Sunday, July 09, 2017

[Matt's Messages] "I Live By Faith in the Son of God"

“I Live By Faith in the Son of God”
Galatians: The Truth of the Gospel
July 9, 2017 :: Galatians 2:15-21

Our sermon series is called “The Truth of the Gospel” because that was what was at stake in Galatia.

The Apostle Paul has written what we called a Tornado Warning Letter. He has broken the glass and sounded the alarm because these churches were on the brink of abandoning the truth of the gospel of grace.

False teachers had snuck into the churches that Paul had planted on his missionary journeys and sowed false teaching, a false gospel, another gospel which really is no gospel at all. 

And they’ve discredited Paul as a faulty apostle, preaching a derivative and defective gospel. Derivative of Jerusalem’s apostles and defective because it doesn’t say enough about the Law of Moses.

And Paul was shocked to find out that these churches had been entertaining the ideas of these false teachers, so he picks up his pen and writes them the Epistle to the Galatians.

Paul uses some of the strongest language of all of his letters for this letter because he was concerned that these churches he cared so much about might flounder and sink into heresy and ruin.

So for last two chapters, he’s been setting the record straight on where he got his gospel.

Where did he get his gospel? Peter, James, John?

No, directly from Jesus Christ.

Paul wasn’t looking for the gospel, but Jesus came looking for him!

But even though he didn’t get his gospel from the apostles based in Jerusalem, he had the exact same gospel as the apostles based in Jerusalem.

They met once and agreed on everything central to the gospel!

Peter, James, John, and Paul all had the exact same gospel.

Which made it kind of awkward when the apostle Peter came up to Antioch and acted inconsistently with the truth of the gospel.

That’s what we looked at last week.

Peter came up to Antioch and, at first, lived up to his theological convictions of what he could eat as a Christian and who he could eat with as fellow Christians, equal in the gospel.

And then...certain men from James came up and Peter all of sudden chickened out.

He stopped eating with the Gentile Christians which sent the message that only those who were Jews were truly acceptable Christians.

Peter didn’t say that in so many words, but that’s the message that was being conveyed.

So Paul opposed him to his face. He called Peter out in public. Remember this?

He said that Peter was not acting in line with the truth of the gospel. He was a hypocrite. V.14

“You are a Jew, [Pete!] yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. [And that’s okay because of your freedom in Christ. But...] How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?” To become Jews, in essence?

“That’s not right!”

Now, he wasn’t saying that Peter was teaching a false gospel, but that you could get the wrong idea of what the truth of the gospel was by how Peter was acting.

Peter’s life was sending the message that you had to take on the Law of Moses to be a good Christian.

Is that how it works?

Last week, we read through verses 15 and 16 but we had run out of time to really dive into them. So it’s fitting that we start with them today.

This section is really the heart of the letter. Paul has finally got to what he really wants to say to the Galatians.

He’s finishing up the history that brings him to this point and is transitioning into the theology that desperately wants the Galatians to get.

I’m not sure where the report of what he said to Peter ends and where his further reflections begin, but it doesn’t really matter. By chapter 3, he’s speaking directly to the Galatians and addressing their folly.

But here he’s making his central point and waxing eloquent on what it means to be united to Jesus Christ.

For the last 25 years, Galatians 2:20 has been one of my favorite Bible verses, and I’m excited that it is our new Hide the Word verse to learn together.

Let’s say it together.

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.

Here’s one of those places where the Bible tell us how Jesus loves us.

He “loved me and gave himself for me.”

I love Galatians 2:20.

When I was a student at Moody Bible Institute, we had to memorize this verse for a class, and it just jumped off the pages at me.

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.”

There is a mysterious connection between Jesus and me.

He has identified with me, and I have identified with Him.

Enough that there is something about me that no longer lives.

And Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit, lives in me.

There is still a sense in which I do live, but it’s by faith.

“The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God...”

That’s our title for today.

What a precious truth!

But Galatians 2:20 doesn’t exist out there on it’s own.

It was written in a certain particular contexts in a certain particular letter of Paul to the churches in Galatia.

Paul says what he says in Galatians 2:20 a part a bigger point he is making, a more complex argument.

And it is very...complex.

I admit that the logic of a few of these verses (especially verses 17, 18, and 19, the logic of them) escapes me.

I’ve read and read the commentaries, and I have a vague idea, but I’m not sure I can adequately explain them.

It helped me that D.A. Carson, one of the leading evangelical Bible scholars of our day and one of my former professors at Trinity says that these are a “bit hard to understand.” I feel like I’m in good company there.

And Douglas Moo, another one of my old professors from Trinity, and an amazing Bible teacher himself, has end-notes that have footnotes on these verses in his commentary! Notes on the notes!

So there is some complexity here and some ambiguity on the details.

But at the exact same time, the main points are simple and obvious.

And precious.

I’ve got two points of application for you today and they are very personal for Paul and for us.

Point #1. I am justified by faith in Jesus Christ.

Point #2. I am living by faith in Jesus Christ.

If you’ve got that, you’ve got it all.

Let me try to show you what I see here.


Do you remember what it means to be justified?

It means to be declared in the right. To be counted as righteous.

To be recognized as right with God, possessing a right standing with God.

How does that work?

How does one be justified before God?

Paul had a lot to say about this in the book of Romans which we studied together in 2014, 2015, and the first part of 2016.

The Greek word is “dikaioo.”  “To be justified” or “made just” or “righteousified.”

How does one become justified before God?

Well one way is to be perfectly righteous every second of your life.

Like Jesus Christ.

When God the Father looked at Jesus Christ, His Son, He could easily say, “That Person there is justified! That Person there is just. He is righteous. I can declare it!”

“He is my beloved Son with Whom I am well pleased.”

But unfortunately, there is no one else, by nature, in that category.

Is there anyone here who has been perfectly righteous every second of your life?

If so, I want to shake your hand.

So if I can’t be justified by possessing a perfect righteousness on my own, how can I ever be?

That was the question that plagued Martin Luther, a Bible teaching monk in the 16th century.

He knew that God was perfectly righteous, and he knew that he himself was not, and he feared the righteousness of God.

And rightly so.

Because without being justified there will be no salvation, no eternal life, no enjoying the kingdom of God when it comes in its fullness.

There will only be what we learned about in Sunday School this morning, the judgment of God. The justice of God. The full payment due for un-righteousness.

You see why this letter is so important?

You see the stakes? You see why Paul uses such strong language?

Eternal life is on the line.

How does a sinner become justified?

Paul reminds Peter in verse 15 that they know the answer to that question.

It’s the gospel of grace. It’s the gospel of Jesus Christ. And we know that they both believe that. V.15

“We who are Jews by birth [Peter and Paul] and not 'Gentile sinners' [our little pet name for those who didn’t have the privilege of being born a Jew, WE] know that a man is not justified by observing the law [or literally, “by works of the law], but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.”

Did Paul just repeat himself?

I believe so.

I think he said the same thing three times in a row!

This is that important!

Paul is contrasting two different approaches to justification.

One is right and one is wrong.

Which one is wrong?

Last phrase, “by observing the law [by works of the law] no one will be justified.”

What law is he talking about there?

Well, the obvious one is the Law of Moses.

The Law God gave to Moses back in the Old Testament.

So the 10 commandments and the sacrificial system and the dietary restrictions and the purification laws and the civil justice code and the feasts and all of that.

Signified for the newborn males by receiving the sign of circumcision in the flesh.

“You, my son, are now under this Law.”

Now, was the Law a bad thing?

No, it was a wonderful gift to the people of Israel.

But...doing the Law, obeying the Law, observing the Law was never intended to be the basis of anyone’s justification. V.16

“ observing the law no one will be justified.”

That’s not how it works.

How does it work?

Paul says that he and Peter (v.16) “have put [their] faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ...”

That’s it?
Just faith? Just trust?
Just putting your faith in Jesus Christ?
That’s it?
That’s all?
Nothing else?
Just putting yourself in His hands?
Trusting in Who Jesus is and what Jesus has done?
That’s all?
And then I’m declared righteous before God?
I’m declared righteous BY God?!

Just by faith in Christ and Christ alone?

Yes, exactly.

And that’s what Martin Luther rediscovered in the book of Galatians and the book of Romans back in the 16th century. And it turned the world upside down.

Here’s what we know: I am justified by faith in Jesus Christ.

Are you sure?

Don’t you think we have to add some works of the Law in there?

Don’t I do something? Don’t I add some good works? Don’t I clean up my act? Don’t I become a good person first?

Pastor Jonathan Edwards once said, No, “You contribute nothing to your salvation except the sin that made it necessary.”

Because Paul said, “ observing the law no one will be justified.”

Well, that’s not what everybody thought. Paul’s enemies had an answer for that an accusation. They, apparently, said that this gospel of sheer grace makes Jesus a promoter of sin. Look at verse 17.

“If, while we seek to be justified in Christ, it becomes evident that we ourselves are sinners, does that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not!”

Now, I’m not sure that I understand Paul’s logic here.

There are multiple ways of construing it.

My best guess for today is that he’s saying that if you trust Christ for justification and then you still end up sinning (which you still will!) then whose fault is that?

The circumcision folks say that it’s all that grace that’s being thrown around.

If you tell people that all you have to do is believe in Jesus, then they are going to sin, and sin and sin all the more so that grace may abound.

“Hey, come over here, there’s free sin!”

“Jesus is giving away grace, so He’s okay with us sinning!”

Does that sound familiar? Like something we read about in Romans 6?

What was Paul’s answer for that back then? In Greek, “May Genoita.”

“Absolutely now! No way, no how. That’s not how it works.”

People who have genuinely come to believe in Jesus Christ do not go crazy with sinning!

How about you?  Do you want sin a lot more now that you have trusted Christ?

Yes, I know you want to sin sometimes.

But do want to sin more because Jesus has been gracious to you?

I don’t think so. And Paul says, even more, in verse 18.

“If I rebuild what I destroyed, I prove that I am a lawbreaker.”

I’m not totally sure what that means either. But I think he’s saying that if put the Law back in the place where these people wanted it to be (something we trust in), then it would only provide more judgment, more condemnation. The law only kills. It doesn’t bring salvation. V.19

“For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God.”

And I really don’t know what that one means!

I think he’s saying that the law kills, and it killed Jesus. Because He took on the curse of the Law (we’ll read more about that in chapter 3), and when He died fulfilling the Law, you and I died to the Law.

We are no longer under the Mosaic Law.

And, paradoxically, now we can live for God!

So, the opposite is true. I am not justified by observing the Law, but by faith in Jesus Christ.

Do you see that? I’m sorry I can’t explain it better.

It’s following that statement that “through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God” that Paul gives us Galatians 2:20.

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.”

What a powerful way of saying it.

When Jesus died, somehow, we died with Him.

Now, not physically, of course. We did not take the nails that we deserved! He did.

But somehow in spiritual reality, we were co-crucified with Jesus.

And we are still in that state. The Greek tense here is the perfect tense.

So you could accurately say, “I am in the state of having been crucified with Christ.”

And I no longer live.

The old me.

The old “I”.

The “I” that is a sinner who loves sin.
The “I” that was trying to justify myself.
The “I” that was an enemy of God and destined for Hell.

That “I” no longer lives.

Not really.

Not in the most meaningful sense.

That “I” still has a zombie life, of course. We’ll learn more about the flesh and indwelling sin when we get towards of the end of Galatians.

But the old me has been rendered virtually powerless by my co-crucifixion with Jesus.

And now “Christ lives in me.” I have resurrection life. I have the personal presence of the Son of God through the Spirit of God.

I was not just joined to Him in His death, but I am joined to Him in His new life!

So, I still live. The new “I,” the new me.

“I live by faith in the Son of God.”


This is the living dynamic at work in life.

I am trusting in Jesus Christ and He is my life.

I am trusting Him daily.

I am trusting Him moment by moment.

I have a life-changing relationship with Him.

I don’t live by faith in my own good deeds.

I live by faith day to day, by faith in the Son of God.

Everything has changed.

Living by faith is not just nodding your head that some facts are true.

It is placing yourself in the hands of Jesus and trusting your whole life and your whole eternal future to Him.

It is trusting that you have been united to Christ and share in everything that He has.

You know what that means?

It means when God the Father looks at you, He sees the righteousness of His Own Son.

I think that’s part of why Paul calls Jesus, “the Son of God” here.

Because you and I are, by faith, united to God’s beloved Son.

And He can easily say, “That person there is righteous. They are in my Son.

They were crucified with Him. And He lives in them now!”

I don’t think that you and I disappear as persons in Galatians 2:20. We are still ourselves. It’s not saying that the person of Matt Mitchell got crucified and now I’m some kind of a puppet.

I’m more “myself” than I have ever been.

Because I am now united to Jesus Christ.

And now I am living by faith in Jesus Christ.

“...who loved me and gave himself for me.”

I love that Paul uses the personal pronouns here.

Jesus didn’t just love everyone.

Jesus didn’t just love His chosen people.

Jesus loved even me.

He “loved me and gave himself for me.”

And that gift of Himself was not in vain. V.21

“I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”

Do you see his logic?

Paul is not going to budge on this gospel of grace.

He will not nullify the grace of God.

He will not change his tune on what gospel he preaches.

He will not give in for a moment to the idea that we are justified by works of the law.

Because if he did, then he would be saying that Jesus never had to die.


I mean if I could get myself justified by simply obeying the Mosaic Law, then why did Jesus have to die? He didn’t.

I could have just done it on my own!

How insulting that is to Jesus!

“Why did you bother to give yourself for us on the Cross, Jesus?”

“Thanks but no thanks. I’ll do it my way.”

Paul says, “May it never be.”

“He loved me and gave Himself for me.”

I will not set aside the grace of God.

Does that make sense?

The application is obvious, I hope.

Put your faith in Jesus Christ.

And Jesus Christ alone.

I know that all of this is familiar to you.

At least, I hope it’s familiar to you! This is the gospel that we are trying to preach here at Lanse Free Church.

This is the message that we are going to give each day to the children, youth, and adults that come to Family Bible Week.

So, I hope it’s familiar.

But it’s not obvious.

Most people think that the gospel is about being a good person.

Go down to the Pumpkin House or Key Largo and do a survey. Ask them what it takes to be justified before God.

And so many will say, “Be a good person. Keep the 10 Commandments. Do more good than bad. Go to church. Give your money. Do good things.”

Those are all good things to do.

But “by observing the law no one will be justified.”

You’ve got trust in Jesus Christ.

You’ve got to trust in what He did on the Cross when He loved you and gave Himself for you.

Be justified by placing your faith in Jesus Christ.

And then live that faith every single day.

Because when you believe in Jesus, everything changes.

Your relationship with sin.
Your relationship with the Law.
Your relationship with God. You can now live for God!

Because you have been crucified with Christ and no longer live, but Christ lives in you.

The life you now live in the body, LIVE BY FAITH in the Son of God who loved you and gave Himself for you.


Messages in this Series
01. To the Churches in Galatia
02. Turning to a Different Gospel
03. Preaching the Faith He Once Tried to Destroy
04. So the Truth of the Gospel Might Remain With You
05. Acting in Line with the Truth of the Gospel