do not make void the grace of God: for if righteousness is through the law, then Christ died for nought.
- I. Paul's Response to Hypocrisy.
- A. He "saw" that their behavior and the Gospel were in opposition.
- B. He "said" to Cephas in the presence of all... . Paul determined to address the problem in public because it was not only a distortion of the Gospel, it was also a public humiliation for all of the Gentile brethren.
- 1. If you, being a Jew, are living in the manner of a Gentile and not in the manner of a Jew, how do you compel the Gentiles to live as Jews? [See the Study Notes for July 3, 2011 (097)].
- 2. We [are] by nature "Jews" and not "sinners" from among the nations [See Study Notes for July 10, 2011 (099)].
- 3. But knowing that a man is not justified by works of the Law, but by faith of Jesus Christ... [See Study Notes for July 17, 2011 (101)].
- 4. ...even we believed into Christ Jesus in order that we might be justified by faith of Christ and not by works of law... [See Study Notes for July 31, 2011 (103)].
- 5. ...because by works of law shall no flesh be justified [See Study Notes for July 31, 2011 (103)].
- 6. Now, if seeking to be justified in Christ we are found also ourselves sinners, do we conclude that Christ [is] a servant of sin? Absolutely not.
- a. In the larger debate between those who believe in "grace" and those who believe in "justice", there is this issue: will not those who are encouraged to relate to God by faith in His grace be lawless in their dealings with others? Said another way: "If you tell people they do not have to submit to God's laws in order to be justified, will those who believe you not be careless about sinning and does that not make Christ an enabler?"
- 1) At issue beneath all of the superstructure of the "positions" is the question of how God is going about providing a godly motivation to men so that they will turn from sin to righteousness.
- 2) Inherent to the "legal" position is the outright rejection of Paul's perception of the purpose for the Law. "Legalists" invariably "believe in" the human ability to do what is right. The main notion is that if one makes the penalty for misdeeds strong enough, people will do what is right.
- a) This notion immediately spins down into the gutter of hypocrisy. People who do what they do because they are afraid of the consequences are primal haters; they do not act out of love because they are incapable of it. Fear drives all and "hypocrisy" is essentially doing one thing while wishing for the opposite. Cephas is as clear an example as any, and he is the "problem" for Paul in our text: he is "afraid" of the legalists so that he acts hurtfully and hypocritically.
- i. At the most fundamental level is this reality: legalists are absolutely not moral people. In their delusions about themselves and others, the "Law" is the major force for "good" behavior, and it is absolutely not such because, as Paul said, "the strength of Sin is the Law".
- ii. Interestingly, the legalist intuits the sinfulness of men so that men will, in the legal mind, not do what is right unless he is compelled to do so. But doing what is right out of compulsion is evil. This fundamentally destroys the position that "Law" can motivate "good".
- b) Paul's theology is that the Law was intended to reveal this fact about humanity and that it was never God's intention to "control people's behavior" by "Law/Consequence". Legalists, who are "controllers", are not, however, interested in purity of motivation; they only seek external conformity at any price. God, on the other hand, is all about motivation and will never "reward" what is only an appearance of godliness (is not 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 still in the Bible?).
- 3) Inherent in the "grace" position is the fundamental acceptance of "love" as a potent and sufficient motivator. Even though "love" is a most difficult attribute to develop, it is the only legitimate motivator so that any "short cuts" to the production of good are simply as evil as their results. Legalism is a short cut that hangs itself on its own noose because it not only does not produce any real good, it actually destroys any ability to produce the love that is required to produce real good. The strength of sin is the Law.
- b. The issues involved.
- 1) "Seeking to be justified in Christ".
- a) Paul's doctrine is that a person can only be "justified" by faith in the faithfulness of Christ. Believing "into Christ Jesus" has two foundation concepts: one, no flesh can be justified by a legal examination of one's deeds; and, two, Jesus Christ was able to live flawlessly under such examination, setting up the possibility of somehow getting to be included in His flawlessness. Historically, God has always demonstrated a willingness to "trade" faith for justification (Genesis 15:6).
- b) Paul's doctrine is that if a person "believes" God in respect to both the flawlessness of Jesus, the Christ, and His willingness to "trade", he/she is "baptized into Christ" so that he/she becomes "one" with Him as a partaker of His perfect humanity (Christ is the new Adam as Head of a race of people who partake of His essence). This "baptism" is not a "concept", but, rather, an actual action taken by God the Spirit in actually creating a new entity made up of the "believer" and Himself.
- 2) "Being found [to be] sinners".
- a) The very idea of "justification by trade" assumes the need for "justification".
- b) The root fact is that all are eventually "found" to be "sinners" (Romans 3:9).
- 3) "Shall we conclude ...".
- a) Paul's term calls for some kind of rational conclusion.
- b) He has posited the universal sinfulness of humanity so that no flesh can hope to live flawlessly, but that justification is yet possible.
- 4) "Is Christ a 'deacon' of Sin?"
- a) At the heart of this "conclusion" is the question of what such a doctrine as "justification by trade" produces.
- b) Is Christ actually an enabler Who allows men to sin freely since their justification is absolutely divorced from their deeds?
- c. Paul's answer is pretty short and loud: Absolutely not.