Problems With Grace
11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. 13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?”
15 We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is not justified[b] by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.
17 But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! 18 For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. 19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but 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 righteousness[c] were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.
Paul has traveled to Asia minor, modern day Turkey with the gospel of Jesus Christ. And because he has met with success and people have believed, there are problems that have arisen. This is to be expected. What exactly are the implications for a persons life who has decided to follow Jesus Christ? That is what is being hashed out. And we can see several types of issues like this in the New Testament documents.
- The Problem with Gentiles
- Should Gentiles be required to be circumcised
Seeing people as forgiven is easy, but seeing forgiven people living in sin or what we think is sin is harder!
Previously Paul alludes to the issue of circumcision. Chapter 2:3-5
3 But even Titus, who was with me, was not forced to be circumcised, though he was a Greek. 4 Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in—who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery— 5 to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you.
Why would that be necessary? Christ plus is not ok!
Christ plus baptism? Christ plus reading your bible daily, evangelism, serving in Church. There are reasons to do these things, but they are not related to our righteousness before God. There is no amount of them that is enough, we need Jesus. And we don’t pay for our grace with these acts. How many are enough? For by grace are you saved through faith, and that not of yourself, it is the gift of God, not of works. NOT OF WORKS!
In other places: I Cor 7:18-19
18 Was anyone at the time of his call already circumcised? Let him not seek to remove the marks of circumcision. Was anyone at the time of his call uncircumcised? Let him not seek circumcision. 19 For neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of God.
- There are new categories of people
And the Jewish believers (giving them the benefit of the doubt) are struggling with this!
Jews have a Jewish way of salvation and a Gentile way of salvation. 700 something laws for the Jews, 300 something for the Gentiles. And the Jews made strict distinctions between themselves as the people of God because God taught them to. But they were never the superior race of men, God calls them small and insignificant and that is why He chose them!
Ephesians 2: 11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens,[d] but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,
- Other New Testament examples
Acts 10: Food and the Holy Spirit. Peter’s vision and Cornelius receiving the Holy Spirit the same as a Jew!
Lots of Gentile believers, they don’t act like “us”
Acts 15: Eating meat sacrificed to idols, sexual immorality, and strangled meat (not bled out)
But they are not required to keep the law.
Romans 14: Do not act in a way that causes your brother to stumble. This ends up being the relevant issue. You will notice that it is related to the great commandment, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
I Cor 11: 23 “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. 24 Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.
Acts 16: Paul[a] came also to Derbe and to Lystra. A disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek. 2 He was well spoken of by the brothers[b] at Lystra and Iconium. 3 Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him, and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. 4 As they went on their way through the cities, they delivered to them for observance the decisions that had been reached by the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem. 5 So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily.
- The Problem of the Law
- Justification sets me free from keeping the law for righteousness
Romans 6: What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means!
15 What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves,[c] you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?
23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 7: The law is good!
12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.
13 Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. 14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good.
- Justification motivates keeping the law
Romans 7: 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.
Romans 8: There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
- Salvation is both justification and sanctification
We are not made for sin, but for righteousness. It is our purpose. We are meant to reflect the character of God. It makes no sense to think that sin is good. It is not good. It is easy at the beginning, but it leads to dullness, confusion, slavery and death. God does not want us dull, confused, enslaved and dying.
III. The Biggest Problem is Me
- Did Jesus have to die?
21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness[c] were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.
Is Jesus’ death a good thing? It is either the best thing or the worst thing that ever happened!
Martin Luther and Gal 2:16
16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.
- Do I have to die?
20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but 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.
I have been crucified with Christ. (I do not trust in myself or my own efforts to be righteous).
Christ lives in me. (Jesus has given be new life. I have right standing with God. I am in Christ the second Adam.)
My new life is lived by faith in Christ. Following Him, trusting in His teaching and example.
- Do I need the light of the law?
The law is a tutor to lead you to Christ in order that you might be justified by faith.
The moral law is what makes the best life. Do you want to live the best life? Then you need the law.
The issue that creates confusion is deserving. The law does not cause you to deserve any of God’s blessing or love or life. You have forfeited that on your own because of sin. So, Christ has set you free from the requirement of the law in that sense. He has made you right with God and yes, you still need the law because it is good and you are meant to be good. There is no person in their right mind who thinks that God has given them a license to sin. He has not. Sin is against God and God has not given anyone a license to live in a manner opposite to His intended purpose, design or character. Those who live that way are cut down and thrown into the fire.