FREEDOM FROM THE LAW

I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose. (Galatians 2:21)

Justified

We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 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. (Gal. 2:15-16)

 

This verse is a key verse. It is extremely important. Commentators will tell you that this is the most important verse in the entire Epistle. So, let me read again and listen very carefully. Notice how Paul uses the word “justified” 3-times – in just one verse. Actually, he keeps using it in the verses to come so it might be important for us to unpack the meaning of that word.

 

I often want to stay away from religious jargon and big words but sometimes you just can’t get around it. Sometimes we have to get heavy and use phrases like “The Doctrine of Justification.” Today we need to talk about justification. What is justification? You might not think about heavy theological terminology everyday – but, whether you realize it or not, you do think about justification every day. In fact, your entire life revolves around this word. It’s true. Everything you do, everything you are, all your hopes and dreams, it is all wrapped up and infused in what it means to be justified. One author said:

 

Justification is the deepest touch point of all human existence. The haunting question of all of our lives is, “How can I be justified? How can I guarantee that the ultimate grade on my life is pass and not fail?” What can I do to ensure that I will not be judged a failure?” We try to avoid the judgment of failure by being a good mother, being a good father, a good husband, a good wife – we work hard to escape a failing grade in life by trying to succeed in business, relationships and morality…” Tullian Tchividjian

 

Ask yourself this question, “What is it that gets you out of bed in the morning? Why do you pursue the things that you pursue? Why are you chasing after this or that?” When you stop to think about that question you will get to the heart of it all – and when you get deep down to the heart of it – you will see that you do all of it for justification. You want to be justified, validated. You want a good grade on your life. You see, this is not just a theological issue. Justification is relevant to every part of your life. It is at the very root of all that you are and do.

 

The word Justified means to be made right. Paul is saying that you are not made right by your works, instead you are made right by faith in Christ’s work. Because of Jesus you have been made right. Your grade is pass, not fail. You have been validated, cleansed and justified. The debt has been paid and you owe nothing. Jesus paid your bill and he paid it in full.

 

Now, that is a big deal. You see Paul has just taken another thing from you. You no longer have to fear that you life will account for nothing. You no longer have to strive to be justified. You are justified, not by what you do, but by what Jesus has already done. And believing this will set you free. The Gospel teaches that the law has been fulfilled, all sin and guilt has been atoned for, and we no longer need to fear the judgment of God. The final judgment on our lives, if we have trusted in Jesus, has already occurred. Jesus was judged in your place and he passed. If you put your trust, your faith, in Jesus then you get his passing grade.

 

And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. (Colossians 2:13-14)

 

This verse in Colossians says it even in a much clearer way. Your debt has been canceled. The record of debt, which stands against us with all of its legal demands (well, come back to that) has been canceled by Jesus. How did he cancel it? By nailing it to the cross!

 

Think about this. The doctrine of Justification is the only thing – the only thing – that will set you free. It sets you free from the fear of judgment and it sets you free to live. You life is going to count. You don’t have to worry about that. Be bold, be courageous, be joyful, be confident, and be free!  All that you secretly long for, has already been accomplished in Christ. Tell me that won’t change your life? This is why the Gospel transforms lives. Let’s look at this verse again.

 

We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 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. (Gal. 2:15-16)

 

Paul sarcastically refers to the Gentiles as “sinners”. He says, “We are Jews, God’s chosen people, by birth. Still sinners, but nevertheless the people of God. We are not Gentile sinners, sinners because they don’t even know the laws of God.”

 

So Paul says, “Either way we are all sinners. And even though Jews have the law, that law doesn’t save them. They are still sinners. And the Gentiles don’t even have the law. So you see, we now know that nobody is justified by the works of the law. Not Jews and especially not Gentiles. Instead we are all, everyone of us, justified by faith in Jesus.” This is exactly what he says in Romans.

 

For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. (Romans 3:20) 

 

“For the sake of argument let us suppose that you could fulfill the Law in the spirit of the first commandment of God: “Thou shalt love the Lord, thy God, with all thy heart.” It would do you no good. A person simply is not justified by the works of the Law.” Martin Luther 

 

Okay, so what is the purpose of the law? This might be a good time to unpack some questions. Let me clarify one thing before we move on. The law saves nobody. It can not save. So then why does it exist? That verse we read earlier in Romans said, “Through the law comes knowledge of sin.” (Romans 3:20) So, the law is tool. It is is a diagnostic tool. It shows you were there is sin. It’s like an X-ray. Let’s say you went to to the doctor and he found a lump. You would then get an X-ray and the results of that X-ray would show you were the lump is, how big it is. etc. The X-ray is a diagnostic. It diagnosis your problem. It says, “Yep, you got some sin in there, its spreading, and its gonna kill you.” That X-ray, is not the cure, it can not cure you, it is just a diagnosis. So, it doesn’t matter how many X-rays you get. If you sit longer in the X-ray chair, or change clothes between X-rays, it is never ever gonna cure you. It is just a diagnosis.

 

That is what the law is. It tells you how bad things really are. If you get a law X-ray it will always tell you that you have sin. It will always give you a failing grade.

 

But how can a man be in the right before God? If one wished to contend with him, one could not answer him once in a thousand times. (Job 9:2-3)

 

That is why, Luther goes so far when he says, “Let say you actually could keep the 1st commandment, it still wouldn’t cure you” – because the law does not, can not cure you. Always remember the law is a diagnosis. That is why Jesus said, “I did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill.” That is why David said that the law is perfect and holy and good. Because it is. We should love the Lord with all our hearts, we should honor our fathers and mothers, we shouldn’t murder, we shouldn’t commit adultery. The law is good. The law is true. The law is right. But it will never cure you from the diagnosis that you have a failing grade on your life. All have failed and fallen short of God’s commands. That is what the bible says. All have failed. That is the diagnosis. The law is right and good and it will always bring the knowledge of sin, it will always diagnose “fail!”. The law can never justify.

 

So what is the cure? You know the answer. It is Jesus! He is the cure.

 

“Christ is no sheriff. He is “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. Christ is no law giver. He is the Lifegiver. He is the Forgiver of sins.” Martin Luther

 

But, if that is true then your very next thought is always a problem. If the law is perfect and good, but it is only a diagnostic, and if Jesus is the cure, but doesn’t cure us enough to change the diagnosis. Because the law will still declare you and me as sinners even though we’ve been cured. That is a problem. If I had cancer and the doctor told me, “You’re cured!” But then I said, “Yeah, but the X-rays still shows a mass. What about that big glowing orange and green spot right there.” “Oh thats not big deal, it just there. Trust me, you have been cured.” I don’t know about you, but that is gonna be a problem for me.

 

Which is precisely why, Paul always asks that question after explaining justification. He always asks that question for us. It’s like he saying, “I know what your thinking.” Let’s look at the next verse.

 

IS CHRIST A SERVANT OF SIN?

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. 

 

Do you see that? Paul knows what your thinking. Because if you are understanding the gospel, then this should be your very next question. “Wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute. Let me think this through. If Jesus is the cure and yet I still have sin, but I am cured… then does that mean that I could just go on sinning. Like on purpose and stuff? Because I am already cured, even though I still have sin, so it really doesn’t matter if I just keep adding more sin, because I’ve already been cured. I’ve already been justified. I’ve already been made right .Right?”

 

This is the question that all of us naturally ask ourselves whenever we hear the doctrine of justification – if it is clearly taught. Paul does this exact same thing in the book of Romans. Throughout the book of Romans Paul is unpacking and explaining the doctrine of justification. That we are justified by faith alone in Christ alone. But then he asks a collection of similar questions:

 

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! (Romans 6:1)

 

What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! (Romans 6:15)

 

What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! (Romans 7:7)

 

And after each of these verses he goes on explaining why that’s a silly question. Not silly that you’re asking it, but it would be silly if you actually did it. It’s not silly for us to ask that question, in-fact, Paul is asking the question for you. Because, if you’re tracking with what the gospel is saying it would then be natural for you to ask that question. It’s not silly to ask the question but it would be very silly to actually live that way. He says the same thing here to the Galatians.

 

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! For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor.”  Galatians 2:17-18

 

 

Certainly not, he says. Why? Because if I rebuild that which has been torn down then clearly I am an evil doer. If Christ has torn down the penalty of our sin by canceling our debt and nailing it to the cross, and then I go and continue to sin on purpose. Continuing to build up a mountain of further debt then I prove that I have no understanding of what Christ paid in order to tear down my debt. I have no love for Christ and I have no respect for Christ and therefore prove that I’m a transgressor. I prove that I’m in evildoer. I prove that I do not understand the Gospel and therefore have not been saved.

 

You see, we are not justified by faith alone. We are justified by faith alone in Christ alone. So one must know Christ. One must have a relationship with Jesus and if you know Christ and if you have a relationship with Christ and if you love Jesus then you would not purposefully take advantage of his free gift of grace to you. Now, that doesn’t change that we wont still sin and it doesn’t even change that will still sin on purpose. I mean, I love my wife but sometimes I sin against her – and sometimes I even do it on purpose. It does mean, however, that we prove ourselves to be wicked if we have no respect for Christ and what he has done for souls. It’s just silly. It would be silly if you say, “Oh Jesus loves me so much now let me run as far as I can from him.” May it never be. And by the way that is not freedom. That is slavery to sin.

 

crucified with Christ

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.

 

This is a very strong statement. Paul says he died to the law. The law, it is dead to me. Think about what he said. That is a very harsh, Michael Corleone, kind of a thing to say. “You’re dead to me!”

 

“I have nothing to do with the Law,” cries Paul. He could not have uttered anything more devastating to the prestige of the Law.” Martin Luther

 

Here’s the big idea. The law is not bad. It is good. However, it can not save us. Jesus saves us. We are no longer condemned by the law. We are free from the legal demands of the law which demand that we pay our debt. Jesus canceled the legal demands of the law by nailing it to the cross. He didn’t cancel the law. He canceled the debt. So, because of that, cant you see how we have been set free from even the law. Not free to brake it, but free from being broken by it.

 

“We are not to think that the Law is wiped out. It stays. It continues to operate in the wicked. But a Christian is dead to the Law. For example, Christ by His resurrection became free from the grave, and yet the grave remains. Peter was delivered from prison, yet the prison remains. The Law is abolished as far as I am concerned, when it has driven me into the arms of Christ. Yet the Law continues to exist and to function. But it no longer exists for me.” Martin Luther

 

“Blessed is the person who knows how to use this truth in times of distress. He can talk. He can say: “Mr. Law, go ahead and accuse me as much as you like. I know I have committed many sins, and I continue to sin daily. But that does not bother me. You have got to shout louder, Mr. Law. I am deaf, you know. Talk as much as you like, I am dead to you. If you want to talk to me about my sins, go and talk to my flesh. Belabor that, but don’t talk to my conscience. My conscience is a lady and a queen, and has nothing to do with the likes of you, because my conscience lives to Christ under another law, a new and better law, the law of grace.” Martin Luther

 

“By the grace of God we know that we are justified through faith in Christ alone. We do not mingle law and grace, faith and works. We keep them far apart. Let every true Christian mark the distinction between law and grace, and mark it well.”

 

“We can tell the difference. We do not here and now argue whether we ought to do good works, or whether the Law is any good, or whether the Law ought to be kept at all. We will discuss these questions some other time. We are now concerned with justification. Our opponents refuse to make this distinction. All they can do is to bellow that good works ought to be done. We know that. We know that good works ought to be done, but we will talk about that when the proper time comes. Now we are dealing with justification, and here good works should not be so much as mentioned.”

 

So you see – the law still exists in order to chastise your flesh and beat you and drive you into the arms of Christ, but once in the arms of Christ, you are free from the law, you are free from condemnation, you are free from judgment, you are free indeed.

 

Conclusion

I’d like to close with one last thought. Paul makes a very intriguing, almost sensational, statement at the end of this chapter. Essentially Paul is asking this question. “If someone who knows they are justified by faith sins, is it because justification-by-faith-in-Christ promotes sin? Not at all! That is a silly question. Why would grace promote sin? It actually the other way around. Paul explains how justification actually motivates us to live for Christ rather than to live for sin. Listen to what the he says:

 

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. (Galatians 2:20)

 

“Once a person has been justified by Christ, he will not be unproductive of good, but as a good tree he will bring forth good fruit. A believer has the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit will not permit a person to remain idle, but will put him to work and stir him up to the love of God, to patient suffering in affliction, to prayer, thanksgiving, to the habit of charity towards all men.” Martin Luther. 

 

You see, our motivation to live is the love of Christ. Paul speaks of Jesus as the one who “loves me and gave himself for me.” I hear affection there. Both affection from Christ to Paul, but also an affectionate Paul to Christ. I live for Christ, because he loves me and gave himself for me. Paul is saying, “Jesus loves me, this I know.” And that is no trite statement. It is the statement. He loves us (oh, how he loves us). He gave his life for us. That should move us to live our lives for him, through him and to him, which is quite the opposite of going on in sin just cause we can.

 

“Did the Law ever love me? Did the Law ever sacrifice itself for me? Did the Law ever die for me? On the contrary, it accuses me, it frightens me, it drives me crazy. Somebody else saved me from the Law, from sin and death unto eternal life. That Somebody is the Son of God, to whom be praise and glory forever.” Martin Luther

 

It is very appropriate for us to conclude tonight with this thought. Jesus loves you. Jesus loves me and gave himself for me. Read those sensational words that Paul has just uttered with great emphasis. I want you to hear those words – “ME” and “FOR ME” like a choir of trumpets pointed right at you. “Print this “ME” with capital letters on your heart!” (ML) Do not ever doubt, never ever doubt, that it is you that these words were meant for.

 

Jesus loves me—He who died
Heaven’s gate to open wide;
He will wash away my sin,
Let His little child come in.

Jesus loves me—loves me still,
Though I’m very weak and ill;
From His shining throne on high
Comes to watch me where I lie.