Last time Paul told Peter and the others that they were hypocrites for saying they were saved by grace but separating from the gentiles because they weren’t keeping the law. Paul confronted Peter to his face concerning justification by faith alone. Today Paul continues his argument.
Why did Jesus die for you?
17 But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid.
18 For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor.
19 For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God.
20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
21 I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.
Paul starts off responding to a certain objection many people have to being saved by grace alone. The Jews that thought you must trust Jesus as savior but also keep the law could ask the following question. If Jesus justifies us but we still sin, isn’t Jesus a minister of sin. In other words how could we be right before God and still sin? Many people still struggle with this question. Paul’s answer is powerful. God forbid. In other words Jesus isn’t the minister of sin, and he certainly doesn’t want anyone to sin.
We do seek to be justified by God and after we are saved we do sin. Paul is saying in verse 18 that if I try to build a right relationship with God by keeping the law I sin even more. But if I trust what Christ has done for me at the cross as being sufficient to justify me before God, then I am free to live for God. What is worse, not keeping the law or saying that what Jesus did for us on the cross wasn’t enough to make us right before God?
Some would say that this gives us a license to sin. I would say a true Christian doesn’t want to sin. A true Christian realizes that Christ paid for our sins past, present and future and that he suffered for our sins. A Christian also realizes that Christ set us free from the bondage of sin. Paul said he was dead to the law. Meaning you and I don’t have to sin or make the wrong choices. We are free to serve God and righteousness now that he lives within us and we are free from Satan’s bondage.
When did this happen? Paul said when he was crucified with Christ. Paul is saying that Jesus died in his place and fulfilled the law. There is no need now for Paul to try to do this on his own. At the cross there was a great exchange. Paul died to the law and Jesus gave him new life.
Paul knows that his new life in Christ must be lived by faith. Paul is now in a sense one with Christ. Paul can walk around knowing that he is justified and forgiven. Paul’s faith is not in himself, but instead the object of his faith is Christ.
Paul also explains that his faith is in the one who loved him and gave himself for him. Paul could ask the question, when did the law ever love me? When did the law ever give itself for me? The law showed Paul who he really was before God. Jesus loved and gave himself to prove his love for Paul and for you.
Paul finishes by saying that if we could be justified by the law then Christ died in vain. I have said this to many people who think they can work their way to heaven or think they must do something in addition to what Christ has already done for us.
When I ask people why they believe they are going to heaven. Many times people will say because Jesus is my savior and because I am a good person. If being a good person influences your chances of making it into heaven then what Jesus did on the cross wasn’t sufficient. If you believe that you can do something to increase your chances of making it into heaven, then when Jesus said it is finished you believe it really wasn’t. When people think they can make it to heaven based on what they do, I always ask the question.. Then why did Jesus have to die?
Jesus died for you and me on his terms. He wasn’t killed. He wasn’t taken by surprise that day he was crucified. Jesus came to earth to die. This was the will of the Father and the only plan.
If you could do something to earn your way to heaven, then why did Jesus die for you?