Sunday: The Question of “Justification”
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In Galatians 2:15, Paul writes, “We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners” (ESV). What point do you think he was making? 



Paul’s words need to be understood in their context. In an attempt to win over his fellow Jewish Christians to his position, Paul starts with something they would agree with—the traditional distinction between Jews and Gentiles. Jews were the elect of God, entrusted with His law, and they enjoyed the benefits of the covenant relationship with Him. Gentiles, however, were sinners; God’s law did not restrain their behavior, and they were outside the covenants of promise (Eph. 2:12Rom. 2:14). While Gentiles were obviously “sinners,” in verse 16 Paul warns the Jewish Christians that their spiritual privileges do not make them any more acceptable to God, because no one is justified by “works of the law.”

Paul uses the word justified four times in Galatians 2:16, 17. What does he mean by “justification”? Consider Exod. 23:7 and Deut. 25:1



The verb to justify is a key term for Paul. Of the thirty-nine times it occurs in the New Testament, twenty-seven are in Paul’s letters. He uses it eight times in Galatians, including four references in Galatians 2:16, 17. Justification is a legal term, used in courts of law. It deals with the verdict a judge pronounces when a person is declared innocent of the charges brought against him or her. It is the opposite of condemnation. Additionally, because the words just and righteous come from the same Greek word, for a person “to be justified” means that the person also is counted as “righteous.” Thus, justification involves more than simply pardon or forgiveness; it is the positive declaration that a person is righteous.

For some of the Jewish believers, however, justification also was relational. It revolved around their relationship with God and His covenant. To be “justified” also meant that a person was counted as a faithful member of God’s covenantal community, the family of Abraham.

Read Galatians 2:15–17. What is Paul saying to you here, and how can you apply these words to your own Christian experience?

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Sunday: The Question of “Justification” — 13 Comments

  1. "In Galatians 2:15, Paul writes, “We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners” (ESV). What point do you think he was making?
    Paul’s words need to be understood in their context. In an attempt to win over his fellow Jewish Christians to his position, Paul starts with something they would agree with—the traditional distinction between Jews and Gentiles. Jews were the elect of God, entrusted with His law, and they enjoyed the benefits of the covenant relationship with Him. Gentiles, however, were sinners; God’s law did not restrain their behavior, and they were outside the covenants of promise (Eph. 2:12, Rom. 2:14). While Gentiles were obviously “sinners,” in verse 16 Paul warns the Jewish Christians that their spiritual privileges do not make them any more acceptable to God, because no one is justified by “works of the law.” The author

    I do not disagree entirely with your comments on Paul's statement..re "We who are Jews by nature; and not sinners of the Gentiles". However, if you would have included the background to the statement, some more information might be added re the reason for Paul's statement.

    Peter, by his act of descrimination, had made himself a sinner..and a sinner just like the Gentile sinner Peter was converting to be like a Jew. Paul then made the point that there is no point in converting a Gentile to being like a Jew if they are already the same---in Paul's context...identical sinners. But Paul further clarifies his point with the statement.."we who are jews by nature; and not sinners of the Gentiles"...ie we are not like Gentile sinners; though sinners we are; but we are Jewish sinners who believe, unlike other non-Christian Jews that our faith in Jesus moves us away from believing that our fellow human, Gentile sinners are anymore outside the love of God than we Jews are...no matter what our laws say....for we are not justified by our laws...no matter that our laws have guided us these three thousand years; but "We are justified by our faith in Jesus"...a new doctrine; now only a few years old.

    Paul was therefore, helping Peter to understand how the new doctrine was to be applied.....the now, new doctrine of including the Gentile into the fellowship of Jewish and Christian.

    Courtney

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  2. "The verb to justify is a key term for Paul. Of the thirty-nine times it occurs in the New Testament, twenty-seven are in Paul’s letters. He uses it eight times in Galatians, including four references in Galatians 2:16, 17. Justification is a legal term, used in courts of law. It deals with the verdict a judge pronounces when a person is declared innocent of the charges brought against him or her. It is the opposite of condemnation. Additionally, because the words just and righteous come from the same Greek word, for a person “to be justified” means that the person also is counted as “righteous.” Thus, justification involves more than simply pardon or forgiveness; it is the positive declaration that a person is righteous.

    For some of the Jewish believers, however, justification also was relational. It revolved around their relationship with God and His covenant. To be “justified” also meant that a person was counted as a faithful member of God’s covenantal community, the family of Abraham." The author

    I find it hard to disagree...but if I might just add...The Jews, Christian and non-Christian alike, still kept these laws-all of them; and believed that they were justified in the eyes of God for so doing; now; and as they always had been,in the past.

    Now, mind you! that's what they thought! If they had correctly understood the "testimony of Jesus" as seen through the sacrificial system they practiced these three thousand years, they would have known that they had always been justified by faith in Christ Jesus....They would have been similarly justified; and justified as their own forefather Abraham; who believed and was justified by faith in Jesus as long as four thousand years before Jesus physically appeared on earth.

    Courtney

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  3. I remember growing up and having discussions with first day worshipers and feeling bad that my belief and practice (religion) was truly dogmatic. Especially base on what I saw (and still see); the fact that a portion of us placed so much emphasis on the truth and little on the spirit ("fruits of the spirit"). I had similar views as my friends would, though for different reasons. Why are my sabbath keeping, ten commandments believing, lettuce and fruits eating brothers and sisters so cold. Why did they treat those of us with less like nothing and everyone else like nothing.

    But I did grow into a revelation that those who really promoted those extreme and negative ideals were generally about 2-5% (the rest just followed) and should not even dictate what I do or not do. I need to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus and nothing is an excused not to follow his word.

    Yes, I am saved by faith and that is the best thing about my God but shall I also decide to not obey his commandments, conveniently because I do not see God in all the people who do keep it? Can I then pick and choose and wash down my Christianity for peace and love sake? I am even more reassured by Galatians 2:16-17, where in verse 17 it speaks to whether God will accept anything less than what he asked for. He certainly did not accept Cain's offering. Cain probably was earnest but we saw what his fruit manifested.

    Everything we see, boils down to worship and worship is a lifestyle of choice.

    We, accept God through faith that he made a way, but by accepting, we follow his laws. Following in obedience is the ultimate test of our faith in him as creator and Lord of all.

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  4. I was recently on a public transit when a young woman approached me and asked me if I am saved. I responded by saying I can't save my self, only God can save me through his grace. This was not in line with what she was thought so she proceeded to let me know that all I have to do to be saved is to believe that Jesus is the son of God and I will be saved. To ensure I understood her correctly; I asked her if that means that if I believe and go on sinning if that means I am save? She said yes. She then informed me that we are saved by faith not by works. I stood there for 2hrs trying to explaining the truth about the scripture (which she did not accept because her pastor thought her otherwise). This made me question myself in the sense that here are people going around teaching wrong information, and we who know the truth are not on fire to tell others about it.

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  5. What is Paul saying to you here, and how can you apply these words to your own Christian experience?

    As just an average everyday person, not one that has extensive study of the Bible, it would seem that Paul is saying to me; faith in Christ is not the, be all end all to the controversy. Neither is “living” a law abiding life style. No human being is (with exception of Jesus) capable of living a life without sin on our own. So I cannot be found righteous in Gods eye with faith in Jesus, or “works” alone. Only through a combination of faith and law abidance can I find righteousness in Gods eyes. With faith of Jesus and a yearning to “be like Him” I can find both. In my opinion the “works” will come as I grow closer to Jesus, and have a desire to show others of His love through my actions.

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  6. The idea of justification being a declaration is an important one because part of the great controversy involves justifying the righteous along with believers who have sinned.

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  7. "But I did grow into a revelation that those who really promoted those extreme and negative ideals were generally about 2-5% (the rest just followed) and should not even dictate what I do or not do.....
    ..... He certainly did not accept Cain’s offering. Cain probably was earnest but we saw what his fruit manifested.....
    Everything we see, boils down to worship and worship is a lifestyle of choice."Jason

    Jason...the above snippets from your comments make a case for the individual's communing with his God, and worshipping his God as an individual. The example of Cain, however, makes the point that that communing must be in accordance with the guidelines put in place by God, He being Him with whom you desire to commune. And here is where I would like an explanation for "worship is a lifestyle of choice".

    For my part; there is only one form of worship. That form of worship is the one done "in spirit and in truth". Truth has only one form; and is found in scripture, and those who practice truth are identified as following scripture; and like as the disciples were recognized in Antioch and given the name "Christian"..so also will those who follow truth be recognized as true followers of Jesus; and not to be confused with the false followers of Jesus; identified as such by Jesus himself.

    The false followers are identified by those who "speak not according to "the law"-the word of God; and the Testimony of Jesus"-His work of love in the salvation of humanity. Speaking according to "the law and the testimony", is in referrence to understanding the corresponding and unifying relationship between "the law" -which includes ceremonial and moral law-- word of God- and the "the Testimony of Jesus"-which includes Grace, forgiveness and relationship to the "law".

    Again; "if they speak not according to this word; there is no light in them". If there is "no light in those who speak not according to the law and the testimony", how can anyone then identify "true worship" from the ranks of the false!

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    • Hello Courtney, I am now seeing this (**sorry**).

      You said my comment snippets may be summarized as one's individual commune with God? hmmm...interesting. Never thought about it that way and will ponder some more.

      "Worship is a lifestyle of choice".

      Well I think some or most will agree that worship is a way of life. It is not what we do when we go to church or with our family etc. Adding the "of choice" makes it more clear that the reason why God placed the "tree of knowledge of good and evil" was to allow the freedom of choice and the ultimate answer to Satan's claim; God dictated worship.

      We are all created as free moral agents, having that ability to choose and that is the only key theme from our perspective. Whom shall I serve? Joshua 24:14-15

      So for clarity and emphasis, I believe that the Great Controversy boils down to worship, which is a lifestyle of choice. If I choose to serve God then everything I do or what I manifest well be genuine and true worship to Him.

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  8. In the eyes of God, we are sinners but through faith in Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins, we are "justified" "just as if I'd" never sinned.

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  9. "In the eyes of God, we are sinners but through faith in Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins, we are “justified” “just as if I’d” never sinned."Jayson

    Amen, Jayson; and again; Amen!....but with me you must also agree! "Faith in Jesus" is synonymous with "have the faith of Jesus"; is synonymous with "Here are they that keep the commandments of God; AND HAVE THE FAITH OF JESUS"Rev.14:12....The "faith of Jesus" goes hand in hand with every command that God has given to us.....and there is no exception. Or; one cannot break God's commandments and yet claim to have the faith of Jesus.

    Courtney

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  10. Courtney, I could be wrong but I think what Jayson is saying here is a paraphrase of what Paul said.

    “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them." But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for ‘the just shall live by faith.’ Yet the law is not of faith, but ‘the man who does them shall live by them.’” (Gal 3:10-12 NKJV)

    Does this mean that keeping the law is unimportant? Absolutely not! Paul never set aside the law, never said that we should ignore it. What he did say is that law keeping is not the thing that saves us but that we do it because we are saved.

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  11. AMEN, Brothers in Christ, Courtney and Tyler. We cannot justify ourselves to God but we can claim the faith of Jesus. We must claim the promise that by faith in Jesus and manifest through the help of the Holy Spirit, "His righteousness" is "our righteousness". "For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope." (Gal 5:5NIV). We cannot keep the law by ourselves. Only Jesus perfectly obeyed the law. But, "In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead." (James 2:17 NIV). Keep the fire burning until Jesus come. God bless always!!!

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  12. How Noah, Daniel, Job and others proclaimed by God that they were righteous? Is it for their works that they were righteous in the sight of God? Absolutely, not! That doesn't mean that they never sinned. They were proclaimed righteous because they had extremely faith to the Messiah that their sins could be forgiven only through the slain of the lamb that has no defects according to the instructions given while the Savior was not yet come. And they lived in accordance to their faith.

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