I’ve got to stuff all of Galatians 2 into one sermon. Oh the madness and folly of it all! One of my favorite works on Galatians is Luther’s commentary. I don’t agree with all he says, but there are some great things in there. He had … a way with words. Let’s see some of it.
“The truth of the gospel is that our righteousness comes by faith alone, without the works of the law. The corruption or falsehood of the gospel is that we are justified by faith but not without the works of the law.
I like how he reminds us that most false gospels do not deny the need for faith, or Jesus. What they deny is the sufficiency of Jesus’ work for us. This is why they are so dangerous, there is an element of truth to be found in them. Satan uses a little truth to float big lies.
“…we will suffer our goods to be taken away, our name, our life, and all that we have; but the gospel, our faith, Jesus Christ, we will never allow to be wrested from us.”
Martin points to how precious this gospel is- it is more valuable than our possessions, reputations, and even earthly life. This is why Paul fought so vigorously for the “truth of the gospel”.
“We therefore make this definition of a Christian: a Christian is not one who has no sin, but one to whom God imputes not his sin, through faith in Christ. That is why we so often repeat and beat into your minds, the forgiveness of sins and imputation of righteousness for Christ’s sake.”
Imputation is a necessary element of the gospel. Our sins are no longer imputed (or accounted) to us AND Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us. We must remember both. We cannot bring both our own righteousness and Christ’s to God. It is one or the other. We need constant reminders of this truth because our default mode is to try and earn SOMETHING. We want to contribute something (besides our sin) to salvation. Jesus, save us from our pride.
“So then I live in the flesh, but not of or after the flesh, but by the faith of the Son of God.”
Raised with Christ, we live in step with the Spirit by faith in Christ. We no longer live to satisfy the cravings of the flesh- even the craving to offer a righteousness of our own gained through rituals, ceremonial law and moral law. We live clinging to Christ and His work for us- this is faith.
“For it is a horrible blaspheme to imagine that there is any good work by which you should presume to pacify God, since you see that there is nothing which is able to pacify Him but this inestimable price, even the death and blood of the Son of God, one drop of which is more precious than the whole world. … If I through any works, efforts, or merits would have come to Him, what need was there that He should give Himself for me? ”
There is nothing we can do to make God love us more, or less. There is nothing we can do to add to, or take away, from Christ’s perfect, sufficient work for us. Jesus’ work is complete and completely sufficient. We calls for our complete confidence.
Stott must have a different version of Luther’s commentary. He uses these 2 quotes, the second of which also contains the infamous “beat it into their heads” line, but with different preceding sentences. Go figure…
“I must hearken to the Gospel, which teaches me, not what I ought to do (for that is the proper office of the Law), but what Jesus Christ the Son of God has done for me: that he suffered and died to deliver me from sin and death.”
The gospel is about what Jesus has done, not what I must do. To add circumcision, baptism, speaking in tongues, or anything else into the category of what I must do to be declared righteous is to teach a false gospel.
“This is the truth of the gospel. It is also the principle article of all Christian doctrine, wherein the knowledge of all godliness consists. Most necessary it is, therefore, that we should know this article well, teach it to others, and beat it into their heads continually.”
I just love that quote. The doctrine of justification is that upon which the church stands or falls. We must beat it into our own heads (preaching the gospel to yourself) and our siblings in Christ, regularly. This is one reason for such shallow Christianity- we neglect this doctrine, hampering godliness.