Thursday, 10 March 2016
For if I build again those things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor. Galatians 2:18
Here we come upon a logical conclusion of the words of the previous verse. Paul had just asked, “But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is Christ therefore a minister of sin?” By allowing Jews and Gentiles to eat together under the new faith which is found in Christ (which Peter clearly did, both in the household of Cornelius and in Antioch), then Christ would be a minister of sin if the law were still in force. This is because it was a practice forbidden within Judaism. However, Paul says this was certainly not the case.
Now to explain this to the dulled ears of Peter, he begins with “For.” If Christ were a minister of sin, then the following proposition that he will relate to him would be a certainty. “If I build again those things which I destroyed” is speaking of things mandated under the law. They are those things which are now destroyed through Christ’s finished work. To the Christian, they have been nailed to His cross.
However, if we reinsert those same precepts from under the law as binding, a significant issue arises. He says that if this is the case, then “I make myself a transgressor.” If we have left the law which is actually still binding, then we have transgressed the law. If this is so, then we are guilty before the law. If we are guilty before the law because of faith in Christ, then Christ would, in fact, be a minister of sin. Charles Ellicott beautifully explains the dilemma for those in Christ “IF” the law were still binding –
“But Christ is not a minister of sin. The thought is not to be tolerated. For, on the contrary, the sin is seen, not in leaving the Law for Christ, but in going back from Christ to the Law. The sin is seen doubly: for on one theory—the theory that the Law is valid—it was wrong to give it up; while on the other theory, that Christianity has taken its place, it is still more wrong to restore the fabric that has once been broken down.”
Either way, there is sin involved unless Christ is the fulfillment of the law and if our hope is in Him and not in the law. As He is the fulfillment of it, then we have actually not given it up at all. Rather, our hope is in the law, but only so far as in Christ’s fulfillment of it. As He has done so, then we have the responsibility to trust that fact and to never reinsert the precepts of the law as a means of obtaining justification before God.
The law remains God’s standard for all people, but there is a distinction between believers and unbelievers. For those not in Christ, it will be the standard by which they are judged – apart from Christ’s work. For those in Christ, the law will be the standard by which they are judged, inclusive of His work. None shall stand justified apart from Him; all will be justified who are in Him.
In this verse, Paul speaks in the first person. However, it should be taken as a general proposition for all people. His words were certainly speaking to Peter and the Jews who had departed from the truth, but they apply to anyone else who would do so as well. Having said that, in the next verse (19), the first person continues to be used, but it is Paul speaking of himself. This is evident by his choice of the emphatic word for “I” which will begin that verse.
Life application: Trust in Christ alone for your salvation. Anything else is a self-condemning act.
Oh God, I often feel the weight of sin pressing down on me. It is as if the consciousness of the things I have done is simply overwhelming. How can I ever stand before You? I need this reminder so that I don’t return to sin yet more. However, I also need to remind myself that my past is gone and my misdeeds have been forgiven through the shed blood of Christ. Thank You for both reminders. One will keep me pursuing righteousness; the other will fill me with confidence for the day when I stand before You. Thank You for Christ my Lord who has made that possible! Amen.