Scripture:We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is justified not by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we might be justified by faith in Christ, and not by doing the works of the law, because no one will be justified by the works of the law. (Galatians 2:15-16)
Reflection:One of the basic tenets of Pauline thought is justification by faith in Jesus Christ. Addressing Jewish converts to Christianity, Paul reminds the Galatians that they are not justified by the 613 precepts of the Torah; if they could be so justified, then there would be no purpose for God’s work in Jesus. Gentiles cannot be justified by the Torah because they are not Jews; therefore, they are justified through faith, like Jewish converts, in Jesus Christ. God’s purpose in Jesus was to offer an example of one who accepted God’s offer of grace, cooperated with God throughout his life – that is, lived his life in trust (faith) of God even to death on a cross – and, because of his faithfulness, was raised from the dead by God. Those who believe that Jesus was God’s anointed (Christ) are justified by faith and not by doing the works of the law.
Paul is dealing with what are usually called Judaizers, namely, those who want to return to the work of the law known as circumcision. In Paul’s day there were people who thought that a Gentile had to become a Jew before becoming a Christian. Paul, however, insisted that the purpose of the law had passed away with God’s new work through Jesus. Paul did not want believers backsliding into the previous Jewish notion that a person could be saved through adherence to the law. All a person can do is accept God’s grace that enables a person to believe that God has saved him or her through trust in the God. Jesus did not trust himself; he placed himself in God’s hands and waited for God to save him by raising him from the dead.
A spirituality of mission should have abundant room for justification by faith. The purpose of mission is to awaken in others the fact that they cannot save themselves and to declare that God offers salvation to people. God offers himself to people so that they can respond to his offer of salvation. If a person responds to God’s grace and believes that God made Jesus the model believer, the model truster of God, then the person has been saved by grace. No works are necessary; one must not become a Jew (through circumcision) before becoming a Christian. A lifestyle modeled on Jesus demonstrates that acceptance of God’s gift. Nothing can be earned; all is grace.
Journal/Meditation: What is your experience of justification by grace through faith in Jesus Christ? What is your experience of attempting to earn your salvation?
Prayer: When all was lost, your love was so great that you came to the rescue of all people, mighty God, with the gift of yourself to justify humankind. Pour your saving grace upon me so that my life may be lived in imitation of him who lived and died for me, Jesus Christ, your Son, whom you raised from the dead and made Lord forever and ever. Amen.