Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Some random exegetical thoughts from Gal. 2:15-21

V15, Paul using ‘we’ refers to birthright Jews, including Peter. He places a distinction between Jews and Gentiles who are ‘sinners’ because they didn’t have the Jewish law to ‘earn’ their righteousness as the Jews had. However the Law’s no–longer a legal claim for Jews, as all can be made righteous in Christ alone. It’s seen here that God takes Jewish sinfulness just as seriously as gentile sinfulness, both must be justified with Christ.

V16a, the general statement. Paul claims this as common-knowledge among Jewish Christians, even though it was taken for granted by Peter that no human being, whether Jew or Gentile will be saved apart from faith in Christ This is ‘the denial of the orthodox Jewish doctrine of Salvation.’ . Jesus Christ has been incorrectly translated, by some, as subjective-genitive instead of objective, this makes a huge difference as it could then read the ‘faith of Christ’, which would be irreconcilable with the next clause ‘believed in Jesus.’

V16b, the personal statement. Faith in Christ is the only way to be justified – as ‘we’ have believed, addressing the same group directly as v15.

V16c, the universal statement. In order to add religious weight to this claim, Paul cites Ps.143:2 to show that ‘no-one living is righteous,’ this is to Jews and Gentiles, no-one will be justified apart from Christ. Fung believes that ‘the knowledge…is grounded in [Paul’s] encounter with Christ’, which would fit with the narrative flow establishing his apostleship. Note that this verse grounds much of Paul’s argument. Note that ‘in view of the controversy in Galatia [this does not imply] that the “works of the Torah” do not need to be done…only that they produce justification before God.’

V17, does this make Christ the author of Sin? Paul does not encourage sin in denying the law but as a ‘counterformula’ to be justified ‘in Christ’. Making Christ the ‘minister’ of sin is either a logical conclusion under false premises or an illogical conclusion under correct premises. Although its true that to be justified in Christ makes it necessary to abandon the Law as a means of justification, Christ as the fulfilment of that law makes it logical and necessary.

V18, returning to speak metaphorically in first-person, Paul uses a well-known Jewish example of building. What is the thing torn down? The obvious answer is the Law, which ‘I have destroyed…by the preaching of the Gospel.’ See Pauls earlier elusion to this in ch1:13-14.

V19-20, here ‘Paul presents the basic elements for his theological position.’ I died to the Law, marks the end of the Law. Cause and effect this sheds light on the purpose of Justification, ‘to give glory to God’ to live not to ourselves but to him. Died to the law is specified in the next clause, ‘crucified with Christ,’ ‘Which refers not…to a subjective experiences…but to the believer’s objective position in Christ.’ Paul dying with Christ means that the Law can’t be used as a claim over God and it can’t be used as a claim over Paul either. The result of dying to the law is freedom from it, to enable them to live for God, which again links to later in the Epistle.

V21 . ‘The Christian gospel is the gospel of the grace of God. The Christian faith is the faith of Christ crucified. So if anybody insists that justification is by works…is undermining the foundations of the Christian religion.’

M. Luther A Commentary on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians (James Clarke & Co. Ltd, London, 1535)
R. Y. K. Fung. The Epistle to the Galatians (Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1988)
J. Brown The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Galatians (Banner of Truth, Edinburgh, 1853)
B. Witherington III. Grace in Galatia (T & T Clark, London, 1998)
H. D. Betz. A Commentary on Paul’s Letter to the Churches in Galatia (Fortress Press, Philadelphia, 1979.)
J. Stott The Message of Galatians, (IVP, Leicester, 1968

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