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Paul an example – Rebuking the works of the flesh Ch.2:11-19

Study E3

Study E3 Implications

But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid. [= by no means] For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor. For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God.
Gal. 2:17-19

The last verses of Chapter 2 give us some of the implications of what we considered last time with regard to Justification by faith. Often Christians go along a path not understanding, or even wanting to know, what the implications of the way that they are following.  If those implications were understood then maybe some courses of action would not be taken.

E3.1 We are sinners

In the previous study we saw the significance of the the words justification and condemnation: the latter meaning guilty and the former not guilty. By nature we are all sinners and stand condemned before God, and deserve eternal punishment. But, as we saw, Jesus came to this Earth and took upon Himself the punishment that should have been ours. By abandoning ourselves to Him alone, forsaking all other attempts to justify ourselves, God will justify us.

That we are justified by faith in Christ, or rather by the faith of Jesus Christ, is clear and an unmistakable truth. It cannot be emphasised too much. We are either justified by Christ, because of His redemptive work alone, or not all. Any mixture immediately falsifies the message we proclaim and is not true faith. The law condemned us and declared us sinners.

Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
Rom. 3:19-20

By abandoning ourselves wholly to Christ alone, and seeking Him alone to justify us, we are acknowledging (= confessing) our sinful state to begin with, for we are acknowledging God’s judgment on us and His only remedy for us. Christ doesn’t make us sinners by justifying us, we are already sinners as result of our first birth.(Rom. 5:12-21) We are not sinners because we sin, rather we sin because we are sinners to begin with. This is the plain teaching of scripture and the clear experience of the human race. Does not nature teach us as well? When did any parent have to teach their children to behave badly? The rottenness is in the human heart to begin with Jer. 17:9.

E3.2 Going back means transgression

To be a transgressor means to cross over a line that marks the boundary between two areas: one who over steps a proscribed, or forbidden limit. And here in the context of Galatians Paul is speaking of going back to the OT law. That if he were to rebuild the ‘DIY’ righteousness of law keeping, from which God had delivered him, then he will be transgressing into forbidden territory.

We saw in an earlier study that Paul was one of the top Pharisees of his day, yet when God called him it was out of that way of life altogether, and now he says that he is dead to it, that is it has no hold or claim on Him. We know for a fact that those who die and depart from this life are forbidden to come back, and we are forbidden to go and seek after them. To do so would be a transgression of God’s order. This is a picture of what we see here. When Paul says he is dead to the law he means that he has passed from the ‘life’ of the law into another realm. To go back to it is forbidden territory and  would indeed be transgression, it would be an attempt to rebuild that which was destroyed by God at Calvary – a violation of God’s order.

We have another slant on this in Rom. 7.

Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth? For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man. Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God. For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death. But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.
Rom. 7:1-6

The first few verse simply show that on new birth, or being baptised into Jesus Christ (Rom.6:3) by the Spirit, we become dead, by the body of Christ to the law. That means we are then freed from the law, and then become married to Christ. Just as we are either condemned or justified, one or the other, we are either married to the law or to Christ, but not both. We are delivered from the law so that we can serve God in newness of Spirit and not in oldness of the letter, which kills. ( II Cor. 3:3)

So to go back and build once more that which was destroyed, to go back to the old partner, continuing the metaphor of Rom. 7, is a transgression and therefore [spiritual] adultery. The remaining verses of Rom.7 is Paul’s testimony of his pre-conversion experience; in it he says many things and some of those things we will take up in a further study. But as he continues into chapter 8 (remembering that there were no chapter divisions originally, so the argument flows naturally without any break.) Paul says this:

O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin. There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled n us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.
Rom. 7:24-8:1-9

The law was weak, there was a deficiency in it, it could not save us, and Christ had to come in order to to condemn sin in the flesh by His own death. By trusting Christ alone we acknowledge its weakness, so by going back to it, or any legal code for that matter, implies that we are saying that there is deficiency in what Christ’s did for us at the cross.

On new birth, we are taken out of the realm of the carnal things and put into that of the spiritual. It can only be Spirit or flesh; law or life but not both. In the context of which we speak, carnal things here means the law, or following any man made law in respect of the Christian life, it brings death, not life. The Christian life is a LIFE principle and not one of following rules and regulations, whether in becoming a Christian or to continuing in such, having been set free we are not even to look back.

And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.

This principle can be applied to anything. Whatever God has delivered us from, to return would be transgression, something contrary to God’s order of things. Lets us be careful never to return, or even look back.

E3.3 Going back means frustration

The word frustration here has the idea of setting aside, disregarding, to thwart the efficacy of something. If Paul went back to the law then Christ’s death would have been in vain – for nothing. If we put our whole trust in Christ then we are by definition abandoning all hopes of salvation by any other means; and of course this is sensible for there is no other way to be saved. We have ” to forsake all other”, continuing the marriage analogy, “clinging only unto Christ” as long as we live.

I well remember a preacher once saying, that when witnessing one of the first things we have to do is strip people of all hope of them being saved by any way. And only then can we present Christ as the only Saviour. Whilst men and women hang on to some hope of the flesh, they never will be saved.

By the same token, if we go back to the law, or any legal way of life after salvation we are abandoning Christ as our Saviour! For we are saying we can live without Him, and we can live by some other means, whether a legal code, or something else. Salvation is more than an initial act it is an ongoing life in God. No wonder later on in this epistle, Paul says:

Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.

So to add anything to the gospel of Christ, as has been repeatedly said in these studies, is to nullify the message we preach. It changes it into a perverted gospel, one that is in direct opposition to the true gospel. A gospel of works and not of grace. A gospel that in no gospel.