“On what basis can a God who is holy and just accept and forgive faulty humans?”
- Galatians 2:15-21 – Jesus’ faithfulness is the means by which humans are made right with God.
- Romans 3:10-20 – Paul explains that salvation is based on the work of Jesus for humans.
Key Points and Questions:
1. Justification: In this week’s lesson we are introduced to Paul’s favorite term to describe what Jesus did for the human race in His life, death, and resurrection: justification. Justification is a legal term used in a court of law, where a judge justifies the innocent and condemns the wicked. This metaphor of salvation was especially relevant to Paul since he often had to stand before governors and magistrates on account of the charges his Jewish opponents brought against him. Paul would have seen in these experiences the need of a Savior who would vindicate him before the real enemy of the human race: Satan and the power of sin and death.
A. What positive insights does the metaphor of justification provide for understanding who God is and what salvation involves? Does the metaphor of justification have any shortcomings?
B. Paul says justification is not based on “works of the law.” Is “law keeping” negative and opposed to the gospel? How should we understand the phrase “works of the law”?
2. Not My Faith but His: Before becoming a Christian, Paul was convinced that the problems facing the Jewish people were ultimately rooted in a lack of faith on the part of God’s people. If Israel were only more faithful, then things would be different. Sometimes this same mentality can be seen in the church with the expression, “If we just had more faith…” While we certainly need to place our complete trust in Jesus, we often make the mistake of turning our faith into a work we have to do. Nothing could be more opposed to the gospel. Paul learned the foolishness of this when he realized that our hope is based in God’s faithfulness to the promise He made to Abraham. God faithfully kept His word by sending Jesus, the one faithful Israelite, to overcome both Israel’s unfaithfulness and to atone for the sins of the entire world. Paul highlights this in the phrase when he says in Galatians 2:16: We are not “not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith [or faithfulness] of Jesus Christ” (KJV).
A. What dangers are there to one’s spiritual life if our acceptance with God is based on our behavior—or even on our faith?
3. It Has To Be Personal: Paul refers to Jesus in very personal terms as the one “who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal 2:20). While anyone can explain what the gospel is and how it works, no one can experience the gospel without making it personal. In the end, Christianity has to ultimately be about Jesus and me, otherwise it means nothing.