One of the main accusations against Paul was that his gospel of justification by faith alone encouraged people to sin (see Rom. 3:8,6:1). No doubt the accusers reasoned that if people do not have to keep the law to be accepted by God, why should they be concerned with how they live?
How does Paul respond to the accusation that a doctrine of justification by faith alone encourages sinful behavior? Gal. 2:17, 18.
Paul responds to his opponents’ charges in the strongest terms possible: “God forbid!” While it is possible that a person might fall into sin after coming to Christ, the responsibility would certainly not belong to Christ. If we break the law, we ourselves are the lawbreakers.
How does Paul describe his union with Jesus Christ? In what way does this answer refute the objections raised by his opponents? Gal. 2:19–21.
Paul finds the reasoning of his opponents simply preposterous. Accepting Christ by faith is not something trivial; it is not a game of heavenly make-believe, where God counts a person as righteous while there is no real change in how that person lives. On the contrary, to accept Christ by faith is extremely radical. It involves a complete union with Christ—a union in both His death and resurrection. Spiritually speaking, Paul says we are crucified with Christ, and our old sinful ways rooted in selfishness are finished(Rom. 6:5–14). We have made a radical break with the past. Everything is new (2 Cor. 5:17). We have also been raised to a new life in Christ. The resurrected Christ lives within us, daily making us more and more like Himself. Faith in Christ, therefore, is not a pretext for sin but a call to a much deeper, richer relationship with Christ than could ever be found in a law-based religion.
How do you relate to the concept of salvation by faith alone without the deeds of the law? Does it, perhaps, scare you a little, making you think that it can be an excuse for sin—or do you rejoice in it? What does your answer say about your understanding of salvation?