Thursday, October 20, 2011

“Justification by Faith Alone”

Fourth Quarter 2011 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
“Justification by Faith Alone”
For the week of October 15-21, 2011

Our lesson for this week is entitled “Justification by Faith Alone.”  Let’s begin with the memory verse – Galatians 2:20.  The KJV here, and in verse 16, is true to the original language Paul used.  Consider 2:20, starting with the last part first.  It reads: “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.”  Here we are informed that we live, not by our faith in Jesus, but rather we live by His faith: the “faith of the Son of God.”  Most people do not believe in Jesus, yet they are alive and that is solely by “the faith of Jesus.”

Christ’s faith points two ways. While on earth He exercised faith in God the Father.  Jesus also directs His faith toward the human race.  He has faith in you.  Do you believe this?  Consider the following weighty thought: “Christ, the heavenly merchantman seeking goodly pearls, saw in lost humanity the pearl of price.  In man, defiled and ruined by sin, He saw the possibilities of redemption…. God looked upon humanity, not as vile and worthless; He looked upon it in Christ, saw it as it might become through redeeming love” (COL 118).

Let’s turn now to the first half of Gal. 2:20: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.”  Paul wrote this in poetic form that begins and ends with Jesus. It is called an envelope construction. This is what it looks like:

                I was crucified together with       
                but I am living
                not I
    but living in me                            

In this verse we observe that when Christ was crucified we were likewise crucified with Him.  This informs us that Christ was/is our Representative.  Whatever He did while He lived and died on earth, He represented us.  Our sins called for the death penalty.  When Jesus died He exhausted that judicial decision that was against us.  He was made to be sin itself “that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21).  Christ’s death on the cross is the basis of the teaching of “justification by faith alone.”  This is so because it was in His death that we were justified legally (Rom. 5:9, 18; 4:25).

In the letter to the churches in Galatia the concept of justification by faith alone is presented in verse 16.  The context of this verse is connected with  the denial of “the truth of the gospel,” not only by the “false brethren” (Gal. 2:2,5), but also by Peter (v 14).  The central “truth” of the gospel is justification by faith alone.  The “false brethren” denied this truth and they caused Peter deny it.  On several previous occasions Peter had eaten with Gentiles.  But, at Antioch, when pressure was placed on him by “false brethren,” he separated himself from the Gentiles, “fearing them” (v 12).  This strong emotion moved him to separate from the Gentiles, leading other believing Christian Jews to likewise withdraw from the Gentile believers.

Peter’s hypocrisy was so influential that even Barnabas was overwhelmed and was carried away with the dissimulation.  The pretended motive was loyalty to the law, but it really was because of fear of the Judaizers.  Paul immediately sprang into action.  He confronted Peter and rebuked him severely and publicly (See Gal. 2:16 and the following verses.

In verse 16 we have the first time, in this letter, where Paul uses the words justification and faith together.  This verse is another poetic structure different from the one in verse 20.  It is known as a chiasm, constructed with parallel corresponding segments pointing to the center of the structure. It is organized with its corresponding segments A:A; B:B; C:C each step drawing us to the center “D” which addresses faith in Jesus alone:

The Chiastic Structure of Gal. 2:16

          A)  “Knowing that a man is not justified
                 B)  by the works of the law,
                     C)  but by the faith of Jesus Christ,
                         D)  even we have believed in Jesus Christ,
                    C)  that we might be justified by the faith of Christ,
                B)  and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law
          A)  shall no flesh be justified.”

This verse shows that justification comes through “the faith of Jesus.”  This is expressed twice, in the “C” segments.  Then the center clause “D” states that “we have believed in Jesus Christ” which, in turn, leads directly to the corresponding thought in the second “C” “that we might be justified by the faith of Christ.”

Not only does justification come from Jesus, His faith also is given to us.  When we receive Him by faith alone He brings His justification and His faith with Himself.  The faith of Jesus is our justification.  It is found in Christ alone.  Justification can be separated neither from Jesus, nor from His faith in God which He exercised while living on earth.

Jones recognized that we must note precisely what this verse says: “Both expressions [faith of Jesus and believing in Jesus] are used in direct connection, and used in a way that makes it impossible that they should be taken as meaning the same thing.  And taken for exactly what they say, again there is told the splendid truth that it is ‘the faith of Jesus’ that brings to us and gives to us the justification, the righteousness which we receive by believing in Jesus” (A.T. Jones, The Medical Missionary, p. 89).

Waggoner wrote similarly in an article based on Gal. 2:16.  He stated, “Much is lost, in reading the Scriptures, by not noting exactly what they say.  Here we have literally, ‘the faith of Christ,’ just as in Rev. xiv. 12 we have ‘the faith of Jesus.’  He is the Author and Finisher of faith. Heb. xii. 2” (E.J. Waggoner, “The Present Truth United Kingdom,” February 10, 1898, p. 85).

 “Justification by Faith Alone” is not merely for this week only, but this “truth of the gospel” permeates the entire letter to the Galatians.  This truth is enclosed in the term “grace” which begins and ends the epistle (see 1:3 and 6:18).  God’s grace is placed at the beginning and ending of this letter containing the teaching of “justification by faith alone.”  This truth from the epistle to the Galatian churches is for us today.
-- Jerry Finneman

Additional Sabbath School resource material:

E. J. Waggoner
The Gospel in the Book of Galations 
   (find under Ellet J Waggoner in the EBOOKS list)
The Glad Tidings

A. T. Jones
Ellen G White CD-ROM - search "Galatians" under A. T. Jones
Starts with: "Studies in Galatians" Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, 76, 34 , pp. 540, 541. {August 22, 1899 ATJ, ARSH 540.1}

Ends with: "Studies in Galatians. Gal. 6:11-18" Advent Review and Sabbath Herald 77, 46 , p. 728. {November 13, 1900 ATJ, ARSH 728.1}

Available at your local Adventist Book Center or online: