Reading through the Bible together

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

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No one in his or her right mind would ever try to treat a patient suffering from heart disease by simply telling the patient to practice better personal hygiene. Yet that is similar to what we often do in the church when it comes to addressing the spiritual disease of the heart—sin. This is the issue Paul addresses in a masterful way in Galatians 2 as he continues his defense of his apostolic calling and the gospel message he proclaimed.

As we saw yesterday, some individuals in the early church insisted that all male Gentile converts submit to circumcision if they wanted to become Christians (Acts 15:1). From their point of view, they were not really asking that much of these new coverts. Sure, it involved a momentary inconvenience, but it really was only a small request. But that was exactly the problem. In insisting on circumcision as a requirement for salvation, they had minimized the extent of the problem of sin to a small surgical procedure—nothing more!

Paul reminds the Galatians that our problem requires a far greater procedure. Rather than just a few minor tweaks, we need an entire new identity—something we can never do for ourselves. It is, however, exactly what God offers us in Christ. Paul refers to this radical solution as justification by faith—the divine act where God counts the perfect life of Christ as our own (cf. Gal 2:16; Rom 3:21-30). If there were something that we could actually do to earn or contribute to our salvation, then, as Paul says, Christ need not have died (v. 21).

May we recognize today this glorious truth of what God has done for us in Christ, and proclaim with the apostle Paul, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20).

Carl P. Cosaert
Walla Walla University
United States