Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Mar 12 2020 - Galatians 2:1-21 – Alive in Jesus

The gospel is all about what God has done for us in Jesus Christ. This is why Paul is so concerned to defend the good news he had preached to these Gentile Christians against those who want them to be circumcised and to obey the law. They are behaving as if Christ had not come, as if Jesus was just another prophet.

Paul reminds his hearers that no-one could be made right with God through keeping the law. Paul should know, no-one had been more zealous a law-keeper than he had been. But he now sees things quite differently. Writing with one eye on his previous self-righteousness he declares, "We who are Jews by birth and not 'Gentile sinners' know that a man is not justified by observing 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" (Galatians 2:15-16). Paul is filled with wonder at all that Jesus has done for him; "The Son of God … loved me and gave himself for me." His wonder finds an echo in Charles Wesley's words, "Amazing love! How can it be that thou, my God, shouldst die for me?"

Have we truly grasped the amazing character of the gospel – it is indeed, good news. Jesus, God's Son, loved us and gave himself for us. He did for us what we could never have done for ourselves; he paid the penalty for our sins and made us right with God. Trusting in him we know that no-one can bring any charge against us before God and make it stick – Jesus has dealt with it all. We can be assured that nothing will ever separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. This is no arrogant presumption on our part; on the contrary, it is simply taking God at his word, trusting in his promises and resting in all that Jesus Christ has done for us. We are justified by faith.

And from this foundation flows a life of glad service, compelled by the love of Christ: "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" (Galatians 2:20). I live because he lives. I live to please him as he lives in and through me.

And here we need to add a translation note. Paul says literally that he lives “by the faith of the Son of God…” Paul may mean that he lives by faith in the Son of God but we need to bear in mind that the Greek word for “faith” may equally signify “faithfulness”. Many would argue that a better translation here would be “I live by the faithfulness of the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.” Jesus was faithful to all that the Father had given him to do. He was faithful to the cross – for our sake. And we are called to a life of faithfulness and love in return. More than that, we are equipped to live that life as Christ lives in us and the Spirit who shaped his life shapes our lives.

Paul's anger over the behaviour of Peter is a reflection of his determination that nothing should be added to the Gospel. To make acceptance into the Christian community dependent upon anything in addition to trust in Christ and in his saving work is to deny the sufficiency of Christ. It is to diminish his saving work. Paul will have none of it. Salvation is by Christ alone, grace alone, faith alone. And those whom Christ has welcomed must be welcomed also by his people.

Lord Jesus, teach me afresh, day by day, what it meant that you loved me and gave yourself for me. You were crucified for me; teach me what it means that I have been crucified with you to all that previously held me captive and condemned me. You are a risen and living Saviour; live in me and through me that the liberating and life-giving grace of God might be made known to a dying world.

Peter Misselbrook