Introduction: This week we begin our discussion of the heart of the
gospel – how a Christian is saved from his or her sins. It is very
important to get this right. Do you recall that in Galatians 1:8 Paul
says that those who teach a false gospel should be “eternally
condemned.” I’ll try to get this right! More important than what I
write, consider carefully what Paul writes so that you will correctly
understand God’s will. Let’s plunge into this critically important

  1. Jews vs. Gentiles

    1. Read Galatians 2:15-16. Recall that when we ended our
      discussion of the last lesson, Paul argued that Peter was
      acting like a hypocrite in separating himself from the
      Gentiles. I pointed out that Paul should (and would) make
      an argument based on the Bible. Is the argument you were
      promised? One based on the Bible? (Not exactly. Instead,
      Paul tells the Jews to think about their understanding of
      the differences between Jews and Gentiles.)

      1. What is that difference? (Read Romans 2:17-18. The
        Jews had a special relationship with God. He gave
        them many rules to make their lives better than the
        Gentiles who lived around them. They were a “light”
        among the Gentile darkness.)

      2. Despite this knowledge that Jews are favored by the
        law and have a special relationship with God, what do
        the Jewish converts to Christianity also know? (That
        they are not justified by the law. Instead, they are
        justified by faith in Jesus.)

        1. Are we supposed to believe this just because
          the early Jewish converts believed it?

    2. Read Romans 2:21-24. We just read the first part of Paul’s
      argument here – that the Jews are favored by having the
      law and a special relationship with God. What is the
      result of having this special relationship? Did they keep
      the law that was such a blessing to them? (No. Instead of
      being a light, they dishonored and blasphemed God by their
      sinful ways.)

      1. So what is it that the Jewish converts knew that
        should cause us to accept that the law does not save
        us? (They knew they could not keep the law.)

      2. Let’s not just leave this to the thoughts of people
        we do not know. Do you know that you regularly
        violate the law? (If you are honest, you will say
        (like the early Jewish converts) “yes, I violate the
        law on a regular basis.”)

      3. Let’s revisit Galatians 2:16. If you sin, can you be
        “justified by observing the law?” (Obviously, not.
        Paul does not start with a theological argument, he
        starts with the experience of every son and daughter
        of Adam and Eve. “[B]y observing the law no one will
        be justified.”)

  2. Justification by Faith

    1. Galatians 2:15-16 uses the term “justified” several times.
      What do you think it means? (From the perspective of
      American law, it means that you violated the law but you
      are not considered to be guilty. For example, a person
      breaks into your home at night and you fear that person
      will harm you. If you shoot and kill that person when he
      approaches you, that is what the law calls “justifiable
      homicide.” Intentionally killing someone is generally a
      terrible crime. But, in this situation the killing is

      1. Have you heard the saying “Saved from your sins and
        not in your sins?” If we are justified even when we
        sin, is this saying true?

    2. Read Galatians 2:17. Think about the American legal
      situation that I just described. Does this law promote
      murder? Does it undercut the law against murder? (It
      leaves the authority of the law in place. It simply says
      that under certain circumstances, the rule of law is
      promoted by allowing a person to defend himself.)

    3. Read Galatians 2:18. What was “destroyed?” (If we apply
      this to Peter’s situation, when he reverted to his old
      ways by separating himself from the Gentiles, he revived
      the law (legalism) and, as a result, condemned himself.
      Although some think the law has been destroyed, I think it
      is more accurate to conclude that the penalty for the law
      has been “destroyed” when we are saved by faith.)

    4. Read Galatians 2:19. This says that I died “to the law.”
      It does not say that the law was “destroyed.” How does a
      Christian “die to the law?” (Read Romans 6:3-7. When we
      are baptized, we die with Jesus, and we are raised with
      Jesus. We know that Jesus died because of our sin.
      Therefore, we (through Jesus) have paid the penalty for
      our sins. We have already paid the price that the law
      requires for sin. The law is not “destroyed,” but it no
      longer threatens us because we have paid the full penalty
      for sin through Jesus.)

    5. Read Romans 7:1-4. Paul says we are like a wife whose
      husband dies, and thus she is freed from the law on
      adultery. Let’s continue with this specific example. Are
      Christians free from the law of adultery? (Read Romans
      6:1-2 and Romans 6:5-7. This tells us that we are not to
      go on sinning. It tells us that our “old self” died. The
      best way to understand this is to say that we died to the
      penalty for adultery – as well as the penalty for
      committing any other sin. But, we did not die to the
      understanding that the law exists to make our lives
      better. We did not die to the understanding that living a
      life in accord with God’s will brings glory to Him.)

    6. Read Galatians 2:19-20. Would someone who commits adultery
      be “liv[ing] for God?” (Obviously not.)

      1. How does Christ live in us? (This refers to the Holy
        Spirit living in us.)

      2. Let’s use an example. Assume that I said you died to
        all of the traffic laws. Would that make you a better
        driver? (If you were dead, you would not know about
        the traffic laws. Thus, assuming that you could drive
        while dead, you would be a much worse driver.)

        1. Now assume that the designer of all of the
          traffic laws “lived in you.” What kind of
          driver would you be? (If I were infused with
          the person who designed all of the traffic
          laws, I would be in perfect harmony with them.
          I would not obey them because I might be
          ticketed by the police. I would obey them
          because I knew they created a safe driving
          world. I think that is Paul’s point.)

    7. Read Galatians 2:21. How would a person “set aside” grace?
      (By thinking that he had to keep the law to be saved. The
      law will never save us. Thus keeping the law because we
      think it has an impact on our salvation is a mistake. Not
      only are we unable to keep the law perfectly because of
      our sinful nature, but trying to keep the law to be saved
      insults Jesus because it means He died for nothing.)

  3. The Law

    1. We have been talking about the law. When I was young, I
      was taught by some that is Paul referring to the
      “ceremonial law,” meaning the laws written by Moses having
      to do with the sanctuary service. When I read older Bible
      commentaries, it seems that some of those commentators
      believe that Paul means the ceremonial law. Thus, I think
      this was (and may be now) the understanding among some
      Christians. Recall that the specific point in controversy
      is circumcision. Is that part of the ceremonial law? (No.
      Long before the sanctuary, God gave this rule to Abraham.
      Genesis 17:9-11.)

    2. If Paul is not talking about the ceremonial law only, does
      he include the Ten Commandments? (Read Romans 7:7-8. Paul
      refers to a “commandment,” and we recognize it as the
      Tenth Commandment. Exodus 20:17. When Paul writes about
      adultery and coveting in his discussion of the “law,” we
      learn that he believes we died to the Ten Commandments.)

    3. Read Romans 7:4-5. We might think that limiting Paul’s
      definition of the “law” to the ceremonial law helps us
      with right behavior. What does Paul say about the impact
      of the law on right behavior? (The law arouses our sinful
      passions. You understand this. Tell someone that they
      cannot do something, and they want to do it. Thus,
      defining the law very broadly (and then saying that we
      died to all of it) helps us live better lives. Through
      Jesus, we paid the penalty for the violation of every kind
      of spiritual law.)

    4. Read Romans 7:6. How do we now serve God? (By living a
      life led by the Holy Spirit!)

    5. Friend, have you caught the good news here? When you were
      baptized, you participated in Jesus’ perfect life and His
      death for your sins. The penalty for your sins has been
      paid. Will you now live a life led by the Holy Spirit? Why
      not ask, right now, for forgiveness of sin and to be
      filled with the Holy Spirit? Why not choose to live a life
      led by the Spirit?

  4. Next week: Old Testament Faith.