14 But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of all, “If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?
15 We are Jews by nature and not sinners from among the Gentiles;
16 nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified.
17 But if, while seeking to be justified in Christ, we ourselves have also been found sinners, is Christ then a minister of sin? May it never be!
18 For if I rebuild what I have once destroyed, I prove myself to be a transgressor.
19 For through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live to God.
20 I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I know live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.
21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.”
The first thing I usually notice about Paul’s speeches is the difference between his and the ones I hear today. Paul’s are always concise, poignant, and comprised entirely of either scripture itself or scriptural principles (it being the latter case in this passage). He doesn’t waste time placating the listeners with empty excuses (“I know you’re under a lot of pressure lately…” “I know you don’t mean it…”) or personal stories. As a result, his presentation of the raw truth of God is highly successful. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have such a thorough knowledge of God’s Word that we wouldn’t need to lean on the crutch of filler arguments, but could rather just speak His truth? Well, “luckily,” the Bible tells us exactly how to be able to do this – by diligently studying His Word. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” and Colossians 3:16 states, “Let the word of Christ dwell richly within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”
I also love the message that verses 14-18 build to: “For if I rebuild what I have once destroyed, I prove myself to be a transgressor.” Before many of us came to Christ, we were trying to be “good people” on our own. But now, we are forgiven, redeemed…if we go back to our old way of trying to be “good,” we are throwing Christ’s power out the window! We are saying that “Christ died needlessly.” To apply this is a slightly different manner, think about the sin(s) you are really struggling with right now. Have you asked for God’s help in overcoming these? I mean, we certainly have to work on it ourselves in addition to his help – He is not our slave-genie who magically fixes everything at our beck and call – but at the same time, we can’t fix anything without Him! He is our co-laborer. We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us, but we are nothing without Him.
Verse twenty is one of my all-time favorite verses; I’ve always loved the picture of putting to death our old selves. Do you remember in the Old Testament when the people realized their sin, and they’d dress in sackcloth and put ashes on their heads? These were their mourning clothes – it was like they were dressing for a funeral. I fully believe we are called to treat our old, sinful natures with the same seriousness today – don’t just ignore it, but rather, execute it and bury it! Then, strive to live as Christ. We are His body – we portray Him to the world. His Holy Spirit indwells us, and we need to give Him complete control. Saints, let’s try each day to live exactly as He lived!
I don’t really have any official discussion starters for today, so instead I’d like to ask (as always) that you share what stuck out to you in this passage. What lessons can we all glean from this? Paul’s passion in this speech always really affects me, so I’d like to know how it affects others. :-)
Next post, we’ll jump into chapter three and study a bit about Abraham.