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Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)
Established November 2008 Published Weekly on Friday
This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men (and women) to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1Timothy 2:3-4)
Welcome to HBS.
Please open your Bible at Galatians 2:19
Three weeks ago, in Lesson 06, I chose not to follow a scriptural “rabbit trail” that I should have gone down for your benefit because the lesson was running long. I’m referring to Paul’s statement in Galatians 2:19: For through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live to God.” I said we’d follow up on this verse at a later date and that day has arrived, however, I need to do lay some biblical groundwork before we take on that verse.
For those who are unaware, a discussion that goes off course, temporarily leaving the previous subject behind, and leaves the audience wondering where they are and where they are heading is called a rabbit trail, and we’ve just entered one.
The Jewish Rabbis worked very hard at building a theology that said men can make themselves right before the LORD God by keeping the Law of Moses. They labored at it so hard and for so long the Law became sacred. In addition to this, the Israelites made it a mode of salvation. This isn’t my opinion; this is how the O.T. portrays it. When you begin turning the pages of Matthew, in the New Testament, these beliefs are not past-tense. In John 9:28-29, for example, when Jesus healed the man born blind, the Pharisees came to investigate the miracle. Please note their words: They reviled him and said, “You are His disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where He is from.”
In other words, they were saying, “We know God spoke to Moses, but who the devil are you?” They were supporting the Law of Moses as the revealed truth of God and this gives us insight into how they perceived the Law. It was the Word of God! Those who spoke against it, disobeyed it, or ignored it, did so at great peril. Cursing one’s parents, homosexuality, and breaking the Sabbath laws warranted the death penalty, for example (Exodus 21:17, 31:14; Leviticus 20:13).
I continue to point out the Law is good; it’s perfect because it’s from the Creator. Our Apostle Paul wrote: the Law is holy; and the commandment is holy and righteous and good (Romans 7:12). For we know that the Law is spiritual… (Romans 7:14). For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man (Romans 7:22). Paul is telling us from the giving of the Law in the O.T., right through to the New Covenant, God’s Law is lifted up; in the eyes of the Jew first, and then the Gentiles in the Body of Christ.
But the theologies of these two groups of people (Jews and Gentiles) are not in harmony for Paul said, For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh so the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit (Roman 8:3-4).
The Mosaic Law consisted of 365 negative commands and 248 positive ones for a total of 613 commands governing the moral, the social, and the ceremonial laws or every possible aspect of the Jewish life. God’s Law or His instructions to the Israelites were designed to bring order from disorder and to direct their lives. This is best described in Genesis 26:5 which says, “…because Abraham obeyed Me and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes and My laws.”
Sin is a transgression of God’s Law: Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God; because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin (Romans 3:19-20).
Now let’s look at Romans 5:20: The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, meaning instead of the Law creating righteousness, the law made sin abound! In other words, God gave the Law to reveal His standard of absolute righteousness, to convict the Israelites (and us) of their sin before Him, and to point them (and us) to their need of a Savior.
The reality of all this is sin reigned for 2500 years in proud Israel, just as it had in the first 2000 years of Gentile history, in all those people suffering the effects of the first Adam. But Israel, after promising to obey God’s righteous Law, failed in that effort (Exodus 19:3-6), as God knew they would. Now fully aware of sin and its penalty, God’s Grace abounded all the more. Where sin had once reigned, Grace might be recognized through the righteous work of “the last Adam,” Christ Jesus, by faith in His blood, which was shed for all unto eternal life (Romans 3:25; 1 Corinthians 15:45).
In Romans 6, Paul states: For sin shall not be master over you, (Romans 6:14a). He explains this statement in verses 15-23. The latter portion of this verse: for you are not under law but under grace he explains in Romans 7. Paul realizes you can’t make a statement like this to a group of Jews without a supportive augment. The Jews had elevated the Mosaic Law to a sacred place, remember? This statement from Paul most likely turned their religious world upside down because they lived their entire lives under the Law. They had idolized the Law as did their ancestors.
How do we know this is true? We have this book as our guide folks. In Matthew 22:36-40 one of the Pharisees posed this question to Jesus: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the (what) Law?” And He said to him, “YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND. This is the great and foremost commandment…”
Jesus’ point is this: God is a jealous God. He wants our complete and unwavering faithfulness. But people tend to place their relationship with God on the back-burner without even realizing their doing it. In other words, they don’t give God their all. Other things replace Him and that can be just about anything. In the case of the Pharisee above, it was the Law. He lived his life according to the “letter of the Law,” seeking righteousness through works, believing this could save him. He had placed his hope in the Law. Jesus told him he had overlooked the Main Thing. No matter what you’re chasing after, just remember the JOY principle: Jesus, Others, and then You...
Before we go much further it’s good to know at this juncture one of the major themes of Romans is justification by faith; Paul’s saying no one is saved by keeping the Law. Paul begins teaching this fact in chapter 3, after showing everyone how unrighteous they really are. He doesn’t stop teaching this truth until he reaches chapter 8. In chapter 9 he begins applying this truth to Israel and then in chapter 12 all the way to the end he shows us how it applies to the true Believer’s life.
Please know we’re getting closer to the reason why we’re all here; the stage had to be set beforehand. A Broadway play doesn’t go on without the proper staging and I couldn’t explain Paul’s statement in Galatians 2:19 without laying the foundation first.
Paul presented the fundamental Church Doctrine of Justification in Romans 3 and 4. Then he presents the fruit of this doctrine beginning in chapter 5. There we learn the first fruit of justification is security; we have peace with God; not the peace of God, that’s an additional spiritual blessing. Peace with God means the war is over; true Believers are no longer estranged from God because God has judged our sin upon Christ, our divine substitute, on Calvary. God is so completely satisfied with Christ’s one-time sacrifice He will remain so for all eternity. He never intends to take the subject of our sin up ever again (Psalm 103:12). Therefore, we have Peace with God, i.e. eternal security (Romans 5:1-10; Philippians 4:7). Another way of saying this is, “You cannot lose your salvation!”
Then in chapter 6, verse 5, Paul said, “We are united with Christ: For if we have been united with Him like this in His death, we will certainly also be raised to life as He was (Romans 6:5 – Berean Study Bible). Paul is looking back to verse 2, to the fact he declared concerning every true Believer, that they died to sin, how can they still live in it? This is an important point. In other words, “If we truly believe and are united with Christ, which is our baptism, i.e. the likeness of His death, we will also be united in the likeness of His resurrection:” so we too might walk in newness of life. This is the second fruit, holiness. We’ve looked at the word holiness just recently; it appears 180 times in the N.T. and means set apart from the world to God, i.e. morally blameless. Christ’s holiness is imputed to the true Believer (Romans 12:1-2; 1 Corinthians 6:19; Galatians 2:20).
This brings us to Romans 7 where Paul mentions our liberty in Christ Jesus, and this is the third fruit. People are all over the place as to the meaning of this word but Paul wants you to know it means one thing: we are free from the Law: But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of Spirit and not in oldness of the letter (Romans 7:6)
These are the fruits of salvation and it’s meant to answer the question asked in Romans 6:1, “Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? You see, that was the proud Jewish critic’s question from the back of the room. The Doctrine of Justification by faith (alone) through grace means you can sin all you want because every time you sin God’s Grace will cover it, so he’s saying your doctrine leads to unrighteous living; it actually encourages it…
Grace by nature has always had the potential to lead people to license. Dietrich Bonheoffer introduced the church to “Cheap Grace” in his classic work The Cost of Discipleship. In essence he points us to the world’s view of grace without a price; grace without cost! The account has been paid in advance; and because it has been paid, everything can be had for nothing… however God’s Grace was not cheap; it was not free! Anyone who reads Paul’s epistles and comes away thinking God’s Grace cost Him nothing, needs to start reading again: …work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure (Philippians 2:12b-13).
But here’s the thing, God’s Grace doesn’t cause true Believers to take advantage of it; true salvation leads to holiness, remember. God’s Grace doesn’t lead to license to sin; it leads to the opposite of license and that’s holiness. This brings us to Paul’s declaration in Galatians 2:19 and that’s why we’re here: For through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live to God.” Although God’s Grace is translated in scripture as a free gift (Ephesians 2:8), this doesn’t mean it came without cost to God. Furthermore, this verse is poorly defined. Unfortunately people see the word “free” and mistake its meaning. A better translation would read: God’s Grace is the means of conveying spiritual gifts.
In Romans 6:2b, Paul said: How shall we who died to sin still live in it? He offers an explanation in verse 3 as to what this statement means: Or do you not know that all of us (true Believers) who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might (do what) walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be (what) slaves to sin; for he who died is freed from sin (Romans 6:4-7).
What’s missing in the passage above? The Law, right? Paul doesn’t mention the Law once and that because Jesus Christ was the fulfillment of the Law: For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes (Romans 10:4; Galatians 3:23-25). Now for the Jews who elevated the Law to sacredness, asking them to believe in the man, Jesus, for their salvation was a stumbling block, a rock of offense. And yet some Jews did believe and were saved, and some of these Believers were Pharisees. They believed in Jesus’ name but they also believed in the letter of the Law and continued to obey it, thinking others should follow suit.
However, our Apostle Paul, in Galatians 3:10-11, informed these Judaizers: For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, “CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO DOES NOT ABIDE BY ALL THINGS WRITTEN IN THE BOOK OF THE LAW, TO PERFORM THEM.” Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident for, “THE RIGHTEOUS MAN SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.” Then he gives them some good news in verse 13: Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law by becoming a curse for us. For it is written: "Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree."
Let’s sum up. True Believers died, in Christ Jesus, by our miraculous union with Him, by grace, through faith, and we rise, in the likeness of His resurrection, to walk in newness of life. This, my friends, is the essence of Paul’s teaching for salvation is a total transformation. This is witnessed in the fruit of salvation which is security, the holiness of Christ which is imputed to the true Believer, and then we are given liberty from the Law (Romans 7:4). The Believer is no longer a slave to sin or to the Law for the matter. The resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ was the key to the Believer’s total freedom. We now have access to the very throne room of God!
But “freedom” at a cost for at the end of Romans 7:4 we have this great truth: in order that we (true Believers) might bear fruit for God. This isn’t a mere suggestion; Paul’s making a statement of fact. This verse could read: “In order that we bring forth fruit.” In other words, there is no such thing as a non-fruit bearing Believer. True salvation produces a product, i.e. a transformed life: And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:2).
If you’re truly saved, you will produce spiritual fruit. What is that? Well it involves two things basically, a person’s attitude and their actions. Attitude fruit Paul writes about in Galatians 5:22-23: the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
You’ll find action fruit in Hebrews 13:15: let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. And in Philippians 4:11: having been filled with the fruit of righteousness that is through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God, meaning any righteous act, any act that glorifies God the Father, is fruit. I used to teach my students, “Anything that brings a smile to Jesus’ face is a righteous act.”
Therefore, when Christ transforms your life, you are dead to the Law, and you come alive to God. This isn’t because of a past historical event that occurred on a given day on Calvary, it’s because Jesus Christ is alive and well, and you are one with Him, He is in you, and the true Believer is producing fruit to God; fruit that glorifies God. Paul’s comment in Galatians 2:19 echoes the same sentiment. He’s saying, “Should the Lord Jesus Christ return this very instant, may He find me dutifully engaged in His service; may He find me fruitful. I might be dead to the Law, but not to the Lord.” Our Apostle Paul didn’t just attend church services once or twice a month he was very attentive to the Lord’s commands and to His revelations and had consecrated himself to His service as His apostle to the Gentiles and this is his message to us: consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:11; 2 Corinthians 5:20).
We’ve reached the end of the scriptural rabbit trail; I pray you understand now what Paul means when he says: I (insert your name here) might live to God.
We ended our lesson last week looking at this Bible verse: “Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, “THE RIGHTEOUS MAN SHALL LIVE BY FAITH” (Galatians 3:11). I prefer not to cut God’s Word off. When this is done the meaning is often lost. The original verse is taken from Habakkuk 2:4 and reads: “Behold, as for the proud one, His soul is not right within him; But the righteous will live (or be in right standing with the LORD) by his faith.”
The Israelites had scorned God’s Laws; they became proud and indifferent. As a result, they were unrighteous before the LORD God and were about to face His righteous judgment. He chose the wicked and violent Chaldeans as His instrument of justice. In contrast, the righteous (or just) would live (gain eternal life) by faith; not because they believed in the LORD, but because they believed in what He had said, i.e. His promises. There’s a mighty big difference.
But the righteous will live (or be saved) by his faith emphasizes that we are justified (means just as if you’d never sinned) before God by faith (alone). The Law has no ability to justify anyone. As Habakkuk has recorded, people have always been saved by faith, and not by works. Abraham is the first recorded example of this method, but God has always operated in this manner; He hasn’t altered this process since Adam was saved.
Let’s go to verse 12.
12: However, the Law is not of faith; on the contrary, “HE WHO PRACTICES THEM SHALL LIVE BY THEM.” If you’re going to live by the Law, you must perform all of it, not hope to do some of it, or try to do some of it. Only the person WHO PRACTICES THEM SHALL LIVE BY THEM. Paul borrows this verse from Leviticus18:5 to prove his point. If you’re going to choose to live under the Law, then you must operate under the prevailing principle of works, or human effort, but the one who chooses God’s Grace must live by faith.
13: Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us – for it is written, “CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE – (Deuteronomy 21:23).
The Koine Greek word for redeemed is Exagorazo (ex-ag-or-ad’-zo), Verb, Strong’s Greek #1805, meaning: by payment of a price to recover from the power of another, to ransom, buy off; “Deliverance at a cost.” In other words, the idea of redemption is deliverance or release by payment of a ransom. We’re not unfamiliar with this term in this age and they certainly had a grasp of its meaning in Paul’s day. After battles were fought the victor would often take captives. The poor people were sold off as slaves, but the influential people, the wealthy people, were held for ransom. Once the asking price was raised, they would pay the victorious warriors, and the captives would be set free. The process was called, “redemption,” and the price was called the “ransom.”
This book says: For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). This is what Paul is saying when he said, “Christ redeemed us.” Every human being, from Adam onward, was dead in their transgressions (sin), and man was incapable of improving this situation by trying to obey the Law. Redemption is in Christ Jesus, because Jesus is the ransom. He willingly laid down His life so there could be release and deliverance from sin and the second death (John 15:13; Revelation 21:8).
Knowing that your were not redeemed with perishable things like silver and gold from your futile way of life inherited by your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:18-19).
All those who believe the gospel will experience eternal life in Christ Jesus (John 5:39-40; Romans 5:21; Galatians 3:11-12; Hebrews 5:9). If you could place a “price tag” on your salvation, what would it be worth to you? You already know what your worth to God the Father. You know what your salvation cost Him. He could have turned this planet into gold bullion and used it as ransom for sin, but this book says, “without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22b). For the LORD said, “the life is in the blood” (Exodus 12:13; Leviticus 17:11). God paid for you and me with the greatest treasure in His possession, the blood of Christ.
14: in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit (how) through faith.
Verse 13 and 14 go together, you see Christ received the curse, which every one of us deserved and He did not, so everyone who believes the gospel would receive the blessing of Abraham. This begs the question, “What is the blessing of Abraham? Well, if the curse of the Law brought death, the blessing of Abraham brought the true Believer the opposite of that; and that is eternal life in Christ Jesus.
The two purpose clauses in this verse serve to describe the purpose of God in calling Abram: 1) to bring the pagan nations into the blessings enjoyed by the nation of Israel through the promise made to Abram (Genesis 12:3; Galatians 3:8-9). 2) that by faith all might receive the Holy Spirit which was the promises sign of the New Age, i.e. the New Covenant (Galatians 3:1; Romans 8:9). Receiving the Holy Spirit is also a metaphor for salvation. For the Spirit gives eternal life (Galatians 6:8).
(To be continued)
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