Innocence Before God is Given Not Earned
INTERESTING FACTS : John Dickinson, SIGNER OF THE CONSTITUTION; GOVERNOR OF PENNSYLVANIA; GOVERNOR OF DELAWARE; GENERAL IN THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION
"Rendering thanks to my Creator for my existence and station among His works, for my birth in a country enlightened by the Gospel and enjoying freedom, and for all His other kindnesses, to Him I resign myself, humbly confiding in His goodness and in His mercy through Jesus Christ for the events of eternity."
Daily Reading : GALATIANS 1 - 3
TEXT : Galatians 2:15 We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, 2:16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. 2:17 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. 2:18 For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor. 2:19 For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. 2:20 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. 2:21 I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain
THEME : JUSTIFICATION
The churches in Galatia were formed partly of converted Jews, and partly of Gentile converts, as was generally the case. St. Paul asserts his apostolic character and the doctrines he taught, that he might confirm the Galatian churches in the faith of Christ, especially with respect to the important point of justification by faith alone. Thus the subject is mainly the same as that which is discussed in the epistle to the Romans, that is, justification by faith alone. In this epistle, however, attention is particularly directed to the point, that men are justified by faith without the works of the law of Moses. Of the importance of the doctrines prominently set forth in this epistle, Luther thus speaks: "We have to fear as the greatest and nearest danger, lest Satan take from us this doctrine of faith, and bring into the church again the doctrine of works and of men's traditions. Wherefore it is very necessary that this doctrine be kept in continual practice and public exercise, both of reading and hearing. If this doctrine be lost, then is also the doctrine of truth, life and salvation, lost and gone." (Matthew Henry)
St. Paul shows that he was especially called of God to be an apostle, Gal_1:1. Directs his epistle to the Churches through the regions of Galatia, Gal_1:2. Commends them to the grace of Christ, who gave himself for their sins, Gal_1:3-5. Marvels that they had so soon turned away from the grace of the Gospel of Christ, to what falsely pretended to be another Gospel, Gal_1:6, Gal_1:7. Pronounces him accursed who shall preach any other doctrine than that which he had delivered to them, Gal_1:8, Gal_1:9. Shows his own uprightness, and that he received his doctrine from God, Gal_1:10-12. Gives an account of his conversion and call to the apostleship, Gal_1:13-17. How three years after his conversion he went up to Jerusalem, and afterwards went through the regions of Syria and Cilicia, preaching the faith of Christ to the great joy of the Christian Churches in Judea, Gal_1:18-24. (Adam Clarke)
The apostle mentions his journey to Jerusalem with Barnabas and Titus, Gal_2:1. Shows that he went thither by revelation; and what he did while there, and the persons with whom he had intercourse, Gal_2:2-8. How the apostles gave him the right hand of fellowship, Gal_2:9, Gal_2:10. Here he opposes Peter at Antioch, and the reason why, Gal_2:11-14. Shows that the Jews as well as the Gentiles must be justified by faith, Gal_2:15, Gal_2:16. They who seek this justification should act with consistency, Gal_2:17, Gal_2:18. Gives his own religious experience, and shows, that through the law he was dead to the law, and crucified with Christ, Gal_2:19, Gal_2:20. Justification is not of the law, but by the faith of Christ, Gal_2:21. (Adam Clarke)
The apostle inquires how they could be so foolish as to renounce the Gospel of Christ and turn back to the law, after having heard, received, and suffered so much for the Gospel, Gal_3:1-5. Asserts the doctrine of justification by faith, on the example of Abraham, Gal_3:6-9. Shows that all who are under the law are under the curse, from which Christ alone redeems us; and the promise made to Abraham comes to the Gentiles who believe, Gal_3:10-14. For the covenant is not by the works of the law, but by promise, Gal_3:15-18. The law was given to show the sinfulness of sin, and to act as a schoolmaster till Christ should come, Gal_3:19-25. It is by faith only that any become children of God, Gal_3:26. And under the Gospel, all those distinctions which subsisted under the law are done away; and genuine believers, whether Jews or Gentiles, bond or free, are one in Christ Jesus, and accounted the genuine children of Abraham, Gal_3:27-29. (Adam Clarke)
TRUTH FOR TODAY : "INNOCENCE BEFORE GOD IS GIVEN NOT EARNED."
One of the distinct features of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is that eternity is a given away freely. Unlike other religions, heaven is not earned - it is a gift. The seeming paradox of God's condemnation of sin and its corresponding punishment -eternity in hell, is counterbalanced by the work of Christ on the cross. That is, his death is your atonement. Further, with that atonement you are "justified."
To be "justified," means to be judged "innocent." A more colloquial way of expressing this judicial word is - justification means to be treated (by God) "just as if you never sinned." The parlance of that latter phrase is perhaps the best memory aid to bring to mind the fact that God now treats you as though you had never broken one of his laws at all, not even one time. This of course, has never been done by any human being. That is, anyone who has ever lived, is living now, or ever will live, has never gone through life without breaking the laws of God. This is why the Gospel of Jesus Christ is no doubt - "Amazing Grace."
Before the introduction of the Mosaic Law, men live by faith in God. Specifically, the patriarch Abraham was counted righteous because he believed the Word(s) of God. This is what God intended from the beginning before man sinned. His will, for humanity was to trust him, to love him. However, sin ruined that desire. Yet, God had a plan both to show man that he had offended God's holy nature, and to introduce salvation without the deeds of the law. In other words, as the Apostle Paul states, the law was introduced to shine a light on the thoughts, behavior, and deeds of man that he (or she) may be "convinced" that they were in need of a Savior. This is what the Mosaic Law accomplishes. It demonstrates that man can do nothing without the grace of God.
To the Christians in Galatia, there were men called "Judaizers" that taught for a Christian to be saved he or she must also keep the Law of Moses. This was against the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The teaching that a man or woman must trust in Christ and at the same time keep the ceremonies, traditions, and other principles of the Mosaic Law defeats the purpose of why Christ came. Christ came to atone for the sins of men and women. His death on the cross was the final sacrifice ever needed for men and women to receive the gift of eternal life. Therefore, when the Judaizers came and talked that a man or woman must not only trust in Christ but also keep the Law of Moses, they subverted the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is designed to justify (treat as innocent) a man or woman, freely - as a gift of love. If men and women could keep the Law of Moses, then Jesus Christ would not have needed to come to earth, to die on the cross, to be raised from the dead, to ascend into heaven and be seated on the right hand of the Father ready to come again to judge the living and the dead. For instance, thousands of people were healed physically and mentally by simply believing that Christ could heal them and would heal them. Thus, the blind saw, the deaf heard, and the lame walked again, or in some cases for the first time - all by faith. All of these things and many more -including Christ raising some people from the dead, were done strictly by believing. That is, all of Christ's works were accomplished by faith and not by the works of man.
The same is true of the reception of the power (baptism) of the Holy Spirit received on the day of Pentecost. All of the disciples of Jesus Christ, about 120 in number, were filled with supernatural power - purely through faith. None of these things were accomplished by the righteousness or deeds of man. No one earned these things. Whether it was healing, or being raised from the dead, or eating fish and bread miraculously supplied by God, or the calming of the sea etc. and so forth; all of these events happened by the grace of God through Christ and not because the people (the men and women) were righteous and keeping the laws of God. Thus, the works performed by Christ were related to Christ and his goodness and power - not men.
Hence, the same is true of eternal life. That is, a man or woman is saved and will spend eternity in heaven, not because they are righteous, but because God is. In other words, in the same fashion as Christ healed and delivered those who were sick and oppressed, he will save and justify those that trust in him and believe his Word. Once again, it is not in man to earn heaven or earn eternal life. This prerogative and power resides with God alone. Thankfully, God is not only able to take you to heaven, but he is willing. His desire is to see men and women trust him for their salvation and justification. In the same way as men and women were healed by Jesus in the Gospel accounts [that is, by believing, or faith], you will go to heaven. It is all by faith.
Now that you have Christ and are justified, you are also crucified and raised from the dead with him as well. This is what the Apostle Paul meant when he said - "I through the law am dead to the law that I might live unto God. I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the son of God who loved me and gave his life for me." (Author's paraphrase) The Apostle Paul is stating that whoever is "in Christ," shares in the inheritance of Christ's atonement, resurrection, and life. That is, he or she shares in Christ's eternal life. All of this is received, not earned. It is given freely by grace and not by the laws of Moses (God). It is, once again, the gift of God. Further, as you know, a gift is not earned but given as a token of love. Thus, the gift of eternal life is given by the love of God and through the laws of God that we have broken. It is in his mercy that he has saved you. In Gods' judicial system, he has provided a substitute for you that you will not have to die. This is justification and it is salvation. It is not the work of man but the work of God. Anything other than this is "another Gospel."
You cannot add anything to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. When someone does, then it is no longer in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is the reason the Apostle Paul pronounces, not once, but twice in Galatians chapter one, a curse on those that "pervert the Gospel of Jesus Christ." The Apostle Paul's statement is a strong one. However, it is necessary to preserve the integrity of the Gospel of Jesus Christ that states salvation, eternal life is given freely to man. Anyone who adds to the Word of God or subtracts from the Word has a curse placed on their life.
Therefore, remember, you are treated by God today and everyday - "just as if you had never sinned." This is the freedom of the Gospel. This is the gift of God. Namely, innocence is given not earned!
-  From the Last Will & Testament of John Dickinson, attested March 25, 1808
-  Henry, Matthew. Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible. Public Domain, [1662 - 1714].
-  Adam Clarke LL.D., F.S.A. Adam Clarke's Commentary on the Bible. Public Domain, 1715 - 1832.
-  Ibid
-  Ibid
-  Rev 22:18 For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:
Rev 22:19 And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book. (Deu_4:2, Deu_12:32; Pro_30:6; Mat_15:6-9, Mat_15:13)