Day 110 – Works of the Law

Today’s reading

So much here today there is no way to get it all in.  Therefore, I will try to focus on something that will help us going forward.

Recall that Paul is writing to Gentile converts in Galatia who are being told that they have to obey the mandates of the Mosaic law to enter into the new covenant and be saved.  In Chapter 1, Paul establishes his credentials as an Apostle and says, “I never taught that”.  In Chapter 2, he fires both barrels…

Paul starts by pointing out some facts about his trip to Jerusalem.  He tells them that when he went he (1) confirmed his gospel with the Apostles, (2) they added nothing to it – showing that he was right the first time (3) they accepted him and regard Paul as an equal, (4) in fact, he is such an equal that he corrected Peter, (5) in fact, the Apostles in Jerusalem did NOT circumcise Titus, the Greek convert who Paul had brought with him and (5) even James agreed with Paul.

What does all this show?  Remember, context is key. Paul is writing to Gentile converts who are being told by Jewish converts that they have to keep the old law.  So Paul is just absolutely undercutting all their philosophical and theological support.  First, he further establishes his Apostolic authority confirming his teaching.  Second, he shows that the other Apostles, when given the chance, did not circumcise converts.  Then he shows how James, a relative of Jesus, also agreed with him.  This is a key fact b/c James was “left behind” in Jerusalem.  When the other Apostles went out to spread the Gospel to the world James stayed behind and lead the Church in Jerusalem, the ideological heart of Judaism.  James was known to be the spiritual shepherd of Jerusalem, which at this time was still the center of the faith, and therefore the Apostle most likely to sympathize with the Judaizers.  Paul is showing that the Judaizers have no backing from any of the 3 main players in this dispute (Peter, James or himself).

Next Paul delivers a key passage:

We ourselves, who are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners, yet who know that a man is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, even we 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 shall no one be justified.

Again, context is key, because Paul is writing to Gentile and Jewish converts he spells it out that “man is not justified by WORKS OR THE LAW but through faith in Jesus Christ”.  However, in later passages, when writing to other groups that know exactly what he is talking about he will shorten this phrase to “man is not justified by works”.  We will generally be able to see this from the context and in comparing Paul’s other statements on works.

Tomorrow: Gal 3

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