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The Apostle Paul On Faith And The Law
February 20, 2011
Many of the Calvinists and their offspring teach salvation by either grace alone or faith alone. Many of them go so far as to condemn baptism for the remission of sins as a "works doctrine" and having nothing to do with the remitting of sins. That is because John Calvin and many man since have lifted certain scriptures out of context and created new doctrines that did not originate with God. The apostle Paul, when writing about grace or faith versus works was referring to the works of the Law of Moses! It had nothing to do with baptism versus grace or faith.
The Apostle Paul On Faith And The Law
By Bernie Parsons
Presented to Globe church of Christ on 02-20-2011
Presented to Load church of Christ on 02-27-2011
It took me decades to understand that much of what the apostle Paul wrote was in answer to those who opposed him and his doctrines. I was caught up in the contrived controversies between Calvinists and Campbellites as they slugged it out over what a particular word or verse meant. I want to address what was really on Paul’s mind.
Paul was warning the churches against receiving certain men and their false doctrines. These men were Jews, claiming to be believers in Christ, and apparently representing themselves as envoys sent from the apostles and Christian elders in Jerusalem.
Galatians 2:1 "Then fourteen years after I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with me also.
2 And I went up by revelation, and communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to them which were of reputation, lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain.
3 But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised:
4 And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage:
5 To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.”
These men followed Paul as he converted Gentiles from worshipping false idol gods to believing in Jesus Christ as the Messiah. Once these Gentiles were converted, these men attempted to have them circumcise their males and learn and keep the Law of Moses. They sought occasion to criticize and condemn Paul for his preaching and activities among the Gentiles, and Paul resisted.
Galatians 2:6 But of these who seemed to be somewhat, (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man's person:) for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me:
7 But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter;
8 (For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:)
9 And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision.
10 Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do.”
Paul scorns the apparent regard that these critics held toward themselves, saying “seemed to be somewhat”, but going on to say that it made no difference to his preaching mission. It appears that the apostle Peter also got caught up in the controversy.
Galatians 2:11”But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed.
12 For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision.
13 And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation.
14 But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?”
Peter had joined with certain other Jewish believers who had separated themselves from the Gentile believers. Paul reproved him in person, in front of the others, over this improper conduct.
Galatians 2:15 “We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles,
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.”
Here is one of the instances in which the apostle Paul preaches faith in Christ as opposed to the works of the Law of Moses. The Calvinists and their “faith only” offspring wrongly use scriptures like this to condemn baptism into Christ, labeling it a “damnable works doctrine”, as one person wrote me by e-mail. Paul did not condemn works of obedience to God through Christ Jesus, but rather the works of the Law of Moses versus the grace of God and faith in Christ.
Galatians 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.
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."
The apostle Paul here says that if we are justified by Christ, we must not go back to the Law of Moses. By the way, this is the underlying thrust behind the book of Hebrews. Paul says that if we go back to the Law of Moses, then we transgress the law of God, and become sinners. Instead, he wrote, he was dead to the law so that he might live unto God. He further stated that he lived by faith in order not to frustrate God’s saving grace, manifested in the person of Jesus Christ.
Look at what Paul had written as he opened this letter to the believers at Galatia.
Galatians 1:6 "I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel:
7 Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.
8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.
9 As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.
10 For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.
11 But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man.
12 For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ."
Those who taught the Gentiles to keep the Law of Moses were preaching a perverted gospel. Paul said, twice for emphasis, “Let him be cursed!”
Galatians 3:1 "O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?
2 This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?
3 Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?
4 Have ye suffered so many things in vain? if it be yet in vain.
5 He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?"
There is no doubt that Paul is contrasting the works of the Law of Moses with the faith in Christ.
Galatians 3:10 "For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.
11 But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.
12 And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them.
13 Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:
14 That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith."
You see what a problem Paul was faced with from these men who preached the Law of Moses. Almost the entire letter to the Galatian believers deals with this problem. Most of Romans deals with it. The entire book of Hebrews is about this type of situation among the believing Jews, as well. Paul addresses it in other writings, as well.