By Allen Olatunde
Galatians 2:16 in verses
“Yet, we know that people don’t receive God’s approval because of their own efforts to live according to a set of standards, but only by believing in Jesus Christ. So we also believed in Jesus Christ in order to receive God’s approval by faith in Christ and not because of our own efforts. People won’t receive God’s approval because of their efforts to live according to a set of standards” (GW). (www.biblestudytools.com)
“Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified” (NKJV).
The new covenant is not the addition of faith in Christ Jesus to the Law of Moses. The new covenant is Christ formed in us through faith. Religious observances cannot add to the effectiveness of the cross. Works of the Law of Moses, such as circumcision, can only weaken the wisdom and power of the cross of Christ. This teaching shall focus on works of Law, Law, Faith in Christ and Christian living.
BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY John 8:38; 1:12; Romans 8:1
Paul, the writer of this letter, confronted Peter in public and pointed out to him that his behaviour was inconsistent. Peter was eating with Gentile Christian freely, but as soon as he sighted the Jewish Christians, he withdrew from the Gentiles. Paul was not happy with this act of inconsistency. He said, “If you, who are Jewish, have left the Law of Moses and are living by faith in Christ, why are you requiring the Gentiles to come under the Law of Moses?” (Gal 2:14b). (Online Study Guide on Galatians – Trumpet Ministries, 2006). The Gentile Christians have become true Jews in their inner man by receiving Christ. They are longer Gentile sinners. Note these scriptures: John 8:36 – “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed”. John 1:12 – “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name”. Romans 8:1 – “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit”. Other verses: Acts 2:39; John 17:20-21, Titus 2:11; 2 Tim. 4:17.
Question: Can we say that what Paul did is right by scolding Peter due to inconsistency? How can a member help/correct his/her leader to do the right thing? How can we separate hypocrisy (praising the leader even at wrong act) and correction (wanting to help as fellow sojourner) in the church? Do we need rules and regulations that will guide the new converts in the church? If yes/no, why?
WORKS OF LAW Romans 3:20; Romans 3:28; Gal. 2:16; Gal. 3:2; Gal. 3:5; and Gal. 3:10
Paul used the phrase “works of Law” six times and only within the books of Romans and Galatians. Let’s check the Bible: Romans 3:20; Romans 3:28; Gal. 2:16; Gal. 3:2; Gal. 3:5; and Gal. 3:10. When Paul speaks of the “works of Law”, he refers to what we know as the six hundred and thirteen (613) precepts of the Torah, such as Jewish prohibitions against eating pork, the mandate of circumcision, and the observance of Passover. The precepts are divided into three:
• Moral precepts: The Ten Commandments - the basic moral law of God for men.
• Ceremonial precepts: The Jewish teaching regarding circumcision on the eighth day and the kosher (lawful) prohibition against some foods and meat, e.g. pork.
• Judicial precepts: The civil laws governing the nation of Israel as a political state. (Taylor Marshall, 2016).
Question: Why did God initially give Abraham instruction for circumcision and why has it turned to works of the Law that Christians do not need for salvation? Should Christians have prohibition for some foods as Jew did?
WHY DID PAUL CONFRONT WORKS OF LAW AS UNNEEDED FOR CHRISTIAN LIVING?
1. They are not enough to justify man before God (Matt. 5:20; Isaiah 64:6; Gal. 2:16).
2. They are more of man’s effort (Romans 2:8-9).
3. They are strict rules. Any of the law must not be broken (James 2:10).
4. They have tendency to breed sin unconsciously (pride, overconfidence, trust in man, etc. – Matthew 23:1-5).
5. They promote vain hierarchy in the body of Christ and conflict on leadership, and deny humble Christian living (Matthew 7:1-5; 1 Cor. 3:4-9).
Question: What other points do you have against the works of the Law in line with salvation of man? Can a man be over-spiritual or have self-confidence on works of Law? It yes/no, explain.
TRAITS OF WORKS OF LAW IN TODAY’S CHURCH
1. Holy than thou attitude
2. Being strictly committed to tithe record analysis and honour
4. Act of being a Christian in the church and sinner outside the church (home and work)
5. Rigidity to church traditions
6. Having permanent seat/position in the church
7. Giving gifts for men’s appraisal - public appreciation is a must to such person
8. Criticizing others
9. Politicking/lobbying the church decision for personal gain
10. Reading Bible without doing the Bible
Question: Do we have these traits in our church? If yes, how can we reduce or alleviate these traits in our church without quarrelling?
SHOULD THE LAW BE TOTALLY IGNORED BY CHRISTIANS? Matt. 5:17-19; 20-21; 22:37-40
No. The precepts which are the Laws (moral laws) that God gave Israel to guide their relationship with Him and among themselves have positive influence on New Testament believers. Old Testament is still relevant to us. The Ten Commandments must be obeyed. Jesus said, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill” (Matt. 5:17-19). Jesus fulfilled the Law; not the works of the Law that He called righteousness of the Pharisees because it was embraced as tradition of elders and they rejected the truth of the Law. Jesus quoted the Law that, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.” (Matt. 5:21), nevertheless, your obedience must not become works of the Law “For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:20). Jesus summarizes the Law into two: Jesus said to him," 'you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ “This is the first and great commandment. “And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' "On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets." (Matt. 22:37-40).
Question: Why do I need to still obey the Ten Commandments? If I keep all the Laws and do not obey the Sabbath day as Jew did, have I sinned? If yes/no, discuss. What is your view on Sabbath day as Christian and Baptist?
FAITH IN JESUS CHRIST Romans 3:27-30; 2:8-9; 1:17; 4:5; Gal. 2:16
Faith and works of Law are the major issue of this lesson. It was through faith that Abraham encountered God’s promise. Faith has been the only link the Christian has to God (Heb. 11:6). Faith got stuck along the way in the OT, then Law came in to redirect man to God, yet man made works out of the Law (Matt. 23). Jesus came to redefine and give us the way of God through effortless means of salvation on the cross. Faith in Christ was the proof of Paul in Gal. 2:20 that, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me”. Every Christian must understand that salvation is Christ’s work. We cannot boast of it. We should ever be grateful to Him for this work. We are justified by faith we have in the works Jesus did. That is why we are called “Onigbagbo” faith people because we live by faith.
HOW TO DEMONSTRATE FAITH IN CHRIST’S WORK?
1. Accept Christ as the only righteous person – Romans 3:9-10.
2. Give glory to God for what He gave you through Christ before you were born – Rom. 5:8.
3. See your commitment in the church, evangelism, giving, teaching, etc. as ministry, not works of righteousness. See every opportunity to serve God and man as Christ’s grace.
4. Always remember humility as the keyword to faith in Christ.
5. Do not be deceived by the praises of man whenever you give to man/serve God.
6. Be a steward of every opportunity as Christ’s own to those that do not know Him.
7. Always return all glory to God for every work you do as Christian.
8. Be simple to accept correction.
9. Obey every leading of Christ; do not reject God’s voice due to evaluation that comes from experience, tradition, intellectuality, and constitution. Avoid legality and church tradition that will obstruct move of Holy Spirit.
10. Be available to serve at every capacity as the Lord gives grace. Do not monopolize position in the church; be relevant to children, teen, adult, ministers, the church and the society.
11. Do good works with faith and love – Matt. 25:34-40; Eph. 6:10; 1 John 3:17; 4:20-21
Question: Kindly add more to these acts of demonstration of faith in Christ. Can you share your experience of how you demonstrate/demonstrated simple faith with good works in your place of work?
SALVATION AND SANCTIFICATION BY FAITH AND WORKS
Salvation is Christ’s work. We have salvation by faith. Nevertheless, Christian has role to play. If Christ died for me, then I must die to flesh and live for Him deliberately. That leads to working out of our salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12). Sanctification has to do with holiness and consecration for God. Law provides guide to the truth but Christ gives strength to do the truth. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13). “…For by strength shall no man prevail” (Isaiah 2:9b). “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,' says the LORD of hosts” (Zech. 4:6). We can be sanctified by His word “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth” (John 17:17).
• Faith in the work of the cross brings salvation – John 3:16
• Sanctification makes us prepared, consecrated, and available for Christ use and return
• Works – good works, not works of the Law – leads us to stewardship
• Faith without work is dead – James 2:26
• The work(s) is/are not by our power; it is still God’s power – Phil 2:13
• An unsaved person cannot obey the Law of God, if he does; it is an act of moral.
Law is good but the works of Law degrades and reduces the power of faith in Christ. We cannot please God by human righteousness except through Christ. Anyone that believes in Christ must not be forced to obey the works of the Law for Christ has saved him/her. Faith with good works makes us living Christians that are heavenly conscious and earthly relevant.