by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 2 Paragraph # 2 Study # 17 October 9, 2011 Dayton, Texas (Download Audio)
(123)Thesis:The problem with legalism is its destruction of the truth of God's Love.
Introduction:As we have said over and over in our studies of Paul's words to Cephas, the bottom line is the issue of how men are to be motivated to aggressively pursue godliness. Without the active practice of godliness there can be no righteousness, no peace, and no joy; and, without those three, there can be no Kingdom of God. And, since the Kingdom of God has been the end of everything from the beginning, there is no greater issue in the universe than the question of how created personalities are properly motivated to practice its principles.
On this basis, we see Paul, at the very end of his argument with Cephas, going for "the throat". If he cannot kill the doctrines and practice of Cephas and those in Jerusalem, there is no hope for mankind. And what is his "kill" doctrine? The death of the Christ as the highest expression of the grace of the God Who is Love. Because of its potency, it is no accident that the death of the Christ has been the main target of all of the adversaries for all of history since that death occurred in an undeniable form in the time and space of man's existence.
I. The Adversary's Obsession.
A. In the beginning, Satan determined that the only way he could get a following was by way of the destruction of God as Love.
1. On the one hand, there can be no rationale for rebellion against unadulterated Love.
2. On the other hand, there can be no rationale for peace between the loveless.
3. The essences of Heaven and Hell have Love and Lovelessness at their cores.
B. Since the beginning, Satan has plotted multiple ways to nullify the Love of God as an object of faith by creatures.
1. First, there is the outright denial.
2. Then there is the corruption of "Love" so that it is turned into Lovelessness.
3. Then there is the deflection of consideration to everything but Love.
4. And finally there is the seduction of pride so that man is committed to refusing Love if it is not "deserved" ... thus enters Satan's use of "Law", the fundamental instrument of pride.
II. Paul's Counter Obsession.
A. In 1 Corinthians 1:23 Paul declared that the most fundamental expression of the Love of God was the point of contention between all of humanity and God.
B. In 1 Corinthians 2:2 Paul declared that the death of the Christ was the focal center of everything he had to say so that any doctrinal disturbance that did not focus upon the question of whether Christ died for human beings was ignored by him.
C. In Galatians 3:1 (the very next verse after the one we are considering) Paul declared that his message to the Galatians was Christ crucified.
III. Paul's Final Blow to Cephas in His Hypocrisy.
A. Cephas knew Jesus in the flesh and had a "history" with Him in terms of "denial" and "restoration".
1. Nothing Paul could have said would have hit Cephas the way Paul's statement at the end of 2:21 did.
2. The issue for Paul, Cephas, and every other believer is this issue: can you dismiss the death of Christ for you?
B. Paul's argument deliberately focuses upon the way he decided to destroy the hypocrisy of Cephas and everyone else who would seek to return to the ways of the pride of performance.
1. He did not say "Christ is dead in vain" (a "vanity" is an action taken that cannot achieve its objective).
2. He did say "Christ died needlessly".
a. The word group Paul chose to use is not found extensively in the New Testament, but it is found in doctrinally critical places (such as Ephesians 2:8) where the distinction between salvation by grace is set against salvation by works.
b. The problem with Paul's usage is that it does not seem "typical" until one looks carefully at the concept.
1) Typically, Paul's word is used in contexts where the issue is whether a person can establish some kind of rationale for the "happening" (Matthew 10:8 and John 15:25) in which the issue is "legal" ("Butterfly Kisses" and its "I must have done something good...").
2) Typically, Paul's word divorces its impact from any, and every, issue of obligation (2 Corinthians 11:7 and 2 Thessalonians 3:8).
3) But, because Paul's issue in our text is both about rationale and impact in respect to the death of Christ in contrast to "law", Paul's use really is "typical".
c. What Paul claimed...
1) First, that the death of Christ is such a stupendous, ginormous, concept (the introduction of Death into the infinity of the Godhead) that it would have never been used only as an "option".
2) Second, that the issue of how a sinner can be declared righteous by God was only to be established in an either/or setting wherein the options are "legal" or "gracious".
3) Third, that if the legal option was valid, Christ would have never died, and, the alternative, if Christ's death was what it was, "law" as understood by men has only a destructive impact (Romans 7:9 and 1 Corinthians 15:56).
4) Fourth, by the strongest implication, that one does not believe in the Love of Jesus if he practices "legal" relationships (this one had to have hit Cephas in the solar plexus).